Is MetaFilter really a weblog? September 21, 2005 12:22 PM   Subscribe

Is MetaFilter really a weblog? I know that Matt calls it a community weblog and Wikipedia lists it as a collaborative weblog. However, I've always seen a weblog as a single entity's (person, organization, or corporation) views and comments on something. If anyone who registers can initiate threads, how is it different than a bulletin board or web forum (other than simpler style and somewhat different formatting)?
posted by tuxster to MetaFilter-Related at 12:22 PM (37 comments total)

Of course, I realize this isn't critical (so please save the sarcastic responses to another day), but I was curious to see what people's perspectives on the topic of the definition of a weblog is.

Of course, this isn't only MetaFilter related. For example, Slahdot would also be included in this discussion; but the Wiki article already mentions that /. people don't see themselves as a blog. I've always thought of them as a web forum as well...
posted by tuxster at 12:25 PM on September 21, 2005


MetaFilter is all about the links.

Weblogs are all about the links.

Therefore, MetaFilter is a Weblog.

Q.E.D.
posted by kindall at 12:27 PM on September 21, 2005


There are lots of multi-author weblogs out there. I think that's too high-level of a distinction to try to make. "Weblog" is just a format. Chronological postings with links to stuff on the web and some amount of presentation/commentary. MetaFilter has a hell of a lot more activity in the comments than the average weblog, but I don't think this makes it a misnomer. It's pretty much semantic after a certain point, so we're all going to have different opinions about it.
posted by scarabic at 12:38 PM on September 21, 2005


What the hell's a weblog? You mean a system for easily posting items to a web page?

Yeah, I think so.
posted by SweetJesus at 12:46 PM on September 21, 2005


kindall writes "MetaFilter is all about the links."

Internet is all about the links. Google is all about the links. That would make Google a weblog? I don't think so..

Also what about AskMe and MetaTalk?

On preview: scarabic, I agree. But that's exactly what I'm trying to figure out. Where is the line that separates a multi-author weblog from a bulletin board or forum?

For me, it's who makes up the multi-author group. If they represent an organization (e.g., employees of Google) then it could qualify as a weblog, since they represent the same view-point. However, if anyone from any background with any perspective can post messages with some commentary, then does it still qualify? Furthermore, for AskMe and MetaTalk, there doesn't even need to be links to stuff... It can just be a question or comment...
posted by tuxster at 12:47 PM on September 21, 2005


Well, I assumed that "it's a site that people can post stuff on" was a given. The lesson here is to never assume, I guess...
posted by kindall at 12:56 PM on September 21, 2005


kindall, valid point. But again, there are several weblogs that not about links but more of an account of what a person does or thinks, or news about an organization's activities. Or are those not weblogs?
posted by tuxster at 1:03 PM on September 21, 2005


Weblogs are in no way necessarily "all about the links".
posted by Pretty_Generic at 1:04 PM on September 21, 2005


There are lots of multi-author weblogs out there.

Yeah, but with 25K+ potential authors?
posted by fixedgear at 1:04 PM on September 21, 2005


I'd say that Metafilter isn't a weblog in any meaningful sense, according to the way the word is commonly used.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 1:05 PM on September 21, 2005


The word "weblog" is like the word "emo", in that they both used to mean a very specific thing and only a small handful of people used the word; but now lots of people use the word, and they all use it differently.
posted by 23skidoo at 1:12 PM on September 21, 2005


It is what it is.

Also, every day it changes, depending on how the people choose to use it.

If a thousand monkeys with keyboards... well, you get the idea. It's a very open system, so many forms of unforeseen use and abuse are inherently possible.

Kind of exciting, if not quite as exciting as, say, a chocolate ice cream with brandy poured over the top. Mmmmm!
posted by cleardawn at 1:20 PM on September 21, 2005


It's a weblog in the way 25000 users become a single concious voice personafied by the name "metafilter". Metafilter is telling us what metafilter wants us to know. It's metafilters weblog, not the individuals.

oh, and metafilter doesn't like Bush. (don't mess with metafilter)
posted by blue_beetle at 1:23 PM on September 21, 2005


Well, it's a linear posting page, and it has linear comments unlike a staright-up 'message board'.

it sort of straddles the diffrence between a blog and a message board. It's somewhat similar (in format only!) to slashdot, but unlike a lot of link'n'comment sites it dosn't have nested threads.
posted by delmoi at 1:28 PM on September 21, 2005


But, delmoi, aren't most message boards linear and not nested? Nested boards have been, in my experience, the vast majority.

(I'm curious about this as well, as my wife asked me what MeFi was, and I said "a blog". She then said "What's a blog", and when I answered, she said "Oh, you mean a bulletin board", and I realized I had no idea what the difference was, if any.)
posted by Bugbread at 1:31 PM on September 21, 2005


Bulletin boards came first.

As did garbagemen.

Now the latter are called 'sanitation engineers'.
posted by mischief at 1:34 PM on September 21, 2005


there are several weblogs that not about links but more of an account of what a person does or thinks, or news about an organization's activities. Or are those not weblogs?

Indeed, they are, properly speaking, not. Weblogs are logs of your Web surfing, hence the name. Those other kinds of sites are not important enough to have a proper name of their own, apparently, so they have co-opted "Weblog."
posted by kindall at 1:39 PM on September 21, 2005


kindall : "Weblogs are logs of your Web surfing, hence the name."

Thank you. That clears up a lot (I'd always interpreted it as "a log on the web", so pretty much all E/N stuff was also weblogs).
posted by Bugbread at 1:47 PM on September 21, 2005


MetaFilter is 57% bloggy.
posted by jefgodesky at 1:55 PM on September 21, 2005


Somebody thinks Wikipedia is definitive on any topic? Hahahahahaha.
posted by darukaru at 1:59 PM on September 21, 2005


Internet is all about the links. Google is all about the links. That would make Google a weblog?

Not to mention link farms...
posted by advil at 2:09 PM on September 21, 2005


darukaru : "Somebody thinks Wikipedia is definitive on any topic?"

Who does? Apparently not tuxster, because he looks up the answer in Wikipedia but still comes here to ask everyone. So am I missing someone?
posted by Bugbread at 2:20 PM on September 21, 2005


jefgodesky writes "MetaFilter is 57% bloggy."

That's a very interesting article jefgodesky, thanks! The pursuing discussion is also quite interesting. I do also have to admit that I pretty much disagree with most of their criteria (and thus agree partly with Marco's criticism): forums are and have always been chronologically ordered and allow comments. A lot of them will allow you to subscribe to threads (syndication) or add alerts for keywords (pinging). A trackback is simply a link to a parallel discussion (so in a forum you could say: this is also being discussed at: ....). Archives and permalinks are just fancy names to concepts that have existed since the invention of the World Wide Web, and therefore apply to forums. And blogrolling is simply "recommended links".

So, I see those more as a forced definition based on some software features built into most blogging software. But not necessarily a definition of a blog.


kindall brought up an interesting point by saying "Weblogs are logs of your Web surfing, hence the name." It makes a lot of osense, but this is almost the first time I've seen this definition of a blog, and don't know if this is the commonly accepted definition any more. It does make a lot of sense, but would probably disqualify a lot of sites that people see currently as blogs. According to that definition, MetaFilter would qualify, but not MetaTalk or AskMetaFilter.
posted by tuxster at 2:26 PM on September 21, 2005


bugbread writes "Who does? Apparently not tuxster, because he looks up the answer in Wikipedia but still comes here to ask everyone. So am I missing someone?
""


bugbread, no you're not missing anything. Here is Wikipedia's entry on darukaru.
posted by tuxster at 2:33 PM on September 21, 2005


I see those more as a forced definition based on some software features built into most blogging software. But not necessarily a definition of a blog.... I do also have to admit that I pretty much disagree with most of their criteria

The fact that you disagree does not in and of itself constitute a compelling counter-argument to the "metafilter is a blog" position which most people here seem to be taking.

The definition of a weblog is basically a frequently updated web page with dated entries with links, with the newest entry at the top of the page. Then again, that page thinks slashdot is a weblog.

They often have/allow comments. They often have/allow RSS/subscription. They often have/allow archiving and permalinking. They can have one or many authors. Metafilter is generally thought of as a community weblog. Generally the distinction has to do with software and/or pupose and as scarabic says, it gets pretty sematically nuanced and wanky if you talk about it too much in that college kid "what is reality?" way. And, according to the wisdom of crowds, metafilter is a blog because people mostly say it is.

Old school blogs were generally done by hand. Old school slashdot or slash type sites [correct me if I'm wrong here] weren't. Old school bbses also ran particular software. Newer blogs run using a short list of software nowadays and then there are homecoded ones like this one. The definition has shifted so that, for example, any site built using Blogger is now pretty much thought to be a blog, no matter how many of the blog laundry list items it contains.

So, according to newer definitions, MetaFilter [and esp. AskMe and MeTa] is less like the field of "most weblogs" than perhaps it used to be. However, it's not like Mensa or working for the post office where you have to take a test, ultimately there is no real answer to your question, just a lot of consensual opinion.
posted by jessamyn at 2:52 PM on September 21, 2005


kindall: "Indeed, they are, properly speaking, not. Weblogs are logs of your Websurfing, hence the name. Those other kinds of sites are not importantenough to have a proper name of their own, apparently, so they haveco-opted "Weblog.""

HA! And here I always thought it was we-blog! As in we MeFites blog together, hooray (MeFi did invent weblogs, right?)!

Kidding aside, that is the best definition I've ever heard. (Little known fact about a word much like weblog, if you split the word "pigpen" in half, you'll find that the two words created by what I like to call wordivision make up the the definition. Amazing!)

Who said aside?

As for those other kinds, they are (for the most part and especially by me) "poorly written online memoirs" (you know, PWOMs) or maybe "online journals" (though I tend to think of a journal as more private). Plain and simple.
posted by panoptican at 3:36 PM on September 21, 2005


Maybe in order to understand mankind we have to look at that word itself. MANKIND. Basically, it's made up of two separate words "mank"and "ind." What do these words mean? It's a mystery and that's why so is mankind.
--Jack Handy

replace mankind with weblog
posted by blue_beetle at 3:41 PM on September 21, 2005


"Webl" and "og." A mystery indeed. Oh Jack!
posted by panoptican at 3:45 PM on September 21, 2005


"Somebody thinks Wikipedia is definitive on any topic? Hahahahahaha."

I really don't get these anti-Wikipedia comments. From my perspective, they indicate a naive faith in the sources that are assumed to be reliable more than they indicate a sophistication in realizing that Wikipedia is unreliable.

Every single source is unreliable. I don't really use Wikipedia much, but it seems to me that it's structured in such a way that makes its unreliability more transparent than usual, and that's a good thing.

There are, of course, legitimately authoritative sources reliable enough in their own sphere of expertise to be trusted and consulted as a single source. None of them are encyclopedias, however.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 3:52 PM on September 21, 2005


Metafilter is more like a bulletin board with a weblog overlay. And it's very emo, spiritual, and proactive.
posted by davy at 6:23 PM on September 21, 2005


If no definition of past participatory sites fits exactly, then Metafilter is a Metafilter, a prototype.
posted by Cranberry at 8:52 PM on September 21, 2005


My wife calls it "your chatroom", but that epithet includes MeFi, MeTa and MeCha (which may or not be a "chatroom", per se) and 9622.net (ditto), so I don't know if it's an entirely fair description.
posted by yhbc at 9:00 PM on September 21, 2005


Paging beelzbubba... (His field is cyber-rhetoric, so this is the sort of bullshit distinction that he should be able to justify with theory and journal cites).
posted by klangklangston at 9:26 PM on September 21, 2005


Yes yhbc, but it's a very PROACTIVE chatroom.
posted by davy at 9:53 PM on September 21, 2005


Weblog, schmeblog - it is whatever we want to call it.
posted by dg at 9:57 PM on September 21, 2005


jessamyn writes "The fact that you disagree does not in and of itself constitute a compelling counter-argument to the 'metafilter is a blog' position which most people here seem to be taking."

I think most people here are misunderstanding my intentions behind this post. I'm not trying to categorize MF as a blog or not-so-blog. I'm really trying to understand what people see as the definition of a weblog. I have had the exact same problem bugbread described when I try to explain what a blog is to someone who is marginally interested in the Internet (i.e., surfs and reads some sites and participates in some forums, but isn't familiar with the emergent terminology: blog, RSS, XML, Ajax, podcasting, etc.). Particularly, I have a very difficult time trying to explain to them why a blog is not a bulletin board, or different from a bulletin board. I've always differentiated them by saying: "postings on a blog are originated by a single entity (person, organization, or corporation), so the choice of what gets discussed is usually determined by that entity, but comments can be made by anyone. So, in a sense, it's a highly moderated and subjective forum (in terms of topics of discussion) for opinions and news." Yet, clearly this comes way short since many people see Slashdot and Metafilter like sites as blogs as well, and those certainly do not fit this description.

kindall's definition is the only one that has been brought up here that really clearly differentiates a blog from a forum and includes Metafilter and Slashdot in the definion as well. Yet, that definition ignores many personal commentary weblogs that are not about links, which I think is also included in the general realm of what qualifies as a blog.

All other descriptions mentioned in this thread until now (frequently updated, dated, chronological, comments can be made, syndicated, etc.) cite properties that are also commonly found on several bulletin boards, and fails to differentiate the two. So in those definitions, all bulletin boards could qualify as blogs, yet we know (in our minds at least) that this is not true.

Thanks for all the comments so far.
posted by tuxster at 6:33 AM on September 22, 2005


One more thing: looking at all the comments made until now, I am really beginning to believe that most people seem to differentiate the two (forums and blogs) in their minds by how they look visually, and not due to some definitional differences:

forum: threads are structured in a visible HTML table structure where each row lists the title of a thread, author, date, and number of comments. You have to click on the title to read the original commentary and follow-up comments.

blog: a title is optional, each thread is identified by the original commentary (or the first few sentences of it), and all comments are put on a separate page. It does not use HTML tables to organize the content, but cascading style sheets.

To me this dilemma seems to be behind the difficulty in differentiating forums from blogs. Most people cite certain characteristics of blogs which in reality exist in forums, too, but they don't perceive them to exist in the same way. Please let me know if you disagree (or agree).
posted by tuxster at 6:46 AM on September 22, 2005


« Older Sharpreader is Combining RSS Feeds   |   MeFi user opens movie theater Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments