Blog Pile

What Mean Ye “Blogging?”

275371357_0d33a99757_m In preparation for an upcoming presentation at the 2009 EDUCAUSE ELI annual conference, I’ve been noodling away at this question that may seem rather pointless or obvious. I’ve been at this very same blog since April 2003, so maybe it is “just what I do here”.

cc licensed flickr photo by Earl – What I Saw 2.0

In the past, somewhere I’d muttered about it being a verb AND a noun (c.f. “a dessert and a floor wax”). I am not looking to wallow in definitions, but wanting to parse out once tendency to think of blogging as something you do in blog software and maybe another to think of it more broadly as “personal publishing”. The scene gets muddier as we see people doing blog-like things in Facebook, tiny bits in twitter, and all of it recast resyndicated remixed in places like FriendFeed, Tumblr, etc. I always like to pull out the fringe concept, now pretty old, of “comment blogging” someone who publishes in the comment space of other blog sites.

And while this blog started in 2003- I think the manual web site I spun by hand our of raw HTML in 2000 is pretty much a blog. Or blogging. Or both.

So like the young child’s basic questioning at Passover (did you know by the way there are more than 300 language translations of the four questions??) I am just playing with this question.

I have had this germ of an idea for a while as I had tried a number of times this year to post longer, blog like captions in my flickr photos. Might this be called “slow flickr-ing?” And I wanted to see if there were ways to do blog-like publishing in things that are not blogs.

And what follows are four examples.

1. VoiceThread

VoiceThread is a power platform for creating web-based multimedia presentations with attached audio annotations– plus the unique feature that it can be set so any visitor can add a “comment” in text, audio, or even video. Last year, at the 2008 Northern Voice conference, I experimented with “blogging” in this platform– posting my photos and adding my own audio “text”.

I did chronological sequenced publishing with the ability for others to comment.

It rather feels like blogging to me, but is not a blog. It lacks RSS.

2. Google Maps

Google MyMaps offers very simple tools for placing multimedia snippets on a geographic location. The “bubbles” that you can attach to locations can include pictures, text, links, and has a simple WYSIWIG editor. It would make sense as a platform to “blog” on things that happen in different place.

For my experiment, I tried mapping all the places in 2008 I did presentations. For the little images in each bubble, I used URLs from ones loaded into flickr (this embedde map is a bit cramped, yes; try the full link):

View Larger Map

A challenge is to get a reasonable chronological order, you have to create each point in reverse chronological order, and I forgot a few entries, so my log is slightly out of order in a few places.

A nice new feature is that GMaps now has RSS feeds, so you can tell when new item is added (although the order of things in RSS seems backwards to when they were created).

With Google Maps, I can place a series of events that happened in time on their location, along with text, pictures and links.

It rather feels like blogging to me, but is not a blog. It has RSS, and comments can be added

3. delicious

A social bookmarking service as a blog platform? Why not? Everything bookmark is time/date stamped, and has 1000 characters for text. There is no law that the description need be just clipped text from a web sites “about” page. Why not commentary? You can create all kinds of mini blogs by using tags. What if someone were to tag YouTube videos and write reviews in delicious? For that matter, for the example I did above, I could have also tagged all my presentations, and had a nifty little tasty blog.

For this demo, I just combed through some already gathered sites in my fun tag set, and used an extra tag of tastyblog to roll them into one. By combining tags, one could have an overall tag to be “the blog” and secondary tags as categories.

It rather feels like blogging to me, but is not a blog. It has RSS, but no ability to comment. It is maybe the least obvious, but the potential for tag combinations makes for some interesting ways to weave together content, and since you can add anything to the description, why not make it blog like?

4. flickr

To me, using flickr feels the most blog like- it orders things reverse chronologically, you get a box to write stuff in that has links and some formatting, you have tags for categorizing, comments, and RSS. Heck, you can post from a mobile phone. I am surprised not to find more examples of people leveraging it as a “blogging” platform.

I combed through my photos from this year to collect photos that had longer captions, and rolled them into a flickr set.


It rather feels like blogging to me, but is not a blog. It has RSS, comments, tags.

So What?

After what has amounted to a bit more effort than I thought to roll together these examples, I am left to ask, like you reader, where’s the beef?

My hope was to push against the notion that blogging is something done in WordPress/Movable Type/Blogger/LiveJournal etc. Because it is limiting, IMHO, to talk about all the ways people are expressing themselves in personal web spaces as what is only in a certain number of platforms.

And I can visualize other places this could happen- a YouTube playlist? What else?

I seek not to coin some new term. Bleccch.

But I am more interested in blogging activity than blog software— although I do like using blog software for… web publishing that is non-blog like. Yikes.

What mean ye “blog”?

Now I feel like I have woven a circular line of thought, the snake eating its tail, the symbolic benzene ring needs a match.

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An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. The problem is the question is too big. To go the direction you are going, which is a direction I share, is to recognize that blogging is an activity, like writing, not a genre. So it stops making sense to talk about blogging unless you want to talk about it in a mode that I know you, particularly, abhor– the abstract and philosophical. Not only that, but nowhere does the case to do so become more urgent than at the edge (what is/isn’t a blog)… the same way discussions about what is or isn’t a poem or story or essay become abstracted.

    More and more I think people are looking through the wrong end of the telescope. Blogging is just a genre, and the only people who care about defining genres are: business executives and philosophers. Teachers too, but they should know better unless they are teaching one of the two former groups.

    Saying it’s “just blogging” is nonsensical in the way saying something is “just writing” or “just art” is. What’s really being addresses is the kind of writing or art, and even the cat diaries are valuable to someone. This mistake of the medium for the message will (and already greatly has) gone away.

  2. @Chris Lott: Well phooey, just send a bucket of rain from Alaska on my parade!

    Okay, yes, the question does not matter; it’s what is created, produced, written?. That was the wrong way to package what I wanted to write about- just seeing how some other applications / web sites could be used for content creation that people normally associate with “blogging”.

  3. I used tasty to describe a wee experiment in formatting my delicious links as a tumblelog a while back:
    I guess it would not be hard to add rss and commenting of some sort.
    Unfortunately I’ve not really made the notes very blog like.
    With micro and tumble blogs there are lots of interesting ways to blog coming on line which balance the slow blog movement.
    Posterous is offering an interesting way to go about blogging too.

    John’s last blog post..wei wu wei blogging – posterous

  4. I suppose the answer depends on whether you want to draw a distinction between blogging and other lifestreaming activities, or whether you want the term “blogging” to refer to all interactive self-expression online.

  5. VoiceThread does have RSS to a degree, you can monitor the RSS feed for your own VoiceThreads. I use this almost every day to monitor new comments on my VoiceThreads. I don’t think there is RSS support that anyone can get for VoiceThreads created by others, however. I like the fact that your personal RSS feed includes both unmoderated comments and yet-to-be-moderated comments.

    Wesley Fryer’s last blog post..American Girl Anti-Bullying Campaign

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