Blog Blogging

Blog Blogging

At Large in the Blogosphere

Jorge Luis Borges dreamed of a library the size of a universe, whose wealth of books would induce first delirium, then despair, then breakdown of the social order. Since we first became aware of the Web, we have ricocheted between similar feelings over a universe far more disruptive: one of unbounded, uncensorable streams of text. The current craze is for something called a blog. The name is the diminutive of ”Weblog,” an online news commentary written, usually, by an ordinary citizen, thick with links to articles and other blogs and studded with non sequiturs and ripostes in sometimes hard-to-parse squabbles.

Here’s what blogs are not: (1) the super-personalized news filters that social critics fretted would splinter the nation into a million tiny interest groups, or (2) the Drudge Report. Blogs don’t limit your news intake, break stories or promulgate rumor, at least not intentionally. They have an only seemingly more innocent agenda. Blogs express opinion. They’re one-person pundit shows, replete with the stridency and looniness usually edited off TV.

A blog’s bark has bite

One vote here in favor of the blogging revolution. Bloggers (from the words “Web log”) write online diaries and commentaries. The best bloggers weigh in on social and political issues, report nuggets of information that the national media miss or suppress, and provide links to other bloggers with something sharp to say. Subjects that the mainstream press is skittish about (e.g., the link between abortion and breast cancer, or the mini race riot that occurred in Cincinnati three weeks ago) tend to show up in the blogging world. Since nobody can be fired or intimidated, bloggers skip politically correct language and just write in plain English.

A minor example of the culture in action: The blogging corps got wind of an online poll sponsored by the Council on American Islamic Relations allegedly showing that 94 percent of those surveyed thought Ariel Sharon should be tried for war crimes. By linking to one another’s Web sites, the bloggers got more people to cast votes and reversed the numbers. At the end, 94 percent opposed the idea of trying Sharon.

The first commandment of blogdom is that anyone can become a pundit. Nobody is in charge. Bloggers can say anything they want and get their message out with blinding speed. This is unsettling to us lumbering print guys. Six or seven times I had to abandon a column because some upstart blogger beat me to it. Andrew Sullivan, perhaps the most quoted blogger, is surely the fastest gun. His 1,000-word analysis of the State of the Union message appeared 33 minutes after President Bush finished. Sometimes he launches attacks on wayward New York Times columnists around 4 a.m., so blog fans can read his version before they get to the columns.

The Weblog Tool Roundup

I’ve been running a personal website for about six years now. You should see the ladies’ faces light up when I casually drop that little nugget at a kegger or outside the dressing rooms at Old Navy. Their voices get husky, they twist their frosted curls around suggestive fingers, jot their numbers on my bare chest just in case I need someone to do some “freelance QA work,” you know how it is.

Lately, however, I’ve run into some credibility problems. Adoring fans have started to delve into my backend, as it were, asking about my database server, flavors of Unix, PHP, MySQL, and I have to either feign pulmonary edema and excuse myself or admit that all I do these days is type something into a form and press a button. My site then automagically updates itself and archives the previous entry. “You mean you built your own content-management system?” she’ll say. “That is so hot.” And then I’ll sort of mutter: “Well, I use a tool, this Web-based thing that sort of handles all that stuff for me.”

It’s at this point that a look of growing horror emerges on the young debutante’s face, and she’ll say: “Oh dear God in heaven. You’re a weblogger, aren’t you?” And I’ll call out, “No, no, more of a personal online diarist!” but she’s already gone, chatting up some hunk with the telltale swollen knuckles of a Java programmer.

Blogspace Under the Microscope

The culture of blogspace is evolving in near-realtime. Last week, a new mutation brought backlinks into a more prominent role. At Disenchanted, inbound links were automatically reflected outward. Each article grew a tail of backlinks that pointed to pages referring back to it. Suddenly a new kind of feedback loop was created. With a twist of the lens, conversations that had been diffuse and indirect came sharply into focus. Almost immediately the meme replicated.

Variants appeared at DECAFBAD and diveintomark. It’s hard to avoid the sense that there’s some biological force at work here. When blogspace told me to follow that hunch, I listened.

From Harper’s Index for March 2002

Amount the United States spent in 1949 on international aid and diplomacy : $66,400,000,000

Amount the United States plans to spend on this in 2002 : $23,800,000,000

Total voting population of a Denton, Texas, tax district when a development plan was approved there in 1996 : 1

Weeks before the vote that the resident was moved there by Dell Computer so that he could approve the plan : 5

Number of years a sheep can remember another sheep’s face : 2

More from Harper’s

Links for 3/19/2002

Targeted Serendipity Weblogs aren’t just glorified pages of links and rambling personal sites; they are an antidote to mass media. According to the author of “The Weblog Handbook,” Rebecca Blood, they are also bringing creative expression to everyday people when they need it most.

And have I linked to Microcontent News yet? I’m gonna add a perma-link too.

At Airport Gate, a Cyborg Unplugged Steve Mann, an engineering professor at the University of Toronto, has lived as a cyborg for more than 20 years, wearing a web of wires, computers and electronic sensors that are designed to augment his memory, enhance his vision and keep tabs on his vital signs. Although his wearable computer system sometimes elicited stares, he never encountered any problems going through the security gates at airports.

The Incredible Rubberband Machine Gun! It’s the only fully automatic machine gun that’s legal in all 50 states! This beauty is a fully functional machine gun with TWELVE rotating barrels and a live action trigger. Loads 12 bands per barrel for a whopping 144 rubber bands that shoot off as fast as you can turn the handle! Great fun for kids of all ages. MORE than just an amazing machine, this is a true work of art.

The year 2000 saw the rebirth of a very old web idea, repackaged in some new technology, and unleashed as the weblog (or “blog” for short). The recipe for a weblog is simple: make a web page, a single page, and put microcontent (short blurbs and blips) on it. Then update it again and again, all day, every day, with the newest stuff always at the top.

Weblogs as community

Bloggers vs. Journalists

Now I’m not one to normally do this (“this” being posting this on my blog though I generally will talk about things a lot, just part of my problem where I can say something and have it make sense but when I sit to write it, blargh) but…

It is funny that I give much more credence to journalists over bloggers. I am not a journalist and I have always been highly skeptical of what I read in the newspaper. But I do believe they subscribe to a “search for truth” ethic well above the average person. 
– Mike Sanders

Eh, I have to disagree here. To a certain extent.

As Mike stated in his post on Keep Trying, “The increase in blogging makes available many more points of view. But the quick nature of blogging tends to make those opinions less thought out. So there is an increase of quantity with a decrease of quality, compared to say, journalism.” But this statement can be made about the web in general with the plethora of news sites out there who are still fighting to be considered legitimate news sources.

But whether the quality of a blogger’s work is comparable to that of a journalist all depends on what the blogger is trying to do. Are they attempting to report like any other journalist? Most blogs are there for opinions and journals, they’re more like the OpEd page of the newspaper. It’s a great way to see the point of view of folks on the inside of the situations you read about in the news. Whether it’s a Palenstinian talking about the events in the Middle East of a New Yorker right after the events of September 11th, you should expect an upclose and more personal view of these events, not what is news.

What journalists have to strive for is to sit outside and above it all and simply report the facts of the matter. This is the ideal, but that doesn’t really happen.

All journalists write for a paper (or station, or website, or magazine…) whos purpose is ultimately to make money. So these papers must strive to delight their market. If their market is mostly Arab-Americans, for example, then the paper would be stupid to publish articles that may possibly slant in favor of Israel, no matter what the facts are.

Does this present a better picture of events than a blog attempting to report these events would? Possibly, but that’s probably because it has more resources than anything else. The article will still be slanted because of the writer’s opinions and the editor’s opinions and the publisher’s opinion. When the article finally sees print, it has everyones’ fingerprints on it and may distort or leave out facts based on it’s own beliefs and agenda. Your news blogger will make the same mistakes only using the limited resources they have at hand (whether that be their own first hand experience, those of people around them or just what they dig up off of other sites). The agenda of your everyday blogger is simply to convey their emotions and thoughts at that particular moment. And while the facts may not be accurate, the emotions are as real as anything happening out there.

All in all, it just depends on what you want to read.

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Movies: Okay, here’s what I’ve seen this summer and what I think.

  • Tomb Raider was crap. Complete and total crap. Even the hot chick couldn’t save it. I’m sorry, I was unfortunately expecting more from this movie, something along the lines of Indiana Jones. Instead I got a pile or crap. The plot was weak, the characters weaker, the dialogue horrible, ugh, ugh, ugh. A little TOO mindless for my liking. I guess that I wasn’t a big fan of the game doesn’t help my opinion either.
  • Moulin Rogue was surprizingly good. I’m not a huge Baz Lurhman fan, but his style worked wonders with this movie. Nicole Kidman’s hot. And she’s got a good voice. Ewan Macgregor too, I was surprized. It’s a good, fun movie. If you’re a fan of old musicals, you’ll probably hate it with all it’s modern music and fast movements and all, most big musical fans feel that way. Me, while I like some musicals, this was a good one. Very well done.
  • Schreck was a great movie. Oh, man, it was good. Hilarious and well done, the animation was amazing. They actually had to go back and edit the movie to make the Princess look less real for a lower rating (little factoid for ya there). This is cartoony enough for kids to enjoy but to get the real enjoyment of the movie you have to be a bit older. The jokes are great and it’s very well done.
  • The Score ruled. Ed Norton’s quickly becoming one of my favorite actors and, hell, Robert Deniro’s in the flick, that’s a good enough draw for me. Toss in Marlon Brando not being creepy and Angela Bassett being herself and you have a great cast on an amazing script. Good movie.
  • Planet of the Apes was visually amazing, typical Tim Burton. The script left a bit to be desired, but it was forgivable as it’s a kitchy sci-fi flick and it’s not supposed to make complete sense, it’s fantasy. Charleton Heston’s dissertation against guns was a funny in the context of Heston. You have to see it to believe it.

What’s coming up that I want to see: Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (sigh, last J&SB in View Askew movies.), The Lord of the Rings (this is gonna rule!) and a bunch of movies next year, but I’ll talk about them later.

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I created this blog today for random stuff. I figure I can use it as an outlet for whatever. I use Blogger for a bunch of other sites and I figured one for random notes from me would be cool, be they links or mindless ramblings..

Speaking of links, here are two I’ve found today that rule. The Freak Watcher’s Textbook catalogues all sorts of freaks native to Royal Oak, Michigan. Amused.com’s Webcam Theatre is a great spot to watch grass grow or paint peel. Really.

Okay, I’m out for now.