In late March when we shipped Little Outliner, Mathew Ingram wrote a very nice piece about our startup in GigaOm. But the title was problematic. It said: "Watch out, internet: Dave Winer is back in the business of making blogging tools." I groaned. We had just shipped an outliner, a small one, and there were no blogging tools anywhere in sight. But somehow, looking at my outliner, Mathew saw blogging. I should have listened more carefully. Instead I wrote a post that claimed, boldly: "I'm not making blogging tools." I put a smiley after it to show there were no hard feelings. I wanted to get on the record quickly and clearly. Don't think this is a blogging tool. It's an outliner.
Then in April we shipped a much more ambitious product, Fargo -- whose name relative to Little Outliner was supposed to be kind of a pun. Little Outliner is little, but Fargo will Go Far(ther). How far it will go has not yet been revealed, but we're hard at work on a publishing platform that Fargo connects to. At the time I didn't think that the publishing side could or should be viewed as blogging. But now, as it's evolved, and I've met our first users (back in March we didn't know who they were), I can see that Mathew was right. We are in the business of making blogging tools. Did I know it at the time when I said we weren't? I didn't. Nothing changed except the product and the users. If they are changing, you have to go with them. You can't fight City Hall, and if your users say it's blogging, and a respected analyst says it's blogging -- it's blogging. ;-)
Another thing happened while all our development was going on -- Tumblr, a product which I have deep respect for, sold to Yahoo. What I admire most about Tumblr, as a product designer, is its templating system. It's a descendent of the ones we developed at UserLand in Manila and Radio, which in turn were descended from the templates used by designers in the desktop publishing era using Quark and Pagemaker.
Templating is at the core of blogging. The reach of a blogging system is determined by the richness and flexibility of its templating. And here's an interesting fact. If the content has structure, as outlines do, you can do a lot more for the user with templates. CSS is a nice beginning, but the outlines give you power flat text designers and authors can only dream of.
We can, and are, doing more. Tumblr has now been around for a long time. Our earlier work has been around even longer. It's time for a fresh look at tools for designers, writers and programmers, centered around web content. If people want to think of that as blogging, who am I to argue with them.
So I won't. :-)
PS: A good content tool should also be a workgroup collaboration tool, as Fargo is.