First the New York Times runs not one, but two blog related articles on the same day. Then Dan Gillmor predicts that Bush will work “weblog” into a speech before the end of his term. Now John Dvorak tells us that blogs are in fact “the next big thing“. Dvorak even offers up the four parallels to dot.com mania and CD-ROMs that will make blogging a “super-fad”.
So, we’ve got a super-fad on our hands? I actually prefer the term überfad, but that’s neither here nor there. The momentum behind this has been building for some time now. I think you’d be pretty hard pressed to find anyone that was remotely close to the tech industry in the past three or four years that as not heard of slashdot. Even if they don’t know exactly what it is, they have probably heard of being “slashdotted“.
The mainstream media has been turning some of their attention toward the blogging community, there has also been much self promotion. Not surprising since one of the most exciting concepts in blogging is the reality that the web is in fact a read/write medium. People have the ability to easily publish their work, they are excited that they can easily publish their work, so they write about how exciting it is to be able to publish their work so effortlessly. There are some really great sites out there today (see my blogroll for a partial list) and there will be many more to come.
Being a technophile (geek) I tend to find the technology that has sprung up to support this phenomenon very interesting. Much of it built on people’s own time and made freely available to others. I see the technology underlying today’s blogging phenomenon in much the same way I saw Napster: High concept, not so high tech. Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not trying to belittle anyone’s technical prowess or the power of this new thing that has been created. But, as with Napster, all the pieces were there waiting to be assembled. It just took the right people to come along and put them together. Not surprisingly, the sum is worth much more than its individual parts. Not so surprising right? Progress is in fact a very incremental undertaking. Very few inventions are all that whiz-bang, most are quite mundane. Yet, without all those mundane things such as TCP/IP and HTTP, we wouldn’t even have the system to deliver all the great new blogs that are coming our way.
Why am I so impressed with this technology? Here’s an example: Remember when XML became this huge buzzword? OK, it’s still a buzzword along with all the other MLs that were spawned by the overuse of the term Markup Language, but I digress. Everybody’s application was going to be XML compatible even if their sales team couldn’t tell you what XML compatible really meant or what it could do for you. Well, now thousands of individuals are publishing XML content on the Internet daily. The technology has matured enough so that XML content is easily published, but how many major commercial news sites offer an RSS or other easily consumable format to their regular subscribers? I’m willing to bet the percentage of personal blogs that publish an RSS feed is much higher than that of commercial news sites. Part of that might have to do with copyright concerns on the part of the major outlets, but don’t discount the role of individuals and small groups on the other side. They took what was available to them, and made it work, partially out of necessity, partially because it would be cool.
Hopefully the mainstreaming of blogs will not stifle the creative energy we have seen so far in terms of both the creative content and the technology underlying it. Many times mainstream equals potential profit, and the quest to add to the bottom line does not always lead in the same direction as the quest for progress.