October 18, 2003
@ 02:33 AM

Elizabeth Spiers writes

If Markoff thinks all (or even most) bloggers are keeping diaries online, then Jarvis is probably right: he doesn't read blogs—which seems ironic, given that he's the technology reporter for the Times

I find her quote puzzling. From what I've seen the average weblog is an online diary. In general weblogs take the form of diaries, commentaries, link collections or some combination thereof. The most common form is the online diary which can be confirmed by selecting any dozen blogs at random from the hundreds of thousands at Blogger, LiveJournal or Xanga and examining the writings. The fact of the matter is that for every blog that is enlightened commentary about technology or politics there are a dozen blogs by some high school girl complaining about pimples and boys.

I find it amusing that the "blogs will change everything" hype crowd try to deny this. That's like denying that for a long time the only way to make money on the World Wide Web was with pr0n or that the driving incentive for broadband is copyright infringement and pr0n. Let's not forget that lots of innovation on the Web was driven by pr0n sites.

The blogerati need to accept the fact that their medium of communication is also the favored way for teenage girls to carry on in the grand tradition of "Dear Diary". Remember , just because IRC is mainly the haven of script kiddies and w4r3z d00ds doesn't make it any less useful nor does the predominance of email forwards and spam make email a pointless technology. Blogs are the same way.  


Saturday, October 18, 2003 4:01:50 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
It sounds to me like Spiers is excoriating the guy for looking at those LiveJournal sites and extrapolating them out to broader blogdom, which is a fair enough point. After all, if a tech reporter said, "The Web appears to consist only of bookstores and porn," you'd call that guy clueless -- even though bookstores and porn are prominent on the Web.

Saturday, October 18, 2003 11:15:16 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Dare: Hey, we agree about something! :) The funny thing is that there is a core of old-school diarists out there that feel just as strongly that their writings should not be conflated with those of link-happy bloggers. Everyone wants to be special, I suppose.

The way I see it, the world of blogging is divided up differently... between good writing and crappy writing. Whether your subject is technology, politics, or the ever-fascinating contents of your navel, good writing is fun to read, and crappy writing isn't.
Saturday, October 18, 2003 2:49:42 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Dare: I agree too....sort of. I agree that people need to just come to terms with the fact that there are different types of blogs, and they should just deal with it. I'm not sure I like being compared to script kiddies or spam though. ;)

J.P. Stewart
Saturday, October 18, 2003 2:51:43 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
"The blogerati need to accept the fact that their medium of communication is also the favored way for teenage girls to carry on in the grand tradition of "Dear Diary"."

Could the medium that you are talking about be "writing"?

Saturday, October 18, 2003 3:06:46 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
This is true of all communication media. 90% of the stuff out there is crap be it what's on TV, the radio or in books. I'm just surprised that people pretend that blogs are any different.
Saturday, October 18, 2003 4:54:22 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Your point is well taken, but when you speak of "selecting any dozen blogs at random" you know you're not describing how just about anybody actually read blogs. We follow links from trusted pre-filterers and we slowly add blogs worthy of attention to our blogrolls or our aggregator subscriptions, so, yes, Sturgeon's Law applies at least as strongly to blogs as to anything else, but it's also facile to dismiss weblogs on that basis.
Saturday, October 18, 2003 5:48:01 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I think it's unfair to say that diaries and blogs (with commentary, intelligent or otherwise) are mutually exclusive. In fact, I would go so far as to say that diaries can provide insights that commentary-type blogs might not be able to, due to the different nature of the medium and expectations of the blogger.

Of course, some people treat their diaries/journals as link farms anyway. :-)
Monday, October 20, 2003 11:10:11 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Actually, others have pointed out, and I agree, that blogs carry on a different tradition: the commonplace book. Someone has even written a book on them: Robert Darnton, Reading Revolutions: The Politics of Reading in Early Modern England. Here is a quote from a review of the book: Time was when readers kept commonplace books. Whenever they came across a pithy passage, they copied it into a notebook under an appropriate heading, adding observations made in the course of daily life. Erasmus instructed them how to do it; and if they did not have access to his popular De Copia, they consulted printed models or the local schoolmaster. The practice spread everywhere in early modern England, among ordinary readers as well as famous writers like Francis Bacon, Ben Jonson, John Milton, and John Locke. It involved a special way of taking in the printed word. See http://www.nybooks.com/articles/article-preview?article_id=13942 .
Wednesday, October 22, 2003 12:11:27 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Blogs, like all websites, are essentially publications. Unlike other publications - books, magazines, newspapers - there are few financial barriers to becoming a publisher. Angst-ridden teenagers can publish as easily as erudite professors or Microsoft pitchmen.

I'm not sure that the blogerati reject teens' personal journals. Rather, they recognize that these are a different class of publication, aimed at a different audience. Just as any large bookstore will carry publications ranging from scholarly quarterlies to Brittney Spears fan mags, so does the blog world offer a wide variety of publications of widely varying quality.

As Xian pointed out above, 'real' blog readers generally don't find their reading material by selecting at random. Blog search tools, directories, indices, aggregators, blogrolls and blog rings are used to find interesting or pertinent material. Pick any ten websites (or library books) at random and you're not likely to find just waht interests you.

Blogs just may change everything but the biggest roadblock, IMO, is the chaos of the blogosphere. I am involved in a project creating a Yahoo-style directory of Canadian blogs. More of these types of directories and indices will be needed if the blog format is not to suffocate under its own burgeoning mass.
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