Why Blogs Need To Be Social

Earlier this week, San Francisco-based web publishing software company Six Apart released the newest version of its flagship product, Moveable Type, and pushed the blogging community into taking the first step toward a very social future. [digg=http://digg.com/tech_news/Why_Blogs_Need_To_Be_Social]

It is not a new concept — since their early days blogs were all about sociability. Late last year, we backed Chris Messina’s wild idea that WordPress, the open-source blogging software that we use to power majority of our network blogs, could be become the underpinning for a social network. In January, Automattic, the company behind WordPress and the free hosted blogging service WordPress.com, bought BuddyPress to help bring sociability to blogs. (Disclosure: Automattic was started by Matt Mullenweg, a close friend of mine. We share True Ventures as an investor.)

Our friends at ReadWriteWeb theorize that in order for blogging to evolve, the blogging systems need to embrace the newly popular life-streaming services such as Twitter and FriendFeed, along with a growing panoply of personal web services (including the most fabulous, Dopplr). The team at Six Apart has combined the above-mentioned ideas to create Moveable Type Pro, a blog-publishing system with extremely social DNA. (Check out the Six Apart blog for details.)

Blogging Needs To Evolve

Six Apart is making the right move, for it is time for blogging to evolve. Many of us have forgotten that blogging is not just an act of publishing but also a communal activity. It is more than leaving comments; it is about creating connections. For instance, through comments I met folks like Robert Young, who in turn wrote for the blog, and then in the process became a friend. It is time to re-embrace and extend that philosophy.

Establishing those kinds of relationships becomes an even bigger challenge as newer tools emerge, enabling new kinds of sharing. Whether it is Friendfeed or Dopplr, videos or photos, we are constantly figuring out ways to share information about us on the web. In other words, our digital life is spreading out across the web.

Blog = Digital Life Aggregator

We have two choices in order to consolidate these — either opt for all-purpose services such as Facebook (as tens of millions have done) or use our blogs as the aggregation point or hub for all these various services. Facebook, for instance allows you to share photos, aggregate your digital droppings, share comments with friends and exchange messages, but it doesn’t give you a unique identity on the web. In contrast, blogs with social features could allow you to do exactly that.

Marc Canter has been talking about this digital aggregator forever and has been ahead of the curve, though now pieces have started to fall in place. Robert Scoble is a good example of how and where things might be headed. He uses multiple services, and they are all easily consumable on his blog, where he writes longer, more engaging posts. His short conversational posts of yesteryear have migrated to FriendFeed, his video has bifurcated into long-form or live, short-form videos. I know Scoble is an outlier of this trend, but he was also ahead of the curve six years ago as far as blogging is concerned.

The Demographic Shift

As a society, we are entering an increasingly narcissistic phase, enabled by web technologies — a theory that is articulated in Wired’s recent cover story. As the Wired writer quips, “Like it or not, we are all public figures now — famous, as the new cliché goes, for 15 people.”

The evolution of blogging platforms needs to match these societal and demographic changes. I think folks who are blogging now (no, not just tech bloggers) are different from some of us early bloggers — they use different tools and services and have different views of sharing. In many ways MySpace and Facebook have changed what is OK, and what is not OK online.

With that as a sub-text, it is good to see the blogging systems start to evolve. Kudos to Six Apart for making the first major move. Suddenly, blogging tools are more fun — and social.

Open Question: How will you build the next-generation blogging system? I am going to be discussing this question with various attendees of WordCamp 2008 that is being held in San Francisco this weekend. I am speaking at the camp and have a exciting announcement as well.

PS: Get ready for BlogActionDay.org by registering your blogs, watch the new video, and become part of the movement that is about blogs making a change in our world.