What is a blog?

This is my first ever blog.

Then again… I was blogging before the term was even invented. Blogs are among the hottest things on the Internet these days. I’ve heard the term “blog” is probably short for “biographical log” or something like that. Like lots of computer and Internet terms I don’t think anyone really knows their exact origin. Many blogs are forums for political commentary by pundits who are looking for a free way to get their ideas out into the marketplace of ideas. People read these blogs and then flood the authors e-mail box with responses and counter commentary some of which the author generally posts for the public to see and for the author to debunk or agree. Sometimes the counter commentary is presented in someone else’s blog and a debate each other by cross-linking Internet pages from each other’s blogs. Other blogs are more along the lines of on the scene or behind-the-scenes commentary at big events like the Olympics, political conventions, or anywhere people might find it interesting to get firsthand, first-person accounts from an “insider” at an event they might have otherwise been able to attend.

The only blog I read consistently is http://www.pokerstarsblog.com/ especially their coverage from the annual World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. It is posted by staff from PokerStars.com where I play Internet poker on a regular basis. It not only provides interviews, behind-the-scenes essays, and general commentary about poker but during the event itself it provides a up-to-the-minute play-by-play account of what’s going on. Readers typically click on one of these live update pages and every few minutes hit the refresh button on their browser and the latest update appears at the top of the page.

And therein lies one of the biggest problems I see with traditional blogging. Sometimes it’s important for you to get to the most recently posted article in the blog and other times you want to read a series of blog articles in the order in which they were written because you aren’t necessarily reading them live.

Unless you’re someone famous or at some interesting event providing commentary you probably don’t get much attention to your blog but that doesn’t stop millions of people from doing it. They post random ramblings about their day-to-day lives musing about whatever amuses them at the moment. Even the so-called “professional bloggers” are really doing the same thing. Their lives are all about the events they’re covering, the political and world news issues they’re debating, the sites they are seeing, thoughts they’re thinking, feelings they’re feeling and wanting to share with others. Basically if you ask me to really define “What Is a Blog” I tend to think of it as a way for grown-ups to write a page in a book without having to write the words “Dear Diary…” at the top of the page like some 13-year-old schoolgirl.

There are dozens of free sites available that make it easy for anyone to create their own blog without any special software or technical knowledge. I debated whether or not to start a blog on one of those sites or to simply create individual web pages on my own cyborg5.com homepage. I really wanted to maintain control over how my readers access the blog when they’re looking for the latest article or trying to pick up in the middle somewhere or two-page back-and-forth easily between chronologically posted installments in my stories. In the end the features at blogger.com seemed to be pretty good. They will host the blog for you or allow you to host it on your own site which should give me quite a bit of control. If I don’t like it, I can always change.

I said earlier that in some ways this is my first official blog but I had been blogging for many many years before there were blogs and before there was even something called an Internet. Back in the dark ages called the 1980s before the Internet was invented by someone other than Al Gore, there was an online service called CompuServe. People met there and did most of the things that people do on the Internet today. The major difference was it was all strictly text at what we then considered the blazing speed of 300 baud. By comparison today’s fastest dial-up access to the Internet, which is considered by most people to be a snail’s pace in this broadband era is 56,000 baud. We had message boards, chat rooms, news services, online handles and personalities that may or may not have accurately reflected who we really were. The amazing thing is that many of us paid up to five dollars per hour to be connected at this snail’s pace.

I really miss CompuServe because their message forums with that readers pick up exactly where they left off last time and you weren’t necessarily forced to read the most recent message posted like you do with present-day message boards and blogs.

In order to cover the cost of this expensive online habit, many of us tried to obtain official positions on various CompuServe forums (which today you would call a message board). If you could become a discussion leader on a CompuServe forum you could get a coveted “free flag” which would give you free access to CompuServe as long as you were participating in that forum. In 1986 I was a discussion leader in the disability section of Human Sexuality Support Groups Forum and had a sort of online column or blog called “CY’s Eye on Life”. A series of articles I wrote there were later edited into in an award-winning article called “The Reunion” which was published in the September 1987 issue of Indianapolis Monthly Magazine.

I left the HSX Forums on CompuServe in 1990 to get more involved in computer graphics forums. A few years later as the Internet proliferated Caldwell I left CompuServe altogether. Although I continued to write blog-like e-mails to friends and family, I didn’t have any kind of a public blog. A recent weeklong stay in the hospital prompted me to jump into this “brand-new field of blogging” so I could share with friends and family my experiences and insights there.

In coming installments you will find a detailed account of my recent illness and recovery from intestinal surgery. I hope you find it entertaining and informative however be warned it may be too much information in some instances. I will try to put warning messages about the more graphic parts. You may not want to know all the gory details about life with your intestines temporarily hooked up to a bag.

After that story’s told I’m sure I’ll come up with something else to write about.

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