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					Building new communities -
   Mainstream / Personal (1)
  learning from weblogs

   Some ways that mainstream web
 media can interact with the “revolution”
        in personal publishing…

     Tom Coates |
                What‟s a weblog?
Meg from asked Google this question…
  And it said that weblogs are…
•   … a Natural for Librarians                   •   ... also often called a news page.
•   ... probably the next logical evolution of   •   ... "useful" because they enable
    print zines, and zines are always nice           informational sorting and distribution.
•   ... the new Borg.                            •   ... mostly used to broadcast
•   ... my friend!
                                                 •   ... a learning tool.
•   ... just lists of short blurbs documenting
    pedestrian events in the writer's life,      •   ... gut-simple to set up.
    usually with links to other pages the
    author finds interesting.                    •   ... mostly personal diaries. ...

•   ... journalism for the future.               •   ... a form of communication hitherto
•   ... destined to become a powerful, dirt-
    cheap tool for e-learning                    •   ... so bad

•   ... what some would call the Web's           •   ... almost as old as the web
    equivalent of a sophisticated early          •   ... quick and easy to publish
    warning radar system.
                                                 •   ... updated often and may contain
•   ... a GAL's best friend!                         profanity
But what exactly is a weblog?
• For our purposes today, a weblog is:
   – A kind of site mostly maintained by individuals or
     occasionally small groups and communities...
   – Regularly updated with a „newest writings at the
     top‟ style chronology…
   – With content consisting of any of the following:
     journal content, articles, links or „links and
   – Often run using a tool that automates the process
     of posting (a cheap or free low-grade Content
     Management System).
Why the hell should you care?
 Proper reasons in a minute… 1)          There have been at least one million
 First things first - let‟s look at      separate weblogs created.
 the scale of weblogging…
                                    2)   There are weblogs being maintained in
                                         almost every major country, in almost
                                         every major language, on almost every
                                   3)    Popular personal sites can get several
                                         thousand page views a day. Popular
                                         communal weblogs (metafilter,
                                         slashdot) get many tens - or even
                                         hundreds - of thousands.
                                   4)    A very popular link that circulates
                                         within the weblog community might get
                                         tens of thousands of page views a day.
                                   5)    Links and news stories that have
                                         broken online often cross back over
                                         into mainstream tv, print and radio.
Mainstream media reacts (1)
 • Journalistic interactions with weblogs
    – Using weblogs as research tools
    – Writing about weblogs
        • Articles (hundreds in every kind of newspaper
          and magazine - with the most high profile
          probably being the New Yorker article “You‟ve
          Got Blog”, featuring Meg Hourihan
          ( and Jason Kottke (
        • Books (We‟ve Got Blog, Essential Blogging,
          The Weblog Handbook, We Blog, Running
          Weblogs with Slash) etc.
Mainstream media reacts (2)
 • Running competitions to find the “Best Weblogs”
    – The largest competition to date has been the
      Guardian’s “Best British Blog” competition which
      had celebrity judges (including Anita Roddick) and
      a prize of £1000.

    – The competition was won by
Mainstream media reacts (3)
 • Hosting weblogs themselves
    – Several mainstream publishers have considered
      hosting their own weblogs…
    – has this service now (with help from
      Radio Userland)
    – has announced its intention to
      introduce more weblog-related functionality.
    – Even our own Guardian seriously considered
      forming a relationship with to host
  The limits of these reactions

• These interactions break down
  into two halves:
  – Totally conventional publishing
    reactions to things which they do not
    believe affect them directly.
  – Simultaneously an attempt to co-opt
    or assert dominance over a newly
    dangerous kind of populist
Towards a better model…
• Rather than treating weblogs as an
  object to be studied or as a territory to
  be claimed, mainstream publishers
  should be looking to build tools that
  increase interaction between the two
  types of site - making both better in the
 What does a weblog do?
• To see how mainstream and personal publishers could
  interact, first we have to understand what individual
  weblogs do.

   – They allow individuals to express their opinions.
   – They contain links to things filtered by their owner‟s
   – They contain comments and discussion about these
   – They act as a place where someone can react to another
     person‟s opinions
   – They are adverts for the person who owns them.
   – They are ungoverned, independent spaces for self-
Doesn‟t sound very impressive…

• Individually, weblogs are decidedly
  unimpressive. They only provide an outlet for
  the particular whims and interests of the
  person who runs them. However brilliant or
  interesting that person is, there‟s little or no
  justification for a large media organisation to
  form an ongoing relationship with their site…
  Luckily, however, there are hundreds of
  thousands of weblogs which changes things
     When you scale up…
• You have a mechanism that filters information down to
  what is specifically interesting to people. (Individuals
  filter according to their own interests)
• You have a mechanism which disseminates pertinent
  information and links to a large group of people (If the
  filtering leads to a good piece of information or a good
  link it will spread quickly).
• You get a body of commentary, opinion and debate
  connected to these links.
• You can start to collate information about what is
  interesting to people at any given point of time.
• You have emerging forms of interpersonal community.
• And all without any need for moderation, legal advice
  or substantial management…
These are new resources
• For the most part, these are resources
  that mainstream media doesn‟t
  normally have direct access to - and
  they are valuable. From the side of
  mainstream publishers, each of those
  aspects of personal publishing
  represents an opportunity for

• BUT…
    It‟s not all about you…
• Both practically and ethically, it is in the best interests
  of mainstream publishers to be intelligent and
  responsible in the way that they work with personal
  publishers. The simpler an idea is to implement and
  the more useful the idea is to weblog publishers
  themselves - the more likely it is to be incorporated into
  weblog culture.

• The two parties - mainstream and personal publishers -
  should be looking for ways in which to do new and
  more useful things together, rather than ways to exploit
  one another. If your concept has nothing to offer
  webloggers, then don‟t be surprised if it doesn‟t take
Some potential interactions:
Three ideas for complementary
  relationships between mainstream and
  personal publishers…

• Integrating Trackback and Blog-This
  tools into your content site.
• The “Internal Blogdex”
• “On this day” functionality
    Trackback and Blog-This
    The Internal Blogdex
    The Internal Blogdex (2)
    On this day (1)
    On this day (2)
                  Thanks to…

•   Matt Jones ( )
•   Matt Webb ( )
•   Marcia Beek ( )
•   The UKBloggers mailing list.

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