Announcements, Info Tech, Language

The word blog” is listed in the March 2003 draft of the OED. It is listed as both a noun and a verb. Both uses are first dated as appearing in 1999.

Blog as a verb:

intr. To write or maintain a weblog. Also: to read or browse through weblogs, esp. habitually.

I like the dual aspect of this definition, since I believe most bloggers” (also dating from 1999) are also habitual readers of blogs”!

Blog as a noun is listed as being short for weblog” which has a slightly older history. The first definition appeared in 1993:

  1. A file storing a detailed record of requests handled (and sometimes also errors generated) by a web server.

But it seems to me that the second definition is now more current, this dates to 1997:

  1. A frequently updated web site consisting of personal observations, excerpts from other sources, etc., typically run by a single person, and usually with hyperlinks to other sites; an online journal or diary.

All this is simply my way of announcing that blogs have come of age. Like many others, my blogging started in the wake of September 11th, and fell into the category of what has been referred to as warblogging.” We received digital cable and a cable modem the week after September 11th, and were very glad we did so. Not only had TV in New York City been knocked down with the towers, but there was generally a dearth of news that wasn’t warmongering and hysteria. The immediate and cynical use of the tragedy to whip the nation into a frenzy was a tremendous disservice to the memory of the many who died that day. Personally I never saw it as an American” tragedy — but an international one. There where hundreds of Pakistanis, Japanese, and other foreign nationals who died in what was always the World Trade Center. And I believe it was targeted as a symbol of global capitalism, not simply a symbol of American power, although the two are often conflated. In fact, this is the discussion I had with the guy who installed our digital cable. He kept insisting that it was an American” tragedy. This was his way of dealing with what was also a personal tragedy — a close relative had died in the explosion.

Cable TV and a cable modem allowed us to suddenly have access to a whole other world of news and information. The BBC, Guardian UK, Alternet, and War In Context, immediately became daily sources of information not available in the mainstream US media. At first I forwarded stories I found important to friends and family via an e-mail list I had long ago set up to keep in touch with everyone. However, I soon found that there was a flood of information and e-mail didn’t seem like the best method of distribution. Not only did I have to do a lot of work cleaning up the text and formatting it for e-mail, but more and more I was finding news on web sites full of links — it was simply too much to extract and copy all the links into an e-mail. Then I became aware that some of these sites were blogs” and that the software necessary for them was freely available for download and installation on my own server.

By the time I had set up my first blog, using the excellent Nucleus software, newspaper articles were slowly starting to trickle out about this new phenomenon. It turned out that many of the new blogs were actually pro-war. But many more were for personal diaries, short stories, photographs, and (of course) information technology. A brief exploration of site listing blogs in NY City by subway stop, because it grouped blogs by geography rather than subject matter, demonstrated just how diverse the blogsphere” (not yet in the OED) had already become.

When the failure to capture Bin Laden drew us imperceptibly from one war into the next, bloggers and blogging software had already developed considerably more sophisticated. I personally joined up with an anti-war blog collective. I also became aware of many more excellent blogs (see the blogroll” on the right menu of this blog). There was even someone blogging from Baghdad right up to the start of the war! For a while my own personal blog coasted along as simply a bunch of links to articles on these other excellent web sites. I even started a wiki (also not yet in the OED) to allow bloggers to put together all of the best anti-war posts that had come along.

But finally I decided enough was enough. Thanks to the spread of broadband internet access, and the development of new technologies, such as RSS news feed aggregators, I no longer feel obligated to simply be a conduit of information that other people can easily get for themselves. Instead, I thought I’d start a new blog!

So, here we are. It is July 2003, and I’m announcing the start of a new blog devoted to exploring the personal and political meanings of keywords” in the news. Inspired by a book of the same name by Raymond Williams, and with two years blogging experience behind me, I hope that this will be something new and useful — and not simply a collection of links like my last blog often (but not always) was. I’ve switched software — to Movable Type, which works a little better with my desktop software than Nucleus did. I’m also allowing open comments (although not anonymous ones) this time. Lets see how it goes…