What makes a blog a "blog"? Who's the "A-List"? Who cares?

Time for some navel-gazing? The "Tempest in a Teapot" issue got me thinking about the "are all blogs really 'blogs'?" debate... it's a question that comes up from time to time as various people try to define what "blog" means. Some think it's only those that allow comments or provide syndicated feeds. And, of course, some feel it has to do with linking to others in the "blogosphere" (can't stand that term). Then there's the whole "A-List" topic, which I think is the adult geek's equivalent of high school's "in" crowd. How to be an A-List blogger... it's always funny to come across those posts and find yourself asking "Who is this person again? And who's on that list, exactly?"

Ultimately, who cares?

Does it matter whether something is a "blog" or a "news feed"? Is a site like Engadget, written by a team of contributors, a blog? They also include some tips/tricks and contests... so is it a news site? What difference does it make... if it provides value to readers/subscribers? And if you're providing value, doesn't that make you "A-List"? And doesn't the definition of an "A-List" change for pretty much every person with a news aggregator?

For me, blogs fall into various categories... and this tends to be how I classify them:

  • First, there are those who generate new and interesting content of their own -- and are not typically technical (a category unto itself for me). They have done interesting things. They have interesting things to say. Their observations are insightful or provide perspectives that I might not otherwise get. My list of examples include Guy Kawasaki, Seth Godin, Brad Feld, Mark Cuban, Levitt and Dubner (the Steves), Chris Anderson, and Rands. When non-technical colleagues and contacts want to know who to check out, these are the writers I point them toward.
  • Next up is the geek elite... the bloggers who provide interesting content that is technical. Given my area of expertise and interest, these are of special interest to me. Again, this is content that I wouldn't otherwise get hold of. It's a code snippet that does something elegant. It's the review of a ThinkGeek gadget that I didn't know about. It's a utility or some buried software feature that can improve my day. These include Scott Hanselman, Jeff Atwood, Martin Fowler, Phil Haack, Omar Shahine, and Nick Bradbury (note the bias toward the .NET/Microsoft ecosystem?). I would also include the "hacks and tips" sites here, most of which tend to be geek-oriented: Lifehacker, Web Worker Daily, or Parent Hacks.
  • Third is the sites that are niche-oriented news and link sites, though most these have tips and tricks in there alongside their focused news updates. Engadget, Kotaku, Colorado Startups, Valleywag, and Information Aesthetics. These are the sites that provide me news and links to the far corners of the web that I wouldn't otherwise see coming though in FeedDemon.
  • There are also those (and I put myself in this category) who I think blog mostly to get things we find interesting out into a Google index somewhere. I'm probably the person who traffics my blog the most and that's usually after thinking "what the heck was that link...??" and searching Google with my domain name as a filter. We throw things out there that may or may not be of value to anyone else... but what the heck, it's out there and it could be interesting to someone. There are thousands of people out there like this... blogging about their programming language, their Lego creations, their rec hockey team, or their New Year's resolutions. Lots of gold nuggets to found out there, with no shortage of interesting content (and Technorati tags have recently become my favorite way of exploring new topics).
  • Finally, there are those who most identify themselves as "bloggers" -- I don't need to provide links here, do I? If your posts are typically about blogging, blog traffic, and blogging etiquette, you may be on this list. And while there's no question that blogging is a phenomenon worth discussing and exploring, these sites often have an echo-chamber feel. Blogging conferences... blogger dinners... blogs about blogging... it all makes me wonder: when the postal service first started, were there "letter-writer meet-ups"? Will mainstream, non-techy types eventually have a blog, just as sure as they have a mailing address?

I guess my point here is that "A-List" is such an exclusionary concept -- it leaves people wondering "who's on it?", "Am I?", "How I can get on it?". Every blog/feed/site mentioned above is my A-List. Those are the sites I recommend to others. Those are the sites I'll stop to read first when I see a new post come through. They're important to me because they provide value... and if the value I receive exceeds the opportunity cost of the time I spend reading, then it belongs on my personal A-List.