Two technologies which have made blogging take off in recent times are the availability of better writing platforms like Userland’s Radio and Blogger.com, and the availability of content as RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds. Radio is a desktop platform which combines a scripting language, web server, object database and a user interface. It lets you write offline and then sync with the actual blog site. Importantly, it also does two additional things which make all the difference. Firstly, it allows you to aggregate and customise news feeds through RSS from different sites (in XML) allowing you to monitor your favourite sites for updates, and then link and comment on them easily. Secondly, it publishes your own content as an RSS feed which allows other sites to pick it up. This content syndication model makes it easier for two-way linking. It also “pushes” information to users’ desktops rather than going out and seeking it.
One person who has made a significant difference to the world of blogging is Evan Williams, who runs Blogger.com. Writes “The Guardian” (January 31, 2002):
For a little over two years now, Blogger has brought its “Push button publishing for the people” to the net, making it easy for net users to create simple, easily updated websites. In doing so, it has brought the kind of vibrant discussion previously seen on the net’s chatboards to an area previously noted only for its dormancy – the personal homepage. Better still, you can use it for free. It’s used on around 400,000 websites – and it is run by one person, Evan Williams.[Blogger] has made the act of “blogging” much simpler by automating many of the most time-consuming and difficult stages of publishing a website. Because Blogger runs on a central web server you do not need special software on your computer to use it. That means people can add to their site from anywhere that has an internet connection.
In some ways, the turning point of for blogs came with the events of September 11 last year. Wrote Charles Cooper in News.com two weeks later:
As events unfolded, this was turning out to be the Web’s story. To be sure, sundry big media outlets on their own Internet sites were offering ample “content.” Yet deep pockets and all, the big news organizations were still limited by time and resource constraints of their own. What’s more, the initial crush of Internet traffic sometimes made it nigh impossible to get through–and even when you did, the individual menus were relatively limited.
If you were scouring the Internet for news and context during those first terrible hours, you could have done a lot worse than eavesdropping on the free-wheeling mini-universe of Web logs chockablock with first-hand info and spirited commentary about what was going on.
Sometimes they were raw, sometimes they were pretentious and sometimes they were flat-out wrong–I’d dare say that many times it was all three combined–but the information was fresh and real and unmediated by any intervening institutions.
To the degree that they complement, supplement and otherwise advance understanding of our human condition, bloggers far and wide merit serious praise. Because they help tell the story.