Blog death

by Carl Dyke

Seizing the moment of a three day weekend, I’ve been poking at this and other blogs a bit today. Checking in on the usual circuit, belatedly hooking up google reader to some of the usual suspects, getting caught up. So I was stunned to see that Edge of the West, one of the very best history/philosophy group blogs I’ve seen, went on hiatus late last year.

Why didn’t I see this earlier? Why wasn’t I paying attention? Maybe for the same reason they went dark. As smart, thoughtful and rigorous as they were, after awhile it got to where I pretty much knew where they and their commentariat were going to go with any given topic. Good as the moves were, they became predictable like a waltz; conversation became stereotyped and provocations were more and more ritually damped out. Each post became a well-informed iteration of an orthodoxy, the audience more and more a chorus. A terrific one, but still.

Is this different than earlier periods of intellectual history in anything but pace? Didn’t Platonists get sick of Aristotelians’ shit after awhile? How long did it take for Confucians to know the Legalist playbook by heart? How surprised was the Pope about Luther’s n+1 heresies? And at what point of the separate dinner parties does each group run out of ways to agree with each other and lapse into benevolent mumbling? Isn’t that what the port, cigars and washing up are for?

13 Comments to “Blog death”

  1. Interesting thought, and probably quite true for blogging, at least. On the other hand, I suspect that sustained focus on a single tightly contained topic and set of data, may force participants to get past their general ‘personal received views’ by placing them in relatively unfamiliar, or at least more concrete, territory.

    I have been MIA in the blogosphere, with serious work on my neverending thesis. I’ve tried to comment on a few of the posts, but gave up because I couldn’t find anything interesting or at least coherent to say about them…scrambled eggs for brains.

  2. There may be an ebb and flow to these things. Sometimes, as in the case of Edge of the West, the blog remains vital as long as one key person remains interested. When that person throws in the towel, the game is over. Group blogs like Savage Minds seem to do better. If the group is diverse enough, there is enough variety in the topics to keep people coming back for more. This is especially true if replacements are found for those who fade. SM has taken the interesting step of offering temporary gigs to guest bloggers who have something fresh to say.

  3. So did you revamp your own blawg to look like a magazine because you panicked that it, too, would suffer the same fate?

    I have an additional question: why do all Americans use the tag ”boring stuff about me”, as if apologizing to the world about their obvious narcissism? Is that some kind of a middle class pleasantry, or does it have a deeper meaning.

  4. Hi Dejan! Actually I saw Newsweek go to a blog format, so I thought I’d slip into the opening…. As for the b-sam tag, I got that from Levi and it gives me a little chuckle every time.

  5. John, I’ll take your word for the dynamic at EotW. When I was paying attention to it there were three or four active posters and quite a vibrant commentariat. But there was also a smug group-think liberalism I found unenlightening, which is why my attention waned. Ultimately the durable strength of that blog was the quality of its authors’ scholarship, and the blog form wants to move more quickly and sloppily than scholarship. I wonder if that wore them down.

    I agree that SM still seems to be going strong, and the new blood is a big part of it. This is a common observation about the life of institutions and life itself – it is Easter after all – maybe the difference with blogs is just the pace of the cycle?

    Jacob, weren’t you going to be our breath of fresh air? And instead we get scrambled eggs… 😉 I agree that topic and data focus are a good antidote for the usual blawgly narcissisms of opinionating, but it didn’t seem to work for EotW. The problem is that if you really stay focused you eject all the readers who aren’t interested in staying disciplined with you, but that’s most of them. And blogs are an awkward venue for seriousness anyway – part of their core mission is a different level of publicity than the professional research journals.

  6. Carl, I have just mentioned this post on OAC (, where similar issues appear to be arising.

  7. As for the b-sam tag, I got that from Levi and it gives me a little chuckle every time.

    The cat was very depressed last week – almost no compulsive posts – because the Egyptian Temptress has a new kitten, which she loves with all her tentacles, and which is certainly cuter than those horrible pesky HUMANS.

    She named her something horrible,”Tamanaya” of ”Tamaranaya”, because ”it sounds sweet to Western ears”, she says.

  8. Aha. Well, these Western ears think “Extra Cheese” and “Best Case Scenario” sound sweet, but to each his own.

  9. Awww Carl listen to this please: (Negat is the Temptress’s maid)

    My phone’s ringer was off for the meeting. While turning it on later, I noticed a missed call from my maid Negat. Naturally, I was worried it was something about Tamanya.

    Here’s what Negat said, however: “I told my daughters, ‘I want to be Dr. Graham’s cat.’” Apparently they were impressed with the kitten facilities I’ve set up.

    As I put myself in Negat’s shoes, I feel I have wet my lingerie, watching that wonderful, affluent, civilized, HUMANE Western diplomatic world, in which stray cats have a better life than my own children!!!

  10. Maybe we can help accelerate the end of the world, evidently postponed yet again, by rapturing our blogs.

  11. I’m here! Where are the balloons?

    Had the usual end-of-semester crunch, then up to Maine for Rachel’s MFA show/graduation, now off to Virginia for an NCAA conference, next week it’s Ft. Collins for the AP World History reading … a little rapture would go down good right about now.

    Speaking of Ft. Collins, maybe we should get together again?

  12. Glad you’re left behind like the rest of us. I’m in for Ft. C; hopefully this time I won’t get lost trying to find my car after perhaps one too many microbrews.

Leave a Reply!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: