Thursday: May 27, 2004

[blog papers]

Posted by Jill at 20:12 | | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday: May 24, 2004

[small-world links in academia]

I've been meaning to blog this - looks like it'll be interesting to many people doing research on academic uses of weblogs and of the web. The link below goes directly to the PDF; there's also a summary page for the dissertation.

Björneborn, Lennart. Small-world link structures across an academic web space : a library and information science approach. PhD dissertation. Copenhagen: Department of Information Studies, Royal School of Library and Information Science, 2004. xxxvi, 399 p. ISBN 87-7415-276-9. Available: http://www.db.dk/lb/phd/phd-thesis.pdf
Posted by Jill at 9:48 | | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday: May 23, 2004

[rhythms and metronomes]

I like the rhythms of blogs. I like how things happen while I'm sleeping, how I become aware of other rhythms than my own in the blogs I read. Elouise usually blogs in her mornings, which are my afternoons. Meredith is a morning blogger too, but her morning writing happens as I fall asleep. I'm reading a book about women and time, wondering whether I'll find anything I can use for my essay on timestamps in blogs, and there are many intriguing thoughts which may or may not be useful.

Michael Young (1988) has argued that "modern society has a linear bias to it; and that with this linear bias many natural rhythms have been replaced by artificial ones, a rhythmic society replaced by a metronomic." (Karen Davies, Women and Time: Weaving the Strands of Everyday LifeLund, Sweden: Grahns boktrykkeri, 1989, page 35)

Flylady's timed 15 minute missions, frequent (timed) emails and hundreds of thousands of appreciative, mostly female recipients suggest that linear and exact time may not be such an obviously anti-female proposition as Davies argues, though no doubt there'd be counter-arguments to this as well. In any case, I'm interested by the apparent opposition between the freeflowing connections, the rhythmic repetitions and the metronomically exact timestamps with which we adorn our weblogs.

Posted by Jill at 11:59 | | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)


A Whole Lotta Nothing points to an astonishing example of how most people don't get blogs. For some reason a blog post briefly mentioning having watched an episode of Overhauling, which seems to be a makeover show for cars (!), is the first hit on Google for the name of the show. There are dozens of comments to the post from people who think they're writing to the show, asking for their husbands' cars to be made over, and in between these comments are other comments from people telling the other commenters how stupid they are for not realising that this is not the Overhauling website. Whole Lotta Nothing remarks:

But my guess is that regular folks see Google as an internet appliance, and when you put in "overhaulin" you will get the right site as the first result and if that site asks for comments, it must be the show, right?

(via Sylloge)

Posted by Jill at 11:45 | | Comments (3) | TrackBack (1)

Friday: May 21, 2004

[social fabric rent]

Clay Shirky has an interesting point in his response to the MT debacle:

The dilemma for people who build communal tools is this: if you want something that hooks people emotionally, you cannot have rational users, and vice-versa. And when you build a tool that helps create a social fabric, changes to the tool trigger social anxieties.

As you'll see from the comments, class gets brought up here. I'm gainfully enough employed now that if I live cheaply I have money over to travel far and even to take the occasional taxi home from the airport, and yes, I could afford $69, but not long ago it would have been a choice of having fresh fruit and vegetables for my child this month or a software licence. Obviously, it doesn't help that Dave Winer's calling MT users whiney children, backing this up with an astonishingly myopic statement like this:

Yesterday we saw people complain about spending $60 for a big useful piece of software like Movable Type. I paid $60 for a cab ride in Geneva. A good dinner is $100. A hotel room $150.

$69 means very different things to different people.

Mum says all these posts about Movable Type are excruciatingly boring. I'd try and think of something more interesting, but it's cold and raining and I miss my boyfriend. Ah well. I'd do better working on those timestamps.

Posted by Jill at 10:20 | | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday: May 20, 2004

[penalise the spammers, not the community]

In a discussion of anti-spam remedies over at Grandtextauto, Nick argues that attacking spam by crippling blogs and other arenas for public discussion is not solving anything: instead we should devise anti-spam tactics that penalise the spammers. Wouldn't that be brilliant?

I'm getting so much spam here these days that it seems every time I look at my blog there's new spam comments. I delete them as often as I see them (using MT-blacklist, with a blacklist growing absurdly long) but they're incessant. And ugly and infuriating.

Posted by Jill at 14:00 | | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday: May 16, 2004

[paper on blogs]

I haven't read this freshly published paper yet, but will soon. It's one of the first papers on blogs to be published in a peer-reviewed academic journal: Edmonds, K. Andrew, James Blustein and Don Turnbull. "A Personal Information and Knowledge Infrastructure Integrator". Journal of Digital Information, 5:1, 2004. Actually it's not exacltly about blogs but about using blogs as a basis for thinking about knowledge organisation.

The Next Big Thing is being grown organically, cultivated by software developers and pruned by personal Weblog publishers. The rising Weblogging space of the Internet is looking more like traditional hypertext than the Web of the 1990s. The ways in which Weblogging has evolved beyond the previous limitations of the Web as hypertext, and the ways Weblogging is evolving towards common-use hypertext destined to play a critical role in everyday life, will be explored. We have a vision of a universal information management system built on extending the traditional hypertext framework. In our utopian future, everyone will use tools descended from today's blogs to structure, search and share personal information, as well as to participate in shared discussion. We begin by expressing a vision of common-use hypertext for information management and interpersonal communication. This vision is grounded in the rapid evolution of Weblogs and known issues in information systems and hypertext. The practical implications of who will use these systems, and how, is expanded as usage scenarios for Weblogs now and in the future. After recapping the current issues facing the Weblogging community, we look to the long-range implementation issues with optimism. Our system is forward-looking yet realistic. The activities the system will support are extrapolated from recent developments in the online community, and most of the sketches of implementation are based on current approaches. It is of more than passing interest that the features we extrapolate were all described by Nelson as early hypertext ideals. Of particular interest is that the features are now being implemented because of perceived immediate need by communities of interest.
Posted by Jill at 20:20 | | Comments (0) | TrackBack (4)

Wednesday: May 12, 2004


There's a round table email discussion (well, actually the round table bit means each participant answered the same questions, there wasn't any discussion) story on scholars who study blogs at the Annenberg Online Journalism Review. I'm in it, which is groovy, with Kaye Trammell, Alex Halavais and Cori Dauber.

Kaye has just completed her PhD on celebrity blogs and has been leaking some interesting findings recently. She's done what sounds like a pretty thorough content analysis of a lot of blog posts and the comments to them. In the round table, she notes that the blog posts she analysed discussed issue rather than persons, and in other posts she's found gender differences in commenting styles and the kinds of posts fans respond to on celebrity blogs.

Posted by Jill at 18:53 | | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday: May 11, 2004

[scandinavian blogging terminology]

Lisbeth provides a good list of definitions of blogging terms in Danish. I'd grab them all for Norwegian, except in Norwegian blogg is more correct than blog, and that the plural should be blogger rather than blogs.

Like its Danish sister-organisation, Norsk språkråd hasn't yet listed a Norwegian word for blog in its collection of computer and network words.

I've noticed many of my students at first confused "a blog" and "a post", referring to a single post in a blog as "a blog". I've not seen that in English, but I guess the fact that you can get confused

Posted by Jill at 18:09 | | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)


Justin Hall's been accused of over-fictionalising his life, but refuses to comment.

Posted by Jill at 17:30 | | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

Friday: May 07, 2004

[what is an author?]

I'm sifting through essays for the compendium for this autumn's course on contagious media and networked culture, and rereading with joy in the process. I'd almost forgotten Foucault's "What is an Author?", though my copy (from Lodge's Modern Criticism and Theory) is so densely pencilled I'll have to use the library's copy for the photocopying. Foucault wrote in 1969 that the idea of an author is merely a function of discourse, a necessary construction to keep fiction at bay. As an undergrad I thought of that as kind of fascinating but rather abstract, after all, there are living authors, ya know? Today it sounds a little different. Think of this in relation to the web, to blogs, to today's confusion of reality and fiction:

How can one reduce the great peril, the great danger with which fiction threatens our world? The answer is: One can reduce it with the author. The author allows a limitation of the cancerous and dangerous proliferation of significations within a world where one is thrifty not only with one's resources and riches, but also with one's discourses and their significations. (..) [T]he author is not an indefinite source of significations which fill a work; the author does not precede the works, he is a certain functional principle by which, in our culture, one limits, excludes, and chooses; in short, by which one impedes the free circulation, the free manipulations, the free composition, decomposition, and recomposition of fiction. (209)

Perhaps what delights and confuses us about the hoaxes, spams, pervasive narratives, unfictions and blog fictions of our decade is, in part, their unbounded authorlessness. Foucault, writing in 1969, doubted that an authorless society could develop:

It would be pure romanticism, however, to imagine a culture in which the fictive would be put at the disposal of everyone and would develop without passing through something like a necessary or constraining figure. (209)

Posted by Jill at 13:48 | | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)


At ISEA this August I'm in a panel on "Uncovering Histories of Electronic Writing" with Noah, Michael and Nick from Grandtextauto, only Nick can't come so Scott'll deliver his part of it. Noah's going to look at Ted Nelson's work on hypertext as it was rather than as it's been represented, Michael's looking at the history of AI-based artwork and AI-based electronic writing in particular. Nick's paper contrasts modern new media's obsession with the screen to early computer's print outs and teletypes (a draft of what I think is a version of this paper is online as "Continuous Paper") and I'm going to talk about timestamps. Timestamps? Yes. Here's my abstract:

Timestamps are the single most defining characteristic of weblogs. The time of writing is so powerful that it not only decides the order in which posts are displayed, in addition, the timestamp for each post has become the standard link to its permanent archive. The precision of a timestamp, down to the second, declares that which is stamped an archived document, potentially permanent, and simultaneously emphasises its transcience: this time is already the past.
With computers everywhere, timestamps have spread and are taken for granted, marking our SMSes, digital photos, emails and weblogs as well as each file we save on our computers. This presentation explores the prehistory of our digital temporality, looking at the long cultural traditions of situating written correspondence by stating the date and place of writing, and at the way in which digital computers, though without clocks at first, have now built the timestamp into every act of expression on a computer. From these dual roots, the presentation then traces a line through the prominence of timestamps in Usenet discussion through the timelessness of 1990s homepages, always under construction, and to the celebration of time in today's weblogs.

I spent most of yesterday reading about time and beginning to write the paper. I'd forgotten how much I love this: having the space to read and think and write for almost a whole day, examining a topic thoroughly. I'll have more time for this in the next months, because almost all my teaching duties are completed for the semester. Yay!

I'm going to talk a little about our modern obsession with time, which is quite recent development really. I'm rereading Den kultiverade människan, a wonderful book on how industrialisation changed time and culture and even hygiene in Sweden. I've found facsimiles of the first postmarks, not introduced until the mass distribution of post, when we began to doubt the system and wanted closer surveillance. Nick sent me links to the first RFCs suggesting we might perhaps introduce a clock to the network so that people would know whether messages sent through it were new or old (RFC 32 and 41 from 1970). The Network Time Protocol Project has a lot of information on more recent work on synchronising clocks over a network. My computer does that automatically now, without me even asking it to. That's easy to relate to the way in which railways forced standarised time on us in the 19th century, and shipping led to standardised timezones and agreement on a single meridian (Greenwich). There's even an International Society for the Study of Time!

I still need to find out more about how clocks were first built into the architecture of computers. (Do you know where I should look?)

And then there'll be the best bit of all: thinking about what time means in blogs. One of the first things Tinka mutilated when she deconstructed her blog was the datestamps. Do you remember? Each post had "posted yesterday" underneath it, I think, or perhaps the words were different. I wish I'd taken screenshots. The Archive annoyingly stopped archiving Tinka's blog the month before the mutilations began.

Posted by Jill at 12:17 | | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday: May 05, 2004

[why they quit]

Håkon Styri on why a lot of people eagerly start blogging and hastily quit. In Norwegian.

Posted by Jill at 12:52 | | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday: April 29, 2004

[ethics of blog reviews]

I asked my students to write a review of a blog of their choice. Several of the reviewees have read the reviews and left comments, mostly amused, some flattered, some disagreeing with the reviewer. One of them though, upon discovering that he has readers, is considering quitting blogging altogether. Vegard Johansen, another reviewee, is happy that he received good reviews, but writes that

Anmelder man en blogg eller en personlig hjemmeside sitter det alltid en privatperson bak, så da bør man heller velge å skrive en positiv omtale om noe man liker enn å skrive en lunken anmeldelse av noe man kanskje ikke i utgangspunktet liker eller er interessert i. (If you review a blog or a personal website there's always an individual behind it, so you should choose to write a positive review of a site you like rather than a luke-warm review of a site you dislike from the start or aren't interested in.)

Only a few days ago Lilia asked how one ethically uses material from weblogs when doing research. Obviously, I now have to ask a related question: Is it unethical to ask students to write reviews of weblogs?

Continue reading "ethics of blog reviews"
Posted by Jill at 19:17 | | Comments (25) | TrackBack (1)

Tuesday: April 27, 2004


Some of the students' blog reviews contain pearls. Catherina, for instance, writes about a personal diary mostly dealing with depression, and notes that the blog only has one category: livet mitt, my life. At first I thought she meant this metaphorically, but no, every post is "posted to" the category "my life" and there really are no other categories. Perhaps his blogging software simply defaults to categories, but whether it was planned or not, it seems such a strong image to me, such a striking, though tiny, effect. Trond's (quite excellent) review is of Citizen Smash's blog, which I realised after a while that I followed a year ago when Citizen Smash was Lt Smash, one of very few bloggers actually (or apparently) in Iraq. Now he's back home, a pro-war activist, and Trond's review elegantly examines a single post Citizen Smash made, not only showing what kind of a blog this is but exploring how this post explemifies how blogs can work as part of a community. Among my other favourite reviews so far (I still have lots I've not looked at yet) are Bård's of Hixie.ch and Alina's of Shutterbug.com.

Posted by Jill at 17:15 | | Comments (0) | TrackBack (2)

Monday: April 19, 2004

[prehistory of blogs]

Justin Hall has blogged since before they called it blogging, since 1994. Rob Wittig's review of Justin's Links.net is a wonderful introduction to Justin's site and to the stretched out over years experience of reading blogs as well. According to Justin's entry on Blogtree.com, he was inspired by Moonmilk, started in November 1993, and is still going. Not quite like modern blogs, but definitely short dated posts in reverse chronlogical order. Since there was no web until 1993 there can't be many older bloggish sites than Moonmilk.

Posted by Jill at 8:23 | | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday: April 18, 2004

[mexican literary blogs]

Grumpygirl mentioned an article on weblogs as a literary genre in Mexico, which I'll read after going to Pilates. (I signed up for the Pilates workshop for no other reason than that the heroine of William Gibson's latest novel does Pilates all the time. So far I like it.)

Posted by Jill at 11:11 | | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

Friday: April 16, 2004

[blog stats]

A useful run-down of surveys of bloggers and blogreaders, giving fast access to some numbers.

Posted by Jill at 20:36 | | Comments (0) | TrackBack (3)

Thursday: April 15, 2004


The BBC interviewer had read my blog post and remarked, a smile in her voice, that it was a little daunting to think that I'd blog my disappointment if I found her questions inane. Was part of the appeal of blogging the power?

Once, after an interview with a journalist who had done no research on blogs at all and expected me to give him the questions as well as the answers as well as suggestions about interesting (i.e. young sexy self-revealing webcamming) bloggers to interview, and who then, after I'd explained blogs to him for an hour, wrote the article leaving out my name, well, after that I did write a grumpy post. I deleted it though. Not really much point in alienating journalists, is there, and anyway, I can vividly imagine a lone journalist with too little time and too many articles to write. We all cut corners sometimes. And I learnt something about not taking it too seriously and how to appreciate those journalists who are actually interested in the topic.

The BBC World Service had done their research, even to reading my blog post about their interview, and I expect it'll be an interesting program. They're also going to be talking to Stuart Hughes, a BBC war reporter, and to an Iranian blogger I didn't catch the name of, which gives an interesting spread. It'll be broadcast next week sometime, in a program called The Word.

Posted by Jill at 13:13 | | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday: April 14, 2004


"This is the kind of interlinked, triangulated storytelling that makes blognarrative so compelling."

Posted by Jill at 22:11 | | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

[shortwave intereview!]

The BBC World Service rang! They want to interview me about blogs! Blogs and fiction. Tomorrow, by phone, of course.

The BBC World Service was the background sound of my childhood. We had four different frequencies preset on the radio and knew exactly what time of day to choose each one. There were plays and there was news and jokes and ideas and callers from distant places and most importantly there were English voices in a world were nobody except my mother, father, sister and me spoke English. I think I ignored what was said as much as I listened, but the beeb and a cup of tea still mean calm to me, the hiss of static and all. There's no static on the webcast. And now they broadcast it on the FM band anyway, no need for shortwave reception nowadays.

Posted by Jill at 19:09 | | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday: April 08, 2004

[guardian article]

Jim McClellen's written an excellent article about blogfiction for the Guardian Unlimited, with remarks from me (must be a good article, eh?) and Rob Wittig and Paul Ford and some other interesting blog fictions and stories. The interviews were done by email and I don't think I've ever seen such a well-researched list of questions in my life. Paul Ford has immortalised the questions he was sent and his answers to them by posting the full text to his blog.

Posted by Jill at 22:25 | | Comments (0) | TrackBack (2)

Sunday: April 04, 2004

[invisible rendevous]

front cover of Wittig's Invisible RendevousI've dipped in and out of Invisible Rendevous several times, picking up images of literary construction workers collecting bits of a novel from bypassers, but this weekend I read it outright, in that old-fashioned way from beginning to end. Invisible Rendevous was written by Rob Wittig on behalf of a community of writers in Seattle in the eighties who built novels of text written by a city (the phonebook would be the byline), a country, and who used a bulletin board system as one of their collaborative tools. The book presents a wonderful story of collaborative writing, electronic writing, writing as activity rather than as a work of genius. Lots of this is interesting both as a case study and as an approach to literature and to writing that's very related to blogging and networked writing and creation today. Below are some quotes and thoughts I'll want to return to.

Continue reading "invisible rendevous"
Posted by Jill at 14:12 | | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday: March 09, 2004


A non-blogger's demand for equal rights.

Posted by Jill at 8:40 | | Comments (0) | TrackBack (3)

Friday: February 27, 2004

[required narrativity]

Diane's analysis of diet blogs (Feb 25) says a lot about blogs and narrative in general. Perhaps blogs require a narrative of change: "Once you're no longer fitting into the category of "on a diet," which has a built-in narrative structure, it can be hard to find a satisfying new story to tell yourself about who you are." Perhaps life does. Or perhaps it's simply the project blog (1, 2, 3), the makeover blog that requires change, whereas other blogs can be told from a position of stasis.

Now I'm done with the PhD, which certainly used to be a major thread in the narrative of this blog, is my blog less about change and progress, or have I merely substituted other goals and adventures? My "This season on Jill/txt" suggests the latter, a need for plot.

Posted by Jill at 9:17 | | Comments (5) | TrackBack (1)

[read in fits and starts]

Hanna cites some descriptions of the commonplace books many readers used to keep, and some still keep. One of the descriptions proposes a completely different way of reading -- a way of reading similar to today's netsurfer-writer:

Unlike modern readers, who follow the flow of a narrative from beginning to end, early modern Englishmen read in fits and starts and jumped from book to book. They broke texts into fragments and assembled them into new patterns by transcribing them in different sections of their notebooks. Then they reread the copies and rearranged the patterns while adding more excerpts. Reading and writing were therefore inseparable activities. They belonged to a continuous effort to make sense of things, for the world was full of signs: you could read your way through it; and by keeping an account of your readings, you made a book of your own, one stamped with your personality....


Posted by Jill at 8:39 | | Comments (2) | TrackBack (1)

Sunday: February 22, 2004

[public intellectuals]

"If You Build It They Will Come" is a paper by Tim Dunlop about how bloggers can be a new kind of public intellectuals who engage in dialogue with the public rather than talking to them. Tim Dunlop's PhD (finished a couple of years ago, started Before Blogs) was very relevantly on deliberative democracy and the role of intellectuals within such a structure, and his weblog, The Road to Surfdom, is an interesting read, too.

Posted by Jill at 18:18 | | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday: February 19, 2004

[third person]

My friend Lars has decided to banish the first pronoum from his blog, consistently writing in the third person as an opposition against what he sees as the forced subjectivity of blogs, or perhaps rather to prove that personal writing is not dependent on the "I". He considered writing everything in the passive rather than the active too but has decided to wait on that one.

I like the first person. I'd like to see more of it. But I'm fascinated by the idea of a third person blog.

Posted by Jill at 21:44 | | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday: February 17, 2004


Watchbloggers are (generally anonymous) bloggers who are each assigned one journalist covering the U.S. presidential campaign. This is an interesting answer to the question about "but are they trustworthy?"

"Credibility is an interaction -- not an aura," Rosen said. "If a citizen decides to track the reporting of Dan Balz, and everything Balz writes is there, every TV appearance is cataloged, there is a faithful attempt to document all his work, the links are good and take you places, the Weblog 'works' to open up Balz's campaign journalism. Credibility has a lot to do with reliability. If a citizen's site is reliable for certain things, people will use it for those things. Build a reliable Weblog that tracks something and you have credibility."

Links ++ at the Online Journalism Review at USC Annenberg.

Posted by Jill at 18:05 | | Comments (3) | TrackBack (1)

Monday: February 09, 2004

[research on blogs]

Lisbeth has posted links to a few handfuls of academic papers about blogs.

Posted by Jill at 22:30 | | Comments (0) | TrackBack (9)

Sunday: February 08, 2004


When explaining blogging to the interested but ignorant, I always give them a skewed picture. Once I showed them research blogs and got questions about why nobody used this medium for personal expression. Another time I showed them personal weblogs and was told that it was a pity it was impossible to use blogs for any serious purpose. I show them student and teaching blogs and I'm asked why there are no researcher's blogs. I show them the blogs of presidential candidates and politicians and technologists and they tell me that there's no daring in blogs, they're conversationalists, blandly censored without the gut emotions that a novelist would dare write on a page or a lovesick girl in her locked diary, there's none of the agony of a suicide note.

And there is. There's all this, and more. And it's quite impossible to show in 45 minutes. I don't know how to convey it. You need to walk this country to see it.

Posted by Jill at 12:06 | | Comments (0) | TrackBack (2)

Tuesday: January 27, 2004

[blogging the norm]

There's work at our department on a project on norms and standardisations, and four of us are doing ten minute intros on how our fields relate to this in the department seminar tomorrow. Of course my requested ten minutes will be about blogs and norms and standards.

There are dozens of angles on this. I could talk about how fast the weblog genre is changing, and how standards eternally play tag with reality. RSS, for instance, was designed for news sites five years ago and doesn't completely work for weblogs, so a new set of "specifications for syndicating, archiving and editing episodic web sites", Atom, is being collaboratively developed by bloggers themselves. I could talk about how TrackBacks were implemented by Moveable Type but have been made open enough that other tools can follow the same standard, and many have. I could talk about how a peculiarity of one blogging tool - linking the timestamp to a stable URL for an entry (permalink) - became an unwritten standard despite hardly being intuitive or good usability. I still use this convention out of habit, though I've noticed many others have moved on to more obvious permalinks.

I could take a different angle and talk about how blogging becomes an expectation, as in the US presidential campaign, where candidates are expected to have weblogs. Dean was first, I think (Blog for America, Generation Dean Blog, Wired interview the others followed course (Kerry, Edwards, Clark), now even Bush has one, though it's more the form (frequently updated posts) than the spirit (personal, subjective) of the weblog you see there. I could mention academics who've complained that they don't want blogs but hate that their voices, because unblogged, are ignored by blogging colleagues.

Either angle could last for my allotted ten minutes. I think I'll see what the others say and speak accordingly. Collecting a few links in advance never hurts, though.

Posted by Jill at 22:11 | | Comments (3) | TrackBack (1)

Friday: January 23, 2004

[classification is for lizards]

Wunderchicken has a great, must-read, wild post about weblogs as punk rock - and reckons the problem with blogs now is that some of us have started sucking up to the record companies. (He finishes by saying that doesn't matter - doesn't mean the rest of us have to.) He notes attempts to define weblogs, lock them in (classification is for lizards, he writes, with a link to a post at Burningbird's I rather like), and Dave Winer's statement that weblogs are publications and should not be treated as parties, and instead wonderfully writes:

Weblogs are a party, damn it, and sometimes they're publications too, or instead, and sometimes they're diaries, sometimes they're pieces of art, sometimes they're tools for self-promotion, sometimes they're money-maknig ventures, sometimes they're monuments to ego, sometimes they're massive wanks, sometimes they're public services, sometimes they're dedications of faith, sometimes they're communities. Always, they are a public face, one chosen and crafted to varying degrees, of the people who write them. They are avatars, masks, or revelations of our deepest selves. They are political or philosophical, merrily inebriate or sententiously sober. Do not listen to those who would tell you what they are not.

I'm hoping now that my weblog definition was inclusive and enough about an aspect of weblogs (as narrative) that it won't contribute to shutting down the parties, but heck, perhaps definitions are omelettes causing eggs broken but sometimes you need the omelette, right?

It's that table set for 12 with no food or guests that Ian and I were discussing. Of course the way we choose to classify things will affect the results of our surveys - how many women tech bloggers there are depends on how you define tech blogs, obviously. There's power in definitions.

I've entangled myself in enough defintions in my life to know that I, personally, would for the most part rather go straight to the heart of things, look at the specifics, read, closely, explore the nooks and crannnies. I like specificities.

Oh and look at this Dave Eggers quote he cites, at the end, where he says that really, it's fine people sell out. Well-written rants are delightful:

What matters is not the perception, nor the fashion, not who's up and who's down, but what someone has done and if they meant it. What matters is that you want to see and make and do, on as grand a scale as you want, regardless of what the tiny voices of tiny people say. Do not be critics, you people, I beg you. I was a critic and I wish I could take it all back because it came from a smelly and ignorant place in me, and spoke with a voice that was all rage and envy. Do not dismiss a book until you have written one, and do not dismiss a movie until you have made one, and do not dismiss a person until you have met them. It is a fuckload of work to be open-minded and generous and understanding and forgiving and accepting, but Christ, that is what matters. What matters is saying yes.
Posted by Jill at 9:25 | | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

Monday: January 19, 2004


Jane's many ways of telling her story without quite telling her story fascinate me. She writes obliquely. Having followed her words for weeks, months, I've made myself several stories of what might have happened in her life, in her days. My story of her story changes, shifts, and is never confirmed, and it fascinates me far more than closure. Reading for the plot? No, we read blogs for their mysteries, their half-spoken secrets and for their possibilities. Or at least, I do.

(I wonder, are these strategies truly opposites, or do they just feel that way?)

Posted by Jill at 23:10 | | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday: December 30, 2003


A new surge of spam hit my comment fields in the last few days, so I updated my blogging software and the anti-spam plugin and the blacklists and, as suggested, my personal blacklist is now automatically published as I add things.

It's amazing the lengths people will go to to increase the Google PageRank of their site. Presumably they've now found that the anti-spam software stops most direct links to casino and porn sites. The latest spam goes to sites like "discoveryofusa.com" which, although it does have basic (copied from a book, perhaps?) information about Columbus, obviously serves the primary purpose of linking to a casino site and nowhere else. If these PageRank scammers can get enough people to link to their discoveryofamerica.com front, that site will get a high PageRank that it will pass on to the single site it links to. That means that next time you search for "casino" on Google their site will (if the plan works) come up higher than other casino sites might. It also, unfortunately, means that next time a schoolkid searches for information about the discovery of America they might get this excuse for information.

I wrote a paper about how links shape an unofficial economy online last year: Links and Power: The Political Economy of Linking on the Web. If I were to write a new version this linktheft would definitely be included. Blogshares, though now gone, was another, more pragmatic display of the more collaborative side of this economy.

Posted by Jill at 12:01 | | Comments (2) | TrackBack (1)

Tuesday: December 23, 2003

[for future reference]

Searching for something completely different, I found David Weinberger's post of guesses of how we'll blog when blogs are really popular. Also to be tucked away for future use, is the comparison of the nanoaudiences of blogs to the audience of one in most emails.

Posted by Jill at 16:59 | | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

Monday: December 15, 2003

[weblog reviews]

Ever thought of writing reviews of weblogs as a class assignment? Scott Rettberg's New Media Studies class (which I visited a week or two ago, lovely bunch of students) have written a collection of reviews of weblogs as their final class project, all neatly put together and published with screenshots and room for reader comments. The selection is neatly categorised, so you can read about "Classic Bloggers", "Digital Culture Blogs" like Steven Johnson, Laurence Lessig, Mamamusings, Frank Schaap and Jason Rhody's, or you can browse the students' reviews of writer's blogs, persona blogs, group blogs, political blogs and so on.

I only know of one other project where people have tried to collect reviews of blogs: the Peer-to-Peer Review Project, which ran last year, coordinating bloggers reviewing each other's weblogs.

Rob Wittig's review of Justin Hall's links.net is the best review I've ever read of a weblog. It was published in American Book Review, in a special issue on new media edited by, yes, again, Scott Rettberg, as well as electronically in EBR. Rob's review is of course wonderfully written but it also demonstrates the reason why a good weblog review is hard to find: Rob has been following links.net since the mid-90s. He has experienced the weblog in time, the way it's meant to be experienced, as a serial, persistent, constantly changing site you read now and then, sometimes daily, sometimes almost forgetting it completely. Someone who has a week or two to read and review a weblog is going to struggle to approach this deep reading. I suppose you could say, then, that Rob's review goes beyond reviewing.

However that may be, my web design and web aesthetics students will be reviewing weblogs next semester.

Posted by Jill at 10:07 | | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday: December 05, 2003

[talk at brown]

My talk at Brown today is titled "Weblogs: Learning to Write in the Network" and is going to be mostly about using blogs with students. I'm going to stress network literacy and how blogging is not simply keeping an electronic journal, it's distributed and collaborative; it's learning to think and write with the network. I'll also talk a bit about the ethics of insisting students blog in public.

Continue reading "talk at brown"
Posted by Jill at 16:27 | | Comments (5) | TrackBack (13)

Tuesday: December 02, 2003

[stockton talk]

I'm speaking at Stockton today about weblogs, the real talk that the audio conference a few weeks ago was leading up to. Here are the links I'll be using.

Continue reading "stockton talk"
Posted by Jill at 22:48 | | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

Saturday: November 29, 2003

[parodic blogs]

A parodic blog supposedly by the creators of Google. Fiction, mockumentary, whatever. Must be dozens of these kinds of things. Johnny Howard's, for instance, and here are a few others.

Posted by Jill at 23:27 | | Comments (2) | TrackBack (1)

Saturday: November 15, 2003

[3,500,000 pages]

Half a year back I thought about Edison's proliferative notebooks in relation to blogging:

Did you know Thomas Edison's notebooks ran to three and a half million pages? He wrote down ideas, plans, possibilities, drew sketches, visualised his thoughts and wrote about his colleagues' work. He used words like if, might, would, could and try very frequently and didn't bother to write correctly. Obviously his note-taking was productive: in 1882 alone he submitted 107 different patent applications.

The notebooks are online and searchable, long with his letters and patent applications and diaries. I guess I'm more interested in the idea than in actually perusing them, though...

Posted by Jill at 13:00 | | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday: November 14, 2003

[autobiography as advertisement]

See, this is why it's important to carefully plan one's blogging oeuvre:

Hoping to positively influence the evaluation of his artistic creation, an autobiographer can manage, manipulate, or even correct his own public image through autobiographical writing. How many previously unknown but aspiring writers have managed to draw attention to their own writings by effectively marketing them within the frame of their own autobiographies? (117) (..) The success of Stein's autobiography guaranteed not simply a steady publication record for her book, but also a more favorable overall reception for her work. (118) (Helga Lénárt-Cheng: "Autobiography As Advertisement: Why Do Gertrude Stein's Sentences Get Under Our Skin?" New Literary History vol 34 issue 1 (2003) page 117. HTML version, Muse subscription required, go ask a library for electronic or print access!)

There's no need to be a celebrity blogger before you start. Gertrude Stein was sent rejection letter after rejection letter - up until the publication of her autobiography. So put your blog to good use!

Rules suggested for the aspiring self-promoting autobiographer include "Rule #2. A Good Advertisement Is Easy to Understand." Lenart-Cheng notes, again in relation to Gertrude Stein, that "The fact that her autobiography has often been called 'the one book by G. S. that an ordinary person can read' is the best proof of the success of this compromise." (page 123) One might consider following Stein in writing one's autobiography in the third person, staging it as the autobiography of a devoted friend and admirer. This allows one to avoid violating the taboo of self-praise. Instead one can have one's friend write things like "I met Gertrude Stein. . . . I may say that only three times in my life have I met a genius and each time a bell within me rang and I was not mistaken." If you want to do this in your blog by writing your own comments to your own blog posts, do be careful, it's important not to lose your balance here.

Now, where blogs may truly rule in this genre is in their constant updating. You see, Rule #4 states that "A Good Advertisement Has to Be Repeated Over and Over." Keep returning to the same points. Mention your name often - "Gertrude Stein" is repeated on average five times per page in her autobiography. The conventions of blogging make this easy: simply keep the "posted by Your Name" in the footer of every post and people will remember you.

I've already broken Rule #1, unfortunately, simply by citing this article. You see, A Good Advertisement Conceals its Strategy.

Unless, of course, I'm triple-bluffing you in a rage of stealthy cunning...

Posted by Jill at 11:22 | | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday: November 12, 2003

[real readers]

The recent Onion story "Mom Finds Out About Blog" echoes a line from an (apparently genuine) web diary I came across in 1999, where the writer actually considers having two diaries, "so I can have a slightly censured version for my mothers perusal. Kathleen said it would probably be a good thing if she discovered this page, it would give her a useful insight into my true personality. But, I doubt that anyone wants their mother to know THAT much about them."

Unfortunately I didn't write down the URL or the title, but I think that diary's well and truly gone anyway. The article I cited it in is still alive (Jeg taster, derfor er jeg, I type therefore I am), but sadly it lost all its æ, ø and ås so is a pain to read. One day I'll reinstate them. Plus, of course, it's in Norwegian. But quite good - I'd forgotten that I was already thinking about this stuff way back before I began to blog myself.

Posted by Jill at 11:37 | | Comments (2) | TrackBack (1)

Friday: November 07, 2003

[peripheral blogging]

Matt finally blogged François Lachance's peripheral approach to blogging - François, as you'll have noticed, has no blog of his own, but posts his thoughts in other bloggers' comments, forging otherwise undiscussed connections between the bloggers in the cluster he visits, or probably in part creates. I've been thinking about this for a while, without writing about it, and I'm glad to see Matt's thoughts:

this is blogging in the margins, distributed blogging at the interstices of the discourse network. François appears on no one’s blogroll, his entries are not tracked by blogdex or weblogs.com or similar sites. He is an utter non-entity in the standard ecological renderings of the blogosphere, yet he unquestionably has a presence “here.”

The other day a commenter to Jane's blog wrote a completely tangential comment, a wonderful short short story about her and a neighbour. Several comments later, after other commenters had ignored it, Denise writes: "johanna rocks. she needs her own writing space." After that, Jane and Johanna herself briefly discuss the story. Perhaps peripheral blogging is the beginning of a trend? These are the productive examples. Comment spam is the bad side of blog-hijacking.

Francois certainly has a voice that is heard through his myriad comments across blogs.

Posted by Jill at 19:50 | | Comments (4) | TrackBack (4)

Thursday: November 06, 2003

[life annotation devices]

I like this title: Weblogs: Personal Life Annotation Devices

Posted by Jill at 19:11 | | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

Thursday: October 30, 2003

[blogging under constraint]

The 100 by 100 Project: one hundred posts, one hundred words each. (via Hanna)

Posted by Jill at 12:49 | | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday: October 26, 2003


"If the internet were a sentence, weblogs would be the conjunctions: the 'ands', the 'buts', the 'ors'."

Posted by Jill at 23:32 | | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday: October 05, 2003

[blog talk links]

Here are links for my talk today, which is titled "Blogger og nettdagbøker: hva, hvorfor og hvordan?"

Continue reading "blog talk links"
Posted by Jill at 11:11 | | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday: October 04, 2003


Oh dear, two of my favourite project blogs, lettersneversent.blogspot.com and thedateproject.blogspot.com, are gone, taken over by other bloggers. The Wayback Engine only has the front page and not the archives (thedateproject, lettersneversent. I have copies, mostly, but it makes me sad anyway; these sites were interesting and in places beautiful, and I liked linking to them and pointing people to them.

Update! The archives are still there! It's just the front pages have been replaced, the old archives are safe for now. Here's the starting point for The Date Project.

Posted by Jill at 9:30 | | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

[blog talks]

Previous talks I've given on blogs where I've blogged the links and talked from the blog post: HUMlab in Umeå, November 2002; IFI here in Bergen in February 2003 for about blogs and learing; with Torill in Oslo, April 2002. And I ended up basing my talk on youth literature and the web in Narvik this March on links I blogged here though I think I'd stored the webpages I wanted to show in Explorer's scrapbook rather than use live links, I was uncertain of the net connection there.

Posted by Jill at 9:03 | | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Monday: September 29, 2003

[grammar of categories]

Of course, putting the category at the bottom of each post leads to some funny sentences. I've not designed my categories for this grammar: "Posted by Jill to world at 8:59" - well, yes, I suppose I am posting to the world. I could rename every category, organise all this by whom I'm addressing, or what emotions I'm expressing, rather than by what I think I'm talking about. "Posted by Jill to Apollo", for instance, for clear-headed posts, or I could post to Diana when I was feeling chaste and forestbound. Thor for thundering fury. Buddha when seeking inner calm. Dionysos, obviously, after a night's carousing. Aphrodite when in love.

What kind of posts would I address to you, though?

Posted by Jill at 9:07 | | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday: September 23, 2003

[si je te disais que je t'aimerais]

Navire.net has some beautiful writing, though I repeatedly stumble over the French: Could lapin be a new word for laptop, I wondered, at first, because what would a rabbit have to do with this? It turns out that the narrator calls her boyfriend her lapin, her rabbit*, and when he's not with her, she writes blog posts to him:

Je suis dans un café à Marseille qui a un accès Internet. Mon lapin, j’en profite pour te dire que je t’aime, et qu’il n’y a rien qui n’ait plus de valeur au monde. J’embarque demain matin à l’aube. Sache qu’il n’y aura pas un quart à bord sans que je pense à toi. **

Isn't that sweet? Tomorrow she'll travel into the dawn***, to Montreal, perhaps, to her lapin. Or perhaps not, it seems a sea voyage is involved, from Marseille and around Spain arriving in La Rochelle. I might find the answer if I read more of the blog, but I like this uncertainty. The possibilities and openness of the stories in an newly found blog are only heightened by my creative interpretations of the French.

What happens, in a blog, when a post is directed to you in the singular rather than to the plural you of all possible readers? You, my lover, this is for you, and I dare to speak my love in public, in front of all my readers, knowing that it may be commented, linked to and archived. In French the private "tu" replaces "vous", yet despite this public declaration of love, the use of "tu" keeps the identity of the lover private. A secret. The public secrets of blogs.

Continue reading "si je te disais que je t'aimerais"
Posted by Jill at 13:48 | | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)

Friday: September 12, 2003


I'm digging through old Usenet archives today, to see whether I can connect that early net publishing to blogs today, and honestly, we've been discussing the same stuff for twenty years. At 1985-02-22 08:57:16 PST a woman answered a question as to whether one can fall in love online thus:

I never fell for anybody I met over Usenet, but I have fallen for at least 3 people over Arpa. One did not work out, one we will see about, and one is in negotiation.

Interesting that ARPANET gave better hunting than Usenet, don't you think? And I wonder how the negotiation ended up. I'm thinking of comparing Usenet in the eighties to blogs today, tracing a line of inheritance, so the rest of this post will be links and ideas, mostly so I can keep track of this myself. I'll add to this post as I go.

Continue reading "usenet"
Posted by Jill at 11:25 | | Comments (10) | TrackBack (1)

Thursday: September 11, 2003


The NY Times tells us about a protoblogger decides to run for governor and therefore starts blog - I particularly noticed the nature of her preblogging:

[A] few times a week on a blackboard next to the daily drink specials, she recalls, she wrote short rants about whatever was on her mind: a problem in the city, or a new ordinance that she thought unfair. Her messages won her a steady following.

It's mostly the lesser known candidates for governor in Southern California who have started blogs, but there are scores of them, says the artitcle. And there's the governor's wife. (Andrew sent me this link, thanks)

Posted by Jill at 8:10 | | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday: September 07, 2003


Biography's special issue on Online Lives is available online through libraries that subscribe to Project Muse. The table of contents is free for all and you can order paper copies through libraries.

Posted by Jill at 13:16 | | Comments (1) | TrackBack (1)

Friday: September 05, 2003


Tom Coates of Plasticbag.com has posted an article about weblogs as mass amateurisation. I'm not terribly interested in that, but love the nitty gritty of his comparison of the homepage to the weblog, midway in section four, near the end of the article. While the homepage is imagined as a place, he writes, the weblog articulates a voice. Even better:

In terms of self-representation, the homepage is like a statue carved out of marble labelled carefully at the bottom where the weblog is like an avatar in cyberspace that we wear like a skin. It moves with us - through it we articulate ourselves. The weblog is the homepage that we wear.
Posted by Jill at 12:33 | | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

[edit continuously]

"Well," he said, "a disadvantage of using it is that since each blog post is simply a text file on your server, the last time the file was modified becomes the time stamp on the blog post. So I can't edit posts after posting them: if I did, the system would decide the post was fresh and put it at the top of the page with today's date on it."

"Oh, that would never work for me," I replied, "I edit my posts continuously. All my posts would have today's date if my software kept track of my edits like that."

The subject changed with no further comment than a couple of raised eyebrows from the other bloggers present, but I relished my words as though speaking sacrilege, imagining what such a blog would be like: continuously edited just as memories are.

Posted by Jill at 10:50 | | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Monday: August 25, 2003

[comic strip ]

The American Elf is James Kochalka's online , presented in short, daily comics. James and his wife had a baby last Thursday, and Grumpygirl's comments on reading the daily strips during the long, long wait for the birth are interesting in terms of real time episodic narrative: "Each day when I checked to see if the baby had been born I kept thinking "boy, he's really drawing out this storyline" and had to keep reminding myself that he actually didn't have all that much to say..."

Grumpygirl's blogroll is worth some serious surfing if you're interested in the intersection between comics and blogging, and her posts (some drawn some written, some artistic, some about her MA on blogs and stories) regularly hold gems.

Posted by Jill at 11:33 | | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday: August 22, 2003

[revised definition]

I finally revised the definition I wrote of "weblog" for the Routledge Encyclopedia of Narrative and sent it back to the editors. The changes were mostly small, the one I like best being a suggestion from an editor that I weave in something like "the standard genre expectation is of non-fiction". So I did. What a quick summarisation of the whole truth/fiction debates.

Because there are lots of links to what is in fact a final draft rather than a final version, I pasted the new revised and hopefully finally final version into the same post as the previous version.

Oh, I sent the definition through the Gender Genie, too, thinking that it was so seriously written that it must be masculine, but no. Written by a woman, says the genie. Indeed.

Posted by Jill at 14:45 | | Comments (2) | TrackBack (1)

Saturday: August 16, 2003


What would happen if I fictionalised myself? It would be an inversion of the truth debates. I could tell the truth but safely: noone would believe it because my genre would seem to be fiction. I could still be a serious academic, you know, theories are often presented in novels and even quoted by theorists.

Posted by Jill at 10:44 | | Comments (5) | TrackBack (1)

Wednesday: August 13, 2003


Letters (weblogs) are secretive, the reader (the writer) is in charge and feels no pressure of the writer's (the reader's) presence, and I do believe that a young girl prefers to be alone with her dreams. Or more precisely:

Et brev er en hemmelighedsfuld kommunikasjon; man er herre over situationen, føler intet tryk af nogen tilstedeværende, og sit ideal, tror jeg, vil en ung pige helst være ganske alene med.
Søren Kierkegaard, Forførerens dagbok, side 125.

Sorry; I don't have the English translation, and mine is approximate at best.

Posted by Jill at 12:28 | | Comments (1) | TrackBack (1)

Monday: August 11, 2003

[truth revisited]

I just can't stay away from the truth/facts/reality thread these days despite swearing repeatedly to disregard it (analyse that!), and so I must point out that even William Gibson, a novelist, has people assuming that because he writes something, it must be fact. His blog post of yesterday details some of the many things he has not actually experienced.

Posted by Jill at 9:45 | | Comments (3) | TrackBack (2)

[politics on blogs]

Eirik and Jon have been writing about Howard Dean, the Democratic presidential candidate who's blogging. Jon also pointed me to Dan Gillmor's interesting analysis of Dean's net campaign. Following links around about I was fascinated to see that Dean's been a guest blogger for Lawrence Lessig. Now, Lessig, you know, is a forefigure in the fight for a more sensible copyright legislation for digital works, and his blog has a large readership that is expert in this area. They're a vocal lot too, and Lessig's posts often get scores and even hundreds of comments. So by posting to Lessig's blog, Dean gets a different readership.

Dean's blog posts have not been long, but they have attempted to address the many, complex issues raised in the comments to posts. As Eirik writes, the difference between a post like this from Dean, and a post from Poul Nyrup (former Prime Minister of Denmark) is striking. Nyrup's blog is musing, thoughtful and often pleasant reading, and there are descriptions of a politicians life, and fairly abstract political visions, but it's lacking in political action. He has no comments or discussions and doesn't link. Mind you, Nyrup scores a few points simply by being Danish: an equivalent to his fond memories of last year at the Roskilde Festival (June 29, no permalink) is unlikely to appear on Dean's much more focussed site. I don't think Nyrup's really blogging for success, he's blogging for pleasure. He's already been a head of government, of course.

Lessig sees Dean's guest blogging as more than just another distribution channel for political propaganda, he sees it as democratising: a new and more valuable space for genuine debate between indivuals and their politicians. After the visit, Lessig wrote:

[E]very serious candidate should spend time in just such an open, egalitarian place. Everyone now recognizes that the leading Democratic candidate is the leading candidate in part because of how his message spreads in places like this. They should all find places where they can do the same — unprotected by handlers, exposed to many with strong and deep knowledge of a subject, and open to fair criticism. Let there be one week on a blog for every five choreographed “town halls”, and we’ll begin to see something interesting.

There were problems too, of course. Lessig's a professor of law at Stanford, and when he hosted Dean, Stanford requested that he move his blog to a personal server because the university did not wish to be seen as endorsing one candidate. Although Lessig has later said that he's not specifically endorsing Dean, and has invited other candidates to guestblog too, people have tended to assume that Dean's presence on Lessig's blog meant that Dean supported Lessig's copyright agenda. This is not the case ("they have no policy on that yet"), although Dean's internet team are "big Lessig fans". From the looks of things, Dean's found himself a pretty impressive internet team.

Posted by Jill at 8:59 | | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday: August 08, 2003


There's an interesting and unusually poignant discussion over at Elouise's about writing intensely personal blog posts. A suggestion I like is that once published (abstracted) feelings are no longer personal. Everyone feels them. That would be the difference between publishing what Jonathan calls truth and publishing facts.

Posted by Jill at 9:22 | | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday: August 07, 2003


I was away when that bloggers' scruff happened, where Mark Pilgrim got so fussed about accountability (check the "3 versions" link) and standing for what you publish that he not only rewrote his own blogging software to show every single revision made to every post he writes but also wrote an app that checked Dave Winer's blog every five minutes so that it could keep track of, and further disseminate, everything Dave deleted. Luckily Mark's taken it down now.

This time I'm with Dave. And he wrote a pretty good defense of why he thinks it's OK to change your own blog posts:

I keep a file of sensitive stuff that I've deleted from Scripting News, stuff I found too personal, more vulnerability than I wanted. It helped to do the writing, but once I saw it in public, I got scared, and took it down. Now that people have set up a system to record everything on Scripting that I post within five minute intervals, I don't think I'll be writing any more of that stuff here. I guess it's time for weblogs to become like television. Polished and politically correct. Impersonal. Commercial. That's what they're really saying. When there's no room to change your mind, there's no way to take a chance. That's about it. They found a way to stop me from taking chances.

Rebecca Blood also thinks it's important that once published, it stays. So does Ted Nelson, whose ideal Xanadu includes permanent, unbreakable addresses for every version of every document. So, obviously, do Mark Pilgrim and a lot of other people. It's a recurring debate.

I think Dave Winer has an important point though. If we require total accountability we require perfection, polish, political correctness. I like that blogs are an in between genre where I don't have to be as formal and correct as in a serious academic publication. I delete stuff, sometimes. And I rewrite stuff, sometimes. Sometimes I say so, sometimes I don't. It's my site, after all.

Posted by Jill at 14:14 | | Comments (8) | TrackBack (4)

Friday: August 01, 2003

[mutilate this]

Tinka has embarked on a project to identify and then bend, twist, mutilate and undo the various paratexts of blogging. She's started with the blogger's bio, the "about me" section you'll often find in the upper left corner of a blog. Hers is currently as full of dashes, elisions and absences as a pseudo-autobiographical novel ("Lady D&emdash; was born in the in the quiet village of K&emdash; in L&emdash;") and her postings suggest that the datestamp, possibly the prime indicator of a blog's self-declaration as a blog, may be next.

Posted by Jill at 11:35 | | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

Wednesday: July 30, 2003

[first person, real time]

I like this definition of Eloise Oyzon's: Blogs are a first person narrative in real time. and further:

The story is focused upon the protagonist, it may be extremely personal/personable or the story may be of a larger scope - ie. technological trends and innovation as they affect our hero, with occassional tangential tidbits hinting at life beyond.

Posted by Jill at 8:09 | | Comments (0) | TrackBack (2)

Saturday: June 28, 2003

[final version of weblog definition]

This is the definition of "weblog" I've written for the Routledge Encyclopedia of Narrative Theory, which is forthcoming in 2005. It's limited in size and scope: I had to keep to a maximum of 500 words, including the references, and I wrote it for an encyclopedia of narrative. The asterixes indicate cross references to other entries in the encyclopedia.

UPDATE 22/8: I received some useful feedback from the editors and have revised the definition accordingly. Since there are a lot of links to this post, I'm putting the final, final version here at the top of the post, and the draft I sent the editors in June is still here after the horisontal rule.


A weblog, or *blog, is a frequently updated website consisting of dated entries arranged in reverse chronological order so the most recent post appears first (see temporal ordering). Typically, weblogs are published by individuals and their style is personal and informal. Weblogs first appeared in the mid-1990s, becoming popular as simple and free publishing tools became available towards the turn of the century. Since anybody with a net connection can publish their own weblog, there is great variety in the quality, content, and ambition of weblogs, and a weblog may have anywhere from a handful to tens of thousands of daily readers.

Examples of the *genre exist on a continuum from *confessional, online *diaries to logs tracking specific topics or activities through links and commentary. Though weblogs are primarily textual, experimentation with sound, *images, and videos has resulted in related genres such as photoblogs, videoblogs, and audioblogs (see intermediality; media and narrative).

Most weblogs use links generously, allowing readers to follow conversations between weblogs by following links between entries on related topics. Readers may start at any point of a weblog, seeing the most recent entry first, or arriving at an older post via a search engine or a link from another site, often another weblog. Once at a weblog, readers can read on in various orders: chronologically, thematically, by following links between entries or by searching for keywords. Weblogs also generally include a blogroll, which is a list of links to other weblogs the author recommends. Many weblogs allow readers to enter their own comments to individual posts.

Weblogs are serial and cumulative, and readers tend to read small amounts at a time, returning hours, days, or weeks later to read entries written since their last visit. This serial or episodic structure is similar to that found in *epistolary novels or *diaries, but unlike these a weblog is open-ended, finishing only when the writer tires of writing (see narrative structure).

Many weblog entries are shaped as brief, independent narratives, and some are explicitly or implicitly fictional, though the standard genre expectation is non-fiction. Some weblogs create a larger frame for the micro-narratives of individual posts by using a consistent rule to constrain their structure or themes (see Oulipo), thus, Francis Strand connects his stories of life in Sweden by ending each with a Swedish word and its translation. Other weblogs connect frequent but dissimilar entries by making a larger narrative explicit: Flight Risk is about an heiress’s escape from her family, The Date Project documents a young man’s search for a girlfriend, and Julie Powell narrates her life as she works her way through Julia Child’s cookbook.

See also: digital narrative; life story; thematic approaches to narrative

References and Further Reading

Anonymous (2002) The Date Project. <http://thedateproject.blogspot.com/>

Lejeune, Philippe (2000) “Cher écran...” Journal personnel, ordinateur, Internet, Paris : Seuil.

Strand, Francis (2003) How to Learn Swedish in 1000 Difficult Lessons. <http://francisstrand.blogspot.com/>

‘V., Isabella’ (2003) She’s a Flight Risk. <http://shes.aflightrisk.org>

Powell, Julie (2003) The Julie/Julia Project. <http://blogs.salon.com/0001399/>

(websites accessed August 2003)

Jill Walker

(501 words)

[original post follows]

Right, this is my final draft of my entry on weblogs for the Routledge Encyclopedia of Narrative Theory. I think I've got the most important things in, though I'm aching to write much more about lots of it - the social aspects and the network in particular - but I think this is probably what I want in a 500 word for people interested in narrative theory. I've added more about the style of writing and the soapbox aspect, as some of you suggested, but I've left in the first sentence about the formal qualities of the genre because I think that's important. Anyway, I'll read through it again in a few hours when I've packed and mowed the lawn and then I'll send it off. :)


A weblog, also known as a *blog, is a frequently updated website consisting of dated entries arranged in reverse chronological order so that the reader sees the most recent post first. The style is typically personal and informal. Freely available tools on the World Wide Web make it easy for anybody to publish their own weblog, so there is a lot of variety in the quality, content and ambition of weblogs, and a weblog may have anywhere from a handful to tens of thousands of daily readers. Weblogs first appeared in the mid-nineties and became more widely popular as simple and free publishing tools such as Blogger.com became available towards the turn of the century.

Examples of the genre exist on a continuum from online *diaries that relate the writer’s daily activities and experiences to less *confessional weblogs that comment and link to other material, discuss a particular theme or function as soapboxes. In addition to the dominant textual form of weblogs there are experiments with adding sound, images and videos to the genre, resulting in photoblogs, videoblogs and audioblogs.

Each entry in a weblog tends to link to further information. Weblog authors also link to other weblogs that have dealt with similar topics, allowing readers to follow conversations between weblogs by following links between entries on related topics. Readers may start at any point of a weblog, seeing the most recent entry first, or arriving at an older post via a search engine or a link from another site. Once reading a weblog, readers can read in several orders: chronologically, thematically or searching by keywords. Weblogs also generally include a blogroll, which is a list of links to other weblogs the author recommend, and many weblogs allow readers to enter their own comments to individual posts.

Weblogs are serial and cumulative, and readers tend to read small amounts at a time, returning hours, days or weeks later to read entries written since their last visit. This serial or episodic structure is similar to that found in *epistolary novels or *diaries, but unlike these a weblog is open ended, finishing only when the writer tires of writing.

Many weblog entries are shaped as brief, independent narratives. Some weblogs create a larger frame to these micro-narratives by using a consistent rule to constrain their writing. Francis Strand connects his stories of life in Sweden by ending each with a Swedish word and its translation. Other weblogs connect frequent but dissimilar entries by making a larger narrative explicit: The Date Project documents a young man’s search for a girlfriend, Julie Powell narrates her life as she works her way through Julia Child’s cookbook while Flight Risk is about an heiress’s escape from her family.

Further Reading

Anonymous (2002) The Date Project. http://thedateproject.blogspot.com/

Lejeune, Philippe (2000) “Cher écran...” Journal personnel, ordinateur, Internet. Paris: Éditions du Seuil.

Strand, Francis (2003) How to Learn Swedish in 1000 Difficult Lessons. http://francisstrand.blogspot.com/

V., Isabella (2003) She’s a Flight Risk. http://shes.aflightrisk.org

Powell, Julie (2003) The Julie/Julia Project. http://blogs.salon.com/0001399/

(500 words)

[Should be revised before publication as more relevant literature will probably be published in the next year or so. Uncertain about including references to actual weblogs – since URLs may well change, perhaps it is better to simply give the author and title in the text, and readers can search themselves to see if the weblog is still online? Could raise question of fictionality at end of this entry (readers assume authenticity, anger at fictions, hoaxes, discussions about obligation to tell the truth and so on) but to do that I’d need to cut out something else. Isabella V. is the pseudonym of the woman who writes Flight Risk, or depending on how you see it, Isabella V. is the name of the narrator and the author is anonymous – so I’m not sure how to cite that reference?]

Posted by Jill at 20:18 | | Comments (1) | TrackBack (54)

Thursday: June 26, 2003

[first draft is full of holes]

I haven't finished writing this but my head is aching and all my muscles are screaming at me to get OUT OF THIS OFFICE and so I'll post this unfinished draft anyway. It's for the Routledge Encyclopedia of Narrative Theory, as I mentioned in the previous post. Feedback would be very welcome - oh, and there can be up to eight bibliographical references, and that's really hard to find. Anything I've missed? Is Steve's paper published anywhere?


A weblog, also known as a *blog, is a frequently updated website consisting of dated posts arranged in reverse chronological order so that the reader sees the most recent post first. Weblogs are usually personal but the form is also used by companies, groups and communities. The first weblogs appeared on the World Wide Web in the mid-nineties, and the genre became widely popular around the turn of the century, when free web services allowed novice users to easily sign up and publish their own weblogs by choosing a template, typing each post into a web form and pressing a button labeled “publish”. In addition to the dominant textual form of weblogs there are experiments with adding sound, images and videos to the genre, resulting in photoblogs, videoblogs and audioblogs.

Examples of the genre can be placed on a continuum from online *diaries that relate the writer’s daily activities and experiences to less *confessional weblogs that comment and link to other material or that discuss a particular theme. Newspapers have included weblogs in their online versions and many weblogs have a strong journalistic flavour.

Weblogs are serial and cumulative, and readers tend to read small amounts at a time, returning hours, days or weeks later to read entries that have been written since their last visit. This serial or episodic structure is similar to that found in *epistolary novels or *diaries, but unlike these a weblog is open ended, finishing only when the writer tires of writing.

In addition to the serial form, weblogs are characterised by their use of links. Most weblog posts stem from a concrete experience: something the writer has read, heard about, done or seen. [more on links, also blogthreads and conversations between blogs, and possibly comments and trackbacks

Many weblog entries are shaped as brief, independent narratives. [e.g. Julia/Julie, Francis Strand, connect to me and Steve]

Projects, macronarratives – Flight Risk, The Date Project...

Weblogs are a new phenomenon and there is as yet little formal scholarship on the genre, though there are an increasing number of conference papers on the topic as well as discussions of the genre and its narrativity in weblogs. The best way to explore the weblog genre is to move from one to another using the links between them until you find one or more than you appreciate. [might not be quite appropriate for this kind of piece]

Further Reading

Lejeune, Philippe (2000) “Cher écran...” Journal personnel, ordinateur, Internet. Paris: Éditions du Seuil.
Rodzvilla, John (ed.) (2002) We’ve Got Blog: How Weblogs are Changing Our Culture. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Publishing.
Mortensen, Torill and Walker, Jill (2002) ‘Blogging Thoughts’
(about 450 words)

Posted by Jill at 19:04 | | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)

[writing a definition]

I'm writing a 500 word definition of weblog for the forthcoming Routledge Encyclopedia of Narrative. I've been thinking about it for weeks but have only half-written it - my plan is to finish a draft this afternoon and post it here, and hopefully, some of you trusty, wonderful, talkative, intelligent and knowledgeable readers might have some comments? The example the editors have provided of one of the 500 word contributions is for the word obituary, which has a richness, history and theory I must admit I had not previously considered. And I also have to think about cross-references to some of the other entries in the encyclopedia. OK, down to work now.

Posted by Jill at 17:16 | | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday: June 25, 2003

[cfp: blog collection]

I hadn't seen this CFP before, for some reason: it's calling for 250 word abstracts about blogs, and accepted abstracts will go to 3000 word papers that will be compiled into a peer-reviewed, web collection edited by Clancy Ratliff (who's doing a PhD on gender and blogging) and other people at the University of Minnesota. The deadline for abstracts is in five days time. Perhaps I'll submit an abstract analysing what encourages comments in blogs. Ha.

Posted by Jill at 10:24 | | Comments (6) | TrackBack (1)

Tuesday: June 24, 2003

[moods and comments]

When I'm happy, my blog posts get lots of comments. When I'm grumpy, there are no comments at all. I've been tracking this hypothesis over the last weeks, and it appears to be foolproof: the correlation between my mood and the number of comments is absolute.

Obviously there must be a difference in the way I write when I'm happy compared to when I'm grumpy. I can't see it myself, though, and I'm not sure I can quite stomach the thought of doing a thorough analysis.

I'd love to hear from others though: does the same axiom hold for your moods, blog posts and comments?

Posted by Jill at 13:20 | | Comments (24) | TrackBack (0)


Blogcount tries to work out that notoriously difficult sum: How many blogs are there? (via Lisbeth)

Posted by Jill at 13:16 | | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday: June 16, 2003

[something back]

Jon quotes Adrienne Rich:

If you can read and understand this poem
send something back: a burning strand of hair
a still-warm, still-liquid drop of blood
a shell
thickened from being battered year on year
send something back.

Which is another reason why I like comments in my blog.

Posted by Jill at 13:13 | | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

[torill in dagbladet]

Torill's kronikk about weblogs was printed in Dagbladet on Saturday, but you can read it online if you didn't buy the paper that day. Well, if you can read Norwegian you can read it online. Otherwise you'll just have to look at it.

Posted by Jill at 10:17 | | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday: June 13, 2003

[textual space to let]

Perhaps having comments in your blog is like renting out part of your home?

Posted by Jill at 12:05 | | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday: June 11, 2003

[on comments]

Jon, Jenny, Torill and Eirik have all been discussing comments (to allow them or not). I can't discuss a thing until I've got through the huge pile of student work I have to assess before Friday. I reckon self-assessment has a lot going for it...

Posted by Jill at 17:30 | | Comments (1) | TrackBack (1)

Tuesday: June 10, 2003

[reasons not to allow comments]

Torill explains why she doesn't have comments in her blog. It's in Norwegian, but the main arguments are:

  1. Comments require more maintenence, you might get trolls, and you probably have a legal, editorial responsibility for what's in the comments so you really do have to check them.
  2. Her blog is more for working out her own thinking than for dialogue.
  3. Trackbacks aren't democratic. In fact, they make only one network visible, because they only display links from other MoveableType blogs (like this one). MoveableType is one of the most difficult blogging applications to install and requires not only the money to pay for a server but also a lot of technical skills. So Trackbacks only make visible a particular elitist conversation.
  4. Anyone who wants to comment on something in Torill's blog can start a free, simple blogger.com weblog and write away. Torill will find it.

It's good to have reasons like these made so explicit, and Torill's not alone here: Anders agrees with her (July 5) (incidentally SMSes announced the birth of Ander's son on Friday so the "the baby's not here yet sign on his blog is outdated. Congratulations!) Finally, whether to have comments or not is just a choice that depends on what you want your weblog to be and what you want it to do for you. I love comments, and love the slightly scary feeling of opening up my writing and thinking like this. I also love being able to comment at other people's sites. That doesn't mean everyone needs weblogs.

The troll issue: it's true, I did have a troll. Once I actually talked with him instead of just fighting him, as other people he plagued did, we became friends, and now he's one of my favourite commentators. He even sends me supportive emails at times :)

And then there's the legal responsibility question - I've just spend half an hour searching for a report I'm sure I saw a link to the other day about a court case that somehow creates a precedence for bloggers not being responsible for comments made by visitors to their sites. Does anyone know what I'm talking about?

Posted by Jill at 11:09 | | Comments (9) | TrackBack (2)

Monday: June 09, 2003


Matt writes about starting with the default template and changing it as you notice the hordes of other bloggers using exactly the same template. A common enough experience, I imagine. But then he cites Manovich:

Lev Manovich makes the interesting argument that because digital objects always operate within a finite (however vast) set of parameters, that a truly radical gesture of originality is to simply retain the default settings.

Now Manovich isn't writing about weblogs, but... Nah. He's wrong. It is incredibly unoriginal to keep the default settings. 50% of bloggers keep the default, and that's OK, but it's hardly original. Manovich is just being clever, right?

Matt takes this into the fascinating-sounding territory of whether there may in fact be problems with the separation of form and content that's so sacred in the separation between CSS and HTML, and in other markup languages. My head won't quite get round that though, it just sounds interesting, but my thoughts are too exhausted from all the student theses and essays I'm reading and assessing. This is hard work!

Posted by Jill at 10:50 | | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

Friday: June 06, 2003

[not documenting, doing]

Yesterday I agreed with Lilia that most researchers' blogs don't document research. Today while reading a post on David Weinberger's blog I realised that that's completely beside the point: research happens in blogs, and in the conversations between blogs. Blogs aren't about documentation, they're about doing, thinking and discussing. And they're about catching fleeting thoughts and making them explicit: if I hadn't blogged my response to Lilia yesterday I probably wouldn't have thought about David's post today as research and wanted to rethink yesterday's ideas as I'm doing now.

Of course blogs can be used as documentation as well, they can be used for almost anything I suspect, but I don't think documentation is the most interesting aspect of blogs in research.

Posted by Jill at 15:17 | | Comments (3) | TrackBack (3)

Thursday: June 05, 2003

[documenting research]

Lilia Efimova's right: a lot of research bloggers don't really use their blogs to document their research. We write around our "real" research", yes, and blogging has definitely informed my research, and my research focus has changed through blogging, but I bet even those of you who read my blog regularly couldn't really describe my "real research project" (my recently finished PhD thesis) based on the blog. Here are some of the reasons Lilia suggests for why we don't do this, some other, possibly better reasons - and here is how she documented her writing of a paper she presented at BlogTalk. (via Henning, who was at BlogTalk)

I find that I blog thoughts that appear, as they appear, and through writing for immediate publication I think a lot more seriously about the thoughts than I would have otherwise. These initially loose thoughts very often lead to more research.

My PhD thesis, on the other hand, was supposedly planned from the start. Well, of course it wasn't really, but the writing came from the other side, somehow: not chance thoughts caught in flight but large arguments and grappling with a field. When I wrote my thesis I tried to construct a cohesive whole whereas blogging is fragmentary and serial.

Posted by Jill at 14:03 | | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

Monday: June 02, 2003

[scholarly blogs]

There's an article in The Chronicle about scholarly blogs, and it points to two lists of such blogs: Professors Who Blog and Henry Farrow's blogroll (see the lower right column of his main blog page). Henry notes in a recent blog post that his list almost only has social scientists and lawyers on it, because that's his field. Likewise, the list of research blogs I maintain mostly, though not exclusively, lists humanities blogs.

I haven't actually touched the research blogs list since February. There are so many academic blogs these days I don't really feel the need to keep track of every single one in existence any more.

Posted by Jill at 11:32 | | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday: May 29, 2003

[stories across blogs]

There's an interesting piece discussing how blog stories spread at Microdot News. They've looked at 45 stories that have been discussed on a lot of different blogs, and propose that participants either post opinions, reactions, summaries or votes. I'm not sure quite what the difference between an opinion and a reaction is, especially since the article writers say that non-English language bloggers more frequently write reactions to other bloggers opinions, or votes (posts simply saying I agree or I don't agree). This makes me suspect that a reaction is simply an opinion that doesn't have (English-language) reactions to it. I'd also like to see much, much more substance in examples from the various blog stories - where's the data? There are a lot of claims with not that much to back them up - stories develop over 7 to 27 days, these are the four types of posting, foreign language blogs mostly post reactions and so on. There's no argument, discussion or displaying of evidence, just lots of claims that may well be true but are not proved or made likely. On the other hand this is a really short piece, and probably just the sort of piece journalists would love: it's so simple and clear. It's obvious that one could do a lot more on the topic, and it's interesting to see a beginning analysis of the ways networks of blogs spread, discuss and treat stories. (via Invisble Shoebox) [Update 30/5: Torill notes that stories spread in the same way between local newspapers and other non-digital media, and cites a study she did on this in 1995. So I guess this isn't really proof of the uniqueness of blogs, then...]

Posted by Jill at 17:41 | | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday: May 05, 2003

[he gets blogs]

Rune Røsten's written rather a nice little comparison of journalistic treatment of Bill Gate's speech vs. blogged reports of it (May 5, no permalink, in Norwegian). The journalists he cites didn't check the original speech but reproduced misinterpretations of it from other media. The bloggers Røsten cites linked directly to the speech. And they're unpretentious ;) Rune Røsten obviously gets blogs. I wonder whether he had to fight to get blogs into Dagbladet?

Posted by Jill at 9:44 | | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Friday: May 02, 2003

[more of that dagblogging]

Torill's interested though sceptical to the idea of "media-controlled blogs" at Dagbladet, that is, that they'll let user's create their own blogs. On their fourth day of blogging, Dagbladet's weblog posts are starting to seem more webloggish. Personal opinions of Torsdagsklubben posted by Astrid Meland while watching it, with links to other opinions, yup, that'll do fine for a blog post, and another post by Rune Røsten linking to a post by Olav Anders that's about Gates' first public mention of weblogs, with an opinion from Rune. Definitely webloggish. And they have only been going for four days. It takes a while to figure out how to write in this new genre. I hope they hurry up and get permalinks, though.

Posted by Jill at 12:02 | | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

Thursday: May 01, 2003

[blogs and personality]

Dagbladet's seriously going for weblogs, as an article by the adm. dir. of the net version shows: Vi blogges! it cheerfully exclaims. They're planning to open up a community area where readers can blog too, which'll be interesting. It's amazing seeing weblogs approaching something almost mainstream. And I'm tickled that I'm linked from Dagbladets weblog FAQ.

I'm a bit befuddled, though, about the individual staff weblogs. They're all linked from Dagbladet's staff weblogger's page, with personal descriptions of their interests and gorgeous photos. I think what bothers me is that all the weblogs look exactly the same as each other. That makes perfect sense within a newspaper, of course, but it makes me realise that I strongly associate a good deal of the individuality and personality I experience in weblogs with their visual design. I recognise Liz's verbal voice whether she writes in Mamamusings or Many-to-Many, but I certainly identify the look of each site with a different, uh, space. Persona. Kind of like wearing different clothes in the mountains, at work, playing in the sandpit and at parties.

I think that online centralised media that use weblogs (BBC online, Dagbladet, Guardian Online, Sydney Morning Herald, give me more links in the comments please!) likely will be building a kind of blogs that has some key differences to independent blogs. There's a an article there, waiting to be written: [Insert groovy catchphrase here]: A Comparative study of Centralised and Independent Blogs. I'm sure not writing it though.

Posted by Jill at 12:06 | | Comments (1) | TrackBack (1)

Tuesday: April 29, 2003


In weblogs groups emerge and dissipate based on what's being discussed, whereas in a mailing list it's the other way round: the group exists first and discussions exist within the group. Because weblogs emerge, no one has the power to unform them.

Posted by Jill at 14:57 | | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday: April 27, 2003

[boil water without a lid]

According to Karlin Lillington, writing for the Irish Times, William Gibson will stop blogging when he starts writing his next novel. It sounds as though he needs privacy in order to write:

He's about ready to start thinking of his next novel - but in order to do so, he says he'll have to give up his weblog (or 'blog'), a highly popular website of sorts in which he's written almost daily since January.

"I do know from doing it that it's not something I can do when I'm actually working. Somehow the ecology of writing novels wouldn't be able to exist if I'm in daily contact. If I expose things that interest or obsess me as I go along, there'd be no need to write the book. The sinews of narrative would never grow."

or, as he writes himself in his blog:

One thing that was immediately clear to me, from the first blog, is that this is not an activity, for me, that can coexist with the writing of a novel. In some way I only dimly apprehend, it requires too much of the same bandwidth (yet never engages anything like the total *available* bandwidth).

But, definitely, the ecology of novelization and the ecology of blogging couldn't coexist, for me. It would be like trying to boil water without a lid. Or, more like it, trying to run a steam engine without a lid. (I wonder if that would be the case for a native of the blogosphere -- for whom, as Lou Reed once said of heroin addicts, "the needle is a toothbrush"? Maybe not.)

This is pretty much the opposite view to Steven Johnson's statement that he's been twice as productive in his other writing since he started blogging. But as I understand what Gibson says, for him the incompatibility of book-writing and blogging isn't that blogging takes time but that it's too public. Or too open, perhaps. He sounds rather like the individualist romantic genius who needs isolation to create great art, while the blogging ethos demands openness and social sharing of the process. I wonder if these opposed strategies are clichés, beliefs or just a sign of different personality types? I think I'm a native of the blogsphere - though I'm not sure about the toothbrush thing.

Posted by Jill at 17:08 | | Comments (2) | TrackBack (1)

Wednesday: April 23, 2003

[serial, social, process]

Eirik Newth's latest column over at Kulturnett uses jill/txt as an example to explain the social aspects of blogging - comments, trackbacks and so on. He writes:

[B]logger som jill/txt fungerer mer som knutepunkter i et nettverk av medskapende lesere enn som enkeltstående vevsider. (Blogs like jill/txt function more as nodes in a network of co-creating readers than as singular webpages.

In this morning's New Media Theory lecture I amazed myself by happily talking for 45 minutes about the (at least) three prehistories of new media (that of the artists, the literary one and the cinematic one) and the difference between emphasising the work and the network. And I explained how using a course blog not only is a useful learning tool but helps us understand the network: it's serial, social and about process.

I gave my first paid lecture two years ago or so, and Eirik Newth was the first presenter of the day. I watched in awe, nervously clutching my anxiously powerpoint-filled laptop, as he talked about e-books for two hours without notes or projectors. I'm so surprised that now I find yabbing on about something I'm interested in so much easier than setting up useful problems for the students to actually work on themselves. I had expected it to be the other way around.

Posted by Jill at 16:53 | | Comments (1) | TrackBack (1)

Tuesday: April 22, 2003


Denmark's ex-Prime Minister has really gotten into weblogging! I was going to just quote some of his latest post, which is of course written in Danish, but I think for the benefit of mankind I'll translate it into English instead:

I've been weblogging for a couple of weeks, now. My brief time as a "blogger" has opened a whole new world for me. One almost becomes "a bit addicted". Around the globe people are sitting and writing weblogs, sharing their thoughts and everyday experiences with all those of us who are interested. Each in their individual way contributes to a description of life in a globalised world. Fascinating!

And I'm still a beginner. My weblog doesn't have any smart functions - yet. I've become addicted to this communication form, and I'm nearly ready to take the next step. Soon you'll be able to add comments to my weblog. As I go along I'll also link to other weblogs I find interesting. And this will please experienced bloggers: my weblog will soon have a so-called rss-feed, so it will be easier to keep track of my scribbling. (16/4/03)

For some reason the thought of a staid old politician experiencing such familiar exhileration with a new medium strikes me as amazingly - cute. Loveable. I'm not sure that's how politicians actually want to be seen, but there you go.

Posted by Jill at 19:53 | | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Monday: April 21, 2003


Liz has a nice followup to my post about kinds of honesty in which she neatly collects links to the discussion - I've been shockingly lax about that, I just read things and was appalled and didn't actually link to them. Jonathon Delacour's post is particulary interesting, and look at his description of his weblog, I like that. I'm finding some excellent weblogs through this debate.

Jt's comment to Liz's post sums up the problem with the truth in blogs debate, in my opinion:

Presenting fiction as fact IS dishonest, no matter how you try to justify it.

See, that's just it. I don't think weblogs are about facts. Obviously a lot of people do, as the Kaycee Nicole scandal and others have shown. Heck, even my recent obsession with the authenticity of the Bagdad Blogger was rather embarrassingly literal, wasn't it? As Shelley wrote,

I'm not trying to tell you about my day, but about my life. There's a big difference.

In a more recent post, she quoted someone else talking about Annie Dillard: "Sometimes to tell the truth you have to lie a little."

There are long traditions for this, of course. In my family, we know perfectly well that Mum tends to embroider the truth a little, though she'll always deny it when pushed. The rest of us do too, now and then. Such embroidery usually only makes the story better and the point clearer. Even memory embroiders the truth - are you sure you remember your own stories quite the way they really happened?

I should probably set up a disclaimer on my blog. "I endeavour to be academically trustworthy and cite my sources and so on but do not promise to be factual about my personal life."

This is a typical debate where we should probably all just agree to disagree before it gets utterly boring.

Posted by Jill at 12:20 | | Comments (4) | TrackBack (1)

Sunday: April 20, 2003

[om bare]

I just finished reading Vigdis Hjorth's novel, Om bare. Having studied literature at the University of Bergen I'd heard all about the novel, which the literary crowd at the university and Café Opera agreed was a malicious act of vengeance against Hjorth's ex-partner, who happens to be a professor of literature in Bergen. The novel was unanimously decried as terrible, awful, embarrassingly bad, as well as morally despicable, although few would admit to having read it. Neither had I.

Last week a friend who knew nothing about the scandal lent me the book: You should read this, Jill. She was right. It's amazing. Relentlessly honest, but not at all in the simplistic sense of gossip and scandals. Yes, it can be read as a very thinly disguised account of the author's relationship to the professor, but its factual accuracy (or lack of such) is irrelevant because the honesty here is of an altogether different nature. It is in the emotions portrayed: merciless love that shoves aside all normality, all sense, all expectations as to how we (women? mothers? people?) are supposed to behave. The extremity of it is terrifying and recognisable. I see it in myself and in my friends (calm, married women turn thirty and explode), though we pull back before we lose ourselves, only glimpsing the destructive potential of such obsession.

The debate about this book has been symmetrically opposite to some of the recent complaints about truthfulness and blogs. The novel that is too close to reality is ridiculed and condemned. The blogger, on the other hand, is expected to adhere strictly to what actually happened.

How strange.

And I'm not surprised to see Om bare was given a rave review by Tonje Tveite, who's since been ostracised by the Norwegian literary police (in this case represented by Brit Bildøen and Linn Ullmann (Liv Ullmann and Ingmar Bergman's daughter, a literary critic and author, as the personally inclined might be interested to know, though the 18% of you in Norway already do, of course)) for writing reviews that are too "personal". Is Scandinavia particularly terrified of the personal or is this a trait of all highly educated literary professionals? Yes, I have a "I got an MA in comparative literature" complex.

Posted by Jill at 22:24 | | Comments (5) | TrackBack (1)

Wednesday: April 16, 2003


Um, there's this thing called the penisblog where you match the penis to the blogger. Found it via Metafilter. I don't think I'd sign up even if I had a penis, though they kind of parallell the honesty discussions of recent times:

We bloggers spend so much time, energy, and emotional effort revealing the most intimate details of our lives on our websites ... and yet most of us balk at showing a few square inches of skin.

What do we have to hide if we're supposedly letting it all hang out via our weblogs?

Our tits, maybe? Oh, no, wait, I know, it's our bra straps!

Posted by Jill at 23:32 | | Comments (2) | TrackBack (1)

[lying and writing]

Lying, or writing exercises? All I know is I want to keep reading em! And, hey, strictly speaking, I suppose those conversations Grumpygirl has with the Ant might not actually happen quite like that. I mean, the Ant's drawn almost as big as Grumpygirl, that can't be true!

Posted by Jill at 8:39 | | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday: April 15, 2003

[literary weblogs]

More thoughts about literary weblogs from Steve, and trackbacks and so on to be followed. I'm looking forward to seeing the paper he's writing! Another branch of the discussion seems to have veered off to lies and the obligation to tell the truth, which is rather a different matter, or rather, a matter less interesting to me now. And truth is more than facts and events.

Posted by Jill at 18:08 | | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday: April 14, 2003

[living obituary]

Ah. The article in the Australian is by Bernard Lane, who writes Milon's Memory, a living obituary for a friend of his who died twenty years ago, when he was only twenty. I wrote about it last October. Bernard's still adding memories to the weblog, and it's fascinating to read, both because it's well written and because its weblog form works so well for the theme. I'd never have expected it but it really does.

Posted by Jill at 1:05 | | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday: April 13, 2003

[primetime blogs]

I'm starting to find West Wing kind of repetitive and self-important, Ally McBeal's over, even here in Norway where we're always a season late, and they've stopped showing Cold Feet and Sex and the City. The ethers are filled with reality shows in American, British and Norwegian versions and they are unbelievably boring. So I'm left with Tuesday nights's Judging Amy as almost my only televised drama companion. It's OK, I read and surf instead :) Anyway, Amy's a single mum with a brilliant career who lives with her mum and botches affair after affair: sure, I'll watch it! Now (well, this time next season in my Norwegian timelagged world) Donna's weblog has become an important ingredient in the show, Lisa writes. I suppose there have been quite a few shows where characters' diaries have been used as narrative aids? Embarrassingly enough I can only remember that annoying show some years ago about that twelve year old doctor, Dougie, was that his name? Remember every episode ended with his typing his into his computer? Would have been a weblog today, don't ya reckon?

Posted by Jill at 11:26 | | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday: April 12, 2003


My post about hiding behind my blog has engendered fascinating conversations, conversations I'd love to continue and will but not just today. Today I have a wedding to attend. Leaf through the trackbacks (especially Steve and Shelley) for interesting posts. [update 13/4: Diane (11/4) and Grumpygirl have nice (non-trackbacking) comments too, and I already mentioned Mark, Torill and Lisbeth.]

Posted by Jill at 9:21 | | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday: April 10, 2003

[hiding behind a blog]

Exhibitionism and mental masturbation? Nonsense. Blogging is about hiding. It's about partial truths and a voice that is binding as well as freeing.

When my partner tells me he's unsure about our relationship I write about protesters rallying for peace. When I don't know whether we're partners or not I write that I'm tired. When he leaves me I write about civilian casualties and how untrustworthy and partial reports of a war can be.

The only way I can blog that he left me is obliquely. I demote his name on my blogroll, link less frequently and wonder whether anyone notices. Today I mask my grief and anger with this academic reflection over a genre. I want to tell the world but this hurt exceeds the genre and voice I've created here.

Posted by Jill at 8:51 | | Comments (22) | TrackBack (13)

Saturday: April 05, 2003

[social software]

Liz provides a really good annotated list of people blogging about social software and socialtext. I don't think I've ever really used these words but perhaps this is indeed what I'm working on these days? Well, apart from the thesis that is. Curses. I wish it'd just finish itself.

Posted by Jill at 16:37 | | Comments (1) | TrackBack (1)

Tuesday: April 01, 2003

[trackback for beginners]

Ah. A beginner's guide to TrackBack, by Mena and Ben Trott, the creators of Moveable. Just what we needed.

Posted by Jill at 9:42 | | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday: March 24, 2003

[details and emotions]

At first I thought I found Lt. Smash's blog so unsatisfying because it's bare of emotions, or almost bare. Lt Smash, an American soldier fighting in Iraq (if he's not a hoax too), writes matter of factly in a prose that's barer than Hemingway's:

Reports of deaths and casualties bring mixed emotions. Sadness at the injury or loss of fellow warriors. Relief at the low numbers reported. (23/3)

I suppose the staccato of the sentences could be interpreted as manly grief. I looked at Salam Pax's blog to see why I prefer it. An obvious reason would be that I don't support the American soldiers, and I have sympathy with the civilian population of Bagdad, but I think there's more. Here's Salam:

We obviously still have electricity, phones are still working and we got to phone calls from abroad so the international lines are still working. water is still runing.

Salam uses full sentences, which I do appreciate. His occasional spelling mistakes confirm his presented identity. But what really draws me in is that he writes about details. Scouring his recent posts he doesn't write about his emotions any more than Lt Smash, and when he does, there's often a dose of irony surrounding his words as protection. The feeling is in the details, when the irony lets go of his language. And there are lots of details:

We got to phone calls from abroad ... around 6:30 my uncle went out to get bread ... the Iraqi TV was showing patriotic songs and didn't even bother to inform viewers that we are under attack ... The Iraqi Satellite Channel is not broadcasting anymore. The second youth TV channel (it shows Egyptian soaps in the morning and sports afterwards) also stopped transmitting.

Meredith uses details like this, too, and I love the posts her details come out in. Meredith has a talent for observation, and she often inserts an observed detail into a tiny story of something she's experienced. Though the detail is not precisely related to the episode she's relating, together they create sparks.

Nearby, a rookie policeman is hovering; waiting for jay-walkers, so he can make his first arrest. Behind him, a more senior copper watches proudly, the mother lion overseeing the cub's first kill. (17/3)

Lt Smash on the other hand rarely notes details. A hard sarcasm filling every word. Perhaps that's the only way he can cope with his life right now. When the sarcasm lifts set phrases appear: "We will not forget. And we will not rest as long as our freedom and safety is threatened." But these ritual patterns of words are only another kind of linguistic protection.

The words with which Lt Smash closes his post last Wednesday aren't observations of details, but they affect me more than anything else he writes. I think it is for their ordinariness combined with the drama and danger of his situation:

I've got to go to work now. I'll post again when I can.
Posted by Jill at 9:33 | | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday: March 19, 2003

[Blogging simplified?]

AKMA has requested a Trackback for Dummies explanation. Liz seconds this in a post neatly titled MoveableGripe and points out that while geeks get MoveableType instantly, without clear explanations for regular people way cool features just aren't going to become universally popular. MoveableType sure could do with some simpler documentation, not only of the installation procedure but of all the concepts and plugins and so on. I've wondered if one reason there's no installation package for MoveableType (surely it wouldn't be that hard to make an automated affair?) is because it would lower the geek cred of the software. Which is kind of silly.

Posted by Jill at 9:15 | | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday: March 15, 2003

[send a blogger to Iraq]

Christopher Allbritton is going to Iraq as an independent, blogging reporter, Wired writes. If you give him some money, he'll send you and the other contributors photos and reports a day before he blogs them, and you get to be his "editors" and request particular kinds of stories. Back to Iraq 2.0 is the name of his website, and what I've read of his posts so far, I like. I've not thought the bloggers vs. journalism debate was that interesting, but this is. Can a journalist be totally independent? Can we skip the newspapers? Create a direct link from readers to reporter? This gives freelance a whole new meaning. Or is this no different from those familiar faces already in Iraq, like Åsne Seierstad for Norwegians, those faces that feel like old friends because they've been on our tv screens so many times?

Posted by Jill at 21:12 | | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

[a troll in the comments]

I think I just got my first ever mean, bitchy and unconstructive comments. I'd actually thought that weblogs were fairly immune to that, and that it was mailing lists suffered from trolls. I thought about deleting the bitchy comments, which is easy to do. I could even ban the IP they came from, and perhaps I will. But of course, since this weblog is mine, unlike mailing lists that can be taken over, writing about them is probably more effective, for now, anyway. Plus it's kind of interesting in a blog theory kind of a way. Perhaps my very visible display of recent comments encourages trolls? I wonder whether the troll will be back, or whether it'll hunt for new grounds?

Posted by Jill at 11:07 | | Comments (16) | TrackBack (2)

Friday: March 07, 2003

[video blogging]

Adrian comments the Slashdot discussion of video blogging, lamenting the fact that noone there can think of a more interesting use of videos in blogs than the talking heads news anchor with a grassroots diy flair. Adrian, Mark, Aisling and Will's videoblogs do rather different things.

Posted by Jill at 14:56 | | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)




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