Strong opinions, weakly held

Tag: blogging (page 2 of 3)

Notes on Say Everything

I’ve plowed into Scott Rosenberg‘s new history of blogging, Say Everything and finished the first half of the book today. It’s pretty clear to me that this book will be seen one day as incredibly important. This is the first history book I’ve ever read (and could very well be the last) that describes events that I observed very closely. Scott does a great job of filling in the backstories for those events. Nothing in the book rings patently false or wrong to me, and that’s the highest compliment I can pay.

A few random impressions from the first few chapters:

  • I appreciated the chapter on Justin Hall. He was one of the most interesting characters on the early web. Rosenberg mentions Electric Minds in the context of Justin working there. That was a site that I really, really loved — it was probably the most stimulating forum for online conversation that I ever encountered.
  • The second and third chapters cover Dave Winer and Jorn Barger. Both of them were huge inspirations to me and were very influential in terms of how I built this site, and both of them are in some ways controversial characters. I thought he told both their stories fairly and well.
  • Suck.com gets a big mention. There is no site that inspired me more to write online than Suck. I originally wanted to write essays for Suck, and settled for trying to write essays in the style of Suck.
  • I knew a big chunk of the Pyra/Blogger story, but not all of it. Now I feel like some of the gaps have been filled.
  • Scott discusses the influx of “warbloggers” immediately after September 11, 2001. Reading that part of the book made me really sad, so much so that I almost wanted to put the book down. I felt like those people took something from the people who were blogging before, and I still resent them for it.

A few things I was sad to see go unmentioned:

  • Noah Grey. Noah wrote an open source blogging tool called Greymatter that was released after Blogger and before Movable Type. These days it’s hard to find a good link to link to for him. Greymatter was (I think) the first open source server-based blogging application as far as I know. It was also written in the most inscrutable style you can imagine. I’d hate to see his contributions be lost completely.
  • Brigitte Eaton. In the early days of weblogging, Brigitte made a herculean effort to catalog all of the weblogs that existed. Eventually the growth of weblogs made that task impossible, but she maintained the most comprehensive list for a really long time, and she did it by hand. Scott mentions the first blogroll, but doesn’t mentions Brigitte’s work on that front.
  • Me. Not because I was omitted, but because I feel like I didn’t make the contributions I could have back in the olden days. I was there to bear witness but didn’t take advantage of the opportunities to make a bigger impact. Fortunately it’s not as though I’m out of chances.

Improving my blogging workflow

As I’m sure you already know, I’ve created the rc3dotorg Twitter account so that I can let people on Twitter know when I’ve published something. One unfortunate side effect has been that it has complicated my workflow when I write new posts.

Normally I just compose the post in MarsEdit and hit the publish button. I’m sure the process could be greatly simplified, but for two things that complicate the process. The first is that I like to use short URLs that I furnish myself, and the second is that I like to compose the tweets by hand.

I publish this blog using WordPress, and I use the le petite url plugin to create short links. Most of the time I publish updates to Twitter using Tweetie.

So here’s my workflow these days:

  1. Compose a post in MarsEdit and publish it.
  2. Go to the WordPress application on the server and navigate to the new post so I can copy the short link.
  3. Open my Twitter client and write a new tweet, then publish that.

The main inconvenience is opening WordPress in the browser once I’ve already gone to the trouble to write the post somewhere else. What I need is a tool that will allow me to access the internally generated short URL and compose a Tweet from MarsEdit that can be published whenever the blog post itself is published.

It’s looking like I’m going to need to write my own WordPress plugin to do exactly what I want. There are a ton of Twitter plugins, I think I’ll just have to find the right one and adapt it to my needs.

More later.

Quotable: Tyler Cowen

Tyler Cowen on bloggers:

I have never once met a person whose blog I like and then been disappointed. Never.

I wonder if the converse is true as well. Would you like a person if you don’t like their blog?

Checking Mark Penn’s numbers

Scott Rosenberg takes a look at Mark Penn’s crazy numbers in his article on professional blogging.

Needless to say, his assertion that 2 million Americans are being paid for writing online don’t hold up.

Jason Kottke on quoting and attribution

Jason Kottke makes some interesting points about quoting and attribution and blogs that you should read. I’d quote the good parts, but when you read the post, you’ll see why I didn’t.

Be sure to read Andy Baio’s post on AllThingsD’s content appropriation for background.

Financial collapse blogger Tanta, RIP

I was very sad to read that Doris Dungey, a.k.a. Tanta, one of the two bloggers at Calculated Risk, has passed away. She represented everything that’s good about blogging. Erudite, witty, and incredibly informative, she did a great job of making the complexities of the mortgage market understandable to outsiders like myself. Nobody who followed her work over the past two years has been terribly surprised by the great unraveling we’re seeing unfold.

My thoughts go out to her friends and family.

The new world

Today Barack Obama nominated economist Peter Orszag his to head the Office of Management and Budget. Orszag is currently director of the Congressional Budget Office and writes an official blog in that capacity. Not quite the same as publishing a personal blog, but interesting nonetheless. I wonder if he’ll be blogging from the OMB as well? Marc Ambinder notes that OMB is in charge of implementing Obama’s transparency agenda. Putting that office in the hands of someone who’s comfortable blogging is a good sign.

When is linking to yourself bad form?

Tim O’Reilly’s warning against a Web where sites link mostly to their own content is worth paying attention to. He makes two suggestions to sites that link to their own content, but his second rule says it all for me:

Ensure that the pages you create at those destinations are truly more valuable to your readers than any other external link you might provide.

To shorten that even more, your links should point to the best resource in that context, whether it’s on your site or somebody else’s. As long as you’re following that rule, I think you’re on solid ground.

Ethics on a Web where links are currency

My previous post on the Boing Boing controversy generated some pushback from readers who argue that deleting posts is changing history, and that bloggers just shouldn’t do it. (As I mentioned in the comments, I have never gone back and deleted old posts and don’t foresee doing so.)

I agree completely with the idea that deleting old content breaks the web and can be seen as an attempt to change history. It’s Orwellian to go back and alter or delete content when your opinion changes. If a newspaper went back and removed all of the stories in favor of the war in Iraq, it would lose any standing it might have as a respectable media outlet. And I feel the same way about blogs. Deleting old content is in all likelihood an act of dishonesty.

However, the way search engines work these days makes things a bit more complicated. Google’s great innovation in indexing Web sites was to use inbound links to sites as a metric for the significance of a Web site. The more sites link to your site, the higher your rank in search engine results, and being linked to by more popular sites is more helpful.

Google’s algorithm doesn’t care whether I link to a racist Web site to denounce it or ridicule it. It treats that link as it would any other link to that Web site — a vote for its significance. This strikes me as a fundamental problem without a really good solution. If I linked to one of my favorite blogs many times, and and later its domain expired and was purchased by a site that promotes bigotry, what should I do? Leaving the links in place lends the credibility of my site to that site in the eyes of the search engines, even though the content has changed completely. A human reader following a link would clearly understand from context that something had changed about the link destination, but the indexers probably would not.

In this day and age an outbound link to another site has a real cash value, and given that, I’m not sure what the correct behavior is for a Web site that links to others. I wouldn’t give $5 a month to a cause I fundamentally disagree with, should I provide that value or more to a Web site I don’t agree with by leaving links in place that don’t lead to the same content that they once did? It strikes me as a real ethical conundrum.

Perhaps the right answer is to excise the links from the old posts and to add a note explaining why the links were removed. Then the content is not fundamentally altered, and the behavior of the blogger is fully explained. That seems like a better compromise than just deleting entire posts.

Xeni Jardin on unpublishing

Here’s Xeni Jardin on why they unpublished some old posts after a disagreement with the person who was the subject of those posts:

This is a directory of wonderful things. If we no longer think something is wonderful, we have every right to remove it from this directory.

I’m not sure what I think of that. It’s clearly trivially true. They could take the whole site down tomorrow if they wanted to. But is it ethical to selectively remove posts as they have?

I can certainly think of cases where I’d say yes. Without mentioning names, there was once a blogger who posted mainly about Web design, PHP development, and so forth. After a certain news making event, the focus of his blog changed to criticizing members of a certain religious group (and ethnicity), and he attracted a vociferous community of readers who post even more bigoted things in the comments. Had I written any posts praising this person before the subject of their blog changed, I would have unpublished them, and I would not apologize for doing so.

I have no idea what happened in this particular case, but I don’t think there’s any kind of absolutist argument against BoingBoing’s decision to unpublish.

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