I posted my first blog just about 3 months ago. I said in it that I was anticipating an exciting journey, so let me spend a little time reviewing the journey so far.
I was honestly taken by surprise by the rise of blogging. My friend John Patrick, with whom I worked very closely at IBM in organizing our Internet initiative, had been telling me for years that blogging was one of the major next big directions for the Internet, right up there with ubiquitous wireless access.
I honestly thought that John had lost it, but I now realize I was looking at blogging all wrong and asking all the wrong questions. I thought: "Who wants to read what I have to write when there are so many professional writers, experts in their subjects, publishing countless articles in newspapers, magazines, academic journals and books, let alone all the other stuff appearing every minute on the Web itself?" To me this all felt like an exercise in narcissism, with people writing on whatever subject they chose just to see their name in (electronic) print and get their 15 minutes (or hopefully longer) of fame.
What I had totally missed is that blogging should be viewed as one of the major natural next steps of the Web. The Web's appeal, as we were recently reminded in a very good article by Kevin Kelly in Wired Magazine is bigger, much bigger, than any one web site or web page. It is all about the content. The more content there is on the Web, and the more people access and interact with the content, the more valuable the Web is for everyone. In the early days of the Web, content was expensive to store, hard to find, and relatively difficult to produce, so web sites were put up primarily by businesses and other institutions. But, as computer storage has gotten ridiculously inexpensive, as search capabilities -- enabled by equally inexpensive computing technology -- make it easy to find whatever is out there, and as good tools for creating content become available to everyone, more and more of the content is now being contributed by individuals.
The rise of blogging needs to be viewed in the context of individuals now being able to much more easily contribute content to the growing Web. Increasingly deep and powerful analysis and search technologies will make it possible to organize and find the information and in particular, the knowledge embedded in the collective whole to which individual blogs are now contributing. None other than Tim Berners-Lee recently said in a BBC interview that blogging is closer to his original idea for the Web, " . . . so I'm very, very happy to see that now it's gone in the direction of becoming more of a creative medium." In his article, Kevin Kelly makes the connection between blogging and the open source movement, the latter being about collaborative programming, the former about collaborative, emergent knowledge. I really like the concept.
Getting back to my own blog, I now realize that what I am essentially doing when I write a blog is organizing and sharing the contents of what is in my head. It has turned out to be a lot harder than I thought it would be when I embarked on this journey, but it has also turned out to be a much more enjoyable journey than I had anticipated. We each have to decide what it is we wish to share with colleagues in our business or profession, with private communities available only to members or with the world at large. Likewise, we each need to find our personal styles for organizing and writing down the content that is on our minds. The diversity and richness of content and styles continues to be one of the greatest appeals of the Web.
The fact that I and countless others enjoy blogging is a mystery confounding "common wisdom" as much as the rise of open source communities. "Where are the time, energy and resources coming from?" ask Kevin Kelly. I touched on this question in the blog story I posted earlier this week. I like the answer Kelly gives in his article a few paragraphs later. "The electricity of participation nudges ordinary folks to invest huge hunks of energy and time into making free encyclopedias, creating public tutorials for changing a flat tire, or cataloging the votes in the Senate. More and more of the Web runs in this mode. One study found that only 40 percent of the Web is commercial. The rest runs on duty or passion."
"Electricity of participation" indeed. So, we are back to the birds and the bees, not this time to learn how our species propagates, but to learn how birds, bees, wolves . . . and humans like to be part of communities and contribute to them. I find it truly fascinating that far from being, as I thought, a mere exercise in "narcissism", blogging ends up being a primal, noble - even altruistic -- experience, showing humanity at its very best.