what makes the weblog interesting?
first, it’s a new genre. Meg identified several of the important elements of the genre: reverse chronology (rarely used in other written genres, part of what made Momento unique – from what I hear, anyway; I still haven’t seen it), permalinks, and timestamps.
I would add three more key elements: the “post”, the link, and comments. the post is the smallest possible unit of a weblog, like a stanza in a poem or a chapter in a book. it may be a single sentence, or even a single word, or a micro-essay, or (see hoopla) a mini-short story. the link is what makes permalinks meaningful; it ties the weblog to other web genres and weblogs into a continuous chain of being – or something like that. comments, while not common to all weblog formats, can add richness – the conversation that the cluetrain-type folks find so interesting. commenting systems bridge the grenre of the weblog to the (genre of?) bulletin boards.
and a new genre is a fascinating thing, in and of itself. phrasing the form as a genre also allows for analysis of individual weblogs, or groups of weblogs, as participants in a genre, much as one might analyze asimov and le guin as participating in the science fiction genre…not all artists within a genre use all the common elements of it.
what the weblog adds that creates additional buzz (rightfully so, I think) is that they incorporate a new means of production. any idiot can have a weblog. I’ve often thought that every writer should have a weblog, whether they’re interested in technology or not. money is not an issue; technological savvy (assuming you can type and use a browser) is not an issue; design skill – or even writing skill – is not an issue.
which creates this vast cloud of individuals, all working at once in a brand-new genre. and that intersection is where things get interesting…because of one/two feature(s) of the genre.
the link, in general – links, both the ephemeral day-to-day linking and the “blogroll”, create an informal editing or peer-review process. one links to those one finds interesting, useful, funny, thought-provoking, etc. the permalink allows the linking blogger to jump directly to the thought of the linked blogger; along with commenting, this creates a work larger than the sum of its parts. (I’ll be curious to see what comes of burningbird’s threading concept; it could add something very significant to the genre – maybe playing the role that the pulp mags did for scifi in the middle 20th century? or not; it’s hard to say.)
so people form informal networks – much like magazines w/out editors, except that they are mass-edited by those who choose to link – the warbloggers, the a-listers, the cluetrain folk – and each informal network drives the genre in new directions. (note that each individual also has a definition of these networks: I think of burningbird, stavros, Dorothea, AKMA and Weinberger as a network, but I don’t know if they think of themselves that way.)
I’m beginning to ramble, and I’ve run out of steam on my original idea, so I’m going to call it a night. tomorrow sometime I’ll come back & add relevant links. I’d like to find a way to toss this out into blogspace, but I’m not sure how. 🙂 a good start might be to rewrite in a more rigorous mode.