The International Small Town

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 10:50 PM

I've used some parts of the internet for about a decade now (in particular internet e-mail, I started using the web in late 94 or early 95 when Prodigy first supported it), and for the last five or six years I've been on various mailing lists that provide somewhat of a “community feel.” However, there is something different about blogging. Something I really like.

On e-mail lists, I've met a number of great people that I've later gotten to know better via private e-mail or perhaps even a phone conversation. I've also made a lot of friends on the list I started with a few fellow Christian GNU/Linux users last year. It's small enough people can post a bit more about themselves there. However, for the most part, the people still feel distant. Personal web sites also seem somewhat distant, perhaps because they are often stale and non-interactive.

Blogging is different. I really feel like I “know” many of the bloggers on my blogroll even if I only know them through blogging. Through blog postings you sort of experience what the people are going through in a way that seems very different than other forms of remote communication. Comments and trackbacks also help in this respect.

It's interesting too how the different “communities” of the blogosphere form, perhaps that's part of the charm. It's like a small town. I might link to something Kevin or Christopher has to say or some such. Sometimes its just a link, sometimes it starts something much larger than just a link — such as Pressed's Southern Baptist posts that got me motivated to write on the UCC's current state (Part III is on the way).

Like a small town, when someone new “moves in,” word spreads pretty quickly. When
Sophoristically Speaking launched, it took only a month or two for many blogs I read, and my blog, to link to it. While this happens in the web at large, it doesn't happen nearly as much. I posted stuff on my site when it was just a site and didn't have a blog, and it went largely unnoticed in the billions of pages on the internet. It was only entering the blogosphere, or more precisely, the small community of it that I'm largely in, that I really started to get interaction about what I posted.

By small community, I'm referring to the set of bloggers that I link to that largely link back and forth between each other. Like a small community, probably each “resident” knows people they border on that others in the community might not have met yet. For instance, Josiah “flickerfly” Richie's blog links mostly go to blogs outside of the community of bloggers I link to. But, as I link to stuff he mentions and vise versa (as he recently did on a post or two of mine), those communities come together to an extent like two small towns converging toward their borders.

Through this method, you get to meet a lot of great people. My personal experience with blogging began when Ciaran gave me this blogging script. I read his blog, but I didn't venture out into the blogosphere. Then another friend of mine, Kevin started a blog and slowly reading comments and visiting links I was “introduced” to bloggers he read, such as Christopher. From there I went on to run into Pressed, Le Renard, Susan and Katie, Tony, Justin (Sophorist) and others. In a reverse manor I met Jake and Owen (of the late

The interesting thing about this community within the blogospheres is that it may actually be more of a “virtual community.” In that there are no real boundaries, each blogger exists in a community that is slightly different than his neighbors. My “community” covers a slightly different region of the blogosphere than another blogger's community. I can't simply say “my blog is located in Blogosville.” To someone outside of the blogosphere, there is no community, only an incomprehensible number of blogs. However, once inside the blogosphere this “virtual community” forms between one's blog and the blogs of those who read and link back and forth to that blog. Certainly not a community in the sense we are use to in the physical world, but still strangely similar in many senses.

All of this is part of the nature of the blogosphere and makes blogging the interesting activity it is. I wonder — are different sectors of the blogosphere sort of forming a replacement for the small community that most of us no longer have the opportunity to live in? How will these “virtual communities” grow and change in the future? And most of all, are you thinking I'm off my rocker for talking about virtual communities at all? :-)

Tags: Blogging

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7 comments posted so far.

RE: The International Small Town

The world certainly is much smaller now! Interesting piece, Tim, good stuff. Getting to know other bloggers is one of the best aspects of this virtual community.

Posted by Sophorist - Sep 17, 2003 | 11:49 PM- Location: MO

RE: The International Small Town

I don’t think you are off your virtual rocker at all. I completely agree with you. It is the community and the relationships that I love about blogging. If it wasn’t for that facet, I wouldn’t be blogging. The way I blog it is basically a personal journal. I HATE journaling. I hated it in school, I hate making kids do it and I still hate it. However, the community facet of the blogging is what makes it worthwhile for me, it is what makes it valuable.

Posted by Christopher - Sep 18, 2003 | 12:07 AM- Location: MO

RE: The International Small Town

read this post with much interest, surfed in off of christopher’s site. good stuff you have here.

Posted by michelle - Sep 19, 2003 | 4:59 PM- Location: canada

RE: The International Small Town

Soph, thanks. You are right about the world being smaller now. :-)

Christopher, glad to hear I’m not off my virtual (or real) rocker. I’d have to agree about journaling — I’ve NEVER been good at that, but I enjoy the interaction of this. Then again, I guess I avoid the journaling side of blogging a lot of times, which helps too.

Michelle, thanks for stopping by! I appreciate the kind words.

Posted by Timothy R. Butler - Sep 20, 2003 | 10:29 PM- Location: MO

RE: The International Small Town

Some good thoughts Tim!

This is why Geoblog fascinates me…to “see” when someone posts in pretty close to real time, and sometimes from the other side of the world, is really cool. The Internet has made the world a bit smaller.

When I first started on the Internet in 1998, I got involved with an online baseball league. That was something I got addicted to quickly and developed “friendships” with those I competed against. I’d turn on ICQ and in no time had a list of 20-30 people to talk to! I built a website that no one but me cared about, but it was fun! Then along came blogging and I’m hooked on something else.

I mean, I am actually excited right now for a young man and his new wife who are about to welcome their first child into the world. Talk about Superblessed! It’s stuff like this that makes blogging fun.

Another interesting thing is how, when the whole world could be blogging, that I find the blogs of neighbors to read. Cool.

I do wonder sometimes if blogging somehow replaces the relationships we should seek amongst our “fleshy” friends. (Katie, my friend coined “fleshy” for “real life” friends and “Webbies” for those online friends.)

Posted by Susan L. Prince - Sep 21, 2003 | 4:49 PM- Location: Humboldt, TN

RE: The International Small Town

Thanks for yet another mention. I entirely agree. Funny, I came here first because of the CS-FSLUG mailing list and my links circle largely around the uptime scene as I’m an author there and got into blogging because of the owner of uptime, Tony Steidler-Dennison. I was never much of a journal writer either until this showed up and I was able to simply cut&paste what I was working and thinking about into my browser.

Posted by Josiah - Sep 22, 2003 | 4:41 PM- Location:

RE: The International Small Town

hey awesome pice here. Very interesting. Isn’t the net interesting!

Posted by Jake - Sep 24, 2003 | 5:48 PM- Location:

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