When I saw Clay Shirky’s appearance on the Colbert Report of the 3rd of April 2008 I wrote down this quote:
Communications tools don’t get socially interesting until they get technologically boring. Social effects are more important than just how the technology works. (Clay Shirky)
It has stuck to me ever since and when I saw Shirky’s keynote talk at PICNIC08 in September he continued to expand on this quote.
Shirky states that social software has fewer features than other types of software which are part of its social success. In the case of blog software this is true for Blogger which turned the blog software and blogging world upside down with easy ‘one-button publishing’ but WordPress is a complicated tool. Even if one sticks with the default settings it is not a tool one uses right away.
This is why blogging platforms such as Blogger stay very popular and new tools such as Habari find a small but solid user base. Simplicity. However, does simplicity equal technologically boring or is technologically boring not thinking about the technique behind the tools anymore?
In my thesis I argued that not only bloggers and blog software but also search engines cause the blogging phenomenon to grow. The simplification of blog technology and the masking of technological features such as automatic sending of trackbacks and pingbacks could be described as software becoming technologically boring. However, social effects are connected to the working of technology and to say that these social effects are more important is a rather simplified way of putting things. I would say that the way technology works may cause social effects such as update and/or stat addiction.
Shirky’s quote keeps on raising questions. As it is part of his larger argument in Here Comes Everybody I just ordered the book to read during my Christmas holidays. Can’t wait to read it and continue thinking about this quote.
6 thoughts on “Blogs are boring”
Clay Shirky has a great way of writing, very clear. I haven’t finished the book yet, but really enjoyed what I’ve read so far.
This quote from Shirky is interesting and also your thought “Simplicity. However, does simplicity equal technologically boring or is technologically boring not thinking about the technique behind the tools anymore?” makes me questioning Twitter as a blog and the relations it has to search engines. How many people would wonder about the techniques behind RSS feeds of Twitter/blogs? Can I turn Shirky, quote around, if a social communications tool is socially interesting or popular, is the technology boring?
I just downloaded your thesis and will read it soon.
During his presentation at PICNIC08 he actually mentioned Twitter as a prime example of a ‘boring’ technology with only two features which enabled it to quickly become socially interesting.
The reason why I currently have a private profile on Twitter is because Google indexes every single Tweet! This is because Google basically indexes everything that has a RSS feed.
That’s quite interesting. I am part of the small but solid Habari user base.
The pure simplicity of the Habari administration interface and the beauty of the article editor (blank canvas) is attractive not boring IMHO.
Less is more.
Yes, that’s why I praised Habari for it’s simplicity and then posed the question “does simplicity equal technologically boring or is technologically boring not thinking about the technique behind the tools anymore?”
I currently use Habari on a test server, to try it out and I love it. It’s simplicity is both its beauty and usability.