all blogs are equal – but some blogs are more equal

two observations got me started:

1: awhile ago, boingboing was almost my homepage. i say almost, because nothing can beat still, boingboing was surely way up there in my most visited pages. when they introduced adds to their sidebars, it really dissapointed me. so i stopped visiting boingboing via my browser and instead kept reading them via rss. recently boingboing has introduced google adds to their rss feed. this really pissed me off. now there’s only hoping some friendly coder will write a shrook add-on tool that helps to block these adds… ugh.

2: a few days ago xeni jardin of made one of her very rare faux pas. she blogged the monkey cleaning window thing weeks after it had made the rounds (and a few days later it was david peskovitz turn with the rocky spoof. for once i had beat boingboing to something. i noticed within me a big elation about this, a feeling almost like spite. i could just barely hold myself back from getting up to do a little dance around my desk chanting “nah nah nah nah nahhh”… no, just kidding. strike that last part.

these emotion surprised and shocked me. it was not the first time they had occured, because yes, its true, even boinboing makes the occasional faux pas – and sometimes manages to piss me off royally. but this time i tried to understand these emotions. what was going on here? i realised how very smallminded this was, fed by jealousy and a sense of inferiority – at best. definitely not cool. i was aware, that i was not the only one with such feelings – i have encountered other bloggers similar elation on their blogs. but that did not make it any better at all.

are we simply jealous of boingboing’s huge succes? this is true, but after a few days of pondering this i now wonder, if this is really all of it. could there not be more to this? maybe it was not all based only in smallmindedness after all, maybe it pointed to other issues, something that i will try to describe now:

blog ≠ blog

my first point would be, that blog has become too small a word. i am reminded of what joi ito said during his talk last september @ ars electronica in linz. he was saying that some form of destinction will have to be made between various types of bloggers and blogs. he was talking mostly about a destinction of the different approaches towards blogging, from semi-profesional to purely hobby. i totally agree with that. but i would much more stress the other part of the distinction, the one between different kinds of blogs as defined by their content.

some blogs are still mostly online journals and in that much closer to the original meaning of what blogs are. which is also where the term weblog came from. these are the blogs where mostly teenage bloggers moan about their personal dramas and boyfriends.

other blogs, like boingboing, have evolved closer towards classic news media. some of them into full-blown online mags of sorts. they have become a very fast, very hip news source. if something does not make it to boingboing, it’s not news. in that they have moved very close to more classic media sources, yet are often faster and better informed.

still other blogers use the blog-software mostly as a simple and flexible CMS to push all kinds of content from recipes, to parenting tipps, to all kinds of artistic content.

and yet others are using blogs as a sort of distributed messageboard where they exchange themselves with their friends and colleagues.

and most blogs are actually a mixture of all or some of the above, which i think is what mine would have to be classified in.

so maybe a new terminology is what is called for, with new names for these various types of blogs. maybe we have to get creative and start talking of nlogs, jlogs, vlogs, bblogs. maybe not… huh. but at any rate, we need to find a distinction that sticks and that is easyly communicated to the classic media. because that is where this lack of distinction creates the biggest confusion. recently swiss tv sfdrs spoke about blogs and created a big mishmash of online journals, webcams and what not else. nothing to do with how i and many others define their blogs.

the power taboo

with blogs starting to make money, transparency regarding their editorial choices is another big issue. please excuse me. if i keep using boingboing as an example here, it’s because boingboing is the “blog” i have followed closest over these last few years. it’s always exiting to read boingboing, they do a really great job, all of them are great writers, but i have never been able to quite figure out what their criteria are for featuring – or not featuring – certain content. and these criteria are not really made transparent by them.

most of it, of course, makes total sense. when it comes to copyright issues, internet politics and news about blogging it’s always cristal clear. but in their fringe interests things become slightly more mushy. for instance, i have sent them quite a few links, that i was then – and i still am – convinced would perfectly fit into boingboing content. yet they have never mentioned them. on at least one occasion i can remember they did blog them awhile later, but not quoting me as the source.

so i think thee criteria would have to be made transparent. because with a huge readership comes power. quite a few servers have crashed after websites were mentioned on boinboing. but that’s of course not the issue. the real question is, when is the line crossed between boingboing blogging the news and making the news?

on the other hand, i have started to not quote boingboing as my source when i mention stuff i read there first. or actually, sometimes i do quote them, and sometimes i dont. in that way i have already upgraded them to other more classic news sources, that i handle the same way. in a way they are like the daily news.

boing boing is a self-runner. most of the links they blog get sent to them by smart people, who know what is needed, if you want to make it in the blogosphere. so there is just no way anyone could even compete with them. of course they will always get the news first, because people have started to send it to them first to break it. this also explains my elation, when they do make a faux pas. but also, in through this particularity they have started to move closer to classic news channels, with scoops fed to them by direct sources.

a new terminlogy called for by new forms

maybe if this distinctions between various types of blogs will start to occur this will also mean new forms, as in new types of website archtiectures, will evolve. again i mention boinboing as an example. much of it is grat, but they could do a much better job in keeping apart their “breaking news” and their personal obsessions. for instance, i dont care at all about cory’s obsession with all things disney. but pretty much everything else he blogs about i could not, would not want to miss. boingboing also blogs so much daily, that it is often hard to pick out the goodies from the pile. so maybe “online mag blogs” like boingboing need to change from their flat, new content adds on top, form to a more high-lighted representation, maybe in the form of a newsportal where certain news make the heads and the other blog is happening as usual in the back. while online journals could find other forms to visually communicate what they are about.

comment by matthias gutmann errr gutfeldt:

I hate to see historic facts messed up like this! Even if you weren’t around to witness it, why didn’t you just look at the well-known accounts of the actual history of weblogs? You would have found that the original blogs were anything but “online journals” akin to today’s teenage blogs.

Suggested reading:
Camworld: About
rebecca blood :: weblogs: a history and perspective
Userland: The history of weblogs

Of course boingboing and other extremely popular sites (/., mefi, etc.) do play a large role in defining the public image of blogs. But I actually didn’t know about boingboing at all until a couple months ago! I added boingboing to my feedreader, naturally, but never found anything they mentioned particularly interesting, so I removed them again.

And let’s not confuse these few “stars” with what’s actually out there. Gazillions of websites and blogs are unknown to “the masses”, and yet they still influence and define the Web.

Full disclosure, credit where due: These are also age-old subjects. I believe there are lots of honest mistakes. For example, although I always try to cite my sources (this is particular fun when they try to delete what they said), I’m sure I have occasionally forgotten to give credit where due. And I’m not even a high-volume blogger!

About the Author

Jan Zuppinger has been writing this blog since 2002. He likes to grow vegetables. He likes to eat them too. He has opinions on everything, but sadly no one cares. Jan Zuppinger is not joking, just joking, he is joking, just joking, he's not joking. *click.