Bitsy’s Blogging, and a bit of my own

Bitsy Griffin, of the blog “Jack Of All Trades,” recently linked to a couple of bloggers and their posts on comment practice and policy with respect to blogging. Her post is “Blogs with no comment feature.”

One of the comments was the following:

As you know, blog is short for weblog, like a diary on the web. But I don’t know if the first weblogs had comments or not. Anybody know? (from Jeff, of the blog “Scripture Zealot“)

Upon reading Jeff’s comment, I immediately thought of a couple of comments by Hélène Cixous. How important Jeff’s question is, don’t you think?

First, Cixous advises (women):

So, I do not resound as much for painting, as for writing, where I can say that each hue in the signifiers is a light for me — I have a wealth of possibilities in language, but this of course has to be cultivated. For instance, practicing diction is most important for writers. Even in my seminars, we have decided that we would always have dictionaries, not only to learn dictionaries by heart, which is absolutely essential, not only for their definitions and wealth of vocabulary but to refresh or trigger our knowledge of etymology. I think that one of the mysteries of writing, of language, is really the fact that when we write at surface level (while we write or weave something on the surface) — underneath the ground where the half of the body, where the dog is hidden [in the painting]), is where language goes on weaving kinds of effects of meaning, of music, and so forth which we don’t know of.

Second, she observes (men and women) observing:

The origin is a masculine myth. . . . The question, ‘Where do I come from?’ is basically a masculine, much more than a feminine question. The quest for origins, illustrated by Oedipus, doesn’t haunt a feminine unconscious. Rather it’s the beginning, or beginnings, the manner of beginning, not promptly with the phallus, but starting on all sides at once, that makes a feminine writing. A feminine text starts on all sides at once, starts twenty times, thirty times, over.

“Mind your language” isn’t such bad advice. So let’s mind where blog comes from, web-log, web, we blog! Here’s from the OED (Oxford English Dictionary) and then the sources of my “mind your language.” First, the OED:

[< WEB n. + LOG n.1 Compare later BLOG n.]

1. A file storing a detailed record of requests handled (and sometimes also errors generated) by a web server.
1993 comp.infosystems.www (Usenet newsgroup) 4 Nov. (title of posting) Announcing getsites 1.5, a Web log analyzer. 1995 Computer Technol. Rev. July 10/2 The Key creates a log{em}the WebLog{em}listing everyone who has accessed software from a particular Web site. 1998 Boston Globe (Electronic ed.) 19 Oct., The server Web logs..indicated..which computers were hitting his site, the number of visitors, and the time they retrieved his page. 2002 Network Computing 21 Jan. 60/3 We were interested in seeing the most viewed products… Was chicken-wing sauce viewed more often than steak sauce..? We got a good, diverse group of actual Web log data.

2. A frequently updated web site consisting of personal observations, excerpts from other sources, etc., typically run by a single person, and usually with hyperlinks to other sites; an online journal or diary.
1997 J. BARGER Lively New Webpage in alt.culture.www (Usenet newsgroup) 23 Dec., I decided to start my own webpage logging the best stuff I find as I surf, on a daily basis:..www.mcs.net/{sctilde}jorn/html/weblog.html. This will cover any and everything that interests me, from net culture to politics to literature etc. 1998 Village Voice (N.Y.) 8 Sept. 33/3 Jorn Barger’s Robot Wisdom WebLog..might not be pretty, but it’s one of the best collections of news and musings culled from the Web{em}and updated daily. 2000 Independent 23 Oct. II. 9/1 A weblog is simply a site where you post your thoughts whenever the muse strikes. 2002 Times (Electronic ed.) 14 Jan., There is a way to be stupendously well informed… Scour the highlights in..weblogs.

[Shortened < WEBLOG n.

1999 TBTF for 1999-08-30: Aibo Rampant in cistron.lists (Usenet newsgroup) 30 Aug., Blog., a Web log… First spotted on the Eatonweb blog, er, Web log on 1999-08-25, though Eatonweb’s proprietor Brigitte says the coinage is due to our very own TBTF Irregular Peter Merholz.]

Now, my own sources. My Dad is the one who first said to me, “mind your language.” Yesterday, we waited on him, my Mom and I, as he waited in a hospital room in a machine for a PET scan, some two hours. He’s got lung cancer, newly diagnosed but possibly growing and eversorapidly for a few years now. Mom and I waited. She talked about how many people are having conversations with them as they wait. We need the conversations. While we waited, and after we prayed in the chapel, she read with me some of Joy Davidman’s letters. How like blogging they are now, these letters, with responses, in the book compiled and edited and published by Don W. King. After the PET scan, we go to their home. Dad has us looking at his PET scan, and lends me his copy of Davidman’s book Smoke on the Mountain: An Interpretation of the Ten Commandments. “I love her interpretation,” he says; “used her insights to preach a series of sermons,” he remembers. I had no idea. I’m learning so much, as we still wait to talk with his oncologist. Who knew my Mom, my Dad, and I can learn so much from so many, and even from Joy Davidman? Mom loves the movie Shadowlands, and had given me a copy of it for my birthday some time back. “We read so we can know we are not alone,” is the comment the character C.S. Lewis makes to one of his students in the film. These are not just dairies hidden, collecting dust. The responses, even your comments, my friends who read blogs, are most wonderful, are valuable, are bits of ways I’m learning as I’m waiting, we’re waiting.

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6 responses to “Bitsy’s Blogging, and a bit of my own

  1. Early blogs usually didn’t allow comments, because the software for this didn’t exist. Dave Winer’s blogging software “Frontier” did add comments (at some point) and a lot of early bloggers used that, but not all turned comments on. (I never did, though I did post some discussion topics using Philip Greenspun’s software, and I posted my email address.)

    I preferred to refer discussions to Usenet/netnews, which is now called Google Groups.

  2. I was quite surprised to stop from my travels today and see this post at the top of my reader!

    The Cixous comment about writing on the surface and the depth that’s underneath is so true. The surface writings evoke great thought, remarks, conversation completely unanticipated at times. I can read and reread a piece on my own and still miss something, but when I put it out there and others view it (and are bold enough to tell me what they’ve seen), then I get a different picture. I may well see it in a new light to take it deeper or broader or on a totally new route.

    The mention of Davidman and Lewis reminded me that interactions around writing are an old experience, although I know I am not as thoughtful in my writing or response as either of them. As you noted, what we do on blogs is very similar. Now I’m wondering if the comment feature was added to blogs (at least in part) because most of us really don’t want our writing and thoughts held hostage in a single box on the screen.

    • most of us really don’t want our writing and thoughts held hostage in a single box on the screen.

      Well said, Bitsy! I love that you were surprised, and I like that word surprise for language. There’s an inventiveness in it but a responsiveness, a learning, a discovery, perhaps a recovery. Lewis, as we all know, punned with language when he entitled one of his autobiographies Surprised by Joy. Thank you for prompting and now for continuing the conversations.

  3. Love this post. Love the Cixous. Love the new blog.

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