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news and thoughts on and around the development of the iCite net
by Jay Fienberg

Would a blog by any other name still smell like a blog by any other name?

posted: Jun 12, 2003 7:39:12 PM

After the PlaNetwork conference, where I took notes on every presentation I attended and posted those to my blog as fast as possible (archived 6/6, 6/7 and 6/8), I started to wonder if what I was doing really was blogging, or what. As it turns out, lots of bloggers like to post answers the question: what is a blog?

So, I wanted to join the game, and I will give my answer in this post. I also plan to do a follow-up post on the other question bloggers seem to always be trying to answer: why blogs matter? (Preview answer, the obvious: something about personal something.)

I think many of the answers given so far mix-up these two questions. People are answering "what is a blog?" with an answer to "why blogs matter?".

I think there is something exciting and important about blogs—something that matters about them. But, I think some folks who also are excited are tendings to say: blogs = the thing that matters. And, that is bringing out a negative fundamentalism—like, you are a heretic / idiot if you say: blogs = anything other than the thing that matters.

So, what is a blog in Jay's mind? A blog is log (diary or journal), published on the web.

Some machines keep logs, some people keep logs, some companies keep logs. Some logs are more personal than others (usually the ones done by people and not done by companies or by machines).

Some logs are done by one person. Some logs are done by more than one person. Some logs are unfiltered / unedited, some are filtered / edited (though most are unfiltered / unedited, since they are just logs).

Some logs have short posts, some have long posts. Some have consistently voiced / structured posts. Some have a range of voices from very personal to corporate to mechanical, or a range of structuredness from random to regular.

Any of these things could be web logs, or blogs.

Of course, if one defines blogs this way, they don't sound very special. And, with respect to others who have created more interesting definitions for blogs, I think, being excited about blogging, it is natural to talk about the distinctly meaningful aspects of blogs as if these are what blogs inherently are about.

David Weinberger has been one of several individuals talking about what blogs are, as in this post on the AlwaysOn Debate. I think this is a good example of skirting close to or even into a sandtrap by unconsciously arguing: blogs = why blogs matter.

As another example, Dave Winer's recent What makes a weblog a weblog? says:

The personalities of the writers come through. That is the essential element of weblog writing, and almost all the other elements can be missing, and the rules can be violated, imho, as long as the voice of a person comes through, it's a weblog.

But, in Dave's older History of weblogs, he says:

Weblogs are often-updated sites that point to articles elsewhere on the web, often with comments, and to on-site articles. A weblog is kind of a continual tour, with a human guide who you get to know.

I don't see these two statements from Dave contradicting one and other, but I do see a slant being added to the more recent one, along the lines of: blogs = why blogs matter. The older statement is more of a definition of blogs in general, and the recent statement is more of a perspective about blogs that matter.

At the PlaNetwork conference, there was a session on "Blogs and Online Community" which featured a number of serious bloggers, including Rebecca Blood. (Note: my notes on this session are blogged: part 1 and part 2.) Rebecca is an excellent presenter / speaker.

Rebecca showed a number of different types of blogs, and actually enumerated a number of different blog genres that she has recognized (e.g., short posts with links, longer posts, op ed pieces, corporate intranet blogs, etc.). I liked this perspective that she presented.

I do personally feel that blogs that matter are blogs where that personal thing is there. I don't even want to say personal voice as much as something like personal touch, because some blogs don't have writing as much as being a list of links (Erik's Weblog is a good example). But, a blog that matters is one that feels like a person made it—and is making it, day by day. (I will post more about this as a sequel to this post.)

But, the blog has already and will continue to develop different genres. And, some of those genres may not matter in this sense of having a personal touch. They may be relevant in other ways. Maybe some will matter to machines: blogs for machines, by machines, you know?

Personally, I would suggest that the arguments being made for blogs that matter could be better focused on blogging. In other words, we could ask: is something (like AlwaysOn) about encouraging individuals to blog in a personal way, or is it about ignoring or supressing that? I don't think the answer to that question defines what a blog is, but it does get at the issue of why a lot of bloggers care about blogging and why we think others should be exploring it.

Finally, I wanted to end with a link to a blog example: the dullest blog in the world.

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Comment by: Leknor ·
posted: Jun 12, 2003 11:52:11 PM

A blog is the web version of a .plan from old skool days. Instead of plain text you have html and some people like thier ego stroked in public by allowing public comments. How does it go? "What is old is new agin." or something like that.

trackback from: the iCite net development blog
posted: Jul 14, 2003 3:56:10 PM
title: Why blogging matters (more than blogs)

This is the conclusion to my two-part series on blogs

trackback from: the iCite net development blog
posted: Jul 14, 2003 3:57:54 PM
title: Not for busy-ness first software

This is a slight (though larger than expected) detour on my path to write about "why blogs matter" as a sequel to my post on what is a blog

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