I find it hard to imagine anyone who will get full value out of this book. Most people will find some of the articles informative or inspiring but also find some a waste of time. A book to check out from the library and dip in to, but not one to keep and cherish.
I feel I must say this so that you understand that my negative reaction to this book is to the book itself, and not the book's subject. We've Got Blog is a mishmash of articles, mostly (if not entirely--I couldn't tell) reprinted from blogs themselves, that tries to define blogs, why they are important, and how they may affect the future of journalism and the Internet. A few of the articles are well-written and interesting; most, however, suffer from their origins in that they seem quite ephemeral and off-the-cuff. Despite the "solution" to do links in the originals as endnotes, when you read text in a book that lacks the immediacy to check out the links, something is lost. If anything, the book truly makes it clear the difference between print and screen. Most of the articles seem strange because of the very ephemeral nature of how they were originally published, how putting them in a compiliation removed them from the very time and place that they were meant to be. This is especially true of the extended conversation about MetaFilter from MetaFilter that ends the book, where the banality of the conversation overwhelms the permancy of acid-free paper.
I'm 0 for 2 in reading books about blogs (I wasn't much impressed by Rebecca Blood's handbook, either), but I remain committed to the medium in spite of this. We've Got Blog is useful for the historical record (although the Internet Archive probably could have provided this as well), but we're still waiting for the book that will truly help codify what the fuss is all about.
Perhaps the only people who'd get anything out of it would be rank newbies who just want to know what all this blogging business is about. People who are already "in the know" should probably steer clear and get "Small Pieces Loosely Joined."
Her message is committed
To Hands I cannot see-
For love of Her - Sweet - countrymen-
Judge tenderly - of Me
--"A Blogger's Anthem" (actually a poem by Emily Dickinson, c. 1862--change the "Hands" in line 6 to "Eyes" and it fits rather nicely.)
Well, the novel is dead or dying, I forget which, and there's no cinema in Hollywood, and TV's still a wasteland, and pro wrestling's fixed (yes, sad), and the news is biased, and I don't need no stinkin' make-over, etc. So why not blog?
Is it an ego trip? Cheap psychotherapy? Pathetic? How about an exercise in futility? Or a way to know for sure how meaningless your life really is? (And a way to document same?)
A new art form? The new New Journalism? A synergistic combination of link and commentary? Open letters to the world? A great adventure in self-discovery? A way to make friends and influence people?
Judging from this book which serves as a spiffy, if limited, introduction to the world of blog, all of the above, I would guess and something more. In fact, anything at all. Link and ye shall know. Write and somebody might write back.
There's a Glossary. It's short. The first word I looked up ("filter") wasn't there. That's my test. I read a technical word in the text that I am not sure about and I flip to the Glossary. I do this three or four times. If it's there, good Glossary, otherwise not. There are footnotes. All are URLs. Cute.
And there are chapters. In six parts: A Brief History; Meet the Bloggers; Blog, Blog, Blog; Advice; Weblogs vs. Traditional Journalism; and Community. Neat. Each chapters is written by a different blogger including Rebecca Blood, who wrote the Introduction, and Weblogs, A History and Perspective. Here are some examples of the most interesting chapters:
Weblogging: Lessons Learned by Kulesh Shanmugasundaram whose dicta include: "Content is everything." That's a duh, but a Great Big Duh. And "Having ten million hits is not the game plan. Having 10 regular readers is a home run."
The Libera Manifesto by Chris Pirillo, whose words of wisdom include: "Most of us seek recognition, not fame" and "Opinions aren't wrong."
Metascene's Ten Tips for Building a Bionic Weblog. His style is lively, snappy, a bit of a controlled hard-boil (and foul-mouthed), but somehow mature, and includes this gem: "Once in a while remind yourself that just because it happened to you does not necessarily make it interesting."
Put the Keyboard Down and Back Away from the Weblog by Neale Talbot. He gives an example of a Blog Style Journal and a Journal Style Blog, and comments, "I'm not sure which one is worse." (Actually both are great. See page 158.)
Tim Cavanaugh's Let Slip the Blogs of War has the virtue of pointing to what might be expected of a lot of blog text: it's political. The political fires are what motivate some bloggers to blog. "The weblog is not the most useless weapon in the War On Terrorism," he writes. "That title is still held by the nuclear submarine." (p. 189) Clever, but I think he's wrong. The decentralized exchange of opinions that blogs offer may be exactly what we need, the fact that the blogs that Cavanaugh read were pretty much lockstep jingoism, notwithstanding. There are other opinions that go out to the world.
What is wonderful about the blog is that it allows almost anyone to have his or her say (with the hope that somebody might be listening). Yes, the journalism is mostly somebody else's (but often there's a link); and as an art form the blog is in its infancy--although some bloggers would surely say the opposite, that blogging is already a mature art form (measured at the speed of webtime), and out there in Cyberspace, already quietly perfecting their art, are the Shakespeare and Botticelli of blog. And they aren't necessarily A-list.
Or is blogging possibly a way to fame and fortune? Will it be possible some day to make a living as a blogger? Ah yes, a tenth of a cent a hit cometh your way. Ten thousand hits a day = a hundred dollars. (I just wish they would charge even a tenth of a penny for each e-mail. That would hit the spammers where it hurts.)
If nothing else this book inspired me to check out the blogs themselves. I was expecting some pretty amateurish stuff, but the ones I looked at were easy on the eye and fairly well composed and edited. They combined links with commentary. Many were political and some were obviously biased, but that is to be expected. If you take the time to surf I suspect almost anybody will find a blog that appeals.
Ironically this excellent little book makes the point that blogging is another example of the decentralization of the publishing world. This is a semi-official acknowledgment that the commercial publishers are watching. Where blogging will lead is anybody's guess. Maybe someday everybody will have a blog, started from youth and continued throughout one's life. Instead of a resumé or a formal introduction, you will send the URL to your blog. And you will be judged. And possibly loved.