Blogs are open letters

fri10feb2006—06w041d11%— 23h09m00s—0utc
In which to much rejoicing of the masses, the one true catch-metaphor for blogs is finally unveiled.

Last time a friend asked me what a blog was, I blabbered and gesticulated madly for a long while, only to cap it off, desperate, with the safe “they’re online diaries”. As it often happens, I ended up saying exactly the opposite of what I believe. I don’t think blogs are mere online diaries. Those are a sub-genre, to be sure, but blogs are much more, and it is misleading, stifling, and plain false, to have that as their only metaphor (isn’t it overstretching to call this very blog post you’re now reading a journal entry?).

So that no one finds himself forced to betray his better knowledge again, I’ve tried to find a metaphor that outcharms the prevailing one — one that’s true and yet as simple and catchy. I think I’ve found it: Blogs are open letters.

Blogs are open letters. Compilations of written communications addressed to whoever may want to read them1. The title of a blog post, the letter, is in fact its address, crafted to route the epistle to its many recipients (though of course Google, the post master, uses far more clever ways to deliver it). A good dose of current happenings goes in these letters, of course, but there’s much, much else: recommendations, reviews, analysis, reflections, advice, criticism, self-promotion, narrative, essays, rants, howtos, explanations, interpretations, confessions, j’accuses, press releases, calumnies, lies, exaggerations, gossip, sobs — anything that would go on a letter.

So now you know. Blogs are open letters. Spread the word (or challenge it in the comments).

1 “Open letters to the universe, addressed to everybody and nobody in particular,” as Norm de Plume puts it. As I was doing some basic research on blogs as open letters, I was thrilled to find several people who have had the exact same realization, and a long time ago at that. Sadly, it is not yet as widespread a metaphor as it should be.

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