You know me - the one thing I hate about weblogs is their tendency to post links with no indication to what they're about, or where they're leading:

I found this really funny

Don't get me wrong. I don't mind weblogs that weblog other weblogs - at least they're open about it. What riles me is that some weblogs insist on posting the occasional (or not so occasional) link without any indication of what the link is about whatsoever.

We're not talking about style or content here. We're talking about information efficiency. We're talking about not wasting people's time. We're talking about not descending into a deadly spiral that ends up in only the other webloggers knowing what the hell you're talking about.

  What do we want from a weblog?  

We're talking about talking to other people, a new audience. There must be several hundred million Internet users, and several dozen million heavy Internet users. Yet there are still only a few hundred weblogs, maybe one per 100,000 users.

Maybe you think I'm getting the wrong end of the stick here - after all, weblogs aren't here to attract hits, they're here to inform and entertain both their audience and their writers. You'd be right. Yet when I look at the hundreds of weblogs out there, they fall into only a few categories:

1) Category specific links (like weblogs that concentrate on tech/space/specialist news)

1a) Link miners (they all have the same links to the same pages)

2) Introspection (in 90% of cases, these aren't interesting)

3) In-blog sites (they're filled with references and links to things only other webloggers would understand)

4) Commentary (political/sci/tech/green news and views. Often have a lot of essays and original content)

Most weblogs fall into categories 1 and 1a; they often post links with little commentary aside from a few unsubstantiated and unreferenced opinions. I get bored very quickly reading these.

The problem with introspective (category 2) sites is that they're more for the benefit of the writer than the audience. I do it myself - sometimes I write stuff here to get it out of my system, it's very cathartic. But not entertaining. A weblog that is more than 50% introspective or diary is almost always not that interesting.

Category 3 sites, In-bloggers, usually start out as good category 4 sites. Yet slowly, the weblog community slides its insidious tendrils into the writer's brain so that he makes one, then two, then half a dozen references about other weblog writers, or some legendary weblog apocrypha. I mean, people are always talking about 'Dave' from 'Scripting News,' as if we're supposed to know who this person is. No-one ever explained who he was, until my brother (of Daily Doozer) told me about it.

To a lesser extent, this applies to SXSW. For about a week, I didn't really know what SXSW was, apart from the fact that weblogs were talking about it, and it was some kind of tech conference. Then I found out that it was a weblog conference, from a throwaway reference in some weblog. About three weeks after I first heard about it, someone mentioned that it meant 'South by Southwest'.

Okay. I can here your screams from here, don't worry about it. I know what you're thinking - you're thinking 'So what? Who says I have to make my weblog interesting for others? It's my weblog, I'll write for my audience. Who are you to dictate blog guidelines to me, you month-old upstart who has but a thousand hits to his name?'

Who indeed. Of course this is all my warped opinion - I don't seriously believe that there is some sort of universal underlying principle that all weblogs should adhere to. But I do have my opinion.

You'll notice I missed out the last category, the Commentary sites. I prefer these sites - you could say that they add value to the pages they link to, rather than just being some sort of relayer of information. In some ways, commentary sites are synthesists; they take the best of all the other three categories. They offer new (read that: new) links to interesting information, they supply their own education opinions about their links, and they cater for a broad(ish) audience.

Weblogs are still in their embryo stage at the moment; maybe they're only three or four years old, and they have comparatively very few visitors. Soon, there'll be a burst of interest as people start treating the Internet like they treat their newspapers; a regular source of information and opinions. Some weblogs will become hugely popular (we can already see some of them now) as they grab hold of their visitor's attention. Others will stagnate and attract the same small circle of visitors day in, day out. Whether you care about this or not is up to you.

What we should ask ourselves is: What do we want from a weblog?

Interesting links, links that will make us laugh, make us think and give us inspiration. We want to be entertained, to be stimulated, to be shocked.

If we want technology news, we'll visit a technology news site, not a weblog. If we want introspection, we'll read a book. If we want in-jokes, we'll join a mailing list. But if we want something different, we'll visit a weblog.