Can everybody hear me at the back? Good. Welcome to Impact’s first and official blog, The Pen Is Mightier. For the rest of this year I aim to take you discernible readers on a journey through my humble little life, while dosing you with some weekly news and current affairs, and hopefully making you smile along the way. So, let’s get the perfunctory Fresher’s Week questions out of the way first: “What’s your name?” “Sian”; “What course are you studying?” “English”; “Where are you from?” “Luton”. Pause…aaand move on. I should also make you aware that I’m not exactly the hottest export out of Silicon Valley…
As I make this tentative foray into the world of blogging, I know what I’m up against, and the odds aren’t stacked in my favour. As of 16th February 2011, there were over 156 million public blogs in existence, so as I start out, this blog from little old me is just a drop in the ocean. Secondly, several studies show that most blogs are abandoned after they’re created (some 60%-80%, according to various internet sources) and that few are regularly updated. In fact, the ‘blogosphere’ is often referred to as an iceberg: several popular blogs which are updated regularly and viewed by thousands, and then millions more which are dead or dormant. I’m in the largest demographic of bloggers (53.3% are aged between 21-35) but as a UK blogger I am dwarfed by those in America: 29.22% of the blogosphere is composed of US bloggers compared to the 6.75% British (followed by a measly 4.88% in Japan and 4.19% in Brazil).
So, there’s an overcrowded platform, a high failure rate, extensive peer competition and I’m in a minority global demographic…it doesn’t exactly scream ‘Success!’ Still, it’s not all bad news. Impact is on the ball, and it knows that blogging has single-handedly changed the face of journalism and the media, and has allowed grassroots journalism to flourish, giving people anywhere a vehicle to express an opinion and showcase their writing. New Media has had print journalism quaking in its boots for a good few years now, and has forced it to innovate, progress, and generally keep up with the pace, but before the old Fleet Street hacks hang up their hats, one indelible fact remains: the good thing about blogging is that anyone can be a journalist; the bad thing about blogging is that anyone can be a journalist.
There are far too many blogs out there which feature posts such as ‘One day I decided to feed my cat’ or ‘It rained for a bit so I took out my umbrella’; in short, those millions of blogs which lurk in the murky depths beneath the tip of the iceberg. I intend with this blog to be the latter part of the blogging iceberg, but only the incorrigible number of website hits will be the judge of that. One thing I am trying to promise myself is that a) I won’t talk about pets (which will be easy enough as I have none); b) I won’t embarrass friends or family or reveal their identities and c) I won’t divulge to the entire student body any pointless and/or personal information, such as my late period or the colour of my nail varnish. In short, TMI’s are banned.
I must confess a further impediment to my success as a blogger: I am literally the least computer- and technology- literate person ever (sorry, Web team!), with most of the middle-aged population putting me to shame. I’ve only just really grasped what ‘streaming’ and ‘buffering’ are, I’m still amazed at the print-screen function on a computer, I don’t know the keyboard shortcut for copy+paste and I need supervision and guided assistance when downloading anything. When faced with a technological issue, I panic and go running to the nearest friend for help with “this computer thing”, so entering this fast-paced and high-tech arena is for me like being a baby chick who’s just emerged from her shell, blinking and fragile and unused to the world around her.
In my defence, the lexicon of the internet and today’s technology is enough to send even the most foolhardy of prospective techies running for cover. I’ve had to get my head around widgets and gadgets, around Digg, Sphinn and Blogspot, around avatars and Androids and wifis and wikis. Then there’s blogs, blogrolls and the blogosphere and Twitter, tweeting and the Twitterverse, along with Tumblr and Flickr (what happened to the humble ‘e’?). Finally there’s feeds, podcasts and hashtags, not forgetting all the countless logs, tags, apps and any number of seemingly gobbledygook words that confirm that yes, tech-speak and the technological word are as intimidating as we had first feared.
Incidentally, what on earth was the hashtag even for for about twenty years? It used to be that defunct and useless button I’d mistakenly press on my Nokia keypad instead of ‘wxyz’, and now all of a sudden it’s had this nouveau resurgence in the twenty-first century, hustling its way into the Twitter glossary as an integral part of its functioning, and as such, making itself a household name.
So reader, I’ll cut to the chase: what will this blog be about? Time magazine, in its 25 Best Blogs of 2011, states that “a basic fact about blogging: the best way to show you love a topic isn’t to write it a love letter but to treat it in an uncompromising manner”. So, no more odes to blogging, but what I do love is writing, so this is what this blog will be: a well written divulgence of up to date news and uncompromising views, of insightful features and informative analysis, of anecdotal tales and a good belly-laugh at my sordid life. What I want from you is to not only read the blog but interact with it. I welcome any comments and will answer them all, and if there’s an issue or a topic you want to share, then go ahead. The point of a blog is that it’s real time and interactive, so we can make it what we want, when we want. Remember, the pen is mightier than the sword.
Oh, and this blog is the new hashtag. So watch this cyberspace.
Sian Boyle, Impact Blogger