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Pundits and knitters find common ground in Web logs

Editor's note: As part of its Online Evolution special report, is asking several Web and Internet pioneers for their thoughts on the impact and future of the Internet.

Mena Trott is president and co-founder of Six Apart, a company that makes Web log publishing tools.





(CNN) -- Mena Trott's personal Web log isn't exactly the stuff of headlines. She writes mostly about her daily life -- what she did over the weekend, what's she's reading, what she ate for dinner. Chances are, if she weren't the co-founder of a successful Web log publishing company (Six Apart), her Web log probably wouldn't get much press., like many other Web logs, is a distant cousin of the popular political opinion sites that keep cropping up in the news. Both use the same technology, but to slightly different ends.

Trott spoke recently by phone with's Lila King about the phenomenon of Web logs -- what they're good for, where they're heading, and how they serve pundits and knitters alike.

CNN: What do you think the Internet's biggest impact has been?

TROTT: The ability for anybody to really be able to communicate online. ... Even if you're in sub-Saharan Africa, there is someone that can post your story. And that ability to communicate with anybody is something that we take so much for granted, but if it stopped, I don't know how we would live our lives.

CNN: What do you use the Internet for primarily?

TROTT: I use it to keep in touch with my friends and my family. I read what's going on in the world, but at the end of the day, that's not the thing I want to read. [I look at] photo-sharing services, my LiveJournal. It's like a part of me. ...

I just write things documenting my life. ... For example, I have a Web log where I take a picture of myself every day. And it sounds incredibly vain, but it's something that I can go back and I can look at February 12 and I can see what I looked like, see what I was wearing, and I go back to that day. And there's no other way to really do that. Visual imagery is the best way to capture moments.

CNN: What is it that makes you want to write these things publicly instead of, say, scribbling in your diary?

TROTT: I think we do want an audience ... I think we have this desire to have our voices heard, even if you're not writing this diatribe about something. ... It's a nice way to kind of keep people in the loop in your life. We don't really have time to do that. It's funny, because people say technology is the thing that speeds up our lives and kind of prevents us from communicating the way we used to. What I'm seeing is it's enabling us to kind of have that. ...

Knitting blogs are a huge phenomenon. I find it fascinating because knitting and sewing are things that have historically drawn women -- and now men, too -- together in groups to talk about their families, talk about their lives, talk about society. And they would use sewing and knitting and quilting as this way of getting together. I don't think it's any coincidence that knitting is one of the things that drives a lot of people to Web logging and to online communities.

What I want to see and I what I think the Internet is really evolving to is this idea that taking these things that we've done offline for centuries and millennia and bringing it in a way that is compatible with our daily lives. We live in e-mail, we live in front of the computer, we live with our cell phones. But we have to figure a way to work all these things in together.

CNN: How much will the Internet change over the next 10 years?

TROTT: I think that blogging is going more and more mainstream, and in 10 years I doubt it will be called "blogging." It may not even look like what we're doing today. But the whole idea [of being] able to quickly express what you want to say online is going to be still a big part of what we do.

Another big part is going to be mobile computing and devices. I use my cell phone right now to post to my Web log. I post something every day to that one with pictures of me. It's mindless, it's just something I can do really quickly and it doesn't interfere with my life at all. ...

Being able to record your life is something that I can imagine everyone [doing]. [Everyone will] have terabyte after terabyte of all these instances of their lives. And certain information is going to be available to certain groups and other will be available only to like family and other stuff will be available only to you. So in 10 years, I can fully imagine every moment of my life is documented. And the privacy will be there to prevent it from being used in a malicious way. But that I think is the biggest thing. We're going into a recording of life.

CNN: Anything you predict that will surprise us?

TROTT: What needs to happen is we need to move away from the desktop computer model. Not everyone sits in front of a computer. There are a lot of people who see a computer every once in a while. They're either afraid to touch it or they don't have any reason to.

I think we're going to have our devices, like cell phones that are going to ... have to be easy for everyone to use. ... We have to bring this technology to as many people as possible and not just have it limited to white, affluent, middle class Americans. ...

I'm surprised I'm here right now, with this company. It was a hobby for me, and a passion, and there was such a need that it got to the point where it was a company. That I have any influence amazes me.

CNN: Where are the women bloggers?

TROTT: I think the women are there. I think what we see is a focus on topics that tend to be more male-dominated, so we don't get as much coverage. Men blog more about politics. Politics are more likely to get picked up by the media. Technology has always been male-dominated. So there's this sort of echo chamber.

But there's knitting, this family, these topics that have been relegated to being sub-par blogging, which I disagree with completely.

Seventy-five percent of our users on LiveJournal are female. And on Typepad and Movabletype it's almost a 50/50 split. There are women blogging, they just don't need to be so loud.

CNN: How do you think blogging will evolve? What's next?

TROTT: We need to get mainstream users blogging. They're very put off, I think, when we do focus groups. The words we hear are "egotistical," "too much free time," "people in their bathrobes ranting." But there's so much more about blogging.

I don't fit any of those personas -- well, maybe egotistical. I started my blog because I wanted to write humorous stories about my life. And I think most people have the ability to do that. And once they get over the fear that everyone's going to read it or it's going to get you fired, ... when they hear about blogs, it's always about someone getting fired. When people get fired, it's not because they keep a blog, it's because they have no judgment.

That sort of thing puts people off. What we need to do is get people informed and make it as easy to use as e-mail. I hope it doesn't take 10 years to get that way with blogging.

That's what the Internet is to me. It has given me a voice that I had never imagined. ... There's a power you can harness if you know how to use a medium.

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