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section heading icon     blogging types

This page discusses types of blogs.

It covers -

section marker     filters

Much of the more arid academic debate about blogging has concerned definitions, in particular efforts to characterise blogs as a particular genre with distinct structures.

Early observers of blogging suggested that there are two basic styles of blog: the 'filter' and the 'journal'.

Both usually have a reverse chronological structure, with the most recent content at the top of the page and the oldest at the bottom (or accessible through an 'archive' link).

Most early blogs were link-driven, pointing to other sites on a daily or weekly basis. The pointers were annotated to varying degrees: some were embedded in mini-essays; others with a commentary that did not extend much beyond 'look at this'.

Some were written with considerable verve. Others were marked by a self-consciously in-your-face or no-holds-barred tone - what an otherwise indulgent Wired article on Mr Winer characterised as "mouth off first, loudly, and often". Chris Anderson proclaimed in Blogging Heroes: Interviews With 30 of the World's Top Bloggers (New York: Wiley 2008) edited by Michael Banks that "Blogs are wildly imperfect, and therein lies their beauty, because they are wildly authentic". Authenticity, it appears, is all ... although presumably easily mimicked through wild imperfection

As a mechanism for selecting, evaluating and aggregating information across the web - 'filtering' or 'pre-surfing' - the significance of such blogs is largely dependent on the expertise (or entertainment value) of the authors.

Like traditional abstracting services they can be a superb way of identifying information that might be overlooked and placing it in context or looking under the hood. They also provide an opportunity for rolling updates of resources such as Charles Bailey's online Scholarly Electronic Publishing Bibliography.

The downside is that much filtering is self-referential: bloggers pointing to other blogs or to information that's neither fresh nor assessed.

section marker     journals

Rebecca Blood suggests that the "post-Blogger explosion" resulted in the emergence of the online short-form journal, ranging from terse aphorisms to lengthy meditations about poisoning pigeons in the park or deconstruction of The Sopranos.

The automated uploading and management of text through services such as Blogger meant that authors were able to "instantaneously update the page at their whim or impulse", with one promoter suggesting that

in a blog you can focus on a single topic, writing your thoughts on a daily basis, or write the daily occurrences of your life if you want. Some people also use blogs as a way of discussing their thoughts on many different topics.

In practice, since updating a blog is as easy as sending email, some groups in Japan, North America and Europe update several times a day. New York Times reporter David Carr compared a blog to

a large yellow Labrador: friendly, fun, not all that bright, but constantly demanding your attention.

Demographic information about blogging is problematical. Overall there appears to be a shift towards the youth market, from over 25's and thirty-somethings to teens (particularly female teens). Blogger claims to have around 250,000 'members'. Most LiveJournal users are apparently female and aged 15 to 21.

There have been suggestions that the revolution was short-lived, fading once authors found that they didn't have much to say, that their writing hadn't secured a major global/sectoral readership or that their peers were similarly disillusioned. Nothing like the online equivalent of a slide night with a boring accountant ... although fans of boring images can turn to the various webcam sites for a display of "surveillant narcissism".

ezine's Ben Brown sniffed that

Sorry, buddy - you're just a dork who can't come up with anything more than a paragraph or two to say every day. You're not a designer, you're not a writer, and you're not an editor!

Perhaps he'd been reading the journal on Slashdot that featured

wow. I was walking to school yesterday, and I found this big fat tube just lying on the ground. I picked it up, and it spent the day in my locker. I took it home. It's cool.

or the Australian blog that reports

i had a really long shower before, it was so nice. my shoulders were all red afterwards because the water was so hot. i love that feeling u get after you get out of a hot shower. *sleeps*

i wonder who reads this........*ponders*

Zeldman's A List Apart groaned "not another weblog", a

genre of personal site which requires no effort to design or maintain and whose numbers, maybe for that very reason, are multiplying faster than rabbits on spanish fly. It's a genre of site which frequently creates no value whatsoever, yet demands to be taken seriously.

Some characteristic responses are here and there is now an AntiBloggies competition, whose organiser sniffs

One of the things I don't like is the blog where someone says something like, 'Today I had a cheese sandwich.' That's the kind of thing you see in most of these blogs. You know, fascinating. I don't give a flying ... whatever what you ate. Don't tell me you have a flat tire. And if this is how boring their writing is, I can't imagine how boring they must be to talk to in general.

The Washington Times mocked blogger narcissism in 2007, announcing that

Our blogs are posted on carbon-neutral Web servers, using certified organic computer personnel and biodegradable pixels. That means when you link to our blogs, you're actually helping to fight global warming. We know that makes you feel good about yourself — and isn't that what's really important?

John Hiler of Microcontent News fretted that

my problem isn't with blogs written by dumb people. My problem is with blogs written by smart people, when they have egos like a runaway train. Hmm, even that's a bit reductionist. I have a sneaking suspicion that it's not entirely a coincidence that blogs and ego so often go together. In other words, it's not my fault ... my blog made me do it! (this is my version of the "Twinkie Defense").

There seems to be something about the blog format itself that seems to encourage an almost cancerous growth of our egos.

Hiler's subsequent Blogosphere: the emerging Media Ecosystem article was more positive, claiming that

Just log onto the web and you're in the Blogosphere. Geography has become irrelevant.

... you don't have to be European to participate. The Blogosphere is increasingly global, and as more and more countries come online it will become even more so. Even language barriers are starting to come down, due to tools like Google's Translator. ...

the Blogosphere is free - both for bloggers and for readers. For less than a price of a cup of coffee, you can take part in the global conversation with some of the smartest and most informed people on the planet. What are you waiting for?

Trevor Butterworth said in 2006

If the pornography of opinion doesn't leave you longing for an eroticism of fact, the vast wasteland of verbiage produced by the relentless nature of blogging is the single greatest impediment to its seriousness as a medium

Sarah Allen asked whether blogging is the vanity press of the internet, albeit more respectable because it is inexpensive and easy. "If your uncle's dog has a website, why not you?"

Uber-blogger Jason Calacanis - via a media conference, no less - announced that he had quit blogging, claiming that

I'm looking for something more acoustic, something more authentic and something more private. Blogging is simply too big, too impersonal, and lacks the intimacy that drew me to it.

The "a-list" pressure, the TechMeme leaderboard debates, and constant accusations of link-baiting are now too much of a distraction. ... Today the blogosphere is so charged, so polarized, and so filled with haters hating that it's simply not worth it. I'd rather watch from the sidelines and be involved in a smaller, more personal, conversation.

There is an upbeat defence in Weblogging: Another kind of website by Chris Ashley in Berkeley Computing & Communications. Although blogging won't cure cancer or remove warts it will, apparently, teach introspection.

Blog guru Rebecca Blood exulted that

I noticed two side effects I had not expected. First, I discovered my own interests. I thought I knew what I was interested in, but after linking stories for a few months I could see that I was much more interested in science, archaeology, and issues of injustice than I had realized. More importantly, I began to value more highly my own point of view. In composing my link text every day I carefully considered my own opinions and ideas, and I began to feel that my perspective was unique and important. This profound experience may be most purely realized in the blog-style weblog ...

The blogger, by virtue of simply writing down whatever is on his mind, will be confronted with his own thoughts and opinions. Blogging every day, he will become a more confident writer. A community of 100 or 20 or 3 people may spring up around the public record of his thoughts. Being met with friendly voices, he may gain more confidence in his view of the world

Literary scholar Alexandre Enkerli asked whether blogging was a new genre of "impulse writing". Viviane Serfaty's The Mirror and the Veil: An Overview of American Online Diaries and Blogs (New York: Rodopi 2004) offers a literary analysis

The literal function of a screen is precisely to conceal and as a result of this perception, all kinds of highly controversial discourses are freely displayed on the Net. The screen seemingly offers a protection against the gaze of others, enably each diary writer to disclose intimate thoughts and deeds, thus attempting to achieve transparency and braking the taboo of opacity regulating social relationships ...

Without the prohibition of intimate disclosure, there would be no transgression. The prohibition therefore is constitutive of the meaning of self-revelation on the Internet.

Tom Munnecke, in questioning our scepticism about much blogging, commented that

Blogs are an opportunity for people to tell their own story. People can write what they want without intruding on other people's attention. This taps a deeply rooted "intrinsic" need, and this is what will cause blogs to "cascade."

We suggest that gaining 'readership' is just as important an intrinsic need: if you're not going to be read, why publish? Gadfly Geert Lovink identified a 'nihilist impulse' in blogging, arguing that blogs should "not be reduced to news" and that

instead, the mass drift to write online diaries should be seen as a defence mechanism to zero-out mainstream media and create a space for contemplation and confession.

The July 2006 Pew Internet & American Life Project report claimed that most US bloggers

are focused on describing their personal experiences to a relatively small audience of readers and that only a small proportion focus their coverage on politics, media, government, or technology

with 76% indicating that they blog to document "personal experiences and share them with others" and 37% reporting that the primary topic of their blog is "my life and experiences".

Blog guru Robert Scoble characterised a blog as the "single voice of a person", going on to complain in 2007 that the 'Techmeme Top 100 List' heralded "the death of blogging" -

Most of the things on the list are now done by teams of journalists - that isn't blogging anymore in my book.

section marker     tumblelogs

Tumblelogs or micro-blogs are discussed in more detail at the end of this profile.

They have been characterised as "to weblogs what text messages are to email" and have been lauded as 'stream of consciousness' blogging.

section marker     language

Researchers for the Oxford English Dictionary claimed in 2007 that "the 15 most frequently used words in the blogosphere" (presumably the Anglo part of the blogosphere) are -

[four letter word beginning with s]

The final page of this profile offers a brief explanation of some blog jargon.

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version of July 2008
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