I guess the term "weblog" has come to mean a lot of things. The thing that first comes to my mind is the increasingly popular style of personal web site where the author leaves what are similar to journal entries every so often. One such site is our very own Templeton's spotfire.org.

Weblogs have always struck me as being an especially interesting phenomenon to observe. The things people write in them is often intensely personal--not exactly the kind of things you'd tell someone the first time you met them. Yet these people share it with the world, as if there was no such thing as a secret.

The few times I've been tempted to start a weblog, it takes me two seconds to realize that I could never personally be so open as the webloggers are. How could I write what I think of people when those people could foreseeably read what I write? How could I possibly write what I really think about anything when it's instantly published worldwide and anyone related to what I'm writing about might read it?

It's like writing in a diary, but instead of being locked and bearing a sign that reads "keep out," it's always open and invites people to read it. Your mother, your ex, your potential employer, your teacher, your boss, anyone. How can any honest, unfettered ranting happen when the audience could include the person you're ranting against?

The following was written by my friend Beth.

I started on the net in November 1991 when I was a student at the Colorado School of Mines. I was among a small group of people there who become quickly addicted to a chat system called the Haven. It was written by Chris Eleveld (who was a student at Purdue at the time), and used a single server to host about 20-30 users at a time. It grew into a large and somewhat pathological subculture from there...

I remember seeing an early message about this thing called the World Wide Web, and thinking to myself "Geez, what a dorky name. Hypertext? What the hell? That doesn't sound useful to me."

I also remember back when the signal-to-noise ratio on Usenet was so low that you could read every message (in certain groups) and not have it be a waste of your time. I remember when the first people to spam Usenet, Canter and Siegel, were widely reviled and attacked for their sacrilege.

I have wistful memories of the time when sending an unwanted email message was utterly unthinkable.

When I started on the Internet, it was just a place for freaks, and I liked it that way, being somewhat of a freak myself.

I have seen much of the goodness of the culture and ethos of my early net days gradually obliterated as more and more non-freaks came aboard. This has been a great loss, to me, even as many new and good things have resulted that were never possible when the internet was just a fringe thing.

In a way, I am not sad to see many of the dotcoms fail, because I felt from the beginning that they were largely interlopers in this space that wasn't created for them.

I don't begrudge useful and valuable dotcoms their existence, of course; it's the gold-rush mentality that bothered me, the sense that the net was merely a resource to be exploited for commercial gain (and even worse, the belief that this was the highest purpose of the net).

I'm not sad to see that foolish, greedy plans laid on those foundations have often foundered.

I'm quite thrilled by the whole weblogging "movement", or whatever you want to call it. To me, it epitomizes something that's only possible on the net, and that involves people doing something for the benefit it gives them rather than for money.

When I see how independent and varied weblogs and online journals are, it makes me very happy.

Just think - those of us who write weblogs will have an amazing record of what it was like to live our lives during the times when we recorded what struck us in our logs. This is something that historically has only happened occasionally, with those who were especially dedicated diarists.

I have found a great sense of satisfaction in writing my weblog, and I've realized what I like so much about it - I use my weblog to share my experience of being alive.

If I died tomorrow, my daughter would have a window into who her mother was, what I thought was beautiful and good in the world, what bothered me, what I cared about, and most importantly, what she meant to me.

I think sometimes of the Zen saying, "Live your life as though you are already dead." There is a day, sometime in the future, already occupying a box to itself on the calendar, which is the first day that you will never see.

It waits for you, no matter what you do. You will probably not know in advance which one it is, and in the end, the name of the day doesn't matter as much as what you make of your life in the days preceding it.

You see, my weblog is my epitaph. And I get to write it. What a privilege!

Elizabeth Roberts

n., computer science. A log, or frequently updated list, of links to web sites the author (sometimes called a blogger) finds interesting, accompanied by short-form commentary and sometimes incorporating reader feedback and interest/relevancy rankings. Also often characterized by its inverted ordering - most recent additions are listed at the top of the page, with entries getting older as you progress down.

Publishing has been facilitated by sites like blogger.com, pitas.com, and scripts like Greymatter. Such tools are often used to publish web journals, causing some blurring of the lines between the external-site focused weblog and the online journal.

See also: Robot Wisdom Weblog, blogger, blog, weblog

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