Blogger of the Year (2015)
Wednesday, December 30, 2015 by Dave Winer

Every year around this time I choose someone to honor as my Blogger of the Year. There's no award ceremony, no prize, no testimonial other than a blog post here on Scripting News. Such as the one you're reading right now.

The first year, 2001, I nominated several bloggers, and the readers chose the winner via a web poll -- Joel Spolsky, who was at that time blogging prolifically about writing software. 

He was doing what I had come to understand what blogging was about:

  • He wrote as an individual, edited only by himself.
  • He shared his experience and expertise. 

There isn't a single personality trait all the BOTY's share other than their desire to share what they know and see. As I've said in the past, if you need a volunteer and there's a blogger in the room, you won't have to wait long. They can be conservative or liberal. Rich or poor. They can be unemployed, self-employed, or work for a great newspaper. Any race, any gender, any kind of person writing publicly, as long as it involves sharing their own knowledge and perspective

To be my BOTY, I don't even have to agree with you on much of anything. In 2012, I chose Philip Greenspun, a brilliant technologist, whose political opinions are abhorrent to me. But he's a wonderful advocate, and he listens if you tell him he's wrong. He stimulates thought, and underneath his Neanderthal politics lies a brilliant mind, so there's hope! 

Last year I chose the people who blog on Facebook. No single person comes to the front. But I wanted to say that while Facebook is a silo, and that's generally a blog-killing thing, there are people who use Facebook for blogging, and some of it is excellent and inspiring. I wanted to honor them. 

In 2007 I chose my friend NakedJen. She was going through a tough year, as so many of us were and are now. Life is not a straight line. She wrote about it openly, without fear, as she would say, fiercely. To everyone whose life collapsed in 2015, there are no guarantees, but there's a good chance next year will be better, and even better for all the pain you went through this year. Growth and pain go together, perhaps unfortunately. 

Sunrise doesn't last all morning

A cloudburst doesn't last all day

Seems my love is up and has left you with no warning

It's not always going to be this grey 

You can go through the list of all past BOTY choices. I find these pieces are good markers in time. They show not just where my friends the bloggers are going, but where we have come from, and perhaps provide a clue for where we're going.

BOTY 2015

Enough pre-ramble! 

On with this year's choice. 

The early years of blogging, for me, from 1994 to say 2005, are kind of a haze. Things moved quickly. Every year more bloggers came on line. Every year new tools, new communication frameworks. We were building an ecosystem without a center. The design of the blogosphere mirrored the design of the web. There is no home page for the web, and there was no home page for the blogosphere either.

There were lots of home pages. Because mine was the bootstrap blog, I got the people who would go on to start their own blogs, and people who would start companies around blogging tech. Eventually there was lots of segmentation, there was a political blogosphere, then by geography, culture, technology, you name it. In each of these worlds there was generally one blogger who served as an anchor. His or her blogroll was the place you needed to be. A link from this person would send huge flow. 

Even though we were creating the new layer of networking software, there was no network that connected all the blogospheres. So you would hear people say that Andrew Sullivan was the inventor of blogging. To people in his world it seemed that way. But there were lots of other blogfathers. 

So, in 2005 I was at a blogging conference in Nashville, sitting in a restaurant, with other bloggers coming and going. I did a podcast with two of them, Brendan Greeley who I knew from Berkman, and Hossein Derakhshan, the Iranian blogfather, also known as Hoder. It's so cool to have a voice record of that meeting. (An aside, listening to the podcast now, I wish I could poke the 2005 version of myself and say Dave, let the other guys talk more!)

Hoder was arrested in Tehran in 2007. He spent the next seven years in jail. No Internet, no web, no blogosphere, no Facebook, no Twitter. It didn't look like he was coming back, but he was released in late 2014, and earlier this year, we read a stirring post from Hoder on Medium. It was like reading the diary of Rip Van Winkle, awoken from a long sleep and shocked to find out how much the world had changed. How much of the change was for the worse. 

Please read the piece on Medium. A similar piece by Hoder ran yesterday in the Guardian

We watched this happen in slow motion. We know in detail why and how we ceded control of the flow of discourse to tech companies. And how they used that flow to enrich themselves, and in doing so killed the crazy cacophony of the web, the fertile environment for the exchange of ideas. They congratulate themselves for grabbing the money we left on the table. We saw it happen slowly, but Hoder saw it all at once. That's why his perspective is so valuable. 

Even though it's only for one post, he is the clear choice for this year's Blogger of the Year.

Let's hope that at the end of 2016 we can write about the modest rebirth of the blogosphere, without all that ownership. Such vision is not unprecedented. 

  • Not surprised, and not disappointed either. I read his post the first time you recommended it, and had a feeling it'd come up again.

    • If something is right it shouldn't surprise. ;-)