(Note: This post has been updated (1) as of 7:07 PM Eastern on 26 Mar. See below.)
Composer and weblogger Forrest Covington of The Muse at Sunset fears that the end of blogging as we know it is close at hand.
More and more, blogs do not allow comments, or if they do, you have to register and be vetted for the privilege of commenting. This was inevitable, it's the tragedy of the commons again. Blogs were meant to be open communities, but every time an open community is established, the same thing happens- the people who exploit and ruin the experience for others far out number the ones who contribute positively. There are now comment spammers, who have caused many blogs to shut down comments. Even well known blogs, like Instapundit, aren't really blogs anymore, but rather pages of links and commentary. It was the open, public aspect that made a blog a Blog. Once that's gone, it's just a web page. The trend of putting up Blogads, while great for the blogger who gets the money, is another destructive force. I very seldom watch TV, when I do, I am appalled at how far the commercialization has gone. Essentially, the experience is ruined, unless it is taped and all the ads zapped out. Commercialism is the buzzard hovering over the corpse, but it always gets in.
I would first note that Mr. Covington's notion of what blogs* and blogging are about is too narrowly construed, and largely in error. To paraphrase, and with apologies to, the poet, there are more things in blogs and blogging, Mr. Covington, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
Since their entrance into the not-exclusively-techie sector of the Web, blogs are not now, nor have they ever been "meant to be open communities." Neither was the ability to comment publicly on a post-by-post basis via a publicly accessible blog comments function an integral part of blogs or blogging in the beginning. Like Topsy, the comments function just "growed," while attaching itself to an already established entity. From the beginning of their use by "civilians," blogs were, and today remain, individual platforms for giving public voice to one's personal likes, dislikes, concerns, and interests within one's own personally owned and controlled space in any style or manner one chooses. (And, by the way, and just for Mr. Covington's information, his complaint that "Even well known blogs, like Instapundit, aren't really blogs anymore, but rather pages of links and commentary," betrays an embarrassing deficiency of blogospheric knowledge. Instapundit has, from its inception, been nothing other than "pages of links and commentary." Its reputation and popularity have, in fact, been built on just that blog model the original model of the blog.)
The idea of the individual blog as merely a single entity in some commonly-owned and -controlled open public community, or the idea of each individual blog with its post-specific public comments function being considered a commonly-owned and -controlled open public community, is repugnant to the very concept of blogging which has always been, and remains today, a level-playing-field foundation for the erection of an individual and personally created, owned, and controlled bully pulpit for every person with access to the World Wide Web regardless of one's qualifications and gifts or lack thereof.
In short, blogs and blogging constitute a paragon of the democratic the one-man-one-vote democratic not the communal. The presence or absence of a blog comments function affects the nature of that paragon not one whit. Some bloggers enjoy interacting directly and publicly on their blogs with their readers; others do not. I, for instance, find that sort of direct public interaction with my readers most distasteful, my attitude being, if you want to comment publicly on something I've written, do so on your own blog, and don't clutter mine with your opinions. And if you don't have a blog, then create one. It can be done in a matter of minutes literally and at zero cost, and it's so easy to do it could be done by a trained chimp, so there's no excuse for you not to create your own blog other than pure sloth, and I refuse to have activated on my blog a comments function to serve you as reward for that sloth.
An inhospitable attitude, you say? Perhaps. But, then, I'm not running a bloody Bed & Breakfast here, am I. I'm running a bully pulpit; my own bully pulpit, and being hospitable is not one of the obligations of ownership.
On Mr. Covington's second point, the so-called commercialization of blogs by the putting up of Blogads or the like by the blogger, I simply don't see what harm such commercialization can do as long as it's controlled by the blogger himself. I see only benefits for both blog and blogger as those ads are sources, or potential sources, of income real, hard-cold-cash income. And benefits for readers as well, as a blog whose owner is properly recompensed is a blog that's more likely to be run well, and be around for a while. If a blog's readers find those ads objectionable enough, or find that they're in some negative way affecting the blog's content or readability, well, those readers will simply stop being readers, won't they. After all, there's nothing forcing them to be readers of that particular blog. And if enough readers desert a blog because of its so-called commercialization, then the blog will either close down, or the blogger will reduce the ads to a level acceptable to most readers, and the blogger, his blog, and his blog's readers will all be well served.
In other words, the so-called commercialization issue is a non-issue, and therefore no cause for alarm.
I think, in the light of all the above, I can safely and with assurance say to Mr. Covington that his proposed requiem aeternam blogospherem is, um, somewhat premature, and entirely unwarranted.
*I loathe the terms blog, blogger, and blogging, but have used them here throughout for the sake of consistency with Mr. Covington's use of those terms.
Update (7:07 PM Eastern on 26 Mar): Forrest Covington responds. His rhetorical, "OK, then. What exactly is a blog, and how is it different from a webpage per se?" has already been answered in my above post. But perhaps Mr. Covington's "infuriandus est" state of mind blinded him to the fact. I would add only that the other distinguishing feature is that a blog is refreshed with new material on a fairly frequent and fairly regular basis; not typically the case with ordinary web pages. The "commercialization" question was also dealt with in my above post; specifically with Mr. Covington's rhetorical, "[W]hat is the difference between a blogger and a paid commentator?" The question, as I suggested, is meaningless, not to say non sequitur, unless one holds that a blogger, by the fact of his receiving money for his writing, becomes, ipso facto, a paid stooge of one sort or another. The very idea is, of course, absurd.
But I do encourage Mr. Covington to keep on trying in his efforts to make his case. The "hem of [my] robe" can wait for that kiss he feels so unfit to bestow upon it until such time as he's finally successful in those efforts.