What’s the difference between a social network and blogs or a blogging service? One is for your friends, the other is for your audience. The key difference is that one group already knows you (it’s easy to replace “friends” with “coworkers”, “family”, “neighbors”, etc).
As I mentioned the other day, there is logic to that distinction. But the more I think about it, I don’t believe it’s as clear-cut as that.
Jay says bloggers write for their audience. Clearly some do, like Guy Kawasaki, the folks at Mashable and other bloggers with one foot remaining in the old media pool. But lots of other bloggers are writing not merely to have a soapbox, but for the multi-way conversations that are a central part of the blogging experience. Robert Scoble is the best example of a popular blogger who, it seems to me, approaches blogging from this perspective. Doc Searls is another.
There are other reasons why Jay’s line of demarcation sometimes breaks down. Take connecting with old friends, for example. Very few, if any, of my real world friends even know what Facebook is. None (to my knowledge) use it. As a result, I will have a much better chance connecting with people I know by nurturing my web site and waiting for people to Google me.
It’s the same with new friends. No one will ever accuse me of being shy, but at the same time, I’m not big on chatting online with people I don’t know. That’s the reason Second Life lost its appeal to me.
On the other hand, I have made a bunch of friends via cross-blog conversations- many of them from other states, countries and continents. Chip Camden, Earl Moore, Randy Morin, Blonde 2.0, Brad Kellett, Dave Wallace, Ethan Johnson, Frank Gruber, Hugh MacLeod, Nick Carr, Martin Gordon, Mathew Ingram, Susan Getgood, Mike Miller, Ric Hayman, Richard Querin, Rick Mahn, Seth Finkelstein, Steven Streight, TDavid, Tom Morris and Warner Crocker are just a few of the people I likely would never have become friends with if I had set up camp in Facebook.
Plus, the community that develops via cross-blogging is so much more meaningful than merely adding a few hundred “friends” to the botton of your butt ugly MySpace page. When I visit MySpace I see very little that looks like a real community. Mostly, I see a gallery of bad web design.
Granted, the cross-blogging community is distributed, inefficient and sometimes impolite. But it exists, and without walls.
I think Jay is onto something, and I hope he keeps writing about it. But at the moment, we’re all standing on the tip of the iceberg. Below the surface are a lot of other forces at work.
These lines that seem bright and pretty today may disappear completely tomorrow.
Or they may begin to look like walls.