If you had any question that weblogs are becoming mainstream, the evidence is there: AOL is getting into the weblog world.
On July third they convened a group of weblog "elders" to review their upcoming offering "AOLJournals" There have been a couple of write-ups from the attendees:
Jeff Jarvis: AOL Blogs!
Clay Shirky on Corante: AOL, Weblogs, and Community
All in all, the folks seem to agree that "it doesn't suck". Something ineresting to me is how AOL Journals made them question the question of whether a weblog is about publishing or community building...
From Jeff Jarvis:
They've decided to call the product AOL Journals and thus, position it as a community tool (read: LiveJournal) more than a publishing tool (read: Movable Type). The word "blog" is only part of the subtitle.
That's wise. Community is what built the AOL empire.
From Clay Shirky:
The key question for AOL is "Is this a community tool, or a lightweight publishg platform?" Now one obvious answer is "Why pick?", but I think that answer is starting to wear a bit thin.
This is something that really interests me too. I tend to think that weblogs are certainly capable of both, but are more of a community building tool for the average user. In my mind, the issue is that there are few folks that write at the level that would garner readership based on their "publications". Few average bloggers would be respected and read purely for their writing ability and points of view.
In the community example- it is much more about the writer's personality and relationships with readers. They may write like a 5th grader, but their readers may also feel connected to them as a peer. Further, weblogs can be used to build family-based micro communities that simply provide a place for family and friends to feel connected. In this way, weblogs are certainly about community in the AOL sense.