TWO YEARS AGO, when prominent Irish bloggers were spending an increasing amount of time flopping around inside Twitter and Jaiku, I overheard a conversation at Barcamp Cork about the rising number of channels that were competing for people's attention. I remember that chat because the consensus seemed to be that people spent most of their time in 15 sites. Even though some of those barcampers professed to open more than 70 tabs at a time on Firefox, their online worlds were no more expansive than 15 sites. Since that time, I think our online environment has atrophied even further, mainly because things like tight email windows on iPhones and 140 character limitations on Twitter have spotlighted the finite nature of human attention. My blogging has slipped. The number of Irish blogs hovers around 4,000 with no real change during the past year. Five years ago, I'd punch out five posts a day without realising it. Now I'm lucky to get one post up every day. And when I produce more than a single post, it's normally because I've sent something up to the cloud from my mobile phone. In Google Reader, the number of fresh posts from Irish bloggers is dropping off the chart. And I also thik there's a declining interest in RSS as well, perhaps pounded into submission by the iPhone's lack of RSS support.
If my new third level students are an indicator, we've become more visual as readers of charts, mindmaps and videos. We're consuming online information via centralised hubs like Facebook, Posterous or Tumblr. This means if you want to be seen, you have to be everywhere at once without looking spammy. And your brand has to be in those centralised hubs too or it doesn't rate.
I never subscribed to the false dichotomy of mainstream media versus bloggers. Others may paint a world in which bloggers were expected to expose out-of-touch newspaper columnists, assuming broadsheet journos don't source material from the street or from online conversations. I think there's a two-way flow of information. Most of the blogs in my reading list pull content from the airwaves and from newsfeeds powered by mainstream titles. And many of the journalists I enjoy the most glean valuable information from blogs. A smart researcher will trawl bogs for emerging opinions, fact-finding and new voices for broadcast appearances.
Only a few Irish bloggers have the time and energy to go after fresh stories. I like IrishEconomy.ie, IrishElection.com and TheStory.ie but I don't have the patience to listen or watch most of the shaky video that some Irish bloggers are now cranking out as fresh content. It's just too tedious to follow and well below the production values required for serious consideration when sharing a moment through links. However, the best material is normally vetted by a handful of people I follow on Twitter and Jaiku.
During the past two months, I've gleaned a lot of valuable information from curated favorites on Twitter and from lists I've vetted of Twitter users, not from the main Twitter timeline. I'm also enjoying the lifestreams of others shared on Posterous and Tumblr. And with a fresh download of Motion from Six Apart, I'm looking forward to a group project with some talented creative multimedia students as we bolt together a Django-Python installation to showcase creativity in motion. It will be a success if the resultant group blog attracts 1000 page views a day.
Time to get cracking.
John Burns -- "Where have all the Irish bloggers gone?" in the Sunday Times, 20 Dec 09.