First of all, let me make this perfectly clear: Scott Rosenberg's Say Everything: How Blogging Began, What It's Becoming, and Why It Matters is a seriously terrific book. If you're a blogger, if you're interested in the phenomenon of blogging or even if you're just interested in where the media are headed, then you owe it to yourself to read this book.
I wanted to get that out of the way because, while I really enjoyed the book, there were some things that I would have liked to have seen done a bit differently and I be focusing on those quibbles more than on the things I liked about the book. I don't want to give the wrong impression about my final evaluation of the book.
First, the good stuff.
Parts One and Two give a very good history of "mainstream" blogging starting with pioneers like Justin Hall, Dave Winer and Jorn Barger through to Robert Scoble, Evan Williams Boing Boing and Heather Armstrong. While some of what he presents is pretty common knowledge, for most of it he really covered a lot of material here that I did not know. And this is really terrific, a really gripping story of people doing different things, working out a new medium on the fly.
What could be different here? Well, the story was a bit too male, a bit too American, a bit too techy, and certainly too much about political blogs and "newspaper" blogs. A bit too easy, in a sense, like he fell into the "business book" follow the money pattern. I would have really liked to get a sense of smaller blogging communities and how they arose, like the science blogging community or even knitting or food bloggers or even the liblogosphere. I really missed the small story. Blogging doesn't just disrupt mainstream journalism after all, it disrupted a lot of other information communities and that was worth exploring.
Part Three get into more conceptual territory with the title of Chapter 10, "When Everyone Has a Blog", giving a good flavour of what it's about.
Essentially he makes the case that blogging has a place in a broader media ecosystem, a normal communication activity. That everyone can play a role, that old-fashioned gatekeepers aren't the whole story for what has become a new publishing reality.
Bloggers are writers who sit down to type character after character, word upon word, day by day, steadily constructing, out of their fragments, little edifices of memory and public record. In this activity they resemble not the hordes outside the gates of a city, but rather the studious scribes within. Individually they are stewards of their own experience; together the are curators of our collective history. Their work may be less polished and professional than that of many of their predecessors. But they are more passionate, more numerous, and more inclusive -- and therefore more likely to succeed in saving what matters. (p. 351)
So, yes, a little blogging triumphalism. But that's ok, I certainly understand the impulse. Does he overstate the case on occasion? Sure, but we're only just getting beyond the early days of making that case.
Read the book, enjoy, learn. Most of all, take up the mantle, join the challenge. Communicate!
I would recommend this book to any academic library will collections in communications, journalism or science studies. It also fits nicely into any kind of general reading program that might exist. I'd also recommend it for any public library.
(And yes, Rosenberg is at ScienceOnline 2011 this coming weekend and I certainly look forward to hearing what he has to say about the tumultuous 2010 the science blogosphere had!)
Rosenberg, Scott. Say Everything: How Blogging Began, What It's Becoming, and Why It Matters. New York: Broadway, 2010. 416pp. ISBN-13: 978-0307451378