What Is a Blog?

A blog, or “web log,” is, at its most basic, a log of visited webpages, with links to them, and perhaps some brief commentary, arranged in reverse chronological order. For an overview and a history, see the Wikipedia article.

A good example (especially since it was the first) is Scripting News, by Dave Winer.  He’s been doing it for over ten years now, since April 1997. No long essays. No personal reflections.

Back in 2003, when he was starting out at Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, he tried his hand at a detailed definition of this thing he had created: What Makes a Weblog a Weblog? Here’s an abbreviated version, which argues that the most distinctive characteristic of a blog is its voice.

If it was one voice, unedited, not determined by group-think — then it was a blog, no matter what form it took. If it was the result of group-think, with lots of ass-covering and offense avoiding, then it’s not. Things like spelling and grammatic errors were okay, in fact they helped convince one that it was unedited. (Dogma 2000 expressed this very concisely.)

Do comments make it a blog? Do the lack of comments make it not a blog? Well actually, my opinion is different from many, but it still is my opinion that it does not follow that a blog must have comments, in fact, to the extent that comments interfere with the natural expression of the unedited voice of an individual, comments may act to make something not a blog.

When I attended IS2K, the third conference on Internet and Society at Harvard, I don’t recall blogs being mentioned. Two years later, I was doing it, inspired by my friend Lynn, who had drawn my attention to the blogs of Amy Welborn and Mark Shea. Eve Tushnet was probably the first member of what was to become St. Blog’s Parish (cataloged by the late Gerard Serafin), starting her blog in February 2002. I started blogging around June 1, 2002, noting that my son had become a teenager.

So, if you want to know what one person is reading on-line, and what they think about it, then read that person’s blog. Don’t expect it to be a diary or journal; don’t expect it to be a collection of polished essays; don’t expect it to be a discussion forum. It isn’t.