A lot of the debate about the Best British Blog comp seems to centre on this word ‘elite’. Maybe I should have said ‘vanguard’ or ‘enlightened’ or ‘pioneers’ or something. Whatever, something unites the first wave of webloggers and it’s probably their general sort of twitchiness and irony and unease about being tagged ‘elite’. This I can understand. It can make you itch, being pointed at, and vanguard-status brings with it obligations.
The way I see it, elites of this sort are useful, important, probably essential. I reckon TBL is a good role model here. He invented the damn thing after all but his chief function now is as conscience or super-ego or ‘dad’. His moral ‘ownership’ of the web keeps those of us who grub around making a living from it humble. There will be someone like this for weblogs. Maybe it will be Tom Coates.
It’s always difficult to persuade an elite that the great unwashed might have something useful to contribute. Looks like bloggers are no different. How many weblogs are there in the UK? 100,000? 200,000? While adoption hovers at less than 1% of the online audience, the promise of the form cannot be realised, even if the other 29,800,000 are all reading them. Weblogging (like the web itself, only more so) is important – it empowers people, makes voices heard, creates dialogue, produces new ideas. It should be popular. Lots of articulate people from the blogging community argue that it’s already important (see comments to posts below) and that ‘going mainstream’ will be harmful. Elites always say this. They are almost always wrong. Weblogging is a social and creative laboratory of extraordinary power and scope. It would be a dreadful pity if it remained the hermetic domain of its founders and innovators. It’s time to let go.
Thanks to The Guardian for two consecutive sleepless nights scoring dozens of Great British Weblogs. I’m in awe. Not a turkey among them. I’ve over-dosed on clever, useful, ironic, sometimes geeky and very often inspirational writing, lots of big-hearted link sharing (natch) and some fascinating new thinking on the web, user interfaces and computers. I was worried, to begin with, that the anti-competition might siphon off all the cool entries but there was no danger of that. I think the competition will prove to be a real validation for the new form and, I hope, a springboard for the weblog’s leap into the mainstream. Now, to bed…
I’m busy judging entries to The Guardian’s Best British Blog competition. It’s not easy, not least (of course) because these things are weblogs so they’re full of interesting links. As a result, each weblog viewed produces half a dozen unrelated clicks. Early estimates suggest it’ll take me the rest of my life to form an opinion about all of them – I have until the weekend.
Early on in the competition some members of the blogging elite objected. Tom Coates has gone on to set up a kind of anti-competition for the folks who don’t want to enter and want the world to know it. Although I’m pretty sure that all the cool guys are over there with the refuseniks (has it ever been cool to enter competitions?), I think they’re just being snobs.
It’s always difficult to see your clever, groovy, pioneering passion popularised but I’m certain that even the elite would prefer the visibility and influence that competitions like this will provide to obscurity and irrelevance. Meanwhile, if I can figure out how to work this thing, here is Tom’s continually-updated list of refuseniks. Since I can’t enter the official competion, I feel inclined to add bowblog.
Ravings of a recent convert
When you think about it, everything’s a blog. Blog-form seems to be very basic – large parts of the web can be neatly analysed down to blog-form. It (obviously) took me years to figure this out but the original bloggers understood it instinctively. Once you remember that the web is and was always meant to be a post and publish medium, that TBL’s first web client was a combined editor-browser (who first took the editor out? Was it Andreesen? Microsoft?), you can begin to imagine the whole web refigured as a blog.
My day job (cult favourite another.com) easily decomposes into a dozen or so discrete blogs – Robin even thinks you could present the email itself in blog format (is that stretching it a bit?). I can see a toggle on every page: blog view-standard view. Logging in essentially opens your editing interface. When you’re composing an email you’re just posting to our mailblog. Your inbox becomes a threaded, reverse-chronological web site – a blog. Very few web sites are not amenable to this way of thinking. Very few don’t meet the ‘post and publish, new posts at the top’ entry qualification. Can you imagine the entire web remade in blog-form? Have I lost it entirely?
(Incidentally, TBL’s Weaving the Web is a thrilling read and a useful reminder of the web’s founding principles).
Apps that add comments and notes to blogs and web sites are booming but some can’t take the demand
I got comments working – so now you are required to tell me what you think about all this blather. Enatation was the only site still accepting registrations when I researched annotation. Presumably all the other guys have stopped accepting new users because they can’t afford the bandwidth for the epic number of clicks their hobby sites are now attracting. Of course, two years ago they’d have called a venture capitalist and drawn down two or three million dollars to fund them through to IPO. The slightly flustered ‘closed’ signs swinging behind the plate glass at the annotation sites are telling us something. I don’t have any figures to hand (do you?) but I think the blogosphere is probably just entering the scary hypergrowth phase. The phase that comes immediately after the dogged pioneers and just before the steady flow of settlers – when the network effects really start to bite. Enatation was so trivially easy to install that I surpised myself. Copy, paste, copy, paste, save. Done. Blimey. Why did we ever spend all that money hand-crafting web sites? Don’t answer that.