I haven't blogged in way too long because I've been fighting a cold that's been lingering for way too long... but is hopefully on its way out. I've been meaning to write a post recommending a book I read a couple of weeks ago.
Say Everything, by Scott Rosenberg, is a really neat history of blogging, how blogs came to be, some blog pioneers, and the value blogs add to the universe. Of course, it's probably fair to discount my opinion just a bit because I'm sort of the target audience-- but, hey, you're at least reading a blog, if not writing one, so it's not like you're not part of the target audience too. At first skim, I was a little bummed that Anonymous Lawyer wasn't pioneering enough to merit a mention-- not that many blogs-turned-books before that point, not that many anonymous blogs growing audiences trying to figure out the authorship-- but after reading the book I was less bummed. I was farther along on the curve than I realized. Back in 2002 when I started blogging about law school, blogs felt pretty new-- I wasn't reading any, and no one I knew was writing one. The legal blog community was small enough to know who everyone was, and obsessively check your reader numbers against them. Still, I'd only heard the word blog because I saw it in a USA Today article-- blogging was already an established thing. Just because it hadn't grown to an unmanageable size within the law student population didn't mean anything besides the law student population was behind the curve. And by '04 when I was writing Anonymous Lawyer, anonymous blogs were old hat. I just didn't know about them yet. The blogs I think of as early-stage blogs-- blogs where the authors were ahead enough on the curve that they've gotten book deals (The Amateur Gourmet, for example), or mainstream media jobs (Aaron Gleeman's Baseball Blog, for example), started around when I did-- but we were not early adopters, at least not when looking at the bigger picture of blogging. All that said, I think if there's one shortcoming in Rosenberg's book, it's that he perhaps overstates the impact of blogs that came and went before anyone was really paying attention-- and misses the later part of the story-- that it's some of these later blogs, that got in there before the blogosphere exploded, but late enough that there were enough readers to care, that have made a genuine impact on culture and society, produced movies and books and television shows (Stuff White People Like, for a recent example on the book side), and blurred the line between "mainstream media," whatever that is anymore, and the blogosphere. I'd love to see a Volume 2 -- about the rise of blogs on the New York Times site, for instance, and how the corporate takeover of much of the most highly-read blogosphere (the percent of high-traffic blogs owned by corporate entities as opposed to human beings has got to be so much higher now than just 3 or 4 years ago) has changed what initially mattered about blogging, has changed a list of the most popular blogs from a set of mostly personal diaries to pages filled with impersonal linking and news-reporting, and has moved the blogosphere closer and closer to what we've traditionally thought of as mainstream journalism.
In any case, that's not really a criticism of Rosenberg's book-- he doesn't claim to take on what I'm suggesting he could have-- just a thought about a follow-up. The book was really compelling. I hadn't heard of all the sites he talked about, and learned a lot more about the ones I have. Much better sense of how blogs came to be, and the early experiments with the form. Much better sense of the history. All done in a highly readable fashion. Recommended.