I hereby announce “Best Blog Posts of 2007”, an anthology of writing from Australian independent blogs over the past year, which will begin appearing at On Line Opinion from today, January 2, 2008. The selection and republication of the blog posts in this series is a collaboration between On Line Opinion and Club Troppo. It is the second such project; for some background, readers are referred to the introduction to “Best Blogs of 2006” by Nicholas Gruen and Ken Parish.
For many the blogosphere has become an indispensable part of daily life. So what on earth is it?
A blog, as the long version weblog implies, is a log or a diary, in the sense that it records and interprets the march of events from the perspective of some individual or group. (An individual log entry is called a post (noun), and the blogger might post (verb) more than one of these on a given day, or none at all.)
However, this leaves out a crucial aspect of blogs, namely their interactivity, which is why the concept of a blogosphere is as crucial to grasp as that of an individual blog. One form of interaction is the comments facility: a post often provokes comments and discussion that are better informed and more stimulating than the post itself. But feedback is not limited to the comments thread on the first blog. If it's a good topic, other bloggers are sure to link to the post and write their own posts - developing or critiquing the original thesis, and igniting discussion in their own “comments threads”.
In effect, the blogosphere is a place where you can make conversation, as often as you like, and for as long as you like, with an extensive network of well informed and articulate people of your choice. You might choose simply to “listen in” as a reader; or to offer occasional opinions as a commenter; or to rant about every bee in your bonnet as a fully-fledged blogger - and with luck get the scintillating feedback you need to develop the idea further. None of this is subject to any schedule or deadline pressure, rather only to your time and inclination.
For all that, blogs are not to be confused with chat rooms. They are for people who enjoy crafting, and for those who enjoy savouring, a neat phrase, an elegant paragraph, and a persuasive line of argument. As far as the former are concerned, blogs are the perfect solution for anyone who enjoys writing and aspires to reach a wider audience, but who has little opportunity to publish in newspapers or journals.
Gone are the days of the frustrated essayist, columnist or humourist, because, thanks to the extraordinary interconnectedness of the blogging community, word of a new talent spreads fast.
This is not to say that blogs are only for amateurs: leading public intellectuals use them too, as outlets for their work, and as sounding boards for their newest theories. A remarkable thing about blogging is how democratic it is. You might think you are a nonentity, but in the blogosphere you may soon find yourself in lively debate with some leading scholar over an issue of common interest - provided you have something constructive to say.
But you can't have writers without readers. Blog readers are generally people who are weary of the MSM opinion pages and features sections, of years and decades of the same old voices singing the same old songs. For them, blogs are a refreshing source of new ideas - often backed by professional expertise or, at least, energetic research - and wonderfully varied styles.
The objective of Best Blog Posts is to showcase that talent and diversity, by gathering some of the year's finest blog writing in one forum. We hope it will be handy for regular blog readers, who know they've read a lot of good stuff over the year, but perhaps forgotten where. For the uninitiated, on the other hand, it will serve as a gentle but extensive tour of a mysterious subterranean world. If you are a newcomer inclined to think of blogging as a fad, or as a forum for uninformed raving, we hope to overcome your scepticism with a single big dose of consistently good blog writing.
The format will be the same as last year's. The 40 “Best Blog Posts of 2007” will be appear at the rate of two per weekday throughout January. They were chosen from over 200 nominations: two thirds of these came from commenters and other bloggers who responded to this invitation; the other third were sifted from the many editions of Missing Link, Club Troppo's bi-weekly blog survey. The panel of judges consisted of Ken Parish, Nicholas Gruen, Helen Dale and James Farrell, all Club Troppo contributors, and On Line Opinion chief editor Graham Young.
To be eligible for nomination, a post had to be from an Australian independent blog (that is, not an MSM offshoot), and had to make a substantial argument in its own right (ruling out the type of post that merely links to, and perhaps quotes from, some other source). From the list of nominations, the judges chose their “Top Forty” on the basis of style, originality, and argument; but we also tried to represent a wide variety of topics, styles and authors. A handful of posts were absolute stand-outs, but for the rest deciding was difficult: there were many, many excellent posts that we excluded with great reluctance.
This article is an introduction to "Best Blogs of 2007" a feature in collaboration with Club Troppo.