Are Weblogs the Next Platform?
Kevin: At least don't have to explain what a blog is. Are we talking to ourselves? Will we ever move past it being diaries (not really the right question).
Meg Hourihan, Blogger
Dave Winer, Userland
Nick Denton, Weblog Media
Kevin: I'd like [Dave] to expand on the statement that weblogs and web services are the same thing.
Dave: Weblogs are like the word processor, for the web. We did blogs to open up writing for the web for everyone. How do I connect a word processor to a server -- that's what led me to do XML-RPC and SOAP, since it lets you do that. To me, they [blogs and web services] are the same thing. That web services are about big enterprise apps is not seeing the big picture. There's this whole other thing, called humanity, that they are not addressing.
Nick: I have a different perspective. I'm a media guy. I look at weblog publishing software as a way to produce media much more cheaply than it was three or four years ago. The unfinished business in IT is that personal information management isn't complete. Weblogs are one way to create sites that distribute content out to an audience.
Meg: I'm sort of with Dave, but what is interesting about web services is how they can be transparent to the actual users. We're so early in the development of [this stuff]. What happens when we are using our phones and are able to get photos online as easily as text. How the content and people come together is what is interesting. It took us to this point where scripting tools making publishing possible, and we need to take the next step and get them publishing even more.
Kevin: Why do you think weblogs are going to move to these other platforms?
Meg: Because people want to talk to their friends.
Nick: Last Thursday, there was a big snow storm in New York. You couldn't tell from the NY Times. But if you went to [the web] there were pictures and it was providing a good media experience and local coverage.
Dave: It wasn't just local. We were looking at it to on the West Coast.
Photolog has pictures of this panel up already.
Dave: Starting a weblog is like starting a magazine. For a person who wants to write, its a great thing. It has to be reverse chronological, calendar, permalinks, and in two years it will probably be radically different, but it will be gradual to us.
Nick: Gizmodo, a $1,000 a month investment to pay the writer. At that rate you can imagine a business that brings in $5K to $10K a month, it's a fabulously profitable business. It's not a VC-oriented business.
Dave: It's like 1981, it was a good idea to invest in word processors. [Nick] is making money, my company is making money.
Nick: Tina Brown, it costs $40MM to launch a magazine. You can do it for a lot less with a blogging tool.
Kevin: What about what happened with Hypercard, which just disappeared?
Dave: Apple didn't support it. In this industry, it won't just go away. If we close shop, other companies are ready to step in.
Meg: I hope the buzz dies down, so that we focus on the information and the way you present information. It won't just go away.
Dave: Kevin's weblog is a perfectly example. I've learned a lot about Kevin, a lot more than when I occasionally read his column in Esther Dyson's newsletter.
Marc Canter jumps in: As word processors were to weblogs, there will be a decentralized environment in which many vendors provide aspects of the systems people use. The answer to VCs is that blogging is just the tip of the iceberg, when people want to connect cameras, PVRs, broadband in and around the home and office -- the same type of tools.
Dave: It would not be good if this industry just consolidated into a single app, like Microsoft.
Bob Frankston: Are we talking about capital "B" Blog with a trademark or just about making it easier for people to post stuff? It the later, we should be clear about that.
David Weinberger: If I am a consumer, I am not going to care if it is a blog. There's a third aspect: blog as a tone of voice.
Meg: I've always defined a weblog as just a format. Whether you write about your cat, and there is this idea that it will happen frequently, but that's about it.
Dave: My first blog post was in 94, no format. By an individual, not premeditated. This is what upsets professional reporters the most. When Dan Gillmor was talking about his blog, I wanted to say that most managers want their reporters to blog, but the reporters don't want to. They should post rumors and see what happens for their journalistic work.
Nick: That's what British journalists do in paper.
Question from the audience: In what way is a blog a platform? In what sense is a drawing or writing tool a platform?
Dave: Even the most basic blogging tool has programmability, so it is a kind of platform.
Marc Canter: As a Radio developer, it is a platform for us and we're going to do a lot with it (disclosure: I cowrote Marc's business plan for Broadband Mechanics)
Nick: There are lots of ways of making money. Buying advice. Personal news services, which hasn't worked because it was keyword based. You can even imagine online dating services based on blogs.
Meg: How do you find this stuff -- that's the huge unanswered question. How do we get this information to people when it is relevant.
Glenn Fleishmann: There are more than one type of blogger. But we're all men here -- 95%, and several conferences recently. Can we go beyond this monolithic blogging story to specific examples?
Dave: The NY Times has covered blogging a lot, but they always assign a reporter that hasn't been on the story before.
Dan Gillmor: There have been many more articles saying it is the next big thing than that they are going to disappear.
Dave: But they always tell both sides of the story (laughter in room).
Nick: One of the niche blogs we're going to launch is a woman who will write about life, and she's a woman. (this is all part of a "why are there so many men here in the room?" discussion -- Phill Wollf suggests that certain tools are more conducive to women, like LiveJournal, where the average user is a 16-year-old girl).
Doc: The most important thing about blogging is linking. If it is a blog, it's got to link a lot. This builds on what Tim Berners-Lee built to begin with.
Kevin: The question is, does the blogging community become predominantly the general population?
Nick: We can talk about the sexual demographics of blogging, but the politics are quite interesting. A lot of the activity and growth are among right-leaning libertarians.
Meg: A lot of people get into weblogging to connect to a small circle of friends, family and acquaintances. If my friends from high school do it and I keep track of them, okay. A lot of people don't realize its so open.
Dave: I can use the phone, regardless of whether that fat guy with the radio show -- Rush Limbaugh -- uses the phone, too. Lots of people need to be informed about what's going on.
Kevin: Let me rephrase: In five or ten years, what percentage of people who are online will have a weblog?
Meg: No way.
Dave: Do you want to make a bet?
Nick: A lot more people will be writing and that's a substantial change.
I asked a question, lost track of typing. Big gap in the discusson here.
Question from audience: How is this different?
Dave: Weblogs demand respect. On an email list, people can veto you. On a weblog, you can, if you choose to, get work done on your weblog in spite of resistance in your community.
Meg: A weblog post is like an IM post to the world.
Audience: But it doesn't demand a response.
Meg: But it is a packet of information that goes out, and people respond in a variety of ways. You don't think about it as much, so you get a variety of responses that people don't have to think about.
Audience: What about collaborative work?
Meg: That was why Blogger was built.
Dave: The best response we've had is in instant outliners, but we haven't any idea how to introduce that? We will, probably in a matter of weeks, two instances of these things called blog browsers - a tool that understood the chronological nature of what it is browsing.
Meg: How does blogging change social interaction. When we started Pyra, we worked in my living room. We are both bad at email, talking would interrupt. So we created an internal weblog to [note stuff]. It became a chronology of our startup and everyone we hired read it to learn our culture.
Cory Doctorow: What makes blogging interesting, like Hypercard, others: put tools for experts into their hands without demanding they know a lot of tools for publishing. It's not the usual suspects writing. It changes everything. There's a homeless guy in Philly with a blog; I'll bet every social worker in Philly reads it, and if they are not, they should. At EFF, we used to have to clear everything by lawywers, but with the blog we can clear stuff a paragraph at a time. It removes the barriers.
Dave: What you are saying is profound. Why is this like web services? It's coming in through the back door, just like the PC did. It enables people to do what they need to do in order to get their jobs done. When I made my decision to enter this industry in the late 70s, I didn't do it to help corporate people make little changes, but to blow through barriers.
Moses Ma: I think most people don't care about running what I call "windblogs" operated by pundits. But the tools are useful for creating new environments, like Ryze.
Kevin: What are the features you want?
Meg: Push for Weblogs. I can choose where I can read it, on phone and PCs, as it happens and as I think it's important.
Doc: Search within blogs.
David Weinberger: Blog threads
Dave: Have you seen backtracks?
David: It is better than not backtracks.
Marc Canter: Multimedia conversations. Re-entrant conversations. Persistent use throughout life.
Florian Brody: There is a perceived technology hump to getting in to the technology that needs to be overcome.
Nick: I want a news front page for the blogosphere and across the entire web. I want to locate myself within my social network, people recommending what I should read that day.
Cory: Indiosyncratic Google -- not a beauty contest but the people I like at the top.