I am number two, you are number six!

As time went by I wondered about the nature of blogging. Was it ‘genuine’ writing? I have no idea what genuine writing is. It is writing, so it might be genuine. I saw it on the internet so it MUST be true. Right?

I asked a librarian friend whether it was possible to get an ISSN number for my blog. She didn’t know. A search turned up the Australian National Library and the online form to apply for an ISSN number, including indications that a digital publication was acceptable. Without further ado, I did. A couple of days later I received quite a snotty note saying “Beee-loooggggs??? We don’t do beeeeloogggs around here laddie.” I took this to mean no, and sent back an equally curt note suggesting they could save everyone’s time if they put a little note on their form to the effect that they don’t do blogs. I received no reply.

Meanwhile, my librarian friend thought blogs were a rather cool idea, and ISSNs for blogs was a very interesting idea, and has asked a couple of her colleagues at the New Zealand National Library about blogs and ISSNs.

The International Standard Serial Numbers (ISSN) Librarian at National Library of New Zealand wrote: Blogs are technically serials – serials being publications issued in successive parts, with each part identified by a number and/or date, bearing a common title, and intended to continue indefinitely. Some blogs fall outside this definition due to a lack of a numbering/dating system, but generally they are serials.

According to the National Library’s current guidelines for ISSN assignment, they do not assign ISSN to weblogs. These guidelines are in line with those laid down by the international ISSN community, which among other things specifically exclude assigning ISSN to “personal or organisational homepages (including weblogs and diaries)”.

Their guidelines also preclude the assignment of ISSN to serials (print or electronic) where each issue is not at least 4 A4 pages or equivalent – blogs tend not to meet this requirement.

The Director, Collection Services at National Library wrote – the ISSN International Centre’s position is as follows:

“Are ISSN assigned to electronic publications?”

Yes, ISSN are assigned to electronic publications as far as they are serials or other continuing resources. However commercial web sites, personal weblogs and web pages, web pages which contain only links to other URLs are not eligible for ISSN.

Webblogs would be covered by legal deposit when the electronic provisions in the 2003 Act come into force. This will occur three month’s after the Electronic Documents Requirement Notice is issued, which is expected to occur in the last quarter of 2005.

However, the National Library have always said that they will be selective about what electronic doucments they add to their collections. It is not imagined though, that personal webblogs will be the first electronic documents that the Alexander Turnbull Library selectors choose. Of course if it’s not a personal webblog that may be a different matter altogether. Personal webblogs will be gathered up when the national library does a whole of domain name harvest. They do not yet have a date for doing that.

Interesting. I’m not sure what a blog is if it’s not personal. I’m also not sure what a domain name harvest is either, but I suspect I don’t like it. I think the simplest, clearest and best answer is – ‘Is this equal to four A4 pages?’ If yes then ISSN, if no, then blog, baby blog.

I’ve reached the stage, however, where I’ve moved on with wanting (neeeeeding – rhymes with pleeeeeading) an ISSN number. Has a more than slight feeling of collapsing into respectability and the next hideous step will be the accountants will come knocking and what happened to the ‘net will happen to blogs. The lithe will have moved on, of course, but I would’ve liked to blog a tad longer. I don’t want to be a mainstream writer in this context. Blogs should be about being free to publish as and what we see fit and having a readership of one person. And maybe your mother. And, as Mark Bernstein pointed out at Blogtalk Downunder, that’s ok, you should write to your mother more.

Nett result is, I now don’t want my blogs to have an ISSN number. I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, de-briefed or numbered!

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