Tuesday, 22 June 2010

how blogging has started ?

A blog (a portmanteau of the term "web log")[1] is a type of website or part of a website. Blogs are usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video. Entries are commonly displayed in reverse-chronological order. "Blog" can also be used as a verb, meaning to maintain or add content to a blog.
Many blogs provide commentary or news on a particular subject; others function as more personal online diaries. A typical blog combines text, images, and links to other blogs, Web pages, and other media related to its topic. The ability of readers to leave comments in an interactive format is an important part of many blogs. Most blogs are primarily textual, although some focus on art (Art blog), photographs (photoblog), videos (Video blogging), music (MP3 blog), and audio (podcasting). Microblogging is another type of blogging, featuring very short posts.
As of December 2007, blog search engine Technorati was tracking more than 112,000,000 blogs.[2]
I decided to do a quick research project. When was the first mention of blog, blogging or weblogs? How does July 25, 1999 sound? (quick note, by 'research' I mean...let me spend about an afternoon playing with this)
Update: I guess I could have gone to Wikipedia and found this. Wikipedia dates the first use of the word as 1997, with rapid growth in 1999.
This was the first metion I found. It is a post to the newly created deja.comm.weblogs USENET group.
A description of weblogs
This Deja community is for discussion of 'weblogs', a comparatively new sort of personal webpage where you share your thoughts about the interesting webpages you visit, usually on a daily basis.
Authors of weblogs are encouraged to post here about the problems and potentials of maintaining a log, and others are welcome to ask questions or make comments on these topics.

A follow-up post on July 27 by Edward Vielmetti contained this comment:
Any aspiring software developer want to write "My Blog", and then any aspiring author want to write "Blogging for Dummies?"
Oh Ed, if you only took it upon yourself. Ed's comment also discussed how there was no software solution to create a blog. He was using simple text editors to cut/paste new content in.
I would assume that the term blog or blogging was used earlier, but like all history, it is made by those who write it. Do you know of any earlier mention? Let me know.
The basis for my search was USENET. For those of you not familiar with USENET it was where all the action was. Back in the 80's and early 90's if you had any technical question or wanted to discuss any topic in detail USENET was the place to go. I figured the initial discussions about blogs would take place in USENET.
I used Google's Group Search to search USENET messages. (a traditional Google search does provide a date next to a link, but you cannot sort by date.) Google Groups allowed me to search USENET posts from 1981 to the present. In other words, pre-WWW. The search results can also be sorted by date.
Another resource could have been Blog FAQ's, but most of them are focused more on the setup/use of blogs rather than the history.
I started off by searching for three different terms: blog, blogging and weblog. One of the issues with 'weblog' is that it can also refer to stats stored by a web server. So many of the results contained technical discussions of web server stats.
To help narrow my search on selected words, I would use the advanced search option to limit my date range, for example blog, for the year 1989. In continued changing the year variable.
The term 'blog' was also used to describe software to keep track of bowling scores.
The first mention of blog or weblog in reference to a 'blog' came up first in the 1999 search. There are many entries dated in December, including the first USENET spam/ad for a blog service.
Sorting the results by date showed the post on July 25, 1999 to be the first. Subsequent searches in 2000 and on show a marked increase in use of the term.
Another resource that could help this search would be archives of e-mail discussion lists. Many technical issues had lists devoted to them (remember the days of Majordomo!). Unfortunately, it is difficult to search the archives of these lists.
I expect to receive proof/documentation/URLs of earlier mentions. If I do, I will post them here.
While amusing myself by reading about the reignited discussion on blog advertising, sponsored posts, etc. (see recent posts by Chris Brogan and Marshall Kirkpatrick of ReadWriteWeb), I thought long and hard about trying to jump into that debate.
Instead of adding noise to that discussion (I have limited experience in monetization of a blog), I thought I’d discuss a theme that both men touch upon in their posts:  where did blogging come from?  Stick with me, folks:  although this is going to be a meta discussion, I want to point you toward a resource that shows that this is actually an old question with some history that might be relevant to today.
printing press
Image by gastev

What is blogging?

Two interesting points of view come from both Chris and Marshall’s posts.  Marshall calls blogging a young medium, per the following:
Blogging is a beautiful thing. The prospect of this young media being overrun with “pay for play” pseudo-shilling is not an attractive one to us.
His point of view is pretty clear on a certain form of monetization (the process or means of using your blog to generate income).
Chris talks about bloggers (i.e. those of us who write online and use blogging software to publish and distribute our work) in the following paragraph:
Bloggers aren’t journalists. Bloggers are people who use blogging software. There are journalists who blog. There are bloggers who aspire to journalistic standards.
And so on.
Well, guess what?  The antecedents of blogs aren’t exactly new things.  Amateur writers and self-publishers have been around for a long, long time.
Before we had blogs, we had these things called zines.

What are zines?

Zines (short for fanzines) are amateur publications which are normally created and distributed by their author or, in some cases, a small team of people.  Zines are normally written by average people who have a near obsessive interest about some topic and the energy to create material about it.  Zines have been published independently for many, many years, or within the confines of an amateur press association (APA).
APAs have been around since 1876 (the National Amateur Press Association – is still alive and kicking as of the writing of this blog post; I used to belong to APA Centauri, which has been kicking around for close to 30 years).  Zines and blogging have really been around since the days of Martin Luther and Paul of Tarsus, although they weren’t called zines or blogs in those days.  True, they might not have had hyperlinks or any electronic presence, but many common concepts apply.
The Inner Swine is an example of a zine, written by Jeffrey Somers, which also happens to have a cool little Web presence.

How are zines like blogs and vice versa?

The Inner Swine (vol. 7, Issue 2 June 2001) has an article called Mr. Mute’s Guide To Making A Zine which helps illustrate the point that I’m trying to make.  The article lists five points about making a zine, which I’m going to paraphrase here:
  1. Decide what kind of zine you’re going to put out - Jeffrey lists different types of zines like perzines (zines about a person’s life experience), music zines, and more.  Sound familar?
  2. Actually create some material – same as blogging: you gotta write stuff, take photos, etc.
  3. Then, just @#$%ing do it. Typeset, layout, collate, etc. - similar to the process of putting some life behind your content with formatting, images, hyperlinks, etc.
  4. Give the @#$%ing thing away – isn’t most blogging just giving content away?
  5. Stop &*@#ing off on your first issue and put out the second. – in other words, keep going.  Repeat.

The biggest difference between zines and blogs – publication and distribution

The biggest difference between these two types of content are publication (call it Webification, if you like) and distribution.   Pubication is the process of creating the finished product.  Distribution is the process of getting the product out to places where people can find and read it.
In the pre-electronic era, zine publishers had to spend increasingly large amounts of money to distribute their content.  Publication also cost some money, but it was mainly things like printer ink, paper, etc.  Mass production of a zine was the cost of photocopying, which could add up if you wanted to create hundreds of copies.
I would argue, however, that distribution would have been the real killer.  Either you:
  • mailed out the zine
  • distributed it by hand
  • or convinced some book store, music store or comic book store owner to carry the zine for you.
For example, I got my copy of The Inner Swine several years ago at a cool book store called Quimby’s in Chicago.  You can buy zines from Quimby’s, and the small number of places like it around the world, and then somehow the author would get reimbursed.  Mr. Mute (or Mr. Sowers, I guess) talks about giving your zines away (point 4) but the realities of distribution is that many zine authors would distribute by mail at a moderate price to help cover the costs of distribution.
The interesting thing is that zine publishers built up their distribution networks over time with a combination of word of mouth advertising; zine trades; reviews (good old Factsheet Five); and places like Quimby’s.
It’s worth noting that zine publishers did go electronic prior to the Web era with mailing lists, news groups, bulletin boards, etc.

Bloggers have it easy when it comes to publication and distribution

Now, in this era of blogs, publication and distribution basically occur in a single process that’s virtually free to the publisher.  Mind you, you still need to tell the world about your blog, but the resulting networks to help promote content are very similar to the networks that zine publishers use.  Think social media, blog directories, blog reviews, etc.  A blogger can have a reach that many zine publishers would have given their kidneys for at a tiny fraction of the cost.

How much is an independent voice worth?

It’s also worth noting that some zines, like some of today’s blogs, did run ads as a means of cost-recovery or, in other cases, promoting friends, helpers, supporters, etc.  However, zine publishers were mavericks, independents, and free-speakers.  Editorial integrity was highly valued and assumed.
(Um, does this remind you of blogging at all?)
Here’s the thing, though:  paid zine writing, paid articles, etc. for willing sponsors barely existed, if it ever existed.  Why not?  Simple:  the economics just weren’t there. Few zine publishers, if any, could afford the necessary scale of distribution required to reach a mass audience.  I would have been very surprised if any large organization with any kind of ad budget would have deigned to entertain the notion of sponsored articles because zine audiences were selective, often anti-establishment, and too darned small.
The idea of advertiser-sponsored zine publications just would not have entered anyone’s minds (although I suppose it could have happened and some smart reader will find an example to point out where I’m wrong, which I’d like to see, actually) because they would have been seen as a waste of the advertiser’s money.
I do believe, however, that there would have been a few zine-publishers who would have been mighty tempted to cash in on some advertiser money.  It would have been a very human temptation in a marketplace that placed virtually all of the cost and risk in the hands of the publisher.

The new (yet ancient) media

So here we are in the 21st century.  Yes, Marshall, technically blogging is a young media, but the concepts behind it aren’t.  Self-publishing has a very long history and blogging is just the newest iteration with a number of neat value-added features to make it pretty cool.
Should blogging be kept pristine, free of any kind of monetization? I support monetization in principle because even though production and distribution costs are minimal, they still exist in a diminished form and being able to cover those costs is cool.  Moreover, there is always the opportunity cost of blogging (time not spent on other important things) which revenues can help compensate for.
As for whether sponsored posts are ethical, what the right way is to handle them, etc., I’ll let other, more experienced bloggers, marketers, analysts, etc. sort that out.  I really don’t know what to think about them.  I can’t see myself writing advertiser sponsored posts on Broadcasting Brain, but who knows what the future might bring?  (EDIT:  Mitch Joel weighs in with his post Ethics in Blogging for Dollars.)
However, the situations predate the current blogging era, in my opinion, and they will never really go away.  So we have to accept and learn how to deal with them, either by accepting, rejecting, or consciously ignoring them.
So that’s my opinion.  How about you, what do you think?  Do you see parallels between zines and blogs?  Do you see any differences that I might have missed that makes the comparison inaccurate?
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  1. In 1997, Jorn Barger coined the term "weblog" to indicate a page where a person would list his favorite URLs.
  2. Time Frame

  3. In 1993, Netscape began cataloging new websites added to the Internet, and in 1997, John Barger dubbed those catalogs "weblogs." Five years later, Peter Merholz decided he would call his weblog a "wee-blog," which evolved into "blog." In 1999, the website Blogger.com was created as a hub for virtually anyone to create his own blog.
  4. Significance

  5. Originally intended to make the Web more "transparent," according to Barger, by linking an Internet audience to someone's preferred list of sites, blogs have evolved into sites that provide more personal information, akin to an online diary or journal.
  6. Function

  7. Though users still catalog interesting links in their blogs, they also utilize blogs as a bucket for their own art, writing, photographs and music to be viewed and analyzed by others.
  8. Effects

  9. Blogs have become an incredibly popular way to spread media, original thought and favorite Internet sites to a wide variety of people at any time, and some popular bloggers are paid by advertisers to promote their products and services. 

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