I’ve been interested in the idea of blogging for about a year or so. When I first stumbled across the phenomenon in a newspaper article and looked at a few, I was struck by the way it seemed like a return to the spirit of early days of the web. Some of the key sites I used in the early days were the hotlists – collections of urls of interesting stuff on the web. With the good ones, compiled by people who knew what they were talking about, there was a sense of the hotlist as a doorway into an area of ideas. The best blogs have a similar feel with the bonus that the writers often have interesting ideas themselves.
What also struck me was the rebirth of the idea of connection. I don’t know whether it was because of the web becoming more commercial or whether there was something else going on, but there seemed to be a growing number of sites that stood as isolated entities. This seemed to be as true of sites put up by individuals as it was for commercial sites. Although I had been aware of this for a while and wondered why it was that the web was increasingly being seen simply as a publishing medium, rather than as a publishing medium that made connections, it didn’t fully register with my consciousness.
I guess it hadn’t clicked because for most of time my starting point of anything I do on the web was a search engine, first AltaVista and then Google. A search engine is of course nothing but connections, so I missed the point that much of what I was looking at only had connections in and few if any out. So using the web still felt like moving through a network of connections.
What was missing was connections with a point of view. While full-text search engines open up the web in a way that simply wasn’t possible before, the one thing they don’t provide is perspective. As Alan Kay has put it, ““Perspective is worth 50 points of IQ”. Perspective also provides richer information. It’s like when you get know a film reviewer’s perspective – a damming review from some can often mean that you’re sure to like the movie!
I moved from a detached, “isn’t this an interesting phenomenon”, view of blogging in the period leading up to and during the war in Iraq. There was one site Warblogs:cc , which gave access to a number of blogs that I found myself going to several times a day. It didn’t take long for their perspectives to become clear. Some corresponded to my prejudices, others took very different positions. What they did provide was a context where I could get my own position clear, in a way that the newspapers I read and the TV I watched couldn’t match.
Tim Berners-Lee once wrote, “I had (and still have) a dream that the Web could be less of a television channel and more of an interactive sea of shared knowledge. I imagine it immersing us as a warm, friendly environment made of the things we and our friends have seen, heard, believed or figured out. I would like it to bring our friends and colleagues closer, in that by working on this knowledge together we can come to better understandings.”
My sense is that the astonishing growth in blogging is moving us closer to realising Tim Berners-Lee’s dream. And, for that reason, this is one bandwagon I am more than happy to jump on.