Seth Godin
Are blogs backward?

This leads me to two thoughts:
a. a lot more blogs should be posted in chronological order, like books. If you're trying to chronicle something, it makes a lot of sense to start at the beginning, as long as you provide regular readers an easy way to just read the current stuff (That's what RSS is for, right?). No, this isn't right for gizmodo. But it makes a lot of sense for someone, say, chronicling her experience in a 12 step program.

b. we need Movable Type or someone to create a simple way to create "greatest hits" pages. Not an archive, but a simple way for a new reader to read the ten posts we want them to start with, in the order we want them read, before they dive in.

I know it's weird to read a chronological blog. It's worse, imho, to leave a great blog just because the last two posts don't make sense out of context.

I think that blogs are creating a new format that people have become used to reading. Regardless of whether it is the most effective format, people are now accustomed to seeing new posts on top, stuff in the sidebar, etc. Granted that many people are reading blogs for the first time, I think that there is too much momentum to make a dramatic shift in the way we present information on blogs without a lot of confusion.

I think that making a "greatest hits" page easier to create makes sense. I personally like wiki pages for that sort of thing, but I could imagine it being built into a tool. Another thing people do is to put a sidebar section of favorite items and permalink from there.

Or maybe there is a way to create another view that allows you to read a blog from the beginning. That should be that hard.

10 Comments

Sigh...
" It is what you make it"
A "blog" is a "content management system" or a rudimentary "knowledge management system"

Until folks realize that all these debates about "what a blog is/isn't" they are having are biased upon UI decisions (chronological or not, permalinks, comments or not, etc...), we're gonna keep turning in circles.

The systems are quite flexible and you can tailor them for your particular purpose.

That said...

For a "greatest hits": Create a "greatest hits" category. Voila. Easier in MT than Typepad but equally doable.

Saying "we need Movable Type or someone to create a simple way to [...]" without asking someone if it is already possible is kinda silly... ;)

Boris, I think there is blogs as a technology. A simple content management tool. Then I think there is blogs as an emerging form including layout, navigation and style. There obviously can be many types of blogs, but I think that having some default navigational standards helps the reader. Newspapers are all a bit different, but they have some basic techniques that allow the readers to pick up any newpaper and read it without feeling upside-down or inside-out.

That said, I agree with you. I think messing with templates before asking for feature requests is a good thing, but probably most people who don't mess with templates don't know about the flexibility at that level.

I guess Godin doesn't quite get it. He's trying to adapt 20th century's formats in a completely new context. So much for "permission marketing" (argh).

The blog architecture for time is very present oriented. The present comes first.

The general way the past is made more prominent in blogs is by referencing it in the present (i.e., re-posting, or posting a link to "on this day last year", etc.).

There hasn't been a big movement with blog tools to repurpose posts (or otherwise view them) in a different architecture--one that either effectively removes the time element, or one that resequences it along the lines of a chronological timeline.

I actually think topic oriented views are a generally more important architectural feature than chronological timeline views, but, in general, I think this is about blogging + ??? (where ??? could be something good and/or interesting).

Blogging itself is present oriented.

If you find the solution at the application level, by tweaking templates, I think you're limiting the ultimate potential.
Blogs are databases. They are collections of pieces of information, essentially. Traditional databases, unlike blogs, are completely flexible in how the data are presented. Blogs will have this flexibility when there is enough demand. If the blogging platforms themselves don't build the functionality, the newsreaders will. (Imagine a newsreader that worked like iTunes - it would keep all of the data it ever sees, be able to split feeds into entries that could be sorted any number of ways, chronologically, by keywords, whatever. Custom "playlists" of related entries from multiple sources. Imagine being able to take a post in your newsreader and click "Show Technorati Cosmos" and suddenly your newsreader is filled with a bunch of posts from sources you're not even subscribed to. Man, that would rock.)
The key is to split the data from the presentation. RSS and Atom are the first steps towards this, but they are not quite there yet.

If you think of blogs, posts, comments and such as *objects*, pieces of data, you can give them different attributes that will ultimately much more flexible and useful.
In the past, data objects tended to have relationships only with other data objects within a closed system. Good systems were well-thought-out and precise. Object hierarchies were logically composed and neatly laid out - a complete collection of data became crystalline in its form.

Blog data, too, are collections of objects - blogs, posts, comments, pings, etc, but they extend beyond the system. Rather than being crystalline, they are organic. There's a whole ecosystem going on - there's a food chain as well - Sites like fark and boingboing are the big fish - they feed off smaller fish, who cannot exist without the plankton of a billion other pieces of data out there. Like an organic system, there is no blueprint - the different components of the system probably don't understand the meaning or value of their existence.
But even without a blueprint, there is a structure.

A single blog entry may or may not be able to exist on it's own - some are dependent upon other entries or pages to keep their value, but some are primary sources - the plant life. Blogosphere is rich in plant life - millions of leaves collecting sunlight and feeding the rest of the ecosystem.

With blogs, certain mechanisms exist that make them work *really* well and thrive in the ecosystem:
The first is permalinks. Data has grown roots. If you link to another small site, there's a much better chance now that the remote data will be there than there was five years ago. (Go to web.archive.org and look up fark.com from 2000. It looks much the same as it does now, but many of the remote links are gone. Without the remote data, it loses relevance. It's dead.)
In the past, a webmaster had to be pretty conscientious to maintain a good structure of links that did not break. Now, it's a non-issue with a good CMS like MT. It just happens.

Comments and Trackbacks create a tangible relationship between the data, a kind of bee/flower existence. This cross-pollination of data is just as effective in making a blog robust as it is in the real world.
(Parasites exist, of course, most notably in the form of comment spammers. Toads, too - Hi Ado!)

Where traditional systems and structured databases have querying languages designed to find an exact piece of data, we have Google. In a database, you might search for a certain transaction and no other transaction will do. With Google, it's more like fishing for a "suitable" piece of data, rather than a specific one. Much more organic.

Technorati is an interesting phenomenon, like a scientist who lives too near the ecosystem, it has inevitably become a part of it. In its earlier incarnation, it was an objective observer. Now, it's become a component that feeds the system, as illustrated by the Technorati links popping up on blogs everywhere.

OK, I am going on *way* too long with this...

It would surely be nice to have blogging tools with more flexibility for the reader--like a database of posts that the reader could sort chronologically, by topic, or by keyword so that they can experience the blog as they see fit.

Check out the Bloglines blog interface. At the top is a link allowing you to simply change the sort order of all the blog entries on the front page from newest at top to oldest at top. Quite useful if you want to check out a blog you haven't followed regularly before: http://www.bloglines.com/blog/magnush (in Swedish, sorry, but you can see the link at the top...).

Hmm, if I remember well there's a MT plugin doing just that... bingo!
Here it is MTMostVisited.
Never tried it, though...

The pros and cons to having a chronology to your blog really come down to the whole problem with personalisation. Sure, a blogger that is trying to tell a story through his posts could introduce new readers better by having them read the blog chronolgically - however the regular readers will find this clunky - who wants to scroll down the page to see the latest post? By pleasing one set of users, you are inconveniencing another.

I find that the best thing to do if you are telling a story is to provide links back to a previous post if you feel your latest post may not make sense to a newbie reader. In doing this, one can create many different stories in a blog.

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7 TrackBacks

Listed below are links to blogs that reference this entry: Seth Godin : Are blogs backward?.

TrackBack URL for this entry: http://joi.ito.com/MT-4.35-en/mt-tb.cgi/2630

Backward Blogs? from Babs - A Day In The Life
July 27, 2004 11:20 AM

I read something today that made me want to continue the conversation. Read More

Joi Ito links to a post by Seth Godin who mentions the idea of "greatest hits", or weblog posts that you (as the blogger) think people should read first when coming to your site. >I think that making a "greatest hits" page easier to create makes... Read More

Al derecho from zonageek en español
July 27, 2004 1:13 PM

Acabo de ver este post donde Joi habla sobre los comentarios de Seth acerca de como el orden cronológico inverso no necesariamente es el más apropiado. Y recorde una de esas ideas que tengo en la cabeza desde hace tiempo... Read More

One of the main conventions of blogging is the presentation of content in reverse-chronological order. When a reader visits a blog, she is inevitably presented with the most recent entry at the top of the page, with a series of older entries available as Read More

Joi Ito's Web: Seth Godin : Are blogs backward? Doid Read More

Weblog Chronology from Evil Genius Chronicles
August 3, 2004 11:37 AM

First Seth Godin wondered if blogs are backwards, which Joi Ito commented on. Sebastian from Zonageek then proposed (note - following link is in Spanish) that when looking at a date view on a blog it should go in forward order but otherwise in reverse.... Read More

... blogs are backwards" (joi ito) ... and the discussion, whether that's good or not. (via dienstraum, see blogroll) in my humble opinion: yes. blogs are not "content managment systems", as was said in the discussion. blogs are a cultural... Read More

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