Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.


Recent thread on the types of blogs highlighted something that bothers me: The term Blogging has hit the use-by date.

Face it, the word "blog" does not have a beautiful sound.

More to the point, however, there are so many types of blog-like interactions that it is way too generic.

In the thread we arrived at three styles of blogging (they can be mixed in a single blog, of course):

1- Talk - distributed conversation that reaps ideas

2- Inform - links to interesting things

3- Opine - Puts forward viewpoints

Sam Tresler highlighted many uses for blogs:

- Organizational

- Personal

- Business

Can anyone think of a better term than blogging to describe what we are talking about?


This is quite strange: The Oxfor American dictionary powering the Dictionary application on Mac OS X, gives the following difference between weblog and blog:

"weblog - noun - a Web site on which an individual or group of users produces an ongoing narrative."

"blog - noun - a weblog : blogs run by twenty-something Americans with at least an unhealthy interest in computers."

I don't know which new term we'll find for blogging, but 'blogging', after having read its meaning on Oxford, isn't funny anymore.

while you're at it why not rename other stuff: Internet, application, browse,

How about 'weblogging', which is an elegant, descriptive term that rolls smoothly into any context.

Telephone's short form "phone" must have sounded strange at one point too.
Say it twenty times.

But yes, "blog" has a particularly distasteful sound to it.

Sure, it might not be a pretty term, but its collective value in that it encompasses so many different forms of interaction is what, in my opinion makes it great. Why replace something that has grown to become accepted by many? Would it not be better to categorize the sub-types underneath the collective term?

I totally agree and talked about it on my web site a few weeks ago. Although not a creative title, I ask clients if they want a "living web site" or one that is not.

Now the conversation is simple. "My web site is alive, is yours?" their answer.. "Hmmm, I am not sure. But alive sounds much better to me than dead. How do I make my web site alive?"

Much better, less "inner circle" and far more exciting than the "Do you have a blog?" question.

Then the question is not whether to not to have a blog but whether or not they want a site that is living and evolving.

at the end of the day what is created is digital notebooks, no more, no less just individual

Thanks Howard!

Two great comments from Howard's earlier discussion on the subject:

- The word blog has become too "cute" people roll their eyes at me when I talk about it.

- the word "blog" sounds like something you call a plumber to fish out of the toilet because it's started to stink really badly, and the liquid plumber isn't making it go away.

(Sorry for lack of links, have not yet figured out how to put them in my comments)

Yeah - its gotta go. But it is already entrenched. My grandma knows what a blog is. And the real nasty part being that a lot of the new blogs aren't web-logs at all. They are sites with routinely updated dynamic content. To me, a weblog is for public diary entries. Do you call your morning newspaper a log? Captains have logs - thats about it.

It is interesting to me because we are dealing with a new medium that can take several forms. Traditional writers who can choose to write books, magazine articles, newspaper coloumns, or leaflets are all authors - how did online authors become bloggers?

I think Duncan is onto something (#5). We don't need to eliminate the word blog - in fact, we can't. However we can differentiate our individual sites if we agree on a common taxonomy. In fact this afternoon I'll seperate the "journal entry/diary" sections of my websprawl out to a "Tresler's Blog" link and leave up the rest. Thing is, I don't know what the rest is.

And what are the seperate categories? I would also have difficulty asking someone to visit my opine. I can only think that the one major thing in common is Dynamic Content we might prefix with Dyna-something that makes senese?

And at the risk of the horrible pun we can call static sites Dyna-saurs...

The horse left the barn about five years ago on this one. No one has the ability to "un-name" the generic term blog (might as well try to un-name "e-mail" as well). However, I do think there is a half-life on the term "blogger." As we don't call people "e-mailers," I don't think we'll call people "bloggers" when everyone has a personal publishing platform to which they add a constant stream of information and media they create. Also, I think you'll see a lot of "adjective" blogs to replace the term "blog"... Academic-blog, Reporter-blog, Personal-blog. In my "real" life and work, I don't find it helpful to be called "a blogger," (I've given up on doing anything about it though), however, I like pointing people to my blog.

Speaking of "blog" and "distasteful sound" of my friends - who has a livejournal - convinced her boyfriend to get himself one too.

And after her bf's first "solo" post, she posted on her LJ something like "He blogged for the first time without my help" .. the image I suddenly got, dont know why, was of a proud mom of a small kid announcing that her kid could go to the toilet all by himself, without help :) [probably the word "blog" triggered that association ...]

Let me cast a vote against "blog" as well. Never liked it. Try not use it. I pray someone here will come up with something better. I suspect it's too late. But there are other terms that have just become outdated (CB for citizens band radio comes to mind) so maybe there is hope.

I kinda like to speak of 'personal publishing'. Which means we have one or a few individuals per blog, no editors, and direct control over the content we publish. I guess.

@gillo: you cited an example sentence for the use of the word "blog", according to oxford's dictionary. But it's not a definition, and it never was intended to be one!

I like "webjournal" rather than "blog", but I'll also use "weblog" in a pinch.

"Webjournal" seems to cover almost anything I might put online, but doesn't have the ooky sound of "blogging."

Oh Joi, got the factiod before i could post it !!

Correct, the "blog" is here to stay.. !!

Interesting point made by Vlad Spears in a post about this thread:

Weblogs are about identity, not ego.

Ego and identity are linked, but identity is the core set of information that defines you when the world looks at your record. Ego is the gratification you feel while basking in the world's gaze.

To decry weblogs without comments as one-way founts of ego is to miss the point of the web. The web is inherently omni-directional. Anyone may link to anything, in any context.

If you want the instant ego-gratification of seeing your words on the screen amidst the babble of multiple others, what you want is a forum. That's what a forum is for, and why most have moderators and rules for civil posting.

A weblog is about the views of a specific person or group, which anyone may disagree with, and even make that disagreement public by posting their thoughts about it on their own weblog and linking back to the original.

The term "blog" was past due the minute it was coined. A bad case of contracted jargonism to begin with, ripe for scorning, funny sounding and philosophically elitist to boot.

Let it die, if you can. But good luck with that. The bed is made, the sheets are soiled and the sleeping is uneasy.

Long live empowered self-publishing, but death to silly, elitist and trite soundbites.

Vlad, touched on a sore point there regarding the egotism of 'weblogs', huh? ;-)

I don't like the word 'blog' much either. It seems a little crass, but it has that simplistic feeling to it that is often used to describe something new that should be 'cool' but isn't necessarily new after all. Blogs are conversations but instead of having them face to face, we have them online instead. So how about interblogospongiforical chinwag? No?

Not so much a sore point, Noel, as a blanket discounting of an entire group of bloggers.

Mow: I see now that it's written in italic, but it remains a very unfortunate example sentence methinks.

Keep the personal part.

I come to this site to see what Joi thinks is interesting. I trust him to filter a bit of the B.S. and expose some of the gems. I never think "Joi's blog" but rather "what does Joi have to say in far away Japan?"

Vlad, I don't discount bloggers, i.e. people who encourage more than one-way conversation on their site. Spewers I discount out of hand and without apology.

Noel, that doesn't really make sense.

The potential value of someone's writings isn't lessened just because they don't want or don't provide two-way interaction with their readers. Think about someone who may be writing a weblog for mental therapy or to chart their course through a particular endeavor. They know they're being read, but the important thing for them at this stage is simply to write and feel like they have an outlet. They're writing, not hosting a forum for your thoughts.

Other bloggers can pick their posts up and discuss them endlessly elswhere, so you can't argue this one-way blogger doesn't contribute to the larger discussion.

Why should they be discounted?

Hey Joi!

I think instead of calling it blogging it should be called "Web Posting" or perhaps "Webposting" because that's basically what's being done. People make Posts for different purposes, not just for personal publishing, not just for community, not just for marketing. So shift the terminology to the action, instead of the application, and I think it is more widely applicable.

Sometimes, you gotta admit, it should just be called a clusterfuck...

"The potential value of someone's writings isn't lessened just because they don't want or don't provide two-way interaction with their readers."

Vlad, it is for me.

When our own blog is up and running in a week or two, we are not going to be interested in only our own point of view by writing letters to ourselves and hoping other like-minded Spewers trackback to us. Our interest is in having vigorous online discussions that are not only going to be about what we've posted but will also include whatever people who comment on our blog want to discuss. And that is bound to include some disagreement with our point of view.

For example, we are publishing a book. We could release it and hide behind a no-comment website, tactfully ignoring all of the criticism of the book that people are bound to voice in the 'distributed conversation'. Would involve a lot less headaches and allow us to simply put forward progaganda without ever having to directly defend that propaganda on our site. Instead, people who are unlucky enough to receive an advance copy (or purchase one new) will be allowed to vigorously tear it to shreds on our own site. Crazy you might say! A hell of a lot more fun says I.

Rex said, "The horse left the barn about five years ago on this one. No one has the ability to "un-name" the generic term blog."

This is true.

Today, in Japan, I heard the word blog, or ブログ, from three different customers a 72-year-old retired businessman - He has a blog, a 17-year-old blogging high school student, and a 4th-year university student who blogs. For those of you wanting to "un-name" blogs, you have got your work cut out for you. No, really, you do. I don't think the following organizations plan on changing anytime soon:

Then there are the books:

The un-naming of blogs won't happen - it's become too much a part of the public discourse as a term. As Rex suggested, we may see blog genres, similar to music genres, "Academic-blog, Reporter-blog, Personal-blog."

Here's what can be done:

Instead of renaming blogs, you can create a new personal means of communication and give it a new name.

But won't people say, "aren't those like blogs?"

They will. The answer then, is to form a company, dominate the marketplace, and let the company name take the place of the term blog.

Adoption will happen for the sort of people who say they've googled it at yahoo, rather than searched.

or for example, "I LJ'd it," rather than blogged.

Yes, I agree with the masses-"blog" is an ugly, stupid sounding word. However, I agree that it is too late to turn back now. Webjournal is too long to be catchy.

On the note of categories: the webby awards (which I just heard about, but apparently they are an authority!?) is defining three blog "categories" for its awards.

Blog - Business
Blog - Culture/Personal
Blog - Political

For what its worth.

As familiar as the term has become to we who enact it, the general public has only just come to understand what a "blog" is and what the word can mean. I wouldn't change it.

Regarding divisions, I favor dividing it up into one/few/many, depending on the *intended* audience:

"One" == Diaries. Some people keep their diary on-line, and don't mind if others read it.

"Few" == Socializing, chatting. The intended audience is close friends, and events only of interest to that circle.

"Many" == Punditry. The goal is to reach as many people as possible with your ideas.

These categories aren't strict walls, but are general aims.

Note the highly under-appreciated programmer/researcher Jon Garfunkel has written extensively about the broader motivations of blogging at 'Deconstructing Blogs: Presenting Blogger Archetypes'

Noel, you're ignoring the point, again.

For your purposes, a forum may be the way to go. Based on the purpose of their weblog, the motives of many writers would be suspect without some method of instant feedback. Your original example of politicians comes instantly to mind as a prime case of someone who must have a comment system in place to effectively do their job. Their blog is a part of that job.

But in the case of blogs where someone is simply writing informatively, creatively, or even spouting bullshit opinions... you do everyone a disservice by labeling these blogs derogatorily as "spews" and then spreading the label far and wide.

If I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around some code or maths, and I google up someone who has not only solved the same problem in the past, but blogged the process... their writing is valuable, with or without comments.

The point you consistently ignore: if someone is spouting bullshit, anyone can link to their blog and write about exactly why it is bullshit.

(And a friendly aside... generically labelling all bloggers on the web without feedback mechanisms as "Spewers" may negatively impact sales of your book. I personally like opinionated people, but not opinionated people deriding other people.)

"The point you consistently ignore: if someone is spouting bullshit, anyone can link to their blog and write about exactly why it is bullshit."

Vlad, who would want to?

" ... generically labeling all bloggers on the web without feedback mechanisms as "Spewers" may negatively impact sales of your book."

If calling a Spewer a Spewer "negatively impacts" book sales, so be it. I doubt very much if the sort of people who spend their free time Spewing would like this book anyway.

It's true that there are exceptions such as Wikipedia, which I do not rate as either a blog or a Spew, but an online encyclopedia anyone can contribute to. There are plenty of other online sources of information but these are also not blogs or Spews; they're websites. Regarding your example, I really think you should be doing your own maths homework and not googling up the answers, but that's just my opinion. ;-)

As for telling me where to go, I would argue that blogs are forums, but forums for conversation and discussion rather than, say, software troubleshooting. But you know I'm beginning to wonder why you don't just trackback to this discussion and then Spew about it on your website. Could it be that you, like me, are enjoying the conversation?

"Could it be that you, like me, are enjoying the conversation?"

Touché, and well met, Noel. I do like a good conversation, and participate often.

As for "who would want to" link to and call bullshit on those who are full of it, I think it strengthens all of us to weed out those ideas lacking sense and foundation, for instance... stereotyping.

Isn't that the point of a vigorous debate?

No. The point of a vigorous debate is to get at the truth. Not all opinions are created equal and blogging is a fun way to drill down to the points that really matter, rather than just spouting off on your Spew where you do not have to feature anyone's direct challenge to your opinions or even link to what they might have said.

You say you participate often in a good conversation yet you do not allow comments on your own site.

Now we're getting somewhere, Noel.

Comments get filled with extraneous crap quickly, and don't live very long. At this point, you and I are carrying on a conversation we could easily have tackled much more efficiently via email or by posting a series of longer pieces on our respective weblogs. This thread is aging, and is the second one we've tangled in. Before we know it, it will be off Joi's index page.

A vigorous debate is exactly what the entire web is, not just the micro-arguments of comment threads inside individual sites. Why limit your conception of vigorous debate to such a small format?

And, to me "weed out those ideas lacking sense and foundation" sounds very similar to "get at the truth" or am I missing something?

It does, but one has a less pleasant feel to it than the other, i.e. "weed out ideas lacking sense and foundation" suggests an arrogance on your part that you have a better grasp of what is sensible and what is not than other people do.

You object to me calling your Spew a Spew yet you can be as rude as you like and tell Joi, and any other blogger that does allow comments, that their comments section are a waste of time and "get filled with extraneous crap quickly." You disparage me, quite colorfully, on your Spew as a "professional commenter-without-a-weblog Noel Guinane," suggesting I am concerned about the size of everyone's genitalia since as a "professional commenter" I habitually wave mine around. You do not allow comments yet you have no qualms about going onto other people's blogs to comment there while also using your Spew as a form of attack that you do not have to defend.

I think, Vlad, that you have a double standard.

Noel, am I not defending my statements here, in this, your chosen forum?

You derided an entire group of bloggers, those without comment sections, and I pointed out that your position makes no sense. Then, as people do in their own weblogs, I wrote my opinion on why comment threads are inferior to conversations carried out in top-level posts.

Not a double standard, just an expectation people will do more than hit "post" on someone else's comments thread to fully discuss an idea. As I said before, this is such a small space to debate within.

If you had a weblog, you could publicly disagree with me in it, link back to me and then we could really talk. That's what the web is for. If you like, email me (the address is on my weblog) and we can carry on this debate at length. It might be interesting to see exactly where we agree/disagree.

As for "professional commenter," how would *you* describe someone who has no weblog of their own, but brandishes their opinion far and wide in the comment sections of other's weblogs? Put up a weblog, an online identity, and I'll change that to a link. What I found, when originally googling your name for a weblog to link to, was miles of comments.

Joi, Thomas... I meant no offense to either of you in this thread, and my apologies if any was taken. My original point was only that the inclusion of comment threads in one's weblog should not be the gold standard for value.

Sorry I can't exactly figure out what the debate between Noel and Vlad is. But to the original post I can reference all to a 5,500-word study I wrote back in February, Deconstructing Blogs: Presenting Blogger Archetypes. If someone were to search deconstructing bloggers, it came up fourth in Google (prior to Thomas's earlier post, which now takes PageRank first and second place). I reviewed the naming problem, and surveyed the brief history of classifying motivations for bloggers, and then offering my own. It actually got discussed in more French, Dutch, and German language blogs than in English. This praise from the head of the Media Bloggers Association should speak for something.

Good morning Vlad!

I give you credit for coming in here and fighting for your right to Spew and I do not deny that anyone has this right to put up a website and talk about themselves and their opinions to their heart's delight. I honestly don't have a problem with people doing this, but in my opinion, it is not blogging. What I would like to ask you is why you join conversations through the comment sections of other people's blogs when you claim to dislike comment sections?

I love that you consider my comments good enough and prolific enough to qualify me a professional commenter, though I think in all honesty that a person needs to be paid to be considered a professional. Therefore, please consider me a high-ranking amateur. ;-)

If this thread shows nothing else, it is that it's possible to have enjoyable online debates, even while vehemently disagreeing, through the comments section of someone else's blog. ;-) And I hope that the experience has been pleasurable for you and that you are not too scarred to give up on conversation altogether. It's a pretty lonely life writing letters to yourself and hoping someone reads them.

If you're interested, you can host comments offsite through a number of providers, one of the most dependable being Haloscan. They make it easy for you to host comments and trackbacks on your site. You might find that you enjoy having people come to visit you and chat with you as they would maybe when stopping by for a quick cup of coffee in a less impersonal world.

When our blog here at is up and running in a week or two, I hope you will come to visit us.

Create a third level domain name dot-blog (.blog). People will beging referring to weblog sites as dot-blogs. Over time brands will emerge that represent the name of site and the dot-blog will only be a category based moniker like dot-com.

Amazon, Ebay, Google...are all dot-coms right? Anyone add dot-com to the name anymore? Why? Cuz the term dot-com was also way past its 'sell by' date.

goofy made-up possibilities (though I'm certain *blog* is here to stay).

- weblets

- weblinks

- webmarks

- webworks

The initial French term *joueb* was just as goofy as *blog*.