The Poetry Foundation's Harriet blog recently announced it is abandoning the "discussion model" to provide instead "a daily news feed with links and excerpts from other outlets around the world." This means that the site will no longer feature blog posts from a selected group of poets "discussing" poetry but will become like every other digest blog offering "news."
The PF is making this move because "The blog as a form has begun to be overtaken by social media like Twitter and Facebook. News of the poetry world now travels fastest and furthest through Twitter. . .with the information often picked up from news aggregator sites rather than discursive blogs." Further,
. . .anyone involved in the more dynamic discussions of poetry, poetics, or politics in the past year knows that more and more of the most vibrant interactions have been found on Facebook. We saw this happening last month as our National Poetry Month posts traveled far and wide through various status updates, wall postings, and links.
I always thought the "discussion model" used at Harriet was a little too chatty, too often short on extended analysis, but nevertheless I checked in on the blog several times a week and usually found some posts on the practice and reading of poetry that were well worth my time. I can with some certainty say I will never look at the site again, as it now gives in to the preoccupation with the "fastest and furthest" that characterizes too much of the blogosphere. "News of the poetry world" will replace the consideration of actual poetry.
I don't know whether "the blog as a form has begun to be overtaken by social media like Twitter and Facebook," at least where serious commentary on poetry and fiction is concerned. That it has overtaken the blog as a source of quasi-public instant messaging is probably true, and to the extent this leaves the weblog as a space that might be put to use for more substantive discourse is a good thing. But why the PF would think that Twitter-type shout-outs would be better for poetry than the "discursive blog" is not something I can understand.
Is more "information" what we really need? Does the rapid-fire posting of ephemera amount to "dynamic discussions" or does it just reduce the discussion of poetry to the same relentless focus on trivia that characterizes the coverage of movies, of celebrity culture in general? What seems to me to be motivating the Harriet change of approach--what seems to be motivating the Twitterization of online discourse in general--is precisely the desire to see what is posted disseminated "far and wide through various status updates, wall postings, and links," not a concern for the substance of the post. The mere accumulation of friends, followers, and hits, evidence of "interaction," is the end-in-itself.
The digest form of weblog has existed from the beginnings of the blogosphere, is probably the original, most recognizable form of blog. Plenty of them still exist and provide useful "news." If Twitter now performs this function more efficiently, so be it, but that doesn't seem to be a good reason to transform all blogs into versions of Twitter. Both poetry and fiction need more "discursive blogs" examining the news that stays news, not fewer.
NOTE Andrew Wessels at A Compulsive Reader has some similar thoughts.