My name is danah boyd and I'm a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and the founder/president of Data & Society. Buzzwords in my world include: privacy, context, youth culture, social media, big data. I use this blog to express random thoughts about whatever I'm thinking.

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categorizing blogs

I’ve been trying to wrap my head around the umbrella term “blog” – quite unsuccessfully at times. Who blogs? How do you categorize blogs? Why should you categorize them? For example, bloggers may see LJ folks as part of the blogging world, but not all LJ folks would agree. How do we address this?

Well, Liz and i were lamenting. Bless her for a good idea. As much as this conversation can go round-and-round online, it’d be most interesting to have a good RL conversation about the topic.

Plot 1: Bring the interested Etech folks together to have an interesting conversation. Although i realize that this will be dominated by a particular kind of blogger, hopefully we can get folks thinking outside of the box for a bit.

Plot 2: Hold a workshop at a conference where we can attract a more diverse segment of bloggers/journalers.

Plot 3: Do a bit of ethnography as necessary

Plot 4: Publish our findings.

So, if you’re interested in this conversation, come join us at ETech!

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29 comments to categorizing blogs

  • On #joiito Kevin Marks quoted Orwell saying, “there are four great motives for writing: 1. Sheer egoism. 2. Aesthetic enthusiasm. 3. Historical impulse. 4. Political purpose.” Seems like one way to categorize blogs.

  • I’ve been doing some thinking lately about blog genres, to see how they might translate into other media. I can’t afford to go to ETech so I’ll post it here. So far I’ve come up with:

    1) “Hotlink” blogs. Perhaps the original blog genre, links to stuff that is cool or interesting in the eye of the blogger. Boing Boing is a good current example.

    2) “Diary” blogs. I think LJ falls into this genre. A lot less emphasis on crosslinking/syndication.

    3) “Journalism” blogs. People engaged in a venture of some sort, chronicling it for the world.

    4) “Editorial” blogs. These bloggers like to pontificate on issues of the day. A lot of the “war blogs” fall into this category.

    5) “Narrative” blogs. These are the rarest, I think. Fiction or humor blogs.

  • I don’t have a definition for the term blog, but i think the difficulty in labeling arises from the variety of purposes. From my former high school, a subset of the students (the debaters) have developed an extension of their friendships through livejournal, which can be seen in large part here. Most of the entries are simply day to day chronicles of life, and the same stories are frequently recounted by three or four people. Although many of those involved are talented writers, i’d imagine these writings to be of little interest to anyone who doesn’t know the authors. These are online postings, but (as a vast generalization) their inability to exist as stand-alone writings without the outside context of the individuals lives seems to remove them from that which i would consider to be a blog. At the other extreme, The Ferrett has 850 regular readers on livejournal (as well as an independent blog), with posts covering just about any subject imaginable. To read and relate to or understand the postings, one needs little knowledge of his life outside of the entries. Perhaps this is could be seen as one qualifying distinction, though i’m not really familiar enough with the debate to accurately make such a claim.

  • Whoops, apparently the links didn’t work as i was hoping they would. The first one can be found at http://www.livejournal.com/users/lilskatingal/friends, and the second one at http://www.livejournal.com/users/theferrett. Sorry about that.

  • I think there is another type of blog category to add to Ryan’s list. I think of it as a “Framework” blog, and I suspect that this will be a category into which many business blogs and conference blogs (which don’t fit nicely into the other categories or encompass many of them) will fall.

    For example, most of what I post to my blog (a “business” blog) looks at topics through the frame of communications. Whether I am posting on how emailers can best comply with CAN-SPAM, the need for more democracy in technology development, or how marketing changes in a Cluetrain world, I generally include some reference as to how this ties into, impacts, or is affected by communications strategies and tactics.

    As another example, those contributing to a conference blog will post with a frame related to the topic of the conference, although they may be discussing or linking to a wide range of happenings, topics, articles, etc. that don’t necessarily (or primarily) reflect the conference theme themselves.

    These blogs may be “editorial”, “hotlink” and “journalism” all at the same time. Yet the majority of the posts will be related to some frame of reference.

    I have been following the discussion about this over at misbehaving.net as well. I look forward to seeing what comes out of eTech on this topic.

  • defining blogs

    danah boyd and I are starting to outline a research project related to blog definitions and categorizations. We’re soliciting ideas and input from the blogging community–and from outside that community.

  • joe

    I won’t be at Etech so… I’ve been thinking about this for a while.

    I blog for myself… not necessarily for my egotistic self… more to have a place to put things that others might be interested in. I probably do more commenting at other blogs than entries in my own blog! Anyway… I guess I do a mixture of the things Joi mentioned… specifically, I don’t want to have a theme as some do… screw themes.

  • “What is a blog?” Ohlala… This has been the subject of many a heated debate.

    A blog is…
    – a web-based content-management system
    – a place where you publish
    – a place where you communicate with people
    – a place where you manage relationships
    – a place where you manage identities
    – what you make of it.

    A blog, in essence, is you. Because you poor into it aspects of yourself.

    (That’s why it’s so hard for me to sometimes design other people’s blogs… I have to continually ask myself, and them “who are you? how do you want to present yourself online? how do you structure your thoughts? how do you want to interact with others?” etc etc etc…)

    Of course, we need to separate the medium from it’s use. “Blog” systems can be used for journalism, photogalleries, diaries, linkdumps, … anything…

    I am rambling. Sorry. 😉

  • Categorizing verbs (to blog) rather than nouns (blogs)

    what a blog is matters little when you instead look for people who are blogging. Whatever format the blogs take–even if they are unrecognizable by yesterday’s blog definitions, we will continue to find people behind these “blogs” who will be blogging.

  • Defining weblogs

    What a blog is? discussion at misbehaving turns into actions: Liz Lawley and danah boyd are starting research

  • Foo Camp

    I can imagine O’Reilly greeting the campers wearing a “Smokey Bear” hat

  • Foo Camp

    I can imagine O’Reilly greeting the campers wearing a “Smokey Bear” hat

  • Foo Camp

    I can imagine O’Reilly greeting the campers wearing a “Smokey Bear” hat

  • Ian

    We have this problem too in game studies. Categorization. Ontology. Typology. I’m extremely suspicious of this practice. It’s not that formalist studies aren’t valuable, it’s rather that they are not invaluable. I think we need to be very careful about formalist thinking about media, since it doesn’t necessarily provide fungible insights for critique or analysis.

    Wouldn’t it be more productive to look at the different ways people use blogs, for what purpose, and to what effect? Is it really that interesting to have a class membership test for blogs?

    BTW, I will be at ETech/ — primarily for the Digital Democracy day.

  • Ian – thanks for this perspective. I really hope you will bring it to the discussion. One thing that i know for certain is that i’m not looking to do a simple ontology, but really get into the sociable side of it. Who is using this? How? Why? In what ways? Both production and consumption.

    Thus, i think we’re on the same page and i would love your perspective at Etech.

  • Ian

    Thanks for your clarification — I’m probably overreacting to formalisms in general lately. Must be all my Scandinavian friends 😉

    I was primarily responding to the question of whether LJ users “are” bloggers, either from an internal or external perspective. From an internal perspective, there is probably something interesting and worth discussing. What I fear most is the ti esti problem: getting mired in asking “what is a blog” and then working on continually revised class membership that boil the medium down to hashmarks in a table.

    At the same time, I don’t mean to say that the ontological question is entirely a bad one. I do take issue with some of the characterizations of blogs that insist on their temporal organization. I was talking with Jill about this a while back… she thinks that, for now, temporal organization is still a principle mode of signification for blogs. But I think there are other perspectives that would also produce fruitful insights: for example, looking at blogs as modes of aphoristic writing.

    Which also brings up the whole question of “remediation,” similitude and difference between blogs and other forms of cultural production, contemporary and historical. This is another methodological issue that can quickly enable or undermine the whole research topic.

    Not sure about the when and where of ETech, esp. given how I’m getting in… I’ll be there the 9th. What’s needed to join the fray?

  • Did you happen to catch this?

    Four Axes of Rhetorical Convergence by Anders Fagerjord —
    http://www.dichtung-digital.org/2003/issue/4/fagerjord/index.htm#k1

    Perhaps genre in regards to content is the least of the qualifiers?

  • there are two things that annoy me:

    — that “blog” tends to mean all forms of personal publishing. okay, not to you or the people who are responding here. but elsewhere in the world, it does.

    — that the blog community focuses too much on endless defining and redefining, rather than focusing on new models, new possibilities for sharing experiences

    i’m curious about taking part, danah, so please count me in. maybe it can fuel a discussion about future design opportunities, new approaches.

  • well thought out remarks

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  • Business Blogs Summit

    There is now a conference on using blogs for business. Check out the Blog Business Summit. Curious though why they didn’t invite a single IT Toolbox blogger?…