Blog Together

How personal publishing software fosters online family

An analysis of Movable Type and Zuiker Chronicles Online

by Anton Zuiker
for JOMC 391.1 - Making and Living in Online Communities
School of Journalism and Mass Communication
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Fall 2002

Blogging has become a hot, and hotly contested, online movement. While website publishing has long been available to anyone willing to learn HTML coding or WYSIWYG design, the advent of weblog software has given millions of individuals a simpler way to maintain web pages. In the process, these bloggers claim their virtual soapboxes.

Weblogging (blogging, for short) is electronic journaling: a person can freely record his or her thoughts, observations, activities and imaginings to a web page, and just as easily publish those web pages to the worldwide audience. Blogging was built around short news updates and frequent links to other bloggers and sites.

"Weblogs provide a valuable filtering function for their readers," says Rebecca Blood in her essay a about the history of blogging. She concludes that the "power of weblogs is to transform both writers and readers from 'audience' to 'public' and from 'consumer' to 'creator.'"

Meg Hourihan, another blog pioneer and a cofounder of the company that created Blogger, writes about an important bond among bloggers in her essay.

"If we look beneath the content of weblogs, we can observe the common ground all bloggers share - the format. The weblog format provides a framework for our universal blog experiences, enabling social interactions we associate with blogging ...And we're united by tools, whether we use Blogger, LiveJournal, Radio UserLand, Movable Type, or a custom job that's a labor of love. Webloggers often use tools to facilitate the publication of their sites. These tools spit out our varied content in the same format - archives, permalinks, time stamps and date headers."

Blogger, Radio Userland, Greymatter and Movable Type are some of the more popular blogging software tools. Some, like Blogger, are remotely hosted, while others, like Movable Type, are user-installed on individual servers. Those who become bloggers can be HTML novices or experienced web designers, first-time writers or professional authors.

At the least, blogging is an exercise of expression, one individual making his or her views public. Increasingly, though, blogging is also an expression of community, allowing individuals to communicate, or associations to share news, or families to swap photos.

"Weblogs have evolved to become a medium for public discussion," writes Sebastien Paquet in his excellent document on personal knowledge publishing. He notes that a weblog is "not a communal space" because it is the sole responsibility of one individual. But "weblogging affords an opportunity for social networking. ... It is not uncommon for a weblog editor to ask for, and receive, advice or help from his readers."

I am interested in this social networking through blogs, and I believe that this has the potential to give families an excellent way to foster social capital through a multi-author blog.

This presentation, then, is an analysis of as an online community that offers the powerful blogging tool Movable Type, which individuals can use to create or facilitate online community. This analysis seeks to apply theories of social capital and interface design and usability.

Along with this analysis is a critical look at my own attempt to create an online presence for my extended family. I call this website Zuiker Chronicles Online. I use Movable Type to administer this site, which includes a blog and a photolog.

Begin with Movable Type