What Is A Weblog? A Proposal.

Life Just over, my god, fifteen years ago, a friend introduced me to a book publishers who were looking for someone to write an introduction to weblogs.  The remit from them wasn't very well defined so although on reflection they might have been looking for more of a "how to" book, I offered a general overview of the, urk, blogosphere of that moment with interviews and anecdotes.

For years I've thought that just the short proposal had survived, which was already posted here back in 2016, but in the process of sorting through my hard drives, I've found the complete document, with overview, chapter breakdown and complete first chapter.  I haven't looked at this in years obviously, but still below in all of its unvarnished glory.

Obviously, it's a full on Proustion nostalgia serum injected directly into the veins. For all of us who try to intermittently keep things going, this whole world has gone now. Almost all of the blogs listed have gone, many years past either because the writers got on with their lives or simply moved to another media, probably YouTube or Twitter. Seems fitting that I should put it up here, just a year off this blog's twentieth birthday.


THE WEBLOG BOOK

Overview

This is a book about people. It’s about the blogger and what compels them to put their fingers to keyboard on a daily basis to tell the world about their lives. It’s about destroying the myths surrounding blogs, how the authors aren’t always egotists, they just have an often interesting, unusual and exciting story to tell and feel that something is missing from the world if it isn’t there to be read.

We’ll meet the pioneers of the medium who were there at the start; the diarists who’s lives have been changed completely after talking about them online; we’ll discover the communities and subcultures which have bonded together through a love of blogging; we’ll look at the innovators who are striving to find new ways of expressing themselves; the bloggers who are beating journalists at their own game with just a keyboard and instinct; those who are using the medium to create art online; the time when blogging might even have helped save lives; the corporations that are getting in on the act and at the future of blogging as it hits the mainstream. Will everyone soon have a blog?

This isn’t a technical manual about setting up a blog. It’ll steer clear of jargon unless it’s well explained and relevant. Dropping concepts in to make the subject a closed shop would be wrong – blogging is open to all and the language of the book should reflect that. It’s about learning through experience and so the book will also introduce the reader to some of the best blogs online, the award winners, the a-listers and the unsung heroes. Which communities are worth joining and what kind of amazing things can happen if you do?

If you've been hanging about with a friend and they mention that they have a blog, and you haven't the first clue what that is, this is the book for you. If you already write a blog and would like to learn more about this thing you feel the need to do, this book is for you. If you’re sick of having to explain what a blog is when you just happen to drop that you write one into a conversation, this book will give you some pointers as to how to answer that unusually impossible question:

"What is a blog?"


Chapter One:

What is a Blog?:
Defining the Indefinable.

There is a moment that most bloggers experience at some time. They’ll be sitting at their computer, fingers poised on the keyboard looking at a blank screen. The cursor will flash in and out of view, impatiently waiting for the cue to move across the line with characters in its stead. The blogger will sit looking at that cursor, hypnotically watching it blink. As the time ticks by, it will slowly dawn on them that they have absolutely nothing to say.

It isn’t all of them. Some bloggers have selected a particular topic for their site and so there is a steady stream of material for them to absorb and report. There are an increasing number who are actually being paid to blog, it’s their job and this gives them the impetuous to offer something, even if it is just to publicize a new innovation the company is introducing. But we are talking about the vast majority, those for whom their own lives are the sources they’re working from and that thing they want to communicate.

But in this moment their mind has gone blank. They look to see how many people visited the site the day before, and the count is in the low fifties. This gives them even less motivation, because half of those were from people finding the weblog after click through from a search engine when they were trying to find pictures of someone naked. They start to worry that nothing interesting happened to them that day, or has been happening to them for ages, and that to put that into words would be some kind of failure.

Then from seemingly nowhere they’ll have a memory of something someone said to them at the breakfast table; or that they read in the newspaper which angered them or didn’t make any real sense; falling in love from afar on the bus; meeting someone in the street that day they hadn’t seen for a while; the photograph they saw online; an email they read or even a song they heard on the radio.

Their fingers begin to type, letters become words, words become sentences, sentences fill paragraphs. They read back through what’s there and it slowly dawns on them that it isn’t half bad, one of the best things they’ve ever written in fact. They check it again for spelling and grammar, then drag their pointer across to the post button on the screen, click and wait. Seconds later the text is published online for all to read. It's another day the blogger hasn’t let down their twenty or so loyal visitors, and they resolve to do something exciting on purpose the next day, so that they don’t have to experience the same desperation again.

Blogging is a crazy, terrible, exciting, thrilling, annoying, addictive pastime. To begin reading a blog is to open yourself up to experiencing the world through someone else’s eyes. But it’s in the writing that the change happens, because you know that wherever you go and what you do becomes something you might want to tell the world about. Never has screenwriter Norah Ephron’s assertion that ‘everything is copy’ been more apt. Will Carlough captures the feeling excellently:

‘I hate blogs. Blogs, at their best, are people who are well versed in a given subject, giving opinions on that subject so dryly that only the most hardcore fans of the subject can stand to read through it. At their worst, they're exercises in vanity, with people rambling on about nothing, talking about what they had for lunch, and posting stupid pictures of them and their stupid friends.’

He wrote that on 2 October 2004. On his own blog, The Diogenes Club. Every blogger wants to be in the first camp but always has a creeping suspicion they’re in the second. Yet they continue to write.

This is a book about why they do that.

I don’t understand.

Blogs have entered the mainstream. On an almost daily basis it's impossible to pick up a newspaper or watch the television without seeing a story that originated on or, is related to, a blog. The recent sacking of Waterstones' employee Joe Gordon for some of the things he wrote on his site The Woolamaloo Gazette [http://www.woolamaloo.org.uk/] caused a media outcry, with authors, whose works appear on the shelves of the bookshop the blogger no longer works at, sending group letters of protest about how Gordon's freedom of speech and expression had been compromised. Late last year gossip columnists were getting in a twist trying to discover the identity of Belle du Jour, the writer of a call girl’s blog. Few believed she was a real person and picked over evidence and rumour looking for the real author.

In these and scores of other cases, it was assumed that the reader knew what a blog was and could relate the word to something which happens in everyday life. Which is interesting because there are still many, many people who don't know what one is or what one would do with one if one had one. See if the following scenario seems familiar. Paul is feeling badly because he didn't get a promotion in the office he thought was definitely. Over a pint his friend Ernest offers him some moral support, saying that it's only a set back and that he's bound to move upwards eventually because people with common names (unlike his own) are more likely offer a sense of instant trust because of their familiarity, and it would only be a matter of time before he moves up the company. Nonplussed Paul asks his friend where he heard that. Ernest tells him he read it on a blog. To which Paul asks the immortal question:
‘What is a blog?’
To which Ernest can give but one answer:
‘Erm . . .’

Which is the point. Even if someone reads blogs every day or writes one themselves, if they're in Ernest's shoes they still might have great difficulty offering a coherent answer. The most common suggestion would be, ‘it's a website, a sort of diary,’ but that opens up the possibility that if the person asking goes online they'll find the intimate heartfelt details of the person explaining, and although there are certainly websites out there which offer exactly that, there are millions of others, in completely different formats.

That is why it’s important to try and define what a blog is. Too much shorthand is generally used in the media and although it’s fair to say that if you bought this book you have a passing interest in the subject it’s important to cover the bases ready for chapter two which looks at some of the history and talks to the people involved. You might think that it would be fairly easy to create a good all purpose description of what a blog is.

It’s actually a near impossible task and probably doomed to failure.

First words.

The term ‘weblog’ was originally used in 1997 by artificial intelligence expert John Barger to describe his own website Robot Wisdom [http://www.robotwisdom.com/], in which he listed on a daily basis ‘links’ to other web pages that he had found interesting. He was making a distinction between what he was doing and the writers of online journals or diarists who had begun their work a few years before. It didn’t take too long for the term to become an acceptable way of describing both types, as the lines between each became blurred. There are few sites now which purely tell the story of a life without the writer including links to other material elsewhere that they've enjoyed. But what ever the content, if it appears in the certain format, that’s the word it is given.

To complicate matters, weblog quickly became shortened to ‘blog’ over the years, as you might have noticed throughout chapter already. 'Weblog' was already in use to describe the reports created by activity on computer network servers. Although they were also called 'server logs' (which makes more sense) to save confusion, blog entered usage and has become so common, the US dictionary, the Merriam-Webster selected it as their word of the year in 2004 and it appears in this year’s edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. Unlike the longer word it's often used as both a noun and a verb. So I can have a blog, but I can also blog (in other words write a weblog). But to be honest, both are fairly acceptable and mostly interchangeable. There are some who intensely dislike blog as a word for some reason though and it’s become the term the hip, smart people are using.

What blogs aren’t

They're not static. When the World Wide Web (WWW) went online in 1990, web pages tended to be quite basic with a bit of text and little in the way graphics. The web was created by two scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), the largest particle physics laboratory in the world. Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau were looking for a better way of accessing and linking information which was being stored on the computer networks at the organization.

This material was in the form of computerized or hyper-text. At a basic level this meant making books and scientific papers appear on a monitor more fluidly, in a user friendly way without the need to remember commands or certain keyboard presses. The real breakthrough was to include ‘hyperlinks’; for example if a book’s table of contents appeared on screen the users could click through a chapter’s title to read it’s text rather than having to wade through a single document. Being science papers they weren’t often supposed to be updated except in the writing and editing stages.

The really big development happened with the release of the first graphical web browser called ‘Mosaic’ which appeared in 1993 and made it easier for the still relatively small group of novice users of the web to create their own websites. The real spurt happened when blogs appeared, because by their nature they keep changing and evolving. Right from the beginning, despite the technology, these were often being updated on a daily basis. Now there are some community blogs that are added to hundreds of times a day by just as many users. Now the only blogs which remain static are those which have been rested by their authors, either because they’ve taken a break or stopped writing altogether.

Blogs not as a rule organised. Although they can have a strong visual content and generally follow the same format on the screen of a column of text nestled next to a column of links with a title across the top, the information being published on an individual blog does not follow any kind of coherent order. Unlike a book there isn’t a beginning, middle or end. It’s more like a bizarre encyclopedia in which the entries for aadvark, zebra and platypus appear next to each other. When links to other texts or web pages are displayed it’s not generally in the form of a list but throughout the writing. In chapter six we’ll look at attempts the community are making to try and organize the information across their blogs by tagging individual posts, but that’s another thing entirely.

They’re not on paper either. Obviously. Although in the real world there are personal diaries under the bed and columnists writing daily in newspapers, blogs simply can’t happen on paper because of the distribution. They’re about anyone with a mind to telling lots of random strangers about what they like or what’s important to them. Unlike those columnists they don’t need to have the backing of a major media organization to publish their words. Anyone with a computer and a modem can have a go.

Without a computer the only way to mimic a blog offline would for someone to write a long heartfelt description of their university classmate, photocopy it, then walk down the street handing it out to strangers, hoping that a passer-by likes what they’ve written enough to return when they walk down the same street the very next day, handing out a review of the book they’ve just finished reading. Even then they’d have to have the entire population of the world shuffling past, so perhaps it would be a better idea to hire a plane and fly over a city they’ve never been to and drop them out of the cargo door instead.

Finally, they’re not boring. In fact without being too worthy, they’re the most exciting new media since television offered a window onto the world. But it’s important to differentiate between what the abilities of the web at large, and blogs within that. Someone going on holiday to Rome can use a search engine to find and read hotel reviews, tourist information sites and even to watch video of the city. But it takes a blog to offer a taste of what it’s actually like to live there. The traveler might find out about a great cafĂ© off the beaten track, which areas of the city to avoid after dark and which restaurant does the best pasta. Reading that blog up until first day of the holiday could give a truer image of the city not provided in the guidebooks, making the trip all the more potent because the visitor might recognise the smaller landmarks usually overlooked by tourists.

But that’s just a single example. A quick survey of British blogs being updated right now finds the news of Victoria Beckham’s new baby; someone nearly knocking actor Christopher Eccleston over in their car; another coping with jetlag; a match description of a Bolton Wanderers football game; a piece about bespoke tailors; someone who saw Ellen MacArthur thanking her public in Greenwich (with pictures); sixth in a gay man’s countdown of the straight men he’s been out with; a straight woman revealing a valentine’s visit to a hotel; a vivid picture of a bumble bee; opinion pieces regarding the hunting ban and the new design of passports; some Buddhist scripture; a sunset view of the redline in Boston; a link to an article about destroying the Earth and someone publishing their childhood journals. This random selection demonstrates the vast differences in content and ideas being expressed through blogs and how a person’s outlook can be changed after just a few clicks of a mouse.

Finally defining blogs?

Type ‘weblog definition’ in a search engine, we’re offered 2,650,000 results. Substitute weblog with ‘blog’ and it becomes 4,090,000. It’s an entirely unscientific process, because they’re just pages which include those two words, and there is bound it be a lot of repetition, but it shows that everyone has some idea about it. But what’s really interesting is that there doesn’t appear to be a single consensus. To demonstrate, here are three definitions of a mug from three different online sources.

The aforementioned Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a mug as:

‘a cylindrical drinking cup’

From the Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia which can be updated by any web users:

‘A mug is a sturdily built type of ceramic cup often used for hot beverages, such as coffee, tea, and hot chocolate.’

Lastly, answers.com, the site which the Google search engine recently selected to offer a definition of the words a user might be typing in:

‘A heavy cylindrical drinking cup usually having a handle.’

Some are more verbose than other but they all pretty much say the same thing. There is a consensus there. A mug a bigger version of a cup.

Appropriately, the subject of this book isn’t like that. Let’s ask the same sources to define a weblog or blog. From Merriam-Webster:

‘a Web site that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks provided by the writer.’

From the Wikipedia:

‘A weblog, Web log or simply a blog, is a web application which contains periodic posts on a common webpage. These posts are often but not necessarily in reverse chronological order.’

And finally answers.com:

‘A website that displays in chronological order the postings by one or more individuals and usually has links to comments on specific postings.’

All of which contain small but significant differences. If someone assumed the Mirriam-Webster version, then John Barber’s Robot Wisdom doesn’t qualify as a blog, even though he was the first to use the phrase. The Wikipedia confuses things even further by saying that it’s a web application, which it isn’t – an application can help produce a blog, but it isn’t the site in and of itself. Answers might be closest to the truth, but again it loses its way at the end – blogs can have comments sections, but this entry implies that the only links that appear in the main body of the site, are to the comments sections. All of which is silly nitpicking, but demonstrates that even reference sources aren’t entirely clear about what blogs are.

The movement of blogs into the mainstream has been a slow process. Initially they appeared in internet magazines, with curious articles in Wired and the now sadly defunct Yahoo Internet Life, introducing the phenomena to an already captive readership. It was inevitable that as the sites gained prominence online, the rest of the media would start to react, and find themselves attempting to introduce something entirely alien to the so-called ‘man in the street’. In the UK, the Guardian newspaper has done more than most to de-mystify the idea. Here is how they presented the concept (on their website):

‘A weblog is, literally, a ‘log’ of the web - a diary-style site, in which the author (a ‘blogger’) links to other web pages he or she finds interesting using entries posted in reverse chronological order.’

Now for the Daily Telegraph:

‘Short for weblog, a sort of online diary containing frequently updated content, from personal thoughts and insights to company news and information’

As we’ll see later, BBC News Online’s website now runs its own blogs on a variety of subjects. In its earliest available article they try to make sure all sides are covered:

‘At its simplest a blog is a web-based, regularly updated journal. They also typically have lots of web links to other blogs they like or share their world view. Some are updated many times a day, some less frequently and some only when their owner feels they have something to say. Some are about a blogger's life, others focus on a particular subject, and the writers of some simply note or comment on the events they find interesting or irritating.’

What’s particular interesting about these three is that they emphasis the role of the personal blogger, although the Telegraph introduces the further idea of a company blog from nowhere.

Before this all starts becoming too repetitious let’s introduce the voice of the blogger into the mix. During the writing of this chapter I contacted some of the bloggers in my email address book totally at random and asked them to tell me what they thought, just off the top of their head. Here is what they said:

‘A weblog is an online archive that can cover almost any topic, but mostly acts as an online journal that is updated as often as the blogger wishes. It can be personal, professional, serious or chatty in tone and most-often contains a place for readers to comment or discuss a particular blog post.’

‘A weblog is a sort of personalized “footnote” to the individual web browsing experience, consisting of frequently updated links to websites with notation regarding the reasons compelling the weblogger to share them, usually arranged by date. It can be a way of sharing common interests, relating personal experiences to universal ones, noting cultural curiosities, informing, entertaining -- sometimes all of these at the same time -- a public audience.’

‘frequently updated, reverse-chronological entries on a single webpage.’

You will have noticed if you didn't skip over them, that all of those thoughts and ideas, from the academic, to the journalist to the blogger say basically the same thing. That's right. ‘It's a website, a sort of diary,’ It’s a matter of personal taste, but the bloggers themselves probably get closer to the concept, possibly because they have experience on their side. The final definition in particular, by taking the minimalist approach, heroically, gets closest to the truth and captures ninety-nine per cent of all blogs in just a few words and without using the terms diary, journal or links. An example of the other one per cent is being written by, among other, the actress, Emma Kennedy [http://www.emmakennedy.net/blog/].

For something which is revolutionising the online experience and by extension people’s lives, there isn’t an absolute definition of what these blog things are and there aren’t any other forms of writing for which that is a case. Which is why they work so well. If blogs had to fit within a particular format, they wouldn’t have that universal simplicity which has attracted such a wide following. Perhaps the real reason that there are so many different ideas of what constitutes a blog is because people tend to create them in their own image. They are what they blog, and they blog what they are.

Further reading.

John Barber’s Weblog resources FAQ [http://www.robotwisdom.com/weblogs/]

An amazing page which hasn’t been updated since September 1999 but still manages to lay out many of the concepts which are being used six years later. Many of the links don’t work but this is like looking back into history.

Guardian Unlimited Weblog Glossary
[http://www.guardian.co.uk/online/weblogs/story/0,14024,1109020,00.html]

If you can stomach typing in that web address, this is a treasure trove of simple definitions of some of the terms discussed in this chapter and which will be explored later in the book.

'Blog' picked as word of the year
[http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/4059291.stm]

The BBC News Online story about Merriam-Webster Dictionary award. ‘Weblog’ might have been a difficult word to define, but at least it’s not ‘defenestration’ which came tenth in the list of words of the year.


Sources.

Alden, Chris. Second Sight. The Guardian. Thursday 3rd February 2005.
Blood, Rebecca. Weblogs: A History and Perspective. Rebecca’s Pocket. 7th September 2004.
Maybury, Rick. Bootcamp 299: RSS - a better way to surf? Daily Telegraph 4th April 2003.
Perrone, Jane. What is a weblog? The Guardian. 20th May 2004.
Various. Weblog. Wikipedia. 1st November 2001 onwards.
Various. World Wide Web. Wikipedia. 7th December 2001 onwards.
Ward, Mark. A blog for everyone. BBC News Online. 22nd July 2003.




Chapter Breakdown

Chapter One:
‘What is a Blog?’:
Define the Indefinable.

Increasingly people are finding themselves on the one side of the following conversation:
"I read it on a weblog."
"What's a weblog?"
"Erm."
The "Erm." happens because it's a near impossible question. A good shorthand is "It's a website, a sort of diary," but that suggests that if the person asking goes online they'll find the intimate heartfelt details of the person explaining, and although some websites fit that description, there are hundreds of other formats to be explored. Like finding a single equation which explains all the universe, this chapter will try to put together a single, good explanation. How did the term get shortened to 'blog'? What a weblog isn't will be discussed, then definitions will be brought together from such diverse places as online encyclopedias, journalists and bloggers themselves, to see what the general consensus is and whether its something which actually can be written down in a few words or if the shear diversity of blogs mitigates against it.

Chapter Two:
‘Life is a constant challenge’ : 
The Weblog Pioneers

That chapter title was the some contents was first post by pioneer Cameron Barrett on his site Camworld, which even in mid-1997, when the term hadn't been coined, was something completely recognizable as a weblog (interestingly it wasn't until 1999 that he heard the phrase himself, which he admits in one of the great essay about the subject). What was it like in those early days for the twenty or so early webloggers and what compelled them to start presenting their site in that format, when the rest of the web was creating personal home pages. How many of them are still blogging now and what have they learnt from their experience. At what moment did blogs begin to capture the imagination of the web and become a global pastime? Who were the first British bloggers, and was their perspective and approach naturally different to everyone else?

Chapter Three:
‘That makes no sense to me’ : 
The Diarists

In January, Joe Gordon was fired from his eleven year job at the booksellers Waterstones in Edinburgh. The company had taken exception to some of his writing online; he became the first British person to be fired for something he wrote on his blog. The chapter title is from the post at his weblog, The Woolamaloo Gazette, when he revealed to the world what happened and tried to understand what he'd done wrong. The media outcry was swift and loud, with authors, whose books appeared on the shelves of the same shop he no longer worked in, sending group letters of protest about how Gordon's freedom of speech and expression had been compromised. So what leads people to start writing their most private thoughts online, is it confessional, therapy or something else? Which bloggers have found themselves in trouble privately and professionally because of something they've written? Have they regretted the choice they made to let the world know everything there is to know about them? What about those who’ve chosen to write anonymously about their lives, such as Belle De Jour (sacrificing their online identity for the chance to present greater intimacy) and the already famous using the weblog to communicate to their fans and show that they're just like them (see Neil Gaiman)?

Chapter Four:
‘feeling: upbeat’ : 
The Blogger Cultures

Like some giant, trans-global teen film, bloggers are drawn together because of common interests or beliefs, into clicks. Just like in The Breakfast Club, there are brains, beauties, jocks, rebels and recluses. Why and how did these subcultures develop and are they something which truly crosses borders or do national differences and language barriers prevail? We'll take a trip through these cultures, meeting coders, camgirls, a-listers, political bloggers and those with their unique interests. The concept of different blogging software will be introduced via a discussion of how this software creates barriers of its own. For example, LiveJournal which has its own peculiar format (for example, mood stamps on posts just like one which is the title of this chapter), offers the same diversity of interests as the rest of the community, but remains a mystery to vast numbers of people. Do users of one piece of software (Moveable Type) look down on other users (Blogger) as inferior just because of what they use to blog?

Chapter Five:
‘It looks like we've been Slashdotted!’ : 
Blog as Communities

Community weblogs are a place were thousands of users, usually bloggers, can gather and share the items they've found online. They generally look like any other blog, except there are usually dozen or even hundreds more items posted per day on a much wider range of subjects. Slashdot was one of the first and has the tagline 'News for nerds, stuff that matters.' It's main interest is computers and technology and has the capacity to bring to a halt any websites or pages it links to because of the sheer number of visits which can be generated - or in other words, the site is 'Slashdotted'. Community weblogs are like small online villages, with their own idiots, in-jokes and volunteer policing. People meet and develop a crushing love or hatred for one another through their keyboard over such dispirit subjects as the American election, favourite wines or web browsers. Is it all just a substitute for something which people are increasingly finding it difficult to find in the real world?

Chapter Six:
[This is good] : 
The Blogger Innovates

The term 'weblog' was originally coined in 1997 by Jorn Barger as a way of describing his own site Robot Wisdom which logged interesting items he found surfing the web. That site, which he just recently began updating again is actually an example of what is now called a linkblog, stripping away the paragraphs and simply shows links to pages which the writer has visited and liked. This is the zen approach and is becoming increasingly popular because of its simplicity. The look of a blog is constantly changing and the ways people are communicating through the format become greater and varied. From photoblogs to moblogs, audblogs to mp3 blogs, people are using multimedia to express themselves in new and exciting ways. Noticing the trend, websites and companies are being set up to aid the blogger, with del.ic.ious making linkblogs easy and flickr letting users show pictures of their lives.

Chapter Seven:
‘the all clear siren just went on’ : 
The Blogger Journalists

What isn't generally realized is that the 'Bagdad Blogger' Salam Pax began posting to his blog some months before the Iraq War began. The first post in his archive links to an article at the New York Times about a television show describing Sadam Hussein's hygiene habits. But when the bombing began, Pax began to gain the web's attention because he was there in the thick of it, describing in brutal honesty what he was seeing. Then there was Jeff Gannon, White House reporter for Talon News who found himself unmasked as Jeff Guckart, a right wing blogger who seemed to have been invited to the press corps because of his ability to throw easily answerable questions at a press secretary whenever they were in a tense situation. Liberal bloggers had become suspicious after he asked George W Bush a question about working with Democrats which included misattributed quotes and ended with "How are you going to work with people who seem to have divorced themselves from reality?"

Time and again recently, experienced journalists working for major news organizations have found their work undercut by the so-called amateurs, to the extent that blog posts and scoops are increasingly being reprinted in newspapers. The blogosphere is regularly undercutting investigative journalists, often with just a keyboard and a search engine. There is also an increasing trend for journalists, such as CNN reporter Kevin Sites, to write about their work online in tandem with their job and in some cases include material they simply aren't able to include in as part of their 'official' work. The blog format is also increasingly being used by online news organizations such as the BBC and the Guardian to cover the news, allowing journalists greater freedom to express their personalities.

Chapter Eight:
‘Ah, you must be very beautiful then.’ : 
Blogs as Art?

An increasing number of blogs are experiencing a kind of backward evolution as they are taken off the web and published and sold in bookshops. The chapter title quote this time is from the first post of London Call Girl, Belle De Jour, whose popularity online made a book deal inevitable with a tv series also in the offering. But just because it’s on paper, does it become literature? This chapter wonders if blogs can or will ever be considered an art form, referencing those who choose to express themselves in poetry, painting and fictional prose. If we know the person who’s writing is fictional how does that effect the reader’s experience and how do we feel when a blogger such as Plain Layne, who we’d assumed to be real person is unmasked as nothing of the sort? There have certainly been enough rumours that Belle was in fact written by a very male author – if that was proven would it increase or decrease the value of the work? At what point does all this becoming stupidly pretentious? What about the fans of tv series, actors and pop stars who are imitating their idols in the blog format – is that just another form of fan fiction, wish fulfillment, both or something else? How do the Bloggies and other awards effect this overall impression?

Chapter Nine:
'Thank you, Ingrid Srinath' : 
Can Blogs Save Lives?

When the Tsunami hit parts of Asia on Boxing Day, a group of bloggers from throughout the world, who'd never met in real life, went to the free blog hosting service BlogSpot and set up a site, The South-East Asia Earthquake and Tsunami Blog, with the single aim of co-ordinating information about the disaster, everything from missing person reports to charity information to breaking news. Ingrid Srinath was a person who emailed the site with accurate material about Red Cross Donations, because she wanted to help. All of the different concepts and ideas from the previous chapters will be brought together to help tell the story of how the blogosphere was united in capturing a moment in history. Personal bloggers within the effected areas were using their websites to get the message out about what was happening in the area quicker than the mainstream media which was finding it difficult to react, and we weren’t just reading about what was happening to them we were seeing and hearing as well.

Chapter Ten:
Is this thing on? : 
The Corporate Co-operation

When Google, the most popular search engine began its own blog as a way of talking directly to its users it seemed like the most natural progression for them. They’d recently acquired Pyra the company behind the equally popular free publishing service Blogger so this was also a way of demonstrating their commitment to the application. But they’re not alone. Thousands of businesses are beginning to understand the possibilities inherent in blogging bringing their message to the public. In addition it isn’t just news organizations using blogs to promote their wares. Film fans are enjoying unheard of access to productions. For example, director Peter Jackson’s remake of King Kong has a fan-run site including a daily video diary from the set as well as latest production news. Will this relationship continue to be co-operative or can the corporation overwhelm the amateur?

Conclusion: 
The Future

Where are weblogs going? The quietly building backlash is discussed, as some question whether blogs are strangling the ability of search engines to present the best information quickly. There is also the rise of the news aggregator, which allows users to check and even read updated blogs without having to even visit the website itself, and ‘tags’ which means that you’re following a subject rather than a particular blogger. Are we going to reach a stage when the blog as a single voice will phase out in favour of becoming a voice in a crowd?



[Please note that the emailed bloggers mentioned in the text were only aware that I was doing a project about blogs and not that I was submitting a proposal chapter for a book. Here is a copy of the email I sent:

Hello,

Sorry to interrupt, but I was wondering if you could help me with something. I'm doing a project about weblogging and one of the tasks is to define what a weblog is.

I was wondering if you could send me you definition of a weblog. I'm not looking something you've found online, just what you feel or think, off the top of your head.

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Stu.

Their permission will need to be sought if the quotes are to be used when the book is published. It would also be nice to offer a credit and a URL to their own weblog.]



Best Blog Guide Sample

Dooce [http://www.dooce.com/]

The weblog that became a verb. The Urban Dictionary defines being ‘dooced’ as ‘Losing your job for something you wrote in your online blog, journal, website, etc.’ Which is exactly what happened to its author Heather Armstrong on the 26th February 2002. She might not have been the first, but she was the most prominent, the action sending shockwaves through the blog community about what was actually acceptable to write about in a typical post and leading to the development of the anonymous work blog. Armstrong has handily marked all the offending posts in her archive. When BBC News recently ran a story about doocing, the word had gained such parlance that it’s origin didn’t warrant a mention. Heather, for her part, became a stay home mum.

Key quote: “Why I didn’t sue that company for the entire $70 million dollars in venture capital it wasted is one of the true mysteries of my life. I think I just ignored the whole thing because my boss was British and had really bad teeth, and I figured that British men with really bad teeth just didn’t know any better.”

Call Centre Confidential [http://callcentrediary.blogspot.com/]

One of the first anonymous work blogs and still the best: imagine the sitcom The Office without any of the touchy feely elements. All of the horrific uncertainty and personalities of the modern workplace are here -- Susan, Simon, Bob and the four Johns. Anyone who’s actually worked in a call centre in particular will find themselves nodding on a daily basis as they recognize all of the cruelty which goes on in ‘please hold’ sector. Expect short but to the point posts and bags of personality.

Key quote: “If you have been reading this for a while, you’ll know that things happen here in cycles, and the occasional reshuffles (of teams) are designed to ‘keep things fresh’. In other words, people who know what they are doing are given new jobs so they don’t know what they are doing and it ends up with the Call Centre’s virtuous circle: nobody knowing nothing.”

Wockerjabby [http://www.wockerjabby.com/]

Rabi Whitaker began writing in 2000 and is a fantastic example of how someone’s work can evolve over time. Those first few posts were nothing more than a few giddy comments on being online for the first line; within a year she’d won ‘Best Kept Secret’ at The Bloggies and now Rabi’s writing has developed to the extent that it’s become exactly the kind of weblog you’d want to show someone to demonstrate how warm and fuzzy they can be filled with vivid writing and incredibly beautiful photography.

Key quote: "I've always been under the impression that if I am to be a proper feminist, anti-consumerist, socialist, or any of the other slightly-snobby-but-ultimately-well-meaning things I feel either impelled or obligated to be, I should subscribe to the theory that valentine's day is a schmaltzy, pointless, hallmark holiday. But I don't. I'm a sentimental freak who likes things that are pretty or sweet or romantic (or all of the above), whether I'm single or attached or somewhere in between."

petite anglaise [http://www.petiteanglaise.com/]

Some of the best weblogs are about juxtaposition. The mostly anonymous ‘petite anglaise’ has been an British woman living Paris for nearly ten years and yet she still doesn’t seem to have ‘gone native’, except for her partner who she affectionately calls Mr Frog. Recently we’ve been reading about the adventures of their new tadpole (her word) and an ipod called Boris.

Key quote: “In my years as a Parisienne I have acquired a wardrobe of boring discreet, mostly black clothes which leave a little more to the imagination. The Frog prefers me to dress down and would love it if I consented to throw away my make up altogether. Male insecurity speaks: "you’ve pulled, so now let me drag you back to my cave and you need never attempt to make yourself attractive to the opposite sex again And none of that nonsense about how you are doing it for yourself, not for other men." Clearly I do not agree with this attitude, but as it happens the Frog needn’t worry. Since becoming a mother, my idea of putting an outfit together consists of finding the least crumpled clothes in the ironing pile and praying that they will match.”

My Boyfriend Is A Twat [http://www.myboyfriendisatwat.com/]

Worth including for the title of her weblog alone, Zoe is another English woman abroad, this time in Belgium. Her origins are confused because she was born in Saigon, spent five years in Japan before going to boarding school in Ashford in Kent and then in Canterbury. With so much travel at such an early age its unsurprising that her weblog would be less about cultural differences and more about her ongoing struggle with the aforementioned and family life.

Key quote: “The household is made up of myself, Zoe, an oasis of calm, my boyfriend Quarsan, aka the Twat. Let's face it girls, all men are twats, but Quarsan takes the biscuit and here's his reward.”


Biography

Stuart Ian Burns is a blogger. In the early nineties, he was one of the first people to learn and use the world wide web and it was helping him to research his dissertation while his fellow students were queuing up at the college library. He read his first weblog in 1999 and became addicted. As soon as he had access to a computer at home, he knew he had to join this fabulous new world online and so became part of the opening British vanguard of bloggers when he began the feeling listless weblog in the early 2000s. He’s been writing it ever since.

Over the years, Stuart’s blog has been visited by everyone from premiership footballers to Doctor Who scriptwriters as well as readers from throughout the world. In 2003 he helped judge the The Photobloggies, an award dedicated to people who express themselves through pictures rather than words. He’s also a regular contributor to the Art In Liverpool blog and set up HeardSaid which collects together intriguing and unusual facts and was recently selected as a pick of the day by the Guardian’s Newsblog.

As well as a degree in Information Studies from Leeds, Stuart has studied journalism, acting, directing, history, English language and film. Also offline, his natural curiosity has led to work as a field researcher for the Public Monuments & Sculpture Association for a soon to be published reference work and at The Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool cataloging their art collection. He was also a volunteer in one of the media centres at 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester.

Links:

feeling listless [http://feelinglistless.blogspot.com/]
HeardSaid [http://heardsaid.blogspot.com/]

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