Monday, July 03, 2006

Do you blog with a pen or a pencil?

I read a lot of blogs; my ratio of blogs to traditional publications is probably 10 to 1. In general, I trust the information that I receive via blogs either because I have decided that the blog is trustyworthy from prior research or that I have correlated the information with other material I've read. But what exactly is it that I trust?

My trust is placed on the written word, that what it represents is the writer's best intentions of being truthful or at least not intentionally misleading. But there's a problem with trusting the words on a blog. Blogs are not static like traditional publications.

When I'm reading a traditional publication, the printed words represent a convenant between the writer and myself. Everyone knows that you should "get it in writing". In fact, in the 14th century, the word "print" meant "to impress with a seal or die". You printed something so the authenticity of your writing would be assured. What happens when the seal, the security of the printed word is gone?

Blogs are not printed publications. They are virtual publications that are maleable. What you read today may not be what you read tomorrow. Instinctively, we believe it will be so but there is really nothing preventing a blogger from rewriting an entire blog. For instance:

On April 17, 2006, I wrote a post titled "Truth is stretchy... to a point". I end the post with the following line: "Remember, I'm a marketer, never trust a marketer." If you go to the post now, the last line will read: "Remember, marketers are evil, I'm a marketer, therefore, I am evil. Never trust the evil." I changed it.

I blog with a pencil. Sometimes, half a day later, I'll change a line I wrote because it doesn't sit well with me. My site stats show that a handful of people have already read the post. Does this make me less trustworthy as a blogger to these people; to everyone?

Other bloggers use a pen. If they update something, they'll strikethru the old text (leaving it in place) before replacing with the new. There are no official guidelines for blogging, no certification. The strikethru method gained popularity through imitation. So really, it could be the wild west out there.

On the Internet, some things are archived and everything is crawled. These things provide a certain level of stability and accountability in an otherwise amorphous medium. They are not, however, equivalent to the convenant of print. Why then, do I read and trust blogs on par with print?

The answer lies once again in the written word. The act of writing is all about conveying ideas. As a blogger myself, I know that I write to tell a story. Each post is a story but my collective writing is a story as well. I think the reason why bloggers don't rewrite blogs is because each post is like a brick in the foundation of the blog. You mess around with too many bricks and pretty soon the whole story will fall on your head.

In addition, I'm vain. I spend a lot of time carefully placing each brick and for the most part, I never move on from it unless I think it's perfect. Going back to it is to second-guess my work and why would I do that? There are other reasons but the point is the same.

I trust that what I read on a blog today will be there tomorrow because I trust the act of writing. Though I can't actually see the printed seal, I know it's there. To me, words on a blog are as good as words on paper.

What do you think? And if you blog, do you blog with a pen or a pencil?

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