What are weblogs?

It seems that my bit of navel gazing about blogs has attracted a lot of attention. Among some of the things that came up, though, is that there is no clear agreement as to what blogs are. So in the search for definition, I went back to trying to figure out what people mean when they talk about weblogs and whether blogs are indeed journalism.

If you take Dave Winer’s definition, you end with a definition that is much more limited than thinking of blogs as journalistic tools. Let’s examine the four basic tenet Winer presents as the basis for a blog:

  • A weblog is personal: if that is truly the case, what does this mean for “community weblogs” like Slashdot and Metafilter ? Things they are not driven by a single person, can they truly be called weblogs? And what about the whole trend of companies setting up weblogs? Doesn’t that go against this concept?
  • A weblog is on the Web: It’s pretty much a given (hence the weblog name). But so are web pages? What is the big difference between a Geocities personal page and a weblog? Is there any? Is it just the rate of updates?
  • A weblog is published: Does that mean that any CMS tool is a weblog? Does it mean that only cheap or free ones are?
  • a weblog is part of communities: Once again, the same could be said of any web page grouping.

It seems that there are few answers to be found here. Looking for more details, I ended up re-reading Meg’s “what we’re doing when we blog”. In it, Meg talks about the weblogs-are-links-plus-commentary definition. Is that it? Does that then make any page of links with a few commentaries a weblog? Does that mean that Dmoz a weblog? It has links and commentary on each link. Each of those is categorized in a group? I’m being facetious here as I don’t think it’s a blog but it does technically fit the description.

Meg does provide a good framework for what weblogs are. Based on her extended definition, a weblog includes short posts and links, an email address (does that mean I don’t have a blog since I offer a web form instead of an email address?), and is united by common tools that “spit out our varied content in the same format — archives, permalinks, time stamps, and date headers”. So is that format the basic point of blogs? And is the assertion that “Weblogs simply provide the framework, as haiku imposes order on words” the core of the weblog revolution?

If so, what is the big deal? There are many formats out there and it seems that a particular writing format does not a revolution make. And if it is just a new writing style, it cannot possibly be journalism (since journalism is a task and not a format) but can be applied to journalism.

Somehow, though, I think that I am missing something here. Otherwise, why would there be so much fascination about blogs? There is a bigger story and I cannot put my finger on it. If you can, please contact me!

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