Monday, December 28, 2009

Webrings and Blogrolls

Is the web at large too big and impersonal to support community?

Not a community of people, a community of web sites. The sense of implicit camaraderie that caused the development of one of the popular features of 1990s Geocities pages, the Web Ring. For those that choose not to remember, a web ring was a collection of sites that had a banner on them "This site is part of the Terry Pratchett Web Ring", with a link to the "previous" and "next" sites, and a link to the web ring home page (which had a link to all of the sites). You don't see this type of thing any more (except possibly for irony) and for good reason: It was pretty much a terrible idea all around.

1) Most of the sites were lousy even by 1990s web standards.
2) Because most of the sites were lousy, the good sites wouldn't join, causing the quality to get even worse.
3) Who really wants to look at 57 different Terry Pratchett Fan sites?
4) Not only were the sites lousy, a bunch of them were almost certainly going to be broken links or unrelated pages by the time you looked at it.

With all those caveats (and I could have listed more), the question remains: Did they support community on the web? Did "Joe's world of Klatch" belonging to the prestigious "Top Pratchett Fan Sites" web ring make Joe feel like he was a part of the Pratchett fan site community?

In a scientific sense, it would be hard to tell, since Joe probably has tried to forget about the site for the past 10 years, and now that Geocities is dead it is probably offline entirely. And since there may not have been more than 4 or 5 people that cared about the web ring at any one time, it's hard to say that there ever existed a community in the first place. Maybe Joe felt he was now part of the world of the internet with a real web page , who knows.

Anyhow, we now have something that we didn't have in the 90s, blogs. (Dave Winer aside, blogging didn't really take off until the 00's.) And the thing about blogs is that it's immediately obvious whether they are completely out of date or not, since each pot has a nice timestamp at the top. Blogs can try to be topical, but they generally meander from their ostensible topic somewhat. And blogs can have the aforementioned blog roll. The list of 20 to 500 "blogs we like". Arguably a relic of an earlier era, thse are still present on virtually every major blog-like site, be it Kos or Huffington Post or Matt Drudge or the New York Times' blogs. And while many of these have the soft personal touch that only a faceless corporation can provide, there's definitely some sense of association associated with those.

No comments:

Post a Comment