Everyone’s got an opinion. What’s yours worth?

This was the first blog post I ever wrote, on a site I set up in 2007, the last time I was out of work. Reading this again, it seems like I’m back to the same position I was in when I wrote it. Except now with a child to feed and a mortgage to pay. Bugger.

Blank screen? Check. Blank mind? Check. Crap pun in blog name? Check. All systems initialised, I am ready to enter the blogosphere.

First things first, I swore I would never write a blog. I detest the very idea of keeping an online diary. A diary, like a collection of sadomasochistic pornography, should be kept private until the day you die, when grieving loved ones can discover it and realise what a monster you truly were.

Have you ever read someone’s private diary? Trust me on this, they are almost always boring, whining, self-pitying, tedious drivel, and they are never worth the aggravation you get when you are caught reading them.

I did not want to write a blog, because they usually combine the worst elements of diaries (dull, uninspiring whinge-a-thons) with the worst elements of radio phone-ins (strident conviction based on prejudice or ignorance.) They are a waste of time and mental energy for both writer and reader.

Like contributors to radio phone-ins, bloggers often fail to remember three simple rules.

1) Having an opinion does not mean you have thought it through.

2) Having an opinion does not mean it is correct. AND CRUCIALLY….

3) Having an opinion does NOT mean that anyone else is interested in hearing it.

There is disagreement over the size of the blogosphere, but according toTechnorati’s figures from April 2007, they were already tracking over 70 million blogs at that date. Even accounting for the fact that many of these are lapsed or inactive, Technorati also tracked postings at a rate of 1.5 million per day, or 17 per second. It goes without saying that blogs are accumulating faster than the human eye could possibly ever read them.

Assuming each posting takes an average of 30 seconds to read (an arbitrary number, but almost certainly a low estimate) this means one person could read 960 blog postings in an 8-hour working day. This means you would need 1,563 people working seven days a week just to read newly posted material, leave alone the backlog. This, it must be stressed, is only for the blogs tracked by Technorati.

We have recently been warned that we are running out of IP addresses, as so many electronic devices are now connected to the internet. With the archiving of online material, search engines also have to become more and more sophisticated in order to deliver the right results from the billions of megabytes of online information. Blogs can only add to the problem. In years to come, “backlog” will seem a more likely etymological root for “blog” than “weblog.” We are in a blogjam on the information superhighway.

Citizen journalism is in vogue, and it is an unpopular stance to criticise it. We are all Time Magazine’s Person of the Year. The more people who pose intelligent questions, the better. This is true democracy – we don’t just have a vote, we have a say. But that is exactly the problem. With five billion people having their say, who is left to listen?

There is undoubtedly good, even great writing in many blogs. But who honestly has time to sort the wheat from the chaff? There is an advert on UK television at the moment for a sports betting company. Its selling line, designed to persuade punters to put money on their predictions, is “Everyone’s got an opinion, what’s yours worth?” This tag is wasted on advertising gambling. It should be emblazoned at the top of every blog submittal page in letters of fire, demanding that authors carefully appraise the contribution their thoughts will make to the debate they are joining.

Simply put, evaluate your work before thrusting it in the face of an uncaring public. In an online world without censorship, self-editing is paramount.

If I feel this way, am I a hypocrite for starting a blog? Like Dylan going electric, am I Judas? A thousand times, yes. My motivation is even the same – thirty pieces of silver. I am an out-of-work journalist, unemployed and impoverished. I have spent two fantastic years travelling the world and living the high life, and now I am trying to settle down and enter the real world. I need a job, and my CV is too thin. This blog is quite simply writing practice, sample work. Cyber-space filler, if you will.

I am under no illusions. This posting, despite all efforts to the contrary, has still combined prejudiced opinion with an enormous great whining moan. I have made every single mistake I have criticised or highlighted. Furthermore, in the second that this posting goes online, it will be joined by 16 others, each competing for a readership more interested in coming up with ideas for their own blog than in reading anyone else’s. It will be lost in the sea of information available on the internet. Lastly, by the law of averages, anything I have written here will almost certainly have been better expressed elsewhere.

But I am not going to check 70 million other blogs to make sure.

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