The eternal question — what is a blog?

It’s been quite a week for meta-blogging (that is, blogging about blogging). First we had Nick Carr taking on what he called the “innocent fraud” of the open blogosphere, and now we have A-list blogger and blog-bible author Robert Scoble — ex of Microsoft — sparking a furore over what a blog is. Next, of course, we need Bill Clinton to help us define what the meaning of the word “is” is. But I digress.

The tough part about blogging where the Scobleizer is concerned is that he is way faster than I am. He’s not in Kedrosky-esque territory, but he’s getting close. In the time between when I first spotted the discussion he started on Techmeme and when I got around to writing this, he has already posted several follow-ups, and responded to dozens of comments on both his own blog posts and others. My wrists ache at the thought of that kind of output.

It all started innocently enough (don’t they all?) with a post calling bullshit on the fact that Microsoft’s Windows Live Spaces is the world’s largest blog network. Then Scoble got into it with Mike Torres from Microsoft, after noting that more than half of what the company calls blogs are private — and therefore, Scoble argued, not blogs at all. That in turn led to this post, which drew a comment from Dare Obasanjo about how Robert was being “egotistical, narrow-minded and petty.”

At this point I think I can say that Scoble lost it. How can I tell? Because Nick Douglas of Valleywag posted a comment saying simply “Scoble, this is awesome.” I don’t think Nick meant an awesome display of intelligence and wit — I think he meant a great train wreck of a debate. At one point, Scoble even mentioned that Dare’s father is the president of Nigeria, as though that had anything to do with anything. He also trotted out the book he wrote with Shel Israel and the definition of blogging contained therein (interestingly enough, Shel stops short of supporting his co-author here).

I would never accuse Scoble of posting that kind of stuff just to get traffic, but man, it would be hard to come up with anything better if he did want to do that. At one point, he had four posts at the top of techmeme, each with its own little sub-network of related posts. Eventually he admitted he was wrong and said that Stowe Boyd had one of the best takes on the whole debacle (which I would agree with).

But my personal favourite comment was from someone called Deadprogrammer, who wrote: “The blog that can be described is not the eternal Blog. The name that can be named is not the eternal name. The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth. The named is the mother of ten thousand things.” We can talk about what is a good blog and what is a bad blog, or what is an effective blog, or whatever — and I have had a crack at those myself, arguing that blogs without comments are not good blogs — but to ask what is a blog? That way lies madness, Robert.

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