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Weblog Entry

Self Publishing, plus ISSN

July 14, 2003

A meme I missed while I was away got started by John Gruber, and was eventually picked up by Jeffrey Zeldman and others. The rise of the personal site as a publishing powerhouse is the focus, and since I run a site approaching its first anniversary in a couple of months (I’m not alone on that — D. Keith Robinson and Gruber himself are hitting this milestone), here are a few of my thoughts on the matter.

I applied for an International Standard Serial Number for this site last month. The National Library of Canada denied my original request, but upon some explaining I eventually got my way.

I deserved an ISSN, I reasoned, because the web design community doesn’t have any traditional publications of note. We are a community devoted to a certain medium, and we chose to publish on it due to the global spread of the community members as well as the inter–connectedness of the medium.

Rather than rely on stodgy monthly periodicals, we harnass the power of our individual voices to publish daily. We are fast–moving and tightly–knit because of this. Could you imagine it any other way?

Others publishing as I do have received ISSNs, so why couldn’t I? The NLC concurred, and granted me 1708–0789. I congratulated them for being more forward thinking than like bodies in the U.K. and Holland (who have consistently denied ISSN applications for weblogs).

The issue was not, in this case, the technology. My official denial reason was that “Personal or organizational homepages, including weblogs and online diaries, are not assigned ISSNs.“ Fair enough, that’s what I applied as. But after I was denied, I thought about it some more.

I publish as one voice. I speak for myself alone, but I share opinions, experiments, and ideas that I think will be relevant and useful to the larger community. I am publishing for the web, on the web, and about the web. This site, while owned and run exclusively by me, is far more than a personal home page.

The stipulation, I’d theorize, is to discourage just anyone with a LiveJournal or BlogSpot account from applying for an ISSN. The system wasn’t created for the pure volume of publications that might qualify now that we have the web to contend with, and in a lot of cases the time and effort required to categorize these sites beyond the web isn’t worth it for the libraries. Quality over Quantity, after all.

But in my case, as may be the same in your case, the site I publish isn’t a typical “I saw my friends today’ type weblog. I do not publish introspectively myopic pieces that are relevant to precisely three people on the planet. (I discuss web design news and technique in introspectively myopic ways that are relevant to at least seven people, maybe eight on a good day)

We’re doing something new here. We’re one of the only trades that doesn’t have any official printed publications. We are a completely unorganized collective of intelligent people whose voices all have a chance to be heard, and we’re all contributing to the common good. We use each others tips and advice to improve our skill, and we make money by applying principles that we all offer each other for free.

It’s a give and take system, and the most important people are the ones who give the most. I’m thrilled to be a part of it.

     ISSN for Weblogs
     ISSN Home Page
     ISSN National Centre List
     ISSN Canada
     ISSN U.S.
     ISSN U.K.
     ISSN Australia

Reader Comments

MikeyC says:
July 14, 03h

I had always been curious about the ISSN number on your site. In Zeldman’s case he’s a published author so I assumed it was a way of searching for his books on or something. Your site makes no claim of having published a book so I was sort of scratching my head. Thanks for the explanation.

My application is in ;)

Jim Dabell says:
July 14, 04h

Isn’t a domain name simply a new form of ISSN? Is an ISBN an old fashioned permalink?

Bob says:
July 14, 06h

I considered applying for an ISSN, but my blog tends to be, particularly of late, more about my home improvement faiscos, trips to wherever, rants about whatever, and relatively little to do with web design, development, or other creative pursuits.

So, until that trend changes, I’ll go without, I suppose.

Craig says:
July 15, 05h

The policies have obviously changed for the worse…
Joe Clark first advocated getting one in December 2000, and I grabbed one shortly thereafter.
Got mine quite quickly and glad you got yours eventually, but perhaps NLC should change the definitions on its site:
“Serials include periodicals, newspapers, annuals (such as yearbooks, annual reports and directories, etc.), journals, memoirs, proceedings, transactions of societies and monographic series.
Serials can be published in any medium (e.g. print, CD-ROM, via Internet, etc.)…”

forgetfoo says:
July 15, 07h

ditto… i was always curious about the ISSN on Zeldman’s site (and others), but never really asked anybody what it meant in relation to a website… great post, man!

for myself, i’m with Bob… and plus, i’m just too lazy to wait around for an official US Govt. digit to slap on my site somewhere :)

MikeyC says:
July 16, 12h

Say hello to ISSN 1708-2935.
They rejected me yesterday, so I responded that Mezzoblue has one so who should I direct my complaint to?
Zeit was approved today. That’s speedy!