Blogs == CB Radio? (1/5/2007)

I'm definitely dating myself here, but I clearly remember the citizens band (CB) radio craze of the late '70s and early '80s. One of my first jobs after my Air Force service was as an electronics tech at a local communications supplier. Not your typical Radio Shack, but one of those off-the-beaten-path shops for professional communications systems, like police and fire radio systems, repeater systems for ranchers, etc.

The CB craze had a big impact on this shop. We did a lot of custom installations, especially on trucks; the antennae on a truck need to be carefully arranged and tuned for minimal standing wave ratio or you wind up with a lopsided broadcast bubble and/or a cooked transmitter. Of course, we did a lot of repairs, and we always had one or two radios on and hooked up to the rooftop antenna for casual use or testing in front of a customer.

What I noticed was the amount of traffic. It just built and built into a crescendo of noise and cross-talk until there was no way you could effectively communicate within a metropolitan area of any size. Truckers started shifting to single-sideband (SSB) radios to avoid the traffic, despite their additional expense and weird sound effects. People were completely uninhibited behind their "handles," so racial epithets, class-warfare terms, and generally ugly language abounded.

Then it started to taper off. People stopped using it because it was no longer useful. "Hey breaker breaker looking for a Smokey" no longer worked. The truckers switched to SSB and changed their terms to those that were passed around by word of mouth at truck stops instead of printed up in "How to be a CB'er" books. Then the sunspots came along and killed the frequency. After the sunspot cycle passed, CB radio never came back, even though it was much quieter out there. People moved on to different toys.

And now we all have blogs. Gotta blog your life out there for everyone to see because... why? For guys like me, it seems to be a marketing tool. A way of showing others that I can actually string together an English sentence (important for a consultant), and describe the kind of work I do. But I wonder how effective it is.

On the other hand, we have an explosion of "professional" bloggers. Political bloggers, technology bloggers, opinion makers of all stripes. These people are like miniature newspapers or magazines, tightly focused on a specific topic or set of topics. They sell advertising. One of their hallmarks is they allow others to "respond" to their posts. Of course, many of those who respond link to their response from their own Web site, which raises the search engine ranking of the blogger's site. This leads to more hits, which results in more advertising revenue, which is how the world goes round. On many of the heavily trafficked blog sites, advertisers no longer pay for click-thrus; they pay for "impressions." Impressions are a count of how many times the page on which their ad has been viewed over a period of time. Just like a newspaper. And very difficult to evaluate the return on investment.

So the same pattern is emerging. A neat way to communicate, a new toy to differentiate yourself with, and everyone hops on the bandwagon. The noise gets huge, people's messages get lost in the noise, and something new comes along to divert attention...

Welcome to social networking sites. Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, you name it, there's a way to post your stuff and connect with others, and it's easier than doing a formal blog because it's more informal.

So I'm thinking the same pattern is showing up again. I wonder how much longer it will be "fashionable" for me to have a blog on my personal Web site?