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. Part of my paper covers the history of blogging, and as I researched, the WSJ article was the first I’d seen after earlier research this week that stated such a late date for the first bloggers. I’d be willing to bet that outside of the few that are mentioned here, “big names” in blogging, there were a lot of others that were doing what would be considered blogging long before the 1997 date too. I doubt that even though those people were pioneers, that they were alone. Just my 2c! Good for you, Duncan for pointing this out!

    Funny thing is that my paper is about how blogging is changing the face of mass media and what better way than to use your blog as an example of how bloggers can and do dispute the journalism out there.. Thanks. I hope you don’t mind my referencing your article.

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  8. Thank you. Great history :)

  9. Hi Duncan, I agree with you that Winer has claimed blogging kudos. His CV at http://dave.scripting.com/cv claims Scripting News as the world’s longest running blog. And the bio he wrote at http://www.scripting.com/stories/2007/02/21/daveWinerBio.html claims he pioneered the development of weblogs. My vote for first blogger? Doogie Howser MD. Remember he kept an online journal and published it to the web? My vote for first real-person blogger? Brad Templeton.

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  23. It would be nice to know who really was the first blogger although it may be an elusive concept, sort of like who was the first person to eat with a fork.

  24. Scoble points out that Berger was using a Dave Winer CMS for his blog. So which came first, the chicken or the egg? :-)

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