BloggerCon post mortem 1: What is a blog?

I’ve been sitting on a few short responses to BloggerCon since last Sunday. I’m not pleased with them yet, but if I sit on them any longer they’ll get even staler, so here goes.

What is a blog?

BloggerCon started by taking an explicitly technology neutral view of blogs, one that discussed the implications of blogs rather than what they were. On Day One (the only day I attended), there was no discussion of the construction of blogs and fundamental operations of blogging. A brief definition, then:

Blogs are personally published documents on the web, with attribution and date, collected in a single place, generally published with a static structure to facilitate incoming links from other sources, and updated with some regularity and frequency from every few days to several times daily. Blogs are generally understood to be subjective, with no authority other than that lent by their author generally. Many blogs consist of links and commentary—comments about something or some entity with a web presence, links to enable the reader to discover the original object being commented on and explore it for themselves. Bloggers leave link trails, hyperlinks back to the subjects of their commentary, and the link trails enable others to go beyond the blogger’s subjective opinion and find the original source so that they can evaluate it and form their own opinions.

Blogging thus differs from general web pages in frequency, intent and practice. Rather than claiming authority, blogs assume subjectivity and let the reader make up his own mind. Rather than a collection of documents that define an object on the Internet—for instance, a company, a university, a person’s family tree—blogs are glosses on those objects, marginal annotations that unlike other forms of web comments such as the “sticky note” feature in IE have permanence of their own on the Web. Unlike a threaded discussion group (web board or Usenet), where there are generally no authoritative methods to find a prior message and no central record of a person’s contributions and opinions, blogs host the author’s comments in a single place, at a personal address, and in a chronology so that others can review the blogger’s thoughts and comments in one location. By keeping a permanent record of the blogger’s writings in a central place, a blog implies a certain amount of accountability for the author’s words and opinions; in other online communities, this accountability is generally left up to the community to enforce.