In defence of blogs

I have just read an entry on the e-Foundation blog referring to Jakob Nielsen’s alertbox entry ‘Write Articles, Not Blog Postings’ where he relates an incident where he advised a ‘world leader in his field’ to invest time in writing articles rather than starting a blog, which Nielsen seems to define (erroneously I would say) as posting numerous short comments on blogosphere discussions. It may be true that blog entries do not always represent highly detailed, top quality, innovative thinking, but I think that many blogs are well worth reading and perform a useful function. As Andy Powell says on the e-Foundation blog, Nielsen does seem to be assuming that a blog entry is always superficial and derivative.

It is true that we started the Archives Hub blog without any real in-depth analysis of the cost and benefits of doing so, and that we weren’t thinking of posting ground-breaking content, but maybe the material point is that we started it with the notion that we could just try it out and see how it goes. I suppose this is one of the underlying drivers of Web 2.0, and we felt that at the very least it would be useful to post news, with hopefully some ideas and comments that would be useful to archivists and others working in similar areas. Whilst the pressure to blog can sometimes be kind of intimidating, there is no doubt that a blog entry is often forthcoming where an article for a peer reviewed journal would never materialise. I am sure that we are not alone in this situation. Apart from the fact that we are not strictly research staff, and could not find the time to write in-depth articles of this nature, we also want to be immediate and current and we see great advantages in the immediacy of a blog.

Nielsen says that weblogs are useful for business projects and for sites that sell cheap products. Well, I beg to differ. Whilst many blogs are not terribly useful for my work, I have feeds for a few dozen that I think are well worth casting my eye over. I can just read the posts that seem most relevant and interesting to me. I am generally more likely to do this than to search out articles in academic journals.

P.S. I should say that I have generally found Nielsen’s alertbox to be useful and worthwhile. I well remember his top 10 mistakes in Web design providing invaluable advice, back in the days when I had little idea about usability and accessibility.