Friday, July 21, 2006


Slate reporter, Jack Shafer, responds to the Pew Charitable Trust survey of bloggers.
The most immediately startling for me was the repetition of the phrases "about half " or "nearly half" to describe various blogger attributes. About half of all American bloggers are men, says Pew. About half are under the age of 30. About half use a pseudonym. About half say creative self-expression or documenting personal experiences is a major reason for blogging. About half think their audience is folks they already know. Half say changing people's minds is not a major reason behind their blog, and about half had never
published before starting their blog.

This means, of course, that about half are over 30, about half are women, about half use their own names and about half say changing people's minds is a major reason for their blog. That would be my half.

Still, neither Five Wells nor my other blog, Dryden Democrats, come close to the image of "blogger" discussed in the news. We're going to need a new word soon. The A-list bloggers have readership in the thousands per day. Most are professional journalists. Most provide a vehicle for lively discussion among readers. While many write to promote their own viewpoints, hyperlinks give the reader a chance to judge the validity of the opinions touted. Many pre-blog websites were designed to provide a page of "Hey, here's something interesting I found on the web." Blogs were the natural outcome. While purely personal, or literary, or photographic blogs are also nice, weblogs remain an important shortcut to finding information on the web.

Continuing education, adult education, is highly self-directed. One reason I like National Public Radio is that I can't skip over stories with headlines that don't particularly interest me as I do with print media (including blogs.) Radio is like the required reading list of a college class. Blogs that provide "must read" links are the next best thing. The Scienceblogs site collects the best science bloggers into one easy menu. If there were similar sites for art, history, philosophy, sociology we'd be well on our way to a really powerful education system without walls.

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