Post, Link and Annotate
(Thanks to Scott Johnson for pointing out to me in a phone conversation that Radio's support for elegant commentating through the News Aggregator - I prefer annotating - differentiates it significantly from other blogging tools. Plagiarism is the sincerest form of flattery. I am going to broaden the horizon a bit further still ...)
Like most of us (?), I think of weblogging as a matter of ... posting to my weblog. Indeed, it is. Yet, as I focus on developing my own personal voice and encouraging you to develop yours, let's step back and consider the way that weblogging shapes and affects our very approach to writing. I was never a McLuhan-ite, but any medium (and certainly the Web!) does indeed play its due role in shaping the message.
Radio joins other now-classic blogging tools in providing full support for posting. Reams of referential and self-referential ink are being spilled on calendar-centered writing tools as the traditional media 'discovers' a story. Fortunately, within a few months, they will become bored and we can then return to considering 'posting' afresh.
(See my What Is A Weblog? for the short course).
Anywhoo, if I define posting for my purposes in this topic as "logging my proactive knowledge and/or opinions about a subject of personal interest and experience," we're good to go. The key word is 'proactive'. I initiate a post out-of something entirely within me.
Of course, the almost hilariously simple hyperlink defines a world of inter-activity around the world that marks the very sine qua non of the Web. However, I want to define linking here as a 'reactive' activity.
Reaction is not intended pejoratively.
When I browse something on the Web (say, by Dave Winer), I may discover that I want to preserve and/or share a link to his original (proactive) post. I am re-acting to his writing.
I may embed a link to Dave within an otherwise original post of mine. Fine. I don't want to cut these distinctions too fine. I do suggest that there is an entire 'style' of weblog writing that is parallel to but different than typical posting. In this style, we merely or mainly offer reactive links to the writing of others.
Lest you think I am damning with faint praise, Wesley Felter's Hack the Planet is a top-notch example of a weblog nearly entirely devoted to this writing mode. Far from hiding Wes' originality, he subtly reveals himself to us through a world of well-chosen links with just the faintest whiff of direct commentary:
You say, huh? I say, read his weblog for a week or so and judge for yourself. Among other things, Wes demonstrates that our fixation with (overdoing our) webpage design is almost invariably misplaced.
(I hope it goes without saying that these examples of technically-centered weblogs could be replaced by similiar examples in the arts, the sciences and education. The examples are specific but the point is general).
The ease with which Radio enables us to subscribe to other weblogs and - attention, s'il vous plait - post news items from those weblogs to our own home pages is just plain cool. Notice this example from that topic:
I grabbed a news item from the Shifted Librarian and added my own annotation (italicized for calling out my annotation conveniently). Then, I posted it to the home page of my weblog.
I argue that this style of writing combines the best of posting and linking to open the way to a new kind of inter-activity. It doesn't replace either posting or linking as described above. It enriches them when-and-as annotating is suitable for what we actually have to say.
(As with any writing, annotating per se will not make you worth reading. Rhetorical devices are just that ... devices).
And the Point of This Is ...
... while the media will probably declare several months from now that the weblogging fad is thankfully over (memo to sports fans: the reason for this is they are scared to death that we amateur journalists are going to eat their lunch), it has really just begun.
As you develop your blogging skills - and true amateurism in any human endeavor demands a high level of skill - be thoughtful. Which rhetorical device truly suits your purpose today?
Posting proactively? Linking reactively? Annotating interactively?
The toolbox is expanding inch-by-inch.
Soon, shared instant outlining may find its way into the box - whether soon means a month or a year. We know it is powerful but we don't know yet as a community how to make it drop-dead simple.
We're learning how to write the Web, baby. Don't let momentary frustrations with the crudeness of the tools obscure the bottom line kick - how often are we able to participate in the emergence of a truly new form of sharing and managing human knowledge?