Via The New York Review of Books, an attempt to explain Blogs. It's a long article, mentioning ten books about blogging, but this is the author's key misunderstanding:
Bloggers assume that if you're reading them, you're one of their friends, or at least in on the gossip, the joke, or the names they drop.
They often begin their posts mid-thought or mid-rant—in medias craze. They don't care if they leave you in the dust. They're not responsible for your education.
Bloggers, as Mark Liberman, one of the founders of the blog called Language Log, once noted, are like Plato. :-) The unspoken message is: Hey, I'm here talking with my buddies. Keep up with me or don't. It's up to you.
Much of the article is a calm, patient explanation of what blogs are, intending for people who sincerely don't know. Both the quote above and that calm, patient explanation seem to me serious misunderstanding about writing for the web.
The review, Sarah Boxer, assumes that her readers need this background about blogging because they don't know anything about it. She assumes that bloggers don't provide this background because they've all already got it.
For some teenage blogger writing for an audience of six or seven, the background may indeed be there. But for anyone trying to gather and disseminate serious information through a blog, the background is always doubtful.
On my blog Writing Fiction, I see that a striking number of my visitors arrive on the site after googling "How many pages in a novel?" Whether or not they've written a novel, that question means they're novice novelists. They lack the exformation of more experienced writers.
Similarly, people visit my bird flu blog, H5N1, with wildly different levels of knowledge about the subject. Some are officials with the World Health Organization, others are epidemiologists, and most know nothing at all except that bird flu is supposed to be bad.
Apart from assuming a basic level of English reading ability, I don't expect anything from my readers. For both blogs I have to find some way to bring the newcomers up to speed without boring the experienced visitors. I really do feel responsible for my readers' education, and I don't want to turn anyone away.
So on H5N1 I provide an introductory page, showing the new visitor what's on the site. Currently, I'm also providing definitions of Indian words like lakh, crore, and panchayat, because they keep turning up in Indian newspapers' reports on bird flu.
On Writing Fiction, I keep responding to comments to the "How Many Pages" post, which I originally made three long years ago. I also provide a link to Write a Novel, a self-guided online course containing the basic materials now lost in the archives of Writing Fiction. (Look for it in the Writers' Resources list.)
Some blogs, like some graduate courses, can assume a cozy familiarity with little-known material. Shared exformation creates an intimate atmosphere, a feeling of belonging that newcomers may not share. If anything, they'll feel deliberately excluded.
But most webwriters, whether serious amateurs or professionals, can't afford to think about the happy few who share our private jokes and roomed with us in college. We have to reach as many people as possible, and to provide something useful for each of them.
So we have to write in simple, clear language. We have to format our material for easy navigation and response. We have to think about our visitors' needs, not our own egos. That, it seems to me, is the exformation that Sarah Boxer doesn't yet have.