Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Blogging: The First 20 Years

Twenty years ago, today, the father of blogging, Dave Winer, published his first blog post. Back then, it wasn't called a blog or web log. That came later. But its original purpose hasn't changed. Winer, more than anyone else, has preached and practiced that the purpose of blogging is to narrate one's work.

Blogging is fundamentally different than journalism, but there's also an overlap. There's so much of an overlap that Pulitzer awarded the Huffington Post its National Reporting prize in 2012. The prize was awarded for journalism coverage. The coverage was posted on a blog that grew into a news service. News services have blogs and blogs provide news services. Twitter, more than any other company, has seized this opportunity as a micro-blog, news service, and communications platform.

There's both a human and technical element which causes high-tech services to reach the masses. On the technical side, webifying a technology makes it more accessible. Twitter webified RSS, Hotmail webified SMTP, and blogging platforms like Wordpress and Blogger have webified FTP. But it's the human element that's key. These services, plus Podcasts, social media, and comments, etc, allow people to express themselves. It's the very act of expressing ourselves that is our passion. Plus, these webified technologies are truly innovative. Innovation is something that reduces the cost of a transaction. And well designed technology will get out of your way to enhance your productivity. 

Without realizing it, we've seen these changes over the past two decades. Adam Curry, a former MTV VJ, once explained to me how he persuaded Winer to solve the Internet video broadcast problem. Fifteen years ago, video didn't stream, it downloaded due to slow bandwidth. It might take five minutes to download a sixty-second news broadcast that was the size of a postage stamp. Winer had no interest in this user experience until Curry suggested "channels." These channels would download news broadcasts in the middle of the night, while you slept. A light went off in Winer's head when he realized that these channels should be RSS feeds with MP3 or video links. This was the birth of the podcast feed format. What's beautiful about this example is that Winer recorded it for the world to see. He didn't document it only because it was a breakthrough, he documented as just another day at the office.

Winer narrates his work on many levels. Sometimes it's on a human level, like his description of how he and Curry came up with the idea for podcasting. Other times, it's on a technical level such as his step-by-step guide, EC2 for Poets, which demonstrates how a non-technical person can get a server up and running within an hour.

Whether you agree or disagree with Winer, don't simply tweet him, "You're wrong." Instead, write a blog post and point him to it. You'll be amazed how much you'll learn in the process. Winer's been wrong many times. And he's been wrong about being wrong. Winer initially said the iPad had too many shortcomings. He was on Facebook, then off Facebook, and now he's back on Facebook because he's realized its potential as a publishing platform. He's not afraid to publicize his thoughts for debate and discussion. If the sign of strength is adaptability, then the sign of intelligence and humility is the ability to recognize when we're wrong. Now go forth and narrate your work. 


Dave Winer said...

Joe that's a wonderful piece. Thank you! ;-)

Joe Moreno said...

You're most welcome, Dave!