My next book: the story of blogs

I left Salon last summer with the idea of working on a new book. I’m happy to report that the book now has a deal and a publisher — Crown, with whom I had such a happy experience on DREAMING IN CODE — and I’ll be spending the next year or so researching and writing it.

I am, I think the word is, stoked.

The topic will seem obvious to any of you who’ve been reading my stuff over the years: It’s going to be a book about bloggers and blogging. The working title is SAY EVERYTHING, and we’re describing it as the story of how blogging began, what it’s becoming, and what it means for our culture.

Upon delivering this news I typically hear two wildly divergent responses from two different groups of listeners. People in the tech world tend to react like this: “Blogging? Oh, that’s so 2000!” They think blogging is something that happened way back in the early part of this decade, about which everything has already been said. Meanwhile, people outside the tech-industry bubble — who’ve never heard of Techcrunch or Techmeme — respond with variations on “I’d love to read that.”

I should probably point out here that the population of potential readers in the second group outnumbers those in the former. Yet I belong to the first group myself. So I also hope to show the insiders that there is more to be learned and understood about blogging than they perhaps realize.

In other words, I’ll continue to do the sort of writing on technology I’ve always done, since I started back at the old S.F. Examiner: trying to be accurate enough to keep the respect of those immersed in the field, and insightful enough to hold their interest, while doing my best to make sure that everything I’ve written appeals to smart people who know nothing about the subject. It’s a bit of a straddle; some readers thought I pulled it off with DREAMING IN CODE, some thought I fell to one side or the other. I’m going to try it again.

Why blogging? I think I harbor a secret wish to spend the next couple of years explaining that writing a, you know, book about blogging is really okay — and that, no, I don’t think it should have been a blog instead.

Seriously, there’s a great tale that has still not been fully told of how the practice actually evolved — from technical invention to media craze to cultural phenomenon. As the haphazard efforts to mark some sort of 10th-anniversary-of-blogging this year proved, people are still a little fuzzy on the basics of the story. (Rebecca Blood’s account from 2000 remains invaluable, but it’s incomplete and now far out of date.)

When Mike Arrington asked, last summer, “Will Someone Who Actually Cares About Blogging Please Write the History Of It?,” I just smiled. But I wasn’t ready to talk about my plans yet; I remain uncharacteristically superstitious about announcing big projects until their financing is in place. I realize this is terrible un-Web-2.0ish of me, but there it is.

So there’s a story, one about how innovations emerge, how they bubble up from the creativity of geeks and pass into the wider culture. There’s also an argument, one that I’ve been making for ages, in different forms, from my very first column on blogging eight years ago: that blogging is not, despite what you hear from so many different quarters, a trivial phenomenon. And that, despite all the dismissals (most recently by Doris Lessing), blogging — far from contributing to the demise of culture and the end of civilization — actually offers a lifeline in the sea of information overload.

There’s much further to say but that’s enough for now. More as the work progresses!

[tags]books, blogging, say everything[/tags]

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