Rebecca Blood - Weblogs:A History and Perspective Notes

Weblogs: A History and Perspecitve - Rebecca Blood

-weblogs - named by Jorn Barger - Dec, '97.
-1998 - only a handful of sites now considered weblogs.
-Garrett - editor of Infosift
-began compiling list of sites like his on Web.
-Nov '98 - sends list to Cameron Barrett.
-Barrett - published list on Camworld
-others w/ similar sites send URLs to him.
-SO, beginning '99, Garrett's page of just weblogs has 23 known blogs.

-'community' suddenly springs up.
-easy to read all blogs.
-Peter Merholz - early '99, says gonna pronounce it "wee-blog." (who cares and why does he "announce" something so irrelevant? why change it?)
-then, eventually shortened to blog.
-weblog editor called "blogger."


-then more and more people begin publishing own blogs.
-Blood's began in April '99.
-suddenly can't read all blogs every day.
-can't keep track of all new ones.
-Barrett's list gets too long, so only lists ones he follows.
-other bloggers follow suit.
-Eatonweb Portal - early '99.
-created by Brigitte Eaton.
-compiled list of every blog she knew about to create Eaton. Portal.
-criteria - site consists of dated entries.
-bloggers debated definition of blog.
-cuz Eatonweb was most complete listing, her definition stood.

-Rapid growth until July '99.
-Pitas - July '99
-first free build-own-blog tool launched.
-then hundreds blogs.
-'99 Pyra released Blogger.
-'99 Groksoup also launched.
-tools made so easy so, growth is explosive.
-late '99 - Dave Winer intro's Edit This Page.
-same time - Jeff Campbell launches Velocinews.
-all services free for users to publish own blogs.


-original blogs - link-driven sites.
-ea is unique mix of links, commentary, personal thoughts, essays.
-could only be done by people who knew how to make a website.
-blogger had to learn HTML.
-lotsa current blogs follow original style:
-links to little-known websites and to current news articles of note.
-links w/ blogger's commentary.
-if expert in field, shows accuracy/inaccuracy of article or facts.
-adds facts that thinks are relevant.
-add opinion or diff viewpoint.
-commentary often irreverent and sarcastic.
-pioneers in art/craft of microcontent cuz did all this in coupla sentences in which introduce link.
-format of typical blog - provides very short space in which to write post.
-encourages pitiness from writer.
-longer stuff given own space as separate essay.


-blogs provide:
-1) valuable filtering function for readers:
-web has been pre-surfed.
-bloggers pick ones they see as most notable.

-this type blog import. for another reason:
-Ruggiero - Immediast Underground
-says media is corporate possession.
-we can't participate.
-diff between public and audience.
-audience - passive
-public - participates.
-need def on media that is considered public.
-2) -THIS: -cuz bloggers search own stuff from less-known sources and give additional facts, diff views, and thoughtful commentary, are participating in passing on and interpreting news.
-sarcasm and biting commentary reminds us to question interests of our sources of info.
-also question expertise of reporters.

-blogger will put articles side-by-side.
-consider ea in light of other.
-bloggers begin to redefine media as a public, participatory endeavor.


-1999 - cuz of intro of Blogger - BIG CHANGE:
-blogs had been mix of links, commentary, personal notes.
-then w/ explosion of blogs, bloggers move towards a short-form journal format.
-blogs updated several times per day.
-were now just record of blogger's thoughts.
-something noticed, notes about weekend, quick view on some subject.
-links would take to another blogger just met, or was carry-over from actual physical conversation, or to band had heard.
-NOW, full-blown conversations carried on between no.'s of blogs.
-would reference ea other in replies/comments/posts.

-"cults of personality" (?) spring up - new blogs appear. (what the hell is cults of personality?)
-certain names appearing over and over in daily entries.
-these names appear in side bar of "other weblogs."
-sidebar of other weblogs - holdover from Barrett's original list of blogs.
-new bloggers postions selves in this 'community.'
-reference other blogs.
-react to other blogs they read most.
-sidebar is "affirmation of tribe to which they wish to belong."
-why change? why so many? - popularity of form may be cuz wanna emulate sites of "Ev" and "Meg" who created Blogger.
-ALSO, Blogger has no restrictions on form of content posted.
-web interface accessible from any browser.
-empty form box for text - can type anything.
-one click and Blogger posts it.
-also archives it correctly.
-also presents writer w/ another empty box to fill.

-contrast Blogger to MetaFilter's web interface.
-(MetaFilter is popular community weblog).
-get three form boxes:
-1. URL of referenced site.
-2. Title of entry.
-3. Commentary blogger might add.
-MetaFilter's form expects a link and commentary.
-Blogger makes easy to type thought or reaction, so lotsa people don't hunt up link and write text to go w/ it.
-free-form interface - brought shift from filter-style blog to journal-style blog.
-biggest factor in making this happen.

-definition of weblog changed:
-was a list of links w/ commentary and personal asides.
-NOW, is website updated frequently, w/ new material posted at top of page.
-as per Blood - weblog vs. blog = filter-style blog vs. journal-style blog.


-filter-style blog advantages:
1. shows web to those w/ no time to surf themselves.
-shows interesting, important, overlooked, unexpected.
2. provides additional info regarding those sites.
-may expose fallacy of argument.
-may reveal inaccuracy.
3. is predictable source - cuz blogger can comment freely, reader/user learns their personal biases.
-so can be discerning about their info and comments.
4. attitude of blogger challenges "facts" of authorities.
5. blogger can discover own interests by what they link to and comment on.
6. blogger can value own point-of-view more.


-blog-style weblog (GOD! Does she mean journal-style???? Pick a term and stick with it, dumbass).
-not focused on outside world.
-shares blogger's world w/ readers.
-conversations about interests.
-reflect on literature
-relfect on behavior of someone else.
-describe world around them.
-talk about their life.
-put pieces together - "unexpectedly intimate view of what it is to be that individual in their specific place at that time." - BLECH -

-blogger writes whatever is on mind - is confronted w/ own thoughts/opinions.
-writing blog every day makes more confident writer.
-may gain following/community.
-positive input - gains confidence in their view of the world.
-may experiment w/ new forms.
-new awareness of inner life - trusts own perspective.
-may become more articulate.
-think for self - listen to own inner voice.
-ideally - less reflexive and more reflective.
-see own opinions/ideas worthy of consideration.
-can lead to other people doing same thing.


-promise of the web - everyone can publish.
-a thousand voices could flourish, communicate, connect.
-at first only those who knew code could do.
-Blogger, Pitas made it available to anyone.


-September, 2000 - thousands of weblogs.
-topic oriented.
-alterative viewpoints.
-looks at 'human condition' shown by mainstream media.
-short-form journals.
-links to weird/interesting.
-free-form notebooks of ideas.
-free-form blogs are an outbreak of self-expression.
-shift:
- FROM - controlled info from sanctioned authorities/artists.
- TO - unprecedented individ expression on worldwide scale.
-"empowering" - (if ANYone reads it…unlike mine).


-SO, WHY NOT MORE POPULAR??????
-got some media attention.
-new weblogs created every day.
-was small, quick-growing community.
-seemed on edge of wider awareness.
-BLOOD IS CORRECT AND HERE'S WHY NOT SO POPULAR:
-TIDAL WAVE NEW BLOGS CUZ OF PITAS AND BLOGGER.
-community SO HUGE that it is unnavigable.
-blogs had been filters of web - now are as confusing as web.
-so goddamned many of them that when see list of all blogs, don't know where to begin.
-EXACTLY!!!! This is why I do not appreciate blogs. There is so much crap to wade thru to find anything worthwhile. No time, and more - no interest. Impossible WALL of words/stuff. No thanks.

-reality/truth is this:
-corporate media, commercial entities, government entities own most of web real estate.
-Dell has more webpages than all blogs together.
-big corporation's PR deptment has TONS of man-hours to push messages - Sprite's PR > all bloggers alive.
-bloggers outnumbered.

-more bombarded w/ info from everywhere.
-need reliable filters.
-corporations have tighter and tighter control over info and art.
-so, critical evaluation more important.
-so barraged by advertising that get a self-defensive numbness.
-gotta counteract w/ forms of self-expression so remember what means to be human. (so warm/fuzzy).

-pummeled by deluge of data - need TIME and SPACES in which to reflect.
-OR, will be left w/ only our reactions.
-power of weblogs:
-transforms both writers & readers:
-FROM - audience/consumer.
-TO - public/creator.
-don't 'fix' effects of media-saturated culture.
-but are one antidote.


My Thoughts:

Blood's essay, Weblogs: A History and Perspective, picks up the weblog history timeline at about the time when the term, "weblog," was coined by Jorn Barger in December of 1997. In 1998, there were only a handful of sites that would now be considered to be weblogs. A big disappointment.

While Blood's essay appears to provide an accurate accounting of the development of the weblog from that point onward, she says nothing regarding the earliest history of the blog. Why attempt to give a history that is not a complete history? What of the first blog(s)? What motivated these pioneer bloggers? They obviously needed a working knowledge of both computers and of the HTML they would use to publish their words. What were they hoping to accomplish? What was their reason and inspiration? Did they have any idea of what the future might be for their work?

It is interesting to note how the foundation was formed that would one day serve to identify the weblog as a unique genre. As of 1999, the Cameron Barrett's list of known sites that resembled his own included only 23 URLs. This tiny population helped to make it possible for a community to spring up. (Of course, this whole idea of 'community' is debatable as far as I'm concerned, and I find myself agreeing with Judy Redman's opinion that this 'community' is illusory). It was an easy thing to read every weblog. Perhaps the indesputable fact that these earliest examples of the blog created the framework on which a brand genre was built supports this notion of a new type of community. Clearly, while the form of the blog has evolved, these basic structural elements are still evident. That didn't happen by accident, and the conversations between these first bloggers suggests a 'community' that was not dictated by the proximity of its members.

Blog forms began with an original style with the links their authors chose to share along with some commentary. This form is still present today, and it is accompanied by examples of the evolution of this simple form. Posts were short, and they had an irreverent and sarcastic tone that gave them an edgy and rebellious flavor that was ideal for questioning what the public had always been spoonfed by the mass media. Thus, the art and craft of microcontent was born. The fact that longer and more in-depth commentary was given its own space as a separate essay could be the beginning of the present trends discussed by Clive Thompson in, How Tweets and Texts Nurture In-Depth Analysis.
Blood's idea that weblogs provide a filtering function for readers is an obvious one, and unfortunately, it is one I had not considered. The Internet is such a wall of words, ideas, opinions, etc, etc, etc, that I avoid exploring it. It is impossibly huge, and if it is frustrating and tedious to navigate for the average user who is looking for quality/relevant content, it is a hell all its own for someone like myself who deals with an attention deficit. In this case, 'hell' is no exaggeration. Any filtering provided by a top-notch blog would clear away so much of the drivel. Of course, that means having to find that blog among the thousands and thousands that are in existance. (Groan).
Clearly, the blog offered a wealth of different, valid perspectives with their rebellious questioning as well as with their very form. Articles of opposing arguments could appear side-by-side as the blogger then offered a perspective different from the typical point-counterpoint, black-and-white thinking that mass media provides.
With the advent of user-friendly software and blogging platform sites such as Blogger in 1999, the tiny population of the 'community' of bloggers exploded in numbers, and inevitably the blog form went through some development/evolusion. Blood believes that two of the fundamental reasons for this change in that day's existing blog form are the popularity of the blogs authored by the founders of Blogger, and the absence of restrictions present on the form of the content. Would-be bloggers/users are presented with nothing more than an empty box to fill with whatever they choose. Whether or not this is the case, those early pioneer bloggers had to have a working knowledge of computers, the new Internet and the HTML code used to create web pages. With the user friendly software and blogging sites, anyone could publish. These factors also shifted the blog form from the typical filter-style blog with its links and comments to a journal-style blog.

Blood notes a change in the very definition of the term, weblog. Weblog was first defined as "a list of links with commentary and personal aides." Presently, the definition is one with which I am familiar, "a website that is frequently updated, with new material posted at the top of the page." Blood goes onto sing the praises of the blog as a tool for personal growth. In my opinion, and since this is my blog, my opinion is what matters, these warm-and-fuzzy benefits may be present. The blogosphere is a world for writers, and I am no writer. Nor do I care to wade through the yammerings of those suffering multitudes who choose to make their private and emotional hells a public display. I agree with Blood in that it would be helpful if a new term was coined for the filter-style blog versus the journal-style blog. I believe that Blood has it backwards as she believes that the filter-style blog should be renamed. No. The filter-style blog more closely follows the original weblogs, and the journal-style blog is a more recent development. I would suggest something else in order to differentiate between the two. Writing a filter-style blog would be one thing, and writing a journal online would be another. My suggestion for the first and the second would be "blogging" and "barfing."

I am completely in agreement with Blood as she discusses the reason(s) why there aren't five weblogs in each Internet user's bookmark list. That explosive growth in the number of blogs not only did much to change the form of the blog, it made that 'community' unnavigable. Blogs once served as a filter for the Internet. Now, they are as confusing and impossible to navigate. Too much of a good thing. This does much to make the Internet the impossible wall of words it is.

Blood's remedy, or better, antidote to tsunami if info and 'stuff' is, of course, the blog. We continuously react to this flood and we become defensive. I would agree. Blood sees the blog as a much needed form of self-expression to counteract the numbness we develop to cope with the constant flow of info and trash. While Blood believes the blog can transform both readers and writers from audience/consumer to public/creator, I would disagree. Again, it is a world for writers, and not only am I not a writer, there are thousands like me who instead choose to add to the mess of the Internet. I believe it is too late, at least for me. The flood is already a reality, and I do not have the time/desire to sort through the impossible amounts of wreckage to find an occasional bit of 'stuff.' While it may be that social media creates a 'community,' there is another one outside my door.