First-person direct (Part 3): Oldest warhorses in blogdom
Thursday 28 March 2013, 12.23pm HKT
The Oldest Warhorses in Blogdom
What’s it mean by blog?
The debate (or bickering) about “the first” or “the oldest” blog depends on how we define a blog. The conventional yardstick is that a blog is an editorial product released to the public on a regular basis, meaning that a blog—
- is serial (that is, regular or semi-regular in output)
- has an ‘editorial voice’ (that is, the output is chosen by an individual or small team)
- is on the Web
- isn’t simply a message board (serial too)
- isn’t a neutral news service (serial, editorial voice)
- isn’t a website whose content is designed to be ‘browsed’ but read serially
POINT 1 puts many blogs out of
business the definition because of their ‘irregular’ postings — then again, how do you define ‘irregular’?
POINT 4 might draw in the mailing list, for reasons that are too hard to explain here.
POINT 5 puts many blogs back in the definition because of their specialised news-type content.
POINT 6 is is more interesting, mainly because it concerns the design theme a blog uses. The definition nets all that uses a design that presents posts strictly in chronological order — The Naked Listener’s Weblog you’re reading. In that sense, then, the definition would exclude all those whose theme present discrete posts to be read in any order, so that they should then be called ‘online magazines’ instead.
Yer pays yer money, yer picks yer goods.
What’s it mean by oldest?
Not being original here, but The Naked Listener is only obeying conventional wisdom in determining what things are meant by ‘oldest’:—
- Non-exhaustive list … there might be older blogs that I don’t know about.
- First posting starts the meter running … if the blog was created in 2000 but nothing posted until 2005, the meter starts only from 2005.
- Date of apparent first post is taken as the date of the blog’s first establishment (unless the blog explains it differently).
- If the blog stopped posting for three months or more and then started posting again, the meter starts running again from the restart date. That restart date could be hard to determine if the blog is habitually irregular in posting (e.g. one or two posts a year).
- The end of 1997 is generally considered the cutoff date for early adopters, according to The Online Diary History Project (per Wikipedia).
If you spot errors, please
troll say in the comments.
I’m not responsible for (nor necessarily condone) the contents of any of the blogs mentioned here … because they’re not my blogs. DUH.
The oldest writing in the world
The Kish tablet is a Sumerian limestone tablet (ca. 3500 BC) found
at Tell al-Uhaymir in Babil Governorate, Iraq, the site of the ancient
Sumerian city of Kish. The tablet records the means taken to rid a
plague of locusts and caterpillars from various tracts of land.
(“The Sacred Books and Early Literature of the East, Volume 1: Babylonia and Assyria,”
edited by Prof. Charles F. Horne. Originally published in 1917
by Parke, Austin & Lipscomb Inc., New York and London.
Reprinted in 1997 by Kessinger Publishing LLC.)
The world’s first electronic mailing list was MsgGroup, started on ARPANET in June 1975 and ran non-stop until ARPANET was overtaken by NSFnet in the 1980s and formally decommissioned in 1990.
No, it was program manager Steve Walker at ARPA’s Information Processing Techniques Office, so say Katie Hafner and Matthew Lyon (in “Where Wizards Stay Up Late,” 1996, page 200 | Link).
No, it’s simply the U.S. Department of Defense, say researcher and journalist Ronda Hauben — which is true enough (Link).
In terms of editorial voice, MsgGroup had been supplanted by Dave Farber’s Interesting People mailing list (1993–2010), which apparently had a slightly stronger editorial voice.
Interestingly, Farber is more famous for Farberisms (“He’s cornered on all sides.” “Don’t roll up your nostrils at me.”)
Telecom Digest (since 1981)
Telecom Digest is perhaps the oldest electronic mailing list still in operation. It’s mostly an online forum, but might qualify as a blog because the editor makes frequent comments, giving it a kind of editorial voice.
Risks Digest (since 1985)
Risks Digest is a superb online publication still running since 1985. Peter Neumann adds a mild editorial voice to what is actually an online forum (which in fact is what it calls itself).
‘RHF’ (since 1987)
Perhaps the Usenet newsgroup rec.humor.funny (“RHF”) qualifies as the world’s oldest running ‘blog’ according to our conventional parameters for a blog.
RHF was created by Brad Templeton on 7 Aug 1987 after having first been proposed in 1986.
It remains the most widely read comedy ‘publication’ on the Web ever since reaching No. 1 status in January 1989.
Internet Oracle: Collaborative creation (since 1989)
Started on 9 Oct 1989, The Internet Oracle a.k.a. The Usenet Oracle, the original “consciousness of the Internet,” was and still is a collective effort at humour.
It uses a pseudo-Socratic Q&A format. Email a question in, and the Oracle will get some idiot in the pipeline to write back an answer. Answers are from other users who asked Oracle questions before.
The distribution centre anonymises messages, so that each answer appears as if the Oracle said it.
“Yet there are forms of on-line writing which, if taken seriously *as* writing, challenge traditional definitions of authorship because both collaboration and anonymity are enabled or even required by their design. […] the Internet Oracle […] is one of the most prominent experiments in collaborative creation, an automated mail server that allows two people, a questioner and a respondent, to create a text without knowing one another’s identity.” — David R. Sewell, “The Internet Oracle: Virtual Authors and Network Community” (First Monday, Volume 2, Number 6, 2 June 1997)
TOTSE: ‘Raw files for raw nerves’ (1989–2009)
An icon that’s often forgotten but should be considered a blog in the modern sense is the now-defunct Temple Of The Screaming Electron, known more usually by its acronym TOTSE (“tot-see”) or just “&T”.
TOTSE was a San Francisco BBS (1989–97) and website (1997–2009) started by Jeff Hunter (a.k.a. Taipan Enigma, real name unknown) that stored hundreds of small text files on a variety of ‘unusual’ subjects and controversial viewpoints:—
“Among them, the bulletin boards [such as TOTSE] offer hundreds of files providing instructions on credit card fraud, money laundering, mail fraud, counterfeiting, drug smuggling, cable-tv theft, bomb- making and murder.”
— Michael Liedtke, “Modem Operandi: Tips on crime go on-line” (Contra Costa Times, 28 July 1993)
I still vividly remember TOTSE’s tagline “Raw Files for Raw Nerves.” Its FAQ is captured on the Wayback Machine [here].
I know at least three groups or ‘alliances’ of people on the Internet are trying to revive TOTSE, one of which managed to produce a successor website.
Mosaic’s What’s New page (1993)
One of the first blog-like websites was the What’s New page run by Mosaic Communications Corporation from 14 June 1993. It gave a list of new websites, updated daily and archived monthly. The page was accessible by a dedicated button in the now-defunct Mosaic browser (credited with popularising the World Wide Web and many of today’s browsers still retain its overall user interface). I think AOL (which bought Mosaic Communications in the 1990s) have forgotten that it’s still hosting that What’s New page.
APOD: Unchanging newness (since 1995)
NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) started on 16 June 1995 and still runs with the same design, same URL and same content.
Every day it features a different image of our fascinating universe (or someplace on Earth), along with a brief caption or explanation by a professional astronomer.
The website says, “That early beginning, along with a nearly unchanging format, has allowed APOD to be a consistent and familiar site on a web frequently filled with change.”
The .plan file: Doom-ed.com (1996–2004)
Any Internet oldfag will tell you that denizens of the early Net were as eager as today’s netizens are to share details of their daily faggotry and to engage in brain-damaged trolling. The netwhores of earliest time did it through the now-forgotten technique of “fingering” a .plan file — a technique so antique that it actually dates to ARPANET days.
The finger command (invented in 1971 by Les Earnest) was to solve the need of users who wanted information on other users of the network (ARPANET). Finger basically provided the earliest form of presence information (status indicator) for logged-in network users.
The .plan file (also invented in the 1970s) was just a publicly visible text file of any length that could be attached to each individual user account on a UNIX system. It was usually placed in the user’s home directory and automatically displayed when the user is ‘fingered.’ Users often edit their .plan files to include details of their personal activities or somesuch nonsense in reverse-date ordering (therefore similar to microblogging).
The original use of .plan files was intended to keep ‘fingerers’ apprised of the user’s location and/or plans. It was almost universally turned to all manner of humour and self-expressive purposes (like the ‘sig block’ was). Some users even produced “scrolling plan files” that contain one-dimensional ASCII animations, with some .plan files gaining reputations as art forms.
One of the earliest and most famous .plan files was created by John Carmack, whose .plan file has since been converted into a blog (Doom-ed.com). The first entry there is dated 4 August 1996, but the site has been inactive since October 2004.
Blogs, near-blogs: the trailblazers
Weird-food.com: Multi-user blog (since 1994)
The Naked Listener’s Weblog prefers to credit Weird-food.com as the first-ever blog, created probably in 1994 (according to a search there for the oldest entries). The site (“Tastes just like chicken!”) might well be the world’s first multi-user collaborative blog too — the entries there appear to be mainly user-submitted. The site is still online but apparently no updates since 2008.
Justin’s Links (since 1994)
Justin’s Links, a.k.a. Links.net, is a proto-blog created by Justin Hall, a web diarist and online gaming expert who The New York Times Magazine once called “the founding father of personal blogging.” Hall began compiling lists of links at his website from January 1994, and continued adding for 11 years until 2005. His site is still running today.
The Daily Illuminator (since 1994)
Carolyn Burke: Personal blogging’s mother (1995–2002)
Early online diarist Carolyn Burke of Toronto published her first post for Carolyn’s Diary in January 1995. Her site was available online continuously from January 1995 through to its removal on 2 May 2002, in all seven years of activity. Bits of her stuff are still online. She is sometimes regarded as the founder of personal blogging (also claimed by her). Today, Carolyn Burke is CEO of Integrity Inc., a Toronto corporate governance consultancy.
MediaWire: First news aggregator? (since 1995)
Jim Romeneski’s MediaWire news blog at the Poynter Institute is one of the Web’s oldest blogs, created in January 1995. It’s also a news aggregator that focuses exclusively on the journalism business.
Undernews (since 1995)
Undernews is the online report (since 1995) of the Progressive Review (est. 1964: “the news while there is still time to do something about it”), edited by Sam Smith, who has covered Washington DC over 10 U.S. presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964.
John Rampton: First paid blogger (since 1996)
In 1996 John Rampton of Blogger.org was hired as the world’s first paid permanent blogger. He is still employed there. (Blogger.org is not to be confused with Blogger.com a.k.a. Blogspot.com)
Dave Winer: First-ever blog? (since 1997)
Irascible Internet pioneer Dave Winer is credited as having started the very first blog, Scripting News, which he launched on April Fool’s Day 1997 to list down the 24 hours of the famous democracy project in February 1996.
Scripting News boasts it’s the world’s longest continuously running blog. Winer helped write the original blogging software.
His site isn’t specifically about law, but talks about cutting-edge issues that might spark law-related ideas. In April 1997, Winer made another weblog that was rather a news-update page.
Timecube.com: 247 million hits (since 1997)
Time Cube has been around since 1997 — 16 years with the same design, same URL, same exact WEIRD content. It says it has “247,000,000 time cube hits”!
Rise of the Stupid Network (1997), The SMART Letter (1998–2004)
In May 1997, David Isenberg of AT&T Labs Research wrote “Rise of the Stupid Network: Why the Intelligent Network Was A Good Idea Once But Isn’t Anymore” and released it onto the Internet in June 1997 (Link 1, Link 2). The printed version appeared (without Isenberg’s permission) in “Computer Telephony” (August 1997, pages 16–26).
His mailing list “The SMART Letter,” an open-minded commentary on the communications revolution and its enemies, ran from 8 Jan 1998 to 6 Dec 2004.
True weblogs: post-1997
The Misanthropic Bitch (1997–2007)
Some early bloggers called their online presence a “zine” before the term ‘blog’ became commonplace. The Misanthropic Bitch (or just “TMB”) also called itself a zine, but those who remember it definitely would say TMB represented one of the earliest online personal blogs.
Who could possibly forget TMB?! It was started in 1997 by a (then) 19-year-old journalism student named Carlene (a self-described ‘misanthropic bitch’). Almost nothing is known about her. But through TMB, Carlene expressed unabashedly controversial views on current affairs, politics, society and various issues in a deliberately politically incorrect way.
TMB’s highest and best output was in the first three years from inception to 2001. That year, TMB was evicted from its original webhost (shutdown.com) after a personal disagreement between Carlene and the host admin over the 9/11 attacks. TMB moved on to its own domain (misanthropic-bitch.com), but updates declined in later years and the blog went offline in 2007 and the domain sold.
The Wayback Machine has a capture of TMB’s flavour of writing: [4 May 1999].
The Real Paul Jones (since 1990s)
Paul Jones is another Internet pioneer and an active blogger, posting very newsy stuff every day on his blog, The Real Paul Jones. Although his current blog dates from August 2004, Paul Jones has been blogging since the 1990s.
JOHO (since 1997)
The Journal of the Hyperlinked Organization (JOHO) is a newsletter written and produced by David Weinberger. It’s been online since 8 Oct 1997. The actual blog is Joho the Blog, which offers the visitor several page styles for reading ease — unique among self-hosted blogs.
Jorn Barger: The man who coined ‘weblog’ (since 1997)
Jorn Barger launched Robot Wisdom Weblog in December 1997 — and made Internet history by inventing the word “weblog” on 17 Dec 1997 for his first post there. (Peter Merholz coined the short form ‘blog’ in 1998–99.) Barger’s works are nearly exclusively self-published. He has been very active on Usenet since 1989, with “nearly 10,000 posts”* to his credit.
* Scott Rosenberg, “They shall know you through your links: Jorn Barger, filters” (page 74 in “Say Everything: How Blogging Began, What It’s Becoming, and Why It Matters,” New York: Crown, 2009).
CamWorld: First list of active blogs (1997–2009)
Cameron Barrett made the first list of blog sites that were active in 1998 on CamWorld.com, whose first entry was time-stamped 2.06pm 11 June 1997. CamWorld was mothballed on 29 March 2009 and archives are now at CamWorld.org. Cameron Barrett’s personal site is at cameron.barrett.org and his professional site at cameronbarrett.com. (Camworld.com currently directs to porn site camworldvip.com.)
Peter Merholz: ‘Blog for short’ (since 1998)
We can be grateful to Peter Merholz too for our vocabulary. Around April-May 1999 (some say 1998), he coined ‘blog’ in the sidebar of his blog Peterme.com:—
“I’ve decided to pronounce the word ‘weblog’ as wee′- blog. Or ‘blog’ for short.” — Peterme.com (via Wayback Machine).
For sure Merholz was using the words ‘blog’ and ‘blogging’ for the first time in an entry dated 7 Oct 1999. ‘Blog’ was quickly adopted as both a noun and verb. His blog currently archives to only March 2003, so presumably he too wasn’t immune to losing early posts like the rest of us.
MLM WatchDog (since 1998)
MLM WatchDog, a consumer protection newsletter about pyramid schemes, boasts it too is the oldest blog (and one of the highest-ranking). It went online in 1998 when its last printed issue in the “Insider Magazine” was detached and put online as the “MLM News Blog.” It says the first editions of the MLM WatchDog in 1985–98 were “printed blogs” — which seems to be stretching things a bit, if you ask me.
Mad Ogre (since 1998)
Gun fan MadOgre.com (“Department of Torque and Recoil”) certainly comes in as one of the oldest blogs on the Internet.”This site started out in 1998 as a personal home page hosted by HOTBOT, a part of Wired Magazine’s online presence,” the website’s About page says. I certainly remember Mad Ogre from 1998.
EatonWeb: ‘A blog directory that matters’ (since 1999)
Brigitte Eaton in first-half 1999 created EatonWeb Portal, a dedicated portal for blogs and bloggers. As the Web’s oldest blog directory, her portal (“A blog directory that matters”) was instrumental in the birth of many online blogging platforms. The website’s editorial lint (the words at the bottom of the front page) says:—
“EatonWeb is a blog directory that uses a variety of indicators to measure the importance of each blog. Blogs are then ordered within each category according to their perceived importance.” — EatonWeb
A message archived on hwg.org shows Brigitte Eaton was working on EatonWeb as far back as 9 Oct 1998.
To submit a blog to EatonWeb, you’ll need to have a PayPal email — understandable to prevent frivolous submissions.
David Searl (since 1999)
Doc Searls’ Weblog by Internet pioneer and Linux expert David ‘Doc’ Searl has been going on since 1999. His blog is currently hosted at Harvard University.
Jen Singer: Mom blog (since 2003)
Jen Singer claims MommaSaid.net is the world’s oldest mom blog. She qualifies that with the rider, “There may be a handful of still-standing mom blogs that originated before January 20, 2003.”
UP NEXT (IN A FEW DAYS?)
© The Naked Listener’s Weblog, 2013. (B13097)
Updated 30 March 2013 (adding navigation links)
Updated 02 Apr 2013 (added more tag)
IMAGES: This Button Doesn’t Do Anything via c4c | Blog Hand Sign via Le Coin à Guij | The Kish tablet via via Wikipedia | Airmail Label via Graphics Fairy | Rec.Humor.Funny Telejoke via Amazon.com | Philosoraptor Tarzan Beard via c4c | TOTSE via Cybernations Wikia | What’s New via Mosaic Communications/AOL | APOD screencap by author | Plan files via Bisley Office Furniture | Weird Chicken via Weird-food.com | Small Pyramid via Steve Jackson James Daily Illuminator | Scripting News via Dipity.com | Dunce via c4c | The Misanthropic Bitch via Wikipedia | Pistol via m4f | EatonWeb logo via website | Doc Searls Weblog via website | MommaSaid.net logo via website.