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Over Ten Years of Blogging and Still No Clearer What a Blog Is?

Reading over at ZDNet.com, Dave Winer has been blogging ten years.

In April, Dave will have been blogging for ten years. He can be considered the proto-blogger and developer of the proto-blogging software. Today, about 70 million blogs have been created—“tens of thousands per day sprout up. Most of them don’t get much sunlight or simply lie fallow over time, but that doesn’t diminish what Dave and other pioneers of the blogosphere have wrought.

Scripting.com was among the blogs I would read regularly back in the day. I could have sworn his blog started earlier than that. Apparently the term “Weblog” (where the shorter “blog” was derived) was coined by Jorn Barger the same year. The problem is, while we can point to Tim Berners-Lee and say “the web started here”, there is no definitive starting point for blogs. Ever heard a definition EVERYONE can agree on? I actually believe it wasn’t long after people started pouring onto the web that blogs began … they just weren’t called blogs.

In 1994 many of us had personal homepages. It was a popular feature to list “news” or even have an online diary or journal. How are personal homepages and personal blogs different? In 1997 while still working in the education sector I wrote a science fiction website where I would post regular news called “Silicon Heaven” (an obscure reference from an even more obscure sci-fi series). It would be a couple of years later that I would create what I would now strictly define as a blog. Perhaps in actual fact my little sci-fi site was a blog, it was a reverse-chronological, regularly updated, article-based site. Is that enough to be called a blog? That said there are still people today who believe a blog has to be a personal diary.

Perhaps it’s about RSS syndication? While I posted to and religiously read blogs for years after it took a while before I settled into using RSS readers. Instead I would visit my favourites in my web browser. I’m sure there are many people who do this today. I still happen across even popular blogs where you have to hunt for the RSS button. For all the success of syndication it is remarkable even after all this time how little wider adoption has taken place. Maybe it’s not about RSS. In my mind it can’t be technology at all. How many “typical” blog
technologies, such as trackbacks, pings, permalinks, etc are often not
actually used.

It’s not about the tools, blogs were around before the popular content management systems we use today such as Blogger, Movable Type and WordPress. LiveJournal is probably the oldest people will still have heard of and that launched 1999.

My theory is “blogging” is just a catch-all phrase to describe a variety of activities, many of which are optional. Bloggers are a mixture of writer, webmaster, forum administrator, newsletter publisher, columnist, journalist, diarist and all sorts of other “ists” that I can’t think of.

Perhaps a blog is whatever you say it is. It still fascinates me that so many people are involved with this thing we call blogging while being a little fuzzy what a blog actually is.

The lesson from all this? Forge your own path, do what you think is right. Create the best resource you can and leave getting stuck with labels to others. Lead by example. By the time everyone agrees, the leaders will have moved on.

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Comments

  1. Outstanding advice, Chris. Many of my clients ask “how”… I begin by just telling them to “do it”, and learn from doing. Each person and company’s path is different.

  2. Outstanding advice, Chris. Many of my clients ask “how”… I begin by just telling them to “do it”, and learn from doing. Each person and company’s path is different.

  3. I would say that RSS is the clincher to being a blog. Anyone who does not have RSS on their blog is shooting themselves in the foot!

  4. I would say that RSS is the clincher to being a blog. Anyone who does not have RSS on their blog is shooting themselves in the foot!

  5. @Doug, thanks. I think especially companies have to find their own way. Yes learn from others success but don’t clone.

    @HMTKSteve, I’m not sure. Many blogs at the start were hand-coded HTML, no RSS. There are still blogs out there that get less than 1% of their return-traffic from RSS. Email lists still do very well. There are services that use RSS for notifications that have nothing to do with content …

  6. @Doug, thanks. I think especially companies have to find their own way. Yes learn from others success but don’t clone.

    @HMTKSteve, I’m not sure. Many blogs at the start were hand-coded HTML, no RSS. There are still blogs out there that get less than 1% of their return-traffic from RSS. Email lists still do very well. There are services that use RSS for notifications that have nothing to do with content …

  7. Most people still don’t know what blogging actually is. I personally cannot think of a single statement that will explain the concept of blogging clearly to anyone without resulting in them thinking more about whether or not my statement is true or not. I like your lesson in the end; it’s what all of us should think about. Yet, all most of us can think about is the money-making articles on performancing, problogger and shoemoney.

    HMTKSteve; RSS is important, but it is not crucial. Majority of the successful blogs on the internet only started having RSS feeds around mid-march [majority that I know of], so not having RSS feeds will not, in my view, kill a blog/site. The main thing is content and how you present it. RSS is simply another way to give readers your content. I think someone can use a good alternative effectively, like e-mail subscriptions, in order to make up for the missing RSS feeds in the long run.

  8. Most people still don’t know what blogging actually is. I personally cannot think of a single statement that will explain the concept of blogging clearly to anyone without resulting in them thinking more about whether or not my statement is true or not. I like your lesson in the end; it’s what all of us should think about. Yet, all most of us can think about is the money-making articles on performancing, problogger and shoemoney.

    HMTKSteve; RSS is important, but it is not crucial. Majority of the successful blogs on the internet only started having RSS feeds around mid-march [majority that I know of], so not having RSS feeds will not, in my view, kill a blog/site. The main thing is content and how you present it. RSS is simply another way to give readers your content. I think someone can use a good alternative effectively, like e-mail subscriptions, in order to make up for the missing RSS feeds in the long run.

  9. Dede & I just had our 3rd “blogiverssary” over at 2Dolphins and we still have a little trouble explaining to some friends what “blogging” is.

    But whatever it is, I’m enjoying it!

  10. Dede & I just had our 3rd “blogiverssary” over at 2Dolphins and we still have a little trouble explaining to some friends what “blogging” is.

    But whatever it is, I’m enjoying it!