There has been discussion about whether Dave Winer is "disavowing blogging and RSS" and if his site is now, essentially, a newsletter composed in stages, in public.

Winer's comment that the best way to read his blog is now via email also poses the question of whether a blogger can suggest, or determine, how someone should read their blog.

He is rethinking the technology that delivers his blog saying that it's no longer fit for that particular purpose. He later writes "the platform is good at doing what it does, and that's it" and that taking another look is overdue, but the RSS spec was a compromise, one which he now regrets. It's not that blogs and RSS are bad more a lamentation of what they could have been without that compromise.

Winer's site has been called an edge case that no longer resembles "normal" blogs but, as has been mentioned in the discussion, most blogs (post compromise) no longer really resemble the way things started.

The move to place blogging and journalism on a level playing field didn't just occur on a technological front, it also permeated the blogging psyche and the journalistic approach became the de facto standard: essays with titles written as though for the media rather than a personal "thought space". This is despite the RSS spec not requiring posts to have titles but most feed reader apps followed Google Reader's lead and expected them. We're still fighting for proper support for title-less posts to this day.

So, in 2017, when Winer wanted his old blog back he was starting down a path that lead to where he is today, one from which I have also drawn inspiration.

He is absolutely not disavowing blogging, his commitment to it has only strengthened since that 2017 epiphany, he is instead asking if it happens in the right way, if it can be improved or re-presented in a manner that makes more sense.

When implementing my "Today" page (where that day's posts are displayed in chronological order) I wrote:

"...you start the day at the top and read down in time order. We read top to bottom normally so it's natural."

It made sense that a flow of thoughts should be read in the same way we would read a book and not by having to flick up the page after each post - which is read downwards. Trying to read a number of blog posts in sequence using a reverse chronological layout is completely unnatural.

Still, I was concerned about the impact of the change:

I really like the idea of "Today" but am not sure if it will work as the blog front page. People are so used to reverse-chron... that I don't know whether they will adjust.

Two and a half years later we are still having the same conversation.

In this scenario there is a disconnect between the delivery technology (RSS and feed readers) and the display technology (the blog page) and I feel it is right to question if this needs to change or, at least, develop. You wouldn't print a book with the chapters in reverse order so why distribute a blog written in chronological order in the same way.

You only have to look at the day where I worked through implementing the Today page to realise it makes sense when read as a whole and not as isolated posts read out of order. I accept that this isn't the norm, more the exception to the rule based on a specific case, but it is certainly worth exploring.

With all this in mind I would argue that it is reasonable for a blogger to suggest how someone would get the best experience when reading their blog; until alternatives arrive and Winer is asking "what are the alternatives?".

Everything starts somewhere.

  1. bix says: #
    I do think he's more of a newsletterer now. Or maybe we need a new dorky term for what he's publishing, like…bletter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.