Rettberg and a History of Blogging

Jill Rettberg’s book Blogging published in 2008 covers the history of blogging. That seems simple enough, but according to the assigned chapter nothing could be further from the truth. Sure, we think we can readily identify a blog by certain characteristics. Much like this blog you will see a large section that contains the posts and either one or multiple columns containing links, widgets, or possibly even ads. However, Rettberg rightly points out that maybe it’s not so easy to define blogs.

Rettberg points to Wikipedia’s article on blogging which stated at the time that a blog is “a Web site where entries are written in chronological order and commonly displayed in revers chronological order”. Today Wikipedia starts out with a much broader definition. A blog no longer has to be it’s own site, but can be a part of a site dedicated to something entirely different than blogging. To properly define a blog today is no easy task. I believe it is almost impossible to do so. Sure, that Rettberg’s basic definition is still in place, but the scope has definitely grown. I think it is important to look at her examples as well as some others to properly get an idea of what blogging is today.

Her examples of different types of blogs are most definitely as relative today as they were in 2008, but they definitely need to be expanded. Dooce.com was used as an example of a personal blog. Written by Heather Armstrong, Dooce.com is used by Rettberg as an example of what can happen when bloggers fail to properly censor themselves. Armstrong lost her job due to the things she was posting. I personally believe that this shows that personal blogs are not necessarily personal. For something to be personal it has to be beyond the reach of the public. Posting to a site that is meant to be freely open to the entire world can carry consequences. When the whole world is looking it is important to be aware of how your words could affect your life.

Many blogs are designed to cover certain topics. Rettberg refers to them as “topic-driven blogs”. Dailykos.com is one such site that Rettberg mentioned. Daily Kos has seen enormous popularity due to its unabashed liberal slant. Coming from an American perspective, they have a potential audience that consists of roughly half the population of this country. Presenting a certain view or slant to your ideas and beliefs will almost always attract fellow believers. It’s basically preaching to the choir, but the choir is not in one little chapel. They are all over the world and number in the billions. Many sites such as MichelleMalkin.com, TownHall.com, Crooksandliars.com, and Americablog.com employ such techniques. Often these sites go so far as to only allow ads that agree with their views.

The third type of blog covered is what Rettberg calls “filter blogs”. These blogs primarily focus on certain interests. She uses kottke.org as an example. Jason Kottke’s blog focuses mainly on web design, development and technology. This is perhaps the genre of blog that I find the most fascinating. There really is no end to what people can write about. One of my personal favorites is overlawyered.com. Founded by lawyer Walter Olson, it covers the “high cost of our legal system”. Overlawyered.com is an interesting example because it blurs some lines, but I will get in to that later. To list even the tip of the iceberg when it comes to filter blogs would take up more space than I think most would care to read. A few of my favorite examples though include Bad Astronomy, Engadget, Dot Physics, and Explorations in Science.

As I stated earlier, the lines between blogs and commercial sites are being blurred more and more every day. Also, blogs can no longer be placed in to neat little genres like filter blogs, topic-driven blogs, or personal blogs. Overlawyered is a blog about ridiculous lawsuits and their cost to our legal system. While this may seem to be a filter blog it also focuses on topics that are more conservative in nature. So where does it fit? Is it topic-driven or is it filtered? I guess that question is only answered by how the reader chooses to look at it. Personally I think it fits into both definitions.

Another question that has to be asked: are blogs confined to traditional definitions? By the definition given multiple times by Rettberg, sites like Cracked.com would be blogs. Social media sites could now be viewed as mini-blogs. Is there really much difference between my blog and what people post on Facebook? Besides the length, they really are effectively the same thing. In fact, many posts, pages, and groups on Facebook can even be divided up in to the genres that Rettberg lays out.

Rettberg set out to define what a blog is or is not. I feel that she did this successfully for when the book was written. In the fast paced world of the internet, a three year old book is practically ancient. However, much of what she points out that is vital to being a blog still largely exists and is in fact growing more prevalent. The question then becomes, is that due to the fact that blogging is becoming the shape of the internet? My answer? Absolutely.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Rettberg and a History of Blogging

  1. You said: “I personally believe that this shows that personal blogs are not necessarily personal. For something to be personal it has to be beyond the reach of the public.”

    I totally agree. This reminds me of childhood years of keeping a diary. I would always make sure to lock that diary and hide the key. Yet today so many people forget that they need to lock that diary and hide the key on some very personal thoughts.

    Where I work, we have a very strong social media policy. We must click through the presentation and answer questions. Yet, a co-worker of mine posted on Facebook “Stupid Company Name.” AND she have over 200 people as friends from our company. Our company holds our reputation on an extremely high pedestal. Coupled with that are SEC and other government agency requirements that our industry has to comply with.

    More people need to realize the truth behind your quote.

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