Around that time, I wrote an article for a high tech libertarian-themed Website called Spintech on the birth of the Blogosphere, which was later republished by Catholic Exchange, whom I discovered when they republished my NRO articles as part of their reciprocal arrangement with National Review. Hopefully it gives you a sense of the early freewheelin’ days of the Blogosphere:
Ground Zero for all of these textual shenanigans is Blogger.com, the most well known of several providers of free software that allows even the technically and artistically incompetent to present their ideas in a pleasing and easy to follow format. It also provides instructions, encouragement and its own awards. It’s like a film school, a camera store and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science all rolled up in one place…for bloggers.
When the Web log concept first debuted, it was largely used for on-line personal diaries. Lots of “day in the life” stuff; lots of updates of family information; lots of photographs of nature and birthday parties; lots of nice pretty, stopping and smelling the flowers commentary by assorted emotional exhibitionists. And this is still a common use for Web logs.
Then September 11th happened.
One interesting byproduct of that awful day was that the servers on most major news sites (CNN, The New York Times, etc.) were blown out from over capacity. Since a big chunk of America either didn’t go into work, or left early that day, they went home, turned the TV on, fired up the computer, and wanted to know just…what…the…heck…was…going…on.
But with the Web sites of news biggies jammed to capacity, some people started going to alternative sites. Little funky one-man or one-woman sites. And some of those men and women, such as Virginia Postrel on her page, The Scene, and Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit.com, spent the day keeping the nation, hell, the world, just as informed as the traditional news sites people couldn’t get into.
Then, as the dust settled, that hoary old standby — media bias — started rearing its ugly head again, especially in newspapers, where the reporters seemed to pull out style guides left over from the Tet Offensive. Quagmire! Failure! Evil imperialism! The brutal Afghan winter! Remember the Soviets!
Seeking opinions and news that didn’t seem to be outtakes from the Johnson years, many, many people stuck with the bloggers. And sometimes it seems that just as many people saw how much fun the bloggers were having and decided to get into the act themselves.
“Sgt. Stryker” (complete with a photo of John Wayne in full leatherneck regalia) is the nom de blog of a U.S. Air Force Mechanic (“to prevent being ‘called onto the carpet’ by anyone in my immediate chain of command.”). He says, “I stumbled across InstaPundit and thought to myself, “Hey, I can do this!” I followed the Blogger link on InstaPundit’s site and set up my own weblog, thus killing two birds with one stone. I had a website I could point my friends to, and I could “talk back” to the news in a more quiet manner which helped ensure domestic tranquility”, with his wife, who by then was sick of the Sarge taking back to the news on TV.”
One reason Sgt. Stryker may have been so eager to give his views about September 11th and our efforts at payback, is “the impression the press tends to give of the military is of a monolithic and impersonal force, but if somebody stumbles upon my site, perhaps they can see that there are real, normal human beings who are doing all this stuff. When you read my site, you get a good idea of what some of us think and say when there are no reporters or Public Affairs Officers around.”
In contrast, Joanne Jacobs is an ex-San Jose Mercury columnist who left the paper in late 2000 to write a book about a charter school in San Jose. She started her Web log after being inspired by Mickey Kaus, Andrew Sullivan and Virginia Postrel (all three of whom were part of the first generation of bloggers, dating back to the Jurassic blogging days of the late 1990s.) Most of her blogging was on the state of America’s education system, until September 11th. Then a good bit of her coverage, shifted, not surprisingly, to the terrorists and our response to them. “I never meant to do a warblog”, she says. “I simply had strong feelings that my country had been attacked and should be defended — militarily and in the field of ideas.”
The Blogosphere has become much more crowded since then, and much slicker. Old media, which at first routinely trashed blogs, (for self-described “progressives,” progress somehow always seems to throw them) now incorporates them into their Web sites, both to allow faster publishing of news, and as a place for opinion (read: liberal bias) beyond the homepage. And blogging now incorporates audio, video, photography, Twitter, and whatever new form of media comes along next week.
But first, somebody had to be the revolution — congrats to 12 years of Instapundit: