The pioneers of blogging

Anyone around who has been blogging for more than a decade?

Sure, there have been bloggers even before Blogger.

Scott Rosenberg, cofounder of Salon, recalls the pioneers in his utterly engrossing book, Say Everything: How Blogging Began, What It's Becoming, and Why It Matters.

There is a chapter each on Justin Hall, who popularized links, Jorn Barger and his Robot Wisdom weblog — one of the first to use the word — and Dave Winer, who created the RSS feeds now used by almost every blog and news website.

They were all blogging before the birth of Blogger.

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India blocks BlogSpot, TypePad blogs

I was surprised to read India is blocking BlogSpot and TypePad blogs. Apparently, it started at the weekend. When I first read about it on the Desi Pundit forum of Indian bloggers, I thought it was just a technical glitch. But a report by the India Uncut blogger Amit Verma on the Guardian website in the Comment Is Free section was an eye-opener. The Indian government is deliberately blocking some sites.

"Suspecting that terrorists might be using Internet blogs to exchange messages, the Indian government has jammed at least 20 blog sites over the weekend in the wake of the July 11 Mumbai blasts," reported India eNews.

But it’s like using a sledgehammer to crush a fly. Overseas readers can still access those sites, said India eNews, while bloggers in India who write about nothing more incendiary than their daily life can’t post their thoughts.

And the Indian Internet watchdog supremo couldn’t care less about violating their right to freedom of expression. Indian blogger Shivam Vij managed to contact the official on the phone only to be brusquely brushed off. "A few sites have been blocked. What’s your problem?" said the big man. "He was downright rude," says the blogger.

India does not have a history of Internet censorship, writes Verma. But now it seems to have followed the example of neighbouring China and Pakistan.

Some Indian bloggers, however, are proving just as resourceful as their Chinese counterparts. Desi Pundit reports Indians can still access their blogs using the pkblogs site. It bills itself as a free gateway for bloggers whose sites are blocked in India, Pakistan, Iran and China. It’s a shame that India is ranked with those three countries, but they are all in the same region. Indian blogger Amit Agarwal on Digital Inspiration suggests a few other ways to access the sites.   

Verma comments on the silliness of the official action. Those who want to will still be able to access the blocked sites, he says. Instead of directly going to those sites, they will use newsreaders and RSS feeds. He is absolutely right.

Global Voices Online has a roundup of reactions and the news has also been picked up by Boing Boing, OneWorld, Blog Herald and several other sites. Shame on India.

What makes a blog tick?

Writing in The Straits Times today, Singaporean author Koh Buck Song gave his recipe for a successful blog. The blogger must keep churning out fresh, engaging material, he said. And that’s not all, he expected more: "For me, the best way blogs can contribute to society is to serve as whistle-blowers against any abuse of power." Ooh, and get dooced, dissed or worse?

Of course, there are brave souls willing to run such risks, but maybe Mr Koh should look at  Technorati’s list of the Top 100 Blogs. Top of the list is Boing Boing, which is more interested in what’s new than what’s wrong with the world. There are political blogs on the list, but it’s pretty mixed, including both light and heavy stuff.

I have nothing against the heavy stuff. Personally, I am less inclined to read PostSecret, which takes the second spot, than Daily Kos, which ranks fourth. Engadget is third.

I wish, given his high expectations, Mr Koh had mentioned some of his favourite blogs.  He wrote about blogs without mentioning any. Maybe he was being discreet, and he expects others to be brave!

Talking about brave souls, how about this? Daniel Drezner, assistant professor of political science at the University of Chicago, will have to look for a new job. Both he and the university denied it had anything to do with his blog, but some suspect that was one of the reasons, reports the New York Sun. But has Prof Drezner stopped blogging? Not at all, he is still firing away.