August 13, 2002
Rebecca Blood's Weblog Handboook

I was pondering a few things about weblogs and wrote a couple emails off to Rebecca Blood and Matt Haughey. They are fairly well known experts about weblogs.

After exchanging a few emails, I decided to buy their books on weblogs. Rebecca's book, The Weblog Handbook, came quickly from Amazon. Matt's book, We Blog: Publishing Online with Weblogs, comes out this week and has not arrived

I took Thursday off for my aborted geocaching trip, so I was happy when The Weblog Handbook arrived in the mail. I grabbed a soda pop and began to read. The book is only 160 pages so I was able to read it during the day. I'm a fast reader and I was familiar with the material, so it went quickly. Here's my book review

Rebecca's book has some really good information in it. At first, I thought, is there enough info about weblogs to write an entire book about? After reading it, it can definitely say there is.

The book goes over the origins of weblogs and identifies the different types. I've been on the web a long time and thought I knew everything there was to know about weblogs. I wrote my first weblog type post back in 1997. The first couple chapters go into good detail about exactly what happened.

I disagree a little about the origins of weblogs though. I've been wasting time on the internet since 1991. Back in the day, everything was text based. To learn about someone else on the net, one of the first things you could do was to 'finger' them. When you fingered someone, you'd get a basic set of info they had written to identify themselves. One of the files that could be used was known as the .plan file. The plan file was a relic of the time when the net was primarily an academic place. A .plan would be used to describe the plan of study. As the scope of the net became larger, the plan files became something that people could change a bit more regularly to reflect what was going on. Before there were webcams, you could finger devices on the net, like a coke machine, and the .plan would describe their status.

In my mind, these .plan files were the true origin of weblogs. It's a bit of a stretch to see it if you have never lived in the pre-browser internet. But trust me, it's true.

Enough of my navel gazing, back to the book. Rebecca has some sound advice for someone wanting to start a weblog or make their existing weblog better. I thought the chapter on Finding an Audience is great. She is absolutely correct that regular visitors are the currency of weblogs. Whether people like to admit it or not, what people are craving with weblogs is attention. Everyone checks their referrer logs. If someone doesn't check their referrer logs, it's because they don't know how.  She lists several good and practical methods to get people to visit your site and what to expect when they eventually do come.

The chapter on Weblog Community and Etiquette should be required reading before you can join or start any other form of weblog.  I think the idea of having an ethical code for your weblog is a good one.  Since my weblog is kinda fluffy, I don't really run into these issues much.  But there are many people who write about serious issues and they should at least attempt to have a code that they try to adhere to on an ongoing basis. I have read many sites that post anything without the least attempt to verify it's truthfulness.

On a more practical note, the book is full of helpful tips and how-tos for someone learning the basics of weblogging and online community.  It's long enough to be worth the money, but it's short enough to finish the whole thing in a couple sittings.  The three appendix sections do a good job of explaining the basics of creating a weblog, creating hyperlinks, and using third party weblog software.

I wholeheartedly recommend the book to anyone that finds weblogging interesting.
Posted by michael at August 13, 2002 12:28 AM