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 | plasticbag.org
What‟s a weblog?
Meg from notsosoft.com 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
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
(megnut.com) and Jason Kottke (kottke.org)
• 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…
– Salon.com has this service now (with help from
– Boston.com has announced its intention to
introduce more weblog-related functionality.
– Even our own Guardian seriously considered
forming a relationship with Blogger.com 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
– 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
– 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
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
• 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
• 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)
• Matt Jones ( blackbeltjones.com )
• Matt Webb ( interconnected.org/home )
• Marcia Beek ( dutchbint.org )
• The UKBloggers mailing list.