Hello io9! And a Musing on the “Mereness” of the Blog

Photography: logan.fulcher

Hi there, io9 visitors! There’s been quite a lot of you visiting the 2008 Hugo Awards Countdown, and I hope you enjoyed the series (which is going to take a finisher in the form of a small series talking about the novel nominees one by one).

You may or may not be wondering about the nature of Spontaneous Derivation, and why a blog-about-blogging is suddenly swerving into the science fiction/fantasy territory. And I’m sure some of my regular readers are wondering about this too. And both of you may be wondering about what’s to come—for after all, Spontaneous Derivation has had a sordid history of not remaining what it currently is. And the About page is sorely out of date at the time of this writing.

The reason behind the evolution of Spontaneous Derivation (such as it is) comes from a development of my understanding of the concept of the blog.

What is a blog? That has a more interesting answer than merely “it runs on WordPress or Blogger or Moveable Type or <insert blogging platform here>”, or even “it updates everyday with stuff”. And the answer is definitely more interesting than “it’s a personal journal”. In fact, the term “blog” has been used to derogate various websites—such as “io9 is nothing more than a blog“, or “Whatever is just a blog and thus Scalzi is not a contender for Best Fan Writer”, any number of remarks of that sort of kidney. The gist is that these sites are not at all professional—that they are mere personal, not-fit-for-the-public conceits, whether of a single person or some clique.

What these people miss (and what I used to miss) is that a blog is nothing more than a new kind of website—there are no restrictions on its content to being about daily shopping lists and gripes about the boy you like who doesn’t really like you (maybe). And indeed, a blog can be considered the evolution of one kind of structure for a website—the website which used to update its front page manually everyday, and now only has to click the “publish” button. In other words, a blog is nothing more than a medium—it is not genre. As Scott McCloud comments about comics, the medium is the pitcher—the genre is what might fill the pitcher, and different genres can be the pitcher’s content. Don’t confuse the pitcher with what’s inside it.

In still other words, blogs are not “merely blogs”. Blogs can be news sites, yes, and they can be personal journals; but they can be communities like Making Light and even reference sites like Problogger. They can be guides to anything, or work like magazines/fanzines. In fact, there are a number of blog themes that turn a site into a virtual magazine after the nature of sites like CNN.com. If you want to really be cruel to the previous generation, blogs have killed the conventional website.

This is also why bloggers are not “merely bloggers”. They are writers, same as anybody else—they just happen to work in a medium that is instant access, dynamic in nature, and mercurial in audience temperament. In some senses the speed of publication alone differentiates blogging—or website writing—from more static forms, and in others blogging (or whatever) is just another form of writing. Blogging has the additional optional component of immediate conversation with your readers—and this has the capability of adding another layer to the content.

Indeed, the term “blogger” has become, more and more, an outdated term. We bloggers have become more like web media specialists, as Darren Rowse of Problogger once said—we specialize in content that fits the web in all its instantaneous, dynamic, and mercurial glory. The web is not a magazine, not a newspaper, not a traditional book or graphic novel or anything on paper. Many bloggers, professional or not, have begun shepherding forums and nursing reference sites.

Blogging is the new wave. And eventually a new form of website will in turn replace the blog; we may already be seeing signs of this, since “blog” has become a household term. It may be that our children will never grow up to be bloggers—but to be some other occupation. Though I think whatever comes next will have its roots in blogging—just as blogging has its roots in the old, static website.

Now, coming back to earth: what’s to come next for Spontaneous Derivation? Well, I tend towards focused blogs—I’m not a wonderful generalist like John Scalzi is, and a focused blog helps give me structure and give my readers an idea of what to expect. Now that I’ve thrown part of that out the window, I myself am not sure of what comes next for Sd either. I’ll continue to cover science fiction and fantasy—but at the same time, I hope to continue to view it in terms of blogging and web content. Science fiction is especially fitting, since it focuses on the new—and if there’s anything the web focuses on, it’s the new. Or even the old re-presented in a new light.

I hope you all come back for more Spontaneous Derivation content in the future, and that it entertains you and makes you think. Or at least gives you something to read betwixt Boing Boing updates.