Why I blog

Earliest captured Davos Newbies page
This Sunday is the “official” tenth anniversary of blogging. I know there is lots of room to quibble about just when blogging really started, but 10 years ago Sunday Dave Winer’s Scripting News had its start. Dave has as good a claim as anyone to being the first blogger, and he has to my mind an unimpeachable claim to being the person who, more than anyone, made blogging both a mass phenomenon and a medium of real importance. So it’s the official anniversary of blogging in the same way that the Queen of England has an official birthday, distinct from the actual one.

I’m proud that Davos Newbies has a direct lineage from Dave. I started reading Dave when he wrote DaveNet for Wired. When in 1999 I was mulling the program for the millennium Davos summit, I thought it would be worthwhile meeting Dave on one of my swings through the Bay Area. In the fall of 1999 I met Dave at his house in Woodside and he showed me the work he was doing on Edit This Page, which became Manila. With Dave’s encouragement, I started this blog (although I didn’t know the word blog then) that December with a simple purpose: to help the 2,000-odd folk that were coming to the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos (to give it the full title) get the most out of the meeting.

To the credit of the founder and still-president of the Forum, Klaus Schwab, my skunkworks-like effort on Davos Newbies was shielded from the many nay-sayers within the Forum’s headquarters in Cologny, just outside Geneva. I wrote about completely mundane issues – how can I get an Internet connection in Davos – and important, programmatic ones – how does a program integrate the president of the US, or how do we shuffle panels when a major CEO pulls out with illness.

I had an excellent bully pulpit in those days, of course, and I received a tremendous buzz from the response to those early days of Davos Newbies. Lots of Davos participants, particularly tech CEOs, got in touch to find out more about practical matters. All of these folks had teams devoted to them within the Forum and staffs that could have sought the answers. But in an early glimpse of the power of a conversational voice, they chose instead to get in touch personally with me.

In its first incarnation, that’s what Davos Newbies was and the answer to “why I blog” was pragmatic: I enjoy writing and I’m offering a valuable service to “Davosians”. You can read all those early posts, but only through the handful of pages archived by The Wayback Machine can you see what Davos Newbies looked like back then.

When I left the World Economic Forum in late 2000, Davos Newbies didn’t change very much. In fact, it probably didn’t change enough. I still had the perspective of a privileged insider and the weblog still revolved around the event of Davos itself. I slowly found my way to another kind of blog and in the process discovered other reasons to blog. This is still called Davos Newbies, but the title really has meaning only as a palimpsest. So why do I blog* (when I blog – work, tennis and family have taken precedence recently):

  1. I like writing. That’s always been true. I remember boring injunctions in school to keep a journal, which I never listened to. I have never written privately. I write to be read. But that brings me to…
  2. I write for no audience in particular. I suspect that if absolutely no one read Davos Newbies, the enjoyment I find in it and the value it has as a kind of back-up brain would steadily diminish (in any case del.icio.us has become more of my back-up brain). I write, however, what I want to write. My strength/weakness has always been my eclectic interests, so Davos Newbies is about whatever strikes my fancy. A lot of what strikes my fancy happens to be at the nexus of business, technology and geopolitics, but that’s by the by.
  3. I love the connections blogging has created for me. Dave Winer, a good friend and now a neighbor. Many people I’ve met more infrequently, or not met at all, but who I feel I know through blogging. It would be wrong to say all my best friends are bloggers, but it is definitely true that many of my most interesting connections are bloggers.
  4. I’m proud to be part of a revolution. I know it’s easy to mock the word revolution, but I do think the growth of what Jay Rosen (another one of those great blogging connections) calls the people formerly known as the audience and what Dan Gillmor (another one!) calls citizen media is revolutionary. I’ve written and spoken at some length about my thoughts on the blogging revolution.
  5. I want to influence others. If I can get people to think outside their usual shells, in however minor a way, that’s humbling. If I can get people I love and respect to get aboard the blogtrain, that’s thrilling. Perhaps immodestly, I think both have happened more times than I would ever have anticipated.

*Rex Hammond, who I’ve met at BloggerCon, has an inspiring post with the same title. Imitation is the sincerest form of…

6 thoughts on “Why I blog

  1. Michael Smolens


    I would imagine I am one of your friends who is not a blogger, but I am spending a lot of time now thinking about starting to blog as my daily life is ever more entwined with videoblogging.

    Before I start, you will be my official adivsor.


  2. David Derrick

    One trivial point and one big one.

    Klaus, for mysterious reasons, known only to a few, is now Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, not President.

    How do you account for the fact, in both the UK and US, and perhaps elsewhere, that the growth of blogging has been accompanied by a growing feeling by governments that they can act with impunity?

    http://theovergrownpath.blogspot.com/ asked recently “Why don’t people go on the streets anymore?”

    The answer is: “Because they are sitting in front of their computers”.

  3. David Derrick

    If everyone blogs, the audience per blog is sort of limited to one’s circle of friends. Even if blogs are less politically potent than claimed, they ARE a way of knowing someone.

    Old-fashioned diaries were written for the writer’s eyes only. Was a single set of diaries published in the diarist’s lifetime before the 20th c?

  4. David Derrick

    PS — while the thought occurs, and in the absence of another obvious place to record it, am I the only person who thinks that the British sailors shown on Iranian television lacked moral courage? I am not sure that any excuse made for them is entirely going to change my mind on this … but I doubt whether anyone else has said this.

  5. Felix

    Quite right, David, you iconoclast you. It’s not like every single commentator in the UK press over the past few days has said exactly the same thing, from Max Hastings all the way to Marina Hyde, not to mention seemingly most of the retired generals in Britain. Which isn’t to say that you or they are wrong — these pampered kids of the Me Generation clearly lack the bravery and backbone of the soldiers of 10 or even 4 years ago, let alone Vietnam or WWII. A most unedifying sight on many levels. But I am finding difficulty finding anybody who’s not saying so.


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