The medium is new, but the method is time-tested

ON BLOGS

March 26, 2006|By TROY MCCULLOUGH | TROY MCCULLOUGH,SUN COLUMNIST

They're praised. They're scorned. They're endlessly hyped. Their popularity is unquestionable. Their influence is undeniable.

But for all the buzz surrounding blogs, it's easy to forget how new this phenomenon is.

Try this experiment: Go to your favorite blog (and if you don't have one, pick one at random. You shouldn't have trouble finding one; a Google search for "blog" gets you more than 2 billion results). Look around for the site's archives to see just how long its author has been publishing. Six months? A year? Two years? Three?

Many of the people considered to be the elder statesmen of the medium got their start in the late 1990s - a time when such activities were still the obscure domain of the technological elite.

The word "blog" didn't show up on the scene until 1999. By most accounts, it was coined by Peter Merholz (peterme.com), who modified the already-established term "weblog" on his Web site as "we blog" and began using blog as a verb.

The term weblog was believed to have been coined a few years earlier, in 1997, by Jorn Barger, the enigmatic and sometimes controversial author of robotwisdom.com.

But even before the term blog existed, people were blogging - that is to say, maintaining personal Web sites and updating them regularly and chronologically with journal entries, essays, Web links, notes or whatever.

No one can say for certain who the first blogger was, but Justin Hall has been considered by many to be one of the earliest adopters of the medium. Hall started an online diary in 1994 called Justin's Links from the Underground while he was a student at Swarthmore College. His site rose in prominence over the next several years - The New York Times even dubbed him "the founding father of personal blogging" - but he abruptly called it quits last year after 11 years. By blog standards, Hall's site died of extreme old age.

But even before Hall began his endeavor, there were certainly others dabbling with similar ventures.

Blogger Jim Howard, the operator of showmeblog.com, says he once set up a pre-Internet-era computerized bulletin board system called Howard's Notebook, where people could dial in to his system to catch regular updates.

"I posted the sort of stuff you see here now, information and comments and what was going on in my life," Howard wrote in a comment on Joho the Blog last August. "I posted the comments that people sent to me about the BBS and subjects of interest. I had `links' to other information on the BBS. ... I think that Howard's Notebook was the first blog, and it was June of 1982."

But even Howard can't compete with Samuel Pepys. The renowned English diarist has had his diary entries published in blog form nearly every day at pepysdiary.com since 2003 - no longevity records broken there, but keep in mind that Pepys wrote his diary in the mid-1600s. And reading his daily musings online gives the uncanny feeling that Pepys was a blogger 350 years ahead of his time.

Or to put it another way: Blogging might be new, but the ideas behind it have already stood the test of time.

troy.mccullough@baltsun.com

Listen to Troy McCullough's podcasts at baltimoresun.com/onblogs.

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.