Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Blogadoon - Part I

Longtime readers of this blog will have noticed that in the past ten days or so it has abruptly changed in tone. Gone are the long, discursive reflections on the state of academic military history. Gone, indeed, is much that resembles the "journal" style that used to define War Historian and its predecessor, Interrogating the Project of Military History (IPMH).

The new style reflects the so-called "filter" or link-based blog. "This type of blog," notes Paul McFedries, "consists primarily of links to other sites that have been pre-surfed and usually includes commentary about each link."

What happened?

In a word: Blogadoon.

Blogadoon happened.

One of the difficulties I have with the web experience (and so I gather do many others) is the poverty of language to describe its dynamics if the listener is not already more or less familiar with those dynamics. Tom Burke, in a recent, wonderfully intelligent and humane essay, touches on how hard it is to talk about blogging to people who don't keep or read blogs:

I feel a little like the guy who goes to lectures by engineers and tries to tell them about his perpetual motion machine. Sometimes it’s like being under the spell of some alien intelligence, on the other side of an ethnographic divide, a native mumbling to the patient, civilized researcher about the inexpressible interior feeling of his own culture.
My experience has been a little like that. But I think my experience has been unusual even for bloggers.

Most novice bloggers hop into the "cockpit," so to speak, of a ready-made blog constructed and serviced by a blog host such a Blogger, the host that runs War Historian. I didn't do that. I simply took the journal concept and applied it to the web pages I've been making, clumsily but enthusiastically, since I got my first web browser ten years ago. A web journal, it turns out, isn't really a blog. It lacks the hyperconnectivity of a blog, by which I mean the array of features that make it almost impossible to blog in isolation. People can comment on your posts. They can come zooming through your blog on a threaded tour by Blogger. (About ten percent of my visitors come from "the blog next door" so to speak: they're just surfing from blog to blog until they find one they want to stop and read. Most of all, they can use services like Technorati and Del.icio.us to do massively powerful searches of every blog, active or abandoned, that's still an organized set of electrons.

In short, if you're in something that resembles a blog, people are going to find you and you're going to know it.

But if you're keeping a web journal, chances are good that the only people who will find it are those whom you actively tell or who look you up for other reasons--and even then they usually read over your shoulder without a murmur, Otherwise you can type away for months with barely more than a breath of awareness that anyone is reading your stuff besides yourself.

Continue to Part II

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