Paul D. Miller on Tue, 11 Jun 2002 16:04:49 +0200 (CEST)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> A Rift Among Bloggers...

just thought I'd pass this on...


A Rift Among Bloggers

t is one of the enduring cycles of the Internet: the techies build a 
utopia and then complain when noisy crowds crash their party.

This time it is happening to Weblogs. Five years ago a few 
programmers pioneered this form of hyperlinked online journal, 
posting their thoughts on technology matters and personal musings. 
Later they built Weblog publishing tools for nontechies, and a vast 
spectrum of Weblogs - blogs for short - quietly bloomed.

Then came the war bloggers. The war-blogging movement took off after 
Sept. 11 as people used blogs to vent their anger about the terrorist 
attacks. Though they are still commonly known as war blogs, these 
sites now address a wide range of news and political topics, usually 
from right of center.

Thanks in part to the participation of some prominent journalists and 
academics, the pundit-style blogs quickly reached a level of public 
and media recognition that other blogs had never achieved. As a 
result, some latecomers now think Weblogs are inherently political. 
That has perturbed some Weblog veterans, who say the war bloggers are 
rewriting history and presenting a distorted view of blogs. They say 
the diversity of Weblogs is being overshadowed by the 
attention-getting style of war blogs.

"War blog editors need to make it clear to their audience that they 
are not the only kind of Weblog out there," said Cameron Barrett, a 
programmer and Web designer in New York who has been publishing his 
Camworld blog ( since 1997, making him one of the first 

In response, the war bloggers say they represent the evolution of a 
medium that might have languished in obscurity without them.

"The Weblog world before Sept. 11 was mostly inward-looking - mostly 
tech people talking about tech things," said Glenn Reynolds, a law 
professor at the University of Tennessee who publishes, a popular site in the war blog camp that attracts 
about 19,000 readers on weekdays. "After 9/11 we got a whole 
generation of Weblogs that were outward-looking" and written for a 
general audience, he said.

The war bloggers and veteran bloggers have largely ignored each 
other, rarely reading or linking to one another's sites. What brought 
some factional tensions to the surface was a plan, hatched by several 
war bloggers, to compile the best Web writings about the aftermath of 
the terrorist attacks into a book to benefit charity. In mid-April 
two bloggers, Eric Olsen and Ted Frank, took charge of the project, 
setting up a Weblog ( and asking people to 
nominate their "favorite 9/11-related posts from ANY blogger." Mr. 
Reynolds agreed to make the final selections for the book, which is 
not yet titled.

The project was in part a reaction to the release of "September 11 
and the U.S. War: Beyond the Curtain of Smoke," a book of 
left-leaning essays about the attacks. On the project site, Mr. Olsen 
called on fellow bloggers to crush "Western-civilization-hating, 
lefty-fascist essayists."

The partisan talk was not out of place in the war blog sphere, but it 
brought a sharp response from Jason Kottke, a blogger from another 
sector of the Weblog universe.

Mr. Kottke, a Web designer in San Francisco, has been updating for four years, offering tidbits of personal insight on 
Internet happenings and his favorite movies, among other things. His 
site is popular within a tech- and design-minded Weblog crowd whose 
most influential members have some connection to Pyra Labs, the small 
San Francisco-based company behind the publishing tool Blogger.

On his site, Mr. Kottke mocked the suggestion that all bloggers were 
hawkish right-wingers and questioned the "us versus them" rhetoric: 
"How about letting everyone play . . . or at least make folks who may 
not be right-wing or pro-West feel welcome to contribute?"

A few other bloggers in Mr. Kottke's circle also chimed in. Members 
of the book team quickly responded on their own site, saying the call 
to arms had been exaggerated and that all submissions were welcome. 
They also got in a few digs. "It strikes me that a lot of the 
backbiting is really a complaint from longtime bloggers that the 
center of the Weblog universe isn't where it used to be," Mr. Frank 

In an interview, Mr. Frank suggested that the veteran bloggers were 
also annoyed at how much media attention the war bloggers were 
getting, and how blog pundits like Andrew Sullivan were being called 
Weblog pioneers.

Mr. Kottke acknowledged that he felt a little resentment about the 
rise of war blogs, but said that was natural when an underground 
phenomenon goes mainstream. "It's like being the punk-rock fan who 
was into punk rock before everyone else," he said. The criticism of 
the book project was meant to improve the book by providing some 
perspective, Mr. Kottke added.

Three other old-school bloggers, all former employees of Pyra Labs, 
are also trying to convey a broader view of blogs with a site called 
Blogroots ( The site, introduced on Friday, has 
discussions of Weblog-related news and issues. It will eventually 
include the text of the trio's forthcoming book, "We Blog: Publishing 
Online With Weblogs," which includes a chapter on Weblog history.

Veteran bloggers say they are happy that blogs are catching on with a 
wider audience, but some challenge the idea that war blogs are 
somehow more relevant than other kinds. "I talk about things Glenn 
Reynolds doesn't understand, but that doesn't mean they're not 
important things to talk about," said Dave Winer, founder and chief 
executive of UserLand Software, whose Scripting News ( 
is one of the oldest blogs.

At the same time, there are war bloggers who feel little need to pay 
homage to the tech crew. Ken Layne, a journalist in Los Angeles who 
publishes a blog at KenLayne .com, argues that he, Matt Drudge and 
others were writing about current events on the Web long before the 
term Weblog had been coined. "There's nothing novel about the tech 
bloggers, beyond the fact that a few of them made simple tools for 
updating Web sites," he wrote on his site last week.

Mr. Reynolds was more diplomatic, saying he "never would have gotten 
started without Blogger," Pyra's publishing tool. He cautioned 
against making too much of labels like war blog, and said he hoped 
that in the end the Sept. 11 book, which is still accepting 
submissions, "will represent the best work of the blogger community."

Mr. Reynolds said he was not sure why the old guard should have a 
problem with war blogs. "The essence of the Internet is constant 
change, and to get your nose out of joint about that is just silly," 
he said.

"None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe 
they are free...."
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

wildstyle access:

Paul D. Miller a.k.a. Dj Spooky that Subliminal Kid

Subliminal Kid Inc.

Office Mailing Address:

Music and Art Management
245 w14th st #2RC NY NY

#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  archive: contact: