Seth Godin asks if blogs are backwards.
It's best not too try to compare it to any traditional ways of telling a linear story. Once I accepted the daily, immediate, reverse-chronological order of blogs, I realized that a unique and powerful way of expression is available to me, and anyone else that chooses to blog.
There are certainly topics that don't fit a blog format. I'm not sure I could teach calculus on a blog. Let's ignore whether calculus would be a good topic from complexity or interest point of view. When I realized I was going to switch to computer science (and later electrical engineering) from a journalism major in college, I realized I had to go to summer school and brush up on all the math classes I was only half-heartedly been present for in high school.
Calculus relies on a foundation of mathematics including geometry, trigonometry and algebra. My knowledge of mathematics builds upon itself in more or less a sequential manner. I couldn't well skip over some crucial concepts no matter how I want to.
So if you have a static story that builds upon itself and lends itself to a little undivided attention to tell it, there are better tools out there. Now, I'm not making a judgment call about these types of stories. I have a story that fits that description - and I'm leaning towards a [swallow hard, ugghh] book for it.
I've struggled with whether or not to write a book. The message is the main point, I say. And I keep thinking there must be some way to get the message out in a blog - which I find more a more fulfilling and immediate writing endeavor than the drawn-out process of book-writing.
To a hammer, everything looks like a nail. But blogs aren't ideal for everything. But they are ideal for dynamic unfolding stories...ones that are occuring in real-time. Not histories. There's a reason why the blogosphere evangelists, such as Dave Sifry, CEO of Technorati, call it the World Live Web. There's a reason that Technorati shows you only the last seven days of results - Sifry also stresses the immediacy factor of the blogosphere.
Weblogs were designed to be like newspapers. The idea was that people would stop by and read some more every day, and that each post would build on what had come before... and that frequent readers would have no trouble keeping up.
I've been following the blogosphere since February 2001 (when I first heard about it at an O'Reilly conference - the predecessor of today's ETech). For a long time, I was too intimidated by the prospect of blogging to be a blogger myself. As far as I can remember of what I've heard about the evolution of the blogosphere, there is no explicit concept of "each post would build on what had come before."
When I write in a blog I try to write what is fresh and live and timely for me in the moment. I actually didn't arrive to this concept on my own but it finally dawned on me what bloggers were saying about blogging: conversational marketing, fresh, world live web, immediate, new, link and add context, participatory media... Luckily, it finally seemed to click with me as a liberating way to write and share. Blogs are live.
I actually probably have more quarter-written blog posts in draft form than published entires. Why? The vitality of the piece waned for me, or maybe just the process of writing itself - thinking aloud - was complete for me. It's really my way to think aloud today in public. Where I am going today? I'm only starting to let go and share more incomplete ideas - ones I'd often label as half-baked - with readers for that very reason - they are not fleshed out.
I like to look at blog entries as a bit holographic and iterative in nature. Each entry stands alone and yet, reflects the whole. Circling back, unfurling like a tender fern shoot, and growing into itself.
The holographic and emergent nature of blogging, rather than being a linear story, has a lot of appeal for me. One is that it provides a daily practice of looking at the whole from a myriad of countless facets and different lens- and then admiring the fragment that calls me to share. It's digestibility and accepted imperfectability - not too long to write, not too long to read, not too polished - is so less daunting than many other media.
A blogger like...
the haiku poet is like a great photographer: the art is in the selection. One could photograph everything and anything, but only those images that catch a universal significance, that show some balance of forces, are worth publishing.
I'm not fooling myself that anyone is reading my stuff from day one no matter what order they appear. Even the most fanatical fan has never and will never read all my posts.
Each entry must stand-alone as much as possible. One never knows when - or where as search engine results can pop a reader into any random entry - a new reader will appear. I like the idea of a 'check my favorite posts' or a 'if you're a new reader, you'll enjoy' lists on the front page of the blog, and if it's compelling there is always the pull to read a bit more of the archives and anticipate tomorrow's post.
Sure, it's frustrating to have a reader write that I should check out Kevin Robert's speeches when I have spent a good part of the previous month evangelizing his book Lovemarks. I've made similarly bone-headed comments to bloggers I only occasionally read. But I'd be deluding myself that this would be solved with a mere sorting order switch. If you need to set some context to your story, do so briefly in your "About" page or elsewhere on the blog or website.
I don't watch TV, but there are rare occasions when I've watched an episode of "Seinfeld" or "Friends" - somehow I'm able to glean enough - through flashbacks and other storytelling devices - about the relationships, characters, themes and even the story arc  - in a single episode without ever having watched the show before. Sorry, I'm just not going to sit through several seasons of "Friends" to engage with this one episode or to become a regular (but new) viewer. Now this is the blog writer's challenge - and it's certainly been done.
Instead, corporate and personal blogs are much more focused on telling a story, a story that has a beginning and a middle, not just a current end.
I still think a brand is a story and I've said so before: "A brand is a story. And the customer puts him or herself in the role of the hero or heroine."
Many individuals and corporations use blogs to get their stories and their message across. But too many individuals and corporations confine the story to what they've already imagined as the beginning, middle and end. I say let go of the outcome - that's the way most writers write - including novelists. The characters literally develop a 'life of their own' when the pen (or keyboard) is in hand. I'm often surprised at where interviews have taken me - very often I take a different and much better angle or tack as the central theme of a story as a result of the conversation - than I had originally intended. The emergent nature of blogs allows for possiblity.
In any story to be shared in a blog, my view is all you know is the audience and the starting premise but where it will emerge once you begin is a collaborative surprise. Even the objectives and reasons of why you blog are apt to evolve over time.
Some of the more interesting corporate blogs let you peek into the inner workings of their mind and they allow you to literally become a participant in a story-in-the-making (latest example I wrote about here). You become witness to major life events in the corporation and the individuals in the organization as they happen. It's not the stale past, nor is it staged, rehearsed or scripted because it's happening right now. And the reader - or the customer or other stakeholder - can be more than a witness if they desire - they can be a player in the improvisation. (OK, now I'm starting to get why my friend and fellow blogger, Johnnie Moore, is such a big fan of improv.)
Are blogs backwards? Nope, they're just right now.
 Story arc: "A story arc is a term in episodic storytelling media such as television, comic books and comic strips that refers to a continuing storyline. In a television series, for example, the story would unfold over many episodes."