Here, for me, is the secret promise of blogs. They lower the barriers and make the practice of writing widely accessible. Writing is the fundamental tool of reasoned argument and what we need as individuals, organizations, and civilization is as much reasoned argument as we can get. In the blogosphere you get to watch good writers at work as they develop ideas. Thanks to aggregators those ideas appear in a form that makes them natural raw material to kindle your own thinking. The combination of blog technical features (public distribution, short posts, chronological ordering, permalinks) with social practices (personal identification, generous linking, blogrolls) highlight the development of ideas as a social phenomenon over time.
It is going to be cool, isn’t it, for future historians to look back on all of this raw thought and brain work and watch the development and spread of these idea viruses via Web logs. Think about where this could be in 20 or 30 years, and think about the artifacts we are creating today. Web logs, more than newspapers or books or other printed materials, have done more to enhance and evolve my worldview for just the reasons Jim cites; good writers, developing sound ideas that kindle my own thinking about life. AND, most important, I have the ability to respond and develop that thinking in my own writing (as I am doing here), which (maybe) others read and continue the process. Writing becomes the vehicle to participate.
When I think about that from a teaching perspective, I get really hopeful. I think my secret promise of Web logs is that they will in some way recapture the importance of the written idea that in large measure has been lost to more passive activities. I don’t have to look too hard to see that kids are writing more these days. It may not be scholarly stuff (IM rarely is), but I think on some level the idea that writing is meaningful and communicative and important gets through. And if Web logs establish themselves as a tool for sharing the reasoned thought that Jim alludes to, they can only serve to continue the reemergence of writing as the most important communication tool we have. Web loggers instinctively know this, I think. Now all we have to do is show our kids.