On the ‘one big site’-ness of weblogs…


Here’s a weird quote about weblogging: “I believe in my heart that people should come up with their own publishing methods. Frankly, it’s boring to surf the blogosphere and see so many sites using the same, tired weblogging tools. The same basic templates, the same ‘post a comment’ form, the same URL schemes! It’s almost as if they’re all small parts of one huge site.” (Adrian Holovaty).

So my immediate reaction is that the fact that there are a limited set of really popular weblogging systems has probably been a good thing, because it means there’s an active and widespread community large enough to be able to self-support, fully explore the boundaries of the software available and push for new functionality. But more importantly, there’s an element in which all weblogs are part of one huge site. And that’s only partly the sense in which all the web is basically one big hypertext entity in which all boundaries between sites are essentially arbitrarily – or culturally – enforced.

More specifically I mean that at that point where a weblog is pretty much balanced between personal publishing (micro-broadcasting or ‘one-to-some’ communication) and social software (something like a distributed discussion board) there are aspects of ‘one huge siteness’ in play – and that that’s precisely why they’re mostly working. We have a roughly common vocabulary about what an entry consists of, a set of structures about how a site works, and systems of trackback, permalinking and commenting that are pretty much interoperable (in one form or another).

I suppose if I wanted push an old comparison (that I never thought really worked) in a slightly different direction, then I’d say that weblogs needed to be ‘like one huge site’ to the same extent that a peer-to-peer network needs to consist of mostly coherent and standardised applications in order to do what it does. Maybe some of the newer responses to writing and interactions between people are demonstrating that ‘siteness’ (heimlich) and ‘unsiteness’ (unheimlich / other) aren’t categories with as much utility as we once thought – or at least that breaching or straddling them provides opportunities for new, powerful kinds of applications.