Jeffrey asks if we’re still excited about “blahgs”. My answer: Not as much. Our content is all starting to look the same because of the tools used to manage it and web-two-point-dough has homogenized the Internet.
Before there were blogs we had websites. Beautiful, random websites that felt more like a zine — one page looking nothing like the one before or after it — or Wired magazine back in the early days when Jane Metcalf was art directing. Clicking through a website hosted on Geocities was like playing Russian roulette with your eyes but those horrid pages with disco backgrounds, flaming horizontal rules, and BLINK tags would look more like art today than poorly designed website because we’re so used to seeing boxy newsletters (this site included). Content was in free-form, one page might contain a paragraph set in headline tags and the next would be five pages set in nine-point type. Sure it was sometimes frustrating but it certainly wasn’t boring. Today’s content-tied-to-ads web is very bland in comparison and we desperately need to rediscover the ways of our old, accidental bohemian community.
When content is forced through a entry-commment-trackback-pagerank strainer it all comes out looking the same no matter how the templates are designed. Sure this format is functional but it’s more like a Maersk shipping container than a Volvo s50. This is fine for commercial purposes, the blog is certainly the must-have online marketing device, but I miss those days when content wasn’t confined to categories, calendars, and links to vote a piece of content into a popularity contest.
Yes, I’m talking about the old days through rose-colored glasses. Managing the sites of yesteryear was nerve-racking and difficult, God forbid if you ever wanted to change the design (many a weekends were lost, glued to the computer going through pages and pages of cut-and-pasting content into new HTML wrappers). The affordable CMS thankfully has brought an end to that. The new challenge is to find a way to manage content while creating a space free of repetitive form. Of course this is possible, anything is possible, and it’s my hope that I’m not alone in this quest.
But design can only take content so far.
Everyday brings more blogs and more links to the same content found through the same feeds and social networks. Web-two-crap has monetized everything from the online video to the RSS feed. Quantity over quality has taken over and instead of getting the best out of people we’re getting the watered down product published in hopes of being popular for a day, maybe only minutes, but enough to increase links-in, links-out, page views, click-throughs, and ad revenue. Instead of having a wonderful cable community channel we’re stuck with the Gong Show. And that’s it, there’s no going back. I have a hard time wanting to be a part of that universe anymore. We didn’t like it when we were all forced through this in high school so
why are we putting up with it now. Unfortunately I don’t see the web reversing course anytime soon.
I remember when it would take months for the web to churn through the next new meme or weird link. Now it takes a matter of days, sometimes hours. Digg, YouTube, and Myspace have made content a popularity contest that has crept into blogs, even this one.
In 2002 there was a lot of excitement about the independent web. The fallout from the .com era had passed and those still left standing were anxious and making plans for the return of the non-commercial web. Blogs certainly played a major part in helping bring that initiative online and started the self publishing movement. It’s my hope that as another four years have passed and again money, and now monotony, have crept back into our content that we’ll all keep at least a little part of what we do free from what has become blahgs.