Here is Ken’s and my introduction to the Best Blog Posts of 2006. They will be published at the rate of two a day throughout January at Online Opinion. . As regular Troppodillians will note, this post is written at a very introductory level. Indeed for those who don’t even know what blogging is. Still we hope you find it of interest and feel free to reflect on blogging and BB06 in comments.
Best Blog Posts for 2006
As someone once asked, so this is Christmas and what have you done?
Well in the lead up to Christmas 2006 a few people some of whom regard themselves as friends but none of whom knew each other a couple of years ago, were hard at work on an anthology of what they thought was the best blog posts of 2006.
Today one can say ‘blog’ and most people get it. But then some still don’t know that a ‘blog’ is one of those nerdy jargon expressions, chosen at least in part for its quizzical unattractiveness, as a shortening of the expression ‘weblog’.
A weblog can be anything you want it to be but the simplest way of explaining it is to say that it’s like a diary kept as a public document on the web with provision made for people to comment on the ‘diary entries’, though in the new lingo the diary entries are ‘posts’ and each post together with responses to it is a ‘thread’.
An interactive diary kept on the net of course can be on any subject and so there are literary blogs, and gossip blogs and blogs carrying similar content to op ed columns.
Our Best Blogs of 2006 rapidly and inevitably abbreviated by us all to BB06 are the offspring of a process which itself illustrates the remarkable aspects of the new medium. On the 11th December 2006 Troppo carried Ken Parish’s review of Black Inc’s Best Australian Essays of 2006. Troppo poster Nicholas Gruen who had an essay in the volume had proposed to its publisher Black Inc, that it do something that’s becoming increasingly common by sending a book for review by a prominent blogger, in this case Ken Parish.
The broadly favourable review nevertheless suggested that the collection suffered from insufficient exposure to the ‘blogosphere’. So in the comments thread, Gruen suggested “So why don’t we produce an anthology?”. Ken Parish was the obvious editor in chief having recently committed himself to producing “Missing Link” a thrice weekly review of blog posts of interest but he wasn’t interested in taking on the task himself.
No problem! At that stage the ‘self-organising’ aspects of collaboration on the net took over. A method was proposed whereby people could nominate their own or someone else’s best three and a hastily cobbled together committee of volunteers would help Ken compiling a short list from which Ken would be the final judge of the best blogs for 2006. The committee was Ken Parish, Nicholas Gruen, Helen Dale and Meika Loofs Samorzewski. Having co-operated in producing a shortlist, Ken then chose the best blogs with Nicholas acting as a sounding board.
The process embodied the strengths of blogging and more generally of the new wave of ‘user produced content’ on the net the most spectacular examples of which are open source software such as the Linux/GNU operating system and the online encyclopaedia Wikipedia.
Where it had taken Black Inc many months to produce its anthology of essays, BB06 was compiled in a little over two weeks. And you won’t have to pay to read them. They’re all already available right now on the net if you know where to find them. And you’ll know where to find each of them as they’re published again on www.onlineopinion.com.au throughout January. On republication some of the authors will have taken the opportunity to review their work for republication and you’ll get the choice of joining the new discussion they initiate on onlineopinion, or following the link provided to the original post where the discussion may begin anew!
Some caveats and explanations are in order. Obviously any collection of this sort is a product of the editors’ ideas of what makes for a quality blog post. Though we didn’t agree on formal criteria, the informal criteria were that, ‘best’ posts needed to be substantial enough to escape the ephemeral nature of much blogging, that they had to be well written and that they had to have some independent merit by way of special knowledge, a worthwhile point of view, insight or literary quality. In short, we hoped that our choices would be appreciated by those who went to the posts effectively on our recommendation.
As enthusiasts, we were also keen to show off the new genre to those to whom it might be new, and so were tried to choose a collection which illustrated the variety and the unique strengths of the medium. We also placed a limit of two on items by any individual blogger though no limits on posts from group blogs such as Sarsparilla or Lavatus Prodeo.
Then of course there’s the human factor. Blog posts could not be considered if they were not nominated, and the nominations would have carried their own biases. Those who heard about BB06 were those reading Troppo or the seven blogs that linked to the relevant thread which included both left and right leaning group blogs such as Lavatus Prodeo and Catallaxy. The collection represents our opinions and our tastes (and where there were small differences in opinion), Ken’s over others’.
And while we’re boasting about the speed with which the collection was produced, we should also apologise that of course we would have liked to have taken a bit more time. If we do this next year (which we’re intending to) we’ll start a little earlier and give the process more time, indeed, given its existence, commenters will no doubt nominate posts either formally by sending Ken an e-mail, or informally by registering a comment throughout 2007. The speed with which it has all happened meant that it may have passed some great bloggers by. They may have been enjoying their Christmas break and been quite oblivious to our entreaties. So some posts that deserve to be here inevitably won’t be.
If you think we’ve slipped up, please let us know in comments below or by way of an e-mail. And remember us in November next year.
Finally, when we first posted inviting submissions, some people were censorious about the idea of blog awards. Didn’t they go against the grain of such a personal medium? In fact we’d never said we intended to award any gongs, just to present an anthology of the ‘best of’. Views on the pros and cons of gongs differed amongst both the blogging community and the editorial committee. Even so, the kinds of dilemmas one faces choosing what one regards as the best 40 blog posts are essentially the same as those one faces choosing the best single item.
While we didn’t intend to award any gongs, and we’re not (necessarily) trying to establish a precedent, one post has stood out since long before this collection was a twinkle in our eye. From the time it was first posted, ‘Barista’ David Tiley’s extraordinary ruminations on his hospitalisation earlier this year had bloggers linking to it from everywhere. Even if we didn’t think it was the best, which I think we all do, David’s remarkable post certainly wins this years ‘people’s choice’ as the most renowned post of 2006. Thanks David, and thanks to everyone who participated, and everyone who will read these essays.
We hope they make what contribution they can to ensuring you have a happy and a prosperous new year.
Ken Parish and Nicholas Gruen
Postscript: Since penning this introduction Online Opinion has proposed that readers nominate their favourite posts. We have chosen 40 of the best posts so far, but because it’s a good idea, the more so because it makes use of the way the internet allows a remarkable freedom to improvise, because we’ve put this together in a hurry and we’ll have lots of time to get it right next time, we’re also happy to consider further nominations for best posts through the January period and will announce some new winners in a few week’s time.