9/11 as the catalyst for the blogging phenomenon

Interesting Wired News piece on the impact of 9/11 on the blogosphere…

When the world changed on Sept. 11, 2001, the web changed with it.

While phone networks and big news sites struggled to cope with heavy traffic, many survivors and spectators turned to online journals to share feelings, get information or detail their whereabouts. It was raw, emotional and new — and many commentators now remember it as a key moment in the birth of the blog.

When four planes were hijacked on a sunny fall morning, easy-to-use blogging services were still few and far between. Yet many who witnessed the horror of the attacks firsthand took to the keyboard to talk with the world.

Horrified Americans used e-mail, instant messages, any available communication tool. But weblogs meant large audiences, not just friends and family, could read those stories from the scene.

“I have a scrap of paper that flew onto my roof,” wrote New Yorker Anthony Hecht. “Typewritten and handwritten numbers in the millions. A symbol of our tragedy. It smells like fire.”

Many bloggers strayed from their normal writing beats to produce a rolling news service comprising links to materials and tidbits gathered by friends.

Dave Winer, author of one of the earliest and most popular weblogs, Scripting News, used his site to post one-line news flashes, New York webcam stills and links to witness accounts.

The chaos was “a galvanizing point for the blogging world,” said Dan Gillmor, director of the Center for Citizen Media.

“We had this explosion of personal, public testimony and some of it was quite powerful,” Gillmor said. “I remembered that old cliche that journalists write the first rough draft of history. Well now bloggers were writing the first draft.”