A Weblog Manifesto
Saturday, December 22, 2001 by Dave Winer.
Today's the last day of work for me before my holiday travels commence. I'm going down to San Diego for a few days with family, hiking and eating and catching up. I'll be back sometime on Wednesday, and then I'll be watching over Jake and Lawrence as they get Radio 7.1 buckled down, and Brent gets Frontier 7.1 ready to go, and working with Doug on a longer term project. We're starting to branch a bit at UserLand, not totally a single thread now. Partially that's due to a new piece of software we are using that is pretty revolutionary. It's not a publishing tool, like everything else we've been doing, it's a management tool. Little hints of this tool will start appearing, in fact, in the next paragraph. Heh.
Yesterday I posted a heads-up on the OPML-Dev mail list that we would soon be announcing OPML 1.1, with a new core feature that makes it possible to receive notification of changes to an OPML file. Basically the document contains subscription information, much as RSS 0.92 does. Lest it be said that we were not inclusive and open, to our competitors in outliner-land, please support OPML and also support the new pub-sub feature. I promise you'll be happy you did sometime in 2002, Murphy-willing.
Now, a few comments about the awards, which caused such a stir in weblog-land last week. First, the awards have been a great success from my point of view, not only because they got us so much flow (they did), and not only because I found out about so many excellent sites I didn't know about before (that happened too), but also because I could see how other people see UserLand, Scripting News, and me, more clearly.
I was struck by a comment about the value of some other award site, from a person named Nikolai (sorry I don't have a pointer or an exact quote). The point went like this. "His awards were great because they included sites that are not in Dave's circle of friends." How interesting because I don't see our sites getting very much in the way of recognition. In all the articles written about weblogs, the sites mentioned most often are the ones that Rebecca Blood's history of weblogs talks about. Her history is taken as gospel by a lot of the working press.
Then there was the deluge of press about Blogger. Not very many of our friends' sites got mentioned in that either, and if they did it was usually dismissive or parenthetical. The story was Blogger, not blogging. Then there was all the hoo-hah around SXSW, and their awards. Then the Webbies, and again, all the blogging we do counts for naught. It seemed to me in my self-centered way (I'm just human after all) that people were working hard to exclude us. Matt Haughey, the guy who started the damning Metafilter flamefest (who later apologized for doing so) consistently gets great press for running a BBS. More power to him, but sheez, why object when we go for a little community-building celebration of excellence amongst our friends? I think by the end of the thread Matt and others understood this.
So maybe this is a turning point for the blogging world, or maybe not. I would like it to be. Awards are by definition not inclusive. That runs against the grain of the philosophy of the Web, which is imho to be inclusive. Having been on the other side, I understand why Kottke and others resent our having awards and not having their sites nominated. I get it because I've experienced it. I see the parallel. Honestly, I didn't think they even read my site. They don't link to me, or talk about me with any respect, so I misunderstood this. I thought they weren't reading, so why should they care if I choose to honor the sites that I love. And that Matt thought that I was going to try to get the NY Times or whatever to cover the awards, reveals a very different perspective. While I am jealous when they get coverage that I don't, I see the BigPubs as doing only superficial studies of weblogging, because that's all they do of anything. If weblogs are going to grow more in 2002, we're going to have to cover ourselves. Open the doors, show your readers the other points of view in all our little cloisters. Make it bigger, not smaller. Don't be like the portals of the dotcom craze, trying to capture people in your wake and not even tell them that there's more to the weblog world. That's defeatist. It kills what we're all doing.
We've made a lot of progress in 2001, let's do more in 2002. Let's not be scared to build on each others' work. Try whenever possible to include others in your sphere, regardless of what tools they use or who their friends are. I wasn't surprised that many people who visited the awards page have never heard of most of the sites on the list. Dig into them, they're all excellent weblogs. Make a new friend. Post your own awards, so we can all find out what you find excellent. But don't do it to spite me, do it to create updraft. Let's help the cream rise to the top. Let's discover new sources of inspiration and information. And if you don't like what I'm saying here, start your own weblog and set me straight, but do it with respect (that means respond to what I said, not what you wish I had said). The more that happens, the more I win, the happier I am. Truly.