What the hell is a weblog?You tell me.

My quick definition: a weblog is a page that's updated regularly, with links and commentary, and is usually organized chronologically. That's how I distinguish a weblog from, say, an online journal. An online diary/journal uses the web for publishing, but it isn't really all that different than a paper-based diary. A weblog, however, can't exist in any other medium than the web. Weblogs aren't really just links pages either, since most people don't organize their links pages chronologically, and they don't archive them either.

The real question, though, is why is there a perceived or real "weblog revolution" going on now? I know that I'd never have started Mermaniac if there hadn't been tools like Blogger to make updating the page so simple. So, technology might be one part of the answer.

The existence of a thriving weblogging community (it was Brig's blog portal that first opened my eyes) is also crucial, I think, in explaining why new folks are starting weblogs all the time. The Weblog Monitor is a key tool for creating this community: it shows you what other blogs are out there, it helps you know when someone else's blog has been updated, and it can act as a subtle reminder to update your own blog (at least, it does for me). Just a rough estimate, but I'd bet that at least 3/4 of the weblogs on the Monitor have been updated in the last week, with most of them falling in the "past three days" category. Would everyone be as scrupulous about updating without a reminder like the Monitor? I don't know if I would.

Obviously, I used the phrase "community", but I don't think there is a monolithic "weblog community". Instead, there are lots of little overlapping circles, like a Venn diagram. Maybe that's what gives weblogs their effect. If you just read one weblog, you get one point of view. But if you read several weblogs which refer to each other, you're plopping into a community. Sometimes that's insular, but it may still be part of the reason why other people try to join the fray.



Stay with me on this one.

It involves underwear and risk.

There's a theory of risk called homeostasis - the equation of risk. It simply says that a person retains a certain acceptable level of risk in their lives, and adjust accordingly. For example, a reduction in the speed limit might cause some people to not wear their seat belt, although they would if the limit was higher.

I have a similar theory, relating I suppose to what one would term complexity. Humans need a certain level of complexity in their lives, something to keep the synapses going. This void was once filled by more basic things - keeping the children alive, putting food on the table, etc. But for middle and upper class America (and, indeed, some would say lower class), most of these basic needs are satiated pretty easily.

Ever notice how questions of who's dating who and why this one guy f***ed me over go out the window when a major project is due at work? Or when your mother dies? Or when the person you love dumps you?

And so we tend to search for complexity in other avenues. We make the subtleties of social interaction into an epic tale of good and evil. We incessantly worry about how people perceive our work, how our projects our accepted. We spend hours examining others' efforts, and then more time dissecting them in a new project.

We create complexity where there is none.

And so it is with weblogs. One pitfall of the web is that instantaneous communication and "digital democracy" facilitate this creation of unnecessary complexity, much as the halls of a middle school exacerbate the rumors of youth.

I've visited many logs for over a year now. I use them to generate new ideas and find remote corners of the web I never would see otherwise. I enjoy the esoteric links and innovative ideas, and I dislike hearing how little sleep one got last night or how work is ever so hard.

But I separate my views of wheat and chaff on my own, with nary a whisper to anyone else.

Some months ago, I noticed a trend in my internal sorting bins. The ideas were dwindling, and I was ignoring more and more of the logs. Most of what I ignored was no longer personal complaints, but rather this debate about "what is a weblog" and "do weblogs suck?"

This struck me as rather silly.

In truth, the definition of a weblog is a nonentity, as is most of language. I can call my computer a cow and I am still correct, in my version of English. The term "weblog" is merely a convenience that allows one to give another human being a general idea of what the site might be like. It's never precise.

And, truth be told, what do I - the reader of these logs - care what the definition is as long as I get what I want out of it? And what do you - the writer of these logs - care how others define your work as long as your audience gets your scribbles? And what do you - the critics of these logs - care when the log is ultimately a personal publication?

It's like arguing about someone's underwear. If I'm to get in your pants, I really don't care if you call your underwear a "souffle" as long as I get what I want. You, the wearer (writer) shouldn't care as long a you get what you want. And the critic certainly shouldn't care because, hey, that's a person's underwear.

So why are so many people interested in other people's underwear?

Personally, I think it's part of the complexity trend on the web. All the necessities in our lives are more often than not squared away. We have to fill the gap somehow, and it just so happens that the web is a perfect avenue.

Low start-up fee, content for everyone is already posted, no transportation costs . . . Surfing is old, and the veterans of the web are bored with it. Created real content is difficult, and a lot of us do it for a living.

So what to do in the spare time, what to fill this gap? Why not comment on someone's underwear? Why not respond to someone commenting on my underwear? Why not try to define exactly what underwear is?


Meanwhile, I, the reader am left with little outside the yammering of the underwear pundits. This sucks for the reader, who (I hope? I guess?) was the target of the log in the first place. I want the ideas, the links I can't find anywhere else.

All I wanted was to get into someone's pants.

'thaniel {snfs5806@oberlin.edu}

weblog is just a term. one i once
embraced, but now don't so much.
the term doesn't matter.. many
people mistake their hatred of
the term for the hatred of the
site itself.
any website that is frequently
updated, usually including the
use of a timestamp, runs the risk
of being called a weblog.  but
it doesn't matter.
to really embrace the positive
aspects of daily updates, i had
to learn to hate the term myself.
i never thought i'd agree with
bryan boyer, but reading these
past seven pages, with numerous
references to the word, makes me
want to scream.
weblogs are websites.  they
don't deserve special privileges.
love them like you would your
daughter, but don't put a bumper
sticker on your car bragging about
your honor student.  just sit
back and appreciate what you have.
love the weblog, just don't put the
process before the purpose.

jack saturn {jack@saturn.org}


A weblog is a hypertext snapshot depicting the viral surfing patterns of an individual web user. The etiology of the hyperlinks and adjutant commentary offers a definitive statement about the pathology of the individual. In this sense, weblog is a diagnostic glimpse into a web-addicted personality. Taken together, all weblogs, essentially, form some sort of grand journal of cyberspace plague... :)

BoyCaught {boycaught@lagtime.com}

there are
so many people out there who have so many
good thoughts that others can

benefit from. many of them choose to keep it to themselves, but others choose to share. a weblog can open the door to so many things. it's
thought-provoking. it can be a chance to express generosity. it can also help get the crap out of your system, in any way you want. and, it gives to the
people who need. i wish everyone had a weblog. i wish there were a billion weblogs out there.



For a while, I was like... where am I? How did I miss this weblog thing? I don't get it!

I'm just confused as to why people think this is all revolutionary and stuff.

But Derek's ruminations on the subject made me think that everything gets reinvented every so often. He's all excited about the fun-ness of "weblogging", and so I guess it's just something that's fun to do, and when you can become stoked again about something that had started to become old and ho-hum, then it does seem pretty revolutionary.

Homepage, rants page, online journal, weblog - it's all the same. It's people creating and building the web, and it'll just keep on evolving and changing and being reinvented. It's the same thing, we're just building on it.

Every so often, though, I still get this intense urge to make an announcement to the world... something along the lines of: fuck everyone else, fuck his weblog and her journal and his/her intensely popular personal site that makes mine look like a bunch of crap. I just want to do what i want to do. And if someone notices me, that's nice.

I have a homepage, and I'm proud of it!

sammy {ahtalvik@alphalink.com.au}

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