Blogging’s getting a bit old – what’s next? Plus, my first pitiful attempt at a vlog.

April 8, 2016

     By Duncan Green     

It’s quiet in the blogosphere. Too quiet. (In Westerns, saying that invariably means you’re about to get an arrow in

Caution: existential crisis looming

Caution: existential crisis imminent

the head). I’ve been blogging on FP2P for 8 years now and for the last few of them, have been wondering what comes next. There are few new entrants to the blog world, and some of the original development bloggers have fallen by the wayside (looking at you, Bill Easterly). Otherwise it’s a lot of the same old names chuntering away. That feels like a technology that’s ripe for disruption, so my question is – where do new arrivals go to write and exchange views, instead of starting a blog? Or as Jed Bartlett (still the best contender for US president, IMO) would say, what’s next?

I asked a few of my tech literate friends and colleagues and they came up with a few options:

Multipliers and Aggregators

One view is that blogging will not die, but will increasingly just be raw content – people won’t find their way to your website. Whether anyone reads your stuff will depend on how you feed it into an expanding superstructure of aggregators and multipliers, including:

Medium: Tech guru and MySociety founder Tom Steinberg has adopted it, which must mean something. Tom says it ‘has swallowed up a lot of the energy for Thinking Persons who want to write online. It feels like if you write there you get basically free readers and a higher chance of breaking out.’ Oxfam International is already there, and I may sign up. It seems to be more interactive and open access than sites like Huffpo – e.g. readers highlight their favourite quotes as well as like articles to move them up the pecking order.

women bloggers 2Facebook Instant Articles. Up to now (confession) I have avoided Facebook, so don’t really know how this works, but I gather people are pushing content through instant articles and getting lots of hits – like Medium, that feels more like a multiplier than an alternative to blogging.

Q&A formats

Blogging is really pretty top down – guy (usually) on a soap box, with people allowed to comment. More democratic, horizontal fora might be encourage more conversational exchange. This from Oxfam tech guru Eddy Lambert: If you ever saw Yahoo answers etc. it’s a bit like that but way better and growing quickly.   People ask questions (under categories and themes or to particular individuals/groups of experts) and other users respond.  Discussions are the heart of it but also simpler ‘like’ voting for people to reward good answers or responses.  Lots of algorithmic magic happens to then push ‘interesting’ content at you on-site, on-app and via email.  Very vibrant communities form around themes or people. Why relevant?:  because it rewards expertise and knowledge but everything starts with a question

Go retro – personal listservs

In a slightly back to the future vein, people are setting up personal email list serves to avoid all the adverts and just dog_blog_cartoontalk to their mates – that seems like a bit of a backward step. Can people recommend any good development-related ones?

Forget text, it’s all about video

Finally, what’s with the text obsession? I am reliably informed (i.e. by a journo friend in a pub) that text is dying, video is the future, provided it’s 90 seconds or less. Alice Evans at Cambridge is doing video abstracts for academic papers. Matt Andrews at Harvard has been doing video summaries of lectures for a while. The Guardian is getting loads of hits by just putting chunks of text on top of video footage. This is seriously bad news for old guys like me with the perfect face for radio. So if you don’t want to see the future, please look away now. My first vlog.

Think this should be my last one as well? I welcome all tips/suggestions to ensure FP2P doesn’t go the way of the fax machine…….


April 8, 2016
Duncan Green