Blog And Blog! What Is Blog?! Revisited

Colin Walker said something in the latest round of the “what makes a blog” conversation that has me wondering whether I disagree or whether it’s just a case of autistic inertia making me resist.

I always go back to Dave Winer in his 2003 piece that a blog is the unedited voice of a person. The blogness of a blog is exactly that: the sense of a person, an individual sharing their thoughts with the world. Not a group and certainly nothing that is edited by someone other than the author. If not the writing of a single person it is a collection, a gathering, or compendium.

I would even go so far as to say that a true blog must be a personal endeavour, not just a series of posts about a single subject or topic. That may be presented in a blog-like format but will not have that blogness.

Curious about what Winer had written (I’m sure I must have seen it when he wrote it), I noticed that he actually had some more to say that…wrinkles Walker’s citation a bit. At the time, Winer was looking at a page at the BBC.

It’s missing most of the technical features common to weblogs. I can’t point to an individual bit of writing because it doesn’t have permalinks. It doesn’t have a calendar, and there’s no link to a bio page for each of the authors. There’s another problem — it’s not for one person, it’s a group weblog; and they’re pros, not amateurs. 

On the other hand, they are writing about their own experience. And if there’s editing it hasn’t interfered with the style of the writing. The personalities of the writers come through. That is the essential element of weblog writing, and almost all the other elements can be missing, and the rules can be violated, imho, as long as the voice of a person comes through, it’s a weblog.

Emphasis added because this really is interesting to me. Often, the formal aspects are what people peg as being the blogness of the thing. Here, Winer was looking at a page that lacked most of the formal aspects of a blog, yet he deemed it a weblog because of voice.

My initial harrumph at Walker’s post in part is due to my having been a part of two different group weblogs back in the day: Small Pieces (it looks like most of it went away) and BlueOregon. Neither lacked for voice, and they certainly met the typical although not universal formal aspects.

So, Walker focuses on the individual nature of the personal blog as what makes for blogness, and the very Winer item he cites argues that what matters is voice even if multiple.

Neither of these definitions focuses on the formal aspects. Or, to be fair, what Winer wrote was that an absence of formal aspects can be ignored if voice is present.

At this point, I’ll just call your attention to this 2020 post which I stopped to migrate over because I haven’t done that batch yet. It’s probably my deepest dive into this discussion from the past few years, in part because at the time I was rereading Rebecca Blood’s seminal The Weblog Handbook. I’m not going to except it here; just take a moment when you have a moment, as Blood offers yet another possibility.

“It’s 2023,” Walker begins his post, “so you would have thought this would be locked down by now and we’d all have a firm understanding of what a blog actually is.” If nothing else, perhaps we can say that what defines blogness in part is regularly trying to figure out what is a blog.