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December 28, 2000
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blah blah blah new york times "Web logs" blah blah williams blah hourihan blah blah blood blah this is news.
posted by peterme (57 comments total)

 
blah blah blah what no kottke? blah blah blah or barger? blah blah blah or winer?!!!!! blah blah blah blah cute picture though
posted by bradlands at 8:53 AM on December 28, 2000


So is this self-linking since Peter is mentioned in the article? :)
posted by daveadams at 9:02 AM on December 28, 2000


Amen, Brad, those two just look Bloggerific in that photo. Is anyone getting the feeling we should create a fake blog that everyone links to in their sidebar and see how long until the pseudoblogger is mentioned in a print article?
posted by anildash at 9:05 AM on December 28, 2000


Brad is a fictional construct. The BradLands is a fake personal website. No one has caught on yet, so keep it under your hat, will ya? I'm hoping the Times will come a'callin'.
posted by bradlands at 9:30 AM on December 28, 2000


me: so what happens if i tell the Times the truth about the BradLands?

BradLands (in HAL mode): i'm afraid i can't let you do that, george ...

posted by allaboutgeorge at 10:38 AM on December 28, 2000


I'm going to interject something slightly less jovial for a second. Sorry, feel free to ignore and continue the fun.

The article just made something go thunk in my head though, and one thing that's always bugged me about all the recent media on web logs. The article mentions that web logging tools make HTML easier, which is why people use it.

But I disagree with that. I was never adequately able to resolve the feelings of discomfort I had with the "Blog tool = easy HTML" but I'm going to give 'er a whirl.

Note, I'm using Blogger as a specific example because that's what I use, and that's what I know. I don't know pitas or manilla or any of those other tools.

The HTML wrapped around the blog can be as simple or complex as the author wants it to be, or is capable of it being. Blogger doesn't make the HTML any easier, and in fact by adding it's own set of tags, it actually makes the HTML more complex.

(Following, of course, the more options = more complex theory. The Blogger tags themselves aren't especially complex, they're actually far easier to use than actual HTML tags, but they're more stuff to remember, therefore more complex. That's my theory, and I'm stickin' to it.)

What Blogger does do is it makes updating the site insanely easier - I can do it through my browser or better yet by the right-click Blog This! widget. That alone makes Blogger a great tool. I don't have to open any other applications (even notepad has some load time) when I see something that sparks a rant, I just click and type.

Except for the BlogSpot sites using a template, Blogger does absolutely nothing to HTML or site creation in general. It's about maintenance. It should stop being hyped (I don't know if it's an intentional Pyra spin or not, but I don't think it is) as a great creation tool, it's not a great creation tool.

In fact, it kind of sucks as a creation tool. I mean, editing the template in the browser window, uploading it and checking it? No one does that, they mock-up their site in notepad locally, then cut & paste the template over. At least, I hope they do, it's a far cry easier than flipping around Blogger.com through the template page and post & publish and whatnot.

Creating a site is easy. (creating a good site isn't, don't get me wrong) Wander around geocities, there are thousands upon thousands (millions yet?) of people who have home pages. Updating, maintaining the site, that's the bitch of a home site, that's what ends up making sites die, and that's what makes Blogger et al so great.

umm... blah blah blah a-list blah blah something.
posted by cCranium at 10:47 AM on December 28, 2000


Technically you're right that Blogger makes site updates, not HTML, easier. But in the popular press, the distinction between "HTML" and "Web site" simply does not exist. "Oh, it makes Web sites easier, but I already used the phrase 'Web site' in the last sentence, and I don't want to be repetitious. Oh, I'll just use 'HTML' instead."

posted by kindall at 11:07 AM on December 28, 2000


Yeah, I suppose. Hacker vs. Cracker and all that.

I can't help but think that it's in Pyra's (and all the others) best interest to stress the point that it makes maintenance, not creation, easier.

Actually, Pyra does a pretty good job of that on their about page, they don't talk about ease of creation at all, just ease of updating.

It's still going to irritate me when the popular press misrepresents something though. :-)
posted by cCranium at 11:47 AM on December 28, 2000


I think what Blogger does that the others don't in the world of newbie web publishers, is offer an easy way to update a site on your server. Pitas, Manila, and now xenga make publishing easy, by just filling in forms and pressing a button. But your site is on their servers. With Blogger, you get the ease of use, but also it allows you to keep everything on your end of things. I'll admit it's not the easiest to setup for that though.

Also someone could conceivably read the NYT piece, go to blogger.com, fill in some forms and have a nice looking, templated blogspot blog in minutes. For people that don't know anything about programming, it blows them away that they can type some stuff into a page, hit a button and see their words on the web, and there aren't too many other companies that offer something that specific and simple.

I mean really, it's nothing revolutionary, right? Geocities, Tripod, et al, all have some form of "no programming" wizards to help you put up a site, but I think Blogger lucked out by being something like a diary, that others could relate to. Instead of other technologies that focus on being a page tool that helps you build a huge site (usually too daunting to think about all that work involved), Blogger just says "hey, post a tiny blurb about your day, how hard is that?" Then eventually, people just keep doing it and it grows.
posted by mathowie at 11:50 AM on December 28, 2000


Keep the audience in mind. It's what writers do. Aren't bloggers writers?

The NYTimes ain't Slashdot. Nor should it be.
posted by dhartung at 11:51 AM on December 28, 2000


...they mock-up their site in notepad locally, then cut & paste the template over.

Which makes me wish I could treat the template as a file, with a link to download the server's version, and an <input type="file"> to upload an update.
posted by harmful at 12:01 PM on December 28, 2000


Brennan, we can do that with the new blogger upgrade. Blogger will someday have a field where you enter the URL of your Blogger template, instead of the template itself. The server could just fetch the URL when you publish, instead of calling up your template stored in the Blogger db.
posted by mathowie at 12:28 PM on December 28, 2000


Also someone could conceivably read the NYT piece, go to blogger.com, fill in some forms and have a nice looking, templated blogspot blog in minutes.

Shhhhhh!
posted by baylink at 12:37 PM on December 28, 2000


Better yet. I'll be waiting for this one.
posted by harmful at 12:39 PM on December 28, 2000


Sigh. Given the nature of what I'm doing right now, I guess I shouldn't complain, but...

I find it very difficult not to be irritated by the self-congratulatory niche that is the blog community. I mean really. What bloggers do seems no more revolutionary or exciting to me than, say, the average self-congratulatory online journal of yesteryear.

There are a number of valuable and even interesting references to media and news events in MeFi. That is why I read it.

On the whole, however, MeFi seems to be the exception. I've been to blogger, I've read their blogs there, and in most cases I've been entirely turned off by thinly veiled overly personal journals with little real content and lotsa links to other blogs.

Am I missing something about this blogging revolution? Is there something that I don't understand about the beauty of the art? Or am I just some schmuck who just doesn't have his on blog and is therefore left out of the blogging community?
posted by rklawler at 1:59 PM on December 28, 2000


Interesting and smart blogs are made by interesting and smart people. Unfortunately, there just aren't that many interesting and smart people to begin with. Worse, when you're interesting and smart yourself, as many MeFi participants definitely are, your standards for considering others interesting and smart are higher.
posted by kindall at 2:18 PM on December 28, 2000


rklawler, not every blog you find at blogger is intended to be a "valuable and interesting" site. In fact, most new ones are little more than journals. Have you been paying attention at all? Because you don't like reading 5 books, would you conclude that literature is pointless?

The blog is for the CREATOR and the READER. If you are not in this audience, move about your business, click on through, nothing to see here. I couldn't care less if you don't want to read my blog (which is, by the way, more weblog than journal -- at least in theory) -- readers come cheap and there's about a billion of them in click's length. Conversely, out of maybe 100,000 extant blogs, I only read about two dozen -- and a quarter of those are people who were in the room when the walls went up.

IT IS ONLY THE JOURNALISTS WHO ARE CLAIMING THAT WHAT WE DO IS NEW.

The only real difference is that nowadays the tools are there so that the average person can create and update one quickly.
posted by dhartung at 3:44 PM on December 28, 2000


Pitas, Manila, and now xenga make publishing easy, by just filling in forms and pressing a button. But your site is on their servers. With Blogger, you get the ease of use, but also it allows you to keep everything on your end of things.

Ummm.... I'm not an expert on Pitas or Xenga, but as for Manila, this statement's not right, mathowie; you're confusing Manila and EditThisPage.com. It'd be like if someone confused Blogger and BlogSpot.com.

Manila is a product that runs wherever you install it; I have it installed on my own server, and my Manila site runs from that server. Userland happens to have installed Manila on a server of their own, EditThisPage.com, and opened it up for anyone to create a site.
posted by delfuego at 3:46 PM on December 28, 2000


Hey Matt: if this wasn't obvious: I hope you're caching the contents of the template file, and timing out that retrieval on a real short delay to the cached version...

Yeah, I know; it *was* obvious.
posted by baylink at 4:45 PM on December 28, 2000


Yeah, there is a self-congratulatory tone to most of them, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but can get old really fast.

For an interesting medium, even well written ones tend to contain a "hey, look how sensitive and inciteful I am" quality. Reading them can become trying.

Weblogs with less personality are better IMHO. It is more interesting to understand someone's "personality" through their links than their drive to work that morning.

Contributory weblogs are pretty dope. Metafilter is more of a news source than a weblog, but points me to an article I may not have found, and at least no one is talking about their pets. (I hope.)
posted by birgitte at 4:59 PM on December 28, 2000


With all due respect, if a weblog isn't personal, I get bored with them pretty fast. I'm perfectly capable of going to Google and finding good links fast about any subject I can imagine. The best thing about weblogs is that they are a quick and simple outlet for personal expression. I live in a town where I'd probably be lynched for my opinions, but I feel safe expressing them on my weblog, even if only a tiny handful of people read them.
posted by Mr. skullhead at 6:25 PM on December 28, 2000


I found one particular paragraph in the article intriguing:

--------------------
>Web logs are elaborately cross-linked, with Web
>loggers reading and commenting upon one another's
>sites, creating a kind of fragmented conversation.
>But a personal Web log is, in the end, a private
>playground, a place for self-expression without the
>criticism and hostility that can flame up in online forums.
>"I can post the most egregious statement," Ms. Hourihan
>said, "and nobody can do anything about it."
--------------------

Personally, I love a good conversation, and commenting, annotating and riffing off of each others weblogs is no substitute for good old-fashioned community. Few things are as illuminating or invigorating than a rigorous "flame up" (as the NYT calls it :-)...I like to hear people TALKING and LISTENING to each other directly instead of hiding behind edited personas and delivering stilted soliloquies.

I agree with birgitte who cites contributory weblogs like MeFi as successful examples. This is not only because of the self-organizing news source they develop into, but because they encourage CONVERSATION between the participants, much like the BBS and discussion forums of days of yore.

posted by webchick at 7:13 PM on December 28, 2000


My problem, and the reason I don't have a web log, is that I can't come up with material daily. I have a muse; I can't see her but I know she's there. Every once in a while she comes and taps me on the head with her wand, and then I need to write something. Sometimes it happens a lot, sometimes I go months in between.

So instead, I just put a page on my website where I put those articles when I feel like writing. I haven't added anything to it for about four months as I write this, but in August I added about four articles.

I don't think of it as a web log. I think of it as vanity press. I have a counter on that page, and it doesn't get hit very often, but I don't really care. I write those articles for myself; if someone else wants to read them, that's fine too.

I think a lot of the problem with a lot of web logs is the implicit obligation to add something every day, even if you have nothing to say. The reason it seems as if there are nothing but references in many cases is that the blog owner has nothing personal to contribute.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 7:14 PM on December 28, 2000


The comments feature made possible by BlogVoices (and said to be part of Blogger Pro's feature set) has the potential to make every weblog more of a "community," but I fear that most surfers are voyeurs rather than people seeking to become members of a community. People don't always feel welcome to contribute, especially since the weblog community can seem "closed" to outsiders. What can we do to change this?
posted by jmcnally at 7:26 PM on December 28, 2000


skullhead, sure, you can go to google if you are looking for a specific thing, but don't you like to be exposed to "random" subjects, ones that you would have never searched for?


posted by gluechunk at 7:41 PM on December 28, 2000


My problem, and the reason I don't have a web log, is that I can't come up with material daily. I have a muse; I can't see her but I know she's there. Every once in a while she comes and taps me on the head with her wand, and then I need to write something. Sometimes it happens a lot, sometimes I go months in between.
Well I can't come up with material on all my blogs daily. I just don't worry about it.
What I like about blogs is the way that you can create a form and use that form. I'd like to give examples of what I mean but it would probably be considered self promotion.
I've read their blogs there, and in most cases I've been entirely turned off by thinly veiled overly personal journals with little real content and lotsa links to other blogs.
When I set up my first blog (complete toss) I decided that there would be no personal material in it. I've kept mostly to that decision. I also learnt quickly that there's no point linking to another blog unless it's relatively unknown, I'm giving credit or offering an opinion on something.
posted by davidgentle at 8:45 PM on December 28, 2000


I find it very difficult not to be irritated by the self-congratulatory niche that is the blog community. I mean really.

May I suggest Rebecca's Pocket and rc3.org sometime. High-quality links and commentary. A personal voice, but not many personal comments. No self-congratulatory, cross-linking bloglove going on there, just good stuff nearly every day.

Of course, there's always my favorite weblog (I read it every day!), The Stuffed Dog, which I can't recommend more highly. I rarely link to other weblogs anymore except to credit them for stolen links. Sometimes I don't even do that, lazy bastard that I am.

What bloggers do seems no more revolutionary or exciting to me than, say, the average self-congratulatory online journal of yesteryear.

Webloggers have long since stopped thinking their medium was anything revolutionary. The idea of a weblog is important, however, because it defines a powerful website format that is ideal for encouraging repeat visits. The existence of that definition and the tools that support it have made the weblog a popular personal site format, but I haven't seen anyone claiming revolution recently.

Blogger et al. can be revolutionary tools to someone who would like to have a regularly updated website and knows a little HTML, but is intimidated by (or too lazy to worry about) having to deal with regular updates. But don't confuse the Blogger(tm) Revolution with the weblog.
posted by daveadams at 9:38 PM on December 28, 2000


"All my blogs", David? How the heck many do you have, anyway?
posted by Steven Den Beste at 10:09 PM on December 28, 2000


Steven: 7 right now. I was thinking about an 8th but I think I can manage to fold that particular concept into an existing one. Bear in mind that I have exactly 2 links logs (complete toss is for my general links and C-log was going to be a colaborative weblog about comics but no one wanted to colaborate) and one pseudo autobiographical log. The rest are just me messing about. I have a link somewhere to all of them. I also have a couple of zines (that I have neglected a lot recently).
Given the fact that it doesn't actually hurt much to experiment, that's what I do.
posted by davidgentle at 10:42 PM on December 28, 2000


ps:
comments systems:
marcia the notorious Dutchbint has one. I tried to implement it but you need to have server side includes (which my hsost will not implement). It uses php.
posted by davidgentle at 10:56 PM on December 28, 2000


Hi, James...

>The comments feature made possible by BlogVoices
>has the potential to make every weblog more of a
>"community,"...

These tools do give people the ability to comment/annotate individual blogs, kinda like a contextual guestbook...but from what I've seen they do little to solve the fundamental community issue (or the "fragmented conversation" issue the NYT piece mentioned...not that they cited it as an issue that warrants solving. :-).

Besides, not every weblog needs to be a community, does it?

>but I fear that most surfers are voyeurs rather
>than people seeking to become members of a
>community...

Good point, but its not necessarily a problem with "surfers" than perhaps it is with society in general. And the problem goes beyond voyeurism to a general state of discontent and disconnectedness. More people prefer to go it alone (generally the path of least resistance) than put some effort into developing and nurturing social groups and communities (check out Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam on our nation's declining "social capital").

>especially since the weblog community can
>seem "closed" to outsiders...What can we
>do to change this?

A weblog "community" is generally going to seem more open to other webloggers, so I'm not sure there is anything that needs changing in that regard. What constitutes community, again, may be up for an additional round of rousing debate and discussion (although it may prove too tangential for this particular thread :-)
posted by webchick at 10:56 PM on December 28, 2000


Is there even a real weblog community though? Isn't it a kind of maze of smaller communities? Isn't that the problem? You can look at the Blogger database (and recently updated box) all day and not find much to latch onto.
David's rule of internet communities #1:
The most viable online communities tend to be extensions of offline communities.
posted by davidgentle at 11:23 PM on December 28, 2000


webchick is hitting some points I was thinking of already.

I cover the weblogging gamut. I have a personal weblog (follow my name link if you don't know) which I use in a way inspired by the classic short-form weblog but incorporating, I trust, a lively commentary style that gives it a personality -- which from the responses I get is part of the reason most readers keep coming back. I don't talk about my love life, my family, or my friends very much. (I had to disabuse my Dad of the notion that he was the sole intended reader of every single blog post. Quickly.)

I also run a discussion site on EditThisPage.com for a political topic. It's sparked by news items, but it exists mainly in the membership and debates. I don't consider it necessary to put my personal stamp on it, and in fact I'm considering elevating some members to editor level.

Finally, I participate in MetaFilter and, to a decreasing extent, Slashdot. There is a tremendous depth and breadth of coverage in each that means experts in the topic will post and get read.

I don't feel the need to turn my personal weblog into a community, any more than I do to turn it into a diary. As it is, though, what I get out of it is clearly informed by the larger coummunity of webloggers. I steal links from them, to be sure, but I also respond to their comments, learn from them, and get ideas from this interplay. I can safely say that a year plus of doing this has excited me intellectually as nearly no other undertaking has done. (Well, perhaps the year I discovered poststructuralism.)

A critic of weblogs from the other end of the telescope is Ben Brown, who last year urged bloggers to instead write 3000 words or more a day, every day, to fill their sites with real content instead of derivative links. I don't feel I need go to that extreme. I was always a writer, but limited to formal structures or the informalities of chat/usenet/e-mail. In my weblog I choose the level of formality and the structure. Additionally, and this should not be overlooked as a factor, having your own weblog gives you a sandbox in which to try design and layout experiments. While the NYTimes article as always touts the "ease" of using a tool like Blogger ("no HTML required!"), I suspect that a majority of bloggers spend a great deal of time on their design. (Not always with happy results.) There are even a small number of sites, often with roll-your-own back ends, that incorporate elements of databases, categories, and other skills that the owner is clearly practicing with an eye toward professional application.

In 2 years of following the blog phenomenon closely, I can safely say I've seen all the criticisms before. They're almost always written by someone who hasn't sat at my keyboard. Many times they turn things that have long been considered virtues in other contexts directly on their head. A writer a-borning is always urged to face the blank sheet of paper, each day, every day, without fail. Fill it. The better part of writing then becomes deciding what not to include. For blog critics, filling the page is a vice. The budding writer is also urged to find her inner voice, to speak from the heart, because the only writing that truly matters, that will be remembered, is the writing that comes from a distinct point of view. For blog critics, writing from your point of view is considered egotism. I see these potshots and I'm flabbergasted. We're to bury ourselves? We're to wait until we have something Important(tm) to say before speaking? Until our design is an award-winner?

I say, Go to hell. I mean it. Maybe this form means nothing to you. Well, fine, because I am not writing for you. I am writing for me. I am writing for what I get out of the process of thinking about a political issue or a scientific discovery and explaining it to my readers. I am writing for the responses I get from my readers. I am writing for the interplay with the larger community of webloggers.

I'm doing nothing different than writers have done for millennia. I just have better tools. Fan-fucking-tastic better tools.
posted by dhartung at 11:57 PM on December 28, 2000


I wrote a long post, but the browser ate it. Here's a summary:

Blogging is a way for more people to communicate their thoughts in a low-cost venue. At that level, I don't see how anyone can complain.

However, there have been a lot of remarks made about the revolutionary nature of blogs, whether that particular word was used or not.

From what I can see,

Blogs don't change *what* people communicate

Blogs don't change how much thought people put into what they do.

Blogs don't even change the idiom people use when they communicate, and the form isn't really that different.

Blogs don't filter or "edit" the web *anywhere near* the way they were said to often at the beginning.

With that, I propose that blogs aren't any more inherently revolutionary than any other medium. That's because (in my view) being revolutionary takes a lot of thought and effort, which most people aren't willing to put up. This is different from dedicating a whole weekend to redesigning a vanity site.

The Mcluhan-esque patch of new forms and new media still doesn't make real thought and effort appear.

Blogs do introduce incremental improvements, and what's more, they give us even more of an obvious opportunity to be 'revolutionary'.

To cut myself short, if words like revolutionary are going to be tossed around, lets figure out what they really mean and do it for real. Otherwise, blogs are fun and often enlightening, informative, and whatever else, so carry on. But at least consider really being revolutionary, in whichever way.
posted by queequeg at 1:50 AM on December 29, 2000


Matt, thanks for the quick explanation of the differences between the different tools, I never really looked into how they differed.

delfuego, thank you for pointing out the difference between Manilla and EditThisPage.com, while I knew Manilla was a product, I didn't know how the two differed. One thing I'll point out at this point is that Blogger lets you run from your server for free and regardless of whether or not you control the server.

Comparing Blogger to Manilla is probably unfair, as they're products for two different markets. One's an administrative tool, one's an end-user tool.

(I love learning new stuff. :-)

Steven, your prolific posting here belies the fact that you wouldn't have anything to put on a personal blog. Note that I'm not telling you to stop, I'm usually quite interested in your links, but you obviously find stuff people find interesting. Were you to start a blog, I'd read it.

This is a minor cause of mine, so apologies if I get carried away (again).

Queequeg, regarding the question of revolution.

Tangent: Queequeg sounds really familiar. I want to link it to Godel, Escher and Bach. I don't think that's right though, how far off am I? The GEB reference I'm thinking of is probably "Quine"

According to dictionary.com's second definition of revolution (you'll have to scroll, unfortunately, it doesn't appear there are anchors), the one referenced from Webster's, definition 6 of revolution is "6. A total or radical change; as, a revolution in one's circumstances or way of living."

I don't know many MetaFilistines personal history, and don't really care to, but I do know that many of us had personal pages before switching to a tool like Blogger. Some still do. Many of those personal pages had a "News" section, or some other regularily updated portion of the site.

I know that when I switched my site to using Blogger as opposed to updating things manually, it radically changed the way I updated my site. I updated far more often, it was far easier (the right-click Blog This! tool is Blogger's "killer app" in my world, I can't lay enough praise on it :-) to update. It, to a degree, changed the way I write.

I was already a reasonably prolific writer (in various online forums for the most part), but blogging stuff every day (or trying to, at least :-) has helped refine my writing. It's encouraged me to investigate proper usage of the semi-colon, for example, to make sure I use it properly. As I write more and more, it's helped me develop something of a constant style, a regular voice, also.

To me the changes are revolutionary. They are radical changes in the way I work and produce content for my site. It's a minor revolution, to be sure, and the ramifications don't extend that far beyond myself, but it is a revolution.

rklawler: Is there something that I don't understand about the beauty of the art?

Simple answer: no. Long answer: yes. I mean, what most bloggers, including myself, are doing isn't really art. In the sense that art is something with deep meaning and social commentary and beautiful and powerful and all kinds of other nifty adjectives.

In that sense, what most bloggers do isn't art.

In the sense that art is creating something with value and meaning and all those nifty adjectives to the artist, then yes, what bloggers do is most definetely art. Most people will argue that blogging has value, but they'll be sure to point out that the value is, above all else, to the person writing the blog.

Writing is an art. Blogs are writing. Therefore blogs are art. Whether or not you appreciate that art as "artistic" or any of those enjoyable adjectives is up to you.
posted by cCranium at 5:58 AM on December 29, 2000


Speaking as an Internet veteran, blogs are now exhibiting the "difficult second album" phenomenon where the popularity of blogs are changing the form. The 'new' maintain they are the best thing since sliced bread and the 'old' berate them for spoiling a good thing.

[I've just realised another stage is the 'veteran' who thinks he's seen it all explaining the "difficult second album" phenomenon.]

Seen it with homepages, metababies, search engines and any other internet phenomenon you care to mention.

The only thing that is different is that with the internet, webpages hang around to be viewed out of context sometimes years after they have stopped being updated. We are creating a fabulously documented history.
posted by fullerine at 6:12 AM on December 29, 2000


For what it's worth, Greymatter both runs off of and posts to your own server, with no dependence on any "middleman" whatsoever; has built-in, 100% customisable comments (and voting); and the next version (which should be done in early January) will also include right-click bookmarklets. I apologise if it's not welcome for someone to plug their own product like this, but I like to hope it's earned its place in any discussion of alternative weblog tools.
posted by Noah at 6:45 AM on December 29, 2000


Simply put, I use my blog for several reasons:

1) To keep track of interesting links
2) To sharpen my writing ability
3) To write down all the silly things I think of so they aren't lost
4) To meet people

An online "community" is better than none at all, but not as real as actually meeting people. But I consider blogging a good way of introducing myself to strangers, so that when and if I do meet them in real life, we won't be strangers. See you at SXSW?
posted by jmcnally at 6:53 AM on December 29, 2000


>Is there even a real weblog community though?
>Isn't it a kind of maze of smaller communities?
>Isn't that the problem?

Exactly, David. However, the maze extends beyond individuals who choose to publish in the weblog format (or 'medium', as some may call it). This leads to further fragmentation within the broader Internet community (or Web community, for that matter, of which weblogs are a contributing factor to that maze).

((...of course, fullerine is going to accuse me of sounding 'old' with that statement. Nevertheless, I stand by it (let's just keep matters like age out of it :-))

I mean, who really cares what format we publish in as long as we talk to one another?

>David's rule of internet communities #1:
>The most viable online communities tend
>to be extensions of offline communities.

Absolutely...be it 'the PTA, church, recreation clubs, political parties, or bowling leagues.'

>The Mcluhan-esque patch of new forms
>and new media still doesn't make real
>thought and effort appear.

Well said, queequeeg...and it also doesn't bring our little mazes of association any closer together as a global community (something technology has great potential to do) if we get caught up in what 'medium' we publish in as opposed to the actual 'message. '


posted by webchick at 6:55 AM on December 29, 2000


I've really been amazed at the depth in the blog community. I've only been reading weblogs for about two years now, and until pretty recently I've had a preconceived notion based on the blogs I'd seen about the style and political leanings of at least the majority of them. After starting my own I've discovered just how many of them there really are. There are many that are very bad. There are not as many as are really good.

To say it's not revolutionary sells bloggage short. Sure, it's just writing, but when have so many "normal" people out there put so much writing into the public domain? People tend to forget just about everything written on the net will be there permanently. How many people during history could look back on a portion of their lives and find a daily record of what not just them but the people they were corresponding with did? This is a massive anthropological diary experiment going on here, and lots of different types of people are being represented. Oh, forgive the self-post here, but I blogged about this phenomenon pretty recently and catalogued several examples.

I guess there is an element of vanity involved, but blogging is fun. That's my essential bottom line, that and it's about as much work as when I just surfed the net anyway and emailed all my friends cool links.
posted by norm at 7:28 AM on December 29, 2000


just about everything written on the net will be there permanently

I think this is quite a conclusion to leap to. I have a personal site and, yes, I don't update it that often (I will soon change it to a blog format, probably), but I've certainly taken down lots of obsolete or embarrassing stuff I've posted over the years.
posted by kindall at 7:54 AM on December 29, 2000


Also for what it's worth, my limited experience with Greymatter has been very positive. I use Blogger on one site right now, but will probably switch over once I get some of the finer points of Greymatter down.
posted by jennyb at 8:06 AM on December 29, 2000


Steven Den Beste has posted 217 links and 776 comments to MetaFilter

Steven, I find it hard to believe you'd have any trouble coming up with material daily.
posted by luke at 8:47 AM on December 29, 2000


Why I Weblog, circa June 1999 and still just as tasty today. Mark me in the column that considers weblogs -- in the model of Tomalak's Realm and Obscure Store -- revolutionary, which is to say they're personal sites I trust to filter the web for me, because through their link commentaries I've come to know a bit of the author's personality and worldview and find that it meshes with my own.

Also, mark me in the column that recognizes and uses a distinction between a "weblog" and a "blog". To me, the former is links to Internet resources with occasional personal commentary and the latter is the opposite, nearer a diary or journal. There are subtle gradations between the two, naturally.
posted by bradlands at 8:49 AM on December 29, 2000


Hi. I wrote the article that started this thread, and I'm tired of lurking, so here goes.

My favorite weblogs are the ones that strike a delicate balance between links and journal-style entries. I like it when the writer's offline life inspires online explorations, and vice versa. I like it when offline life and "Web life" overlap seamlessly, in the same way that the links are smoothly integrated into the prose. This still feels new to me, and yes, I think it's a kind of art. The personal bits contribute a sense of narrative flow and warmth to what would otherwise be a rather formal exercise in hunting and gathering links.

I didn't really talk about any sites like this in the article, because their appeal is a bit hard to explain to a newbie audience. Also I would have had to cite an example, and it would seem strange to thrust something so personal under the spotlight of a national newspaper. A journal/weblog that appeals to me might not appeal to someone else -- it's a personal thing.

Thanks for the great discussion.

posted by davidfg at 10:12 AM on December 29, 2000


Hello, again, James, et al...

>An online "community" is better than none
>at all, but not as real as actually meeting people.

Absolutely...and let me clarify that a community is just as apt to form around the art or practice of weblogging as it is with any other special interest, such as world peace, water skiing or knitting. The problem occurs when people attach too much significance to the label "weblog" when they are dealing with issues of community.

The format I choose to publish in should have little to do with what community I am involved in (unless, again, it is a community on that form of publishing itself) any more than the language I speak, what sex I am, or what color my skin is.

Who needs more labels and barriers? It is, indeed, http://www.metafilter.com/comments.mefi/4966#37227a personal thing.

posted by webchick at 10:22 AM on December 29, 2000


Hello, again, James, et al...

>An online "community" is better than none
>at all, but not as real as actually meeting people.

Absolutely...and let me clarify that a community is just as apt to form around the art or practice of weblogging as it is with any other special interest, such as world peace, water skiing or knitting. The problem occurs when people attach too much significance to the label "weblog" when they are dealing with issues of community.

The format I choose to publish in should have little to do with what community I am involved in (unless, again, it is a community on that form of publishing itself) any more than the language I speak, what sex I am, or what color my skin is.

Who needs more labels and barriers? It is, indeed, a personal thing.

posted by webchick at 10:24 AM on December 29, 2000


Interesting comments.

I guess my expectations for a word like "revolutionary" are pretty high. I definitely rely on weblogs to filter the web for me, but I also miss a lot of interesting stuff because of this reliance. More importantly, I think there's a very strong distinction to be made between 'revolutionary' within the way we (the privileged, truly) use the web, and 'revolutionary' in the rest of the world. I don't really count the first one as revolutionary.

As far as Brad's distinction, if that's the case, then there are very few "weblogs" that really do anything useful. Maybe what's compelling is that those few people who put serious effort into their endeavours can be heard by a larger audience.

But is making interesting stuff easier to find "revolutionary". Maybe within the thin category of 'finding stuff'. I think, though, that internet publishing (or any kind of publishing) has the possibility to effect serious social change, outside of how we use the web.

Blogs, weblogs, and other easy ways of self-publishing are still encouraging to me, because they create an infrastructure that makes non corporate-filtered information distribution a stronger possibility. Even if they're mostly used for public masturb... um, self-congratulation, who knows, maybe someday we'll start caring about being revolutionary outside the scope of the web. Praise be to McLuhan. :>

I imagine this is because my POV is politically skewed, though it amazes me that everyone else isn't against blatant injustice.

Not sure how much I should expand on that. :>

Cranium: Queequeg is a character from Melville's Moby Dick.
posted by queequeg at 10:24 AM on December 29, 2000


Not to mention, Queequeg was the name of Scully's dog.
posted by wiremommy at 11:45 AM on December 29, 2000


People tend to forget just about everything written on the net will be there permanently.

This is one of the problems with blogs I have. Sure, the writting may be permanent, but there's no guarantee that certain links won't die at some point. And so in the long run some of the blogs that include lots of linking will be less useful of a document than some people think they will be.

I guess I think about the cases where someone includes little context - i.e. "I found this great Santa site today and it made me feel great!" And I also guess that this goes into the whole permanency/non-permanency nature of the web. But, but....I'm going to stop babbling now and go eat some breakfast.
posted by gluechunk at 12:48 PM on December 29, 2000


One of the things that Blogger does do is make it inexcusable NOT to update your site, which of course is a mixed blessing. I love running plasticbag.org - I really do - but there have been times (days sometimes, weeks very occasionally) when I really didn't want to do it, where I felt tired and didn't feel I had anything to say. And I posted anyway.

I feel personally that I'm not writing my best stuff at the moment by a long chalk, but I keep doing it for good or ill. Perhaps that's because I feel a responsibility to my audience, no matter how small it may be. Perhaps it is because it is one of the few sites that I run that I actually still have time to maintain, and that I feel sacrificing it would mean that I had stopped completely contributing (outside of work) to a huge community of individuals around the world.

The weblogging revolution HAS occurred and will continue to occur, although it won't have anything to do with weblogs per se, but instead the wide variety of sites that are gradually being built on the back of mini-online content management tools. That's the real revolution here - that content can now be managed by the individual at home, simply and effectively. The updated blogger (from what I hear) will be much more able to handle webzines and the like than it is at the moment. And that's just going to be the first stage towards having online sites which help you set up and run any kind of site that you want - from database driven sites to newspaper type sites.

The only pressure that this wonderful change puts on us is to produce good work. Perhaps an inhuman amount of it...
posted by barbelith at 2:05 PM on December 29, 2000


>Sure, the writting may be permanent, but there's no>guarantee that certain links won't die at some point.

Hee hee...

I was going to link to an interesting article that touched on the dilemma of the permanency/non-permanency nature of the Web (as well as the issue of communal self-recording of Internet history through hyperlinks) entitled The Sad Lesson of the 404...

Guess what...I got a 404!

(It was a short-but-good read by Robert Hertzberg of Internet World written way back in 1997...perhaps the dead link is more convincing than any words he could write :-).
posted by webchick at 2:24 PM on December 29, 2000


It's not just the links that makes the weblog. My point was more to say that those that do allow their personal lives (or any other life, I guess) spill into their writing a record exists of it. When running a google search for my name, I find things I wrote five years ago, completely removed from context. At least with the weblog I write my own context, even if all the links perish.
posted by norm at 3:55 PM on December 29, 2000


One of the things that Blogger does do is make it inexcusable NOT to update your site, which of course is a mixed blessing. I love running plasticbag.org - I really do - but there have been times (days sometimes, weeks very occasionally) when I really didn't want to do it, where I felt tired and didn't feel I had anything to say. And I posted anyway.

Tom: You forget the best "excuse" of all, which is that a blog is whatever you want to make of it. I post to WOIFM on a quasi-daily basis, except on days where I'm

(1) too damn lazy,
(2) too damn busy, or
(3) too damn out-of-the-country-on-my-honeymoon.

Heck, there was a two-week span last February where I just plain blew it off. I don't hestitate nowadays to let it sit neglected for a day or two. When I come back to it, I've usually come back with days' worth of stuff I've saved up. As a result, I don't get bent out of oint when my favrite reads take a day or two off. I'll catch up with them later.

A better question is, why do you feel compelled to write something even when you don't want to? That's not a function of the tool you us, it's a function of your reason for writing.
posted by mikewas at 4:04 PM on December 29, 2000


Thoreau said, "How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live." On the days (and occasionally weeks) when there is nothing in my weblog or my my-so-called-lifestyle thingy or elsewhere on my website, it's usually an indication I'm out somewhere standing up and living. My online presence is only one aspect of my life/personality; I would hope whatever readers I may have recognize that and don't fret unduly when that aspect sits fallow for a few days.
posted by bradlands at 4:25 PM on December 29, 2000


this discussion has entered a realm i feel like commenting on. i took down my whole website (including my weblog, the blorg) because i broke up with my girlfriend. i know that someday my personal life will chill out and i'll put it back up. and i know that my regulars will all come back and everything'll be fine -- back to normal. i sent an explanitory note about it to 8 people and told them it was okay to share. i received about 30 responses to that email. my friends will be back. i like that my little web world is friendly like that.
posted by palegirl at 5:15 PM on December 29, 2000


re david's post about the comments system i use: sascha from squiggle.me.this wrote it, and it's excellent.
posted by dutchbint at 1:27 AM on December 30, 2000


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