We've been at the Supernova conference for the past two days. Today has been fairly weblog-centric with mentions in almost every panel. Meg Hourihan, Dave Winer and Nick Denton presented a talk entitled "Are Weblogs the Next Platform?" Many of the usual questions were addressed:
The Format Question: What makes a weblog a weblog?
The Venture Capitalist Question: What is the monetary value of weblogging?
The Gender Question: Where are all the women? (Thankfully, only mentioned briefly)
What piqued my interest was the discussion about the difference between weblogs and other forms of media (magazines and newspapers) and messaging (ie email, chat, telephone). Nick Denton cites weblogging as an opportunity to enable the MicroPublisher with inexpensive and easy tools. There is also discussion about the power of the weblog permeating traditional media.
Some brief thoughts:
As I see it, the forms of media and communication can be largely compared and ranked by formality, voice, and purpose. For the most part, a person chats, emails and publishes in three distinct manners -- even if in the subtlest of ways. The intended audience has a great deal to do with these changes in tone.
When I write for my weblog, I make assumptions about my audience. For one, I assume that they understand my sense of humor -- mostly self-deprecating jokes that often border on the absurd. Unfortunately, many times they don't.
So, I'm forced to question whether there is something wrong with my writing or something wrong with my readers. Or, is it something much more sinister: Is there something wrong with the weblog medium?
Saying a medium is young, therefore open to a lot of ambiguity is a lot kinder than proclaiming that "People have no sense of humor!"
Michael Sippey mentioned an interesting analogy at lunch: Television commercials contain a great deal of irony and humor and, for the most part, the majority of Americans are aware and understand this humor. If this same tone was brought into a weblog today, many would cease to understand or appreciate the joke. Why? Because we're used to television commericals and how they work. We know how to react because we know they want us to react. Give weblogs more time and that larger audience will get in on the joke. It's all about expectations.
When I was interviewed for the SXSW tech report I touched on this point and basically said that part of the confusion of tone lies in the fact that weblogs are by no means uniform and with each click, a reader encounters a different author's voice. If someone is used to sincerity on a weblog, they learn to expect sincerity.
Other than waiting for time to pass and the medium to evolve (or rather, perceptions shifting) , are there any solutions? Must we add metadata to our weblogs that would be equivalent to an emoticon ;). "I try to be funny" in the title field? Humorchalking? Do we relegate certain weblogs to certain areas or ghettos based on tone?