Tech Life Happy to clear this up.

The Holy Duh of Weblogging

When I asked Brent Simmons whether he thought there was any way for people to making money via weblogs other than providing software or services, he actually answered a much bigger question when he responded:

“… I probably wouldn’t hire anybody for anything unless they had a weblog.”

He continued:

… The main thing is: if you don’t have a weblog, I probably don’t know you, and I don’t have an easy way to get to know you. If you have a weblog, I’m either reading it already or I can read it and look in the archives a bit to get a sense of who you are. ”

After sitting staring at the ceiling thinking about this comment, I realize it crystallized, for me, a very basic question about how to think about weblogs. The painfully simple question is, “What is a weblog?” The painfully simple answer is, “A weblog is the representation of a person on the Internet.”

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah. I am so happy to clear this up.

The “what is a weblog” debate festers on the Net like the PC versus Mac debate and my simple observation will do nothing to allieve that problem. Folks are still going to have deeply philosophical debates on this topic when they really should be saying, “Who the hell cares?”

Weblogs are Net_People. Just like your circle of friends, some are particularly good at original content, some are just great at relaying links to other information. Some say too much, some say too little, but a weblog is the singular voice of a person.

This explains why I get the heebie-jeebies when I read the AlwaysOn site or even the Corante blog pieces. I stare at the masthead wondering, “Hey, are these people speaking for themselves or for the corporation?” Their association with a faceless corporate entity, in my opinion, decreases their credibility. Even Gillmor bugs me because I don’t know if his weblog is his voice or his voice translated by the mothership.

18 Responses

  1. I know what you mean – there is something weird about collaborative weblogs and guest weblogging generally. They seem like tacit reconciliations to the primacy of publishing over people. Feels odd somehow…

  2. Thanks for that post. I’ve actually been a little depressed lately about weblogging and technology in general–sort of wondering “what’s the point”–and it’s good to be reminded why I got interested in weblogs initially (it’s the people, stupid!).

    Incidentally, I really agree with Brent’s comments about wanting to hire people with weblogs. I actually went through the process of hiring someone recently and found myself really wishing people had weblogs so I could find out what kind of people they were, how much technical knowledge they had, etc.

  3. Floid 14 years ago

    Whenever discussing ‘weblogs,’ mentally replace ‘weblog’ with any of the following:

    -‘website’

    -‘.plan’

    -‘AOL profile’

    -‘IP address’

    -‘FBI file’

    The number of succesful replacements is the WQ (Weblogging/Wankistry Quotient) of your screed. Thanks for playing.

  4. I disagree. For the following specific reasons:

    – Website. Too generic. Yes, a weblog is a website, but so is ESPN.com which is not.

    – .plan. Not well known. These did have a heyday back when the idSoftware folks updately frequently, but this practice has decreased — see http://www.webdog.org/plans/10/ — I’m guessing as a function of the dot.com implosion.

    – AOL Profile. You’re kidding, right?

    – IP Address. See website.

    – FBI File. Not public and probably not a good approximation of a person.

  5. I still don’t see how weblogs are any sort of approximation of a person. That’s only the case if you believe people are even remotely honest about things when they know large numbers of people may be reading. I mean, I kept a blog that was written in the style of a 14 year old webcam chick, but I’m certainly not a 14 year old webcam chick. (To be honestly I couldn’t keep it up, it was just painful to do, but amusing for a bit). I think the only impression I’ve ever gotten of someone from a weblog that was close to correct was ‘wow, you’re a fucking mental case’. If I want an approximation of a person in a context of say a job, I’ll _interview them in person_ to get it. I trust their weblog about as much as I trust their resume: treat as suspect and potentially fabricated.

  6. I totally agree that people are going to lie and tell half-truths via the weblog, but I’d suggest the people that are successful (if you define success as lots of readers) are the ones who speak with an original voice.

    Lying is a lot of work and, over time, readers of such a weblog are going to figure out it’s a fabrication and stop reading. Unless, it’s intended to be fiction and then I wouldn’t consider it a weblog.

  7. I am trying to quote this article but I don’t know the name of the author. If “A weblog is the representation of a person on the Internet” who is Rands?

    About Rands says

    Rands in Repose (“RinR”) is the digital opinion unit of Jerkcity Enterprises.

  8. You don’t know the name of the author? Sir, the weblog is called “Rands in Repose”? I’m not sure if it could be clearer unless you think Rands refers to the currency of some African nation.

    Ok ok ok. I’ll update the ABOUT page.

  9. Good article. However, weblogs are not a _complete_ representation of a person, in many cases. While I would never intentionally lie about something on my weblog, I do withhold information that I don’t want being recorded for all time in some giant internet archive.

    I also restrict what _topics_ I talk about. My weblog is almost entirely about technology (which, true, is almost entirely what I talk about in real life). But in real life, I also have strong opinions about other controversial things like politics, sex, and religion which, interesting though they may be, will hopefully never show up on my blog.

    One of the most difficult things (at least for me it was) about becoming a blogger is deciding what level of discretion is appropriate for you — at what point do you just keep your yap shut?

  10. While I agree they are not a complete representation of a person, I think they are a _very good_ representation.

    Everything you described (withholding information, restricting yourself to topics, know when to shut up), I’d argue, are actions you do all day with the folks you interact with. You’re always thinking, “Who are these people, what do they want, and what should I tell them?’ Based on who your’re talking to, you give them your work_face or your friend_face or your home_face…

    Weblogs, in my opinion, are no different. The process by which you filter what you say is part of how you are perceived. I think folks wrestle with this with weblogs… the immediate example that comes to mind is Dave Hyatt of Safari fame who split his weblog down the middle… PERSONAL and SAFARI.

  11. A weblog is what you make of it:

    auteur like Eliza’s weblog (e.g. actress),

    social commentary as in Wofo’s,

    technical information like Brent’s (e.g.the industry),

    Portrait of an artist as a young Space Alien, as in RnR’s weblog 🙂

    Peas out,

  12. Klaatu 14 years ago

    Just another thought:

    “Lying is a lot of work and, over time, readers of such a weblog are going to figure out it’s a fabrication and stop reading. Unless, it’s intended to be fiction and then I wouldn’t consider it a weblog.”

    – Rands

    Truth is stranger than fiction, Man.

    (e.g. background material for http://www.jerkcity.com and all the photos sent to Soylent Green to make sense of it all in http://www.rotten.com).

  13. Not much to argue with in the original post; it seems self-evident. One’s footprint on the web is (obviously) the stuff that one puts on the web, which is a general working description of what a blog is.

    The debatable issue is whether one can really form useful impressions based on a blog, or email, or a chatroom, or a cyberfuck, or whatever. about which more here: http://frosch.com/fcb2/index.php?p=4

  14. A fine point and something I’d been meaning to add to this entry and KEPT FORGETTING.

    While I do argue that weblogs are Net_People — they are never ever ever to be confused with Real_People. As xfrosch explains in the link above, the impression you gain from a weblog can have very little to do with the real person.

    I think the impression you gain from a weblog is very useful… it’s just unlikely that it’s useful in understand the real person behind the weblog.

  15. I don’t know if you’ve ever read my piece on mass amateurisation, but I came to a pretty similar conclusion, and I think when you do it it makes the whole arena much more interesting and clear. The post his here: Weblogs and the Mass Amateurisation of Nearly Everything and the salient quotes are probably:

    “In terms of self-representation, the homepage is like a statue carved out of marble labelled carefully at the bottom where the weblog is like an avatar in cyberspace that we wear like a skin. It moves with us – through it we articulate ourselves. The weblog is the homepage that we wear. And this is the big leap forward – this is where the value of weblogs lies in the newly amateurised world. This flexibility of publishing creates a fluid and living form of self-representation, the ‘homepage (as a place)’ has become the ‘weblog (as a person)’ that can articulate a voice.”