Book Review: Bloghelden
The Dutch blogosphere took off only fifteen years ago, but has experienced more than one will do in an entire lifetime. Frank Meeuwsen, who was there when the first Dutch blogs were born, decided this was the right time to look back on its history and write down the first ten years in a book.
He first of all claims that this is not ‘the’ history of the Dutch blogosphere. It is his version of it. It is not, and will never be, complete. As the history of many media phenomena, it is a history with lots of coincidences, individual actions and simultaneous events. The first bloggers never heard of the word ‘weblog’. In fact, they weren’t even aware of the fact that they were blogging. A couple of years later they were told that they were the pioneers on something that would become one of the biggest hits on the internet we know today.
After you have read this book, don’t expect that you will be able to give a clear definition what the word ‘blog’ means. It changes as fast as the internet itself does. In the beginning it was mainly used by web providers to give new clients an idea of what was happening on the internet. People were unaware of its possibilities and search engines were still in its infancy. The providers send digital news letters with interesting places to visit, the so called link-dump. At some point the web editors started to make there own personal comments on these links and the weblog was born.
After this all kinds of blogs appeared on the internet. Especially when Blogger.com arrived. For the first time people without any HTML expertise were able to publish their thoughts by clicking a single button. This allowed anybody with a connection to publish anything they wanted. Meeuwsen describes this revolution, but mainly sticks to the bigger Dutch blogs and journalists that helped to give blogging more attention. So don’t expect that by reading this book you will find out why thousands of people decide that their stories about their cats and children are interesting enough to make them available for the entire world.
It is funny to see that almost all these pioneers say that they “were just doing something”. The early bloggers did not have any interest in making money with their blogs. They blogged because they wanted to. They wanted to share their thoughts and interesting and funny websites with the world.
The Dutch blogopshere was very small at the beginning. All the bloggers knew each other and there was an atmosphere of helping the other blogger by linking to other blogs of colleagues. When blogging really took off this became impossible and blogs needed more than just ‘being there’ to be read. Blogs became more professional and for the first time people tried to make money out of them. This resulted in the fact that many blogs disappeared and only a few of them survived the ‘Battle of the Blogs’.
The book is really well written and lots of times it brings back old memories. Like I could not read the chapters about Retecool and Flabber without a big smile on my face. Thinking about the times you needed a dial-up connection and could not use the phone while surfing on the internet. And of course the angry parents at the end of the month when they received the enormous telephone bill. And then there is of course attention for ‘shockblog’ Geenstijl.nl, which took blogging to a whole new level and is at the moment one of the biggest blogs in the Netherlands.
At first if feels kind of weird to read a book about the blogosphere. Every few sentences you feel the need to click further on a certain subject. And while the URL’s are highlighted, there is no way you can click on them. Despites this, Meeuwsen managed to create a book that fits very well into the mindset behind blogging. This book is not a history book which describes a certain period in time. It shifts back and forward to describe different phenomena that were happening during these exiting times. The design is extremely colourful and changes all the time. Something that also adds to the feeling that you are really reading a book about blogging, written by a real blogger. And then there is also the online platform bloghelden.nl where everyone can give comments, read the text and also new chapters appear.
This book gives you next to a pleasant reading experience, some helpful insights in how to start and manage your blog. By pointing out the mistakes others have made, you can skip these steps and create your own publishing platform. If it is going to be a lifelog or a linklog is up to you. Just start blogging.