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The Daily Whim

The Daily Whim

Mon. Jun 12, 2006

Not A Blog Anymore

If “blog” is a relatively new term for you, or if you have no knowledge of (or interest in) the “inside baseball” of the Blogosphere (i.e., probably over 90% of visitors to this site), rest assured that nothing is really going to change around here. At least, not any more than it already has this year. This is just me venting. At length. Again.

But for those of you who know your Technorati from your Elbowroni, this site is not a blog anymore. At least not in any current sense of what blogs are, or most especially, what blogs commonly aspire to be. I’m reverting to what this site was prior to July of 2000 when I first started using a piece of web-ware called Blogger … a personal web site.

Well, it will still be a series of individual articles. Posted in reverse chronological order. With comments. But semantics aside…

I hereby secede from the blogosphere as it is known today.

What’s brought me to this all but irrelevant decision? Perspective, perhaps. I may not have posted much here from February through early June. But I’ve been reading. With a whole different mindset than usual. And before we even bother with my own observations, you don’t have to look far to spot the trend over the first half of this year.

On December 13, 2001, I posted an essay on my personal weblog titled “Two Ships Passing in the New Media Night,” in which I contrasted the energetic, proletariat-embracing exultations of rising blog superstar Glenn “Instapundit” Reynolds with the dreary, public-distrusting defensiveness of then–Los Angeles Times columnist John Balzar.

I had launched my blog (or shall I say “warblog,” which is what I named it, apparently coining a term I’ve come to loathe) five days after the September 11 massacre and almost immediately found myself swept up in an exhilarating whirlwind of grassroots media creation. As a consumer, it was exponentially more edifying to me than the post-9/11 fumblings of the mainstream media’s binary, Crossfire-style opinion slinging.

“What do warbloggers have in common, that most pundits do not?” I enthused. “I’d say a yen for critical thinking, a sense of humor that actually translates into people laughing out loud, a willingness to engage (and encourage) readers, a hostility to the Culture War and other artifacts of the professionalized left-right split of the 1990s … a readiness to admit error [and] a sense of collegial yet brutal peer review.”

Man, was I wrong.

Matt Welch: “Farewell to Warblogging: I used to think blogs would transform ideologues into nonpartisan truth-seekers. Man, was I wrong”

I can’t help but chuckle. It’s almost “Matt Welch as Theodoric of York”: “Perhaps I could lead the way to a new age, an age of rebirth, a Renaissance! [ thinks for a minute ] Naaaaaahhh!” Except instead of “thinks for a minute” it was “thinks for 4.5 years.” But I’ve teasingly ragged on Matt for inventing the term “warblog” for, oh, about 4 years. And one must credit him with almost Oppenheimer-like misgivings about his creation.

Nor is this really new territory for me either, as I vented steam in this general direction in January, 2005, not long after the election, and again in November, 2005. But you’re hearing similar steam from more and more places…

In people’s haste to be first, or different, or just plain ornery and contrary (all the better to get links and readers) a culture of “shoot first and ask questions later” has arisen in the blogosphere that quite frankly, is proving every bad thing that the MSM has been saying about blogs from the beginning. Many of us – including myself – have been guilty in the past of hitting that “Publish” button when perhaps it would have been prudent and proper to take a beat or two to think about what we just wrote and the impact it might have beyond the small little world we inhabit in this corner of Blogland.

Scalp hunting has become the national pastime of blogs. Both lefty and righty lodgepoles have some pretty impressive trophies hanging on them; Dan Rather, Mary Mapes (twice), Eason Jordon, Trent Lott, Ben Domenech, to name a few more noteworthy ones.

But is this what we are? Is this what we are becoming? Are we nothing more than a pack of digital yellow journalists writing pixelated scab sheets vying to see who we can lay low next? If this be the way to fame and fortune in the blogosphere, I truly fear that, like television, the last great technological breakthrough that promised to change the world, we will degenerate into a mindless, bottomless pit of muck and mudslinging, dragging down the culture and trivializing even the most important issues.

Rick Moran: “Twice A Victim”

 

The power of the Web is obvious and undeniable. We diminish it at our peril. But what if the most potent social effect to spread outward from the Internet turns out to be disinhibition, the breaking down of personal restraints and the endless elevation of oneself? It may be already.

Then there’s politics. On the Huffington Post yesterday, there were more than 600 “comments” on Karl Rove and the White House staff shake-up. “Demoted my *** the snake is still in the grass.” “He should be demoted to Leavenworth.” “Rove is Bush’s Brain, and without him, our Decider-in-Chief wouldn’t know how to wipe his own ***.”

From a primary post on the same subject on the Daily Kos, widely regarded as one of the most influential blogging sites in Democratic politics now: “I don’t give a ****. Karl Rove belongs in shackles.” “A group of village whores have taken a day off to do laundry.”

Intense language like this used to be confined to construction sites and corner bars. Now it is normal discourse on Web sites, the most popular forums for political discussion. Much of this is new. Politics is a social endeavor. The Web is nothing if not “social.” But the blogosphere is also the product not of people meeting, but venting alone at a keyboard with all the uninhibited, bat-out-of-hell hyperbole of thinking, suggestion and expression that this new technology seems to release.

Daniel Henninger: “Disinhibition Nation”

 

The era of the shoot-your-keyboard-first and see-if-its-accurate later (and do it in a way that makes a political point you make on your site so it fits in with your ongoing narrative) is upon us.

Despite the incredibible journalistic and informational potential of blogs, weblogs in the early 21st Century have evolved into extended op-ed pages, with occasional smatterings of original reporting and research. There’s nothing wrong with that.

But blogs have also emerged as a kind of cyberspace talk radio where judgments are faster than traditional “snap” judgments, supposition is angrily expressed as utter certainty, demonization is the rule, and some sites are so fixed on promoting personal political agendas and world views that they lose sight of the value of a bit of restraint before politically pigeonholing someone.

Joe Gandelman: “Jill Carroll Hostage Case: A Black Eye To Blogging”

I may not agree with every sentiment in those three linked articles, but you catch the drift and tone. It’s reached the point where sometimes we even disgust ourselves.

But the article that really spurred writing this came well over a month ago from Donald Sensing. Donald and I were at Wake Forest at the same time (though we didn’t know each other), and have corresponded a little bit over the years we’ve both had a blog, so I think he’ll understand that I’m using his post as a “jumping off point” rather than picking on him. Because he expresses opinions shared by many.

In “‘Never say never,”’ but…,” he noted he had “not blogged here since March 6” and “With every day that passes, it become decreasingly likely that I will resume writing here. I wrote on March 6 that ‘personal and professional obligations must take priority’ over my blogging.

I can certainly relate, as “personal and professional obligations” ate my ass alive for months, and the infrequency of updating here reflected that. But it’s in the following excerpts that our opinions begin to vary, and when I began to think it was time for me to secede. Here it is, a bit at a time (not to “fisk” Donald, but to explain my secession):

I have also contemplated the future of blogging and have concluded that single-author sites are the wave of the past. Group blogging, with only a few exceptions such as Instapundit (of course), is becoming the norm. I think it almost certainly because the time requirements for a single author to keep a site going are oppressive, if the site is to have a significant daily readership – say, more than 2,000.

Let me say plainly, there’s not a thing inherently wrong with group blogging, and in many ways, Donald is very right in his predictions. But I think it’s important to note what I see as a shift.

Donald felt his obligations would prevent him from maintaining a high traffic blog by himself (though he has since made what I consider to be a quite healthy number of posts). Now, what was the reason it became a high traffic blog?

Donald.

Guest bloggers are distinctly “not Donald,” and while that’s not the route he’s chosen (he’s joined the group blog Winds of Change), I’ve seen others do just that in similar circumstance. And it boggles my mind somewhat.

I can easily translate that to my own situation. I knew by early March this site was going to get pretty sparse. For a while (I had no idea just how long). I could have called on two or three guest bloggers to keep this site more active, keep the daily traffic average up, and keep from dropping several thousand spots in the Technorati rankings (as I have in the past few months).

But I never even seriously thought about it. I guess I made a decision for you: that you come here for whatever crazy mix of stuff comes out of my head, not just random new content generated by any “designated hitters.” As importantly, this site has always been intended to reflect, um, me. And if whatever is going on in my life causes me to be absent from this site more than usual, that is also a reflection of my life.

But I’m guilty of it, too. There was an nagging voice in my head that told me I should figure out how to post more here over the past few months. There was a certain unbidden guilt when I didn’t. But I think what I did manage to post ended up reflecting what was going on in my life perfectly well.

However, my point here is that the goals have changed. Not just Donald’s. Once you get that traffic, it’s natural to want to keep it. You do that with frequent posting, and a group of people can do that more efficiently. More traffic, more eyeballs, more influence … who is this beginning to sound like?

If I’m not here for a week or a month, who cares? The site still works, the ads still run, and life goes on for all. But if the nightly news anchor of a major network is not there for a week … well, that’s never allowed to happen, eh? They bring in a “guest anchor.” Because the goal is different. The goal is eyeballs and income, and to achieve that, certain media standards must be met.

Finally, Michelle Malkin’s new and hugely successful blog, Hot Air, does seem to me to be the real wave of the future. Its outstanding layout and design and fantastic audiovisual integration make it the cutting edge blog now. Her daily “Vent” feature is short enough not to postpone viewing, can be downloaded in movie form to iPods and has a high production value. Blogging in general will have to follow her lead and sites that don’t will be fighting for ever-smaller readership numbers. That means that blogging has started to move away from its “amateur hour” status and is now at the start line of becoming professionalized.

Different people blog for different reasons and 100 or so readers per day may be quite satisfactory to them. It was to me for a long time, too. I didn’t seek higher numbers, they just came. But the fact is that low-readership blogs are not significant in importance to the blogosphere at large, no matter how important they are to their authors or few-dozen readers. Increasingly, team blogs and blogs integrating different media will dominate the ‘sphere, By “dominate,” I mean attract the vast majority of readers and have the most influence in larger society. Yes, Logtar, I do know there are blogs that discuss knitting and they are important to their authors and readers, but frankly, get a grip: they are utterly unimportant to everyone else and have no effect whatsoever in larger society.

I’m not trying to demean those kinds of blogs at all; let me re-emphasize that they are obviously important to their authors and readers. But the vast majority of readers, as well as the ad money that blogs will increasingly generate, will revolve around fairly few blogs.

To recap: single-writer blogs are not going away, but the vast majority of such blogs finally get discontinued (this has been reported many times in the blogosphere, based on data from Technorati and other tracking sources). OTOH, team blogs live much longer and tend to grow readership. If you want to write about model-airplane flying, go for it and have fun. Just understand it’s a small reader pool for you. But if you want to blog about topics of national interest, I think you’ll find yourself increasingly increasingly competing with team blogs whose authors are not continually under the posting pressure you are and whose content will overall probably be higher in both quantity and quality. When these blogs start to migrate to the media integration such as Hotair’s they will become even more attractive to readers.

Once again, I have to point out that I’m not saying there is one thing wrong with any of the above, and Donald is not alone in his opinions. I merely must point out the shifts.

When we talk about blogs in words and phrases like “audiovisual integration, high production value, professionalized” and seek to “attract the vast majority of readers,” have “influence in larger society,” and “the ad money that blogs will increasingly generate” ... we have to see what we are mirroring, indeed, trying to become.

The media. The very thing blogs often decry as biased and overly obsessed with eyeballs and income, to the detriment of substance.

Did I mention there is not anything wrong with this? Just realize the goals. Grow the audience, more eyeballs means more influence, and more ad dollars. These are the identical goals of the media, in all its many forms. This is why much of our media is so sensationalized. It draws eyeballs fast. The reliability and depth of the actual content becomes a secondary concern.

And in the blogosphere, you see similar sensationalism. Dave Sifry recently reported that “The blogosphere is over 60 times bigger than it was only 3 years ago.” That’s not a misquote: sixty times bigger in three years.

It might take some serious sensationalism to break out of that pack. Group blogs may be less prone to that approach, as they have the advantage of an efficient volume. But either way, note the shift: the goals have begun to precede and even pre-empt the content.

If eyeballs are the goal, you can’t wait for further news reports, or take 24 hours to reflect on a new development. You must post your pithy linkbringer within an hour or two, tops. Which leads to the effects Joe and Rick decry above. Cautious thought and conscious reflection are almost deliberately bred out of the process. That is, if you want to keep up with the Blogsters.

Oh, you might say that even if many blogs are moving towards the same goals as the media, it will be different for them. They’ll be able to stay true to their roots and beliefs, avoid sensationalism and partisan hackery in the name of growing the audience, and not spin every event towards a particular favored view. Right.

Which brings us from “wanting to be the media,” to “wanting to be the party.”

This past weekend we had the first of what I’m sure will be many YearlyKos conventions (“the convention, the first of what organizers said would become an annual event, seems on the way to becoming as much a part of the Democratic political circuit as the Iowa State Fair”), and it reminds me a bit of the old radio conventions I used to attend. You get to hang with your peers you’ve heard of but never met before, and all of you get collectively schmoozed by the record company and equipment company reps.

Oh, sure, they don’t have time for every PD from Podunk, Georgia, but they made sure they cornered and … lobbied ... the well known Big Boys in attendance. You know, the few that everyone knows. The ones with influence. Um, do you think it’s any different at YearlyKos or in the wider world of political blogs?

Even the bloggers know it: “Jennifer Palmieri, a deputy White House press secretary under President Bill Clinton, held a ‘pundit project training,’ where she told bloggers how to present themselves in television interviews — what to wear, how to sit and what to say.

Grooming for my closeup, Mr. DeMille!

Again, there is nothing horribly wrong about this. As long as you’re not trying to fool yourself that you are doing anything new or different. People have been trying to get on TV for various reasons for ages. It’s hardly a secret that news networks have a lot of time to fill these days, and they’re not always picky about who helps them do it. When it comes to who gets the most out of such an appearance, recall that the game is rigged so that the house always wins. Your biggest hint should be when they cut off your glorious revelations in mid-sentence to go to a commercial break.

Eyeballs and income. Now everyone can play!

And it’s true, the ad money is coming (did I mention there is really really nothing at all wrong with that?). Blogs are beginning to be quantified in the ways that make advertisers feel warm and fuzzy.

A new survey released today of over 56,000 readers of blogs shows different segments of blog readers have distinct characteristics. Conducted by the Blogads network, the study breaks out blog audiences into four categories: readers of political, gossip, mom and music blogs.

“There are multiple blogospheres,” suggested Blogads CEO Henry Copeland. “These people actually run in packs and the packs have very distinct characteristics.”

Over 72 percent of these readers are male and the largest age group, nearly 27 percent, is between 41 and 50 years old. In addition, more than 77 percent have a college degree, while over 20 percent have a family income between $60K and $90K. Fifty percent are Democrats, 20 percent Republicans and nearly 20 percent independents.

ClickZ Network: “Survey Shows the Blogosphere is Breaking Out”

So we see the effects of the Perfect Blogstorm. The blogosphere has multiplied 60 times in three years, bringing all levels of sophistication to the party. Partially in reaction to that, some are consolidating to form new and larger traffic vortexes (group blogs). Political influence is real, growing, and highly sought after. Ad money is already here now for the lucky few, with more on the way.

And the ad money has already had an effect on some of those lucky few. I know of one person whose site became a very popular and partisan place during the run up to the 2004 election. It wasn’t intentional (as they later told how they grew to hate it), and it started gradually. But the more harshly partisan the site became, the more traffic went through the roof. And the addictive side effect? Ad money. In an amount large enough to pay the mortgage each month.

Though they grew to like it less and less, that ad money was a damn compelling reason to not only continue … but to try and grow it! At any rate, it all came to an end in this case, and I think that person is now much happier for it. If with less traffic and ad money. But in many ways, that’s the new trend in the blogosphere, and from the outside looking in, trust me, it’s a vicious cycle.

Today Technorati reports they are tracking 44.1 million blogs. If I recall correctly, when I signed up for Blogger in the summer of 2000, they were publishing about 19,000 blogs. The heck with “sixty times bigger than three years ago,” that’s about 2,300 times bigger than six years ago. I simply have no desire to “compete.” That’s too big a club for me, or anyone else, really.

I kind of kicked myself out of the political blogosphere some time ago, since my views often vex both red and blue. Traffic has dropped about 50% here since the first of the year, for obvious reasons. What little I’ve been present, I’ve not exactly been my usual smarmy self, and saw no need to blunt that or misdirect with guest bloggers.

You see, once upon a time, Blogger was a piece of web-ware on a server. I tried it out, and not only found it an addictive way to place content on my site, I wished it was around in 1996 or 1997. Later I installed other pieces of software on my server that did the same thing, and more. These were tools that helped me do something I’d done the hard way before.

It’s now an industry, some 44 million strong. I liked it better when it was a medium. With some tools. So I’m seceding.

I still intend to use Textpattern just as I have here lately. There will still be articles, and links, and quotes, and photos. Comments, too. Even ads.

But I aspire to none of the things that commonly bubble to the top of the blogosphere today. I’m not interested in crossing over to journalism, writing a column, or being a guest talking head on cable. This site won’t become a group blog, and the only guest blogger I can imagine might be my wife, so she could tell you my fingers had been cut off, but voice activation would be functional soon. I can’t foresee any circumstances where I’d join a group blog elsewhere. I barely have time to post here.

I feel no need to post on any particular topic, so when there’s an incident in Haditha or Zarqawi is killed, or something where no real blogger worth their salt lets very many hours pass without some kind of obligatory comment, well, you may hear only silence from me.

Or I might write about it days later, after I’ve had some time to think about it, and then made time in my schedule to actually write. Because I do actually enjoy the writing. The last 20,000 words or so that I’ve written have been quite healing. And very non-blog-like.

I just don’t want to be part of a hamster wheel of expectations and goals that I don’t share. I may still write about politics at times (in fact, very soon), but I have no desire to contribute to a partisan “political blogosphere” that I think does more damage than good. I’m certainly not trying to score points for any team.

Decidedly non-blog-like.

You can accuse me of semantic masturbation and say this is still a blog, and you could be right. But I do believe it’s about mindset. Mine is nowhere near in sync with what I predominantly see “out in the blogosphere,” nor the larger trends linked within this article. While I know there are millions of MySpace and Blogspot sites that are simple personal sites for family and a few friends, I also see the “cream” of the other side of the blogosphere, including many people I used to consider peers. I see little positive, and nothing I want to emulate.

Maybe Grandpa is just getting old and cynical, but a lot of what I see linked at memeorandum or blogsnow is so transparently manipulative in a “Look at me!” manner, or is entirely predictable partisan pap. I find it more disappointing than disgusting. But there’s a hint of that, too.

And maybe I’ve been looking in the wrong places, too. I have noticed myself gravitating to more personal sites lately. And I try to remember the remarkable diamonds to be found among 44 million chunks of coal (hey, I’m just another chunk, too), like Operation Eden, and more recently, the spectacular work done by Michael Totten on his travels in the Middle East.

It’s also inevitable that a medium that grew so fast would go through massive changes, leaving many “old-timers” grumbling about the Good Olde Days. I probably sound exactly like that, but that’s not my intention. Even in “the Good Olde Days,” we knew/hoped this kind of popularity would come, and should have known such popularity would bring all kinds of unexpected developments.

But as Matt Welch noted at the beginning of this, many of us once felt such promise for this medium, especially in how it contrasted to the major mass media, and the world of politics. But today, it’s in those two general areas that I see some of blogdom’s biggest disappointments.

There are always sparkling individual exceptions. But the reality is that as the blogosphere has grown, and will grow, the face it turns to the world is what’s in the media, and what’s most highly linked on the web. Granted, that’s a tiny fraction of the whole, but, to me, it’s a face that grows a bit harsher and more desperate looking every day.

I don’t want a face like that. I’ve got enough natural ugliness going on without generating it artificially. And that’s just what it would be. Because I could have “come back” swinging for the fences. I’ve got the contacts, I know the buttons to push, and I’m smart enough to play the game. If I wanted to devote the time to that kind of effort, I feel confident I could quadruple traffic to this site over the next couple of months.

And it would all be artificial, a push to get hits and drive traffic for most any reason I could invent.

So I’m more than content with the 500 or so visitors I now average per day. Not nearly enough to be “influential,” or bring in the big ad bucks. But I figure that out of the 500 or so visitors I get each day, many of them have stuck with me at this site through a whole lot of time, and this year, through a whole lot of crap.

I’m truly thankful for that, though I’ve never really understood what compels people to come back here. Just being myself? That’s my best guess, as improbable as that might sound. And being myself means being nearly none of the things I most associate with the blogosphere these days.

In fact, “being myself” has taken on a whole new meaning this year. I can seriously empathize with some of the feelings of Robert Scoble, who’s been through some life changing events this year as well:

I’ve been thinking about similar things a lot. What are my responsibilities as a blogger? Did I sign up to do the equivilent of the New York Times here? How do I keep true to myself in a world that values (and uses) those who have audiences.

It’s why I was depressed a month ago, though. The idea that my blog had become a media property or something I had to do. Or something I had to do a specific way.

I’m glad I went through this personal time after my mom’s stroke. It helped me refocus on what’s important and what my blog means to me. This blog is mine. It is what I’m thinking about, and what I’m seeing in my life. It isn’t a news article. I am not vetted. It isn’t done by a committee. I am not being held to any standards.

So I secede from the blogosphere as it is known today, and rededicate PhotoDude.com as a personal site. My creative playground. A canvas on which I mix photos and observational writing with XHMTL, CSS, and pixels into an irregularly updated stew. It may be made in the same kind of pot other people use to make blogs.

But it’s just not the same stew.


Peanut Gallery

1  Paul wrote:

I have one of those personal websites, too. Odd.

I’ve never, ever liked the word “blog”. It’s obviously a word that was typed and never spoken, because it’s a ridiculous word to speak aloud. A mix between a belch and that intake of air before someone hocks-up a lugey.

I like talking about certain things in politics, but not every damned thing that comes down the pike. I’ve always been a fan of international happenings, but the last year or so has reminded me why I never cared or followed domestic politics: It’s not only crazy, it’s useless. And it’s the same crap year after year, as of if the participants only live in the now. It’s a continuing argument devoid of real historical context that gets rebooted like the Matrix every few months. It’s nuts.

I thought maybe of going back to focusing on the military, but that’s pretty much been ruined by folks more interested in pushing an ideological viewpoint and being a constituency of a political party rather than being honest brokers of information. Around 2003, it seems like they migrated from the Free Republic boards to stink up the rest of the internet.

So I’m left with becoming a general crazy man or writing about personal stuff, but not in a way that sounds like one of those lame LiveJournal sites. Personally, I’m thinking of driving away every man, woman, and child from my site by posting nothing but interesting statistics I’ve collected for various real-world projects I’ve done (or doing).

2  Jennifer wrote:

I get plenty of news and more “commentary” than I can choke down in the MSM I slog through every day. I come to this and a SELECT few other sites on a daily basis because I want to hear human voices with little or no agenda (programmed or not). Thank you.

3  Greg Greene wrote:

I knooooo-o-o-o-o-w you wanna leave us / but we re-fuu-u-u-u-u-u-use to let you-u-u-u gooo-o-o-o-o-o-o …

Okay—got that out of my system … =,

Gratuitous song reference aside, I think I agree with everything you said up to the point where you claim to abandon blogging. Blogging is a tool—people make of it whatever they like. If all too many have chosen to misuse it, or make it ape the worst of other media … well, that’s life.

But the world still has plenty of personal blogs—sites that tell compelling stories from compelling perspectives, and that live to satisfy no one but the person who clicks the ‘post’ button. Those are the sites that keep me coming back—and for the record, I gladly count yours among them, no matter how you decide to classify it.

I long ago got sucked into the maw of the industry, but never forgot the medium that made it possible. I think blogging, the medium, still has a great deal of potential that blogging, the industry, has yet to realize. And I’m kinda looking forward to watching as new tools—like, say, Vox—bubble up and point us in new directions.

4  Reid wrote:

Paul: “I’m thinking of driving away every man, woman, and child from my site by posting nothing but interesting statistics I’ve collected for various real-world projects I’ve done?

While it might work, I think people will surprise you. I figured if I posted ten thousand words of verbose trauma, well, By Gum, that will drive them away. Instead I was quite surprised by the number of people who read the whole thing.

The best tactic is to simply change domains. I know someone who recently moved on to number five (six?). I thought about that, but decided to move the professional stuff off this site, and keep on doing whatever it is I do here.

Jennifer: “I come to this and a SELECT few other sites on a daily basis because I want to hear human voices with little or no agenda?

Thank you, Jennifer. The fact people like you (i.e., people I’ve never met) have made this a regular stop over the years does weigh in my mind on the rare occasions this year that I’ve thought about just shutting it down, or moving on.

Greg: “I think blogging, the medium, still has a great deal of potential that blogging, the industry, has yet to realize.?

And the question is, how many people discern the difference between the medium and the industry? If you’re just learning about blogs, you’re not starting with the jewels that are out there … they take some digging. You’re starting with whatever blog the media linked you to.

This weekend, it was YearlyKos getting the spotlight. Now, if someone had never been to a political blog before, and DailyKos was their introduction, do you think they’d surf around political blogs long enough to find the “jewels?? It might not be the best example, but my point is that the “industry? blogs put forth in the media aren’t always the most … compelling … examples of the “medium.?

I must also note the irony of you linking your name to a personal blog that hasn’t had a post in over a year. You sir are part of the problem. You’re off posting in the “industry,? and have abandoned the “medium.?

Golly, aren’t you glad you stopped by my 'personal site', Greg? I am!

5  Greg Greene wrote:

Reid:
And the question is, how many people discern the difference between the medium and the industry? If you’re just learning about blogs, you’re not starting with the jewels that are out there … they take some digging. You’re starting with whatever blog the media linked you to.

... or maybe with the blog where your niece published her first baby photos. Or the blog your neighbor started about the strip mall the developer just announced down the road. Or with the blog your local cycle club just announced in its latest newsletter. Or through MySpace.

My point? The blogosphere has turned into a big, multifarious beast—and because of that, more and more people learn about it through word of mouth. You might be surprised how people get their introduction to this whole wild medium—trust me, I am every day. In fact, that explains what led me too link Vox—platforms like that, and LiveJournal, will end up as the welcome mat to the blogosphere for far more people than the Daily Kos. [Thank heavens.]

I must also note the irony of you linking your name to a personal blog that hasn’t had a post in over a year. You sir are part of the problem. You’re off posting in the “industry,? and have abandoned the “medium.?

Touché—but yeah, I deserve that. OTOH, I’ve always been a politico. I just happened to be poised in a sweet spot when my vocation got all Borg-like and assimilated my hobby. But I always keep an eye out for what people are doing beyond the political zoo I work in—otherwise I’d go completely bonkers.

I think I need to break out a personal zone again, as a creative/experimental outlet, but the nature of my job means it probably has to be anonymous.

6  Reid wrote:

I didn’t mean for that to seem quite so hard a poke, Greg, but the truth is that your story is typical of the way blogging has changed and advanced over the past four years or so. You have no doubt benefitted from it, and (have I said this enough?) there’s not a thing wrong with that. I don’t begrudge anyone who has in some way used their blog to get somewhere they weren’t before. Quite the opposite. Especially since there are tens of thousands of dollars I would not have made professionally … if I didn’t have this site.

Perversely, I’ve always tried to keep what I do professionally quite separate from my usual postings here. I rarely post about work, and never about clients. In fact, I probably should have moved my portfolio over to reidstott.com a long time ago.

I think I need to break out a personal zone again, as a creative/experimental outlet, but the nature of my job means it probably has to be anonymous.

Now how’d you go and get yourself in that position?

Someone said nearly four years agoMost of my best writing comes when my mind runs all over the map, so expect randomness. Playful randomness

I shan’t stoop to partisan jokery, but I doubt you get much “playful randomness” in your current “industry” gig. Of the intentional variety.

Oops, I stooped. But just a little.

If you hurry, you can get your new anonymous blog up before we hit 44.2 million.

7  Greg Greene wrote:

Heh. Indeed. =,

Seriously, I wasn’t all that affronted—my snark tags just got yanked out by Textpattern’s filter. I’d call that a playfully random gremlin … but then, I’d be repeating myself.

As for finding isles of playful randomness in the industry: well, we get plenty o’ random, believe you me. It might not seem playful at the time, but trust me, I’ve learned to laugh at a lot of it. I highly recommend it. (Between you and me, it does wonders for the ol’ sanity. =) )

8  emcee flesjy wrote:

Paul: “I’m thinking of . . . posting nothing but interesting statistics I’ve collected for various real-world projects I’ve done?

Paul, dude, I’d make that my homepage.

Mainly, I’m just glad to see our dear Jeremiah is back on his game.

btw, Ried, the June post is up. ; )

9  SusanJ wrote:

Ried,

I too hate that something people have done since the start of the web—daily essays, what’s going on in my life, here’s this cool thing—became the New Big Thing With An Awful Name. The only difference I see is the tools that made it possible for people with better things to do than HTML hacking to write and share great things.

The hyperbole around it all just leaves me tired.

Thank you for expressing the sentiment more eloquently than I could. Glad you’re back. I was missing my well-written fix.

10  Scott Chaffin wrote:

Contra everyone, I predict that the group blog will wither on the vine. Contra everyone, the political blogosphere is not the blogosphere. Contra everyone, the blogosphere is merely the internet. Contra everyone, the internet is merely a distribution medium. That medium has become increasingly cheaper to access, and simpler to utilize. The notion that it was going to be different, somehow, from every other medium in the history of mankind is naive. You just have to treat it with the same rules you do for newspapers and advertorials, telephones and telemarketers, radios and live spots, television and infomercials. Hucksters, charlatans and hypesters abound, and buyer beware.

None of which means that: a) you can’t use it to your own devices, b) you can’t effect change with it, c) you can’t go and have some fun with it.

PS Reid, whether you’re a blogger or not, don’t kill your RSS feed, okay?

11  Gary Farber wrote:

“I too hate that something people have done since the start of the web—daily essays, what’s going on in my life, here’s this cool thing—became the New Big Thing With An Awful Name.”

I understand that, in the perfectly reasonable, and common ,way that people feel that something has been taken away from them when something that they were doing, they were enjoying partially because it was innovative, and new, and known only to a few, and the few who knew and appreciated it were the cognescenti, and thus the act was cool, and those who appreciated it were cool, and thus the doer was cool, and got coolness rewards from, becomes a mass, popular, experience, and thus no longer gives coolness rewards—the coolness has been stolen. Stop, thief!

On the other hand, I’ve generally found that while “cool” can be reasonably enjoyed up to a point, it’s over-rated.

But I do understand the emotional response very well. I grew up with science fiction and science fiction fandom as the most important part of my core identity as a kid; back then, in the Sixties, science fiction was beloved only by a relatively small number of people, and the number of people active in active fandom was only a few hundred people, and we all knew each other; even through the mid-Seventies, it was still only a highly active core of a few hundred, with a larger onion peel of a couple of thousand. We still all knew each other—closely, in most cases, through our writing, and meetings at small conventions and clubs, and often through living with each other, entering into romantic partnerships, and other endeavors. There was also a common terminology and language and known and shared history and unique culture, with a variety of unique attributes and tropes and fetishes.

Then came Star Wars and Star Trek movies, and the Great Explosion, and the world changed. Nowadays a jillion people talk about “sci-fi” without even realizing that that was the historic term of disparagement for the dreck movies, and they talk about said sci-fi, or even “science fiction,” all the time, while knowing next to nothing of its history or depths.

On the other hand, the little world continues, if one remains interested in it; it’s just in a different context now, which does change some things, but not others if you don’t want to let it.

Similarly, my blogging hasn’t significantly changed, so far as I can tell, since December, 2001 (aside from my not quite figuring out a post format until January of 2001), and I was even doing similar writing on Usenet going back years, and in sf fanzines decades before that.

The context of blogging is now very different than it was since 2001, but being an Old Fogey now, I haven’t let it change me, or what I do.

Reid has always been far more experimental, and format-oriented, and inclined to change things about, and try new things, than I have, as regards blogging (and probably other things; I’m kinda conservative in terms of personal change in general, actually), so I don’t begrudge him in the least his deciding to reframe what he’s doing in his head by calling it by a different name. Whatever gets ya through the day, m’man.

Even if it is the same thing by any other name. ;-)

(Incidentally, Reid, I wasn’t in a great place myself when I read your long post on the dreadful things that happened to your life and family, and didn’t comment, but: sympathies.)

12  Reid wrote:

emcee: “Mainly, I’m just glad to see our dear Jeremiah is back on his game.

Goodness, I do spount off that way about twice a year or so, don’t I?. Maybe they should name a geyser after me.

SusanJ: “the New Big Thing With An Awful Name.

Yes, this site is Not The New Big Thing With An Awful Name Anymore.

Scott: “Contra everyone

Hey, I’m the contrarian around here. And if you take a view contrarian to my contrarian view, that makes you mainstream. I’m pre-emptive that way. Still, you make some good points.

The notion that it was going to be different, somehow, from every other medium in the history of mankind is naive.

I take your point, hype is hardly new, but there is an important difference between those other areas you mention from which we can apply the “same rules.” 99.8% of people could not produce or publish “newspapers and advertorials” or broadcast “radios and live spots, television and infomercials”.

Being a mass medium huckster once had a bare minimum entry level: you had to buy time on or have access to one of those mass mediums. Most didn’t. Today, every-damn-buddy does. And a crappy AOL connection + Blogspot can equal Atrios.

Or any number of other less ferocious things.

And, no, Scott, the RSS isn’t going anywhere.

Gary: “I don’t begrudge him in the least his deciding to reframe what he’s doing in his head by calling it by a different name. Whatever gets ya through the day, m’man. Even if it is the same thing by any other name

Give the man a dollar. He’s come close to ringing the bell there.

Some of y’all have danced around it, but no one has directly pointed it out, so I will. I’ve used sensationalism on my blog (“Exclusive! Not a blog anymore! I’m seceding!”) to point out there’s sensationalism in blogs. And got several links and a dozen comments for it.

Har!

13  Scott Chaffin wrote:

99.8% of people could not produce or publish

Yeah, but they sat next to you on the train or at the local icehouse, dominated the water-cooler, or ruined the ballgame. I have an old friend who used to clip and carry newspaper and magazine articles around with him, and if he caught you on a good riled-up night, that was it for any other kind of conversation. I imagine everybody’s got at least one of those in their lives. Same rules…except you can’t click away from him.

(The funny thing is, nowadays I tell these types to go get a blog.)

14  emcee flesjy wrote:

Never bothered to actually look up what “jeremiah” referred to. I just vaguely recall somebody calling you that about a year ago, and finding your response entertaining. Though, again, don’t recall why.

Figured it was something biblical.

Wish I had some sort of globe-spanning database with around ten-duotrigintillion pieces of information on it. In that case, it might be worth looking up.

15  Reid wrote:

Scott: “The funny thing is, nowadays I tell these types to go get a blog

Which is excellent advice (when I give it, it’s rarely taken). But think about what you’re doing there. You’re redirecting their inflictions from yourself and one or two bystanders … onto all of us. “Dad shouting at the TV news” goes mass media. This simply wasn’t an option ten years ago.

It’s the disinhibition of media. Whereas Dad used to inflict himself on a few close family members who understood his idiosynchracies and hot buttons (and only from 6:30-7pm), now we are all afflicted with it, with the added dimension of “non present ranting.” Meaning, the way folks (myself included at times) rant in a blog in a manner they would never speak to a human being in front of them.

It used to be limited pretty much to a few outbursts from dad at the direction of Walter Cronkite. Now it’s 24/7 on da Internuts, directed at you and me.

I generally agree with the points you’ve made. I’m just saying this is the first mass medium where everyone has relatively easy and comparatively cheap access to the “modus operandi,” compared to the very limited few who had access to the Gutenburg press, or your local TV station’s transmitter.

Quite simply, a little more than a decade ago, if you, Scott Chaffin, had a worthy opinion or vital piece of information that you wanted to share with anyone and everyone you could … how many people could you reach within 48 hours? In, say, 1992? For me, the answer would likely be a few dozen.

Now, same question … how many people can you reach within 48 hours today? For me, the answer is at least 1000 just from regular visitors to my puny site. And potentially orders of magnitude larger, if it truly is worthy or vital and gets widely linked by others.

I’m not saying that is a good thing, or a bad thing. I’m just saying it is distinctly new and different from what’s come before.

emcee: “Never bothered to actually look up what ‘jeremiah’ referred to. I just vaguely recall somebody calling you that about a year ago, and finding your response entertaining.

Actually it wasn’t my response that was entertaining (found here), it was the comparison with the summary I found on Jeremiah: “Jeremiah had a tough time being a prophet. People didn’t want to listen to him, and when his prophecies suggested that their own actions would cause the downfall of their beloved Jerusalem, they even threatened to kill him…”

It gets better from there. I think I’ll shut up now.

16  Gary Farber wrote:

“Give the man a dollar.”

Yes, please. :-)

“This simply wasn’t an option ten years ago.”

Well, I do have to point out that people have been pamphleting since approximately the 17th century, arguably earlier, though you did have to at least have a printer friend, or some money, but by the 18th century, both in Europe and America, it really was a quite popular pastime for many amongst the literate.

And in the 19th century, there were amateur press associations all over.

I’m quite familiar with this history, because I used to be a major historian of science fiction fandom (I used to create exhbits, and give talks, and do panels, at various sf events, on said history, and formerly had one of the top 5 or so collections in the world), which grew out of the lettercolumns of the sf magazines starting in 1926, but which began producing independent fanzines from 1930 on (Ray Palmer’s The Comet, and others); then the Fantasy Amateur Press Association also began shortly thereafter, which drew on the roots of the 19th century amateur press associations, which were still going on quite healthily in the 1930’s (and last I looked the National Amateur Press Assocation, and others of those originals were still ongoing).

Then, of course, in the Fifties and Sixties, the sf fanzine begat the first comics fanzines, as sf fans who were also comics fans branched out, and then the same with rock and roll fanzines, and then they started begatting their own families of fanzines and apas, and then in the Seventies begat the general “zine” movement, and then by the Eighties, you had endless “zine” publishers with no clue as to the roots of their field in science fiction fanzines. And in the Seventies, apas also branched out into every possible specialty occupation and interest, and this continued in the Eighties. (I first started writing for publication this way in 1971.)

Lots of this stuff is still going on. One of the local Boulder “alternative” weeklies cover story this week is on local “zines.”

So putting all this on the internet as some new thing is a bit exaggerated. (Not to mention that the roots of all internet talk was on ARPA-net, of course; I was getting print-outs of the SF-LOVERS mailing list every couple of months back in the mid-Seventies.)

“Meaning, the way folks (myself included at times) rant in a blog in a manner they would never speak to a human being in front of them.”

That’s the annoying part. It’s astonishing how free people feel to shout obscene, or worse, abuse at others when one doesn’t see their faces and reactions (and, yes, I’ve been guilty endless number of times of being far harsher than I’d be to someone in person, myself).

17  Reid wrote:

You make perfectly valid points. But I have to ask you the same questions.

In 1994, if you had an strong opinion or important nugget of information, how many people could you get it to in an average 24 hour period?

Now, answer the same question as it relates to 2006. I’m betting your answers vary by a factor of 10 or more. An order of magnitude.

18  Gary Farber wrote:

“In 1994, if you had an strong opinion or important nugget of information, how many people could you get it to in an average 24 hour period?”

I notice you’re shortening the time-span as you ask the question. :-)

I noticed that when I thought of, and declined to, extend my response on the last go-round.

Sure. Electronics, and the internets, shortens, considerably, the response-cycle.

Still, more of a difference of degree than kind, though.

The cycles of communication have been quickening.

I don’t agree that the advent of AOL, or whatever, over ARPAnet, or earlier e-nets, or ongoing apas, did more than overlap, rather than revolutionize each other (a point you may not disagree about), but I applaud it, to be sure.

I’ve probably missed the storyline somewhere here. Sorry.

19  Reid wrote:

Gary: “I’ve probably missed the storyline somewhere here.

Not hard when I give you so many words to choose from in one article.

Summary: Reid is a cynical curmudgeon who is fed up with the direction that weblogs have taken, as represented by those most talked about in the media and most linked on the web. He thinks they are in danger of becoming the very thing they hate: the media. And he has used sensationalism in his blog (“Exclusive: Not a Blog Anymore! I’m Seceding”) to point out there’s sensationalism in blogs.

He knows that those blogs “most talked about in the media and most linked on the web” are not truly representative of all blogs, but finds that sort of like saying “yes, I know you hate the NBA, the NCAA, and what they’ve done to the game of basketball, but you’re ignoring the excellent street ball happening in neighborhood driveways and schoolyards all over this country.”

Yes, and so is everyone else.

20  Ironbear wrote:

Good for you, Reid.

I dropped out of active blogging at Who Tends the Fires a few months after the 2004 elections, citing a lack of time and interest in active posting. And an interest in devoting more time to my other venues at RFI and the various graphics sites I work at.

I ended up drifting farther and farther away from blogdom, rather than catching my breath and drifting back…

Rather than blogging evolving it’s own model, a lot of the things I’d projected coming out of the influx of ad revenue and popularity and exposure came to pass while I was taking time off – we started becoming what we’d been headhunting. A pity, that. There’s no future in blogging becoming MSM Lite, complete with a thin veneer of Jr. High cliqueishness. People can get that from the MSM – the only thing blogging offers that’s different in that regards is an upfront declaration of bias and partisanship. [Not that that’s not refreshing in and of itself: it’s nice to know where an editorialist stands rather than having to guess.] Not that that’s a Bad Thing, it’s just not a thing that interests me to be a part of any more.

Best of luck to you, and I’ll keep coming back to see what you have to say next… as long as it interests both of us. ;)

21  Reid wrote:

I ended up drifting farther and farther away from blogdom, rather than catching my breath and drifting back…

But you appear to have a fair number of posts lately. About life. Software. And other things not in the Top Ten topics of the A-List today.

So, maybe you didn’t drift away. Maybe you evolved.

I think it’s very easy to get caught up in expectations other than your own. Those of others, and more general expectations of what a blog is “supposed” to be, right down to how often you’re “supposed” to post.

I’m not saying that you have, as I have no idea of your personal circumstances or choices. I just know I went through some serious changes this year, and this place evolved … outside of anyone’s expecations other than my own.

Helluva way to get there, I have to say. Your tack seems much calmer.

22  ruminator wrote:

Funny you should post this at this time. I haven’t posted much lately. I’ve been distracted by other things that I didn’t feel I could write about, at least not in a public forum. I even considered dropping the blog once the domain registration runs out. (When is that, anyway?)

Your thoughts piqued a few of mine. Here are some of them…

I’ve all but quit reading blogs over the last few weeks. Time just hasn’t allowed it. I find time for a little fun, but it hasn’t included reading blogs. I should fix that. No, what I mean is that I should make a really short list of weblogs that I must read because the writers are folk who are important to me. Never mind I’ve never met most of them. I think I see something of the people behind the words. And that’s what keeps me coming back. That includes your house, BTW.

It’s good stuff that makes me think. It’s good writing that inspires me to write well. It’s a real person behind the website.

I may decide to keep mine running as well. I might not post as much as I have, but I can come up with something to write about at least once a week.

I care nothing about traffic. I did, but I no longer do. I know that Daughter and a few friends drop by now and again. That’s good enough.

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