Thursday, December 18, 2003

The Mystery of Blogging

A friend sent me this story from The Guardian.

Weblogs may not be as innovative as some claim but they do have real potential as a form of personal publishing, argues Rebecca Blood

Hugh MacLeod on the weblog phenomenon

It is becoming obvious that no one really understands weblogs. Lots of people know what they are; the number of these reverse-chronological collections of entries has grown exponentially since 1999, when the first automated blogging tools were released. These tools brought online publishing, once the province of the technophile, to the common web-surfer, and in 2003 they are functioning as desktop printing presses for an estimated 1.5 million people.


A weblog is something fundamentally new. Something no one can quite put their finger on, not yet. And those who try to define the phenomenon in terms of current institutions are completely missing the point.

Consider the average weblog. Maintained by an unpaid enthusiast, this site will be updated perhaps a dozen times a day with links to interesting news stories and entries on other weblogs, accompanied by a few lines – or paragraphs – of commentary. A blogger interested in current events may include links to several accounts of one event, noting differences in tone or detail, another may post the occasional recipe or pictures from a recent trip. A blogger may have a thousand readers, but more likely a few hundred or a couple of dozen, some of whom will offer comments of their own, right on the site. The weblog is at once a scrapbook, news filter, chapbook, newsletter, and community.


All this represents something new: participatory media. And it matters. Not because of its resemblance to familiar institutions, but because of its differences from them.

Weblogs are just too varied, too idiosyncratic, to fit into an existing box. Industry analysts might call this disruptive technology because weblogs have changed personal publishing so profoundly that the old rules no longer apply. We are at the beginning of a new age of online publishing – and I predict that this generation of online pamphleteers is just the first wave.

· Rebecca Blood is the author of The Weblog Handbook: Practical Advice on Creating and Maintaining Your Blog (Perseus, 2002). She has maintained her weblog, since 1999.

Wow…Who’d have thought that we’d be on the cutting edge of anything…much less a first wave? This is an amazing opportunity – and responsibility. Let’s get it right this time. (By the way, where does your blog fit on Hugh MacLeod’s pie chart? Be honest.)