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1. Introduction
2. A Brief History
3. Blog hate
4. Other sites of interest
5. Weblogs of note

See also: BlogoSphere, WebLogTracker


NB: Much of the text below is PrimarilyPublicDomain.

1. Introduction

Very strictly, a weblog ([aka] blog) is simply a log of the web. The editor(s) of a weblog merely chronicle what they consider interesting events on the web, typically adding some personal comments. In its strictest form, a weblog is akin to RecentChanges. However, since the format is so loose, a number of variants have formed.

First, since the common mode for finding new links is by surfing, the links don't necessarily have to be recently changed or created. Often people just list links to pages they have encountered, and the only chronology is the order in which they decided to write about them.

Second, the editors typically provide some subjective commentary. Some weblogs are more dominantly subjective commentary than links. Some weblogs are entirely subjective commentary and these are really OnlineDiaries.

This format is nearly the same as digests before copyright was strengthened at the end of the 19th century, except instead of duplicating the material (possibly after some editing), a weblog merely links to the material in question. This is not only cheaper and easier, but it also doesn't have any copyright problems. Of course, no one was aware of the earlier printed form when they invented weblogs.

Third, some weblogs aren't edited by one person or a select group of people, but are communally edited by their patrons. MetaFilter is a more traditional weblog that is communally edited; however, most communally edited weblogs become more like magazines, with articles instead of diary entries--although some may include DiaryCollective?s. For example, KuroShin is nearly completely controlled by its patrons and is really more of a discussion salon. SlashDot is an intermediary where the patrons provide the articles and the editors select what's interesting. Both include a DiaryCollective?.

The main theme connecting these variants is that they are all time ordered and bounded. All entries are discrete, in chronological order, and only last on the front page for a short period of time. Individual weblogs primarily focus on TheAudience rather than building TheCollective, and thus are very attuned to TheIndividual and not very good at collaboration aimed at getting things done.

On the other hand, weblogs are effective at distributed conversations. Comments and trackbacks are explicit ways of following conversations. Links to other weblogs are a key component of blogging rhetoric and blog conversation. Search engines like Technorati and Feedster help bloggers and readers discover, follow, and contribute to conversations on a particular topic. Blog communities help interesting ideas percolate from individuals to larger groups. Blogging is good at groupforming, since it is easy for individuals to find and contribute.

These properties allow blogs to scale much better than OnlineCommunities (cf. CommunityMayNotScale). There may be an argument that suggests this is a better community model than an extremely CollaborativeHypermedium, but that depends on your definition of community.

Due to the progressive mutation of the term weblog, it's pretty much a meaningless term. Some could even argue a wiki is a weblog, but that would be wrong--wikis aren't time-oriented. Instead, here are some less confusing terms:

An objective, time-ordered history of events that happened in the world at large. Think news. "What's new" lists and RecentChanges are chronicles.

A subjective, time-ordered history of events that happened to the author. Browse, link, and discuss sites are journals. They are journals of the author's surfing.

A subjective, time-ordered introspective analysis of oneself. People talking about their boyfriends, pets, parents, and co-workers are dead giveaways for diaries.

An OnlineCommunity that formats discussion by a strict dichotomy between time-ordered articles (prompting statements, theses) written by the soapboxer and separate, second-party commentary by TheAudience. For example, SlashDot and KuroShin have articles at the top and threaded comments at the bottom.

An blog that is aggregated from the individual posts in a community. AustinBloggers? http://www.austinbloggers.org and SeaBlogs? http://seablogs.hellbent.org/about.html are example of this genre.

Alan Graham on a post to the Boing Boing Weblog described 4 major types of blog postings that may be of interest (Available in the Guest Bar archives, here: http://boingboing.net/text/2004_04_04_guestbar.html#108117755958107350). In short he makes the following distinction between types of blog postings:

Short posts that present honest-to-god information.

Blog Wisdom
Relies on Narrative to make a subtle point

Vanity Post
It is what it is. Represents the worst in Blogs.

Fictional writing inside of a blog

See also


2. A Brief History

Dave claims the big prize...

[May 28, 1999] In April 1997 I started one of the first weblogs, Scripting News.

[October 14, 2000] A few months ago a reporter asked if Scripting News was the first weblog. In a way it was, but really Tim Berners-Lee had the first one.

[November, 2000] My name is Dave Winer. Scripting News is my weblog, started on April 1, 1997. It's the longest continuously running weblog on the Internet.

I think the state motto of California should be "State of Dreams" -- EvanWilliams?, [February 8, 1999]

After that, blogs exploded. Due to the ease of posting, blogs changed from belonging only to the web's technical elite--the only ones who knew enough HTML to run a weblog--to something accessible to the Greater Population. This meant that blogs shifted from being merely a log of the author's travels through the 'Net, to being more like OnlineDiaries. That is, WebLogs splintered between traditional link-logging and PersonalWebLog?s.

While weblogs had always included a mix of links, commentary, and personal notes, in the post-Blogger explosion increasing numbers of weblogs eschewed this focus on the web-at-large in favor of a sort of short-form journal. These blogs, often updated several times a day, were instead a record of the blogger's thoughts: something noticed on the way to work, notes about the weekend, a quick reflection on some subject or another. Links took the reader to the site of another blogger with whom the first was having a public conversation or had met the previous evening, or to the site of a band he had seen the night before. Full-blown conversations were carried on between three or five blogs, each referencing the other in their agreement or rebuttal of the other's positions. Cults of personality sprung up as new blogs appeared, certain names appearing over and over in daily entries or listed in the obligatory sidebar of "other weblogs" (a holdover from Cam's original list). It was, and is, fascinating to see new bloggers position themselves in this community, referencing and reacting to those blogs they read most, their sidebar an affirmation of the tribe to which they wish to belong. -- [Rebecca Blood]

[Wired News]: You were described in the press release as a millionaire.

Malda: Was I? Yikes.

Wired News: Yeah. "With the acquisition, Slashdot founder Rob Malda becomes the Internet's latest 23-year-old millionaire." Is that right?

Malda: I don't know. Er, I am 23.

This evening I learned that O'Reilly invested in Pyra, who makes Blogger, which competes head-on with Manila. While we were working with O'Reilly, at times very intensely, and always for free, they were betting on our competitor. Needless to say this should have been disclosed. I have a very sick feeling in my stomach this evening, this hurts so much you can't believe. BTW, O'Reilly is a much bigger company than UserLand. I feel so damned used. -- DaveWiner

You'd go to Metalog to see what the popular memes were. It not only served as a way to get the hot news, but you could get different viewpoints on the same issue if you dug up who was talking about the popular memes. -- MattHaughey?, [July 31, 2001]

This is the story of a current events search engine that came about because I couldn't search for information about the 2000 U.S. Presidential Election. "What are those wacky candidates up to today?" I'd wonder. "What do other people think about those wacky candidates?" I'd fumble around on Salon, I'd surf around a couple blogs, but I needed more. "Why can't I search for news and opinions of events that are happening today?"

Finally, now I can!

There was suddenly so much to think about and discuss and to try to sort out, much more than I could ever squeeze into a weekly cartoon. -- Dan Perkins, in the [New York Times]

September 11th led me to blog a lot about DealingWithTerrorism? while protecting our liberty, but I had difficulty tracking all the threads of issues over time. So I finally got working on putting up a wiki. But I knew that I couldn't continue writing in 2 tools at the same time without going nuts, so I put more time into figuring out how I'd like to put blog items into wiki, and how I'd like to present them, while creating "standard" wiki pages at the same time. -- BillSeitz

Other histories

3. Blog hate

4. Other sites of interest

5. Weblogs of note

The above text is PrimarilyPublicDomain.

Blog culture is sophistry

Plato ripped apart the Sophists for their deception, their unsubtantive mimickry. Blog culture is sophistry. The passing off of other people's knowledge as one's own; simply copy&paste&link&post. Voila, I am an InstaPundit?.

Sophistry is meme dissemination. Plato wrote negatively about memesis. Passing off mere repetition as knowledge is the fallacy he shouts down. Understanding, which means coming to know the divine Forms, is the real value generator. In particular, Plato was tied to a far more ancient oral tradition that was based on logical deduction (dialectic) rather than the simple Simonodean mnemonic device. In Plato's tradition, the progression of ideas in an oratory came naturally; they were not fixed by TheAuthor.

To Plato, passing on ideas is valuable, but passing on the expressions of those ideas is not.

Blog culture is about one person generating value somewhere on the 'Net and then everyone passing it on. del.icio.us is good because it eliminates the often perfunctory analysis that goes along with link propogation. This was done by design as Joshua particularly disdains the secondary 'insights' as being, well, secondary and therefore noise. But thecommentary is written to invest the author's self into the work, to attach their identity onto the value generated by someone else. Sophistry is about being the originator, the first, about taking human credit for ideas. This is profane. Claiming falsely that knowledge as one's own insight is anathema to Plato. Truth itself is valuable, not the attention that one receives from presenting it. Truth is Divine, Universal, and Eternal.

To Plato, there was no definitive authority. Ideas were accessible by anyone anywhere without there being an original work, simply because Truth was universal. All one needed was the proper mode of inquiry. This is the essence of mathematics, and he was right. By the way, mathesis means to learn, and hence mathematics means the method of learning.

The very structure of blogs frustrate the Platonic dialectic. They are temporal, personal, authoritative, printed, mnemonic, and ephemeral.

Or simply, while blogs are fun, Plato was not. Yet Plato continues to exert quite strongly his LifeInText today while the Sophists do not beyond the confines of historical investigation.

I actually am starting to see wikis as being Platonic devices, and thus beautiful if boring. But that's a discussion for another day. -- SunirShah

The strength of the blog model, is that it gives people incentives for doing something that is valuable to the whole community. When bloggers 'disseminate memes' they disseminate the ideas that are attached to those memes. So acting to their own egoistic motives they generate a value for the whole. -- ZbigniewLukasiak

I disagree that blogs are about "passing off of other people's knowledge as one's own". More often than not, blogs link to other articles, which is a far cry from the plagiarism or sophistry suggested by the previous phrase. The commentary may be quaint, ego-gratifying, or whatever, but that's not primarily why I read blogs. I read them because I prefer the kind of self-directed reading process that can result from following links from blogs - particularly blogs by people you know or respect - to the process of reading through a magazine, newspaper, or website. What's wrong with aggregation as a way of providing links to knowledge, commentary, or whatever - much of which the reader wouldn't find otherwise? And moreover, what's wrong with tying those links to a chronology, especially if the links in question are news items or otherwise tied to a particular point in time? Of course that's different than the wiki way, but the two models serve different ends, and I think each has its rightful place. -- MarcusMacauley

The reason people pass off their own reading to TheAudience in their blogs is to create a reputation around themselves, and so yes, they are trying to have some of the value of the original idea rub off on them. I don't think this function is inheritently bad, I just think Plato would think it is inheritently bad. Plato's Academy died out in obscurity, always small, always having no impact of its own. Only his writings, as preserved through Aristotle's Lyceum had impact. Aristotle and Tycho Brahe were both huge simply because they brought all the data into their workshops for the first place, did the thinking Plato loved, and then republished their results to a wide audience. So, in other words, you need both. Wikis and blogs go together, but I still think wikis are better at making knowledge, and blogs are better at passing knowledge. -- SunirShah


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