March 21, 2018

"I think that the old blogosphere was superior to 'social media' like Twitter and Facebook for a number of reasons."

"First, as a loosely-coupled system, instead of the tightly-coupled systems built by retweets and shares, it was less prone to cascading failure in the form of waves of hysteria. Second, because there was no central point of control, there was no way to ban people. And you didn’t need one, since bloggers had only the audience that deliberately chose to visit their blogs."

Writes Glenn Reynolds, quoting something he wrote last month as he responds to somebody who said "with all the privacy crap about Facebook rearing it’s ugly head again, I’m thinking about moving back to a regular blog for my social interaction."

Of course, I agree that blogging is better, but isn't blogging "social media" and isn't Twitter blogging ("micro-blogging")?

What Glenn counts as good — "bloggers had only the audience that deliberately chose to visit their blogs" — is what drives many people to Facebook: They don't have enough visitors to their blog. People aren't coming to them, so they go to the people. They "blog" on Facebook, and you're compelled to visit their blog because you're Facebook friends. That's a separate problem with Facebook, because you might go there to see what your friends are up to and someone's pushing politics.


Fernandinande said...

I'm not sure what the "old blogosphere" is/was (not Facebook/Twitter?), but Usenet was superior to any hosted blogs because of its distributed storage.

Etienne said...

The problem with Facebook is that no one wants to be your friend, unless they know you. I know, I tried a bunch of times to friend someone, and... nothing. I wasn't allowed in. Facebook for me, was just a few months, and then I was out of there.

After a while, I thought it was a dumb interface. Why would I want to limit who my friends are to people I already know??

The problem with Twitter is, it's just a stupid pager. Like all pagers, you can click ignore and block. Then it feeds you things that you already are comfortable with, and you become just like a mindless dognut eater.

The trouble with blogging is, that most of the people commenting are only commenting about what someone said, and trying to bully them into agreeing with them. They form hives and group-insult or call people trolls who don't agree with the hive.

It's all computer junk. 50 years ago these people would be in the park watching for attractive people to molest.

TreeJoe said...

Glenn's point is that the ~10 year old internet dynamic of neutral search engines striving to best map all available websites + decentralized blogging led to a much lower degree of fear, distrust, and abuse than what we see today emerging.

In other words, ~2000-2010 saw the maturation of the greatest free speech platform in the world.

2010-2020 has seen steadily growing corporate and governmental limitation, regulation, and abuse of free speech on that platform.


There's only one way this ends to me - a new platform, a new 'internet', will emerge within the next 30-40 years.

Ann Althouse said...

"you become just like a mindless dognut eater"

Leave that dog alone.

Mike (MJB Wolf) said...

But if you can’t trust the host, the blog ain’t worth shit. The shadow-banning and demonetizing are underhanded hidden ways that Twitter and FB “shape” the user’s experience, often without acknowledgement. That dishonesty repels me. Couple that dishonest and devious bent with their voracious data gathering and exploitation and you have every reason to avoid curated social media like I do. When I was one of the first 500K users on Twitter it was fun. It was like “microblogging” then. Now it is a vicious swirl with some uses allowed to bully and harass while many are shut down, shunned and there is no recourse. Jack is building a closed hive and doesn’t want any dangerous free-market or conservative ideas to gain purchase in his world.

I can’t support that. And Zuck is just evil.

Ann Althouse said...

50 years from now... 30-40 years....

It really is hard to imagine where this will go. Since I'm pretty old, I don't worry about it too much. The whole thing is so speculative. But people got caught up in social media so quickly, and I got caught up in blogging so quickly and completely. Where is this powerful force taking us? In the early days of my blogging (2004-2008), it felt like a delightful romp and phenomenally important — changing everything. But what is it now?

Peter said...

isn't Twitter blogging?

No. For all their problems with trolls and troublemakers, blogs offer an opportunity for serious, civilized argument and respectful discussion. Twitter is a forum designed to help us get in touch with our ids. It's very hard to have a serious discussion within its character limits, but it's a perfect forum for venting, insulting, name-calling, virtue-signalling and herd-cheering.

Chris Of Rights said...

I used to blog. But couldn't attract consistent visitors, so I quit. Well, that's one of the reasons. I also was able to direct my energy in different ways. I always used to blog about things that frustrated me (usually politics). It was a way to vent other than to rant to my wife (who usually agreed with me, but really didn't want to listen to it every single day).

I direct that energy and frustration in other ways now, but I still post short things to Facebook almost daily. My blog posts back when were much longer.

I've considered going back, but I wasn't paying attention and lost my domain name to a squatter that wants $2000 to get it back. I don't want it back that much.

Meade said...

"I wasn't paying attention and lost my domain name to a squatter that wants $2000 to get it back. I don't want it back that much."

Well pull up a chair (or standing desk) and make yourself at home here at Althouse where we're pretty much all squatters to some degree or another.

stevew said...

If Glen is correct then isn't the old self-selected blogosphere, at least the individual blogs, at risk of being an echo chamber? Like minded people telling each other all the things they agree about, whether positive or negative? And the owner gets to ban the assholes or simply those that disagree.

Note: I quit twitter and facebook over a year ago, haven't missed it. Spend all my social media time on blogs such as this one, and I don't perceive them as echo chambers; there is a good bit of back and forth.


BarrySanders20 said...

"Isn't blogging "social media" and isn't Twitter blogging ("micro-blogging")?"

Blogging is not social media IMO unless you are blogging about cats, vacation, or kids' athletic achievements. Twitter is a social microblog.

Mark said...

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. are all ephemeral, dumbed down, wholly unserious platforms for any real discussion. Designed for people who cannot absorb more than three sentences, or hold a thought for more than the few seconds or minutes that a posting lasts until it disappears forever without any real ability to search for it later, these forms of "social media" certainly do not have any significant place in the marketplace of ideas.

Although some have tried and continue to try, hashtag foreign policy or hashtag social protest are laughable in their real impact.

Mark said...

The shadow-banning and demonetizing are underhanded hidden ways that Twitter and FB “shape” the user’s experience, often without acknowledgement.

All I know is that Facebook, Google, Twitter and Amazon -- and let's throw Disney in there too -- all better be careful because they are all ripe for antitrust/monopoly intervention and break-up.

MadisonMan said...

The old blogosphere was somewhat elitist, IMO. (I'm talking late 90s/early aughts)

Sure, there's all sorts of nonsense out there now. But everyone can contribute.

Etienne said...

Leave that dog alone.

The spelling corrector insisted I was wrong, but I knew better...

AllenS said...

mindless dognut eater

You could be talking about Obama.

Mr. D said...

I’ve been blogging for over a dozen years and have over 5,700 posts on my blog; at my peak I might have seen 200 unique visitors a day, but these days I only get a small fraction of that. I’m okay with it — I’ve never tried to monetize the blog and I like my day job just fine. I studiously avoid overt displays of politics on Facebook; I won’t even “like" posts I do like because I’d rather not have Mr. Zuckerberg know any more about my predilections than he already knows. Most of college friends are hard-core lefties and I just let their rants pass without comment. I want to see the pictures of their kids and vacations, but I don’t need to see their reposting of tendentious Robert Reich videos; FB does let you block the Reich videos and similar crap, so I also make a point of blocking fake news from my right-wing friends when I can to balance things out, so according to my profile Zuckerberg et al. assume I’m a moderate.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Of course, I agree that blogging is better, but isn't blogging "social media" and isn't Twitter blogging ("micro-blogging")?

I think the point he is making is about how much you are relying on the platform to distribute your message, vs how much your readers are visiting you directly, or how much like-minded bloggers are directing their traffic to you.

If you rely on Facebook or Twitter, how often is you output quietly disappearing? How much of what is being presented to you is based on paid ads, or things that are presented as popular because a Russian botnet clicked "like" 50,000 times?

Of course, could, at any point, choose to not serve up some content of your blog, and you could do nothing to compel them to. But if they did that, you would have the ability to take your blog someplace else. ( I know you don't want to, and would lose your archive, but it is within your control.) Your readers, and other bloggers who link to you, would follow you to whatever service you used. The same is not true about someone distributing their thoughts via Facebook or Twitter.

Sebastian said...

"changing everything"

It did change everything--well, a lot of things.

Who needs a blog when you can just comment at Althouse?

Birches said...

Agree with Meade. I come to Althouse so I don't have to annoy my friends with political fb posts. In fact, I have a hard time enjoying people who are all politics all the time, even when I agree with them.

John henry said...

Whatever happened to maillists?

In 95 or so I started a Nevil Shute maillist using which eventually became Yahoo Groups. We had over 1,000 members at one point. We got 120 of them, plus his daughters and some grandkids to come to Albuquerque for Shute's 100th birthday plus a bunch of memorabilia.

It became the Nevil Shute Foundation. Any fellow Norwegians here?

When off topic discussions got a bit much I started the NIOT (Nothing is off topic) list. For about 10 years we would have 500-1000 posts a month.

I came to know a lot of very nice people, and a few assholes, through both lists. Many in person.

It has kind of died of late but if anyone wants to try it, It is still working:

John Henry

Michael K said...

I used to blog. But couldn't attract consistent visitors, so I quit.

I blog but mostly use it to store stuff I want to find.

I had heart surgery about 8 years ago and stopped for months and that caused most commenters to move on but a few still come by from time to time. I also blog at Chicagoboyz, which is a group that has few trolls and we have discussions that go on for weeks sometimes. I like Ricochet and read that most days.

I also liked Usenet better. It was funny that there was a small publishing group that went up in flames over the 2004 election and Bush. There was a Tom Clancy group that Clancy used to participate in.

Patterico was another blog I used to read and comment at but Patrick went nuts over Trump and has accumulated quite a few leftist trolls since. He got very angry when I argued with him in the comments and I quit. It was a bit like the lefty blogs I used to read and comment at. They also got angry if I disagreed (about single payer, for example) and banned me.

Inga went over to Patterico to copy and paste some nasty comments by Patrick. It's too bad because I know Patrick from the days of Cathy Seipp's blog. Some of us commenters used to meet for lunch.

Michael K said...

John, I am a member of a Neville Shute group on facebook.

There is a meeting at Dartmouth next month.

I was scheduled to go to Seattle for a meeting in 2011 when I had my illness. Fortunately it did not occur in Seattle.

mikee said...

On Facebook, you are being sold to advertisers and politicians and the police and everyone who wants a piece of your life. Companies buy you and your contacts for politicians. Although sometimes Facebook just gives you and all your friends away to Obama's campaign. Enjoy!

Darkisland said...


Greetings fellow Norwegian!

I don't do Facebook but is this part of the ns foundation?

Joost Melonbroek, Dan Telfair et al?

If so, it grew from my little mail list of so many years gone by.

If not, well, the more Norwegian fan groups the better.

Darkisland said...


If you do not have copies of the Set Square broadcast, and the unpublished manuscripts for the seafarers, incident at eucla and his writeup of &D2in Normandy, I do

You have but to ask.

John Henry

Churchy LaFemme: said...

Usenet is still around, and there are a couple of groups that still have enough traffic to be interesting, but the average age is, um, "geezer".

I recently celebrated a 10 year blogaversary, but I realized long ago that I was never going to make any money at it. Even with sidebar ads, I don't recover hosting costs. Still, the ten years of archives attract a modest number of hits from the targeted community, and it's always nice when some newbie discovers it and spends the day commenting on old posts.

I had to open an FB account for some software work I was doing, but I never actually used it, and deleted it when I left that job.

Michael K said...

If you do not have copies of the Set Square broadcast, and the unpublished manuscripts for the seafarers, incident at eucla and his writeup of &D2in Normandy, I do

About Normandy is that related to "Most Secret?"

I wanted to visit the area where he lived in Australia. I've been to Australia twice but not to Victoria.

The group had a meetup there a couple of years ago. It would have been a good time to go.

Carol said...

Last night I was thinking, if bogus Facebook posts and shares helped a preference cascade for Trump to gain momentum that it wouldn't have developed otherwise...well, ha ha.

If people are just too timid or intimidated to vote they way they'd really like to, I say jack with them however you want.

And didn't Facebook aid Obama with its info in 2012? Fair's fair.

Darkisland said...


No. Shute went into Normandy on an LST(?) on the day after D-Day as na reporter for BBC or Reuters or some such. I think Omaha Beach but it has been some years since I read it and it may have been one of the others. The LST was grounded for unloading at high tide and sat there overnight. Fighting was off the beach but he could still hear it.

The manuscript is about the experience. Not sure if it was published or where.

Most Secret is taken from Shute's time with the "Wheezers and Dodgers" which was a navy unit that developed special weapons. Gerald Pawle wrote about the unit in the 50s in a book called Secret War. Well worth reading.

Ever see the video of the giant, rocket propelled wheel that starts up the beach only to go nuts? That was one of Shute's projects and he is in the video (His daughter Shirley told me over dinner)

They also tried anti-aircraft, ship mounted, flame throwers. Turned out that the first (British)pilot they had been a motorcycle stuntman before the war, jumping motorcycles through a wall of fire. He had some choice comments about the flame thrower. Another idea that must have seemed good at the time...

Also, if you like Trustee from the Toolroom, read Miles and Beryl Smeeton's books. As a sailor you would like their experiences sailing round the cape Horn and the southern oceans. Their adventures formed the basis for Trustee and Shute even wrote an introduction to one of them. Great books all on their own.

Anyway, drop me a note if you'd like a copy. I'll scan it and email it. Anyone else too, of course.

John Henry

Darkisland said...


Google hosts this blog and you are relying on their good nature. What happens if they decide that I, or Inga, or Tim or Madison Man or someone else is too extreme? They might simply ask you to delete and ban our comments. (Would you?)

Or you might wake up one morning to find that your blog no longer exists because it is a hotbed of extreme political discourse. In Google's sole opinion.

No right of appeal. No backup or archival copy. Just gone like it never even happened.

You do have the blog backed up offline somewhere, right? You could restore everything somewhere else, right?

Never forget Ann, belongs to Google, not you. You are the product, not the customer. You have no rights whatsoever, they have all rights whatsoever.

You don't even have a right to your name. Once they kill you off, they could sell the Althouse blog name to anyone else.

In all seriousness, I've been hanging out here for a dozen years or so and would really, really, really miss it. I hope you are taking actions to protect yourself from Google. None of my business what actions or even if you are but I do hope so.

John Henry

mccullough said...

I dig the Althouse blog because it’s Old School. It’s pretty much the Parthenon of the Internet at this point.

And it’s Old School because the blog enjoys examining society, mostly US society, and all its subcultures. There may be a somewhat conservative bent to the commentariat but it’s a pretty diverse crew geographically and economically. I’m guessing it skews a bit white, make, and over 40. But the readership of the blog is vastly greater than us loud mouths who like to spout off.

In 100 years, a researcher studying US society in the first quarter century of this millennium would do well to read all of Althouse’s posts.

And maybe a few of our comments. But not too many.

Ann Althouse said...

“You do have the blog backed up offline somewhere, right? You could restore everything somewhere else, right?”

It is not even possible. Years ago I tried, but with direct help from people at Google, it was eventually admithat the blog, with all the comments, is too big to extract. If they killed the blog, I would have to start over or just accept death. I might write a book or live a different way. This is something I am entirely aware of just as I know that at any moment, I could die. We are not immortal.

Ann Althouse said...

If the blog is ever gone, you can still find it at