Are You a Blogger?

I've been meaning to post this essay for a long time and simply haven't found the tuits. Tonight I decided to post it, (finally!), both here and on my website.

Are you a blogger? Before you answer no, consider this:

...There has been plenty of buzz around blogging over the past two years but, as some observers have pointed out, blogging is just writing that's shared with others using software that makes it all very easy.
...

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August 6, 2006 in category Life, the Universe, and Everything, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (3)

Every Jot and Tittle

You Are Your Own Online Editor

One of my "pet peeves" regards people who seem to feel that writing for the web doesn't need to be edited, spell-checked or proofread. These same people often feel the same way about email. Just dash something off and click send.

They confuse the speed of the transfer medium (the Net) with the speed of the communication medium (writing). Writing is actually a slow medium of communication. Writing gives you time to express yourself in just the right words. It gives you time to think, rewrite, proofread, and spellcheck. It also gives you time to write that flaming rebuttal, then sit back and delete it without sending after you cool off. ;-)

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May 16, 2006 in category Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Indie "Virus"

Love the Idea. Hate the Name.

The is an idea from Chris Pearson:
I'm starting a new experiment tonight that I'd like to have some fun with over the coming weeks, but there's a catch - I'm going to need some help from you, my critical-thinking, curious readers. Essentially, I want to launch a viral linking campaign with some pretty loose guidelines for the links. I've constructed this in such a way that I (or anyone else who's interested) will be able to monitor the progress of the experiment as it (hopefully) spreads across the blogosphere.

[ The Virus You Want to Catch, March 10, 2006 ]

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April 12, 2006 in category Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The Weblog Handbook

Practical Advice on Creating and Maintaining Your Blog

This slim volume, by Rebecca Blood, is well-written, informative, and engaging. One of the early website creators and one of the first to use what is now considered to be the "weblog" format, Rebecca has a unique perspective on weblogs, online culture, and communication. Although I have had a weblog since 2003 (and have done a lot of reading on the subject) I learned new things from this book.

One of the most interesting things I learned is how much the idea of a "weblog" has changed since the word was coined in 1999. The earliest weblogs were information filters, "Links with commentary, with the new stuff on top".

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February 21, 2006 in category Books, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Citizen Journalism Debate

Something to keep an eye on...

The National Union of Journalists in Britain and Ireland (NUJ) has announced a code of practice to address important issues raised by the "phenomenon of citizen journalism". The new Code comes a day after a round-table debate on citizen journalism and its implications for the profession.

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January 25, 2006 in category Life, the Universe, and Everything, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Civility

By now you may have heard of the altercation that took place between Mena Trott (SixApart.com) and Ben Metcalfe (backstage.bbc.co.uk) at the recent Les Blogs conference in France. Mena gave a keynote speech about civility in blogging. Metcalfe (and others in the audience) took exception to what they considered to be the patronizing tone of the talk. So far, none of this is particularly unusual. Keynote speakers speak; audience members mutter among themselves. All part of the usual conference setting.

However, at this conference, the audience members were linked online by IRC "back-channel" and the chat session was displayed, live, for all to see... including the speaker. Partway through Mena's keynote, one of the IRC chatters (Metcalfe) remarked: “this is bullshit”. Ouch.

Apparently the session went rapidly downhill from there. :-(

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December 10, 2005 in category Relationships, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

How Much Anonymity?

When I started my weblogs, I made a few decisions.

  • I will be as honest in my writing as I am in "real life".
  • I will not go out of my way to offend other people.
  • I will only very rarely (if ever) discuss the more "controversial" topics (e.g. Iraq, religion, politics...).
  • I will not mention The Company That Employs Me by name.
  • I will not provide identifying information about friends or co-workers that would easily allow other people to locate them (unless I am linking to their "public" personae).
  • I will treat my weblog the way I treat my email. Never put anything actionable — or that you wouldn't want your mother or company CEO to read — in writing.

I ran across an interesting article today, published on the EFF website in their Privacy/Anonymity section. The article is entitled "How to Blog Safely (About Work or Anything Else)". It discusses blogging anonymity, topics to avoid, topics protected by the First amendment, etc.

If you blog, there are no guarantees you'll attract a readership of thousands. But at least a few readers will find your blog, and they may be the people you'd least want or expect. These include potential or current employers, coworkers, and professional colleagues; your neighbors; your spouse or partner; your family; and anyone else curious enough to type your name, email address or screen name into Google or Feedster and click a few links.

The point is that anyone can eventually find your blog if your real identity is tied to it in some way. And there may be consequences. Family members may be shocked or upset when they read your uncensored thoughts. A potential boss may think twice about hiring you. But these concerns shouldn't stop you from writing. Instead, they should inspire you to keep your blog private, or accessible only to certain trusted people.

Here we offer a few simple precautions to help you maintain control of your personal privacy so that you can express yourself without facing unjust retaliation. If followed correctly, these protections can save you from embarrassment or just plain weirdness in front of your friends and coworkers.

I found the topic interesting in an academic sense, the way I find articles about high-energy physics, world travel, or swimming with sharks to be interesting.

I don't intend to go there...

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April 7, 2005 in category Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Blog People"

You may have heard about Michael Gorman's recent diatribe against weblogs and the people who write them (posted in Library Journal, Feb. 15, 2005). It's distinctly uncomplimentary.

A blog is a species of interactive electronic diary by means of which the unpublishable, untrammeled by editors or the rules of grammar, can communicate their thoughts via the web. (Though it sounds like something you would find stuck in a drain, the ugly neologism blog is a contraction of "web log.") Until recently, I had not spent much time thinking about blogs or Blog People.

Ouch.

Mr. Gorman bases his judgment and his comments on far too small a sample. He also considers only a very narrow section of possible weblogs and webloggers: specifically the ones he feels "attacked" his viewpoint in an earlier op-ed piece he wrote for the L.A. Times.

Judging all weblogs (and worse, all "blog people") by a handful of personally annoying postings is akin to judging all periodicals by a handful of less than savory articles or magazines. One should not attempt to classify Scientific American or Readers Digest (or even Library Journal) if one has only seen a few small-organization newsletters or a copy of Hustler.

Unfortunately, Mr. Gorman is not simply an annoyed writer posting a rebuttal in an online forum. He's also president-elect of the American Library Association and Dean of Library Services at Cal State, Fresno. Such a display of peeved ignorance as Mr. Gorman presents, issuing as it does from such a lofty and public position, reflects poorly on librarians everywhere. It is my hope that some of the more enlightened librarians will see fit to take Mr. Gorman aside and educate him privately.

February 25, 2005 in category Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Blog Commercialization

Blogs are becoming commercialized. Beginning with simple Google AdSense Ads, Amazon referral links, and Cafe Press merchandising--often simply to defray the costs of site hosting--many bloggers have sought to make a little money from their blogs. Some blogs, like Daring Fireball, began with very commercial premises. Big Media is spinning up its own blogs (Slate, MSNBC). Commercial blog networks like Weblogs, Inc., Gawker Media, Corante, and AlwaysOn Network are building whole new profit models for blogs. Somewhere between a journalist and the guy standing on the corner wearing a sandwich board, the commercialization of blogs is creating a new class of blogger: The Professional Blogger.

What's your slant on the commercialization of blogs? Is it a good thing? Will commercialization increase public awareness of this all but hidden publishing medium? Will commercialization lead to over-saturation of the Internet? Is making money from blogging just plain wrong?

[ cf Saturday Slant ]

It's not really accurate to say that "Blogs are becoming commercialized". It's only accurate to say that there are commercial blogs and professional bloggers as well as personal blogs and parttime "amateur" bloggers. I don't have any problems with commercialization. It's a choice, after all. My blog is still free, as is yours, but he's been hired to do one for his company and she's promoting one that asks for paid subscriptions. That's OK.

Contrary to the belief of some bloggers, weblogs aren't really anything "special". They're simply one of the next logical enhancements in web technology. Back in 1993, the Web was very new. It wasn't very useful, but it was a cool publishing medium. Today, 10 years later, it's still a cool publishing medium. It's not new anymore and there are all sorts of things being done with it.

I read Meg Hourihan's column, "Blogging for Dollars: Giving Rise to the Professional Blogger" in February, 2003; the column was written in August, 2002. I agreed with her assessment then. I agree as much, or more, today.

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May 8, 2004 in category Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Lazy Way?

I ran across the following entry on a fellow blogger's site. She's also a fellow Victoria, so she must have sensible things to say :-)

One of my favorite bloggers called memes "officially the lazy bastard's way of filling a blog", but I beg to differ. As someone who uses my blog as a push to write, since I truly want to write for a living, I find memes to be simply writing prompts. I only do ones I think are relatively interesting, and I do them when my mind seems otherwise empty. If I was lazy, I wouldn't write anything. Instead I find something that makes me think enough to respond and I respond. I've been been feeling really empty lately, and the memes keep me writing.

I agree emphatically with everything she says, except perhaps for the last sentence, and that only because this week I've managed to have a bunch of ideas on my own. Other weeks, it's the memes that keep me writing,. Come to think of it, at least one of those "ideas of my own" was inspired by a conversation on a journaling list I belong to.

Unless, perhaps,. you're writing fiction (and even then I'm not so sure) I think most of our writing ideas come from outside — from something you heard or saw or remembered or thought of based on some peculiar chain of reactions. If a meme does it for you, write to the meme!

Like Victoria (above), I pick the memes that interest me. From those, I choose the questions to which I respond. Sometimes, I'll skip a question — even on a meme I generally follow — because that week's question didn't prompt anything from me (or I simply decline to answer). At other times, I may initially think I have nothing to say; however, sometime later I often discover that I have a whole page of material to write.

I also subscribe (at this moment) to seven different journaling discussion lists (with weekly writing prompts), one writing prompt("read-only :-) list, and a handful of journalling newsletters. I really enjoy this awesome source of ideas called "writing prompts and "memes".

Whether I've been feeling empty lately or writing up a storm, the memes and the prompts keep me writing. And writing, for me, is the goal.

February 26, 2004 in category Language Arts, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)