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Technology always promises to liberate us and ends up frustrating the user. Disgruntled users who can only be mollified by guess what? The next tech innovation that’s coming out real soon.

Blogging, the herald of the social media age, was no exception. Blogs were being praised as the answer to everything, from personal liberty to boardroom strategy, back at the dawn of this century.

The term blog first saw the light of day in 1999. We all heard about the business potential of corporate blogs liberating executives from having to communicate via the irksome media with their annoying questions and tedious fact-checking.

It all sounded great. Just like tech always does when the idea first crawls out from under a PowerPoint deck. But the devil was in the detail. To be precise, the amount of detail anyone could include in their blog. And businesses seized on the chance to vent at length on subjects they considered to be of enormous appeal without a second’s thought about their audience.

Yes, for a few years blogs ran wild. I recall an executive grinning at how one of his main European rivals was run by a very keen blogger. And these blogs reflected the man’s character perfectly.

Never one to miss a chance to knock the competitors and never short of a profanity or ten, these blogs were a window to a hyper-aggressive salesman’s soul. But competitors brandished his tirades in meetings with sales prospects, revealing his uncouth nature and killing off the sweary ranter’s chance of closing any deal. The blog doomed his career.

Blogs are still with us, unlike mini-disks and fax machines. Technology has eliminated barriers to use with web pages that need nothing more technical than average keyboard skills. And they’ve bedded down in our lives, in contrast to tech crazes that blaze up and vanish. Bloggers have learned, slowly and at great pain to their intended audience, to keep to certain rules.

Why blog if you can’t win readers? Every journalist knows that readers like brevity. You might imagine a political policy guru with the ear of a Prime Minister would ace it at popular communication. But despite a lifetime’s fascination with politics I couldn’t get far into one of Dominic Cummings’ 9,000 word blogs. Well he calls them blogs. Just pity the political correspondents who didn’t have the luxury of turning away.

Blogs come in all sizes but 300-500 words is an ideal length. Despite the pitfalls above, blogs are wonderfully democratic and can showcase original thinking. Though it does help to apply the journalist’s craft of concise and clear language. Look at LinkedIn. Keep it short and readers will pause to hear your pithy observations. Talking of which, I’m nearly over length. Happy blogging.

Michael Dempsey

Michael is a freelance journalist and media trainer. He is a regular contributor to BBC News, writing about a wide array of technology stories, and previously written for the Daily Telegraph, Financial Times and The Sunday Times among numerous other publications

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