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The Weblog Handbook:
Practical Advice on Creating and Maintaining Your Blog
We've Got Blog:
How Weblogs Are Changing Our Culture
The how and why of blogging
By Steven Martinovich
When the first weblog appeared on the scene and who was responsible for it is perhaps a question best left to the format's partisans. What isn't in question is their incredible ascendancy in terms of the number of people writing and reading them. While the popular media was transfixed with pornography or file sharing online, it was the weblog that captured the imagination of people who wanted to fulfil one of the original promise of the World Wide Web. Weblogs proved that a million voices could be heard without having to go through the mainstream and corporate controlled media.
The Weblog Handbook: Practical Advice on Creating and Maintaining Your Blog and We've Got Blog: How Weblogs Are Changing Our Culture provide a one-two punch for those interested in the world of the weblog. The two, when read together, provide the how and why someone would want to dedicate their free time to this new passion. Weblogging may not be journalism, but as September 11 proved, the blog provided the world with compelling commentary, valuable information and a chance for many to speak out about their thoughts and feelings. The blog became the nation's town hall.
Rebecca Blood's The Weblog Handbook: Practical Advice on Creating and Maintaining Your Blog while enthusiastic fortunately avoids being a too much of a cheerleader for blogging. Eschewing a technical approach, Blood instead delves into the implications and rigors of blogging. Finding an audience, ethics, writing and the responsibilities of a blogger to Blood are more important than the tools that a blogger uses. Although she mentions popular technical solutions like Blogger, UserLand and Greymatter - even HTML for those inclined - Blood spends much of the book dispensing, as its title promises, practical advice to the blogger.
Although The Weblog Handbook bills itself as a general guide for the amateur and expert alike, most experienced bloggers won't find much that they haven't learned by doing. Even many amateurs who've spent some time on the web will likely find a lot of the material that seems obvious, but despite that Blood's effort does serve as a useful clearing house of issues and information. Even the longtime blogger will likely be reminded of something that they may have forgotten since they first filled out that Blogger registration screen.
Nearly as successful is We've Got Blog, a collection of essays - blog entries in some cases - from the pioneers and mainstays of the blogosphere. Although someone new to the blogging world may not recognize some of the names, We've Got Blog is an A-list affair with Rebecca Blood, Lawrence Lee, Cameron Barrett and Glenn Fleishman making up some of the lengthy list of contributors. We've Got Blog investigates everything from the convoluted history of the medium - there is some disagreement as to who the first blogger was or even where the term came from - to the blog as compared to traditional journalism.
The weakness of any collection of essays is the danger of repetition, occasionally a bugbear for We've Got Blog, and the skill of its individual participants. For the most part the book's contributors are well qualified but occasionally the editors took a wrong turn with which they choose. Notable as an example is ex-Suck.com editor Tim Cavanaugh and his laughably bad attack on the warblogging community and those bloggers like Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit who gained notoriety after the September 11 terrorist attacks for their continuing coverage on the War on Terrorism.
Despite that, We've Got Blog is often interesting and provides a look into the world of the dedicated blogger and the revolution they have spawned. Although many of the bloggers featured are well-known, it's refreshing to hear them repeatedly state that blogging is something you should do for personal satisfaction, not to be featured as a link from Evhead.com, Kottke.org or CamWorld. Perhaps it's the early promise of the web come to pass, a place where the average person can speak to the world.
Is blogging the future of the Web? In its short history, the Web has seen many things touted as the next big thing only to disappear after its initial wave of popularity subsided. Though it won't replace journalism, the resources and skills necessary for such an enterprise is beyond most bloggers, the blog does augment that profession by constantly evaluating and filtering its output. Whether the blog is a personal reflection or a commentary on the world, it's not hard to agree that at its best it is a remarkably compelling medium. Though the blog may one day disappear or be overtaken by the next big thing, we can be sure that there will always be bloggers. Thanks to these two books, perhaps the ranks of the truly special blogs will only continue to grow.
Steven Martinovich is a freelance writer in Sudbury, Ontario.
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