In a recent response to my contention that Jorn Barger conceived and built the weblog community, Mark Bernstein notes that “Barger seems an unlikely, even preposterous, candidate to build a community” and goes on to list a number of questions that my paper fails to address. I hope to be able to answer all of these questions eventually, but this will take some time to do thoroughly.
Meanwhile, let me simply point to a CNET poll in early 1999 that invited readers to “vote for the 1998 Web innovators”.
Never mind who won. Here’s a partial list of the nominees for the title Web Innovator of the Year, sorted in no particular order:
- Pierre Omidyar, chairman and founder of eBay, and Meg Whitman, CEO, winner of a CNET Class of ’98 People Award, have succeeded in creating an e-commerce site that has become a community.
- Tim Bray is an independent software developer and co-editor of XML 1.0, which has the potential to reshape the way data is exchanged over the Internet.
- Tim O’Reilly, is an open-source advocate and a leading publisher of independently developed software for the Web.
- David Winer is the driving force behind Scripting News, an Internet community.
- David Winer and the UserLand team developed Frontier, a cross-platform content management system that is rapidly maturing as an authoring and development framework.
- Glenn Davis, George Olsen, and Jeffrey Zeldman co-founded The Web Standards Project, whose mission is to halt the fragmentation of the Web by campaigning for browser standards.
- Jorn Barger’s Robot Wisdom inspired the Web Log community.
Jorn more or less created weblogging and then defined it by his excellent example. His Robot Wisdom Weblog is a glimpse of the future of web publishing, a personal, edited-with-an-attitude “portal” that separates the webwheat from the webchaff and, thankfully, posts the wheat.
Clearly, I’m not going to attempt an argument from authority, as neither Brad Graham nor CNET can decide the question by their say-so. But here’s a piece of evidence suggesting that reasonable people in 1999 could look back on 1998 and observe that Jorn Barger didn’t just coin the term “weblog” in December 1997 and then left it at that.
I’m planning to revise my paper and I’m currently looking a bit more closely into how connections between the earliest weblogs were established. I’ve come to suspect this: when Barger urged in July 1998 that “crediting links borrowed from other weblogs is good etiquette,” he was in fact pursuing and advocating a community building strategy, which, I think, Michal Wallace acknowledged when he observed in response that “a credited link can do good. It’s cross-pollination”. Blogrolls came later.
If you had a weblog in 1998 and received an e-mail at the time from Jorn Barger suggesting you should attribute the source of the link you’d just borrowed from Robot Wisdom Weblog, I would like to hear from you.