As someone once asked, so this is Christmas - and what have you done?
Well in the lead up to Christmas 2006 a few people, some of whom regard themselves as friends but none of whom knew each other a couple of years ago, were hard at work on an anthology of what they thought were the best blog posts of 2006.
Today one can say "blog" and most people get it. But then some still don't know that a "blog" is one of those nerdy jargon expressions, chosen at least in part for its quizzical unattractiveness, as a shortening of the expression "weblog".
A weblog can be anything you want it to be, but the simplest way of explaining it is to say that it's like a diary kept as a public document on the web - with provision made for people to comment on the "diary entries", though in the new lingo the diary entries are "posts" and each post together with responses to it is a "thread".
An interactive diary kept on the Internet can be on any subject - and so there are literary blogs, gossip blogs and blogs carrying similar content to op-ed columns.
Our Best Blogs of 2006 - rapidly and inevitably abbreviated by us all to BB06 - are the offspring of a process which itself illustrates the remarkable aspects of the new medium. On the December 11, 2006 Troppo carried Ken Parish's review of Black Inc's Best Australian Essays of 2006. Troppo poster Nicholas Gruen, who had an essay in the volume, had proposed to its publisher Black Inc, that it do something that's becoming increasingly common - send a book to a prominent blogger for review, in this case Ken Parish.
The broadly favourable review nevertheless suggested that the collection suffered from insufficient exposure to the "blogosphere". So in the comments thread, Gruen suggested "So why don't we produce an anthology?". Ken Parish was the obvious editor-in-chief having recently committed himself to producing "Missing Link" a thrice-weekly review of blog posts of interest but he wasn't interested in taking on the task himself.
No problem! At that stage the "self-organising" aspects of collaboration on the Internet took over. A method was proposed whereby people could nominate their own, or someone else's, best three. And a hastily cobbled together committee of volunteers would help Ken compile a short list from which he would be the final judge of the best blogs for 2006.
The committee was Ken Parish, Nicholas Gruen, Helen Dale and Meika Loofs Samorzewski. Having co-operated in producing a shortlist, Ken then chose the best blogs with Nicholas acting as a sounding board.
The process embodied the strengths of blogging and more generally of the new wave of "user-produced content" on the Internet - the most spectacular examples of which are open source software such as the Linux/GNU operating system and the online encyclopaedia Wikipedia.
Where it had taken Black Inc many months to produce its anthology of essays, BB06 was compiled in a little over two weeks. And you won't have to pay to read them. They're all already available right now on the Internet - if you know where to find them. And you'll know where to find each of them as they will be published again in On Line Opinion throughout January.
Some of the authors will have taken the opportunity to review their work for republication and you'll get the choice of joining the new discussion they initiate on OLO, or following the link provided to the original post where the discussion may begin anew!
This article is an introduction to "Best Blogs of 2006" a feature in collaboration with Club Troppo, and edited by Ken Parish, Nicholas Gruen et al.
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