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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Yancey on blogging


I read the latest issue of Youthwork and there's an interview with author Philip Yancey and he is asked about blogging. I can't link the article because the magazine don't make that content available online. Here's the Question and Yancey's answer:

Christians seem quite fond of blogging - writing thoughts in an online diary that everyone can read. What do you think of that phenomenon?

I am pretty removed from that whole block of culture. I don't read single blog; I don't think I've ever read a blog actually, unless maybe someone has forwarded one to me. I write long books by and large; publishers keep looking for shorter books and I tend to write longer ones. It just seems to me that there is a place for books that take time and effort.

So these blogs...I can't imagine anything of worth coming out of something that was just spun off as soon as you got up in the morning. I guess the question for me is what will it look like in 50 or 100 years? As I age my question is; 'what do I want to leave behind after I'm gone?' If I have a collection of 3000 blog posts, then I've basically left nothing because no one is going to be reading them in 50 years' time. My faith has been formed largely by people who are dead; Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Gandhi, Chesterton, CS Lewis and Henri Nouwen. Their lives live on in their writing and I can learn from them; be moved by them."

I found this interesting because a) I often write posts in the morning b) my blog is probably more important to me than it should be c) Adrian Warnock reviewed his blog and hit 3000 posts
in March (although to be fair he is also trying to write a book) d) Yancey has some points about bloggings weaknesses but he misses blogging strengths.

But before I say what I think Yancey misses, what do you think?

7 comments:

dave bish on 17 December 2008 at 10:26 said...

In someway it's fair comment, but I think blogging helps us think, adds substance to other things in life... more to writing than just being read in the future. Blogs aren't really all the same so general comments probably wont diagnose things well. 2200 posts in clearly a lot of what I've written isn't great but hopefully some of it's beneficial to me and to others.

Peter on 17 December 2008 at 11:12 said...

One of the biggest strengths of blogging is this, that you can ask a question and someone else can respond immediately.

It's true that on the whole blogs lack depth, but they have a breadth of content and audience which books could never achieve and they allow conversations to happen.

I have always treated blogging (reading and writing) as a surface exercise. If something interesting comes up then I try to make note of it and look the subject up at some other point. If I didn't read blogs I would probably miss out on a lot of topics and thoughts which lead to other places where I can find depth.

Matthew Hosier on 17 December 2008 at 11:30 said...

I seem to remember we had a blogging discussion about this last year, but I doubt whether anyone will be reading Yancey in 50 years time either!

I agree with Yancey that we should all read the stuff that does last through generations, and that blogs are ephemera. But not all ephemera is useless. And some blogs can lead to greater things - Adrian would never have been asked to author a book if it wasn't for his blog.

Peter Kirk on 17 December 2008 at 11:42 said...

Yancey may be able to say that his books will be read in 50 years time, but most Christian authors today won't. Their books will be filling up landfill, or hopefully recycled, and a few copies may still be gathering dust on neglected shelves, but no one will be reading them. There may be gems in them, but no one will be looking for them in dusty old-fashioned books.

By contrast, our blogs very likely will still be accessible through super-Google. Of course none of us can assert that they will be attracting many readers, but if there are any gems in them they will not be lost to future generations.

So, Philip Yancey, don't be so negative about blogs. You carry on writing books, and we will carry on blogging. But the future is probably on our side.

Andy on 17 December 2008 at 18:03 said...

I don't think comparing blogs to books is particularly useful. You can't read the first chapter of a book and then send the author your comments, which porvokes the development of the next paragraph.

Blogs are organic, evolving and social, where books are not.

planty on 17 December 2008 at 21:09 said...

I was going to write a post myself about this after just reading the same article.

I think he missed the point of blogs. Personally I don't blog for any lasting legacy, I just put down my thoughts. If people read them and get something from them then great. If they don't then meh, I not too fussed. There is no real reason for me to blog, I just do it.

After all my blog for those posts that just wouldn't fit in the 140 characters of my Twitter feed ;-)

Dan Lee on 18 December 2008 at 18:54 said...

I respect Yancey but I think he needs to take a look at blog format before coming to such a strong conclusion.

A blog is very different from a book, thoughts are published quicker, show development and reflect the mood someone is in, they are literally a mirror of where a person is at. Also, they are much like a piece of putty, very malleable in one's hand.

I have published posts that in hindsight look really bad. But it's a forgivable medium where as a book isn't. Learning from this though now, if the topic is one where it requires a lot of thought and needs a position of clarity I tend to leave it to mature as a draft and get others to look at it before publishing.

In terms of lasting legacy I think blogs can work together to cause change or to communicate movement. For example it's only in the last year or so that more Newfrontiers church members have been blogging, but already it is very noticeable and making a dint in what was once a pretty lousy Christian blogsphere. Again I think it is because they are mirroring what is happening in real life, church planting, great teaching and Jesus loving passion! Woop!!

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