The Blog Is Dead.....oh no it isn't, oh yes it is...
Is blogging now a dying art, its perpetrators losing heart, its audience heading for the doors? Well no - or I wouldn't be writing this and you wouldn't be reading it.(Hello, hello...???) Or is the original spirit of the blogosphere being diluted, as mainstream media bloggers take over what was meant to be a playground for amateurs? Oh, undoubtedly - again, see here for evidence.
The gloomy view is that this tidal wave of corporate, media establishment bilge is ruining blogging. But it seems to me that the blogosphere is just going through the inevitable growing pains that affect any new medium - and something useful will emerge.
The life-cycle of the mainstream media's relationship with any new web phenomenon goes like this - ignorance, incomprehension, derision, hysteria, and finally boredom.
So it took some time for anyone on a newspaper or in television to realise that "weblogs" had arrived on the scene, and were distinct from the newsgroups and bulletin boards that had hitherto been the main route to self-expression online.
Then there was incomprehension, followed by derision, at the idea of anyone wanting to share their mundane thoughts, their daily activities, their prejudices, with the rest of the world - that after all was the job of the newspaper columnist. This is the stage of the cycle from which Twitter is just beginning to emerge.
Next, there is almost hysterical adoption of this shiny new idea, in newsrooms, board-rooms and think-tanks, all desperate not to miss the wave. Having instructed all of their journalists or executives or consultants onn the importance of blogging - or Facebook or Twitter - and then discovered that it is more time-consuming, complex and costly than first appeared, the establishment soon gets bored and starts casting around for the next big thing.
That of course is a parody - we at the BBC are steadfast and sensible in our use of blogging and social networking - but I think you'll agree there is a smidgin of truth there.
And while the mainstream media may be bored with blogs, I see few signs that the bloggers are going away.
The blogosphere is now a far more varied place than it was a few years ago. Blogs range from the voices crying in the wilderness about obscure issues of interest to a tiny audience, to executives meditating over corporate issues with greater or lesser degrees of frankness, to practical types using the medium to organise and discuss anything from a bowls clubs to a Polar expedition, to veteran journalists finding a new way to explore stories while engaging with the audience in ways that were not open to them previously.
What they all have in common right now is a nasty bout of existential angst, with bloggers haunted by a number of questions. Why am I doing this? Is anybody out there? Is this really a blog? And, most pressingly if their blog is in any way commercial, has anyone spotted a business model?
Bloggers are also finding out rather painfully that the interactive element essential to the medium - the testing of arguments, the cut and thrust of debate - can too often turn into an unpleasant and unilluminating shouting match. Our own Nick Robinson has recently confessed that he's stopped reading the comments on his blog, and I'm sometimes depressed by the way the respondents to our technology blog "dot life" line up behind Apple or Microsoft, and start lobbing verbal hand grenades at each other in the most tedious fashion.
So there are plenty of reasons to be depressed about the blogosphere. It hasn't quite lived up to its early promise of a place where new voices would be heard, where reasoned argument would take place - a kind of Athenian ideal of democracy. Like just about everything else that has emerged from the web in the last couple of decades it's messy, chaotic and imperfect. But then, so is democracy - and nobody has come up with anything better than that either.