Dan's Metablog
Writing about blogging, identity, and narrative

The Best of Blood   Thursday, October 27   12:36 AM

Read two of Rebecca Blood's better articles tonight: Weblogs: A History and Perspective and How Blogging Software Reshaped the Online Community.

"Weblogs: A History and Perspective" is obviously a bit more general, but even here we see a major theme in Blood, the shift in the nature of blogging after Blogger hit the market:

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.

Put even more briefly:

It is this free-form interface combined with absolute ease of use which has, in my opinion, done more to impel the shift from the filter-style weblog to journal-style blog than any other factor. And there has been a shift.

Blood describes the post-Blogger blogger:

Lacking a focus on the outside world, the blogger is compelled to share his world with whomever is reading. He may engage other bloggers in conversation about the interests they share. He may reflect on a book he is reading, or the behavior of someone on the bus. He might describe a flower that he saw growing between the cracks of a sidewalk on his way to work. Or he may simply jot notes about his life: what work is like, what he had for dinner, what he thought of a recent movie. These fragments, pieced together over months, can provide an unexpectedly intimate view of what it is to be a particular individual in a particular place at a particular time.

And then, near the end of the essay, she backs up and takes a broad look at the phenomenon:

We are being pummeled by a deluge of data and unless we create time and spaces in which to reflect, we will be left with only our reactions. I strongly believe in the power of weblogs to transform both writers and readers from "audience" to "public" and from "consumer" to "creator." Weblogs are no panacea for the crippling effects of a media-saturated culture, but I believe they are one antidote.

"How Blogging Software Reshaped the Online Community" expands on the notion that the various blogging platforms, especially Blogger, changed the genre:

Blogger really was easy to use. When news stories began defining weblogs as "a website made with Blogger", it quickly became the most widely used blogging tool. And that changed weblogs.

It was an interface decision that did this. Consider Pitas, another early weblog updater, which provided users with two simple form boxes: one for a URL, and one for the writer's remarks. Hitting the "post" button generated a link followed by commentary.

Blogger was simpler still, consisting of a single form box field into which the blogger typed whatever they wanted.

Blood also notes the reactions of veteran bloggers to phenomena like posts without links. And then there are the new innovations that have become essential:

For many, weblogs are unthinkable without comments and the community of readers that comments make visible. Indeed, some have criticized comment-free weblogs as merely an inferior form of broadcast media.

There's no cite on that "some," which is a shame because I'd like to know who if anyone made such a claim. I had a comment-free weblog for four years.

And here's Blood's nice little summary of the article:

With the wide adoption and innovation of weblog software, the age of the generalists has given way to the age of the amateurs.

Cite for these articles:

Blood, Rebecca. "Weblogs: A History and Perspective." Rebecca's Pocket. 07 September 2000. 27 October 2005. <http://www.rebeccablood.net/

Blood, Rebecca. "Hammer, Nail: How Blogging Software Reshaped the Online Community." Communications of the ACM. 47.12 (December 2004).

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