This year, proclaims the Guardian, “the Blog turns 20,” and they interviewed three of the old-timers. One section resounded with me:
What was blogging like 20 years ago? What kind of tools did you use? What did the web mean to you?
Dave Winer: My first blog post was on October 7, 1994. I was playing around with some scripts to do stuff on the web, which was new and I found fascinating. I started out timidly at first, to see what would happen, and quickly saw how powerful this was. I could publish all on my own, and get lots of interesting people talking, and push that back out to them. It felt risky, but I loved the feeling.
Meg Hourihan: My first post on megnut.com was May 9, 1999, and I considered that my blog. I was using a database back-end to manage entries, and I was consciously putting new posts at the top of the page, but keeping the older ones too. Before Megnut, I hand-coded entries and just over-wrote whatever was on the page. With a new domain, pictures and a database of entries, I felt like I was starting my own publication. It was incredibly empowering.
Justin Hall: My first web page went live in January 1994. My first daily entry on the front page went live in January 1996. When I started writing regularly on the web, the pages were crude — basic pictures and text. Meg describes the feeling of owning a publication and it’s true — blogging felt like you’d launched your own magazine. I started writing on the web because I could. Because it seemed easy.
I know from crude pages: mine certainly were. (Some might argue that they still are.) But “incredibly empowering,” I suggest, actually understates the case; if you ever harbored notions that you just weren’t good enough, there are literally (in the literal sense) millions of blogs out there, and some of them are written by people who actually get paid to come up with that crap.
Everything here was hand-coded from the finest-quality bits from spring 1996 to summer 2002, when I first decided to install something resembling a content-management system. The static pages still are written and maintained by hand; it’s too much trouble to merge them into WordPress. (And there are more than 8,000 of them.)
Says Dave Winer:
There will always be a small number who are what I call “natural born bloggers.” They were blogging before there were blogs, they just didn’t know what it was called. Julia Child was a blogger as was Benjamin Franklin and Patti Smith. I inherited my blogging gene from my mom, who is 81 and has a blog.
I don’t think I have any genetic component in my urge to write — or if I do, it’s because of a beneficial (maybe) mutation that occurred after I started.