July 23, 2003
September Kept Going

AOL is going to provide blogging tools to all users of version 9 of its software.

One of the nice things about weblogs is that they don't operate in a common space, but rather allow everyone to create their own space. So AOL doing this won't create anything quite as bad as the September that Never Ended:

All time since September 1993. One of the seasonal rhythms of the Usenet used to be the annual September influx of clueless newbies who, lacking any sense of netiquette, made a general nuisance of themselves. This coincided with people starting college, getting their first internet accounts, and plunging in without bothering to learn what was acceptable. These relatively small drafts of newbies could be assimilated within a few months. But in September 1993, AOL users became able to post to Usenet, nearly overwhelming the old-timers' capacity to acculturate them; to those who nostalgically recall the period before hand, this triggered an inexorable decline in the quality of discussions on newsgroups."
Still, there is plenty of room for the cultural norms of web site stewardship to decline or otherwise degenerate. Thankfully, there will be less of a lowest-common-denominator shift than there was with the popular/mainstream groups on USENET. This same "everyone has their own soapbox" structure leads to a significant echo chamber effect, but I'm pretty sure that this just reflects the reality of how unoriginal people are in general, rather than necessarily encouraging it.

One thing we can be sure of, though, is that there won't be much of an increase in the number of people asking, as Paul Ford did:

How could the Weblog "form" be expanded in regards to narrative, not technology, to become exciting and valuable over time?
In that article from way back in 2000, Ford proposes a number of new forms of weblogs that could be taken up. He also offers an explanation of why "so much of the web is so bad", which will almost certainly continue to be true:
Many people who create personal Web sites believe that by becoming famous, they will become less lonely.
Alternatively, people do things because they want recognition for doing them, not because they love doing them.

Would it be too pretentious to quote Rilke?

And if out of this turning-within, out of this immersion in your own world, poems come, then you will not think of asking anyone whether they are good or not. Nor will you try to interest magazines in these works: for you will see them as your dear natural possession, a piece of your life, a voice from it. A work of art is good if it has arisen out of necessity. That is the only way one can judge it.
If one feels one could live without writing, then perhaps one shouldn't write at all.
(from Letters to a Young Poet, 1903)

Rilke wrote that one hundred years ago; technology hasn't changed that much. But maybe, from those 34 million AOL users, a few hundred will find a place to share and develop some authentic or original work, or share interesting work or research. The rest will keep doing what "opinionated" people have been doing for years, slightly emboldened by new technology.

posted by dru in politicsoftech