Rebecca Blood has long since earned her Blogging Stripes. When you talk about the Old Timers of the Blogosphere, her name will always be uttered with a slight amount of reverence due to her famous essay on the history of blogs and blogging. Although below in her interview Rebecca states she has nothing to tell other bloggers, please let me suggest that her piece on blog ethics is a very worthy read for all current and aspiring bloggers.
Rebecca speaks at a variety of events and in particular, I’d love to sit in and hear what she has to say about Participatory Media and Participatory Culture. She’s written a book, The Weblog Handbook, and cites acting, boat-builder’s assistant and nanny as past jobs. My favorite thing about her (besides her being willing to talk to me) is that she endeavors to live a sustainable life. Her tips below will help everyone do so, and our world needs all the help She can get.
April 27, 1999
Why do you blog?
I love sharing the interesting things I find.
What do you talk about?
Whatever catches my eye in the news or on the Web. I’m interested in lots of things, and various themes rise and recede over time. Right now I’d describe my active set of interests as books, reading, and libraries; the domestic arts; sustainability; gender; and the intersection between technology and culture.
What don’t you talk about? Why?
I usually don’t write about personal things. I’m a pretty private person to start with, plus my life is pretty boring.
Best experience regarding something you wrote in your blog or put out on the net?
I suppose the response to “Weblogs: A History and Perspective” which I wrote in 2000. It was at the height of the first big Internet boom, and Blogger was the sweetheart of the media. Blogger was the product of a San Francisco Web start-up (Pyra), it was founded by two young, charismatic people (Meg Hourihan and Evan Williams), it was wildly popular, and it had no apparent business plan. Article after article came out describing a blog as “a site made with Blogger”.
I knew different. I started reading the original weblogs in 1998, and I had been one of the first bandwagon-jumpers in 1999. The software reproduced what that original community had done (and lots of us were still doing) by hand, (never mind the other blogging services that were out there). So I wrote down what I knew of the history of weblogs, and how I had seen the community form. I didn’t think anyone would read it, but I remember thinking if, in the future, anyone ever does want to know
where weblogs came from, maybe they will find it on my website.
Instead, that URL got passed along through what seemed like the entire weblog community at the time. That essay is now used in dozens of university courses on new media, and has been reproduced in numerous anthologies on the subject. I believe that essay is the reason Perseus Publishing asked me to write a book on blogging for them (though I never asked). It established me as an authority.
Are you comfortable being considered an authority in the blogging field?
I am, if only because I have been around from almost the start. And I have a tendency to think about blogging far more than it warrants.
Favorite/worst thing about living where you live?
There’s really not very much I like about San Francisco. Let’s see…I love the burritos in the Mission District.
Where would you live if you could choose?
Close to my family. On a farm. With Amish neighbors to teach me to make cheese. With sheep, and maybe a cow and a few rescued battery hens. Oh, and help, so that I could be a gentleman farmer and spend as much time writing as I wanted to.
Either that, or someplace in Europe.
If you were president of the US:
The first thing I’d do is sign legislation re-affirming the United State’s commitment to the Geneva Conventions (and habeas corpus) and roll back any legislation legalizing torture and inhumane treatment of prisoners. Next, I’d focus on campaign finance reform and health care for all US citizens.
What actor would play you in the movie of your life?
What does your idea of a Sustainable World look like?
That’s a big question. I believe it’s a world of abundance – just look at the outrageous abundance of nature! I started to say that it’s a world in which our inputs equal our outputs, but that’s already true. The problem is that we haven’t paid much attention to what, exactly, we’re adding back into nature, and what we’re taking out.
Do you live in a sustainable way yourself?
I try to live sustainably, but as an apartment dweller, there’s only so much I can do. I can’t install solar panels, or insulate my home, or put in double-paned windows. I try not to buy a lot of stuff. I buy recycled and environmentally safe products whenever I can. The usual bag of tricks. San Francisco has city-wide recycling and composting, so we are able to generate only about one bag of garbage a month with those programs in place.
What can people change in their own life to help?
I’ve tried to adopt the principle of treating everything as if it were precious. That means that I use things until they wear out (like foil and plastic bags), reuse what I can (like cutting worn out bath towels into cleaning rags), recycle and donate what I don’t need, and so forth. You wouldn’t throw away a diamond if you didn’t need it any more; so I just try to apply that same way of thinking to all the materials that pass through my life.
What kinds of people do you interview?
It’s interesting, my goal when I started my “Bloggers on Blogging” series was to interview as wide a range of bloggers as I possibly could. But I’ve found that many bloggers don’t answer my emails when I request an interview. As a result, I’ve ended up interviewing mainly bloggers who link to me (and therefore know who I am and answer when I ask). [ed note: me, too!]
What is your favorite tip (in any category) at the moment?
When I find a book I am interested in on Amazon, I can click a button on my browser’s bookmark bar and it will automatically check to see if my local library has it. If it does, I can just order it to my local branch from that same page; if it doesn’t I can order it through Interlibrary loan, and it will be delivered from somewhere else in the United States to my local branch.
I have read more books in the last two years (and saved more money – and clutter!) than I have in years and years. Once or twice every year I am late returning a book, and I have to hand over a nickel or a dime in late charges, which I do with great relish. Best money I spend all year.
What do you do to stay sane and healthy?
In your opinion, what is the best application/widget/program or helpful-bit-o-code to come out over the past year?
I have no idea what even came out in the past year. I did use Kayak.com this weekend to book plane tickets, and I found it to be very helpful. It was new to me, did it come out in the past year?
Deep, dark red.
Philosophically, beans: cheap, nutritious, infinite variety, and absolutely delicious. Practically, there are too many to choose from.
Do you think it is accurate to say that a new blog is being created every second? If so, how long until we reach maximum saturation point?
We’ll reach the saturation point when every human being on Earth has one, I suppose. If a new blog is being created every second, it’s worth mentioning that one is being abandoned every 1.5 seconds.
When you were 10, what did you want to do when you grew up?
I think I wanted to be a writer or an actress.
Are there male/female stereotypes in the online tech world? Do you run into any yourself?
Of course there are. There’s definitely an old-boys network among the political bloggers, and I think there is, too, among the bloggers who write about technology, the Web, and blogging. I don’t think it’s conscious, but they seem to extend a level of respect to other men that women have to really work hard to earn. Even though most of them pay lip service to the idea that women are under-represented in their circles, for the most part, the women who do write on those topics seem to be largely invisible to them.
What do you hate?
Bay area housing costs.
What do you love?
Film. Good story telling in any medium. My husband, my cats, my family.
Is there anything that bloggers do that drives you crazy?
Complain about their traffic.
Seriously – are you Goth?
Not anymore, no.
Where does blogging fit into mainstream media?
It’s just part of the continuum. But if, by “mainstream media” you mean “journalism”, then there is no pat answer. It’s a little like asking where books fall in journalism: some do, some don’t. It depends on what’s inside.
What do you want to tell other bloggers, if anything?
Not a thing.
Where do you see the future of blogging going?
Wider adoption, by individuals, businesses, and journalism. We’ve almost gotten to the point (thank God!) that blogging is so common it’s unremarkable.
Astounding facts about you:
I’m about to finish a sweater I started 20 years ago.
Are you Windows or Mac? Why?
It’s a long story. I started out on a Mac back in the mid-90s. When I got my own computer (1998), I got a Windows machine because it was faster, and I liked playing games. I’ve had Windows ever since, right up to a couple of months ago.
I’m on a Mac right now because my husband’s computer busted and he needed an interim one until the PowerMacs came out. I inherited the interim one. I sort of needed a new computer because of some problems with the power supply that made it difficult to travel with my old machine.
I’ve been completely platform-agnostic all these years, but I have to say, the Mac is nice – most of the time, things just work. I probably will replace it with another Mac when the time comes.
How would the people you work with describe you? How about your family?
Work: Professional, conscientious, hard-working, easy to get along with.
Family: Unfocused, hard on myself, kind of a cipher, crabby when I don’t get enough sleep.
Do you cook?
Most nights. It’s one of my main hobbies.
Favorite dish(es) to create?
I love cooking in general, and I’m always interested and excited to try something new. This year those have been my favorite dishes to make, and I’ve tried 52 new recipes to date. I’ll probably get a few more in before the year is through.
Among my all-time favorite dishes are my pizza, my risotto, Deborah Madison’s Black Bean Chili, Crescent Dragonwagon’s Peas and Rice and Cassoulet, and Chuck Taggart’s spectacular Red Beans and Rice (made with my less fiery Creole Seasoning blend.)
What are you working on right now?
Organizing our apartment.
Your own favorite post or article you have written or contributed to? And/or your favorite post of someone else?
Oh, blogging is so ephemeral. I can’t remember what I posted (or read) earlier this week, let alone remember favorite entries.
What will you being doing next year?
Hopefully some speaking, maybe some writing, definitely some travel. Maybe I’ll try something new.
Tell me a secret?
What do you wish I had asked you that I didn’t?
Not a thing. You’ve been very thorough.