Like 'what is jazz' but bloggier

Just as a novel approach to time is part of what makes jazz jazz, the reverse-chronological format of weblogs are their defining element, says Michael Feldman in Dowbrigade News.

But for me, the crucial factor is that a blog is a web site organized in REVERSE chronological order, and this makes all the difference in the world.

And you can quibble about running the current day’s items in forward-chronological order and still being a blog, but it’s true that having the newest stuff above the fold just makes good sense. It is a form that the medium demands.
The web is about now. The web is about “What have you done for me lately?”
I’m glad Michael hearkened back to Greek and Roman concepts of storytelling, because someone once told me that modern people look at time as if we are on the prow of a ship cutting through the sea. The past is behind us, the future lies ahead. This is the heroic American posture familiar from film and legend.
The Greeks, my friend told me, viewed time as if we were in the stern of a ship moving across the ocean looking back at our wake. As I thought about it, this metaphor is in many ways more apt. We back into the future. We can’t see it. We can only see the past, but even then we can only see the ripples and memories of the past, gowing fuzzier and fainter as they recede into the distance.
While running backward, blogs actual face forward, each new post an updating of the constantly moving now, already gone when written, long gone when read. (But the slicing of time before, during, and after now gets more refined, as the filters and the obstacles and the editors and the gatekeepers and the schoolmarms are removed from the workflow.
The quickly dying moment is noted. With it’s last breath it pings or some other page of recently updated blogs. Perhaps someone sees it, is reminded, takes a chance, encounters the noted moment only recently deceased, still warm.
The dead past is still smelly when you stumble across it on a blog.
Michael says,

Blogs… follow a chronological order which is neither random nor abstract. It is simply straight chronological order IN REVERSE. This is again a direct result of the technology used to create blogs, and defines their basic nature. A blog, if you read it every day, is an evolving, unfolding story as seen through the eyes of the blogger, but to a new reader it unfolds backwards as one reads down the page.

Yes, sure, till you’re caught up, like asking your mother what happened on the soap opera in the last week or so, and in fact this is disorienting to new blog readers! Too bad it’s not easy to backfill, add roadmarks at some good starting points for various story arcs. But, hey, it’s working.
I would quibble with “it’s a direct result of the technology used to create blogs” only insofar as to point out that the technology itself evolved in response to the needs of the living web, where things that are not easily updatable and that don’t advertise their freshness fall out of circulation.
I think Michael gets very close to the nut of the thing when he writes “A blog… is an evolving, unfolding story.”






2 responses to “Like 'what is jazz' but bloggier”

  1. Rayne Avatar

    Here’s a question: would the perfect blog have a feature for the occasional visitor to select to read FIFO or LIFO? Is this a marketable, differentiating feature? Hmm.

  2. Scot Hacker Avatar

    I was just thinking the same thought on reading this. It would not be easy with statically generated blogs like MT (unless you generated two separate index pages) but it would be trivial with live database-backed blogs, as with pMachine, or anything homebrewed.
    There is however another logistical problem with that idea – if the oldest item was to appear at the top of the page, and assuming the NOW post is also on the page, the length of the page would equal the lifespan of the blog. In other words my blogs’ homepage would have more than 1000 posts on it.
    The alternative would be to have just the oldest 20 posts on the homepage, with Next links. It would take forever to navigate through to the current NOW post.
    The more you think about it, the more you realize it doesn’t make any sense to place the oldest post first on a blog, which is why you never see it. However it may make sense when publishing timelines with known start- and end- points.