About a year ago I was really involved with Fotolog, which is a community for people to share a daily photo -- a blog without words. It was an amazing thing -- for a few months. Then as word spread (via NY Times and others) then the numbers expanded phenomenally and the sense of a knowable "community" all but vanished. It's based on a simple system of favorites lists -- so you can browse from one person's pictures to see those of people who they like -- which does still create small clusters of like-minded individuals (or rather, like-aesthetic'd individuals). But a lot of people spend a lot of time bemoaning the loss of the good old days when Fotolog was only a few thousand people. I share a lot of those feelings -- though I've also spent less and less time on Fotolog for other, more personal reasons. But when I go back, I can still visit some of the same people and learn from their photographs -- which for an image novice, has been an amazing resource. But it serves in my mind as an example of both the very best of the internet and the worst -- and how they can coexist, and shift, within a few months. The best: connecting people who would never otherwise meet, and tapping in to basic human generosity -- people's willingness to share advice on photo technique, hardware, software, etc. The worst: abuse of the comments system, people trying to post porn, etc (as if there weren't already plenty of places to see and share porn on the internet).
So it's been nice to start reading and writing blog and find the good parts of the internet again. To be fair, there are other good parts: the VICTORIA listserv for people involved with Victorian Studies (my field of specialization) has been an active, helpful, and mostly thoughtful community for over ten years. As someone working in a department with limited 19thc colleagues, it's been very sustaining to have this virtual group of colleagues to draw on for advice and ideas.
I realised recently that I haven't really "come out" as a blogger to very many people in my real-time life -- Tony Pierce's list of blogging do's and don'ts says:
5. dont tell your mom, your work, your friends, the people you want to date, or the people you want to work for about your blog. if they find out and you'd rather they didnt read it, ask them nicely to grant you your privacy.
I know everyone has different opinions on this, but I basically agree. My gf reads my blog, and a couple of friends do who also blog. But most of my real-time friends don't blog, don't read blogs, and besides, I talk to them in real time. And I started my blog to give me a different kind of space in which to think about things -- something other than my already-defined professional work which seems to easily take over almost all reading and writing. I like having my blog life separate -- it's a space of freedom that way. Especially as an academic -- the academic world has only two or three degrees of separation, which can get really claustrophobic. (Like what happened to Tracking Tenure, who discontinued her blog because a colleague started reading it and writing his own copycat version.)
so, yay for blogs. Now I have to go catch up on my reading.