August 07, 2003

Why Blogs Matter

Chris is asking wether blogging is really useful or just yet another way to fill the web with junk (as happened to Usenet and e-mail).

The web is 99.999% uninteresting content _for_me_ anyway :) While a lot that is said about social software looks like the late 90ties hype, a lot of the current criticism resembles the early 90ties internet skepticism.

I once saw a plot about the popularity curve of new technologies: flat (most), followed by a huge hype peak (some), followed by a downfall (all), followed by a slow and steady increase when the technology finally matures (few).

I think blogs are a manifestation of personal conversations taking back the web (hmm, sounds quite cluetrainish). Not only trafficwise (they always were important, and the blogs' traffic is hardly significant) but in terms of awareness and power.

There are some crucial differences between the old communication systems and blogs. Usenet and mailing list are organized by topic/time/author, blogs turn this around and usually scrape the topic: They are organized by author and then time (This observation is not mine, I think it was Clay Shirky, but I can't find the reference now). In a sense, the whole blogosphere is a grand distributed discussion system, which uses a white-list based pattern for relevance control instead of a topic-based pattern. This seems to work quite well and I am confident that we the system will be able to handle AOL blogs as well.

Another crucial difference is that the personality of the participating persons moves into the spotlight. This is a departure from the systems where the host of a discussion is a corporation and their branded environment struggles to take the spotlight. Humans come with well developed instincts about social behavior, which can tremendously help our ability to differentiate between junk and valuable mutterings. This turf-owning also spurs the online development of your thoughts: It is always you who defines the agenda. Now and in the future. You own your data.

And the third important thing, which also explains things like moblogs, which arguably are relevant for even less people, is what Elke once said: She thinks, that the underlying meta trend is people desire of rebuilding their existence online.

Others know much more about it. Joi Ito even manages to connect it to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy! :-) Or Phil Ringnalda, who argues that the public nature of blogs yields small town effects.

Posted by seefeld at August 7, 2003 09:01
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Tracked: August 7, 2003 07:26 PM

I'd say first of all blogs matter for the writer of the blog: it simply helps you when you try to write out your thoughts and ideas.

Sure there is tons of bullshit written and posted every day, but there's a lot of good stuff out there too. Researching about weblogs I found out that you come across the good stuff again and again jumping from one blog to another. The good stuff gets know quite fast no matter if you have a name or not.

This is when the fun begins: you get to know these people, you get to interact with these people ... In my experience every trigger is a leading you somewhere and you'll learn something from it.

I don't know where it's going, but I'm sure it leads in an interesting area. I'd highly recommend anyone to start a blog who believes he/she has something to say beyond: 'I like the shape of my butt', or what he/she had for breakfast ... blabla


Posted by: elke at August 7, 2003 03:21 PM

Maybe it's just me but I'm busy enough to keep in touch with people I know from the real world that I simply don't have time to have virtual friends on the side.

Maybe I'm just plain old-fashioned to use the Internet as an information source (and hence in a topic oriented way) and not a social tool. Or only in the sense that it's a tool to support my real world life.

Silly me but if I want to discuss the horrible design of this year's sun glasses I'd rather do it in a nice little cafe, commenting the passerbies, than on the web (-:C

- Buddha

Posted by: Buddha at August 11, 2003 01:17 PM

Silly me, but if I want to discuss the degrees of anonymity in FOAF in a nice little cafe, I tend to very 'really' bore the people around me :-)

(discussing this year's horrible sun glasses on my blog might even entangle me in a discussion with their actual designer. And I probably wouldn't want that either :) )

Posted by: Bernhard Seefeld at August 11, 2003 01:35 PM


Bernhard already told one big advantage of blogs: you can have a conversation with people you normally wouldn't meet. I met Bernhard only once in flesh so far - because we live in two different cities (2 hours of travel for one way).

But I got to know him via his blog and we continue the conversation via his and our blog.

And as Elke said: A blog is as much a tool for yourself than for others. For me it's simply the best mindmapping tool ever.


Posted by: Roger at August 15, 2003 12:08 PM

to buddha:

as my blog is quite young (october 2002), so far i know most of the people who are posting in the flesh. i know it sounds strange, but it keeps you much more connected. by now i get in touch with other people as well e.g. bernhard, who trackbacked/related to anything i said or told someone else who posted it or i find on others peoples blogroll.

since your post has a sort of 'doyouguyslifeinfrontofyourcomputer'-touch: i surely agree there's nothing beyond a nice little caffee, a cappuchino and a chat about god and the world. a blog is just another tool - not a replacement for physical contact.

Posted by: elke at August 15, 2003 03:46 PM
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