How  did the blog as we know it nowadays evolve from a piece of wood? To celebrate The World Book Day, I publish the first chapter of my eBook “Blogging for Personal Branding“, where I explain the origin of blogs.

In the beginning, there was a logbook

The story of the blog starts with a piece of wood, a log. 

When large areas of the world were still unknown and the ships were guided by the stars, navigators had an ingenious and simple way to calculate the speed at which the ship was moving. This system consisted of throwing into the water a trunk (or “log”) tied with a rope.

The speed of the ship could be calculated on the basis of the time taken to move away from the trunk. This information was later recorded in a book, the logbook, which over time was also used to record any important event that had taken place during the voyage.

Now, we jump a few centuries forward. We are in the late 90s. We are no longer sailing at sea, but at the World Wide Web.

Internet has over 45 million users, but it isn’t yet the information highway we know today. At that time, Jorn Barger was an active user of Usenet, one of the first systems of communication between computer networks, where users exchanged and shared impressions.

In 1997, Barger created a website where he daily logged, in reverse chronological order, interesting links on literature, technology or politics found on the Web. His website was called Robot Wisdom Weblog (from web+log). The term “Weblog” soon become widespread on the internet.

A couple of years later, Peter Merholz, creator of the weblog www.peterme.com, wrote in the left column of his website:

«I’ve decided to pronounce the word “weblog” as wee’- blog. Or “blog” for short» (web archive).

This new and shorter term unseated the former one and, that same year, Barger posted on his (now) “blog” a more precise definition:

«A weblog (sometimes called a blog or a newspage or a filter) is a webpage where a weblogger (sometimes called a blogger, or a pre surfer) ‘logs’ all the other webpages she finds interesting. The format is normally to add the newest entry at the top of the page, so that repeat visitors can catch up by simply reading down the page until they reach a link they saw on their last visit» (Jorn Barger, 1999).

The Julie/Julia Project

Technological innovations don’t lead to social or cultural changes. They just make it possible.

It’s people and the use that they give to this technology what generates changes. Generally, when a new technology reaches the public at large, people merely reproduce old behaviors. Over time, however, some small mutations occur, variations in usage, up to generate a real change.

Elisabeth Einstein explained in “The Printing Press as an Agent of Change” (1980) that during the fifty years following the invention of Gutenberg’s printing press there was no significant cultural change. Typography imitated handwriting and books continued addressing traditional topics.

Similarly, in its beginnings, the use of the blog didn’t differ essentially from the old logbook, where relevant events were recorded daily. But over the years the use began to mutate to give rise to something different.

Four years have gone since the birth of the word “blog”.

Julie Powell, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in theater and fiction writing, spends her days in an unfulfilling office job at New York. In order to channel her interests, she takes on a challenge: preparing all of the recipes described in Julia Child’s cookbook,  “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” (1961), in just one year. And to do this, she creates the blog The Julie/Julia Project, where she explains the result of each dish.

Her blog soon reached great popularity and attracted the attention of The New York Times, where it was published an article entitled “A Race to Master the Art of French Cooking” (2003). After the project was completed, the publishing group Little, Brown & Co. proposed her to write a book about her experience, “Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen” (2005). Finally, in 2009, a film about the Julie Powell’s project was released.

On one hand, the blog “The Julie/Julia Project” still retained the essence of traditional blogs. The daily notes (called posts) maintained a close connection with the life of Julie. However, something had changed. The blog attracted the public through the fresh style of the author, conveying her enthusiasm for cooking. The content was interesting and useful.

The blog became an unexpected marketing campaign, positioning Powell as a person of reference in the field of writing and cooking, and the audacity ofcreating a blog expressed passion, originality and creativity.What was the origin of that little transformation? The new technology had met with a social and cultural change.

The blog had interacted with personal branding.

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Did you enjoy it? Don’t wait any longer to read the next chapters of “Blogging for Personal Branding” and have a great World Book Day!

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