For those that are interested, here are some of my opinions on the whole weblog phenomenon. I have entitled this “Part One” as I am uncertain if I will revisit this topic in the future; yet I am certain that this will not represent the entirety of my views on the topic.
I joined LJ real early, I am user #6045, and my motivations were simple: A friend, Kate, out “there” (in the bay area) had created one earlier that week and I wanted to comment in her journal. Then I made the decision to replace my written journal with this online one as an experiment. I was in college and it was a way that my folks and friends back in NJ could keep up with what was going on.. This was back in the day when I was working with
Now I started this journal over two years ago now, and at some point between then and now this whole weblog thing started gaining momentum.. Everyone talked about it as some sea-change; “putting journalism back in the hands of the people” or similar phrases were often used to describe the phenom. It seems to me that the term weblog breaks down into 3 different (non-exclusive) categories:
- Personal Journals such as LiveJournal
- Link-posts sites like Slashdot
- News sites sometimes run by Journalists and other times run by “regular people”
Each weblog out there blends these 3 styles together in some manner, and I have probably missed some other styles. Anyway, I started seeing more and more hype surrounding the phenom, and began thinking about it. And here I am, one year later, still uncertain of why people are so excited. My confusion and dismissal are really founded on two major gripes, one foundation gripe and the other an implementation gripe. LiveJournal addreses both my gripes with the larger weblog set.
My problem with the foundation of weblogs is that I simply don’t understand what makes them different from any other media. When I began using the Internet back in 1992, I found so many documents, reports, and opinions about how the Internet was turning the tables on media creation and publishing. All of these opinions were that the Internet was going to let the common people take control of the airwaves, per se. And as the web grew into a pop-culture phenomenon this was proven to be insightful and completely wrong at the same time. Because while it is true that more people were given the power to publish work, the media congolmerates also obtained that power, and used their already extensive influence to replace the noise of the common with the signal of the few.
I have no doubt that while it is obviously possible for a weblogger to become an important information distribution source, they will continue to hit the same roadblock that has plagued the Internet since it’s popularity has risen: Seperating the wheat from the chaff. As more people start weblogging it will become harder to identify weblogs, articles, people, etc. which are worth reading. Weblogs are in their infancy today, yet even a tool like Google (who’s index algorithm heavily favors weblogs) has seriously difficulty narrowing the scope for you at all. What is going to happen is that there will be aggregation services, which will syndicate stories from weblogs around the web to make it easier for the common person to find. Sound familiar? Good, because this is exactly what we have today: Whether you are talking online or off, every form of news media is simply an aggregator of stories. While some new renowned journalists might rise out of the noise, it is still going to be a handful of people. While the stories that these aggregators syndicate may change, the song remains the same.
I just don’t see how this is different from what we have had for years. I have thought about this real hard and I have listened to the arguments of others, and I still fail to see this simple thing. While I don’t argue that this simple evolution doesn’t expand the scope of journalism a bit, I don’t see the big deal.
My implementation argument has to do with the implementation of almost every weblog I have seen to date. What attracted me to LiveJournal was the little link under each one of my posts: “Post a Comment”. These three words attracted me to LJ and are what has kept me going with my journal this whole time.. I wouldn’t have written a lengthy review of the SliMP3 or iPod had it not been for the discussion forums, as I would have had no idea if any one was reading my words. I am not talking about hits, I am talking about feedback… LiveJournal provides such a rich, threaded, discussion forum, and my journal addiction comes from hearing peoples reaction to what I write (as well as my reacting to others). LJ also notifies me when someone responds to me, allowing me to continue discussion while it is topical (as opposed to when I remember to check the forum).
All of the weblog packages I have looked at have had piss-poor discussion systems. To me, if there was to be one thing interesting about weblogs, it would be the tighter binding between the journalist and their readers, yet “blogs” seem to toss this by the wayside. Services like Blogger and MovableType focus too much on the publication of stories/entries, and not enough on the interaction between writer and reader. And this is why they fail to interest me. The one thing I would have given this steamroller of a phenomenon and it is cast away like a stepchild.
Take one of the threads in
So those are some of my thoughts regarding weblogging. And who knows, perhaps I am just a curmudgeon. It wouldn’t be the first time I completely missed the technology mark