Is blogging something new? I wonder. As you notice, I have done some experiments in blogging lately, and it is really a becoming a big hype. So, why is that? There are two reasons I can think of. One, it is content management trivialised. Two, it is a scalable alternative to netnews.
The technology of blogging (short for weblogging) allows for fast and easy updates of a website. It is an ASP approach to content management. You change your blog through a website interface. Fancier versions, such as Google’s Blogger, even allow you to e-mail stuff to the blog, or push it from a photo management site such as http://www.fototime.com/. The price you pay for this simplicity is reduced website structuring and layout opportunities, but we seem to have had it with experimental design anyway. Keeping a weblog is not particular new. A lot of people have been keeping diaries on the Internet for a long time. As an example look at my dad’s www.van-eyk.net/gerard/dagboek which has been going on since 1999.
The hype around blogging is based on the growing importance of non-professional or independent news makers, who challenge the industry. I guess the volume of this has gone up, and thus the importance. To some extent this is helped by a technology that often accompanies blogging: RSS. RSS (allegedly stands for real simple syndication) is a way to let automatic tools check out ‘what’s new’. In the early days of networking, and actually outside of the Internet, netnews was a way to push news, written by netnews users, to servers around the world.
When I first got in touch with netnews, there were around 500 newsgroups, and all that news could be pushed through a dial-up connection. I stopped counting around 20.000 when some Internet providers had to dedicate fulltime staff just to keep it flowing. Newsnet was, and still is, organised in newsgroups with a name such as rec.humor.funny. The role of these groups is now taken over by websites that aggregate news, and blogs, which effectively are moderated newsgroups. RSS facilitates that, and an RSS reader will effectively take the place of the newsreader. In the past, the news was stored locally on a server. Currently, it is pulled directly from the source. There aren’t a lot of local servers anymore, and everybody is mostly online anyway. RSS’s main contribution to the mechanics of media hype is that it allows fast and automatic notification of changes. With this comes the opportunity for flamewars, which we know so well from email and netnews. So we are back full circle.