A Book of Blogs?
'Ultimate Blogs' promises to present 27 'masterworks' from the blogosphere
in book form. LOL!
By Brian Braiker | Newsweek Web Exclusive
Updated: 12:43 p.m. ET Feb 15, 2008
What to make of "Ultimate Blogs: Masterworks From the Wild Web"? The new
book, edited by Sarah Boxer, the New York Times's first (now former) "Web
critic," endeavors to compile an anthology of the best posts from the best
Web logs. "W," you might ask, "TF?" To what end this dead-tree blogroll? Is
this a sincere attempt to explain the blogging phenomenon-which some
estimate is, in its current form, more than 15 years old to off-the-grid
grandmas across America? Or is this compilation a cynical ploy to cash in
on free content?
Boxer seems sincere in her quixotic quest to find a handful of blogs that
she says she loves for "the writing, the thinking, the drawing and the
photos." In her introduction she assures us that in her book "everything is
bloggy to the core." Meaning ... what, exactly? As of December 2007 the
blog search engine Technorati was tracking 112 million blogs. How to
distill that huge number to a few essential characteristics? Well, blogs
tend to include outbound links to other sites, commentary on funkiness
found in the news and Web flotsam, comments from readers and responses to
those comments by blog authors. They are timely and interactive, and they
couldn't exist offline.
So why put them in a book and strip them of the very things that make them
"bloggy"? Here you'll find excerpts from 27 online journals-comprising
punditry, poetry, ranting, raving and drawing of both pictures and
conclusions. You'll also find some wonderful writing; you'll laugh, cry and
scratch your head. But you won't find links, reader comments or any sort of
dialogue. Boxer, to her credit, is well aware of the pickle she's put
herself into. "The bloggers in this anthology are, for the most part, out
of the fray," she writes in the introduction. "They write more than they
link, and they're read more than they are linked to." So basically she's
chosen to put into a book entries from the blogs that are ... least like
blogs. Or, at least, most like books.
Take the most striking example. In "Ultimate Blogs" you'll find excerpts
from the Diary of Samuel Pepys, a 17th-century English naval administrator
and member of Parliament. Beginning Jan. 1, 2003, a Web designer and
programmer named Phil Gyford began serializing Pepys's diary online as a
blog. The result is a fascinating experiment and a wickedly fun read. But
why include it here? The Pepys (pronounced peeps) diary was originally
published as a book. Yes, it was neat to see how it translated to the Web.
But now, for reasons that are never explained, here we have it in book form
again. Dizzy yet?