Blog, past and present

Blog, past and present

At December 5, 2002, on Sen. Strom Thurmond’s 100th birthday celebration, Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) stunned his audience with his words “I want to say this about my state. When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We’re proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn’t have had all these problems over the all these years either.”, and probably stunned the mainstream media, made them unable to report this comment widely. But two bloggers,Atrios” and Joshua Marshall noticed it and wrote it down on their blog. Soon blogs about this comment were so widely spread that on December 10, the mainstream media restored their attention, and on December 20, Lott resigned as Majority Leader.

What is Blog? Why is it so influential?

Blog, or weblog, refers to certain kind of online journal that, it is time-stamped articles posted on websites, usually in reverse chronological order. In addition, it usually enables visitors to leave comments on the same web page of article, trace related blogs between different websites, and to receive notification when the blog is updated. It can also refer to the action of writing blogs.

Many people believe a famous blog by Rebecca Blood recorded the history of blog. She observed in the blog that it is Jorn Barger who named his website as Weblog, daily articles consisted of interesting links to websites and comments of these websites. In addition, she believed that it is Peter Merholz who split “Weblog” into “we blog”, and this phrase was eventually shortened to “blog” (Blood, R., September 7, 2000). The increasing of bloggers was accelerated by several free blog service with web based blog tools released at 1999, such as blogger.com, which enabled writing blog or comments online, and publishing it with a few mouse clicks. However, blog still had not much attention at that time.

Nearly 2 Years later, Blogs was popularized by political events after the beginning of War on Terrorism, while interactive blogs focused on the war, namely warblogs, spread and gain readership; because of their immediacy and interactivity, and anonymity of comments, and the slowed reaction of mainstream media due to censorship. By the spring of 2003, Forbes Magazine used "war blogger" in this larger sense when listing the "best warblogs." In the U.S. presidential election of 2004, Blogs created by politicians like president candidates John Kerry gained public attention. Recently, the software giant Microsoft said that the free blogging service, called MSN Spaces, had attracted 4.5 million users during its preliminary test phase between December 2004 and April 2005. The word “blog” is phenomenally common that it was included in the Oxford English Dictionary only a few years after its invention (Quarterly updates to OED Online, March 13, 2003).

Not only individuals, but also many business companies had noticed this tide of technology and stepped in, deployed blogs on their public or private website. For one, several media, namely The Wall Street Journal, Washing Post, Fox News, BBC and CNN, began to publish articles, especially editorials in the form of blogs. For another, several giant companies, such Microsoft, have developed several blog systems for their product teams, individual staffs and customers for intensive interactivity.

Being looking for a simplification of updating my personal homepage for a long time, I joined this tide at September, 2003, and found blog is the exact application I want. The recent update page in my website used to consist of paragraphs in reverse chronological order, with a timestamp to mark the date of update, so that the visitors will notice the new updates easily. Despite of its usability, to perform an update of my homepage, I had to find the proper insert-point in the page, add new paragraphs, and then use some FTP (file transfer protocol) software applications to upload the whole modified page to the web server. Although online guest books and internet forums can generate this kind of web page automatically, both of them are not eligible for a recent update part of my website because they are open for visitors. When I found that I can perform an update by filling forms online, I switched to writing blogs almost immediately. Soon I found my blogs were cited in various other blogs and get comments from their readers. Their blog tools add links, namely trackbacks, to my blog automatically, and many visitors followed the links to read my blog. More visitors of my blogs come from search engines, while my posts on internet forums or guest books did not get so much attention because they do not have separate web address for each article. Some visitors came from certain kind of automatically generated lists of recently updated blogs, or blogpolls.

Almost immediately after I started blogging, I was invited to write blog for a semi-official Microsoft blog which has with authors from Microsoft employees and Microsoft MVPs. I wrote some blogs, some about technology and some related to my life. However, my readers have little tolerance for posts about life. So I gave up and started another blog for other posts. Later I noticed that most bloggers on the semi-official blog have other blogs for such use also. Now the blog is tech-only. Several such blogs are focused on certain topics and direct the discussion in existing communities such as war, law, technology and literature, sometimes such concentration of topics is called blogosphere. Opinions, ideas and discussions around a particular subject or controversy can easily spread in blogospheres through trackbacks and a topic can dominate the discussion in several blogospheres in a period of time.

 Some of these blogospheres have great influence. First, they can revive a story like they did for the Trent Lott story. Second, they have much quicker responses to breaking news than mainstream media (Conference Examines Blogs’ Impact on News. Nov 14, 2004), and some news stories were quickly proved false by bloggers (Macht J., Sept 27, 2004). Last, some blogs created by business companies, such as MSDN blog, a group of blogs of Microsoft employees and product teams, became information and feedback centers.

Business kicked in to make money from these blogospheres. On one hand, some bloggers make money by writing blogs by putting ads on their blogs or talk about certain products. For example, Google’s AdSense, which delivers content-relative ads to web pages, became ubiquitous on blogs, and some famous bloggers can earn a lot of money by comment some certain products. (Gard, L. Dec 13, 2004). On the other hand, many people exploit the trackback system on blogs to promote their website, as many as thousands posts everyday on Microsoft’s MSDN blog, and made the blog hosts, and major search engines modified their software to discourage such behavior.

Censorships are also extended to regulate these blogospheres. For example, several war blogs written by soldiers were shut down under the command from officers in the Second Gulf War. In addition, Blogcn, a major free blog host service in China, had been shut down for several days to apply new censorship system for illegal posts related to adult and political contents. Therefore, Blog hosts such as Microsoft and Bloggers.com, forced their “Code of Conduct” to prevent such exploitation or abuse of their blog service. At last, some employees, such as Mark Jen of Google, were fired for their “improper words” on blogs.

.    Almost 6 years after blogging software opened the gate of blogging, millions of bloggers stepped on this field. During this process, bloggers‘influence to the outside world increased quickly, and created their own community, the blogospheres. Giving more and more social activities involved blogospheres, blog will become as popular as email, or even more.

Reference

Associated Press. Conference examines blogs’ impact on news.( Nov 14, 2004). eWeek.

Blood, R. (September 7, 2000) "Weblogs: A History and Perspective," in We’ve Got Blog: How Weblogs Are Changing Our Culture, ed. Rodzvilla J. (Cambridge, MA: Perseus Press, 2002): 7.

Gard,L. (Dec 13, 2004). The business of blogging; explosive growth means web logs are suddenly in Madison Avenue’s sights. Business Week. 2004(3912) p117.

Macht J.( Sept 27, 2004). How to knock down a Story: THE BLOGGERS. Time 164(13). p30.

Quarterly updates to OED Online (March 13, 2003) Oxford English Dictionary<http://www.oed.com/help/updates/motswana-mussy.html&gt;.(April 14, 2005)

About Sheng Jiang 蒋晟

Microsoft MVP in Visual C , 2004- Forum moderator of the Visual C and .Net forums on CSDN Forum moderator of Chinese forums on Microsoft's MSDN forums
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