August 8, 2008

Everyone’s Getting Onto Facebook or Bebo … Is This the End of the Blogger?

By Robin Turner

THEY write about everything from their toddler's first steps to politics, the credit crunch and the state of Amy Wine house's tattoos.

But are bloggers, the digital diarists of the 21st century, a dying breed?

There was once a time when blogs abounded - even politicians were clamouring to leap aboard the blogging bandwagon. But with some bloggers running into legal problems, and a rise in social networking websites, the blog (short for web log) is showing signs of decline.

Adam Martin, senior lecturer in computing, user interface and design at the University of Wales Newport, believes many bloggers have moved on to social networking sites.

He said: "While the last decade has seen the rise of the blogger, the past few years in particular has seen the rise of the social networking site.

"A lot of young people in particular describe their daily lives on sites like Bebo or Facebook and do not see a need to blog as well.

"And technology is changing rapidly with more sophisticated phones and iPods meaning people can update their network sites on the move.

"When it comes to politicians, there is always a danger when blogging they might write something they regret if they make an entry when tired or simply not thinking straight."

South West Wales AM Peter Black is a prolific blogger. But he has seen the number of his colleagues still adding to their online diaries tailing off over the past year.

Writing in the current Institute of Welsh Affairs Agenda magazine, Lib Dem Mr Black said the number of AMs who have toyed with the medium has halved in the past 12 months from a dozen to just six.

Only four Welsh MPs have a blog, and one of those has not posted anything for nearly a year.

"There is an anti-blogging trend among some politicians, who view the medium with suspicion and would rather it went away," Mr Black said yesterday.

Politicians' suspicions about the blog were highlighted this week when an attempt by former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott to rally support for the beleaguered Prime Minister seemed to have backfired after he compared Gordon Brown to the captain of the disaster-struck Titanic.

Mr Prescott made the comments on his internet blog to shore up support for Gordon Brown amid calls for a "new captain".

He wrote: "But it was n't the captain that sank the Titanic - a ship they claimed was unsinkable - it was the iceberg."

Problems of online libel

The dangers of blogging are legion, not least because words written in blogs are just as vulnerable to libel action as those written in newspapers.

In Egypt, China and Pakistan dozens of people have been fined, deported or jailed for criticising government regimes in blogs.

And a number of people have lost out on job applications after pouring their hearts out in blogs. A survey has shown one in five employers will enter the names of applicants into search engines to find out about their backgrounds.

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