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Blogging's historical potential

A reader imagines blogs in bound book format, as objects of historical importance, and as the most useful system of public content-rating around.


Blogging's historical potential

In response to the May 2 Perspectives column by Jennifer Balderama, "My blog, my self":

This was an interesting article. One thought on blogs: Unless the sheer amount of good, free blog content becomes too overwhelming, it's not impossible that blogs could be sold in a bound format. "The Diary of Anne Frank" touched me not so much in that it was set during the Holocaust (though that was certainly a factor), but because it's worth buying a book for such an insightful look at a life.

Not only that, blogs may become even more valuable historically. A blog is a photo album, scrapbook and diary in one. One can read over one's own blog, but the value extends beyond that. Had farmers in the 19th century kept blogs, I expect there would be more than one "Little House on the Prairie." Historians would have had a field day. Sure, diaries can work, but you don't "gain an audience that expects you have say on a regular basis," and there is no onus to write on a regular basis.

Finally, a reasonable amount of blog content is links to things that people personally consider interesting or valuable. This is terribly interesting to data-mining types. The way a few search engines, like Google, operate is to weight more highly pages that are linked to by pages that are linked to by other highly linked-to pages. The net effect of all this is that blogs represent the first successful public content-rating system that I know of.

Many, many services have tried to get Web site visitors to rank their pages, or the accuracy of their search engine, or similar things, because harnessing the net knowledge and experience of an Internet full of people is absolutely chock full of potential. Unfortunately, most of the time the population size is a bit too small for useful data analysis, and most of the time users have little interest in contributing in the reviewing process.

Blogging changes that. More and more in the past few months, I've been coming upon search results for pages written by bloggers (or other Web journal systems) that are incredibly insightful or well-written, and which were linked to by people, then linked to by people who followed the earlier link, and so on. All these links let search engines rank an individual writer's content above that of a New York Times writer, based on nothing more than a massive number of simple endorsements in the form of links.

Mark Schreiber
Pittsburgh, Pa.



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