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ATPM 7.01
January 2001


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Segments: Slices from the Macintosh Life

by James McNally,

Got Blog?

Back in April, I stumbled onto a corner of the Web I’d never seen before. Following a link to a place called, I discovered a site that was made up of short daily updates, with interesting links and even more interesting comments on the links, written by a guy in Minneapolis named Jason Kottke. Over the next few weeks, I discovered dozens of sites like his and also learned that he was sort of a semi-mythic, or at least popular, character in the “blogging” scene.

Blogs (short for “Weblogs”) have been around for a few years, but have only now reached critical mass due to the proliferation of Web-based tools for creating and updating them. First among these tools is Blogger, a Web-based application written by the fine folks at Pyra Labs in San Francisco. According to Pyra president Evan Williams, they were working on other software tools, and were using Blogger internally just to keep each other informed and amused. When they posted it publicly just over a year ago, they had no idea it would be so popular. Today, the service, which is free, boasts over 60,000 users. The Blogger site maintains a directory of blogs created with the tool, and for those without Web hosting accounts, they have started BlogSpot, which gives users 2 MB of free space for their blogs. It is telling that Pyra’s six employees all have popular blogs.

One of the site’s mottos is “Get a site. Keep it interesting.” Bloggers tend to link to each other quite a bit, and there is a fair amount of blog gossip, which seems to remain mostly good-natured. One of the best things about blogs is that they help their readers discover quirky links. They also serve as a sort of geek chorus for any world event; just go to the Blogger site and try searching for the word “election” over the last week. You’ll experience the full range of political opinions in no time at all.

Blogs grew out of the “personal home pages” that began popping up on the Web in its infancy. Blogs offer the visitor a glimpse into the mind and heart of the author, and since they are updated more frequently than the static “home pages,” they allow the reader to follow the ups and downs, the drama and the boredom, of someone in another city, or another country. Many friendships form in this community, and its democratic nature leads almost everyone who reads blogs to begin one of his own. With tools like Blogger so easy to use, it’s no wonder.

For the non-techie, these online tools are a godsend. While it was always possible to create a regularly updated Weblog, the process of rewriting pages of HTML, and then connecting through FTP to upload the changes has been automated by the new tools. Another plus is that the task of archiving older material has been completely streamlined. The folks at Pyra are continually refining and adding new features, too, like adding permanent links to each entry, or adding the ability to let visitors post comments. And one of the best features of all is that a blog author can update her blog from anywhere she has a connection to the Internet.

Blogging is in serious danger of becoming a mainstream fad. Just a few weeks ago, The New Yorker featured an article on Blogger and especially on the online romance between Pyra co-founder Meg Hourihan and, you guessed it, Jason Kottke.

Where to Find ’Em

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