Ever read Julie
Petersen's theory
of the web?

Read it. It's
about sheep.

Weblogs may just
be the closest
we've gotten to
making this real.

In the end, what's
the difference
between a diary
and a weblog?
Quantity? Format?
what the hell is a weblog? and why won't they leave me alone?

a personal opinion by derek m. powazek

I fell in love with the web a long time ago. It entered my bloodstream like a virus, took root, and changed my life forever. And, almost immediately, the virus had to spread.

I made piles of homepages, the oldest of which are lost in the digital ether forever. I did my college thesis online. I got a job in the biz. I started lofty projects with vague goals like "doing it right." I cared too much.

And through it all, I drew my inspiration from the cacophony of personal voices I found online. Here was the mother lode of personal expression – the one place in our lives that we (as people lucky enough to have access) can say whatever we want about anything we want. This was the anti-television. Digital democracy.

I believed that. And the crazy part is, I still do.

My first exposure to the idea of a "weblog" was about a year ago. I'd been visiting CamWorld for years and I liked it. But the idea of calling it a genre baffled me. Link-plus-commentary didn't seem all that revolutionary to me.

Certainly not as revolutionary as Jon Katz made it out to be in his breathless write up of the trend in Slashdot. I read his words carefully, and I tried to believe. But I just couldn't see a revolution in personal expression and community in the robotic scrolling headlines of Robot Wisdom.

By nature, I'm suspicious of hype. I think anyone with a journalism background is like that. And, given the tidal wave of hype weblogs received in late 1999, it was hard not to rebel. I started saying that I hated weblogs, just to see what would happen.

It was partly true. I did hate the hype that weblogs got. Hype is ugly, and rarely good for the thing it's about. I also hated the exclusionary nature of the community that cropped up around weblogs. It's perfectly natural, of course, for people with like interests to congregate. But I've always tried to remain open to new people and new ideas. It seemed to me, as an outside observer, that the weblog community circled its wagons almost immediately.

Finally, I hated the fact that the essence of weblogging at that time, and perhaps still today, was the off-site link. A witty quip, a link away, updated as much as possible. It was easy (and predictable) to foresee a future web of "independent content" that solely consisted of pointing at people who are pointing at other people. All of a sudden, there was no more there there.

I always wanted to see people make things. Big, beautiful, daring things. Not yet another pointer to yet another Salon article.

So I did something dreadful. Something despicable. Something so horrible and evil I couldn't stand the sight of myself in the mirror in the morning. I started weblogging.

I figured, if I wanted to understand it, I should just try it. And besides, was already set up for daily updates. I had been using it to post the news of the Powazek Productions (fray, kvetch, and sfstories). There was really very little difference between what I was doing already, and a weblog. So I dipped my toe in the water. Slowly.

And I felt that virus all over again.

As soon as I began posting every day, I started getting email. The voices were friendly, and encouraging. My hits rose steadily, and people started to link back.

But what's more, I found I had a forum for the voices in my head that didn't fit anywhere else. I had plenty of places to tell the big stories of my life. But the little, fleeting thoughts now had a home, too. It even encouraged a sense of goofy fun I'd never expressed on the web before.

I was hooked. "Weblogging," I told a friend over Jack-n-Cokes, "is fun."

And then, of course, came the dark side.

Neale grouped a bunch of webloggers into high school cliques and called me a jock, which would be hysterical to anyone who knew me in high school. It could have been an interesting commentary on the dangers of clique-ism in the weblog community, but to me it just came off as mean. You could almost hear Nelson cackling: "Ha ha!"

Then Dave decided I must be "brain-damaged" because I used frames. As if there was One Right Way to do a weblog, and I had violated it, so he should mock me into compliance. It was a mean-spirited, overtly personal attack.

This is the dark side of weblogging I'd feared. It saddens me because, over the last year, weblogging really matured as a genre. And as a community. We should strive to stay true to the inclusive nature of the web. We should be welcoming and encouraging to new voices and ideas, because, in the end, that's how the web evolves.

The web isn't about rules and my-way-or-the-highway ideologies, remember? The fun thing about the web is that it's still so new. We're still making it up! And innovation comes from people who do things a little differently. Anyone who forgets that and clings to narrow-minded ideologies will take their rightful place in a forgotten history.

So here we are. I've been running a weblog for almost six months (or over a year, depending on when you start counting). And the good still outweighs the bad. In fact, I'm ready to finally say it:

I don't hate weblogs. I love weblogs. Honest.

I love weblogs because they're yet another way for people to express themselves online. Sure, they're full of links. They're also full of lives. Look at the way Meg uploads her train of thought on a daily basis, or Tom tells us about his love life, or Jack tells his stories. These are real people, putting their lives online.

Diary. Weblog. Portal. Blah. You can call it whatever you want. Just don't stop doing it.

I'll most likely continue to log the things that are new with the Powazek Productions here, as well as link to things that I'm interested in. If you find it interesting, I'm glad. Drop me a line and say hi.

And if you don't, that's fine, too. Maybe you should start one of your own.

Ever forward,

– Derek

So what's a weblog? You tell me.