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That Blog Thing

(September 26, 2003) - Blogs represent a changing point in the use of the web. While their content is amazing (over 3 Million Blogs) and the technology interesting (instant online publication with interactive capacity built in), the phenomenon is really about a subtle shift in perception. Many of the things that blogs can do are not all that different from first generation websites. Rather, blogs represent a fuller articulation of many of the original ideas that drove the web's early success.

You may not remember the earliest versions of web pages. They were, more often than not, personal statements about the technology itself. In the very early days, it was quite hard to imagine that corporate websites would become as big, sprawling and dominant as they have become. Most early websites included pointers to other interesting discoveries. The practice was so widespread that early users had a difficult time believing that an operation like Yahoo could become viable. Yahoo, was just more of what everyone else was doing at the time.

Now that we're nearly finished grieving the collapse of the 'dot-com bubble', the blog explosion represents both a return to the roots of web idealism and a solid move forward in the democratization of web technologies. For a pittance (in money, the investment in time is somewhat large), any user can have access to easy to use sophisticated web publishing capabilities. Until very recently, embedded discussion, link manipulation, news-room process management, content syndication, licensing, tracking and storage were all high end product functions of content management systems.

Blogs are both a throwback and an advance. Often, this is how technology moves. We are fondly reminded of the farm of Apple Lisa machines we bought to automate a large publications operation. A decade later, the project succeeded using other machines with the same underlying idea. Throwback and advance.

Technology weasels its way into human life in a pattern that resembles the African 'call and response' music that is the foundation of contemporary popular music. It never happens all at once but is the result of innovations in the choir itself. The chant gets going and takes on a life of its own.

One thing is pretty clear. The standards and approaches for the next wave of web innovation are being defined and built in and around the blog community. For sure, the wave will gather momentum and grow beyond anything currently imagined. Equally as certain is the fact that we'll return to these same questions in preparation for Web 3.0 in a decade or so.

Over the next week, we'll take a deeper look at the dozen things we think are really important about blogs. Long time readers may remember our blog experiment from last year, the 5th Constituency. In particular, we looked at a dozen things about blogs. Consider next week a long update.

Here's the play list.

  1. Blogs emphasize the stickiest of content, live human minds.
  2. Blogs are predominantly social, not technical.
  3. Blogs are conversational.
  4. Blogs revitalize the importance of linking.
  5. Blogs focus on credibility and reputation.
  6. Blogs create ongoing conversations with an audience.
  7. Blogs assume the use of  multiple channels for communications.
  8. Blogs demand substance first, design second.
  9. Blogs demonstrate the viability of ongoing usability experiments.
  10. Blogs provide a platform for the emergence of non-search subject matter guides.
  11. Blogs represent the return of human control to the technical swirl.
  12. Blogs are the source of the standards that will drive Web 2.0

John Sumser

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