Scott Rosenberg (scottros) Fri 11 Sep 09 09:17
Jeff, that model for creating a book has some appeal -- as you say, it's fast and easy and cheap. It can be fun. But, you know, the resulting books are, in most cases, likely to be pretty insubstantial. As for RSS, Gail, it's had a complex history. It was first widely embraced as a tool for heavy-duty consumers of blog content to organize and keep up with the flow of posts. As such it's proven of value but mostly only to hardcore/pro users. "Following" in Twitter is a variation on the subscribe-in-RSS theme, one that is simpler and (because of the 140-character limitation) seems to have wider appeal. People seem more willing to accept that they're not going to, and don't have to, "keep up with" Twitter; RSS readers left too many people feeling too guilty about the pileup of unread messages. (Dave Winer has made this argument well over the years; he always advocated for RSS consumption to be less like email and more like what we now think of as the Twitter model -- he called it a "river.") The other big contribution of RSS was that it applied just a very small amount of data structure to Web content, making it possible for developers to begin to do interesting things with it. This allowed for all sorts of interesting experiments in parsing and filtering blog content; it also, of course, opened the door to various kinds of abuse, like the "splogs" that auto-republish RSS feeds in hope of gaming Google and earning pennies on search ads. So I don't really think of the success of blogging as being "really about RSS." The success of blogging is about the success of a form of online interaction that subtly but powerfully favored the voice of the individual over the voice of the crowd. I keep suggesting that blogging isn't going to mutate that much further because I think it has some unique qualities that have stood the test of time (a decade of Web evolution). Google Wave is fascinating, RSSCloud is an exciting development; these fast-moving novelties will keep showing us new possibilities for group and individual interaction online. Most of them will fade into the woodwork as failed experiments. Occasionally one of them will stand out as a long-term success -- as happened to email, Web pages themselves, and later blogging. Whether Twitter -- or distributed Twitter-like networks -- will end up joining this list is, I think, an open question. Right now I wouldn't bet against it!
Christian Crumlish (xian) Mon 14 Sep 09 11:20
p.s.: could be wrong about Crooks and Liars, or may be mixing it up with another lefty blog that eventually went solo, but I could swear it started on blogs.salon.com
Gail Williams (gail) Mon 14 Sep 09 13:22
Scott, I was just looking at the web page for "Say Everything," and I noticed that besides having a VERY entertaining little video about the origin of blogging, you have put the first chapter of the book online for free. How is this free-sample approach working for you? Is it just something one must do, or so you have an indication that it helps the book or the grander goal of blog history literacy, perhaps?
What is going to amuse our bouches now? (bumbaugh) Mon 14 Sep 09 13:41
I don't remember Crooks and Liars from those days, but it may have been. One of the things that made the Salon Blogs special, was that they made up an ecosystem of their own, because of the way Userland's Radio worked. So, when I blogged there, although I read and followed a lot of blogs other places, anyone in the Salon ecosystem -- I forget Radio's technical term for this -- seemed like it was in my neighborhood, somehow. They turned up on lists when I checked my referer stats, and others in my neighborhood would notice and link to them, and so on , and so on. That, together with the sense some of us had that we were somehow pulling for Salon through a tough period made that very different. You've done really well in the book, Scott, bringing together a range of different approaches to or uses of the medium. What Dave Winer was and is doing varies dramatically from robotwisdom or Justin Hall's links.net, and you've done a fine job of both distinguishing the different activities and finding a through line for them. Which makes me wonder: was there anything you wanted to include, thought about including, or tried to include, that just didn't fit or otherwise wouldn't work?
Scott Rosenberg (scottros) Mon 14 Sep 09 14:17
Christian -- I think there was some sort of connection in the distant past between Table Talk and the start of MediaWhoresOnline -- could that be what you're thinking of? Gail -- there's actually two whole chapters of the book on the site -- Justin Hall saga and also the "Journalists vs. Bloggers" epic. It's hard for me to isolate how that has played out separate from the rest of the marketing. (The video was by far the most fun to make!) We did the intro and half a chapter or so from DREAMING IN CODE, so we definitely went further this time. As far as I can tell the book is selling respectably enough but I can't say posting these chapters has gone "viral" or otherwise accomplished anything unusual or extraordinary. Still, I think posting decent-sized chunks of the book can hardly hurt and has to help at least a little. I'm glad you had that experience with Salon Blogs, Bruce -- I did too, and I worked from that background in the early days of trying to imagine what Open Salon would become, too. As for what I had to leave out -- so much! For instance, I didn't end up including much at length about either Ben and Mena Trott and the rise of Movable Type and SixApart, or Matt Mullenweg and the rise of Wordpress. Having already told one story of the rise of a blogging platform and the people who created it (Blogger), it just didn't seem to make sense -- given that this was intended to be a book about blogging as a form of human expression, not blogging as a genre of software. Movable Type and Wordpress are an important part of the saga (and of course I do deal with them a bit), but I needed to restrain myself. Fortunately these tales are well-told elsewhere, too.
Gail Williams (gail) Tue 15 Sep 09 15:10
I've pointed out that video on http://www.sayeverything.com/ a couple of times, and people always like it, by the way. Lots of fun! The question of bloggers versus journalists is fascinating to me. Of course now many journalists blog at work, or have been instructed to tweet instead this year. It's all intermingled now. Yet I have been at events where somebody with press credentials was behaving very badly (walking behind food and drink booths with lines to help himself to the consternation of food servers, and proudly drawing attention to that). I quickly discovered it was an independent blogger. That is another odd facet of the changes in news delivery. While some always break rules or norms, there have been a lot of traditions in journalism that make up the day to day ethics of that world. Both reporters and the public have some expectation of how journalists will behave. I wonder if my observation was an unusual one. Is there any sign that bloggers have any new or continuing consensus on what kinds of behavior are responsible when you are not an employee, but a citizen? Does it matter?
David Wilson (dlwilson) Tue 15 Sep 09 19:30
So Scott, what kind of reception have you been getting about the book?
What is going to amuse our bouches now? (bumbaugh) Wed 16 Sep 09 07:14
And . . . put your crystal ball on the table. What do we have to look forward to in this space? Where's the excitement going to be in 2011 or 2016?
Scott Rosenberg (scottros) Wed 16 Sep 09 10:35
I had a lot of fun making the video, so I'm glad that some of that comes through. Writing is my native mode of expression, but it's nice to splash around in others! I haven't personally experienced the "rude blogger syndrome" you describe, Gail, but I'm sure it happens. There's a long tradition in journalism, of course, of the old-line press-pass-bearing reporters getting the reserved seats in the press section and so forth. So the privilege tended to go to the pros. It wouldn't surprise me if some small number of bloggers, heads swelled a bit by gaining new access to such privilege, abused it. The book's reception has been largely what I expected: Lots of enthusiasm from people who already knew parts of the story but were glad to have me fill in the blanks for them (and, I'm proud to say, their reaction is generally "you got that right"). Some puzzlement or indifference from two different directions -- on the one hand, tech-world insiders who think blogging is old hat and don't have much interest in their industry's past, no matter how recent; on the other, folks far outside the Silicon Valley hothouse and social-media bubble, who can't imagine there's much history to speak of about a phenomenon as new as blogging is. If I've been surprised by anything, it's been by how much residual resentment and anger still seethes among professional media people when they discuss the subject. As I said above, I felt the book was a measured and balanced, if in the end positive, picture of the blogging story; and it was sort of amazing to see how quickly I was pegged by interviewers as an ardent pro-blogging partisan. As for the future: I keep arguing that blogging itself is now a somewhat stable and mature form. The Web itself and the applications we build on top of it are continuing to evolve at a clip, of course; look at Twitter's meteoric rise. But blogs themselves -- networked personal repositories of writing organized chronologically -- have reached a plateau of usefulness and software reliability. I actually think blogging's evolution from this point forward will be slow, and the excitement will be where it should be: not about the form but about new examples of people using it in ways we can't imagine today.
Gail Williams (gail) Wed 16 Sep 09 12:27
Thanks for all the thoughtful comments, and for hanging out with us here over the last two weeks, Scott. I can't wait to see what your next book will be about. We're winding down here as the next guest joins us, though this Topic is still open for comments. For all WELL members who want to talk about blogging as a phenomenon, or to get some feedback on your own blogs, remember the Blog Conference <blog.> ; and for more general Web trends, apps and development talk, there's also <web.> I think that beyond blogging and the Web, there is a general awkwardness with recent history, Scott. All the more reason to write while the memories are fresh, for later scholars to mine. I think that's a worthy endeavor.
Ari Davidow (ari) Sat 19 Sep 09 15:22
Scott, I was one of the first posters, so let me close with one of the first post-discussion posts if you're still around. I got a strong sense from your book that this was very much a tale of people discovering something new--that this thing we call a blog evolved from several people's work (and, given the accompanying video, this represents a tradition going at least as far back as the cave people). So, as we look forward, what evolves next, if anything--or are we looking at the "mature" way that human bloggers, newly advanced to the next rung past Boswell or the cave bloggers--more or less fixed until a new technology comes around--maybe slightly easier tools to facilitate video blogging--and the next art form evolves?
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