Who let the blogs out?

Who Let the Blogs Out?: A Hyperconnected Peek at the World of Weblogs
A book by Biz Stone

Dan Gillmor may not know it, but I link to his blog. He links to Glenn Reynolds aka Instapundit which makes me two degrees removed from the pundit. Bloggers, click on your blogrolls, and see where the blogs you link to take you. We are all interconnected, it seems, in a cyberversion of the party game, Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.

Biz Stone writes:

“Because he has been in so many movies, Kevin Bacon can be connected to any other actor by six degrees or fewer. Bacon is connected to Tom Cruise by one degree because they were both in A Few Good Men. Mike Myers was in The Spy Who Shagged Me with Robert Wagner, who acted in Wild Things with Bacon, so Myers is two degrees away from Bacon. Even Charlie Chaplin is only three degrees from Bacon because he acted in Monsieur Verdoux with Barry Norton, who starred with Robert Wagner in What Price Glory.”

Blogs are similarly connected too, says Stone, who helped start Xanga and then spent two years working on Blogger after it was bought by Google in 2003. He got the job at Blogger because Pyra Labs founder Evan Williams, the man who created Blogger, liked his blog. Lucky guy. The luck of the early adopter, one might add. Stone has been blogging since blogging began in 1999, when Blogger was born. There were so few blogs then that Williams would personally check each and every new blog published on Blogger, says Stone. He himself used Blogger though he was working for Xanga at the time. He now works for Odeo, the podcasting company Williams founded after leaving Google.

There were bloggers before Blogger, like Dave Winer, who created the blogging tool Manila in 1999 and then the more enhanced Radio Userland in 2001, says Stone, but Blogger was the first free easy-to-use blog publisher that anyone could use without even knowing how to create a web page. And that’s what started the blogging revolution, says Stone.

In this book, he tells those early war stories, about how he and his friends started Xanga while Winer created Manila and Userland, Williams founded Blogger, and Ben and Mena Trott created Movable Type. Xanga got its name from the kangaroo, he writes. They wanted a name that would suggest something bouncy, that would attract the young, and thought of the kangaroo. That was shortened to “kanga” which morphed into “zanga”. But there was already a Zanga.com. So Xanga. And Blogger was born purely by chance. Williams told Stone:

“We started (Pyra Labs) with some notions about better ways to manage information, both for personal and team-based project work. We were developing web-based groupware.That morphed into groupware specifically designed for web teams, for which we thought Blogger would be one simple piece. Of course, it was the simple thing that proceeded to envelop everything else. After a while, we realised that the blog thing was interesting enough to pursue in itself.”

This book is full of interesting stories and ideas. Stone quotes other famous bloggers like Instapundit and Belle de Jour and offers his own tips on blogging. He quotes from Dooce about how she (Heather B. Armstrong) got fired from her job and says how Matthew Haughey made money from his PVRblog about personal video recorders through AdSense. There’s also the usual guff about finding your own voice and writing for your readers — and some practical advice on bloggy issues such as should you link to someone simply because he has linked to you (“No”), should you delete a comment you don’t like (“Insulting”) and how to post anonymously (“Invisiblog”).

Stone writes with the enthusiasm of someone who loves blogging. And he has been rewarded for it. His blog helped him land a job and two book deals. He wrote Blogging: Genius Strategies for Instant Web Content (2002) before coming out with this book. A college dropout, he admits how much he owes to blogging: “No agent. No college diploma. Just my blog. I had created a version of myself online that reflected my true self and interests and a real career grew from it.”

His enthusiasm is infectious.

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