I Missed the Weblog Memo

Boy did I miss the boat. Here I thought that a weblog was simply a series of posts organized in (usually reverse) chronological order. Who knew they were all about giving free reign to authentic voices?

The personalities of the writers come through. That is the essential element of weblog writing, and almost all the other elements can be missing, and the rules can be violated, imho, as long as the voice of a person comes through, it’s a weblog.

Look, ma it used to be a classic of Western civilization, but today it’s a weblog!

A more accurate definition might be web writing that is just a bit too self-important,

There’s been a lot of discussion about the similarities between Wikis and weblogs . . .

The Wiki folks, of course, are heretics as it is written in The Book of Reynolds (seriously, could there be anything more pointless than lots of discussions comparing Wikis and weblogs? Now, Wookies and weblogs I could grok . . .)

Key point: On my weblog no one can change what I wrote. In contrast, having written for professional publications, pros have to prepare for their writing being interfered with. Sometimes you submit right at the copy-edit deadline. Or you write exactly the required number of words so nothing can be cut. But in the end, the words that appear are an amalgam of what your organization thought should be said on the subject you’re addressing.

Right, because before weblogs you could rent space on a server for your web site (or even lease an entire dedicatd server)but, but you’d had to grant Internet Gremlins the right to come along and change what you wrote as they saw fit. In fact, I believe DreamWeaver 1.0 shipped with the ability to place such random editing of your content within a templating system that really advanced the art light years ahead.

Dave really must have been traumatized by some editor’s decision to cut a sentence or two in an article he wrote. I never had any problem with editors cutting — it was when they would add things that I really got pissed off. But the reality too is that most people seriously overrate their own writing abilities. I prefer writing for weblogs over newspapers, but the things I wrote in newspapers were much better written (see, look at that horrible grammar) thanks to editors.

Edit This Page button. When you’re looking at a bit of text that needs to be changed, assuming you have editorial permission to edit it, how many steps do you have to take to edit it, and how much memorization is required? Some weblog software makes this trivially simple, every bit of editable text has a button nearby that allows the author to modify it in three steps, click the button, make the changes, save the changes.

This especially comes in handy if, say, you have a habit of posting incredibly rude or factually incorrect things and then you need to go back quickly and change the post so that the entire episode disappears down the memory hole (well, at least to the extent that anything can escape down the memory hole these days).

It’s interesting that the ability to search your weblog is completely left out of this long piece. So you can edit the content once you find it, but you might have to depend on Google to find anything specific (this was likely left out given that so few web sites offer the ability to search content, and people probably don’t find this useful at the few sites that do).

Shortcuts. A shortcut is a quick way to link to a page without having to use HTML, a highly valued feature for non-technical users. In UserLand weblog tools a shortcut is invoked by embedding the name in “double quotes”. If something is unintentially hotted-up because of this, the author can override shortcut replacement with a backslash.

Repeat that last line three times fast. That would really screw me up, by the way, because for the life of me I have never been able to keep my head straight about which is the backslash and which is the forward slash (or should that be forwardslash). But come on, don’t go around bragging about how easy your software is to use because you’ve got an Edit button everywhere, but when I’m editing I have to keep in my head that I surround things in double quotes except when I don’t want the shortcut and then I need the backslash. And either way, I won’t be able to search for this entry again from my site. Oy, my head is spinning.

Hierarchy browser. Using OPML as the format for describing hierarchies, Manila and compatible tools make it possible to author Yahoo-like directories with a compatible outliner.

Slide shows. Similar to the Hierarchy browser feature, but for displaying PowerPoint-like presentations.

Slide shows and “hierarchy browsers” (translation: outline)? When did those become part of the whole weblog experience?

So, in closing, we can sum up “What makes a weblog a weblog” in a few short words:

Radio Userland and Manila, good!
Fire, bad!

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