The 1952 Chuck Jones cartoon short titled "Operation: Rabbit" was the first meeting between Wile E. Coyote and Bugs Bunny. In the scene, Wile hands Bugs his business card and says, "Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Coyote. Wile E. Coyote. I am a genius, whilst you could hardly pass the entrance examination into kindergarten." The business card Wile E. presents to Bugs reads simply, "Wile E. Coyote, Genius." Later in the cartoon, after having been soundly outwitted by the cunning Bugs, Wile E. proclaims, "Allow me to introduce myself, my name is mud."
Part of the blog creation process, as you will soon learn, requires that you give your blog a name. That fated meeting between two icons of animation history popped into my head almost six years ago when I was signing up to Blogger. That's when I chose the title, "Biz Stone, Genius." In the years that followed, I became obsessed with this revolutionary new form of communication. I helped start a company that provided blogging services and I wrote articles about this new democratization of media. I couldn't stop talking about blogs to everyone I met. Not everyone shared my enthusiasm.
"Hey 'genius', I was posting articles on Usenet when you were still in diapers. Bulletin boards, email lists, and chat rooms all existed long before your precious 'blogs' started clogging up the Web. My advice to you and everyone else engaged in this endless navel gazing bacchanalia is to snap out of it and get a life. There's nothing new about blogs."
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to my life.
The above quote is the kind of monologue I have routinely listened to with patience and humility from people who have yet to experience the significance of the powerful communication and networking medium that is blogging. Ironically, it has been my experience that those who launch into tirades like this end up being big fans of blogging. There was even some initial dissonance at Xanga, a company I helped start several years ago, when it was proposed that we focus on providing weblog services. Today, blogging providers like Blogger and Xanga have traffic rankings higher than online behemoths like The New York Times, Apple Computer, and Craigslist. As amazing as it sounds, readership of Blogger's hosted blogs is bigger than the readership of the New York Times Online (which is even bigger than its print readership).
During my years at Google working on Blogger, attitudes relaxed and minds began to open to the idea of blogging, but there were still engineers and self-professed geeks at conferences who insisted on reminding me that they were not the least impressed. "Why are so many people making such a fuss about this so called blogging phenomenon?" they would ask me. "There is nothing so special about the technology behind blogs to warrant this much attention." My answer to them was always the same. "You're right. There's nothing new here."
Blogging is not about technology. It's about people.
Years ago I was lucky enough to get a private tour of an ancient cave in southern Spain. The group of friends I was traveling with included Donald Burgy, professor emeritus at the Massachusetts College of Art and his wife, Wellesley College professor Joy Renjilian-Burgy. It was Joy who somehow finagled us this private tour with her persuasive multilingual skills and a circuitous tale involving her asthmatic twin sons born miraculously on Christmas Day. Even now I am still impressed, as there was quite a crowd of people waiting to visit the cave. Donald Burgy has spent the better part of his career studying cave paintings all over the world and he has developed an intriguing skillhe can translate the art.
Burgy shared with me his knowledge in the dark recesses of this underground world, and something began to strike me as eerily familiar. Later, as I became immersed in the world of blogging and other forms of social software, I realized the connection. If a spear or hewn rock was hardware then those cave paintings were software and furthermore, they were social. Ancient people painted on cave walls to communicate with each other and tell stories. Deep within the caves, these paintings are protected from the elements. The stories and experiences are added to and redrawn over several millennia. In this way the paintings span the years to reach an impressively wide audience.
We tell stories and share our experiences and opinions on our blogs that reach our immediate friends and family as well as a wider group of people surfing the Web. Culture has moved online as the right kinds of tools emerge. Today communication devices are ubiquitous, and something as simple as picking up a piece of charcoal seems foreign compared to filling out a web form and clicking a button. Our tools may have changed, but we're still doing the same stuff we did 40,000 years ago. The big difference is that everything is faster now.
It doesn't matter if blogging is new or old. What matters is that we are sharing our experiences and learning from each other more now than ever before. Not until you sign up to Blogger and start posting on a regular basis will you realize what significance blogging holds for you on a personal level. On the Web you are only one search or hyperlink away from joining a network of like-minded souls. My blog has brought me to places I never would have been and introduced me to people I'm proud to call my friends. Think of your blog as a version of you online. Your web persona will teach you new things about yourself, connect you to people, and take you to places you never expected to go.
My guide through that cave in Spain was a large, mustachioed Alsatian man with a booming voice and a pair of copper divining wires up his sleeve, but you've got Julie Meloni to help you explore the world of blogging. Be thankful for that. Let Julie be your fun and helpful guide as you spelunk through all the interesting features that Blogger has to offer. Also, take a moment to appreciate that you are not shuffling through bat guano in the dark caverns of an ancient European cave. I envy you the journey you are about to make. Have fun!