The online pub.

Russell Coker asks whether he can identify a new class of friend, which he calls “blog friends“. That is, people he knows through the blogosphere.

I reply: that’s your social network. The blogosphere is social networking for real. It comes without the Big Hype of facebook, myspace or orkut, or equally “grown-up” versions like linkedin. Instead it brings together people with genuine shared interests. I first saw your blog because it’s syndicated to a reputable planet, and I read it because you have interesting things to say. Not because of some vacuous association of having told some website we’re interested in [foo].

This is what Usenet groups, and to a lesser extent public mailinglists, have been doing for over 20 years. Usenet is the traditional online commons: it’s open to all, and not owned by anyone. I’ve made a few friends through usenet over the years, and I’d say blog friends are another wave of the same.

And before that, there was the forum, the Þing, the debating society, the café society, the common room, not to mention the public square. Places we talk, and meet people. The ‘net has globalised our socialising, and among other things it’s turned the “arranged marriage” of the old penpal into a free association.

Just as much of the commons of England were illegally fenced off 300 years ago, so many people have tried (albeit legally!) to fence off their little bit of online commons. “Social networking” websites are a natural evolution of earlier web-based clubs that sought to appropriate parts of the Usenet commons. The blog is a third player in that field: it’s a part of your own home, where you’ve chosen to offer public access and a noticeboard. So I guess, the public house!

Mine’s a pint, if you please :-)

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Posted on January 3, 2008, in internet, social networking. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off.

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