Geek Trivia: Blogito, ergo sum

Who generally receives credit for coining the term 'weblog?'

Who generally receives credit for coining the term weblog, which gave birth to the term blog -- along with an entire contemporary generation of online diarists?

Jorn Barger, author of the controversial blog Robot Wisdom coined the term weblog on Dec. 17, 1997, describing his site as a log of interesting places he'd surfed on the Web -- thus, a weblog. There was no formal announcement of Barger's invented term; he just called his new Web page the Robot Wisdom Weblog, and started posting on that date.

Now, just because Barger was the first documented person to call his online journal a weblog doesn't mean he considered his site to be the first weblog. Barger credits no less a Web luminary than Marc Andreessen (co-creator of the first Web browser and cofounder of Netscape), who apocryphally developed the What's New section of the original Mosaic Web site, as the inventor of the type of Web site that Barger simply later described.

It's worth noting that Barger credits Neuromancer author and cyberpunk icon William Gibson with predicting the advent of blogs in a 1996 Salon interview. In the interview, Gibson suggested that the Web would someday get large enough that "there'll be people who make a living pre-surfing it for you." Guilty as charged, sir.

So how do we get from weblog to blog? Snarkily, of course.

Weblogger Peter Merholz posted the following to a sidebar on his Web site in May 1999: "I've decided to pronounce the word 'weblog' as wee'- blog. Or 'blog' for short."

Merholz made the announcement when members of the weblogger community were still trying out self-descriptive terms for their sites, their work, and themselves, with such discarded gems as presurfers and microportals still vying for acceptance. It's little wonder that blog won out as both a noun and verb to describe the strange hybrid of online diaries and pre-surfed Web discoveries. The fact that Google -- itself both a noun and a verb -- owns a self-publishing Web platform called Blogger is pretty much proof that the term has won out.

So how did any of this etymological circumnavigation lead to June 14 becoming International Weblogger's Day? Well, the aforementioned What's New section of the now-defunct Mosaic Web site began posting on June 14, 1993, arguably becoming the first blog -- and forming the basis for a holiday, an industry, a cultural revolution, a linguistic evolution, and some post-worthy Geek Trivia.

The Quibble of the Week

If you uncover a questionable fact or debatable aspect of this week's Geek Trivia, just post it in the discussion area of the article. Every week, yours truly will choose the best post from the assembled masses and discuss it in a future edition of Geek Trivia.

This week's quibble comes from the May 30 edition of Geek Trivia, "Air (and space) mail," but it actually refers to the May 16 edition of Geek Trivia, "The (space) pen is mightier." That's because in answering one quibble, I created another. TechRepublic member pkrouse smacked me around as such.

"The U.S. space program still uses a pure oxygen atmosphere in orbit, despite the [Apollo 1] fire. The redesign of the Apollo command module after the fire included significant changes to reduce the possibility of a fire, but to change to a two-gas system would have added 500 pounds to the Apollo capsule, and the other changes that were used were deemed sufficient to reduce the possibility of a fire."

You learn something new every day. I stated that NASA stopped using pure oxygen spacecraft environments after the Apollo 1 launchpad fire in 1967, going to a 60 percent nitrogen/40 percent oxygen environment. As it turns out, I was only half right.

NASA does use the 60/40 split on the launchpad, meaning it pumps an oxygen-nitrogen mix into all NASA-manned spacecraft while still connected to ground umbilicals, but the onboard atmosphere is 100 percent O2. Such has been the case since Apollo 1 and is still true today. Thanks for teaching me a thing or two, and keep those quibbles coming!

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The Trivia Geek, also known as Jay Garmon, is a former advertising copywriter and Web developer who's duped TechRepublic into underwriting his affinity for movies, sci-fi, comic books, technology, and all things geekish or subcultural.

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