People use blogs primarily to discuss one question -- what is a blog? The discussion will continue as long as there are blogs.
It's no different from other media, all they ever talk about is what they are. We got dinged by the NY Times because all bloggers talked about at the DNC was other bloggers. But what were they busy doing -- talking about other reporters, except when they were talking about bloggers -- talking about bloggers.
Nothing wrong with it.
In the early days we joked that they were watching us watch them watch us watch them. And so on.
In 2003, when I was beginning my stint as a fellow at Berkman Center, since I was going to be doing stuff with blogs, I felt it necessary to start by explaining what makes a blog a blog, and I concluded it wasn't so much the form, although most blogs seem to follow a similar form, nor was it the content, rather it was the voice.
If it was one voice, unedited, not determined by group-think -- then it was a blog, no matter what form it took. If it was the result of group-think, with lots of ass-covering and offense avoiding, then it's not. Things like spelling and grammatic errors were okay, in fact they helped convince one that it was unedited. (Dogma 2000 expressed this very concisely.)
Do comments make it a blog? Do the lack of comments make it not a blog? Well actually, my opinion is different from many, but it still is my opinion that it does not follow that a blog must have comments, in fact, to the extent that comments interfere with the natural expression of the unedited voice of an individual, comments may act to make something not a blog.
We already had mail lists before we had blogs. The whole notion that blogs should evolve to become mail lists seems to waste the blogs. Comments are very much mail-list-like things. A few voices can drown out all others. The cool thing about blogs is that while they may be quiet, and it may be hard to find what you're looking for, at least you can say what you think without being shouted down. This makes it possible for unpopular ideas to be expressed. And if you know history, the most important ideas often are the unpopular ones.
Me, I like diversity of opinion. I learn from the extremes. You think evolution is a liberal plot? Okay, I disagree, but I think you should have the right to say it, and further you should have a place to say it. You think global warming is a lie? Speak your mind brother. You thought the war in Iraq was a bad idea? Thank god you had a place you could say that. That's what's important about blogs, not that people can comment on your ideas. As long as they can start their own blog, there will be no shortage of places to comment. What there is always a shortage of, however, is courage to say the exceptional thing, to be an individual, to stand up for your beliefs, even if they aren't popular.
I sat next to Steven Levy the other night at dinner in NY. He volunteered that in his whole career he had never written a word that wasn't approved of by someone else, until he started a blog. I applaud him for crossing the line. I give him a lot of credit for writing without a safety net. It really is different. Comments wouldn't make the difference, what makes the difference is standing alone, with your ideas out there, with no one else to fault for those ideas. They are your responsibility, and yours alone.
For me, the big rush came when I started publishing DaveNet essays in late 1994. I would revise and edit, for an hour maybe more, before hitting the Send button. Once I did that, there was no turning back. The idea was out there, with my name on it. All the disclaimers (I called the essays "Amusing rants from Dave Winer's desktop") wouldn't help, if the ideas were bad, they were mine. But if they were good, they were mine too. That's what makes something blog-like, imho.
Note: This is a re-run of a post from 2007. On-topic in light of the "blogging is dead" debate. This is what a blog is, imho. DW