Mostly Useless28 May 2003
I've nevered considered myself to be a 'serious' weblogger, and have never really considered weblogging to be a 'serious' activity. It's just a hobby... it's fun, I've met some great people online, I've had some good (and some not so good) discussions, and it's a easy way to post baby pictures. But it's message, not the medium that interests me (or, in modern jargon, the content, not the delivery system). The technology isn't particularly important. I was doing the same kind of thing in high school with a typewriter and a mimeograph machine. These days you don't have to get ink or toner on your hands.
So I was certainly a bit apprehensive last week about heading for a 'serious' conference on weblogs and weblogging, full of presentations on research on weblogs, weblogs in business, and a strange discipline called 'knowledge management'. So when the presentations began with heavy theory of the 'semantic web', my fears were nearly justified (although they did respond politely to my question about semantic methods deal with dynamic humans).
However, the very next round of presentations turned the conference around for me, when Hossein and Maria told about how weblogs are affecting real people in Iran and Poland. How the main themes in Iranian weblogs are not politics, but sex and loneliness. How teenagers are the main age group of webloggers in Poland.
These communities, these stories were new to me, and it was very exciting to me. I'm looking forward to learning more about them, especially Poland, since they are my neighbors, soon to by my fellow citizens, yet Poland is mentioned so little in the German media (except in Harald Schmidt monolouges). And I'm wondering how we can overcome the barrier of language in bringing together international communities on the web. (Ironically, at the conference I got an email from a provider of translation services who asked if weblogs could be a marketing opportunity. Yes, yes, yes!)
The other highlight was getting to know some of these 'serious' people and finding them to be very personable. They may be weblogging for their work, but they are having fun with their weblogs as well. Even if all the knowledge management in the world can not help you find cake in downtown Vienna at 1 am.
So, like Ford Prefect writing about the Earth for the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, I'm going to have to update my personal definition of weblogs from 'useless'. They are now 'mostly useless'. And if 'serious' webloggers can enable conferences to take place where so much socializing can take place, then I guess that's OK. I'll be at the next one.