a node at the edge  

May 05, 2002
MetabloggingWeblogging Community

Dave responded to my earlier post with a thoughtful and considerate posting that asked a very valid question:

    So anyway, here's a question for Shelley. When I see your site update on Weblogs.Com, I usually go for a visit to see what the bird is burning about now. I think of that as a community feature. Do you think it's valuable? If not, why do you participate?

First, thanks for stopping by Dave, always appreciated. And as a point of clarification -- I dropped that silly rule about comments I had about five minutes after I originated it, so please feel free to drop in with comments.

Back to the question: Why do I particpate in pinging weblogs.com, when my interest tends to be on the people aspect of weblogging rather than the technology?

Though my focus is on the participants, I also appreciate much of the technology used in weblogging, particularly the weblogging tools such as Movable Type, Radio, and Blogger. And I also appreciate community services such as weblogs.com that let me know when my favorite webloggers have updated.

To me, technology provides a framework that allows me to communicate with my weblogging community easily and without a lot of hassle. I'll alway be grateful for the folks who create all this technology that makes my weblogging life a lot easier. Still, technology is only an enabler -- the content of the weblogs is the key aspect to "community" in my opinion.

If technology could be considered equivalent to the nerves in the brain, it is the people that provide the chemistry that enables the synaptic (community) connections to be made. Without the chemistry provided by the webloggers, the technology is nothing more than bits and bytes and wires all jumbled about in a chaotic and undifferentiated mess, thrown into the ether.

Consider my own community of webloggers -- the virtual neighborhood that I reference fondly and at length. Technology will tell me that Bill Simoni's weblog can be accessed at the URL, http://radio.weblogs.com/0100111/. And technology can let me know when Bill has updated his weblog, through weblogs.com.

Bill uses technology to create his weblog (using Radio), which is accessed through additional technology (the Internet). And I read the weblog through my browser (Mozilla by preference), contained on my laptop -- yet more examples of technology.

However, technology doesn't tell me that Bill is expecting a baby any day now. And technology doesn't tell me that Bill has a nice, self-deprecating sense of humor, is pretty excited about the baby, and has a a thing about grammar and spellchecking ;-)

That's community.

If Userland and Movable Type and Blogger were to discontinue innovating their products as of this minute, we would perhaps have less fun toys to work with. We'd miss out on better products, and more reliable hosting, and more interesting ways to post, and better ways to aggregate the postings, and more efficient approaches regarding notification...

...but we'd still have our community.

You'd have to take the Internet down to take down our community, and due to the pervasive nature of the Net, I don't think this is even possible, now.

Ultimately, the community is not dependent on the technology as much as the technology is, itself, dependent on the community. Because without the community, why would we need the technology in the first place?

And the topic is continued here.

Posted by Bb at May 05, 2002 01:59 PM


So does that mean you like centralized features or not? I find this confusing. Weblogs.Com centralizes updates. Good or bad?

Posted by: Dave Winer on May 5, 2002 02:17 PM

I like weblogs.com, but can get by without it if need be. I'd like to see this decentralized if possible. In fact, weblogs.com could be an interesting test of P2P technologies -- if something happens to one server, another kicks in, consumers are notified of new address, that sort of thing.

Posted by: Bb aka Shelley aka Weblog Bosswoman on May 5, 2002 02:34 PM

A small point about weblogs.com. The participants, including me, are definitely not all techheads. Most MT bloggers ping weblogs too.

Yes Dave, weblogs.com is good, but basically irrelevent to the discussion about centralized servers, etc.

Posted by: Allan on May 5, 2002 02:42 PM

weblogs.com is good, but basically irrelevent to the discussion about centralized servers, etc.

Allan, please explain that.

Posted by: Dave Winer on May 5, 2002 03:14 PM

I think if Dave Winer asked me to explain myself, I might pee in my pants.

Just a thought.

Posted by: Shannon on May 5, 2002 05:51 PM

Shannon, scary thought. ;->

Posted by: Dave Winer on May 5, 2002 07:25 PM

It's very convenient if all the weblogs I read ping weblogs.com -- I can find out about updates in just one place (filtered using Dan Sanderson's blogtracker tool).

But the down side is when Weblogs.com goes down, poof! no more updates and I'm back to checking pages manually.

Posted by: Anita Rowland on May 5, 2002 09:08 PM

Anita - there's where getting people to ping blo.gs as well as weblogs.com is very helpful, especially when you're using Phil Ringnalda's PHP Blogroll, which takes its feed from blo.gs (which feeds off of weblogs.com, as well as itself). Good stuff.

Posted by: Shannon on May 5, 2002 09:28 PM

well, this is a wonderful place that i just wandered into through the fundamental interconnectness of all things bloggy (that would be a link in a comments section, in this case). i appreciate and use the pinging weblogs.com feature of MT, and also make use of blogsnob and wanderlust. being able to follow connection after connection is an important part of commutity to me, and i do believe that this community is better for the technology make available to us.

Posted by: kd on May 5, 2002 10:56 PM

Everything everyone has said here is true, except, imho, that Weblogs.Com is irrelevant to the centralization thread. It's right on-topic, because it's a centralized service, and it can go down, and when it does it's sorely missed. That may be the definition of centralized. Lots of smart people are working on exactly this issue.

Look at it this way, a link has the same centralization issue. What happens if the site you're pointing to goes down or even worse goes away?

Posted by: Dave Winer on May 6, 2002 07:48 AM

"Look at it this way, a link has the same centralization issue. What happens if the site you're pointing to goes down or even worse goes away?"

Hi Dave,

Well, if you put at like that, then the entire 'net is centralised - which in a way of course it is, as everything is connected to everything else. But it isn't really is it, as if a server or a site dies or goes away only a tiny link in millions of different chains is broken - so OTOH we can say that the 'net is not centralised. (Jeez, this could get headspinny if thought about too deeply couldn't it.)

Weblogs.com centralised? Yes, probably, in a 'community' way as I imagine that a very large number of people indeed read it very very regularly - but there are alternatives to that as well (none as good by far I have to say) therefore we could could also say that is not centralised as well.

Yep. I knew this would get full of its own contradictions and headspinnyness would commence. More coffee required whilst I see what you say to that. Supposing you could make head or tail of what I was saying.

Posted by: Rogi on May 6, 2002 08:34 AM

More coffee required whilst I see what you say to that.

LOL. Same here. ;->

Posted by: Dave Winer on May 6, 2002 09:43 AM

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