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Say Everything

A history of blogging – and why it matters.

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I first heard the word “blog” in 1999 or 2000. A friend and I were visiting his old college buddy, whose shaggy haircut and charismatic personality belied a deep, techie dorkiness. He worked in an IT department and his bookshelves sagged with science fiction and experimental novels.

Our host was a blogger, my friend explained. Every day, he wrote down everything he did and thought and put it on the Web for a group of people to read. Then he read what those people were doing and thinking. Once a week, everybody got together. Then they raced home and wrote about what they’d just been doing and thinking. Sometimes they argued. Or gossiped. The whole enterprise struck me as a juvenile, self-absorbed waste of time.

In Say Everything, his enjoyable, highly readable history of blogging, Scott Rosenberg corroborates most of my initial impressions. The form of short, frequently updated posts was created in the early 1990s by sociable, Web-enthusiastic geeks who wanted either to express themselves or organize the sprawl of information online. They quickly formed a digital community with cults of personality and social hierarchies. Many of their posts concerned blogging itself: the best ways to host and build a blog, the character flaws of other bloggers, how great blogging was. The most-visited blogs often displayed an aggressive or snarky tone. These characteristics – in addition to the silly-sounding name, derived from “web log” – made many noninitiates recoil.

Not Rosenberg. A cofounder of and an early devotee of blogs, he espouses the Walt Whitman argument for the medium, characterizing it as an opportunity for a multitude of human voices to form a vast creative and intellectual landscape – a manifest destiny of expression.


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