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Here Come The Weblogs 61

Posted by JonKatz
from the Electric-Communities,-Part-Deux dept.
Weblogs -- described by one of their creators as the "pirate radio stations" of the Web, are a new, personal, and determinedly non-hostile evolution of the electric community. They are also the freshest example of how people use the Net to make their own, radically different new media. A look at Weblogs plus a list of a few identifiable existing species in the electric community. Feel free, of course, to add your own.

Electric Community Part Two:

Here Comes the Weblog


The members of electronic communities like Slashdot come together in the first place because of some shared interest - in this case a complex, sometimes highly technical range of acquired knowledge - Linux, open source, programming. An individualistic community with a common purpose, sites like this attract focused, like-minded participants, programmers and developers whose shared experience was mastery of a complex operating system, a willingness to endure technical hurdles, and an almost secret common language.

Newcomers, drawn to see what's going on or foraging for information themselves, often enrage the established dwellers of an e-community. They don't know as much, ask stupid questions, speak a different language. Intruders, they throw the ecological balance out of whack.

Mark Stefik of the Information Sciences and Technology Laboratory at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, likens this resentment to the problem of assimilation when natural disasters or wars cause mass exodus to new lands. When the rate of immigration exceeds a certain level, the resulting chaos in the host country can evoke tremendous resentment and backlash.

Size is a factor, too. As an electric community grows, so do the maintenance costs - hardware, bandwidth, the pressure coherently present more and more information, the need for revenue to support all these functions. As more and more people move through the site, it's harder to recognize addresses, message styles, or individual personalities.

So an electronic community faces, from the beginning, a serious dilemma --- whether to stay small, but remain marginal, or to grow, and becoming more profitable and acquiring more bandwidth and software. In a sense, it suffers either way. If a community stays small, it starves. If it grows, it suffers in a different way. The WELL, one of the first and most important electronic communities (I've been a member for years) has survived by remaining small, smart and simple.

Many of its members have reasons for avoiding too much hostility. They have continuing, powerful, very personal ties to one another. Topics range from science and technology to culture, movies and parenting. And the WELL has been successful in part by providing strong, experienced moderators with authority who discourage eruptions of hostility and keep conversations on track without discouraging free speech.

E-communities without personal forums - jobs, parenting, family life - have a tougher time forming a sense of community, since there's no real way for members to get to know one another. People aren't attacking human beings they know, but disembodied voices and messages.

From the beginning, the Net and the Web have been about individuals creating their own media. This process evolves constantly as people online struggle to find communities where they can glean information, keep up with new technologies, receive help, make human contact.

Some online sociologists use the club analogy when it comes to differentiating large and public versus small and exclusive e-communities.

Exclusive discussion groups - those that limit membership and topics - are like private clubs in that they offer membership by invitation or even fees. In these smaller e-communities, people can speak more freely, perhaps say things they wouldn't say in public.

Stefik writes: "To take the private-club idea another step forward, consider the possibility of private clubs with exclusive memberships, rules about confidentiality with real bite, and limits on the ability of the excluded public to post'There might be private newsgroups for people who are generally inaccessible - for example, major financiers, philanthropists, leaders of powerful companies, or even scientists."

The recent surge in classy, well-designed, intensely-linked weblogs - almost all, essentially reflecting the interests and tastes of their creators and a small number of like-minded people -- suggests a non-commercial version on Stefik's idea.

The weblog isn't a new term on the Net, but it's being used in a new way. One previous definition of weblog is an archive of activity on a web server. Another is an online diary. But in the context of the e-community, the weblog is new, and evolving rapidly, despite the fact that specialized and idiosyncratic sites have been around for some years.

On Camworld.com, Cameron Barrett has written about and developing his notion of the weblog - he calls it a small, eclectic site, usually maintained by one person, with a high concentration of repeat visitors, plentiful WWW links, and a zero tolerance for flames.

Barrett, an interactive designer, writes on Camworld ("Anatomy Of A Weblog" ) that he heard the term "weblog" for the first time a few months ago, but isn't sure who coined it.

Weblogs are a perfect example of the biological evolution of electronic communities. Very personal foraging sites, they are limited in membership, their links continuously updated, and are often focused on a single subject or theme.

They seem to almost all be ideologically opposed to hostility, including essayish commentary and observations. Because the site creator limits and approves membership, they don't need to be defended as intensely as bigger sites, nor do they attract - or permit - posters who abuse others. One obvious payoff is that the flow of ideas is strong, uninterrupted and impressive.

Barrett calls weblogs "microportals. Some weblogs: Smug; Flutterby; Scripting News; ; Stating the Obvious -- I was startled to come upon a column by Rogers Cadenhead about why I don't belong on Slashdot (weblogs may be less hostile, but don't look for sweet, either); Obscure Store, and Joshua Eli Schachter's very smart memepool.

Some webpools are designed by their creators simply to revolve around what they find interesting. Writer Keith Dawson describes webpools as "filtered news," but as with anything having to do with the Net and the Web, there are lots of different points of view.

The Christian Science Monitor newspaper, e-mails Christine Booker, was "weblogging" their own publication earlier this week. That is, an editor provided synapses of articles of interest, with links and particularly notable quotes. The editor was providing pre-digested highlights of his paper, only without commentary. Thus "weblogging" has even come to journalism, not usually an institution on the forefront of digital change.

The point is, Booker wrote, instead of asking readers to scan headlines to decide what to read, they have a section at the top of their World report that says, in effect: our international editor puts foreign news coverage in perspective so that you can go straight to the meat. In a different way, that's what weblogs do - interesting stories for pre-selected communities.

Booker, who designs and manages websites for the University of Washington Department of Surgery, and is an avid reader of weblogs, says it's important to convey their personal nature. "Even sites that don't contain any original content or much commentary give me a glimpse into the mind of the weblogger. What someone chooses to link tells me what they're interested in, what they think is funny, what they find absurd. Some webloggers offer links embedded in one or two lines of more or less oblique commentar" (jjg.net) Booker says that as far as she can tell, many, if not most of these sites started very informally and then, one way or another, the URL got passed around soon these "hobby sites" developted devoted audiences, readers who visit them at least daily, sometimes more.

Jesse James Garrett, content editor for Ingram Micro's Web site and editor of the weblog jjg.net says that "weblogs are the pirate radio stations of the Web, personal platforms through which individuals broadcast their perspectives on current events, the media, our culture, and basically anything else that strikes their fancy from the vast sea of raw material available out there on the Web. Some are more topic-focused than others, but all are really built around someone's personal interests. Neither a faceless news-gathering organization nor an impersonal clipping service, a quality weblog is distinguished by the voice of its editor, and that editor's connection with his or her audience."

One of the best weblogs I found was Peter Merholz's peterme.com. "How freakin? cool is this?" he asks in the lead item for May 12, writing about tracking satellites live and real-time using a 3D Java applet. The site mixes the best of web design and technology - interface, design, web development - with pop culture: movie reviews, an essay on the late cartoonist Shel Silverstein.

Merholz has decided, "for what it's worth," to pronounce "weblog" as "we? - blog."

While weblogs don't have the reach and influence - thus, the commercial potential -- of larger, more inter-active and open sites, it's easy to imagine them as powerful supplements to the major foraging sites. And, depending on their members, could be influential at sharing memes, essays and ideas.

Cameron Barrett's thoughts on weblogs can be found here, along with his list of favorites. Keith Dawson, who runs the Tasty Bits of Technology Front site - in some ways a pioneer, classic weblog, also has written about weblogs at here.

To me, weblogs may embody personalized media on the Net - enterprising geeks creating interesting new sites that set out to define news in different ways, to be both interesting, coherent, and more civil. This is the complete opposite structure of conventional media, which is top-down, boring and inherently arrogant.

They may be among the first e-communities to successfully overcome online hostility and abuse as well. That alone could make them highly popular.

Weblogs, however personal, are foraging sites in the classic sense of the term.

But Weblogs aside, the idea of electronic communities as encompassing distinct biological types is irresistible. And it makes sense. I'd identify these species of electric villagers. Add your own:


FORAGERS ( Stefik would call them Wolves): the people running sites or submitting and linking to discovered information.

LURKERS (Stefik's Spiders): The largest group, professionals, academics, researchers and others whose needs for information is practical, and who wait for it, usually in silence.

FISHERMEN: People who trawl selected sub-topics or discussions for specific data, such as information about a kind of information or software.

HELPERS: Electronic communities often have a compliment of knowledgeable veterans who welcome newcomers, and are happy to counsel them in the ways of the site. The helpers don't see newcomers as a threat, but an opportunity for the village to grow and prosper.

IDEOLOGISTS (as in priests and theologists): Vigilant for deviations from what they perceive as the site's purpose, they disagree and criticize, sometimes sharply, but rarely with venom or cruelty.

DEFENDERS (as in warrior bees or ants): Ideologically- driven flamers who seek to keep their communities pure, free from intrusive outsiders, whom they see as threatening and de-stabilizing.

ANONYMOUS COWARDS (Spies, informers, information bringers and Braying Hyenas): Two types, people with legitimate information that they can't share under their own names, and exhibitionists who get to express hostility without consequence. The single biggest cause of the destruction of communities, they are the most frequently cited reason newcomers flee, veterans tire and advertisers move on to more hospitable environments.

TECHS (worker bees and ants): The people in any community for whom the construction of the site is its own reward. They are constantly working to offer options and services, improve software and access.

Some questions: What does an electric community need to work? Are there other identifiable types of e-community members? Are new kinds of sites like weblogs the future, or a minor step on the evolutionary chain?

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Here Come The Weblogs

Comments Filter:
  • by RedGuard (16401) on Monday May 24, 1999 @07:34AM (#1881472)
    I find the notion of a closed community, enforced
    technologically or socially, somewhat scarey. It
    seems less a utopia than a retreat from the kind
    of vibrant intellectual life that might
    characterise the internet in a less privatised
    society. One of the intriguing things about
    slashdot is the heterogenous range of views and
    topics, more like a cafe (of the Left bank sort,
    if a bit too near the CS department for comfort)
    than the university common room.
  • by Wah (30840) on Monday May 24, 1999 @08:23AM (#1881473) Homepage Journal
    That's my term for the same idea. One billionth part of the collective running a medio source. /.'s a perfect example. Some of the live webcasts (using shoutcast or icecast) also fit under the same umbrella, altough at present their reach is much less. I wrote a paper on it, e-mail me if curious. Basically it's a shift in the role of gatekeepers from those with the money and power, to those who build the media (from Rupert Murdoch and Scott Sassa to Rob Malda and the like) User submissions and self-moderation are also part of the model. There is a catch-22 in getting one started, but they seem to be very self-sustaining and can be applied to any demo, psycho - graphic group, from hobbyists to professional. Computer gaming also has a number of them, although in all my surfing /. seems to be the overall tightest.

  • by yoz (3735) on Monday May 24, 1999 @08:23AM (#1881474) Homepage
    These days I get most of my web reading from links on weblogs of one kind or another - I'd personally count Slashdot as a weblog. I read Ars Technica [arstechnica.com], Scripting News [scripting.com], Robot Wisdom [robotwisdom.com] and Tomalak's Realm [pair.com], and I'm on Haddock [gyford.com] which has several great links every day.

    NTK [ntk.net] is often listed as a weblog, innaccurately - it's a weekly mag. But it's completely brilliant. Subscribe.

    Also, h2g2.com [h2g2.com] (The HitchHiker's Guide To The Galaxy, online) has, amongst its many fab features, the ability for users to create their own weblogs on their homepages, with forums hanging off each entry. Worth a look, and I'm not just saying that 'cos I work there.
  • by Eric S. Smith (162) on Monday May 24, 1999 @08:24AM (#1881475) Homepage

    From the eye-have-a-spelling-chequer department: "an editor provided synapses of articles." That'd be synopses, surely.

    So, how is something like Slashdot different from, say, a newsgroup? Why is this worth talking about?

    I'd suggest that it's the topics (articles) provided by the maintainer of the site that provide a focus for discussion. Sure, things diverge, but people aren't compelled (or, rather, don't feel compelled) to make their own entertainment. Consider the quality of discourse on a newsgroup devoted to a TV show during (a) the regular season, and (b) the summer hiatus. When there isn't a new episode to discuss every week, things can get a bit strange.

    Then there are the impenitrably tiresome interpersonal disputes that crop up on newsgroups. Here, since threads of comments are collected in bunches under different articles, last week's deathless flamefest is buried deep in the old articles. On a newsgroup, threads go on for months, sometimes...

    That said, I prefer trn's interface to this one. But it's still the best of the Web discussion forum designs that I've seen, especially with the nested display (though it doesn't quite work in Lynx...).

    One further nit: Mr. Katz is still using question marks for apostrophes. At least, that's how it turns out on my screen. Surely there's a filter that could be run?

  • I think that often, anonymous cowards are just people who feel the need to comment but are just too lazy (or busy) to register.
  • Yes, Slashdot is cool. But I have other interests too that have nothing to do with computers. I've considered setting up a "Weblog" related to various interests, but I need a job. Is running a weblog profitable? Or is it something that you sell everything you own to get started and then hope for additional investments and/or IPO?
  • Don't get the two confused.
    Weblogs (which is really a crappy crappy name, btw) are, more than anything, constantly updated sites with news and links of interest, centered around a topic, maintined by people who know what good information. that pertains to the topic, is. If you took a poll of /. readers, you'd find that a good deal of them depend more on these "weblogs" for computer based news that they need or have an intrest in far more than in most of the mainstream channels of communication, such as magazines, TV, radio, C|Net websites, where "Vanilla" content (edible, but not really rich in taste or geared for people with specific tastes) is the norm.
    To say that they are really about personal information, that is different. Most of those would be construed as diaries. Very few people have real interest or concern about the details of other peoples lives, not enough to make a "community" around it. though personal info does sometimes hit weblogs, that's not really a major part of content.
    And like it or not, "communities" do not develop through web sites. Period. They develop through newsgroups, e-mail, internet chat, etc., interactive forums, and other places means by which direct communication AMONG members may take place, many of which are based on or around websites &weblogs. However, websites & weblogs have audiences, as do TV stations, newspapers, magazines, etc. Websites and Weblogs deliver information TO an audience, commmunication really isn't AMONG an audince. In that aspect, audience size really does not have a direct bearing on weblogs. There is no requirement where weblogs must interact with their audience.
    Web forums are really the only place where Web-Anything can have a community.
    Of course, this just my point of view :)
  • Having experienced many online communities that are both open and closed, I'd say they're both valid. Some communities are just about sharing open information and opinions, others rely deeply on trust and confidentiality, or want a certain relatively-guaranteed level of quality in content, which you can't get in a well-known open list. The trouble is that often closed communities can be accused of being cliquey and elitist... that can be true, but it's for a purpose.
  • One of the best and most varied weblogs I've come across, and updated multiple times daily. He pulls "headlines" from various newsy-fungible sites and follows it with a section of reviewed material, covering everything from anthropology, to pop music, to Linux, to web-design, using pull-quotes to highlight what he found interesting. He surfs Slashdot and points to good stuff here. I probably check out 1/2 of the links, and a good number of the sites end up on my permanent bookmark list. It's all informed by a philosophy grounded strongly in state-of-the-art AI concepts.

    Robot Wisdom Weblog [robotwisdom.com]
  • by Outland Traveller (12138) on Monday May 24, 1999 @08:31AM (#1881481)
    I agree completely. Closed communities imply control over information, and from what history has shown us so far I don't feel this would be in the public interest.

    This debate is similar to the debate over moderation we had earlier. You have to balance the annoyingness of noise with the danger of censorship. You might find yourself one day surrounded by people who say what you want to hear, closing off your mental horizons, and obfuscating the truth.

    The censorship that exists in Western society today is often very subtle- it involves defining the scope of debate so as to exclude a wide swatch of viewpoints and dangerous questions while still providing a good facade of open discussion.

    Yes, there are a lot of problems with public forums, but the solution shouldn't be a closed community. That seems to me to be lazy, oversimplistic, and even dangerous.

    BTW- does anyone else dislike the name "weblog"? A weblog to me is in /var/log/apache/. There's got to be a better name than this!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The problem with democracy is that everyone can state their opinion - even those that don't have one.

    Closed societies is the only way to filter out trendies and people who start their emails along the lines of:

    I don't know anything about {law,technology,topic at hand} but for some reason I feel it necessary to give my worthless {legal,technological,whatnot} interpretation about this matter...

    It's time people stopped wafting on the blissful concept that democracy creates good content. The only way to generate good content is through application of extreme discrimination in what gets published/posted. Slashdot (with filter set to 0) is an example of democratic content. Dr. Dobbs is an example of discriminatory content. I'd rather read Dr. Dobbs. :)

    And just to avoid the boring "well whaddahellareyou reading slashdot for, then?" I'll answer it now: Rob does a great job of selecting news which are of interest to me personally.

    Jacek

    ps: Please note the absence of an apologetic little "well... erm... that's my two cents".
  • Thanks Jon I have learned something now, though This is not a radical novelty, e-communities have always existed, what is ne is the "name" the "conpect" and as we now, as soon as you name something, in a certain sens you create it, if it's really original. This is true for ideas, this is also true for software, "Apache", "Linux", "Open Source" are "concepts" or "mems" when they are transmited.

    Anyway, I believe that different kinds of communities, will thrive, secret ones, open communities, mercantiles, etc, what is really new is the strong belonging to a virtual community sentiment, the Open Source community has this strong feeling.



    I think
  • by Quinn (4474) on Monday May 24, 1999 @08:50AM (#1881484) Homepage
    "Weblog" is a pretty damn common term for a web server's access log. I'd assume anyone running a website has seen it used in that sense, so why was it co-opted to describe this phenomena?

    --
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Well, I think they're good ...
    Robot Wisdom [robotwisdom.com] and A&L Daily [cybereditions.com]
  • A weblog to me is in /var/log/apache/

    I completely misinterpreted the blurb about this article. I was expecting something like this [hotwired.com], or maybe an article about loner geeks who spend their Friday nights digging through server logs.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Running a weblog is not profitable (having run one for two years now).

    If you're obviously trying to make a profit off it (ad impressions, whatever) it's going to make your audience suspect your motives for posting various links.

    Putting up an Amazon associate thingy is as far as I've gone, and it doesn't produce enough revenue so far to come close to breaking even.

    Do it as a hobby, or as a way to generate interest in using your services as a consultant, or for fun, but don't expect it to support you.
  • by RobotWisdom (25776) on Sunday May 23, 1999 @07:21PM (#1881488) Homepage
    ME! ME!! ME!!!

    Guilty! Guilty!! Guilty!!!

    I picked it. And I even did an AltaVista search and a DejaNews search to see how often it was used in the other sense, which was not much at all in 1997.

    So bugger off... ;^/

  • I rely on Slashdot to keep me informed day by day, but if I had more time I'd use The Mining Company [miningco.com] more. They "mine" the Web for useful nuggets. It's broken down by topic.
  • I agree that Katz does seem to have conflated weblogs and online journals (aka web diaries), and they aren't exactly in the same space.

    but you'd be surprised at the interest that people do take in other folks' lives. Archipelago ( http://www.spies.com/~islands [spies.com] ) is a selective ring of OLJs, but there are zillions listed on Open Pages ( http://www.hedgehog.net/op/ [hedgehog.net] ), good, bad, or indifferent. most have their audience. readers feel free to give feedback on what the authors write, and many journals include a forum where this is done publicly.


  • by Wah (30840)
    iterated in another post...Nanomedia (voice of a one-billionth part)

    it rolls off the tongue and AFAIK isn't already a word.
  • Don't forget Pigdog Journal [pigdog.org], the weblog of bad craziness...
  • by tomwhore (10233) on Monday May 24, 1999 @11:31AM (#1881497) Homepage Journal
    Portals, weblogs, top50 sites.....

    I guese its time for another episode of "Name that fuzzy warm feeling"

    Watching as the users of the net name, rename, invent, reinvent, rereinvent and then rename the reinvention is almost, almost mind you, fun to watch.

    I understand the need to name things, people spend years of thier life in school to learn the names of things, to learn the nature of the names meanings, and maybe sometimes even interact with the things they name.

    You name something, you make an attachment to it. It becomes something not otherly, but something of you. You can lay an easy hand on the worn handles.

    The country was there before Lewis and Clark took to yelling out names from a cannoe ("Hey Lewis, what do you want to call this wet stuff we are drowning in?""What about ITSFUCKINGCOLD River?" "I doubt if Mr Jefferson is gonna go for that." "OK call it the Columbia for all I care.")Once named the country was not the great unkown, it was the North West passage, it was Oregon and Washington.

    Look also to the old Mark Twain tale of the name game in Extracts from Adam's Diary [wsmf.org]

    Knowing this we can clearly see the zeitgiest of the web clawing at any chance for worth, and in this attempt to name a thing that is.

    Remeber back to the begining of the web, when the content was sparse but everyone had to put up a page. These pages were often personal insites scattered with lists of links (remeber well lynx and its grandfather gopher, links of links with the content under it all). One of the critism of early web sites were that they were too personal, that no one would want to read someones list of interests, likes/dislikes (think playboy centerfold material) and quipy witisms .

    But some of those sites flourished. Blues News and Daves Classics to name but two. Very much the creation and mindset of a person and in some cases a group of people.

    Weblogs is a horrible name. There is already something called a web log. This is another ding in paint of the web users creativity, not only are they renaming something that has pretty much always been on the web, but they are renaming it to something that already names a thing.

    Instead of WebLog I can thnk of a few more usefull and vastly more enjoyable names.

    PageWithLinks
    ContentKiosks
    Soapboxes
    Curiosity Cabinets
    Steamertrunks Of Ripe Underwear
    RatPackers
    Things That Make Your Modem Go Hmmmmmmmm

    A rose by any other name etc etc (or to update the steinesque wordage "a lamer in any other syntax would still be as /_@/\/\3"

    So here we are, another name for what already is. Its not that I dont dig the meme and procedures for creation of great sites spreading to wider minds, but can we please rework the Gee Wizz Press Blurbs stage of its evolution more often? Please, for me?

    Call me Ishmiel. better yet, Call me a taxi.

  • Yech. Nanomedia should mean "very small media" like quantum computing or something. No thank you. Please don't take it personally.

    I prefer "meta-sites": a website about other websites, composed of commentary about other sites' content and the issues raised by same.

    Jon Acheson

  • I think that often, Anonymous Cowards are trying to get a feel for the community before joining it as a named member. They want to maybe post a couple notes to see how they're received, so they can be more productive and on-topic after they register. Also, it seems to me that when communities fall apart, it's because of major disagreements among older, long-established members with a significant following. I'm sorry, but I don't really see any validity in the statement that AC's are the most common destructive force. They're an important part of Slashdot, in my opinion, and I wouldn't want that to change. Anybody agree with Katz on this issue? I'd like to hear examples if anyone can provide some.
  • Yep, but how would a journalist looking to stay "relevant" ever hope to keep themselve in a steady job?

    "how do you afford your internet life style" paraphrased from Cake
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The thing that destroys the community sites (let's call 'em this way, ok?) is _not_ the anonymous cowards, it's _lack of activity_.

    If somehow /. lost half of the people that reads it, it would start to shrink exponentially (since _everything_ that's open tends to be exponential by nature). The opposite is also true: /. grow from an (according to Taco's writings) small section of his old website, to become _THE MOST IMPORTANT SITE OF THE LINUX COMMUNITY!!!_ (sorry for screaming, but it's true.)
  • On the destructive force of anon

    Well lets look at the problem this way, why is it that the "community" (an over used word on this medium) is in dire threat of the anon voice?

    Is the resolve or the voice of the community so frail as to make it possible for others to sack it whole?

    For me what anon posts is held to the same scrutiny as what a named user posts, that is the "Content" is the judge, not the name. A name is a handle, it is not the message.

    Anon allows expressions for some who are tied to the old Name/Content dilema. It can be used for bad as well as for good. those that are willing to throw the content out with the name are the same ones who should be first up against the wall when the shithouse blows its lid.

    Of course human nature what it is, this sort of mentality will live on in each batch of podlings that are hatched on the sceen.

    "dont judge a book by its cover
    cause by night im one hell of a lover" Dr Frank N Futer


  • by Anonymous Coward
    This one is for lefties ... Common Dreams [commondreams.org]
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I'm more concerned about the rigid bans on flaming. There *is* a real difference between worthless ad hominem attacks and deeply earnest disagreements, but I have trouble believing anyone with a strong interest in the subject of discussion will always objectively distinguish between them in the heat of the moment.
  • You know, if you used a real E-mail to submit your account, you can just type in the username and tell Slashdot to send your password to you.

    But that would be following instructions.
  • ... at least as far as building "online community." I've been thinking about this for a bit, and I think this is simply a property of the interface. Follow a healthy USENET group or mail list on a topic you care about for a while, and notice the percentage of posts that actually engage what another person has written. It's so high that USENET developed the (sometimes software-enforced) protocol that you ought to provide at least as much original as quoted text. Now, look at the comment threads on slashdot [slashdot.org]. See the difference? And /. has a higher percentage of interaction than other sites such as freshmeat [freshmeat.net] or themes.org [themes.org].

    Now, "weblogs" (awful name) are superior to USENET groups and mail lists in (1) filtering noise and highlighting useful information, and (2) providing archiving and search capabilities. But that's not the same as building "community", unless you simply mean a group of people with similar interests and viewpoints. But it doesn't get people interacting at the person-to-person levels that old-fashioned NNTP and SMTP (or the even more old-fashioned face-to-face) do.

    I also find that newsgroups and mail lists can provide an opportunity for more thoughtful discussion. I've many times sat on a USENET or mail message for a day or two before responding, in order to give some thought or do some research before responding. With slashdot? Why bother responding to a toping that's no longer on the splash page?

    As for the closed vs. open debate -- both are good in there own way. There are times that I want to mix it up in the rough-and-tumble marketplace of ideas. There are times I want to quietly discuss issues with folks who are moderately like-minded. It is wonderful that both kinds of fora (open to the world and unmoderated, limited subscription and moderated) can exist.

  • by genehckr (23251) on Monday May 24, 1999 @06:09PM (#1881516) Homepage

    As an active weblogger (I'm behind GeneHack [treefort.org]), here's my two centavos on the issues that are being raised.

    First, the name. It's done, people. We (the people doing the weblogging) call them weblogs. There might be a temporary confusion with web server logs, but that will pass. Soon, people will realize that weblog != web server log.

    Second, the point. I weblog (it's a noun! it's a verb!) mostly for myself. I comment on biological issues and anything else I find interesting; the key word being comment. Some weblogs just post pointers to interesting sites; personally I find those less interesting than those that post commentary, either on events or content elsewhere on the web. Additionally, sometimes I'll put an item up on GeneHack [treefort.org] so that I remember to look at it again; my archives serve as a log of what I thought was worth saving. On a weblogger-heavy mailing list I frequent, weblogs were described as "bookmarks in time" by Brigitte Eaton, who runs the eatonweb weblog [eatonweb.com]. That's a good capsule summary of what I'm trying to do.

    Third, the community issue. I agree that weblogs aren't a good way to generate a community, at least not a large or tightly-knit one. That's not the point. Filtering content is the point; commenting on that content is the point; being active on the web instead of passively grazing is the point. I don't participate in much of the web-based community stuff, like /., for example, because (despite recent innovations) the signal:noise ratio is still way too low. People who email me because of something on GeneHack [treefort.org] are much more reasonable to deal with. People who I mail because of items on their weblogs are much more reasonable to deal with. That's much, much more rare on /. and other such sites.

    Fourth, and finally, why I read weblogs. The filtering by different people with different tastes and different backgrounds. By checking 10 or 15 sites daily, I'm able to assimilate way more information than I would be able to all on my own, with a good slice of commentary thrown in. After visiting different sites for a short while, I have a fairly good idea of the viewpoints and interests of the authors; I have an idea of how they filter information. Weblogs allow me to get the point of view of smart people in varied fields; more people than I could reasonably meet and interact with in meat space. I find that valuable.

    Whew! If you made it to the end of this ramble, congradulations. If you haven't yet, check out some of the sites mentioned in the article. Visit for a few days; find the sites you like. We're a varied lot, and there's something for everyone. If you can't find a site with your point of view, start your own...that's the point.

    john.

  • Almost everybody's personal site has had something like a message board for years. They called them "guestbooks." Now you can even get message boards for free and you don't even have to know any programming languages to put them up. I helped my 10-year-old cousin put up a site last year (now defunct, she lost interest) and it had a guestbook, chat applet, message board, and poll, all obtained from various sites offering free ad-supported utilities. We even put up links to pages that she liked once or twice a week and put up the reasons why she liked them. I suppose you could call it a weblog, although the focus was on Lisa Frank and Beanie Babies rather than Linux or new media. We called it "her homepage." In fact, I've seen a few "weblogs" run by adults based on Beanie collecting. I run a sort of weblog, which I more or less describe as a "vertical portal" if I want to get fancy (it's actually a links list, but that's not cool any longer) dedicated to fairies. I've been doing that for 3 years.

    In short, this isn't anything new, and it's already become co-opted by the masses. Even the under-12 crowd is doing it now.
  • Who decides what's appropriate for children?

    And what is a 'child' exactly? Less than 8? Less than 12? Less than 18? Does the attainment of a given birthday automatically make all given people 'ready to handle' so-called 'inappropriate content'?
  • Eventually, someone will make money off of the weblog concept....just not very much. As a general rule, people don't pay for content on the Web...most Web publications are free. However, some pubs offering premium content (WSJ, Playboy, etc.) are making money from subscriptions, and premium quality weblogs will be no different. People will pay for constantly updated pointers to the best information in a specific subject area.

    As an example, antique collectors might pay a small subscription fee for a weblog that keeps track of the best auctions currently running on eBay.

    In the end, it's important to remember that the content of a weblog is essentially the same as a magazine like Newsweek: timely + information + opinion. Weblog or not, if a publication is timely enough, has good information (or in the case of a weblog, pointers to good information...the pointers become the information), and the readers enjoy/identify with the opinions, then there is the potential for that publication to make money.

  • All well and good...But how is this differnt from the way a PLETHORA of sites have been run for years?


    Giving it a hypeflash name does nothing to make it New or Noteworthy


    And to be one Slashdot??? Come on, its like newbie fodder bait.



    What the trendheads and fashion stylist call WEBLOGS have been around for years. Its a great idea that does not need a new buzzword attached to it.
  • I don't worry about that. They'll probably do some damage, but at the same time they'll advance cryptography and responsibility for one's postings. Scorefiles will probably get a rather big boost, too.

    Just say, "I read only postings that are signed by the author, and only if the author is new, or recognized by me for his high quality."

  • I've found that logging on from the many different machines I use, I can't always be bothered to log in each time I post a comment.

    Also, your cookie information will get lost between www.slashdot.org and slashdot.org - a jump that I have found occurs sometimes between different areas of the site. This is another reason why I will sometimes post A/C.


    Not this time though ;-)

  • The word instantly said "web server log" to me, even though I'd never seen it used anywhere before. So I'd go with the "bad choice" vote.

    Surely there were lots of other words you could have chosen which would have had even less possibility for confusion?
    --
  • > And, after all, isn't protecting our children
    > the goal of each and every one of us?

    Uh, no. I'm not of the opinion that 'protecting the children' is a good idea, enforceable, or even desirable. I can understand the POV of the people who do want to do this. I can accept that people don't believe the way I do.

    But, what's 'inappropriate'? What's 'dangerous'? It's not so much the information that's dangerous (for example, I have the information on how to make methamphetamine, which is interesting from a purely scientific viewpoint), but what you do with it (if I pulled out the household equipment and picked up the raw materials and started to dabble in it, I'd likely blow my apartment to bits). 'dangerous' information often leads to less-dangerous (and extremely useful) results.

    Another question I have is, "Who decides when someone's mature enough to have access to this information?" I know many, many 18 year olds (and 20 year olds, and 26 year olds) who I wouldn't trust with the methamphetamine recipe, but I know plenty of 12 through 15 year olds who I -would- (mainly because they're interested in chemistry, or applied sciences, and I think they'd look at it to see what could be done, and heed the warnings that it could blow up in their faces).

    And sex. (pet peeve coming up) This neo-Western culture we live in in the US has determined that sex is something that shouldn't even be discussed with a kid, much less let them find any information out about. You can find this in some of the self-rating PICS systems in existence -- http://www.safesurf.com/ssplan.htm (SafeSurf) [safesurf.com] for example. (I like SafeSurf better than the default one that comes with MSIE, btw, but not much.) It rates a 'technical reference' of any sexual theme at level 3 -- above 'subtle innuendo' and 'explicit innuendo'.

    I personally think this is pious poppycock.

    Sex is openly discussed in other cultures, and their kids are as healthy (if not more so) than the kids in the US.

    -Mat Butler

  • Posted by htmlgod_1:

    I can guarantee you that you can end up spending your life savings on it and make nothing off of it... I am one of the owners and creators of www.PlanetRadio.net and I have spent just about everything on it... Why do I do it? Because I love music and I love what I do!

    HTMLGoD.!
    david@planetradio.net
  • Posted by D-Rider:

    I can probably visit all the ones mentioned in the article and comments and figure out what they are, but I find it odd that an article about them doesn't bother explaining it. I've never heard the term before. I get two distinct and contradictory impressions from the article.

    One, it's a fancy name for a well maintained web site. That sounds like someone wanted a new name to make some artificial (i.e. non-existant) distinction as to why his web page was "different" and not "just a homepage".

    Two, it's a private club of some sort that exists as some sort of web site. This sounds like just something else to be excluded from, so that the people not excluded can feel all elite and superior at the "expense" of everyone else (most of whom probably don't care anyway).

    Granted, I could spend an hour or 3 looking at the links in the article and have a more accurate opinion, but the point is, the article should have at least made some attempt at defining this term. A quick poll of my "peers" on IRC shows that many others don't know this term either, so it's not (only) that I'm hopelessly out of touch.
  • I agree with much of what Katz has to say, but I have to admit, the hype around weblogs really baffles me. They're just link lists with a snarky comments, and there's very little that's revolutionary about that.

    I think Teeth Magazine recently said it best:

    • There can't be that much lint in all your navels at the same time.

    Heh.

    -- Derek [powazek.com]

  • Sorry, I fucked up the link. That url again, was:

    Teeth Magazine [teethmag.com]

    -- D

I put up my thumb... and it blotted out the planet Earth. -- Neil Armstrong

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