Tracy Durnell last month two months ago wrote up a thing trying to understand blogs, as in trying “to hone in on what exactly we’re talking about” when we talk about them or use the term. I just want to hit a couple of points here.

(Once again, I need to develop a workflow wherein I capture where I find certain links, especially blog posts. There’s nowhere in the Share Sheet action saving to Instapaper to include a note.)

I was chatting with a friend recently about the awkwardness of the writing in my 2004 blog — aside from being a teenager, it was the first time I was really writing in public and I didn’t feel comfortable in my voice — but I also wonder: maybe part of the awkwardness is that no one really knew how to write online yet? The culture of online self-publishing was still developing — is still developing. At only twenty years old, blogging is frankly still a new medium.

I’m not entirely sure I agree here. As a popular/mainstream sort of thing, “online self-publishing” still might have been coming into its own in 2004 but even just “posting to the web” at that point was like eight-years-old. Prior to that, there were Usenet newsgroups, textfiles, and Bulletin Board Systems.

In a followup prompted by a response to the original, Durnell bears down on something that I think comes up a lot when this subject comes around.

[…] [B]logging is when people create and**claim a platform for themselves. The work is self-motivated. No one’s telling us what to blog about. It’s not fulfilling an assignment. The things people blog about are the things they care about enough to spend their free time considering.

And because it’s not “for a purpose,” because it’s self-directed, a blog post needn’t fit a formal format. A lot of blogging really is ‘talking through ideas’ in text, in real time — the thinking and writing happen together. […] Even when a post is edited before publishing to center a specific conclusion reached through the drafting, a tenor of curious exploration or earnest passion often carries through.

As I said last December, what she refers to as “self-motivated” I deemed “self-solicited”. One of the things that differentiates, to my mind, blogging from social media is that “bloggers almost always are writing because they can’t not” whereas social “constantly demands to be fed either by attention or production […] even in the absence of a legitimate internal need”.

(She perhaps should be glad that she “wasn’t paying attention to The Blog Discourse back in the 2000s”, because it means she missed all the “A-list” drama.)

Durnell in her first piece notes that “in classic blogger mode, I am doing zero research and opinion-dumping” and asks for pointers “to good examples if someone covered this ground ages ago”.

My go-to for this sort of thing always has been Rebecca Blood, since she literally wrote the book (and edited a second) and her website still has a helpful list of her early writings on the subject—including Q&As with other bloggers of the era.

Referring posts: Blogging’s Memory Hole