Amid this week's discussions of attribution, correct citation, and general Internet etiquette, I’ve noticed a notably unpleasant undercurrent of individuals using this debate as justification for not producing their own weblog. The argument is straightforward: many people already produce widely successful link-centric weblogs, thus the need for further contribution is mitigated by an already crowded space.
Although I contend that there is merit to the former portion of the argument, I find the latter utterly myopic, pessimistic, and bereft of any semblance of self-confidence. In a community characterized by novel insight and intellectual prowess, any inference leading an individual to regard their potential contribution as discounted by competing personalities is endlessly saddening.
Producing a weblog - whether you choose to contribute substantive content of your own or not - is not a matter of competition, but of self-expression. In sharing even the most barren list of links, you assemble an online persona emblematic of your true personality. Sharing in such a fashion lends weight to one item of news, writing, or media over another. Embossing articles you find to be compelling, in turn, engenders invaluable discussion, context, and discourse.
Imagine you walk into an art gallery and are greeted with an enormous, intricate mosaic. From a great distance, the mosaic resembles a painting - its granular details victim to poor vision and ambient light. Although the mosaic appears beautiful from this distance, it is impossible to comprehend its true complexity. To compensate, you move to within a few inches of it. From this distance, you confine your view to a handful of tiles at a time and, again, cannot perceive the interconnected relationships between aesthetically similar tiles. Retreating to a reasonable distance, however, you are able to suddenly perceive the grand picture without a loss for its individual components. You comprehend how endless, separate shades of blue can contribute to an overarching rich and beautiful image, each component playing its part.
Perhaps there are larger, more eye-catching tiles than others, but even the most infinitesimally small piece contributes to a greater ideal. The same goes for writing.
Weblogs, no matter how similar they are to others, facilitate context and perspective - two fundamental tenets of human interaction we often sorely lack on the Internet. Semantic issues of attribution, via links, and link versus non-link blog methodology aside, the importance of contribution is unquestionable and should not be callously inferred from the discussion of craft.
Writing and contributing online is easier than ever before for a reason and, if you're excuse is that the concept has already been done, then I would suggest you re-evaluate your perspective. What you produce is only as similar to another as you want it to be and, if you dare to do something different, I imagine you will be greeted with a great deal of interest.