Sunday, September 21, 2003

Blog/Not a Blog

Here's what Wikipedia has to say about blogs:

"A weblog (often web log, also known as a blog, see below) is a website that tracks headlines and articles from other websites. They are frequently maintained by volunteers and are typically devoted to a specific audience or topic.

Blog usually means a personal web log, a type of online diary, or journal (LiveJournal is a good, popular example) run by special blog software. Blog sites make it possible for users without much experience to create, format, and post entries with ease. People write their day-to-day experiences, complaints, poems, prose, illicit thoughts and more, often allowing others to contribute, fulfilling to a certain extent Tim Berners-Lee's original view of the World Wide Web as a collaborative medium. In 2001, the popularity of blogs increased dramatically.

The word blog was coined by Peter Merholz who in April or May of 1999 broke the word weblog into the phrase "wee' blog" in the sidebar of his weblog [3]. This was interpreted as a short form of the noun [4] and also as a verb, to blog, meaning "to edit one's weblog or a post to one's weblog". Usage spread during 1999 and the word was popularized by Pyra's creation of their weblog service Blogger. The Oxford English Dictionary has considered including it in their dictionary (see the editorial). "

A couple of random thoughts:

1. Back in 1993, as part of a class project for Product Design, I proposed the need for a new kind of computer-aided art form that would allow ordinary people without artistic training to express themselves and share that expression with others. At the time, I didn't know how to achieve these aims. In retrospect, it's clear that the blog is this new art form, and its exploding popularity reflects the very needs I outlined in 1993.

2. Peter Merholz and I went to SAMOHI together back in the late '80s. He had more hair back then. We both worked on the school's literary magazine, where Peter was the Editor-in-Chief who published my gruesome and bloodthirsty allegories.

At any rate, let us consider the two criteria that Wikipedia lists: 1) linking to other Web sites and articles, and 2) acting as an online diary or journal. While I agree in general with these criteria, I think that a better way of stating them is:

"A blog is an art form which draws readers in with its own content, directs them to potentially interesting external content, and presents the author as the main character."

This definition makes three important points:

1. Blogging *is* an art form, and will continue to increase its role in self-expression, entertainment, and inspiration.

2. Blogging is an increasingly important means of distributing and searching for content.

3. Blogging is ultimately an egotistical endeavor, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Otherwise why would so many people do it, despite the vanishingly small chance of actually becoming a blogosphere celebrity?

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