This is an archive of theorising weblogs posts from Jill Walker's blog, jill/txt.
blogs i read
recent updates first
discussions about books
Allconsuming is a useful tool for following blog discussions of books. For instance, their page for Rheingold's Smart Mobs gives you basic book info and a cover photo, comments (rather inane, unfortunately), and most importantly, links to and extracts from weblogs that have linked to this book in the last week. It's the next step up from Weblog Bookwatch, which appeared a few months back - Allconsuming gives much more contextual information though. This is a really useful tool for organising collective knowledge and analysis. It does it by using data from amazon.com (available as XML or SOAP, they explain it at their webservices page) and connecting that with links to amazon books from recently updated weblogs. The weblogs are found through weblogs.com, which allows blogs to ping their server when updating, checks them for changes, and generates an XML list of recently updated blogs accessible to others. Erik Benson, who built this, also has his own weblog, Mockerybird.com. I love how people build stuff like this. Oh, and Allconsuming's data is also available as XML or RSS feeds, so you can build on what Erik's built if you like.
This is collective intelligence, decentralised knowledge management, emergent community-building. Brilliant.
I wrote a few days ago that when my daughter starts using the web, I want her to learn to protect her anonymity and to not feel obliged to tell the truth. Rebecca Blood's six rules of blogging ethics (excerpted from The Weblog Handbook on her website) remind me that that's not quite right. Rebecca's rules are:
1. Publish as fact only that which you believe to be true.
These are good rules, though perhaps not applicable to all kinds of blogs. I've written about rule 2 before, and like it, though it can be taken to ridiculous extremes. I'm less happy about rule 4. Yes, it makes sense to have nice trustworthy archives. Ted Nelson would love this rule: in Xanadu (a hypertext system he's been arguing for since the 60s) every version of every document would be permanently available. But I like being able to edit blog posts after they've been published, and you know what? I think most people do. Online newspapers do. After-editing (is that the correct English term? Etterredigering in Norwegian; it means that editing and proof reading is done continuously after the initial online publication) has become standard in online journalism, certainly according to Terje Rasmussen. Jouke Kleerebezem made it explicit for a while, though he's removed the tagline now - it still says "launch-and-learn publishing" but it also used to say "corrections are generally made within 36 hours". [Update 09:41: Torill replies. I'll ditto everything she says. (Well, in in that post, anyway ;) Kids safety is separate from blogging. Btw, Rebecca does add to the "don't change" rule in the full text - she has lots of comments to each rule - she writes that incorrect information should be fixed or marked as incorrect.]
letters never sent
Another blog project: Letters never sent. I'm thinking The Dating Project which I wrote about the other day is a narrated game. The writer devised a game with clear rules and a defined winning situation, and plays the game. The blog is where he narrates the gameplay. A bit of jumping between ontological levels happens when readers of the narrated game start influencing the game play, but that's OK. Letters never sent isn't quite about a game, but it is an enactment of a personal challenge where the writing is the action. It's a project, a challenge, rather than a weblog about a theme.
I've started this weblog to say all the things I can't, and not just to the one I love. I've hidden in silence all my life, and used it as a shield to keep me safe. (..) I want to be heard. (27 Oct)
That's why weblogs and web diaries are different from keeping a secret diary locked away in your drawer. Even if you're writing anonymously, you're writing for readers. You don't lock up your thoughts.
Some of this writer's posts are exquisitely written. Or do I just think so because some of them are so close? She writes I'm in love with a man who lives in my tomorrows, and I'll dream of escaping your yesterdays. I never thought of putting it that poetically. Phone calls are cheap, but time is disjointed. All my afternoon and evening, Adrian's asleep. When he wakes, I go to bed.
Kuro5hin's amusing profiles of different kinds of bloggers (Teenie Blogger, Trailer Blogger, Techie Blogger etc) is definitely amended by Frank's profile of the Research Blogger. (via Lisbeth and Frank)
blog narratives: dating blogs
John Hiler has an amusing dissection of dating blogs over at Microcontent News, and points out a problem with real life blogs as narratives: real life just doesn't respect the suspense and the dramatic curve we love in narratives.
I'm realizing that the whole fun of dating blogs comes from vicariously experiencing the frustrations and humiliations of the dating circuit. It's no fun when someone finds true love in, say... twenty-seven days (?!). It's like Bridget Jones getting married in the first chapter, or Carrie Bradshaw meeting Mr. Big in the first season (oh wait, that one did happen).
The dating blog John discusses is a blog used as a tool in a specific project: it's to make the blogger keep his commitment to three rules he has set himself:
One: I will strike up a conversation with three different people I do not know each day.
Two: I will attend activities, events, or other situations where I can meet new people at least twice a week.
Three: I will ask out at least one woman each week. (The Date Project, June 4, 2002)
Blogs can be used for project management as well as for communication or discussion. Here the public aspect of the project's progress helps the blogger stick to commitments. After being dubbed a Notable Blog by Blogger.com, the Date Project receives hundreds of visitors, and the blogger writes:
I haven't been real successful yet, but with all the people watching now, I don't think I have a choice to not follow through. From the e-mails and comments I have received today, too many people would be disappointed. (The Date Project, June 14, 2002)
I did this for a while with my "currently reading" and "currently writing" segments - they worked great until I reorganised my system and sort of forgot to organise those bits of the blog...
However, having readers is a double-edged sword. Some obviously juicy posts have sadly for us eavesdroppers been deleted, but something happened with readers, emails, online romance while dating 'K'. And after the first while of enjoying the support of his readers, the dating blogger writes:
A whole lot happened this week. I can boil this all down to one thing. I stopped writing for myself and began writing for the people who I thought were reading the site. That turned out to be a bad idea. (The Date Project, June 24, 2002)
I guess there's more potential for hurting people in Love than in Currently Reading, eh?
daring oneself to write differently
Grumpygirl's thinking more about voices, and writes
I used the character [Grumpy Girl] as a way of distancing myself from my blog, but eventually (inevitably?) we started to merge. Whether or not this is a good thing I have yet to decide. (29 October 2002)
Reading this I realise I did something similar, only less explicitly. I consciously decided to blog in a grumpier - or at least less careful - voice than I usually used. I had (have) a sometimes overly diplomatic streak. You know the type: I want everyone to like me so I often find myself wanting to agree with everyone. My academic writing was like that too, "on the one hand" and "on the other hand" and never really coming to conclusions or taking a stand. So in blogging I decided to be opinionated. Grumpy, I guess. It worked. I'm proud to say I'm a much grumpier person today. ;)
Most important though: I'm much better at writing what I want to write instead what I think is expected of me. I just realised that that could be because I've finally internalised "what is expected of me". It doesn't feel that way, though. It feels as though I can sort of work out what's expected and disregard it.
Torill comments that she learnt what I learnt from blogging playing MUDs - perhaps it's writing socially that does it, she suggests. Definitely the social, and the writing, but also the semi-permanence of blogs, I think. As Adrian's noted before, blogs are published, and that certainly makes me more conscious of how I write than when I'm on a MUD or chatting online. I often edit blog posts in the hours after they're published: fixing typos, making sentence structures more elegant, sometimes shortening or reordering. Which makes me realise that blogging is also about daring to show people something that's not necessarily quite finished, and continuing to work on it after it's public.
writing styles and blogs
I'm enjoying Grumpygirl these days. She's writing an MA thesis on blogs and voice, and she's an animator, so has these hilarious conversations between herself and an ant. The last one's a self-evaluation anyone who's tried to write a thesis will find familiar.
I've developed my writing style and voice and self-assurance a lot in the last couple of years of blogging. I've become very comfortable with expressing myself quickly and clearly, and I'm much more confident about expressing a clear opinion, tolerating its being challenged, debating it and supporting it - or changing it and learning from criticism. Networking, building on others ideas, sharing my own and letting go of my ideas as they join up with others and are used by others. Though I suppose universities want to or should teach these things, I sure didn't learn them in seminars, lectures or writing groups. Perhaps others did.
There are other skills blogging hasn't helped me with. Finishing a long piece (like a PhD thesis) and actually accepting it as completed rather than just another dated post in a process, for instance. But then no one ever claimed a blog would teach you everything.
bias in the blogosphere
Robert Corr has written a pretty interesting essay, Bias in the Blogosphere, for his class on Media and Politics. The essay's chock full of links, and does a good job of pulling together debated issues in blogging and ideas about blogging. His references are a treat: he'll link the groovyest words in a citation to the source (most are online, some are from books and for them he links to the amazon book page), and he's put the correctly formatted academic reference in the title tag for each link, so you see it if you hover your mouse over the link. There are a lot of good links, and it's elegantly and bloggishly done. I'd have liked an old-fashioned bibliography as well. And I don't agree with his conclusions, but hey, that's OK. (via Blogroots)
I have a folder, marked Milon Buneta. His mother gave it to me. It includes childhood photos, school reports, prize certificates, faded flyers from school theatricals, testimonials from friends, notes in Milon's handwriting. Some of these tokens are official, formal. Others are quite personal. (Milon's Memory)
Bernard Lane has started a weblog as an obituary to his friend Milon, who died twenty years ago. Milon's mother gave Bernard a folder of photos and documents, and asked him to write about her son. No newspaper would print an obituary to a man who had died twenty years earlier, though they would print an article about Bernard's choice to start a weblog for his friend instead.
Milon Buneta, 1961-1981. Begin with a simple fact. He lived just 20 years.
I don't usually read obituaries of people I didn't know, or know of. This living obituary is different. A story unfolding. Some of the most successful digital narratives are told a little like this: someone has died, or disappeared, or lost their memory, and you must piece their story together from the bits and pieces they left behind, the photos, news clippings, stories, memories. Uncle Buddy's Funhouse: your uncle Buddy left you the contents of his hard drive. I am a Singer: the protagonist has amnesia and in reading, you mirror her exploration of half-memories tied to stamps in her passport, her diary, news items. The Impermance Agent is an obituary of a sort, told according to how you surf the web, popping up among other reading in the course of a week. Found documents, objects trouvés, looking through a folder, a file, a box, a database and piecing together a story from what you find: this seems to be a form of narrative suited well to digital media. Perhaps a living obituary will be more read, more meaningful, than one published in a newspaper and then gone forever?
Seb: "I see blogrolling lists as explicitly defining webs of trust".
blogging on your front door
The girls who live across the hall from me are conducting this amazing performative dialogue on their front door. It started when L.V. moved in a few weeks ago. She drew an exquisite name sign to go beneath the "welcome in" sign. A few days later, a poster appeared on the door with photos of the two glued on it - in bikinis. Last week the notes started turning up, sweet at first: "remember the kitty litter!", then progressively grumpier, through "it's YOUR turn!" to yesterday's "I can't stand it any more, you HAVE TO tidy up, the place looks like a PIG STY!", taped on the actual door handle where it couldn't be ignored. Chatting with the girls, who are lovely and about 18 or 19, it seems that one is at school all day and the other swims all evening, so they rarely see each other. That explains the notes. But why outside their front door?
This morning there was an essay out there. A full page of profuse apologies for messiness, with sincere promises to become a better flatmate. And in conclusion: "I call upon the residents of [our address] to witness these promises."
If these two have web diaries they're not under their real names. But their door-writing must come out of the same drive to treat personal observations, reflections and experiences as a performance which involves others than the people directly participating. There's an assumption of, and invitation to, lurkers - the notes are there despite (or because of?) the girls' knowledge that their neighbours - and their neighbours' guests - read them. (It's the sort of thing I imagine being common in those colourful student dorms you see on TV, though it certainly never happened in the student housing I lived in).
My kronikk was in the Sunday paper, titled Makten forrykkes på nettet. It's not actually a kronikk, but a kåseri or a fortelling, which was nearly its downfall, but it was published in a last-minute redecision. My daughter's headmaster told me this morning that he'd seen it, but also pointed out he didn't bother reading past the headline. A parent had seen it too, but found it "complicated". Well, at least I got my photo in the paper, huh? And what could be more important than that. (How do you do a sarcastic smiley, anyway?)
The ninth-graders yesterday were great, much more fun than an adult audience. Yes, it was obvious when they were bored (that stuff about the self-organising web is really boring), but it was just as obvious when they were interested, and they were interested quite a lot of the time. One of the lads up the front was a blogger himself, which is cool (no, I don't know his URL). And about a quarter of these kids already knew what a blog was. None of the 20-something-year-old design students I talked to half a year ago knew. I liked that they knew.
Men link to men, many women mostly link to men. I've noticed this - in some clusters. My sidebar of similar-minded blogs counts ten men and ten women, to my relief, and a few non-determinates and communities. One could slant this issues in several ways.
why researchers blog
Seb has a couple of recent posts on why researchers blog - because it's a form of networking and thereby building recognition and authority (only without the travel) and because researchers are information-users and analysts and have a culture of sharing. He even suggests (or I read into his words) that interdisciplinary researchers might blog more than monodisciplinarists. That would hold for most of the research blogs I've seen.
A military blog, written by members of the 172nd whatever-you-call-it, who are currently in Afganistan. Seems they blog mostly to let their families know how they're doing, but once found they've got heaps of readers. Logging this for future reference, 'nother example of unusual ways blogs are used.
[Oh, and the genre discussion? Strictly speaking 172med.org is a web diary or journal more than a weblog; there are no links or references to other web sites and few if any general commentaries. All the posts are stories about "what happened to me/us today". These distinctions matter some places, in the ODP for instance, where sites have to be categorised, there's a discussion going on (password needed, sign up to be an editor if you're that curious and you'll get one) calling for stricter lines between weblogs and web diaries. The Swedes refused to link to the blog category I edit because it wasn't a pure weblog category; there are web diaries in there too. There's also a movement from ghettoising weblogs in Computers/../On_the_Web/Weblogs to organising them according to theme: sites should be categorised by content rather than form. Genres are tricky and murky and it's way too easy to make their definitions an end in itself rather than a tool for understanding.]
the grammar of blogs
Jeff Ward comments on Meg Hourihan's recent article on blogs, where she argues that it's not the content that's important but what blogs allow us to do, the structure (disclaimer: I still haven't read her article properly, sorry, so that might be misunderstanding it). Anyway, Jeff is in search of a grammar of blogs, and writes:
Simply put, the structure imposed by the grammatical rules of timestamps, permalinks, etc., results in paratactic information exchange. Each day adds another level of and then. (..) The first generation link blogs are entirely paratactic, compared to the hypotactic, subordinating [dare I say tree-like] nature of first generation personal home pages. Hypotaxis was derived from print literacy. Link blogs are in essence far more oral and conversational.
Parataxis means putting terms next to each other without coordinating or subordinating connections (Webster definition) (so A and B rather A, because B or A if B). But isn't the chronology of and then and of timestamps in blogs an implicit causality? And then means more than just and. The timestamps in blogs could mean (sometimes mean?) "first I thought A, then I considered the matter further, read several other ideas in other blogs, and then I thought B."
Come to think of it I've published about this. Sort of. In my narratological reading of the hypertext fiction classic afternoon, I talk about Genette's concepts of how bits of stories are tied together. He calls connections between events forms of syllepsis, and he reckons they're usually chronological, but can also be geographical or thematical and so on.
What's interesting about blogs, and about what Jeff's writing, is that blogs are chronologically ordered. Quite systematically so; it's a defining quality of the genre. Yet the chronology doesn't drown the separateness of the posts. Is the difference then that blog posts are ordered according to the time of writing but not necessarily according to the time and logic of the story or argument?
I like this snippet by Roland Barthes - you know how he organised many of his books as collections of alphabetically ordered fragments rather than as sustained linear arguments? I think that's not much different from the way blogs are organised by the chance chronology of when a thought was captured (though doubtlessly Barthes edited his books quite deliberately for order, and blogs aren't edited in that sense):
The alphabetical order erases everything, banishes every origin. Perhaps in places, certain fragments seem to follow one another by some affinity, but the important thing is that these little networks not be connected, that they not slide into a single enormous network which would be the structure of the book, its meaning. It is in order to halt, to deflect, to divide this descent of discourse toward a destiny of the subject, that at certain moments the alphabet calls you to order (to disorder) and says: Cut! Resume the story in another way. (in Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes, page 148)
I think Jeff's on to something important in understanding how blogs work - but I guess I'm not convinced that this makes them oral conversations. Plenty more thinking to be done on these issues, I think.
"Metafilter on prozac" is Leuschke's description; another is that it's a place to discuss blogs run by some of the veterans from Pyra (you know, the gang that made Blogger that most-famous tool for blogging): Meg, Matt, etc. That article in the NY times that tried to invent a great rift between the two opposed factions of bloggers (yeah, I know, I didn't realise that bloggers were divided into two teams, either, I think the journalist must have been a wannabe war correspondent) set Blogroots up against "the new, right wing warbloggers". Not sure about that. But anyway, there are some interesting links from it.
No, I don't have blogger's block, it's just mailing list poster's block. I should should should respond to the posts on empyre about blogs. I can't for the life of me think what though. Is there such as thing as context specific writer's block; mailing list block? Blogging feels nice and comfortable as always.
Ironically I spent the day at an enjoyable seminar about mailing lists. I spoke about email narratives and poetry.
I'm so tired after my short holiday in Oslo (with stunning weather, good friends, late nights and adorable children waking at six) and then a seminar and flying home. More tomorrow.
discussing blogs in a mailing list
Mailing lists are different to blogs. I love the differences between individual blogs, the autonomy of each and the sometimes unpredictable emergence of clusters and conversations that may shift as groupings change or ideas converge. Mark's artificial life experiments suit this genre perfectly. Mailing lists are pre-defined spaces, where everyone's words are made to look identical and the audience is known though changeable. In mailing lists I often feel intimidated by the weight of other peoples' words. So I remain silent. In my blog my audience is both potentially wider and pragmatically more limited. I'm completely confident that bored or uninterested readers will not stay. I love that. For me, blogs are so much more liberating of free discussions than mailing lists. I imagine some others feel oppositely?
I'm a guest on empyre this month, a networked art mailing list, talking about blogs, which is already fascinating. Brandon Barr and Mez have been discussing it too, and some others; wonderful. Perhaps you'd like to join in too?
Are these conversations different? The one in blogspace and the one on empyre? I speak to you as if you're not on empyre, and on empyre, I imagine people don't read this, but are the spaces (spaces?) really that different?
Whylog is a site devoted to people's answers to the burning question: Why do you blog?
what weblogs aren't
Leuschke handily provides a list, with links, to some of the weird things blogs have been claimed to be, but aren't.
Alex Golub, Jeff Ward and Tom Matrullo have been having a bit of a blogyarn about links and blogs (Jeff part 1 and 2 and 3, Tom, Alex), in part based on David Weinberger's book and Alex's review of it. They're discussing the different qualities of link-driven and content-driven blogs, and since they all have blogs with lengthy reflective posts and few links it's unsurprising to find that Jeff and Alex are sceptical to link-driven blogs (Tom doesn't comment this). I think they'd call this blog link-driven; at any rate, Alex calls Leuschke (a blog I'd be happy to be likened to) link-driven. Jeff likens link-driven blogs to the footnotes of a scholarly essay, devoid of pulp and content, rarely enjoyable. Wood's Lot is one of the few link-driven blogs he likes, and that's because there is "a coherence to his method", which Jeff relates to Coleridge's "On Method" (27 May). Alex argues that linking reveals identity, while Jeff disagrees, using Bourdieu's notion of habitus to argue that linking only displays who a person wants to be. I've been rereading Hillis Miller, and I suspect that "the assumption that signs represent something other than themselves is patriarchal, logocentric, phallogocentric" (Ariadne's Thread, 88). I think Jeff would agree with J. Hillis Miller's criticism of links, though: they always point away from the matter at hand rather than going deeper into it. (He writes this in Illustrations, I think, about a quarter or a third of the way through, sorry, I don't have the book here so no page number.)
In my opinion they've all got it backwards. Links only seem to point away if you insist on seeing them from a print-centric point of view where value is given to the individual, to authority, to the singular romantic genius. Jeff finds it refreshing "that most of the online writers I read do not merely shout and point." His cave-man imagery reveals the crux of the matter: Links are barbaric. They are dangerous. They have an excess that cannot be controlled by the conventions of scholarship, breeding and selfhood. Links turn scholarly essays and conversations inside out, upside down, making connections ("footnotes") the centre rather than an afterthought.
Tom, perhaps, would agree with this. He's more aligned with David Weinberger, whom he paraphrases to say that links are "a mode of caring, which is also a mode of being, which is also a mode of promising, which can only be accomplished when an other is both addressed and acted upon." (Two or three views of links) Are even these milder words an expression of fear? Adrian Miles writes of this fear of links, and I'll finish with a line from that: "The anxiety I am referring to is evident in the manner in which much writing on linking wishes to domesticate the link as some category or species of rhetorical figure, always at the service of some other role." Bit of a conversation-stopper, that, isn't it? How do you argue against being told you're scared and anything you liken a link to is further proof of your anxiety? What a power-game. And yet, I think it's true.
the borg and the force
Read Steven Johnson in Salon: Use the Blog, Luke! (I got the link from Peter) Skim past the recaps of old debates on blogging and journalism and how blogging skews Google and read about his idea for a connecton engine. Doesn't it sound wonderful? As you write or read (email, websites, paper, PhD thesis, whatever) your computer checks your favourite blogs and other sites for related information and lets you know about it, according to the level of intrusiveness you've requested. Writing this, a discreet sidebar might tell me that Mark thinks X about Johnson, Torill wrote a piece about his previous book last year, and six of my two dozen favourite writers all recommend this other site that deals with emergent, contextual interfaces, and how about that note I wrote three years ago after Gene Golovchinsky showed me the e-book they were developing at Xerox FX?
Microcontent's April 1 story on blogs as borg journalism relates to this, but differently. Naturally turning to StarTrek, John Hiler decides that being part of a collective hive mind of blogs can be good:
Seven: "Your plan is inefficient."
Seven: "There are only two of you. If I were to assimilate you into a small Borg collective, you could then assimilate others. The work would proceed more rapidly."
Janeway: "Sorry, but I like my plan better. We'll be back."
Hiler quotes Dan Gilmore's four assumptions:
1. My readers know more than I do;
2. That is not a threat, but rather an opportunity;
3. We can use this together to create something between a seminar and a conversation, educating all of us;
4. Interactivity and communications technology -- in the form of e-mail, weblogs, discussion boards, websites and more -- make it happen.
To which Hiler concludes that "clearly, Dan Gillmor has found value in assimilating with the Blog collective." Hiler does a lot more with this (read the article) but I particularly note his argument about the types of work bloggers do well as a group: suspicious blogging and speculative blogging are the fortes of the blog borg. Look at the metafilter and associated discussions of Joel's blog for an idea.
I absolutely agree with Hiler. As a fully assimilated member of the blog borg collective it's unsurprising that I enthused about this collective intelligence in lectures in digital culture last year. I was already part of the hive mind. No doubt many other blog borg assimilees were also giving that very same lecture to other students, thinking it was their original work just as I did. The students hopefully realised that resistence was futile.
Giving up the need to know best, have the most intimidating jargon and to be the ultimate authority is going to be academia's greatest struggle. Resistence is futile. Academia will be assimilated.
(Oops. That would leave me without a career. And blogging ain't paying that well yet. I'm starting to understand why young rebels suddenly support the status quo when they get a mortgage...)
personal criticism and blogs
Leafing through old posts I can across one I wrote last summer, about the fear of exhibitionism and blogging and personal criticism. That's a damn fine post. I think that I'll turn it into an essay, combined with my bits of the blogging esay Torill and I wrote, and that can be my vitenskapsteoretisk innlegg or methology essay. It's the only compulsory part of the Norwegian PhD "school", apart from supervision and attendence of at least two relevant conferences or seminars. was supposed to finish it in the second semester of working on my PhD; I'm now approaching the end of my fifth and penultimate semester and haven't done it. Oh dear. Torill and I were hoping that our blogging essay would be accepted as the vitenskapsteoretisk innlegg, since it's a) twice the length of the requirements and b) accepted in a peer-reviewed publication on methodology, but no, they won't consider collaborative work, it has to be done individually. So we have to split the essay up and edit it and oh, why didn't I just write something two years ago?
weblog reports on conferences
Weblog reports after conferences have become terribly important as well. Nobody else seems to be writing about last weekend's ELO meeting, but a simultaneous conference in Oslo is being talked about by Torill, Jill, Anders, and probably others. This tends to convince me that the conference I attended didn't really happen, that the real meeting was elsewhere.
torill and my blog paper is online
The paper Torill and I wrote about blogs in research is online now. You can download it as a PDF from the website for the conference we're presenting it at on Monday: Researching ICTs in Context. The book version's still at the printer's so I won't get to see that until Monday.
press about blogs
Did I link to Eirik Newth's critical article about blogs a while ago? Yes, I did. And I remembered to note that he thinks my and Torill's blogs are good ;) Håkon Styri writes in digi.no today that though lots of people think blogs have become so trendy they're on their way out, people who care about usefulness rather than trendiness don't care.
Håkon Styri is also an editall in ODP and one of the bosses of the World/norsk category (nice feeling, that, recognising people online). I've just dived totally into ODP. It's such a brilliant concept. I've always wanted to contribute to open source projects but I'm no programmer and not that hot on documenting stuff I don't understand, but this, well, it's something I care about and something I can do well. And you, know, I can improve the world. A bit. I like that.
comments on wikis and blogs
Kumquat comments my wikis and weblogs post, refers to a related discussion at Blogtank (intriguing place, btw) and Bill Seitz comments by email that "Wiki's don't have to be open to anyone's edits" and that they're tweakable and can make good weblogs. Kumquat writes:
Wikis won't be mainstream anytime soon. Traversing and contributing to a wiki is too dissimilar from any other sorts of online communities. If people can't immediately grok the interface, they'll leave. (..) This is all somewhat unfortunate, as wikis can be incredibly useful.
I'm in a figuring out mood today. Set up a test blog with Radio UserLand to see how their system works. I quite like it - there are a lot of built in options (comments, categories, pictures, rss feeds, stats) but I think the learning curve's also a lot steeper than for Blogger. Or have I just forgotten? I'm also not sure how much customisation is possible. And it seems you have to publish your blog on their server. Still, a lot of features and it seems solid and costs just US$39 which isn't bad.
wiki and weblogs
I'm trying to figure out why I've been hearing Wiki and weblogs mentioned in the same breath lately. Wiki is a collaborative, hypertextual webpublishing system where literally anyone can change anything on a page. I think. One Minute Wiki seems to explain it and let you try. Many are highly enthusiastic about this but I've never quite got it. I feel a bit like I'm reading and listening to a foreign language when I hear about Wiki. Presumably this is how some people feel when I try to tell them about blogs and hypertext... Trusty old google has lots of interesting hits for "weblog wiki" and the first led me to Bill Seitz' weblog which is now no longer quite a weblog (or is it?) but a wiki (ThinkingSpace) only kind of shaped like a weblog. Presumably that means it's sort of both? Fortunately there's a link to an interview with Bill where he explains why he abandonned the weblog form for a Wiki. Reading it I feel much less panicked about "what on earth is a Wiki anyway?" but I still don't have an answer to the question.
I expect it's good for me to experience mild panic about new technology and genres. Unbridled enthusiasm can sometimes get annoying for one's surroundings, I've been told.
UFO Breakfast on attack blogs and other ugly uses of blogging that kind of mess up our image of the open, authentic blogging community.
I want some talk about the dark side. Even at his goofiest, McLuhan would acknowledge that the potential of a medium always cuts two ways. The greater the potential for good, the greater the potential for evil. Before Lucifer fell he was the highest of angels: ask the bloggin' theologians. "Never believe that smooth space is enough to save us." Or Greymatter.
Andrew Orlowsky's rejoinder to the Cluetrainers sees the double edge of the medium's potential pretty clearly. If blogs offer a way for "the people" to challenge centralized media, they also offer an unparalleled channel for centralized media to spread disinformation and psych-war sound bytes like a virus. "If I was in a position of power, I'd be delighted to see news reporters supplanted by blogs, because blogs - for all their empowerment rhetoric - are far easier to divert and confuse than a few persistent and skillful reporters." Bingo.
why do you blog?
I like Mark's 10 rules for writing a good weblog. But both Mark's rules and other recent advice on writing weblogs forgets to ask why you're writing. There are many reasons, and often bloggers haven't really thought through why they want to write. Often you don't actually know why you're writing till you've been writing for a while, and often the reasons change, too.
Advice on writing weblogs generally assumes that a general goal is to have as many readers as possible. That's not always the case. Some people don't care whether they have readers. That's not why they write. Others would prefer not to have too many readers. If you're selling a product or a service or working freelance you might be using your weblog as a voice to communicate with potential customers or clients, and you'll probably want as many readers as possible. Me, I want both a place to speak freely (which I can't quite do in articles, theses or lectures) and, just as importantly, I want to be part of a community. I want responses and I want to respond to other people's ideas. I want discussions. So I do want readers. But I don't need a huge number of readers.
Jenkins replies again
Henry Jenkins has responded once again to the blog responses, at some length, asking Elin to post it on her blog. He has been following the discussions and I don't think he really disagrees with the comments that have been made. Lisbeth and Torill have some interesting comments to his response.
audiences for blogs
Sometimes blogs don't link to whatever spurred the thoughts posted. Dave Winer carefully doesn't link to his flamers when he mentions them. I didn't link my last post to Adrian's post on blogging though it was what set me off and it was clearly related to what I was saying. I decided that would be mean and wrote an email instead: "it's outrageous to write a post like that, stressing the importance of links and context and so on, and not link *at all*." In my opinion, writing a post discussing a topic (like blogs in teaching and research) without linking to and openly admitting an awareness of work (like mine and Torill's on blogs in research) which you know about and which is highly relevant is unethical.
While not linking can be a result of ignorance or carelessness it is often a conscious choice. A link is a gift, or perhaps payment. You can choose not to link because you don't want to give anything to the person or work you're writing about. After all, if you link it, Google will rank it higher, more people will read it, and it will give the other people more power and influence. That's why Dave doesn't link to his flamers. You can choose not to link because you want your work to appear more original than it is. You can not link to be kind, because you want to poke generic fun at bad design, say, and not accuse individuals. Or you can not link because you're angry, like I was. Newspaper editors used to not link because they thought readers might disappear off their site, and because they worried that they might be legally responsible for content on the linked-to site (what if it turned into child pornography?). Nowadays online newspapers are starting to realise that while a reader may leave the site to follow a link, if the links are good, he or she will come back again for more links.
Adrian writes that he often doesn't link because he writes offline and then publishes his blog later. Often days and weeks later when software and servers are troublesome. I deduct then, that it is the online nature of the most popular blogging tools that have made the link not only so prevalent in blogs but also so powerful.
Anger can be really productive if you use it right. Today I'm writing an essay on the politics of links. Noone seems to have done this, everyone's busy with the poetics of links and such instead. I'm having a ball. Google, blogdex, Nelson, Everquest, economy, beauty contests, weblogs: it's a riot. Viewing things you thought you'd made up your mind about (like hypertext) from a new perspective is great fun, it sets everything in a new light. Now, where shall I send the article, I wonder? Where would the best place be, politically speaking?
bloggiquette (or: the ethics of the link)
Weblogs are fastidious about links and sources, as much or more so as academic articles. If you obviously know about a text and it is relevant to an academic article you're writing, you should cite it, even if you're not directly building on it or arguing against it. If it's relevant, and you don't know about it, you probably didn't do your research well enough. (And then there are degrees of "relevant", I'm remembering a discussion with Mark about whether a games researcher should cite every relevant game where I thought that was a tall order but Mark thought it was basic scholarship. Hm. Now I can't find the discussion, which I thought was in our blogs. Maybe I'm mistaken. Here's an indignant post I wrote which is more or less about it though..)
Though it may be an unwritten rule, bloggers clearly concur that when writing a blog, it's important to give your sources. It's a social given, essential to the generosity and sharing of weblogs, just as in academia and as in the open source community, for instance. Go to any random blog, and look at the posts. Even a generic post linking to an article in Wired everyone's already read and that's at the top of Blogdex's most-linked-to-site will almost always have a small "via such-and-such-a-blog" after the link, or written in the text, and there'll be a link to the place the blogger first saw the reference. That's way more conscientious than more academics are.
Professors worrying that the web causes more plagiarism are so terrified to see the traditional essay tearing at the seams that they won't look to understand the new ethics of the web. They're all thieves, they worry, assuming the worst and muttering about Napster. Throw the essays out the window for a while. Tell students to write blogs instead. Teach them the ethics of the link.
After that, the looser rules of academic citations will be easy.
beautiful about tinderbox
Mark about the conception and growth of Tinderbox; as moving a tale to me now as the birth stories I used to read voraciously during pregnancy and when my daughter was newborn.
tinderbox is available for sale!
Tinderbox is finished - version 1.0 is for sale now from Eastgate! I've been beta-testing Tinderbox since October now. I love it. I keep all my notes in it, I sketch out chapters for my dissertation and articles and presentations in it, all in glorious technicolour, I link stuff together, can easily find stuff I'm looking for, AND publish my weblog and online essays through it. Maybe you'd like to use it too.
Henry Jenkins on blogs
Henry Jenkin's just published what I think must be the first academic look at blogs: Blog This. It's a very interesting article, a strange mix of what at first glance reads very like one of those sensationalist articles journalists regularly write about blogs, with a measure of what I think must be fear oddly combined with a rehearsal of the power of grass-root technologies and communities in the face of centralised broadcast media. He presents bloggers as exhibits in a freakshow - "Like cockroaches after nuclear war, online diarists rule an Internet strewn with failed dot coms." This is the line most bloggers seem to be citing. Just as telling is the bit about blogging being an extreme sport in contrast to "the hunting and gathering, sampling and critiquing the rest of us do online". Dave Winer took offense at being called a cockroach. Torill and I have joyfully taken the article to heart as a perfect example of academic response to blogs, and you can read what we wrote about it in our (practically finished) article on blogs at blogonblog. The whole article won't be online till it's been worked through by the editors. Don't worry, we'll link to it when it's out :)
who to write for
Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.
-- Cyril Connolly
(nabbed from greglog)
blogs are loci amoeni
Here's something I've been trying to express about blogs, eloquently written by Tom Matrullo, who compares blogs to loci amoeni: safe, idyllic, enclosed gardens where heros of literature would recover and wax lyrical.
The blog takes on some of the characteristics of the enclosed Renaissance garden, the interior plenitude of the autonomous voice reflecting upon and responding to other voices. (..)
[I]f one goes back and looks into the worlds of folks like Ariosto, Tasso, Cervantes, etc., one begins to see that the gardens in their works are places of rebirth where the battered warriors briefly step outside the battle to re-collect themselves. (Tom Matrullo, "Loci amoeni", Commonplaces, 23/1/02)
Exactly. I feel safer writing in my blog than posting to mailing list, though posts here are at least as public as is the Usenet or a mailing list. This is my place. I can speak freely here. I think this is why people don't flame in blogs, as Mark noted recently. You don't light fires in your own garden. And you can't light a fire in someone else's blog. It's secure from trespassers.
perfect weblog material is...
according to Ruthie's Double.Yes, she's back again.
Torill feels imposed upon by tools like the social network explorer. I think I agree. I prefer to choose what I read based on whether I like it on not rather than because it's on a top ten chart, and to write what I want without considering machine-readable popularity scores. Also it just plain doesn't work and ignores lots of actual links. Which may be because it's not finished.
social network explorer
The latest from blogdex is the social network explorer, which lays out the links between any registered blog and other blogs - links to the current blog, "friends" which are both linked to and have links from them to the current blog, and blogs that are linked, as well as recommended blogs based on these links. This reminds me of the web of trust and all that adjustive path stuff that happens on big sites like amazon and epinions and no doubt plenty of others (I haven't been paying attention to those sites lately) but it gives you that functionality with the freedom of individually published blogs rather than the very limited format of megasites and I love that!
The downside, potentially, I suppose, could be that it makes one aspect of popularity (links are only a machine-readable version of quality/popularity (which needn't be the same thing) though and certainly not an objective measure) very visible and that could make it harder to enter into blogging? Um, it could make blogs seem very cliquish.
where are the quick comments?
"I miss those quick little remarks", said Thomas over lunch. "What happened?" Ah. I do write differently in Ceres. Something about the size of the writing space which invites more words. And something about the feel of it being a serious place where each post takes space on my screen. And something about the immediacy of Blogger where a button on my browser instantly lets me "blog this" - I miss that button. I always have Ceres open so writing is quick but still not quite as "chatty" as the "blog this" button in my browser.
OK, so I'll just let myself write quick little comments. Here's to the return of the one-liner (or the one-linker)!
get a life
I got another one of those questions at lunch today: "Wouldn't you say that anyone who reads blogs needs to get a life and that anyone who writes them needs friends?" Jesus, I'm tired of that nonsense. So I'm supposed to defend the breed or admit I don't have a life. I asked him why on earth he'd ask me the question in that way, knowing that I write a blog, and he sort of tittered and said it was a neutral question. Yeah, sure it was. What a dickhead.
Discovered a few blogs I'll be keeping an eye onbluishorange - ! and the sentimental education of eliot wilder and prolific.org. Also another "couple" blog, notable not particularly for its content (which is probably more interesting for the couple than outsiders) but for its style - it's like reading a chat session between this couple only in a blog. She writes in pink, he writes in blue. Their posts have no time stamps or other separations and sometimes seem to merge. I'm not sure of their story but I assume they're unhappily apart, like Lane and Stu.
custom blogger search
A custom search page at blogger.com: Blogs that mention "world trade" or "terrorist" in the last 24 hours Update: now split into times so you can only see posts 9 am-9.30 am yesterday for instance. 22% more posts through blogger yesterday than usual. I sure used the net a lot to find out about this.
I'm always surprised at how gullible people are on the Internet. So many people believe that
1. A stone can't fly.
2. You, Mother Nille, can't fly either.
3. Therefore, you are a stone.
So lets translate this rather faulty logic into the era cyberspace and computers:
1. I'm real.
I think this is the false logic we succumb to when we believe in Caroline or Kaycee or Sven Hope or Eliza - or Caterina and Meg and Lane and Stu for that matter. The latter four probably are real, but my reading their blogs doesn't prove a thing about it. Neither do webcams or references to them from other blogs and media or photos on the web.
And of course, the concept of "real" is suspect in itself. How do I know I'm not a figment of your imagination?
student paper about blogs
How about a blogging
Mark Bernstein notes the "interesting and active cluster of media-theory Scandinavian-flavored weblogs" (that's us, guys) and brings up the point of clustering and elitism:
The Web design community has recently been sharply critical of co-citation practices, which some regard as merely a way for elites to reinforce their influence and which has led to the suspension of dreamless.org and K10K pending the arrival of cooler heads. I suspect, though, that these clusters are more interesting, and less strictly political, than they may seem at first -- perhaps a visible manifestation of discipline-formation in proceess.
I see the clustering of blogs as a very open process - as long as I'm involved. Ha. I guess it could easily be construed as elitist and exclusionistic (no - it's not, is it? Is it? Are we?) Blogs certainly aren't the voices of the nestors of a profession huddling together to keep the others out - no professors among this cluster. One thing I like about blogs is that clusters become, they're not preset. I'm sure I'll never be linked to from any of the "A-list" (see point 2 in the article that link goes to) of blogs, but I'm free to link to them, and I'm free to link to anyone else too. I guess if/when we all become nestors, it could look rather different. Hm.
why people blog
Lovely :) Another explanation of why people blog: here's Hilde's reason
My decision to blog was in part based on a feeling of being muted - maybe I didn't even 'exist?? 'I blog therefore I am' But it was also a wish to dare to have opinions in public: 'I wrote it therefore I mean it'?
That's certainly a lot of the reason I blog - I love a medium where I can be opinionated - and rather than interrupt me, people who disagree can just ignore it (without me having to see that) or they can reply. My blog is my castle ;)
I'm Jill Walker, and this is my weblog: my notes as I live, research and teach. I work at the University of Bergen in Norway, and this semester I'll be teaching Web design and web aesthetics. I'm still finishing my PhD thesis, which is about interactive narratives where the reader is positioned as a character in the fictional world.
How I Was Played by Online Caroline. In First Person: New Media as Story, Performance and Game, edited by Pat Harrigan and Noah Wardrip-Fruin. Forthcoming from MIT Press in 2003.
Makten forrykkes på nettet. Kronikk i Bergens Tidende om blogging, nettdagbøker og makt. 22. september 2002.
Epostpoesi og epostfortellinger. Kunstnett, juni 2002.
Links and Power: The Political Economy of Linking on the Web. Short paper presented at Hypertext 2002. In Proceedings of Hypertext 2002, Baltimore: ACM Press. 78-79. PDF.
Blogging Thoughts: Personal Publication as an Online Research Tool. With Torill Mortensen. In Researching ICTs in Context, ed. Andrew Morrison, InterMedia Report, 3/2002, Oslo 2002. Buy the book at gnist.no.
Reisebrev fra NIC2001, publisert i Kunstnett Norges nettkunstmagasin. November 2001.
Do you think you're part of this? Digital texts and the second person address
Men er det litteratur?
Men hvorfor virker ikke musen?
How to learn MOO programming Annotated links for non-programmers, 1999.
Jeg taster, derfor er jeg
Piecing together and tearing apart: reading afternoon, a story.
Hypertextual Criticism. Comparative Readings of Three Web Hypertexts about Literature and Film