Boy, I’ve been remiss in my blogging duties of late. Sorry, folks. Between endless office parties and a backlog of work, the time and energy has not been present to get the little, important things done.

And yes, blogging can be important. There is a perception among many that the phenomenon of blogging is little more than a narcisstic public display of self-love. To an extent, this is true. But it’s also true of any activity done in the public eye. When an author writes a book, for example, it’s more than a bit narcissistic; trust me. Yet some, primarily trolls, insist that the posting of commentary from a layman is a valueless activity. Would the same trolls similarly describe the output from newspaper columnists?

There are two factors at work. First is the perception that a newspaper columnist has somehow earned the authority to spout off on any topic by virtue of receiving the imprimatur of his employer, the newspaper. To anyone who knows anything about the modern newspaper business, this is of course utter nonsense. Columnists receive their space for any number of reasons –good writing skills, seniority, infamy or nepotism– with knowledge of content matter being least among them. What then can you say about bloggers who are also columnists, like Antonia Zerbiasis or Arianna Huffington? More problematic are bloggers who may not be regular columnists, but who are nonetheless professional writers and experience freelance journalists, like yours truly and Rondi Adamson? (Hope Rondi doesn’t mind that I’ve lumped my amateurish self in with her more experienced lot.)

Second is the fact that blogs are free. No one values something they didn’t have to pay for. Thus, trolls feel justified in shitting on the hard work of others, when all they need do is “change the channel.” It reminds me of one of the suggestions for controlling spam, as put forward by my friend Sonia Arrison of the Pacific Research Institute: charge 1 cent for every outgoing email for which the sender is not known to the recipient. This scenario compels every user to value email, thus reducing its abuse.

One of the questions on the survey has to do with your perceptions about the importance of blogs. (And yes, I will be posting the survey results soon, possibly this weekend.) If I were to take the survey, I’d answer that blogs are an important new medium. Already, castes of bloggers are arising, with celebrity bloggers like Andrew Sullivan and Atrios at the head of the herd. These individuals are as influential as network news anchors, and surely offer more content.

What is the value of a blog? Aside from being free to the consumer, a blog is a free from the hidden corporate bias of its writer’s employer. Know what I’m saying? On this blog, for example, you are told exactly what I think about a given topic. Right or wrong, my opinion is not filtered through an advertising prism meant to maximize the position of my employer. Moreover, it’s near-synchronous nature allows readers –genuine and troll alike– to respond to my posts, and to each others’ comments, in almost real time, thus creating a conversational forum that is impossible with a newspaper column.

Another value of blogs is that they are spaceless. On Monday I talked about the rioting in Australia. And one reader, Philip G. from Australia, responded to provide a Johnny-on-the-spot report of what he actually sees in Australia. In one sense, he is a foreign correspondent. In another sense, he is a contributor to a community of ideas and observations. In either sense, he is adding value to the blogging experience.

But Philip doesn’t get paid to be a correspondent, and I sure don’t make any money running this site. So, as payment for his useful perspective, let’s all take a look at Philip’s postings on the political blogsite and on his cycling website,