Thursday, November 03, 2005

The culture of blogging

From one of my favorite online references wikipedia, the history of blog is smmarized as

Blogging begins
Blogging combined the personal web page with tools to make linking to other pages easier, specifically blogrolls and TrackBacks, as well as comments and afterthoughts. This way, instead of a few people being in control of threads on a forum, or anyone able to start threads on a list, there was a moderating effect that was the personality of the weblog's owner. Justin Hall, who began eleven years of personal blogging in 1994 while a student at Swarthmore College, is generally recognized as one of the earliest bloggers.

The term "weblog" may have been coined by Jorn Barger in December 1997. The horter version, "blog", was coined by Peter Merholz, who, in April or May of 1999, broke the word weblog into the phrase "we blog" in the sidebar of his weblog. [1] This was interpreted as a short form of the noun [2] and also as a verb to blog, meaning "to edit one's weblog or a post to one's weblog". The site Open Diary, while not using the term blog until recently, launched in 1998, had over 2000 diaries by 1999, and near 400 000 as of September 2005. Blog usage spread during 1999, with the word being further popularized by the near-simultaneous arrival of the first hosted weblog tools: Evan Williams and Meg Hourihan's company Pyra Labs launched Blogger (which was purchased by Google in February 2003) and Paul Kedrosky's GrokSoup. As of March 2003, the Oxford English Dictionary included the terms weblog, weblogging and weblogger in their dictionary. [3]

One of the pioneers of the tools that make blogging more than merely websites that scroll is Dave Winer. One of his most important contributions was the creation of servers which weblogs would ping to show that they had been updated. Blog reading utilities use the aggregated update data to show a user when their favorite blogs have new posts.

I started thinking about the use of blogs by people I know.

Content [audience]
  • Sharing ideas or opinions [for others]
  • logging thoughts [for self]
  • Initiate discussions [for self and others]
  • logging online resources [for self]
  • dumping personal experiences [nobody, maybe]
  • ...

Lu, Xun (a Chinese writer) wrote an article titled "a memoir, so to forget" (unofficial title, I made it up. There must be a better translation). The main idea of the title is that the reason he wrote the piece is because he wanted to start the healing from the experiences he accounted in that article. I like this title a lot (sure, the chinese version). The main reason I wrote some of the blog posts is also I want them to be off my mind. (Sooner or later, I probably will write in my blog, "final exam, 3rd drawer") since I am an organizer. Not only I want the physical space surrounding me organized, I also want to have an organized mind. One rule in the principles of getting things organized is that you must have a place to dump. This dumping station should be very accessible (easy to dump), and very visible (hard for you to forget to attend). I also remember a short story I read years ago:

Two cities want to compete for the title of "cleanest city". One prohibits harshly its residents from dumping trash on the street but ends up with trash in every corner. So the mayor goes the other city and sees really clean streets. He wonders how the other mayor has done that. He later found out that, in the other city, the residents were told where to dump.

Naturally, we (should I say "I", just speaking for myself?) need a place to dump. For our mails, for our teaching notes, for our research notes. Now, we (or I) need place to dump our opinions, ideas, feelings, joys, etc. But when I dump, Ialso need to show them. This part of my blogging behavior always makes me think. A friend of mine said that blogging is a subtle way of "showing off" and that is why he does not blog. Well, that is too harsh, or is it? Is the whole culture of blogging driven by people's internal desire to show off? Simply because it is more subtle than most other ways of showing off, it gets such popularity. Or shall I think more positively? People blog because they want to participate in a collective thinking community?


Hongyuan said...

I think blog is just a place to records things happened around us and our thoughts within certain periods. It is also an outlet to release feelings and mood. Through such record, we can share something among friends, relatives and oursleves, even though they are far away. Through the record, I sometimes surprisingly find many people are not the way I thought before. A guy who plays football everyday also knows much about history, politics and literature. Many people have their ups and downs. We have the same eager concern and sometimes doubts about our ways of living, our future and so on. Through the comments, you might feel that you are just chatting and discussing issues with your friends, though not at the same time and place. It is sometimes more efficient and convenient than online chatting. :)

Tian Zheng said...

so, blogging is also for an asyhchronized conversation. :)

Nice chatting with u!

Yuejing said...

Today when I called back to my dorm friends in China, they said it seemed that I just lived near them. Although I'm actually so far away from them now, they knew every bit of life of mine through my blog. For me, blogging is not for dumping, not for showing off, but for sharing. Just as you said, blogging is also for an asyhchronized conversation.