This is a blog

News flash: This is a blog.

It appears that some people who post their news and opinions online on a daily or occasional basis have problems with the label “weblog” or “blog” and want to distance themselves from it as much as possible.

The argument invariably goes like this: Bloggers aren’t serious. The barrier for entry is low; one need not have much technical knowledge to get started, and since the barrier for entry is low, a blogger may not necessarily be a professional anything, and, by some opinions, might not be qualified to say much of anything. So the people who do what bloggers do but reject the label, presumably because they want to be taken more seriously, try to distance themselves from the phenomenon.

It’s similar in a way to my typical argument against talk radio. Most of the people whose opinions matter to me don’t have time to be calling in to radio talk shows.

The difference, I think, between blogs and talk radio is the way you filter through the stuff you care about. You can’t really do that with stuff that’s broadcast to you, other than blindly fumbling through station presets, but there’s no guarantee that the guy talking on the next station is going to have anything better to say than the one you came from.

Finding the good blogs is much easier. Visit a site like blo.gs and click on the most popular link. Search for a blog you read and like, and you can find out what blogs are “related” to it, based on what other blogs people who track that blog also track. You can go here to find some blogs that people who like my stuff also like.

And almost every blog–including mine, now–has a blogroll: a list of blogs the owner reads and recommends personally. See the same blog on multiple blogrolls, and you’ll start to get an idea who regularly has compelling things to say.

Or you can use Google. Google searches blogs just like it searches any other Web site. So far this month, more of my traffic comes from Google than from any other way. I have no way of knowing how many people who stumble upon this site from Google become daily visitors. That depends on whether I consistently deliver content that’s meaningful to them. It has nothing to do with what I call myself.

And getting back to the argument that serious professionals don’t blog, if the likes of San Jose Mercury columnist Dan Gillmor, professors Lawrence Lessig and Ed Felten, software pioneers Dan Bricklin and Ray Ozzie, InfoWorld columnist Jon Udell, and former Byte columnist Scot Hacker aren’t serious professionals, then frankly I don’t know who is. I’d be flattered to ever be mentioned in the same sentence as any one of them.

Compare their work to that of one large blog-like community, some of whose members violently reject the blog label as too amateurish. There you’ll find people who post new content every few months or so (or who have abandoned their sites altogether), or you’ll find people who talk about their household chores or their pets or what they ate for dinner as often as they talk about serious, professional matters.

And if you examine the typical blog versus the typical daynotes site, most blogs have sophisticated navigation, comments systems, archiving, integrated search, categorization, centralized notification (so you can visit one place, such as blo.gs, set up a list of favorites, and find out when your favorite sites have updated) and other niceties that make it easier to sift through the information they contain. That’s rare in the daynotes circuit. But without those niceties, given a few years’ worth of entries, the information contained inside can be at once substantial and overwhelming. Wisdom and insights are nice things, but they’re worthless if you can’t find them.

To compare the two aforementioned lists is to invite a butt-kicking. Who looks amateurish now?

Let’s face it: “blog” or “weblog” is just a word. Nothing else. To use a pretentious metaphor, you don’t see Rolls-Royce distancing itself from the word “car” just because they don’t want to be associated with Kia uses the label now and Yugo used the label in the past. Rolls-Royce raises the bar and Yugo definitely lowered it. But both products are machines with four wheels, an engine, and seats, designed for transportation.

Whatever the label, you’re talking about someone who keeps a journal online for all comers to read, and whatever the label, there’s no guarantee who has or doesn’t have compelling things to say.

8 thoughts on “This is a blog

  • January 4, 2003 at 1:53 pm
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    Anad a great one it is, too.

    Thank you, Dave.

  • January 4, 2003 at 2:51 pm
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    I take time out of my life at least twice a day to come here. It’s worth it.
    Dave’s grasp of his many subjects, at his age, is amazing. Gifted people learn more, earlier, but Dave has a wisdom in the intellectual side of his writing
    that a person obtains with grey hair.
    I enjoy it all even when he’s wrong.:-)
    Joe

  • January 4, 2003 at 6:36 pm
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    Thanks, both of you. And Joe, I think you should know the people who’ve met me in person know I’m prematurely grey. 🙂

  • January 4, 2003 at 9:22 pm
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    Many web writers who consider themselves “serious” get their coveted page hits by being provocative. Some confuse that with being “intellectual”. I’m not saying that there aren’t intelligent and thought-provoking bloggers; there certainly are. But there are apparently folks who think that people gawk at car wrecks because of the shiny ambulance lights, that Playboy sells well because of the articles, and that their site hits aren’t driven by machismo and flamebait. Maybe “biters” (weB wrITERS) is a better term for these people. But I’m sure that anything short of “wordsmith”, “purveyor of exquisite prose”, or “linguistic engineer” would be considered vulgar.

    There’s a saying: “it ain’t ego if you can back it up”. I’ll give anybody an occasional pass for human slips, but having known Dave for – has it been 10 or 12(!) years? – I can say it usually “ain’t ego”. I can say the same for many other BLOGGERS, but most definitely not for all.

  • January 7, 2003 at 9:58 am
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    I take my blogging seriously… and I take most other blogs seriously (such as yours, Dave!). I write what I’m thinking about… Or even some dumb things that happened in my life. More often than not, someone else has been there.

    For me – a blog should be informative, and also a bit of personal opinion as well. It’s when it’s not informative and it’s all opinion that I run into a bit of frustration. The beauty – the fun – of blogging, to me, is about information, and sharing it.

    I write, I code, and I consult. Mainly nowadays, I write… and practice is important.

    On the flip side, though, I do have to defend what I consider to be lesser blogs… We don’t have to visit them. Maybe we should compile a list of poor blogs? Ahh, that would be wrong, I think…

  • January 7, 2003 at 1:24 pm
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    I took some criticism on this piece and was called unprofessional by one for “writing more often than not about religion and baseball, neither of which are professional matters,” though people who aren’t just looking for an argument would note I never claimed to be any more or less professional myself than anyone else. And those who can be bothered to check would see I write about baseball and/or Christianity an average of once a week, at best.

    Frank McPherson was right when he wrote on his blog that everyone takes this stuff way too seriously (or at least has too-big delusions of changing the world) when, in reality, most of what we’re doing is for ourselves.

    But I can tell from analyzing my logs that people read the stuff on Christianity and they read the stuff on baseball. That stuff gets more reads than anything I’ve ever written about Windows NT 4. And people certainly find it more interesting than what day I do my laundry.

  • January 10, 2003 at 8:11 pm
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    Actually, Rolls-Royce does distance itself from “car”. They don’t make cars, they make automobiles. They used to push that pretty hard back in the sixties and seventies. Obviously no-one who works there or at parent company BMW haven’t read your comments! I’m sure they would be quite upset by your using them in the same sentance as Kia or Yugo.

    To Blog, or not to Blog, it shouldn’t even be a question.

  • January 10, 2003 at 8:16 pm
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    Whoops! Excuse the double negative in sentance four. There doesn’t seem to be any way to edit comments. So now I look completely ungrammatical, when I ain’t no such thing ;).

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