The Original About Page

This blog has been online in various forms since June 4, 2002. Originally published via Userland Radio and called “Blunt Force Trauma” (a name some say is still reflective of my attitude), in early 2003 I moved it to a “permanent” home and changed the name to “b.cognosco,” where it has been until now.

Below is the initial “About” page I wrote way back then. Seven years is a very long time…

— twf
June 4, 2009

This is a weblog, known in the vernacular as a blog (a term for which I hold little fondness and have therefore abbreviated to a simple b.) Weblogs are a relatively new phenomenon, born of the web publishing revolution and the growth in affordable web creation software. They’ve been described as different things by different people — diaries, day books, common books, participatory journalism, knowledge management tools, the next generation in web communities. But weblogs also have many similarities to the desktop publishing revolution of the 1980s.

Fueled by an affordable set of tools that open the web with the same free-flowing accessibility that Aldus PageMaker and the Apple LaserWriter brought to print publishing nearly 20 years ago, this revolution shows signs of having even more impact on the way we communicate and share information.

The Weblog Phenomenon

I discovered weblogs in the summer of 2002 while researching cross-media tools and became fascinated. Having spent the whole of my professional life in graphic communications, and the last decade-plus in various forms of digital media, I saw tremendous parallels to the first desktop revolution — simple, affordable, easy-to-use tools; adoption by the unwashed masses; unseemly and unsophisticated, yet enormously promising, applications; a rising hue and cry from the movers and shakers of media over the vanity, poor quality, and irrelevancy of it all. (Oh, did I mention these same pundits now do all of their work on simple desktop computers derived from the first DTP revolution?)

This had all the signs of something big. I’m quite familiar with Content Management, Document Management, Digital Asset Management, and other content tools, as well as systems for personalization and dynamic publishing. (My job for several years was to research and write on such tools.) But this new weblog thing was different — accessible, affordable, and packed with potential. And not just potential for the masses. I’m not convinced, for many reasons, that the general public will suddenly become publishers just because of a new technology.

I am convinced these new tools will mature, just as the earlier revolution did, to effect major change in the professional publishing and marketing communities. But the change will be faster, better, and have even more impact. Here’s a quote from Mena Trott, co-creator of one of the more popular blogging tools, Movable Type:

Mena Trott Talks Movable Type.

On a cultural level, I think the perception of weblogging as hobby will certainly shift as more people realize that weblogging serves as a powerful news and marketing tool. This does not necessarily mean that webloggers will sell out. Instead, I think that there will be some sort of fork between weblogging and personal publishing. At this moment, these two terms are rather synonymous; in the next few years, we’re going to see a focus on microcontent provided by the individual and an emphasis on the tools that will allow us to create and access such content. Technologically, I think we’re going to see a greater interest in the Semantic Web and as a result, a need for very simple, yet powerful tools with metadata integration.[sxsw 2002]

The Weblog Experiment

Having discovered weblogs I needed to understand them, and learn to what uses they were, and were not, suited. I also needed a place to experiment, test my own weblog theories, and try my own ideas about how they could be used. Hence the name of this site — b.cognosco. Cognosco is a Latin term meaning (loosely) to examine, inquire and learn. The b. stands for “blog”. So here you will find my own inquiries — and hopefully useful lessons — as I experiment in the name of better understanding how weblog technology may affect the print and publishing industries. There is one truth about which I am certain — weblogs don’t change everything. They are just one more voice recorder in the soaring cacophony of our digital world. But they are important because they make the web accessible — and a more nearly synchronous medium — with all the benefits and challenges that implies.

The Weblog Disclaimer

What can you expect here? First, this is a personal experiment. The views expressed are my own, endorsed, supported, reviewed, and approved by no one, either express or implied. Weblogs are essentially “thinking out loud in public.” It’s a risky proposition. At any given time you stand equal chances of seeming erudite genius, egocentric jackass, or blithely irrelevant. I won’t fit the first category very often, but will likely make regular forays into the others.

If you want to know a little more about where these views come from take a look at this brief bio. I cover a wide variety of topics, but my main interest is in how publishing technologies can become mainstream business and learning tools by improving how we share information (or “knowledge”.) This is not a diary and it’s not a journal. It’s more along the lines of what Cory Doctorow calls an outboard brain, a place for recording lessons, resources, theories, inquiries and answers. So you won’t be reading about my dogs or my kids (usually.) I do cross over into politics, law, technology, process, and business strategy when those things intersect with the aforementioned focus. Beyond that I cover what interests me. Whatever I put here, I try to do in a spirit of good cheer and contribution. Let’s see if we can make things better, not worse. We’ll see how it goes.

— twf
January 2003