Blogs

Blogwars

by David D. Perlmutter
Oxford University Press, 235 pp., $24.95

Two years ago, I was given a dreadful idea for a book: create an anthology of blogs. It could not be done, I was sure. Books are tight. Blogs are reckless. Books are slow. Blogs are fast. Books ask you to stay between their covers. Blogs invite you to stray. Books fret over copyright and libel. Blogs grab whatever they want with impunity—news, gossip, pictures, videos. Making a book out of bloggy material, if it could be done at all, would kill it, wouldn’t it?1

A blog, for those who don’t know, is a journal or log that appears on a Web site. It is written on line, read on line, and updated on line. It’s there for anyone with an Internet connection to see and (in many cases) comment on. The entries, or posts, are organized in reverse chronological order, like a pile of unread mail, with the newest posts on top and the older stuff on the bottom. Some blogs resemble on-line magazines, complete with graphics, sidebars, and captioned photos. Others just have the name of the blog at the top and the dated entries under it. You can find blogs by doing a regular Google search for the blog name (if you know it) or by doing a Google Blog search using keywords.

The word “blog” is a portmanteau term for Web log or Weblog. In 1997 Jorn Barger, the keeper of Robot Wisdom, a Web site full of writings about James Joyce, artificial intelligence, and Judaism as racism (he’s reputedly a racist himself), coined the word “Weblog.” In 1999 Peter Merholz, the author of a Weblog called Peterme, split it in two like this—“We blog”—creating a word that could serve as either noun or verb. “Blog” was born.

Today there are, by one count, more than 100 million blogs in the world, with about 15 million of them active. (In Japan neglected or abandoned blogs are called ishikoro, pebbles.) There are political blogs, confessional blogs, gossip blogs, sex blogs, mommy blogs, science blogs, soldier blogs, gadget blogs, fiction blogs, video blogs, photo blogs, and cartoon blogs, to name a few. Some people blog alone and some in groups. Every self-respecting newspaper and magazine has some reporters and critics blogging, including The New York Times, The Atlantic, and The New Yorker.

Every sport, every war, every hurricane brings out a crop of bloggers, who often outdo the mainstream media in timeliness, geographic reach, insider information, and obsessive detail. You can read about the Iraq war from Iraqi bloggers, from American soldiers (often censored now), or from scholars like Juan Cole, whose blog, Informed Comment, summarizes, analyzes, and translates news from the front. For opera, to take another example, you have Parterre Box, which is kind of campy, or Sieglinde’s Diaries and My Favorite Intermissions, written by frequent Met-goers, or Opera Chic, a Milan-based blog focused on La Scala (which followed in great detail the scandal of Roberto Alagna’s walkout during Aida a year ago). And that…


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