Wall Street Journal Tries to Re-Write Blogging History

July 15, 2007 — 95 Comments

Tunku Varadarajan at The Wall Street Journal wishes blogging a happy 10th birthday; one problem, blogging is not 10 years old, it’s actually older.

According to my history of blogging (still No. 3 on Google BTW, and heavily researched at the time) blogging turned 11 on January 10, the date in which the first credited blogger (according to Wikipedia as well) Justin Hall commences writing an online journal with dated daily entries, although each daily post is linked through an index page. On the journal he writes ?¢‚Ǩ?ìSome days, before I go to bed, I think about my day, and how it meshed with my life, and I write a little about what learned me.?¢‚Ǩ¬ù

In February Dave Winer follows up with a weblog that chronicles the 24 Hours of Democracy Project.

Winer has often claimed that he was the first blogger, I’ve long disagreed but whether it was Hall or Winer is a moot point: both were blogging in 1996, and yet Varadarajan writes this rubbish:

“We are approaching a decade since the first blogger — regarded by many to be Jorn Barger — began his business of hunting and gathering links to items that tickled his fancy, to which he appended some of his own commentary. On Dec. 23, 1997, on his site, Robot Wisdom, Mr. Barger wrote….”

Um, absolutely not and NO. Barger has always been credited with popularizing the term weblog (although as I found in my research back in 2005 he wasn’t the first to use it the term), but I’ve never read ANYONE claiming that Jorn Barger was the first blogger; even Rebecca Blood’s insular and cliquey history of blogging (written in 2000) which has been at the top of Google for pretty much ever, refers to Berger as coining the term, not creating blogging.

So Tunku Varadarajan: if Barger is “regarded by many” to be the first blogger, name your sources! I checked the first half dozen references on Google, all of them say its Hall except Bloods that doesn’t credit the first blogger. If not: withdraw the article or issue a correction. We expect better from the WSJ, even if most of the rest of the mainstream media has long since moved to the gutter. To others who are blindly joining the celebrations: do some homework before believing everything you read on WSJ.com

Update: Rex Hammock claims in the comments that Dave Winer has never tried to claim credit for being the first blogger, and that this entire article is flawed because that claim is wrong. What’s wrong is that people like Hammond and Varadarajan can’t use Google. To quote Dave Winer on 21 January 2007:

Time flies when you?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢re having fun. The 10 year anniversary of Scripting News is approaching and with it, the ten year anniversary of blogging.

I’m not sure how else to interpret that. As for claims that Varadarajan is more correct than my 2005 history of blogging because he writes for the WSJ and I’m nothing more than a lowly blogger: Rex, if you can find references to prove Barger was the first blogger, show me. I can’t and in all my years blogging (many dedicated to writing on the blogging space itself) I’ve never heard Barger being noted as the first blogger. It is arguable when the first blog is written, however it always comes back to Winer or Hall (1996 v 1994 vs early 1997 as well), but never Berger in late 97.

Update 2: Scoble points out that Berger was using a Dave Winer CMS for his blog. So which came first, the chicken or the egg? 🙂 Hammock still arguing over the Winer point in the comments and via email…obviously the concept of “moot point” doesn’t translate: I couldn’t care less whether Dave Winer claimed or didn’t claim to be the first blogger (although he clearly claimed the anniversary for himself), the point is, and has always been, that Winer and Hall predate Barger. Lee Hind also notes in the comments that he was blogging in April 2006. That makes 3 blogs predating Barger by more than 18 months.

95 responses to Wall Street Journal Tries to Re-Write Blogging History

  1. I wouldn’t believe anything in traditional media anymore. The quality of editors has slowly been going down to the point it has disappeared over the last few years. Now they seem to be running scared and just can’t seem to cope if it’s anything to do with the internet. The results are always wrong or at best misleading.

  2. “insular and clicky”: Tell me you were making a great joke writing clicky instead of cliquey! Marvelous. (I think I’m quoted in Blood’s book — or I have an essay in there s

  3. re: “Winer has often claimed that he was the first blogger…”

    Can you provide a specific source or citation for that?

    I’ve read everything Dave Winer has written on his blog for 5-6 years, and I’ve seen things “close” to claiming to be the first blogger, but they are about “serving as a model for early blogs” or “having the longest-running blog.”

    As you are claiming yours to be the authoritative chronicle of the history of blogging — and believe the WSJ reporter should follow your version or retract their story, I think you’ve set the bar at such a high place where, if you are going to make a statement like, “Winer has often claimed that he was the first blogger,” you need to provide multiple examples to display how he has “often” claimed such. And please, don’t tell me what people thought they heard Winer say — but where he, who blogs all day everyday, claims that he was the first blogger.

    If not, you should retract and clarify the statement.

  4. I love the way AdSense puts an ad for the Wall St. Journal online edition next to your critique. . . .

  5. I’m going to take an opposing view to everyone else and cite the start of blogging as being when the term was actually invented.

    If we didn’t call a site a “blog” in 1997, was it actually one? I recall calling them journals, e/n sites, or sometimes even just “homepages”. But.. before “blog” became popular, “weblog” was used.

    I guess it’s like saying how old Web 2.0 is. Sites that offered similar features to Web 2.0 were around 10 years ago too (though not many!) but do we say Web 2.0 is 10+ years old?

  6. Like so many things, there really isn’t a “first” blog, but if you have to pick one, as I said in the History page of weblogs.com (now a 404) the first blog was the first website maintained by Tim Berners-Lee. That’s how basic blogging is.

    What matters to me is how blogging became such a popular activity. For that, I do claim credit as the first blogger, because the blogs that were inspired by Scripting News, including Robot Wisdom and CamWorld, Jason Kottke, and then quite a few others after them, ended up inspiring the blogs that inspired all the blogs you see today.

    In my case, blogging was a response to a need created by a mail list that was flaming out in 1996 that got me to start blogging. That quickly became the Frontier News page, and then in April 1997 became Scripting News (and moved to scripting.com, its current location).

    I gave away the software I was using to create the blog and that created quite a few blogs.

    I also started a discussion group that was the place where a lot other blogs got their start.

    There was a site called BlogTree where bloggers linked back to the blogs that started them. While there was a fair amount of animosity in the blogging world when this exercise started, I was proud to see that people did acknowledge where they got their start, and Scripting News was definitely at the root of the tree. That’s that what I claim, I put a lot of effort into cajoling and tricking people into starting their own “news sites” and Barger was definitely the one who called them weblogs, and Peter Merholz shortened it to “blog” and Evan Williams et al created Blogger, etc.

    I agree with Mike Arrington that someone ought to do a definitive job of writing the history on this (and I wouldn’t go with what Wikipedia says).

    I also love Justin, and would never begrudge him his role in the evolution of blogging. But as far as I know he didn’t make it his business to bootstrap a community of bloggers that grew into the huge network that exists today.

    Also, Scott Rosenberg, who, at Salon has been following blogs as a reporter longer than anyone I know, is thinking about looking into this.

  7. An archived copy of my History of Weblogs page…


    Note that Andreessen’s claim is supported here. His What’s New page was definitely a weblog, but it came after the NCSA page with the same title and purpose, which followed TBL’s original home page.

    You’ll also find lots of early news reports about blogs, some of which are not 404s.

  8. Dear Duncan.

    My name is Hammock, not Hammond.

    And your citation of Dave’s 10th anniversary is ludicrous as he spent much of his 10th anniversary posting explaining (as he has now in this thread) that he WAS NOT the first blogger. How much more citation can I provide you that Dave Winer does not claim to be the first blogger than for him to say it right here on this page.

    So, for you to continue claiming that “he claims to be the first blogger” when I can use google to provide you dozens of posts on his blog where he says he’s not is what my complaint is about — and what I’m asking you to correct.

    I’m not defending the WSJ or complaining about anything else in your post. My comment was specifically and exclusively directed at the only thing about your post I cited: your assertion that Dave Winer claims to be the first blogger.

    And no, I do not think a lowly blogger vs. a WSJ reporter means anything. Facts are facts. And yours are a fuzzy as the WSJ’s.


    Duncan, it is a good thing that you are presenting more facts, and asking WSJ to check their facts a bit more. But you start off on *exactly* the wrong foot when you guess at motivations, as your overly sensationalistic headline (‘WSJ tries to rewrite blogger history’) does. Did WSJ *intentionally* rewrite history – or do they have a set of facts which disagree with your set?

    There’s no need to get mean and competetive in tone when asking such a question.

  10. I dated my entries, which were posted on a regular basis, and I linked to other sites. And I started in April 1996.

    Does that get me in the top 10? 🙂


  11. How about the first BBS Sysop? You do realize this stuff looked pretty much the same 20+ years ago, right?

  12. Rex
    given your petty stupid off-topic arguments I really couldn’t care less about your last name at this point.

    you prove the point as well. April 2006 is very cool and definitely worth a mention.

    Honestly I’ve got no idea what the WSJ’s intention was with this: was in an intentional re-write or just plain sloppy journalism? I’m betting the later but I just don’t know.

  13. The first true blogger is still online and blogging daily: Ric Ford started Macintouch.com in early 1994. It was the first website in blog format, daily links and commentary in reverse chronological order. I know Ric has never stepped forward to make this claim, but I think he deserves the accolades that other people seek for themselves.

  14. oh for pete’s sake, listen to all of you! it’s like a bunch of organgatangs banging your chest in the forest. who the @#$# cares. don’t you all have something better to do with your lives? i can’t believe i actually wasted my time reading this drivel and posted. but in the world of the web, one link leads to another and to another.

    oh, and you’re NOT as good as the WSJ, little blogger boyz. they are smarter, more polished and far more interested in getting at a story than you are with all of your petty resentments and biases. you’re just not very interesting.

  15. Seems to me it’s the old story of a mainstream editor commissioning a story and slotting a reporter to do the research (I don’t know the writer of the WSJ piece). The reporter does a lot of background digging online, including all the dubious sources — like wikipedia — and produces a sketchy article which is disputed by the guys on the ground.

    Only someone who was there and involved at the time can produce a definitive picture of this. And that would probably be disputed too.

  16. I was contacted by a reporter from WSJ on July 2 to provide background information for this story. His name was Jamin Brophy-Warren. I was in the middle of moving from Brooklyn to New Jersey so did not get back to him fast enough to give any input for this article.

    I have no idea why Tunku Varadarajan ended up writing this piece. Perhaps it was reassigned by a senior editor.

    Arguing the semantics of who was first is irrelevant. Anyone “blogging” or doing blog-like posting prior to 1998 should be considered an early blogger who helped pioneer the format and push it into the mainstream, for better or for worse. I was reading Ric Ford’s Macintouch years before I started my own blog, which I modeled after Dave Winer’s Scripting News. I also have a few sites I hand-coded in 1996 that could be considered blogs that pre-date CamWorld.

  17. What about Carolyn Burke? Also early 1995. She was one of the speakers I sought out for JournalCon… where we were all excited about these “online journal” things and sniffed suspiciously at all this “blogging” talk.

  18. I’ve been blogging since 1995, and I was a copycat, so I’m claiming to be first. But quite a few people in the Quake community, including me, started blogging as a natural extension of id Software’s .plan updates, including John Carmack’s.

    More details: http://blogs.smugmug.com/don/2007/07/15/the-wall-street-journal-is-wrong/

  19. I’m *not* claiming to be first. Grr. Sometimes typos turn out to be important. Again, I’m *not* claiming to be first – I was a copycat, and besides, the concept was obvious at the time. We didn’t think we were breaking any new ground, even in 1995.

  20. If blogging is ‘dated entries’, then it is as old as the web itself, for eg. the old Netscape ‘whats new!’ from 1993 (I remember reading this, as well as a similar page at Yahoo!):


    If we consider blog, the term, and the technologies that surround it, such as RSS, then it is much newer

  21. And here I was, thinking the first “blogger” was Samuel Pepys. (He didn’t need to make the Tab/Diet Coke distinction between “diary” and “weblog”.)

  22. He doesn’t like the word “blog” but Jerry Pournelle has been blogging at http://www.jerrypournelle.com for at least ten years. Probably twelve or thirteen.

  23. Here’s the problem in a nutshell (and fully on view right here in this post and these comments): too many of you come off like Comic Book Guy. And that’s not attractive to most people.


  24. Hola mardena!

  25. Hey

    I was surfing the web and i saw this site, pretty cool.
    Currently im running and adult site:Reachton
    k, just want to say hi 🙂
    Can i link you from my site? im looking for quality content like yours. If no let me know if i can add u in exchange for a montly fee or something.

  26. Interesting article!
    Where can I find more on this theme?

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