Phil Gyford


Friday 24 October 2008

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Zephoria: “Is it solely having an audience that turns it into a publication? Why does the audience have the right to affect your blogging? Why are their responsibilities?”

I see weblogs existing on a very rough continuum. At one end there are people writing weblogs read by a handful of close friends and family - a more regular equivalent of annual round-robin letters sent out to friends. These are small scale and their activity could be described as being closer to “conversation” rather than “publishing” (although I suspect many newbie bloggers actually see it as more like publishing because that’s the closest old-media analogy).

At the other end of the continuum are, perhaps, corporate weblogs or weblogs from professional publications (eg, newspapers). Although these might have more conversational aspects than old-media (eg, trackbacks), they’re closer to publishing than a weblog for a few friends.

If a weblog simply gains readers, to the extent the weblogger is talking to thousands of people daily, I’d say that comes closer to the publishing end of the spectrum, whether the weblogger likes it or not. If you’re talking to huge numbers of people, almost entirely strangers, what you say has a much greater impact than if you were talking to some friends. This is a greater responsibility.

I understand that people might disagree with me when I think this responsibility calls for more checking of facts - maybe people should still feel free to post off-the-cuff half-truths no matter how many people they’re communicating with. But if they do so I feel they’re neglecting responsibilities (even if they haven’t asked for those responsibilities).

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