I’ve plowed into Scott Rosenberg‘s new history of blogging, Say Everything and finished the first half of the book today. It’s pretty clear to me that this book will be seen one day as incredibly important. This is the first history book I’ve ever read (and could very well be the last) that describes events that I observed very closely. Scott does a great job of filling in the backstories for those events. Nothing in the book rings patently false or wrong to me, and that’s the highest compliment I can pay.
A few random impressions from the first few chapters:
- I appreciated the chapter on Justin Hall. He was one of the most interesting characters on the early web. Rosenberg mentions Electric Minds in the context of Justin working there. That was a site that I really, really loved — it was probably the most stimulating forum for online conversation that I ever encountered.
- The second and third chapters cover Dave Winer and Jorn Barger. Both of them were huge inspirations to me and were very influential in terms of how I built this site, and both of them are in some ways controversial characters. I thought he told both their stories fairly and well.
- Suck.com gets a big mention. There is no site that inspired me more to write online than Suck. I originally wanted to write essays for Suck, and settled for trying to write essays in the style of Suck.
- I knew a big chunk of the Pyra/Blogger story, but not all of it. Now I feel like some of the gaps have been filled.
- Scott discusses the influx of “warbloggers” immediately after September 11, 2001. Reading that part of the book made me really sad, so much so that I almost wanted to put the book down. I felt like those people took something from the people who were blogging before, and I still resent them for it.
A few things I was sad to see go unmentioned:
- Noah Grey. Noah wrote an open source blogging tool called Greymatter that was released after Blogger and before Movable Type. These days it’s hard to find a good link to link to for him. Greymatter was (I think) the first open source server-based blogging application as far as I know. It was also written in the most inscrutable style you can imagine. I’d hate to see his contributions be lost completely.
- Brigitte Eaton. In the early days of weblogging, Brigitte made a herculean effort to catalog all of the weblogs that existed. Eventually the growth of weblogs made that task impossible, but she maintained the most comprehensive list for a really long time, and she did it by hand. Scott mentions the first blogroll, but doesn’t mentions Brigitte’s work on that front.
- Me. Not because I was omitted, but because I feel like I didn’t make the contributions I could have back in the olden days. I was there to bear witness but didn’t take advantage of the opportunities to make a bigger impact. Fortunately it’s not as though I’m out of chances.