During the semester I followed two blogs, BibliOdyssey and History News Network. The first is an academic blog that looks at historical literature and images while the second is geared towards a more general audience and discusses both historical topics as well as more current events. These two blogs represent two extremes of material that blogs can chose to cover. BibliOdyssey’s blogs are centered around primary sources and making their knowledge available. Links or other access information are provided in all of the blogs so that the material could potentially be used by an academic at some point. Blogs are not written consistently, only when new material is discovered to be commented upon. On the other hand, History News Network much more driven by writing numerous posts almost everyday for consumption. Blogs deal with both historical and current events and are geared towards capturing readers. Whether or not each post is composed of intellectually stimulating material is up for debate.
From the start, part of BibliOdyssey’s appeal is the aesthetic nature of its blog posts. Each post discusses a specific set of historical images that have been scanned digitally. Just scrolling through several blogs yields beautiful hand drawn or painted images detailing everything from falconry in 1860s Japan to a combat manual from the 15th century. Each post is composed of the scanned relevant images and a detailed description of what the reader is viewing. Finally, each post contains the relevant information required to access the images. This makes BibliOdyssey an excellent resource for anyone in search of visual primary sources. However, the significant detraction from the blogs is the lack of analysis. Blogs simply identify the images with little written about their greater place in history. As such, this blog is clearly not meant for casual history consumers, but rather aimed towards readers who would read the blogs and appreciate the access to the sources.
On the other side of coin is the History News Network. While there are occasional blogs that might appeal to academics, the majority of its content would most likely make academics roll their eyes. Some examples of recent blogs are: “How Your Term Paper is Like an Episode of CSI”, “These Are the Five Revolutions of the 1990s (And One Counter-Revolution)”, and “This 98-Year Old Historian’s Got Advice for You”. These blogs, and many others like them, are unabashedly “clickbait”. Their headlines are meant to entice the reader to click them to discover more about the topic and thus generate views for the site. Yet, readers more often than not discover that once they have clicked on these blogs, the quality of the content within makes them regret even doing so. This type of blog is growing in popularity across the Internet as it becomes even easier for literally anyone with a laptop and Wi-Fi to propagate “facts”. While there is nothing wrong with encouraging people to exercise their right to intellectual freedom, the problem arises when blogs such as the History News Network begin to reach massive audiences who take their posts as absolute fact. When history-related content is reduced to a BuzzFeed-esque quiz, a review of a play loosely based on historical events, or an article on a graphic novel on the Civil War, humanity might be in trouble.