My next book: the story of blogs

I left Salon last summer with the idea of working on a new book. I’m happy to report that the book now has a deal and a publisher — Crown, with whom I had such a happy experience on DREAMING IN CODE — and I’ll be spending the next year or so researching and writing it.

I am, I think the word is, stoked.

The topic will seem obvious to any of you who’ve been reading my stuff over the years: It’s going to be a book about bloggers and blogging. The working title is SAY EVERYTHING, and we’re describing it as the story of how blogging began, what it’s becoming, and what it means for our culture.

Upon delivering this news I typically hear two wildly divergent responses from two different groups of listeners. People in the tech world tend to react like this: “Blogging? Oh, that’s so 2000!” They think blogging is something that happened way back in the early part of this decade, about which everything has already been said. Meanwhile, people outside the tech-industry bubble — who’ve never heard of Techcrunch or Techmeme — respond with variations on “I’d love to read that.”

I should probably point out here that the population of potential readers in the second group outnumbers those in the former. Yet I belong to the first group myself. So I also hope to show the insiders that there is more to be learned and understood about blogging than they perhaps realize.

In other words, I’ll continue to do the sort of writing on technology I’ve always done, since I started back at the old S.F. Examiner: trying to be accurate enough to keep the respect of those immersed in the field, and insightful enough to hold their interest, while doing my best to make sure that everything I’ve written appeals to smart people who know nothing about the subject. It’s a bit of a straddle; some readers thought I pulled it off with DREAMING IN CODE, some thought I fell to one side or the other. I’m going to try it again.

Why blogging? I think I harbor a secret wish to spend the next couple of years explaining that writing a, you know, book about blogging is really okay — and that, no, I don’t think it should have been a blog instead.

Seriously, there’s a great tale that has still not been fully told of how the practice actually evolved — from technical invention to media craze to cultural phenomenon. As the haphazard efforts to mark some sort of 10th-anniversary-of-blogging this year proved, people are still a little fuzzy on the basics of the story. (Rebecca Blood’s account from 2000 remains invaluable, but it’s incomplete and now far out of date.)

When Mike Arrington asked, last summer, “Will Someone Who Actually Cares About Blogging Please Write the History Of It?,” I just smiled. But I wasn’t ready to talk about my plans yet; I remain uncharacteristically superstitious about announcing big projects until their financing is in place. I realize this is terrible un-Web-2.0ish of me, but there it is.

So there’s a story, one about how innovations emerge, how they bubble up from the creativity of geeks and pass into the wider culture. There’s also an argument, one that I’ve been making for ages, in different forms, from my very first column on blogging eight years ago: that blogging is not, despite what you hear from so many different quarters, a trivial phenomenon. And that, despite all the dismissals (most recently by Doris Lessing), blogging — far from contributing to the demise of culture and the end of civilization — actually offers a lifeline in the sea of information overload.

There’s much further to say but that’s enough for now. More as the work progresses!
[tags]books, blogging, say everything[/tags]

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  1. Scott,

    Sounds great. One thing I hope you talk about and note is that there were and are many people who were blogging long before 10 years ago. My friend Mary Anne Mohanraj, for example, started her blog (journal) in Dec of 1995 and she has been writing there at the same domain and URL until the present. When she started there were already hundreds of others keeping online journals on the web most hand editing HTML or later starting to write their own apps and systems. What we now call the “blogosphere” ie tech and political blogs is just a tiny portion of a much larger and broader activity. Don’t forget ad well the huge and vibrant blog communities such as LiveJournal.

    Mary Anne’s blog is at


  2. scottr

    Shannon — I agree that the “10 year” line is pretty arbitrary and dubious — something I argued earlier this year. Blogging wasn’t invented; it evolved. There were tons of Web diarists and journal-ers keeping sites that were blog-like long before the practices we recognize today as blogging emerged. Though I can’t hope to be comprehensive, and I’m sure there will be some pioneers I’ll neglect, I do intend to explore as much of this as I can…

  3. Good luck with your new project!

    It’s worth noting that when we started, weblogs really were distinct from other forms of personal publishing on the Web. The formula – links and commentary arranged in reverse-chronological order – was different from the way the (thriving pre-existing communities of) zinesters and online diarists conceived of and designed their websites.

    That blogging has expanded to include those communities – and many others – is a testament, I think, to the utility of the form itself, and to the existence of easy-to-use (and increasingly powerful) software.

    It will be wonderful to finally have all these threads together in one place. I’m looking forward to your book. I can’t think of anyone I’d rather have write it.

  4. Congratulations, Scott! That’s great news. I eagerly await your book bringing more of long-term perspective to the topic.

    I wrote a book on blogging myself, so am very familiar with the odd dilemma of a paper book about the digital life. You’re exactly right about the two different audiences. I’m sure you’ll strike a good balance again. I thought Naked Conversations did that very well also.

    Best wishes!

  5. Scott,

    Glad to hear you are going to be looking at the evolution and earlier origins than the arbitrary “10 years ago” meme.

    Rebecca, perhaps – but I would note that MANY of the early online journals DID have a reverse chronological format and that some did include links (though remember as well that many of these started during the early days of the web – much less for them to link to in their posts – but the rough idea of a “blogroll” did start quite early).

    My friend Mary Anne has her entire archive on the web and her early pages are still in their original formats so she makes for a good place to look at one very early online journal. She does link out occasionally but even today her blogging style is not heavy in links – she mostly writes about her life – as a mother now, as a writer, as an academic, etc. (and I’m far from alone in having been a reader of her blog/journal since she started it – of course it does help that I knew her long before that and recall her writing the first posts from the computer lab while we were both still in school at the U of Chicago)

    Good luck with the book Scott!


  6. Hi Scott, sounds like a good project. We did a cover story in BusinessWeek three years ago called Blogs will Change Your Business. And even though it’s out of date, it keeps getting lots of traffic. People are interested in the topic, apparently. We’d like to update the story, putting in a host of annotations. In a sense, it’ll be a new product. If you’d like to participate, check out the posts we have at Or, if you’d like, we can call out to you with a blogpost, the way we called out to Marc Andreesen today, and get an annex of the revision going on your blog. thanks. steve baker

  7. Sounds interesting. A couple of questions:
    – where will the book stop? Is there a particular event that you see as a good stopping point for it, or will you make it as current as possible at publication?
    – will there be a website-of-the-book with updates?

  8. Dan Fewel

    I’ve not come by a book that’s imparted structuralist’s ideas, as colloquial a role-player asserted, in dandy literature, than yourself in compliment to Dreaming In Code.

  9. guy

    …, looking forward to it, just finished “dreaming in code” and currently in the process of downloading chandler ;) ( the geek within cant resist ) …


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