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Oct 04

Definitions and “Terms of Art” in the Blogosphere

The blogging crowd have always been, in my opinion, much too uptight when it comes to terminology and nomenclature. Example here (as much an infamous character Dave Winer is, and as much as I agree that his definition of “moblogging” is too narrow, the way Kottke described Adam Greenfield as rightly “ripping” Winer for it, and the tone of Greenfield’s response implies some degree of sensitivity and personal offence taken).

The latest instance of this I read on Plastic Bag’s October 4 supplementary links, where Coates writes, “Let me say this once and for all. Weblogs are not journals. Weblogs are not publishing.” I may be reading too much into this, but I don’t believe so. The tone is somewhat presumptuous and dismissive. All the more annoying because I would disagree with his statement and more so the motivations behind him “setting the record straight”.

The word “journal” is not a term of art (in that it doesn’t have a specific technical meaning). It’s a term that describes a “personal record of occurrences, experiences, and reflections kept on a regular basis”. Even when used as a term of art in the nautical profession, it’s still just a “ship’s log” (source). There’s a huge amount of writing over what the definition of a blog actually is. Enough to turn it into a term of art, which I don’t think is at all warranted. I know a blog when I see one, and I’d say the word journal accurately describes them.

Similarly, when using the term “publishing”, strictly speaking, all blogs are published. However, publishing might also be used as a term of art in the media industry (I’m guessing here), and in this particular non-layman context, perhaps publishing would not accurately describe the blogging process.

Anyway my point is, it seems that some people get so caught up in trying to define a term, to rarify it and turn it into a term of art, that they do become overly sensitive to perceived misusages of “their” words. People get annoyed at lawyers all the time for their legalese (where every second word holds a special meaning and is a “term of art”) and it is strange to see this happening to the normally straight-shooting so-called bloggerati.

After all, weblog is a compound word – a log on the web, literally, where log is obviously in the context of “a record … of an undertaking”. The meaning is fairly intuitive – all bloggers know a blog when they see one. There’s no need to give it a technical definition for an activity that is so commonplace nowadays. Why should this definition be obfuscated to the point where it may no longer be referred to by the synonym of a journal, or an online diary?

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