On Thursday I had the melancholy task of compiling and posting the final edition (#66) of the Festival of the Trees, a monthly blog carnival I co-founded back in June 2006; the first edition appeared right here at Via Negativa. I hosted it four more times over the years, and each time it felt like a bit of a homecoming. So why didn’t the final edition appear here? Because it was just not an end but a beginning: the beginning of a successor effort called simply Treeblogging.com.
As I explained at the end of Festival of the Trees 66, my co-conspirator Jade Blackwell and I felt that too much energy has gone out of blogging for blog carnivals to work very well any more, at least not without a greater expenditure of energy by the organizers than we were willing to put into it. Fewer and fewer people stepped forward to volunteer, and since the idea of blog carnivals never spread very far beyond the political blogosphere, we continually had to explain it to potential participants. Gone are the days when bloggers enthusiastically left comments on each others’ posts; much of the conversation seems to have moved to Twitter and Facebook now.
So we decided to turn the FOTT coordinating blog into a community aggregator site for people who love trees. No more big link-dumps to challenge readers’ increasingly fragmented attention spans; now the links will appear continually, as soon as people submit them. The blog carnival has become a blog. We’ve launched a Facebook page in addition to the Twitter feed, have commenced auto-posting to both, and are encouraging people to subscribe by email.
As I wrote today, though, the most important thing is for everyone who blogs about trees to get in the habit of sending us links. It’s only been a couple of days, but the response has already been pretty encouraging. We’ll see what happens.
I don’t think blogging is going away — quite the opposite, really. It’s become the dominant way to share content on the open web. And to the extent that Facebook and Twitter are bringing more people online, they’re indirectly helping bloggers by growing the audience. After all, links to content outside Facebook’s walled garden makes up a sizable proportion of most people’s feeds.
But there’s no doubt that the social aspect of blogging was one of the things that made it vibrant and exciting back in 2006, when online social networks had barely begun to go mainstream, and I’m not certain blogs will ever see that level of engagement again. In a way, I think it’s good that people who only ever wanted to chat and share photos have places where they can do that now without feeling pressured to post something more substantial. But it does mean that web publishers — and even blog carnival coordinators — can’t keep doing things the same way forever.