Sometime in the past few years, the blog died. In 2014, people will finally notice. Sure, blogs still exist, many of them are excellent, and they will go on existing and being excellent for many years to come. But the function of the blog, the nebulous informational task we all agreed the blog was fulfilling for the past decade, is increasingly being handled by a growing number of disparate media forms that are blog-like but also decidedly not blogs.
Instead of blogging, people are posting to Tumblr, tweeting, pinning things to their board, posting to Reddit, Snapchatting, updating Facebook statuses, Instagramming, and publishing on Medium. In 1997, wired teens created online diaries, and in 2004 the blog was king. Today, teens are about as likely to start a blog (over Instagramming or Snapchatting) as they are to buy a music CD. Blogs are for 40-somethings with kids.
I am not generally a bomb-thrower, but I wrote this piece in a deliberately provocative way. Blogs obviously aren't dead and I acknowledged that much right from the title. I (obviously) think there's a lot of value in the blog format, even apart from its massive influence on online media in general, but as someone who's been doing it since 1998 and still does it every day, it's difficult to ignore the blog's diminished place in our informational diet.
Through various blogrolls (remember those?) and RSS readers, I used to keep up with hundreds of blogs every day and over a thousand every week. Now I read just two blogs daily: Daring Fireball and Waxy. I check my RSS reader only occasionally, and sometimes not for weeks. I rely mainly on Twitter, Facebook, Digg, Hacker News, and Stellar for keeping up with news and information...that's where most of the people I know do their "blogging". I still read lots of blog posts, but only when they're interesting enough to pop up on the collective radar of those I follow...and increasingly those posts are on Medium, Facebook, or Tumblr.1
But anyway, I'll be here, blogging away until 2073. I figure 100 is a good age at which to retire. If I have a point to make, I'll have made it by then. Man, I wonder what crazy YouTube videos there will be to post in 30 years? Probably Wes Anderson filming trials riding in a wingsuit on Mars or something. I can't wait.
 And yeah, what about Tumblr? Isn't Tumblr full of blogs? Welllll, sort of. Back in 2005, tumblelogs felt like blogs but there was also something a bit different about them. Today they seem really different; I haven't thought of Tumblrs as blogs for years...they're Tumblrs! If you asked a typical 23-year-old Tumblr user what they called this thing they're doing on the site, I bet "blogging" would not be the first (or second) answer. No one thinks of posting to their Facebook as blogging or tweeting as microblogging or Instagramming as photoblogging. And if the people doing it think it's different, I'll take them at their word. After all, when early bloggers were attempting to classify their efforts as something other than online diaries or homepages, everyone eventually agreed. Let's not fight everyone else on their choice of subculture and vocabulary. ↩
If -- among a certain and increasingly geriatric set of bloggers -- you say the words, "a little girl was riding her bike," the response you'll get will be some combination of wistful nostalgia and the belligerent pride of the old-school. Back in the day, man, when people edited their sites by hand.
Memes have always dropped out of the Web, with the regularity and frequency of fertilizer from a well-fed horse. Witness your Dancing Babies, your Mahirs, your Hamster Dances. But the little girl thing -- and only the most obtuse definition of "thing" does it justice -- was the first time I'd seen something just... go. By itself. From and among people I knew, and counted (a bit desperately) as peers. Viewed today, it's infinitely small, undocumented by even the obsessive completists who obsessively complete documentation, but among the tight-knit community of early bloggers (modulo rivalries and jealousies and pettiness; it was still the Internet), it seemed like something new.
From this distance, a billion Web-years later, it's difficult to fully explain, except in the most rote way possible: Almost a decade and a half ago, a bunch of bloggers copied a post from kottke.org (and megnut.com), spreading it from site to site to site, for no reason whatsoever, except that nobody had bothered before. What started as the smallest conspiratorial joke possible quickly took on a life of its own, moving out of the house and getting drunk and causing trouble. Looking back, this random bit of Command-C, Command-V presaged reblogs and questions of attribution; the coordination of metadata to establish narrative; anonymous, poker-faced net.art; even the public pointlessness of telling the world about your lunch. It was people in a small community in a new medium pushing against the sides of the womb, seeing if there was a way out into a larger world.
Blogging has changed a hell of a lot over these past thirteen years -- only the most wild-eyed optimists and glower-faced doom-sayers were anywhere close to being right about how things would turn out -- but one rock-steady constant has been the work Jason Kottke has done. Early bloggers, dressed in animal skins and flung forward in time, would be dizzy with the technologies and economics of Internet publishing today. But they'd eventually find their footing, load up kottke.org, and discover some small improvement, some new touch, some tiny experiment, another little girl riding another bike, improving blogging and the Web along with it. Still.
For the longest time, the web was all like "blog blog blog blog" and we were like "fave fave fave like like like" but a bunch of recent publications and publishing systems seem to be breaking out of that mode. Craig Mod calls it Subcompact Publishing. Not sure I like the name, but I dig his gist. Here are a few examples I've seen:
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Emeril Lagasse made an appearance on Treme on Sunday. I watched a clip of his scene a few days ago and have been thinking about it on and off ever since. In the scene written by Anthony Bourdain, Emeril takes a fellow chef to the building that used to house Uglesich's, a small-but-beloved New Orleans restaurant that closed back in 2005. The chef is having misgivings about expanding her business, particularly about all the non-cooking things you have to do, and Emeril explains that the way the owners of Uglesich's did it was one way forward:
You see, they kept it small, just one spot, just a few tables. There'd be a line around the corner by 10 am. You see, they made a choice. Anthony and Gail made a choice to stay on Baronne Street and keep their hands on what they were serving. They cooked, everyday they cooked, until they could cook no more.
But there's also another way to approach your business:
The other choice is that you can build something big but keep it the way that you wanna keep it. Take those ideas and try to execute them to the highest level. You got a lotta people around you, right? You're the captain of the ship. Or what I should say is that you're the ship. And all these people that look up to you and wanna be around you, they're living in the ship. And they're saying, "Oh, the ship is doing good. Oh, the ship is going to some interesting places. Oh, this ship isn't going down just like all the other fucking ships I've been on." [...] You've got a chance to do your restaurant and to take care of these people. Just do it.
kottke.org has always been a one-person thing. Sure, Aaron posts here regularly now and I have guest editors on occasion, but for the most part, I keep my ass in the chair and my hands on what I am serving. I've always resisted attempts at expanding the site because, I have reasoned, that would mean that the site wouldn't be exactly what I wanted it to be. And people come here for exactly what I want it to be. Doing the site with other people involved has always seemed unnatural. It would be selling out...that's how I've thought about it, as opposed to blowing up.
But Emeril's "until they could cook no more" and "you're the ship"...that got to me. I am a ship. I don't have employees but I have a family that relies on the income from my business and someday, when I am unable to do this work or people stop reading blogs or all online advertising moves to Facebook or Twitter, what happens then? Don't I owe it to myself and to them to build something that's going to last beyond my interest and ability to sit in a chair finding interesting things for people to look at? Or is it enough to just work by yourself and produce the best work you can?
Or can you do both? John Gruber's Daring Fireball remains a one-man operation...as far as I know, he's never even had an intern. I don't have any inside knowledge of DF's finances, but from the RSS sponsorship rate and the rate for sponsoring Gruber's podcast, my conservative estimate is that DF grosses around $650,000 per year. And with a single employee/owner and relatively low expenses, a large amount of that is profit. So maybe that route is possible?
I don't have any answers to these questions, but man, it's got me thinking. Emeril got me thinking...who saw that coming? Bam!
Newsweek announced yesterday that the print magazine will cease publication and the entire thing will move to an all-digital format.
Newsweek Global, as the all-digital publication will be named, will be a single, worldwide edition targeted for a highly mobile, opinion-leading audience who want to learn about world events in a sophisticated context. Newsweek Global will be supported by paid subscription and will be available through e-readers for both tablet and the Web, with select content available on The Daily Beast.
Which is why, when asked my opinion at Newsweek about print and digital, I urged taking the plunge as quickly as possible. Look: I chose digital over print 12 years ago, when I shifted my writing gradually online, with this blog and now blogazine. Of course a weekly newsmagazine on paper seems nuts to me. But it takes guts to actually make the change. An individual can, overnight. An institution is far more cumbersome. Which is why, I believe, institutional brands will still be at a disadvantage online compared with personal ones. There's a reason why Drudge Report and the Huffington Post are named after human beings. It's because when we read online, we migrate to read people, not institutions. Social media has only accelerated this development, as everyone with a Facebook page now has a mini-blog, and articles or posts or memes are sent by email or through social networks or Twitter.
People do tend to read people and not institutions online but a shift away from that has already started happening. A shift back to institutions, actually. Pre-1990s, people read the Times or Newsweek or Time or whatever. In 2008, people read Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish or Paul Krugman's column in the Times or Gwyneth Paltrow's GOOP. Today, people read feeds of their friends/followees activities, interests, thoughts, and links on sites like Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Tumblr, i.e. the new media institutions.
Now, you may follow Daily Dish or Krugman on Twitter but that's not quite the same as reading the sites; you're not getting the whole post/article on Twitter, Krugman items are intermingled & fighting for attention with tweets from @horse_ebooks & Lady Gaga, and if you unfollowed Krugman altogether, you'll find when he writes something especially good, someone else in your Twitter stream will point you to it pretty quickly. That is, Twitter or Facebook will provide you with the essential Krugman without you having to pay any attention to Krugman at all.
What that means is what blogs and the web are doing to newspapers and magazines, so might Facebook & Twitter do to blogs. Blogs might not even get the chance to be called old media before they're handed their hats. It'll be interesting to see how smartphone/tablet apps affect this dynamic...will apps push users/readers back toward old media institutions, individuals, or the friend-packaging institutions like Twitter?
Gruber's best when he's writing about perfection, excellence and what it takes to achieve either. He can describe eight iPhone Twitter clients, or the software limitations of the iPad, and evince a common sense of aesthetic. His voice can be muscular and rigorous. The man's clearly animated by a hatred of everything he knows to be BS.
I share Meyer's assertion that Apple's "engorge[ment] as a company" has slightly flattened the site's tires, but Daring Fireball remains my favorite blog, a spot it has held for several years now.
Now here's a look at how DF's design has changed over the years, presented in animated GIF form:
Gawker has rebranded their new commenting system...it's now called Kinja. The name is recycled from a project that Nick Denton worked on with Meg Hourihan starting in 2003. Kinja 1 was an attempt to build a blog aggregator without relying solely on RSS, which was not then ubiquitous. Here's a mockup of the site I did for them in late 2003:
Luckily they got some real designers to finish the job...here's a version that 37signals did that was closer to how it looked at launch.
Where is the team that worked on that Kinja? Nick's still hammering away at Gawker, Meg is raising two great children (a more difficult and rewarding task than building software), programmer Mark Wilkie is director of technology at Buzzfeed, programmer Matt Hamer still works for Gawker (I think?), intern Gina Trapani is running her own publishing/development empire & is cofounder of ThinkUp, and 37signals (they worked on the design of the site) is flying high.
Your metaphor is all wrong. More likely you're a low-grade collector, not a curator. You're buying (in the attention economy at least! If not in the actual advertising economy of websites!) what someone else is selling -- and you're then reselling it on your blog. You're nothing but a secondary market for someone else's work.
I got fresh Sicha content. Anyone buying Sicha? 2-for-1 Sicha for the next hour only. Free embedded tweets! I'm also selling links to @curateordie for a limited time only, act now!
More than nine years ago, Phil Gyford started publishing The Diary of Samuel Pepys online as a time-shifted blog...perhaps the first of its kind. During that time, each entry in Pepys' diary was published 343 years after Pepys originally wrote them. In time, a popular Twitter account was added. The final entry will be published tomorrow (May 31), which is when Pepys suspended his diary in 1669 due to poor eyesight. Congrats on the run, Phil!
You will need an email address to do things like register for blog accounts, Facebook, Twitter, and more. This email will have to be something entirely separate from your "real" email addresses. There are a lot of free options out there, but be aware that sending an email from many of them also sends information in the headers that could help identify you.
When I started blogging, I set up an email address for the blog with Hotmail. Don't do this. Someone quickly pointed out the headers revealed where I worked (a very large place with lots of people and even more computers, but still more information than I was comfortable with). They suggested I use Hushmail instead, which I still use. Hushmail has a free option (though the inbox allocation is modest), strips out headers, and worked for me.
In the course of a few hours, Peretti would watch with wonderment as Arianna Huffington eased herself from setting to setting, all the while making the person she was talking with feel like the most interesting and important person in the world, hanging on every word, never shifting her attention to check one of three BlackBerries. "I loved being a gatherer," Huffington would later say. "I don't really think you can make gathering mistakes."
Peretti saw this talent through a different prism. "Arianna," he says, "can make weak ties into strong ties."
He returned to New York to discover that Lerer was already a few steps ahead of him. He wanted to talk about the venture the three of them would embark upon. "I remember him saying things like, 'We don't want to build a big website,'" Peretti would recall. "'We want to build an influential site.'"
Sort of related: there's an interesting article to be written about Google's relationship with blogs. Early on, blogs provided Google's Pagerank algorithm with plenty of links to rank (I would argue that without blogs and the personal web, Pagerank simply wouldn't have worked...businesses didn't link to anyone but themselves at that time) and then a few years later, with Huffington Post leading the charge, blogs filled Google with all sorts of crap and nonsense that made it less useful.
Most of the interest in writing online's shifted to microblogging, but not everything belongs in 140 characters and it's all so impermanent. Twitter's great, but it's not a replacement for a permanent home that belongs to you.
And since there are fewer and fewer individuals doing long-form writing these days, relative to the growing potential audience, it's getting easier to get attention than ever if you actually have something original to say.
Carving out a space for yourself online, somewhere where you can express yourself and share your work, is still one of the best possible investments you can make with your time. It's why, after ten years, my first response to anyone just getting started online is to start, and maintain, a blog.
My favorite part is how Andy casually mentions he has a complete archive of The WELL. Ten more years!
If you're actually reading this on the site and not in RSS (guys, come on in from the cold, don't be shy), you'll already have noticed that I changed the "look and feel" of the site. In doing the design, I focused on three things: simplicity, the reading/viewing experience, and sharing.
Aside from those three things, one of my unstated goals with the redesign was to increase the number of people reading kottke.org2 and I had a hunch that the focus on simplicity, sharing, the reading experience would do just that. Using Google Analytics and a couple of other sources, I compared the traffic stats from the past 30 days (I didn't include the day of launch because that was an outlier day, traffic-wise) to that of the previous 30 days. Here are some of the results. (Except where noted, when I say "traffic", I mean visits.)
- Overall traffic to kottke.org was up 14%. And February was a pretty good month itself so that's a nice bump.
- As I hoped, the two areas that saw the most improvement were mobile and referral traffic. Mobile was the lowest-hanging fruit I addressed with the redesign...kottke.org's previous mobile experience sucked. It's better now. And the focus on sharing boosted referral traffic.
- Mobile traffic now accounts for 19% of kottke.org's traffic and increased by 25% over the past 30 days. iPad usage in particular shot up 40% and iPad users are spending longer on the site than they previously were. iPhone and iPod touch traffic both showed double digit percentage increases as well.
- Referral traffic now accounts for 45% of kottke.org's traffic and increased by 28% over the past 30 days. Most of this increase come from social network sharing. Traffic from Facebook increased by 45%, Facebook mobile was up 43%, Twitter increased by 6% (I already did Twitter sharing pretty well before, so not a huge jump here), and Tumblr referrals went up 125%.
- That big Tumblr increase was due to kottke.org's new Tumblr blog. Having kottke.org posts be properly rebloggable is paying off. In addition, it's got over 800 followers that are reading along in the dashboard. I'd like to see that number increase, but I'd probably need to engage a bit more on Tumblr for that to happen.
- One of the small changes I made was to stop using post titles for posting to Twitter. I had hoped that using more descriptive text would make the tweets more easily retweetable...look at this tweet for example and compare to the title of the post it links to. This hasn't really happened, which is surprising and disappointing.
- I also removed the links to the tag pages (like this and this) from the front page. I had a hunch that very few people were using those links compared to the real estate they took up and the traffic numbers bear that out...traffic to tag pages decreased only 3%.
That's enough for now...I very rarely dig into the traffic stats so it's difficult to stop when I do. That and it's rewarding when you redesign something and it actually works out the way you thought it was going to.
 Like this weird Safari bug that results in overlapping link text. Many people have reported this but it only happens sporadically (and usually goes away with a refresh) and I can't reproduce it or find any other sites/designers who are having the same issue. Oh, and it seems like it only happens on OS X Lion. I have no idea if it's the web fonts or something in my CSS. Anyone have any ideas? ↩
 Not for $$$ reasons, although that is certainly a consideration. No, it's more that I believe there are literally millions of people out there who are not reading kottke.org that would love it. I put a lot of myself into the site, I'm proud of it, and I want people to see it. That's pretty much it. Oh, and I would also like the unlimited power that comes with millions of readers. evil cackle and cat stroking noises And the money. even more cat stroking noises And the chicks. expensive champagne cork popping noises And my kids' love and respect. surprisingly loud whining noise that you can't even believe came from someone less than 40 inches tall oh come on you just watched Wallace and Gromit for the past hour and you want more orange juice jesus come on give it a rest and now there's a surprisingly loud whining noise coming from a 38-year-old man that should know better...↩
During all the drama between the Boston revolt, New England and New France going to war and King James II being overthrown, German-American Jacob Leisler seized control of New York and ruled it against the wishes of the new King William III. In response, KWIII sent a new governor to NY, but he didn't get there for a couple years because he was lazy delayed by bad weather.
After an awkward stand-off resulting in words along the lines of, "You're not governor, I am!" and, "No, bitch, NY is mine!" Jacob Leisler was finally arrested by the REAL governor and sentenced to death.
This is riDICKulous. You can't just steal New York and expect to get away with it!!!!
If it was THAT easy, don't you think we'd have stolen it loooong ago?? Where else can you get the best food and fashion in America??!
This is the contemporary take on the guy-meets-girl-at-party story. Guy isn't particularly interested in girl but at some later point starts surreptitiously taking photos of her and posting them to a secret blog. Girl finds out, isn't creeped out at all. Boy doesn't feel shame at girl's discovery, only that it ruined his creative outlet before "he might have gotten better at it or something". Girl decides to interview boy for her communications class. You know, completely normal.
She messaged Walker through Facebook, and at first he seemed receptive. "He thought it was funny," said Merker. But after an initial show of interest, Walker got skittish, canceling and rescheduling the interview repeatedly. When Merker finally sat down with him, it was only after she had managed to catch him off-guard, saying she was already in his neighborhood and offering to meet at a bar.
Walker had one condition: he wanted to do the interview "in character" as the persona he had established through the blog. That would mean interviewing Merker, too; after all, any blogger who had devoted an entire Tumblr to a single person would certainly take the opportunity to directly question his subject.
You know when Mark Zuckerberg says stuff like privacy doesn't matter and Facebook makes formerly private information public without notice and all the tech pundits (most of whom are older than Zuck) go bananas tearing out their hair about how stupid and crazy that is? Now you know where Zuck and Facebook are coming from.
Not sure if it'll stay like this, but what a great idea for a gadget site for normal people: a list of recommended technology products broken down into categories based on how people actually make buying decisions. Sample categories include Best Laptop Ever Created, The Great TV I'd Get, and Best Wireless Carrier.
In computer science parlance, Kottke doesn't scale. That's a shame. While services that collect popular stuff online are useful, they lack any editorial sensibility. The links on Techmeme and Summify represent a horde's view of the Web. The material on Kottke represents one guy's indispensible take. The Web ought to have both kinds of aggregators, but I'd love to see more people starting link blogs that offer a clear editorial vision. But how do you get more of something so hard to do?
Enter Robottke. Over the last few weeks, Chris Wilson has been building a machine that aims to automatically generate links you might find on Kottke.org. Robottke isn't meant to replace flesh-and-blood Kottke; we just want to come up with a list of items that Jason Kottke might link to each day.
You can check out Robbotke here. How does it work? We began by crawling all the sources that Jason Kottke is likely to look at every day -- we look at all the sites he links to, and all the stuff that people he follows on Twitter are sharing. The hard part is choosing the best, most Kottke-like links from Robottke's collection. It's helpful that the human Kottke meticulously tags all of his posts with keywords. When Robottke finds a link, it searches for topics that it knows Kottke likes -- the more it finds, the higher the article ranks.
Hey, that riderless bike link at the top of Robottke actually looks pretty interesting...
Romenesko was also one of the first, if not the first, full-time bloggers...the Poynter Institute brought him on in 2000 to write the MediaNews blog. Romenesko is stepping away from Poynter (he'll continue as a part-time staffer) and will launch a site on his own domain soon.
(Fun fact: I did the design for TOS&RR back in, what, 2002? 2003? I was amazed (and somewhat embarrassed) to discover that the logo survived until the present day.)
Great new site from Rion featuring online videos, photos, books, and other media that's appropriate for little kids.
There's just so much science, nature, music, arts, technology, storytelling and assorted good stuff out there that my kids (and maybe your kids) haven't seen. It's most likely not stuff that was made for them...
But we don't underestimate kids around here.
With obvious exceptions, media "made for kids" is mindnumbingly dumb. YouTube, Flickr, and Vimeo are amazing resources of not-made-for-kids but totally-appropriate-for-kids stuff like what Rion is posting here. I've often wanted a Wikipedia For Little Kids (for the iPad) that's almost exclusively video- and image-based that I could let Ollie loose on to learn about stuff. (via @swissmiss)
Can't remember who tipped me off to this (Cederholm? Hoefler? Pieratt?), but Colossal is a top-notch visual art/design blog. There are a dozen things on the first two pages that could slide right into kottke.org quite easily. He's on Stellar too!
Sippey posted a brief item on pagination navigation on "river of news" type sites, comparing the opposite approaches of Stellar and Mlkshk. I thought a lot about where to put those buttons and what to label them. There's no good correct answer. For example, "older" usually points the way to stuff further back in the timeline that you haven't read, i.e. it's new to you but old compared to the first page of stuff...are you confused yet? I focused on two things in choosing a nav scheme:
1. The Western left-to-right reading pattern. If you're in the middle of reading a book, the material to your left is a) chronologically older and b) has already been read and the material to your right is a) chronologically newer and b) unread. From a strict data perspective, a) is the correct way to present information but websites/blogs don't work like books. b) is how people actually how people use blogs...when a user gets to the bottom of the page, they want to see more unread material and that's naturally to the right.
2. Consistency. Once you add page numbers into the mix -- e.g. "< newer 1 2 3 4 older >" -- it's a no-brainer which label goes where. I don't think I've ever seen the reverse: "< older 4 3 2 1 newer >".
Or maybe put "newer" at the top of the page? Still a waste of screen real estate? Anyway, once I figure out how I want to do infinite scrolling on Stellar, those problematic older/newer buttons will go away. Huzzah!
Dooce gets the NY Times Magazine treatment this weekend. More than anything, reading it made me nostalgic for a certain short period of time where people could write personal blogs intended to be read by more than just family and a few friends without worrying about money or a "personal brand". God, those were the (clearly unsustainable) days...here's the new reality:
Amy Oztan, who blogs at SelfishMom.com, is particularly transparent when it comes to her sponsors. She has a lot of them -- companies who pay her, in money or in product, to advertise on her site or to mention them. Oztan has an entire section explaining how she makes her money, including an extensive index of tabs she uses to alert readers to the economics of everything she writes. It starts with Level 1 -- "The product or service mentioned was provided to Amy free of charge (or at a considerable discount not available to the public)" -- and goes up to Level 13: "This is a sponsored post. Amy was compensated to write this post. While Amy's opinions in the post are authentic, talking points may have been suggested by the sponsor." In between these extremes are compensation for inserting links to a certain Web site, attending an event or administering a product giveaway. Which pretty much explains why, between daily witticisms, she so regularly describes how she offered Kleenex to the woman next to her at a conference or placed her HTC HD7 Windows phone on the tray table next to her when she lucked into an empty row on her last plane trip.
We are happy to announce that Six Apart KK (SAKK), a Japanese subsidiary of SAY Media, has entered into an agreement to be acquired by Infocom, a Japanese IT company, as of February 1, 2011. As part of this transaction, SAKK will assume responsibility for the worldwide Movable Type business, and the Six Apart brand.
We at SAKK are very excited to continue our investment in Movable Type, the Movable Type Open Source project and the worldwide community of developers, publishers and bloggers around the world that use Movable Type.
Disunion is a new NY Times blog that will be covering the events of the Civil War in "real-time" as it happened 150 years ago. From one of the first posts about the last ordinary day:
[November 1, 1860] was an ordinary day in America: one of the last such days for a very long time to come.
In dusty San Antonio, Colonel Robert E. Lee of the U.S. Army had just submitted a long report to Washington about recent skirmishes against marauding Comanches and Mexican banditti. In Louisiana, William Tecumseh Sherman was in the midst of a tedious week interviewing teenage applicants to the military academy where he served as superintendent. In Galena, Ill., passers-by might have seen a man in a shabby military greatcoat and slouch hat trudging to work that Thursday morning, as he did every weekday. He was Ulysses Grant, a middle-aged shop clerk in his family's leather-goods store.
Great idea. The Times started publishing in 1851 so their archives should have a ton of stuff related to the war. (via df)
"My friends keep talking to me about how they want to start a Web site, but they need to get some backing, and I look at them and ask them what they are waiting for," Mr. Sicha said. "All it takes is some WordPress and a lot of typing. Sure, I went broke trying to start it, it trashed my life and I work all the time, but other than that, it wasn't that hard to figure out."
The New Yorker has a trio of interesting articles in their most recent issue for the discerning web/technology lady or gentlemen. First is a lengthy profile of Mark Zuckerberg, the quite private CEO of Facebook who doesn't believe in privacy.
Zuckerberg may seem like an over-sharer in the age of over-sharing. But that's kind of the point. Zuckerberg's business model depends on our shifting notions of privacy, revelation, and sheer self-display. The more that people are willing to put online, the more money his site can make from advertisers. Happily for him, and the prospects of his eventual fortune, his business interests align perfectly with his personal philosophy. In the bio section of his page, Zuckerberg writes simply, "I'm trying to make the world a more open place."
Tavi has an eye for frumpy, "Grey Gardens"-inspired clothes and for arch accessories, and her taste in designers runs toward the cerebral. From the beginning, her blog had an element of mystery: is it for real? And how did a thirteen-year-old suburban kid develop such a singular look? Her readership quickly grew to fifty thousand daily viewers and won the ear of major designers.
And C, John Seabrook has a profile of James Dyson (sub. required), he of the unusual vacuum cleaners, unusual hand dryers, and the unusual air-circulating fan.
In the fall of 2002, the British inventor James Dyson entered the U.S. market with an upright vacuum cleaner, the Dyson DC07. Dyson was the product's designer, engineer, manufacturer, and pitchman. The price was three hundred and ninety-nine dollars. Not only did the Dyson cost much more than most machines sold at retail but it was made almost entirely out of plastic. In the most perverse design decision of all, Dyson let you see the dirt as you collected it, in a clear plastic bin in the machine's midsection.
Starting today, I'll be posting on a different element each weekday (the blog will run through early August), starting with the racy history of an element we've known about for hundreds of years, antimony, and ending on an element we've only just discovered, the provisionally named ununseptium. I'll be covering many topics-explaining how the table works, relaying stories both funny and tragic, and analyzing current events through the lens of the table and its elements. Above all, I hope to convey the unexpected joys of the most diverse and colorful tool in all of science.
People are not tiring of the chance to publish and communicate on the internet easily and at almost no cost. Experimentation has brought innovations, such as comment threads, and the ability to mix thoughts, pictures and links in a stream, with the most recent on top. Yet Facebook, Twitter and the like have broken the blogs' monopoly.
ScienceBlogs has added a blog about "innovations in science, nutrition and health policy" sponsored by Pepsi to their roster. Posters to the blog will include Pepsi research staff. Some of the other bloggers on ScienceBlogs are not happy.
However, that said, I am completely mystified by ScienceBlogs' latest development: adding the PepsiCo "nutrition" Blog. How does ScienceBlogs expect to maintain their (OUR) credibility as a science news source (we are picked up by Google news searches afterall) when they are providing paid-for content under the guise of news? Further, I cannot imagine what sorts of credible nutrition research PepsiCo is doing that they can or will actually talk about publicly, nor can I possibly imagine any "food" corporation actually caring about promoting public health. PepsiCo is a corporation, not a research institute, fer crissakes!
Welcome to the archives of the web magazine FEED. Launched in May of 1995, it was among a handful of "webzines"--as they were once called--in existence then. FEED tried to re-imagine how we would read and write in the digital age even as we dedicated ourselves to the craft of writing, a craft we were perfecting as green writers and editors ourselves.
We also convinced a handful of published authors to contribute. Hence, FEED was billed as the first Web-only magazine to feature "established writers." But its ultimate legacy may be the collection of writers who published some of their earliest work at FEED, and who then went on to luminous careers: the novelist Sam Lipsyte, Wonkette's Ana Marie Cox, media theorist Clay Shirky, New Yorker music critic Alex Ross, Talkingpointmemo's Josh Marshall, and many others.
One of the pieces that FEED published was an early look at weblogs by Julian Dibbell. (You have no idea how much it bruised a certain naive blogger not to have been mentioned in that article. Perhaps there's been a certain "I'll show 'em" element to this person's blog ever since. Or so I've heard.)
The "bored now" are users who have time on their hands. People on trains or waiting in airports or sitting in cafes. Mobile users in this behavior group look a lot more like casual Web surfers, but mobile phones don't offer the robust user input of a desktop, so the applications have to be tailored.
The "urgent now" is a request to find something specific fast, like the location of a bakery or directions to the airport. Since a lot of these questions are location-aware, Google tries to build location into the mobile versions of these queries.
This works for general web users as well. Blogs do well when they appeal to repetitive now and bored now users, but the really effective ones target all three types at once. Somehow this is related to stock and flow.
n. the phenomenon of observing your parents interact with people they grew up with, which reboots their personalities into youth mode, reverting to a time before the last save point, when they were still dreamers and rascals cooling their heels in the wilderness, waiting terrified and eager to meet you for the first time
n. an innocuous touch by someone just doing their job -- a barber, yoga instructor or friendly waitress -- that you enjoy more than you'd like to admit, a feeling of connection so stupefyingly simple that it cheapens the power of the written word, so that by the year 2025, aspiring novelists would be better off just giving people a hug.
This spring, we recruited Aleksandar Hemon to write a monthly column about soccer and encouraged him to write without pandering to a broad audience. And that's the same spirit that we've embraced for this enterprise. Our cast of bloggers is filled with many eminent novelists and journalists (and a Deputy Mayor of New York City). They will write about the spiritual and metaphysical aspects of this tournament, I'm sure. But they will also write about tactics and players and coaches. They have a green light to be as wonky as they want.
In the near future, the blog will "re-launch" under a NYTimes.com domain. It will retain its own identity (akin to other Times blogs like DealBook), but will be organized under the News:Politics section. Once this occurs, content will no longer be posted at FiveThirtyEight.com on an ongoing basis, and the blog will re-direct to the new URL. In addition, I will be contributing content to the print edition of the New York Times, and to the Sunday Magazine.
The Times' own Media Decoder blog notes that the deal is similar in structure to the arrangement Freakonomics enjoys at the newspaper: more of a rental than a purchase. I believe Andrew Sullivan has had similar deals at the various publications at which he's blogged. (thx, nevan)
Even when I am away from the computer I am aware that I AM AWAY FROM MY COMPUTER and am scheming about how to GET BACK ON THE COMPUTER. I've tried various strategies to limit my time online: leaving my laptop at my studio when I go home, leaving it at home when I go to my studio, a Saturday moratorium on usage. But nothing has worked for long. More and more hours of my life evaporate in front of YouTube. Supposedly addiction isn't a moral failing, but it feels as if it is.
They discuss blogging for a living, general vs. niche blogs, content longevity, making the transition to full-time blogging, how taking a break (even for a week) can affect traffic, finding links, guest bloggers, the good and bad of comments, and more.
(Christ, is that my voice? I *was* just getting over a cold...)
To appreciate the importance of a pre-modern blog, consult a database such as Eighteenth Century Collections Online and download a newspaper from eighteenth-century London. It will have no headlines, no bylines, no clear distinction between news and ads, and no spatial articulation in the dense columns of type, aside from one crucial ingredient: the paragraph. Paragraphs were self-sufficient units of news. They had no connection with one another, because writers and readers had no concept of a news "story" as a narrative that would run for more than a few dozen words. News came in bite-sized bits, often "advices" of a sober nature -- the arrival of a ship, the birth of an heir to a noble title -- until the 1770s, when they became juicy. Pre-modern scandal sheets appeared, exploiting the recent discovery about the magnetic pull of news toward names. As editors of the Morning Post and the Morning Herald, two men of the cloth, the Reverend Henry Bate (known as "the Reverend Bruiser") and the Reverend William Jackson (known as "Dr. Viper") packed their paragraphs with gossip about the great, and this new kind of news sold like hotcakes.
"No headlines, no bylines, no clear distinction between news and ads, and no spatial articulation in the dense columns of type"...that sounds damned familiar. (via @bobulate)
If you're looking to drive a lot of traffic to your blog with controversial posts, here's your template.
This sentence contains a provocative statement that attracts the readers' attention, but really only has very little to do with the topic of the blog post. This sentence claims to follow logically from the first sentence, though the connection is actually rather tenuous. This sentence claims that very few people are willing to admit the obvious inference of the last two sentences, with an implication that the reader is not one of those very few people.
I'll be writing about the elements of mathematics, from pre-school to grad school, for anyone out there who'd like to have a second chance at the subject -- but this time from an adult perspective. It's not intended to be remedial. The goal is to give you a better feeling for what math is all about and why it's so enthralling to those who get it.
More subject blogs like this, please. There are lots of art, politics, technology, fashion, economics, typography, photography, and physics blogs out there, but almost none of them appeal to the beginner or interested non-expert. (thx, steve)
What does that mean exactly? I have made some ground rules that I will be living by over the year. Here they are:
- I will start with $2,500 that I've saved during college - I will have a car, a phone, a computer and cameras to document the trip - I am not allowed to live out of my car - I am not allowed to live with someone I know for longer than a week at the beginning of each city - I am allowed one large bag containing clothes and a few staple foods - I am not allowed to initiate contact with someone unless it is through an online interaction
This means, put simply, I will find jobs, housing, friends, food and other necessities entirely via Craigslist.
Update:Craigslist Joe is a documentary film with the same premise. (thx, dennis)
She picked the eight blogs that covered her client's subject, TV, that she liked the most on a personal level, read them religiously, and only sent them only the content she thought each blog would be into. While the rest of the publicists in her company were sending out mass emails to everyone, hoping to get bites from Perez Hilton, Gawker, HuffPo, or wherever, this publicist focused on a lower traffic tier with the (correct) understanding that these days, content filters up as much as it filters down, and often the smaller sites, with their ability to dig deeper into the internet and be more nimble, act as farm teams for the larger ones. A site can be enormously influential without having crazy eyeballs, because all eyeballs are not equal.
Detainee 063 is the interrogation log of Guantanamo Bay detainee Mohammed al-Qahtani; each entry is posted to the site seven years after it was recorded (a la The Diary of Samuel Pepys).
Over the course of the fifty days, Al-Qahtani, Detainee 063, is questioned by teams of interrogators working in shifts, typically for twenty hours a day. While individual entries of the log are sometimes brutal and unpleasant to read, what is particularly disturbing about the treatment Al-Qahtani receives is its relentlessness. By publishing the log in real time, this site is intended as a kind of re-enactment -- to show how mistreatment which might not appear immediately as terrible as, for example, waterboarding, can nonetheless come to amount to nothing short of torture, how by being prolonged and unceasing it can become unbearable.
For some dumbcrap reason, the NY Times has redirected Errol Morris' excellent blog about photography and the truth -- formerly at http://morris.blogs.nytimes.com -- to some new thing called Opinionator. They did the same with Dick Cavett, Olivia Judson, etc. Oh, all the content is still there -- here's Morris' stuff -- and permalinks redirect, but there are no author-specific RSS feeds. There is only the main feed, which started shoveling a bunch of crap I didn't want to read into my newsreader. Come on Gray Lady, just give me Morris; I don't care about the rest.
Update: The Times blogs are on Wordpress and with WP you can add "/feed" to any URL and get a feed. So here's Morris' feed...which helps you and me but not much of anyone else. (thx, mark)
Her name is Dr Brooke Magnanti. Her specialist areas are developmental neurotoxicology and cancer epidemiology. She has a PhD in informatics, epidemiology and forensic science and is now working at the Bristol Initiative for Research of Child Health. She is part of a team researching the effects of exposure to the pesticide chlorpyrifos on foetuses and infants.
The blog You Aught To Remember is counting down all the of the memorable people, ideas, and trends of the 2000s. Some recent entries include the demotion of Pluto, World of Warcraft, the Red Sox winning the World Series, and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.
Terrence Handley shifted his weight, the weight that had been steadily increasing for the last ten years and showed no sign of diminishing, at least while his wife Marie continued to excel as she did at the design and production of delectable gourmet meat pies, and shuffled his feet restively as he waited.
Vivian Maier was a street photographer from the 1950s-70s in Chicago whose extensive body of work (40,000 negatives) was recently discovered at an auction. This blog is presenting that work to the public for (I think) the first time.
The other X factor in recognition is a curatorial champion. Bellocq had Friedlander. Atget had Abbot. Disfarmer had Miller. Without their discoverers, these photographers might still be anonymous. For Maier it's been John Maloof. An interesting mental experiment is to wonder what would've happened had Maier posted her own photos on a blog while still alive. Would they have the same impact? Or would they just be another series of old images from some self-promoting has-been?
Heather Armstrong purchased a new washing machine which promptly broke. After several attempts to get it fixed failed, she registered her displeasure on Twitter to her 1,000,000+ followers. The rest of the story is amusing but I enjoyed it for more inside-baseball reasons, i.e. this is how you fucking blog. Take notes.
This is where some of you are all, WTF? You spent how much on a washing machine? Don't you know that some of us don't even have washing machines? Don't you know that some of us have to drag our five loads of laundry AND our three kids down to the laundromat every week? HOW DARE YOU EVEN WRITE AND/OR COMPLAIN ABOUT YOUR PRECIOUS LITTLE WASHING MACHINE.
And you can give me a goddamn break. It's not like we said, you know what? Let's just go spend fourteen hundred dollars today! It'll be fun! Where can we go? An appliance store! Hurry, let me change into my diamond-studded panties and climb into our golden chariot! Have the local police shut down traffic so that we don't have to maneuver around the little people! Also, where is Clive Owen and that blow job I paid for?
Gothamist's Jake Dobkin attended a public discussion of "Rules for City Issued Press Credentials" in NYC today and took some good notes. The proposed new rules address some inconsistencies in the city's issuing process...in particularly the denial of press passes to bloggers and other online publications.
Restrictions limiting press passes to certain mediums will be removed -- in the future, online, offline, on-air, etc. will all be treated equally. To qualify for a press pass, the journalist or journalism organization will need to provide six clips from the last 24 months showing news-gathering activity that would merit a press card -- that would include live reportage from police and fire scenes, public assemblies, government press conferences, or similar events.
Living in a big city, you get to hear other people's conversations all the time. These are private conversations meant for the benefit of the participants but it's no big deal if they're overheard on the subway. And you know what people talk about most of the time? In no particular order:
1. What they had or are going to have for breakfast/lunch/dinner.
2. Last night's TV or sports.
3. How things are going at work.
4. The weather.
5. Personal gossip.
6. Celebrity gossip.
Of course you'd like to think that most of your daily conversation is weighty and witty but instead everyone chats about pedestrian nonsense with their pals. In fact, that ephemeral chit-chat is the stuff that holds human social groups together.
Ever since the web hit the mainstream sometime in the 90s, people have asked of each new conversational publishing technology -- newsgroups, message boards, online journals, weblogs, social networking sites, and now Twitter -- the same question: "but why would anyone want to hear about what some random person is eating for breakfast?" The answer applies equally well for both offline conversation and online "social media": almost no one...except for their family and friends.
So when you run across a Twitter message like "we had chicken sandwitches & pepsi for breakfast" from someone who has around 30 followers, what's really so odd about it? It's just someone telling a few friends on Twitter what she might normally tell them on the phone, via email, in person, or in a telegram. If you aren't one of the 30 followers, you never see the message...and if you do, you're like the guy standing next to a conversing couple on the subway platform.
P.S. And anyway, the whole breakfast question is a huge straw man periodically pushed across the tracks in front of speeding internet technology. There is much that happens on Twitter or on blogs or on Facebook that has nothing to do with small groups of people communicating about seemingly nothing. Can we just retire this stupid line of questioning once and for all?
Again, I fail to see any clear distinction between someone's boring Twitter feed - considered only semi-literate and very much bad -- and someone else's equally boring, paper-based diary -- considered both pro-humanist and unquestionably good. Kafka would have had a Twitter feed! And so would have Hemingway, and so would have Virgil, and so would have Sappho. It's a tool for writing. Heraclitus would have had a f***ing Twitter feed.
Living with friends and colleagues would be a cheap alternative to living alone. People generally don't do it because it's not a good thing for humans to do. We are genetically predisposed to need time in solitude occasionally. So instead of living with your friends and colleagues, try living with their disembodied thoughts floating around on your computer and popping up on your desktop every fifteen, thirty, sixty, (manual refresh), minutes. Fellowship exists to provide us with relief from solitude and our individual pursuits. Living in a state of constant fellowship with hundreds, if not thousands of people who have known you (or not) across various stages of your life becomes an insurmountable problem the longer you try to do it.
In America today, there are almost as many people making their living as bloggers as there are lawyers.
Understandably, Penn's catching a bit of flack for that and statements and the numbers he uses to back them up. From Waldo Jaquith at VQR:
Penn's thesis is that average American citizens are becoming professional bloggers, offsetting the loss in journalists, with millions enjoying a revenue stream from blogging and nearly half a million making a living at it. That's wrong on its face. There's simply no way there there's more than, say, 10,000 Americans are paying for their basic life expenses purely through blogging.
Scott Rosenberg, who has done all sorts of research about blogging for his forthcoming book, reacted similarly:
Technorati's are the longest-running and most valuable, and consistent, series of blogging studies over time, but like any study's numbers, they can be easily misrepresented: here, Penn relies on them for the datum that bloggers who reach 100,000 uniques a month can earn $75K a year. But if you read the source, you find this:
"The average income was $75,000 for those who had 100,000 or more unique visitors per month (some of whom had more than one million visitors each month). The median annual income for this group is significantly lower - $22,000."
In other words, the $75K average is skewed by a handful of outlier successes, but the great majority of bloggers who get 100,000 uniques/month earn more like $22,000. Here, the median is far more relevant than the average. Penn, of all people, knows this.
From my perspective as someone who does make a living blogging, Penn's numbers, especially this 100,000 uniques --> $75K business, are misleading at best and a complete fucking lie at worst.
Schools are finally taking the end of print media seriously. Professor Robert Lanham is offering a class called Writing for Nonreaders in the Postprint Era that will be graded on the "Raised by Boomers, Everyone's a Winner" system.
Throughout the course, a further paring down of the Hemingway/Stein school of minimalism will be emphasized, limiting the superfluous use of nouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, conjunctions, gerunds, and other literary pitfalls.
OMG, this class is totes HFACTDEWARIUCSMNUWKIASLAMB.
Keith Starky's blog examines tweets as "part of his ongoing research in humor propagation and fluid reputation dynamics".
The central conceit of the "tweet" in this case is the idea that Ninjas, which are black-clad martial artists who employ tactics of stealth to both defeat their opponents and avoid waking people up at night when they go to the bathroom, could partake in some of the worldy pleasures of the non-Ninja world (e.g., crunchy snacks) if that non-Ninja world consisted entirely of people wearing noise-canceling headphones. Henceforth we refer to this world as Headphone-World.
Sorry for the two "explains Twitter" posts in a row. I'll make the next two extra special (i.e. "explains Facebook"). (via jim ray)
Earlier this year, Bryony and I made the decision to close Speak Up. Seeing weeks and weeks go by where we have only two or three posts (and one of them being the Quipsologies round-up) has become too painful for us. It's also like watching Ozzy Ozbourne today, still holding on to that rock glory but he can't really rock no more, not like he used to.
In the past week, both Joshua Schachter and Matt Haughey published articles that were excerpted in the Voices section of All Things Digital, a web site owned by Dow Jones and run by Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg of the WSJ. Each excerpt was accompanied by a link to the original articles. Schachter and Haughey both reacted negatively to All Things Digital's posting of their work. Andy Baio has collected responses from Schachter, Haughey, All Things Digital's Kara Swisher, other writers whose stuff has been excerpted in the Voices section, and a couple other long-time online writers. Merlin Mann's comment on Twitter sums up what the independent writers seem to be irritated with:
Republishing online work without consent and wrapping it in ads is often called "feed scraping." At AllThingsD, it's called "a compliment."
It does suck that ATD's linking technique makes it appear as though Schachter and Haughey are in the employ of Dow Jones and that DJ has the copyright on what they wrote. ATD should make the lack of affiliation more clear. Other than that, is the ATD post really that bad? In many ways, All Things Digital's linking technique is more respectful of the author of the original piece than that of a typical contemporary blog. For comparison purposes, here are screenshots of Schachter's original article as linked to from a typical blog (in this case, Boing Boing) and by All Things Digital.
Go read both posts (ATD, BB) and then come back. With its short excerpt and explicit authorship (i.e. there's no doubt that Joshua Schachter wrote those words), the ATD post is clearly just an enticement for the reader to go read the original post. On the other hand, BB's post summarizes most of Schachter's argument and includes an extensive excerpt of the juiciest part of the original piece. The post is clearly marked as being "posted by Cory Doctorow" so a less-than-careful reader might assume that those are Doctorow's thoughts about URL shorteners.
[Metaphorically speaking, the ATD post is like showing the first 3 minutes of a movie and then prodding the viewer to go see the rest of it in a theater while BB's post is like the movie trailer that gives so much of the story away (including the ending) that you don't really need to watch the actual movie.]
What ends up happening is that blogs like Boing Boing -- and I'm very much not picking on BB here...this is a very common and accepted practice in the blogosphere -- provide so much of the gist and actual text of the thing they're pointing to that readers often don't end up clicking through to the original. To make matters worse, some readers will pass along BB's post instead of Schachter's post...it becomes, "hey, did you see what Boing Boing said about URL shortening services?" And occassionally (but more often than you might think) someone will write a post about something interesting, it'll get linked by a big blog that summarizes and excerpts extensively, and then the big blog's post will appear on the front page of Digg and generally get linked around a lot while the original post and its author get screwed.
So I guess my question is: why is All Things Digital getting put through the wringer receiving scrutiny here for something that seems a lot more innocuous than what thousands of blogs are doing every day? Shouldn't we be just as or more critical of sites like Huffington Post, Gawker, Apartment Therapy, Engadget, Boing Boing, Buzzfeed, Lifehacker, etc. etc. etc. that extensively excerpt and summarize?
Update: I'm pulling a couple of quotes up from the comments so that the opinions of the people involved aren't misrepresented.
I really just objected to the byline on the ATD thing. It made it appear that there was a relationship when there wasn't. If there is curation, the curator should be the one noted as making the choices.
All the complaints stem from the affiliation issue. Running ads and having comments on an excerpt are only an issue if it's presented as original content, instead of curation. Put an editor's name on there, remove the author photos, throw it in a blockquote, and all these complaints go away.
Nerd Boyfriend breaks down the wardrobes of the fashionably nerdy male, including those of Peter Sellers, Alistair Hennessey (from The Life Aquatic), Buster Bluth, and Sir Edmund Hillary. (via lonelysandwich)
Blogs can do many wonderful things [but] generating huge amounts of money isn't one of them.
As businesses go, blogging is a lot like shining shoes. There are going to be very few folks who own chains of shoe shining places which make a lot of money and a bunch of other people who can (maybe) make a living at it if they bust their ass 24/7/365. But for many, shining shoes is something that will be done at home for themselves because it feels good to walk around with a shiny pair of shoes. Everyone else will switch to sandals (i.e. Twitter) or sneakers (i.e. Facebook) and not worry about shining at all. (via fimoculous)
Several readers have noted that The White House Site has already been refreshed to the now-familiar Obama look-and-feel. It's even got a blog on the front page. Will there be a Twitter account? The Wikipedians have been busy too: Obama is listed as the current President on the President of the United States page.
This unamazing power lets you teleport up to one inch away. When done in rapid succession, it gives that old-timey stop action feel. It can also really push your "popping & locking" routine to the next level.
People Who Deserve It is a blog listing people who have earned a punch in the face, including Office Food Thief, Traveler With Giant Backpack On Subway, Loser Who Pisses on Toilet Seat, and Sexual Innuendo T-Shirt Guy. My NYC pedestrian-related submissions: Cab Driver Who Honks Excessively From Three Cars Back Just As the Light Turns Green and Bike Messenger with Whistle. (thx, casey)
Usually there will be a few contributions that are outliers in technical merit and scale. There is a temptation to reward these contributions by drawing specific attention to them while the project is running. This can sometimes have the effect of damping the project as a whole, since potential contributors will measure their work against an artificially high standard. Alternatively, only displaying the most recent contribution allows the tonality of the project to be at the whim of the last contributor.
Instead of only focusing on technical ability, draw attention to qualities that can be expressed by anyone: simplicity, individuality, and humanity. Allow there to be a feeling of "Hey, I could do that too".
[I removed the map temporarily because it wasn't loading.]
To construct the map, outside.in scrapes kottke.org's RSS feed, looks for names of specific places, and plots the related blog entries on a map. There's not a lot of local content on kottke.org but the results are still pretty good; it works a lot better on a local site like Gothamist. [Disclosure: I am an advisor to outside.in.]
The Economist reports that experimental tests of the controversial "broken windows theory" of social behavior indicate that the theory is correct.
The most dramatic result, though, was the one that showed a doubling in the number of people who were prepared to steal in a condition of disorder. In this case an envelope with a EUR5 ($6) note inside (and the note clearly visible through the address window) was left sticking out of a post box. In a condition of order, 13% of those passing took the envelope (instead of leaving it or pushing it into the box). But if the post box was covered in graffiti, 27% did. Even if the post box had no graffiti on it, but the area around it was littered with paper, orange peel, cigarette butts and empty cans, 25% still took the envelope.
At the community level, disorder and crime are usually inextricably linked, in a kind of developmental sequence. Social psychologists and police officers tend to agree that if a window in a building is broken and is left unrepaired, all the rest of the windows will soon be broken. This is as true in nice neighborhoods as in rundown ones. Window-breaking does not necessarily occur on a large scale because some areas are inhabited by determined window-breakers whereas others are populated by window-lovers; rather, one unrepaired broken window is a signal that no one cares, and so breaking more windows costs nothing.
Reading these articles, I wondered: how does the broken windows theory apply to online spaces? Perhaps like so:
Much of the tone of discourse online is governed by the level of moderation and to what extent people are encouraged to "own" their words. When forums, message boards, and blog comment threads with more than a handful of participants are unmoderated, bad behavior follows. The appearance of one troll encourages others. Undeleted hateful or ad hominem comments are an indication that that sort of thing is allowable behavior and encourages more of the same. Those commenters who are normally respectable participants are emboldened by the uptick in bad behavior and misbehave themselves. More likely, they're discouraged from helping with the community moderation process of keeping their peers in line with social pressure. Or they stop visiting the site altogether.
Unchecked comment spam signals that the owner/moderator of the forum or blog isn't paying attention, stimulating further improper conduct. Anonymity provides commenters with immunity from being associated with their speech and actions, making the whole situation worse...how does the community punish or police someone they don't know? Very quickly, the situation is out of control and your message board is the online equivalent of South Central Los Angeles in the 1980s, inhabited by roving gangs armed with hate speech, fueled by the need for attention, making things difficult for those who wish to carry on useful conversations.
But what about a site's physical appearance? Does the aesthetic appearance of a blog affect what's written by the site's commenters? My sense is that the establishment of social norms through moderation, both by site owners and by the community itself, has much more of an impact on the behavior of commenters than the visual design of a site but aesthetics does factor in somewhat. Perhaps the poor application of a default MT or Wordpress template signals a lack of care or attention on the part of the blog's owner, leading readers to think they can get away with something. Poorly designed advertising or too many ads littered about a site could result in readers feeling disrespected and less likely to participate civilly or respond to moderation. Messageboard software is routinely ugly; does that contribute to the often uncivil tone found on web forums?
Do you maintain a weblog and attend college? Would you like $10,000 to help pay for books, tuition, or other living costs? If so, read on. We're giving away $10,000 this year to a college student who blogs.
The plant interface system, which is built around technology developed by Satoshi Kuribayashi at the Keio University Hiroya Tanaka Laboratory, uses surface potential sensors to read the weak bioelectric current flowing across the surface of the leaves. This natural current fluctuates in response to changes in the immediate environment, such as temperature, humidity, vibration, electromagnetic waves and nearby human activity. A specially developed algorithm translates this data into Japanese sentences, which are used as fodder for the plant's daily blog posts.
Merlin Mann has been on a tear lately. He's been rethinking what he wants to do with 43 Folders -- a site he started four years ago to think in public about Getting Things Done (and other stuff) -- which rethinking has resulted in a bunch of good writing on weblogs, creative work, and online media. Some links and excerpts follow.
How to blog, the best and most succinct blogging advice I've ever read:
Find your obsession. Every day, explain it to one person you respect. Edit everything, skip shortcuts, and try not to be a dick. Get better.
Going through my newsreader today, most of the sites I follow are written with those things in mind. Those that don't, out they go.
Better is a short account of Merlin's quest to remove the unpleasant and unproductive from his life. Worth quoting at length:
What makes you feel less bored soon makes you into an addict. What makes you feel less vulnerable can easily turn you into a dick. And the things that are meant to make you feel more connected today often turn out to be insubstantial time sinks - empty, programmatic encouragements to groom and refine your personality while sitting alone at a screen.
Don't get me wrong. Gumming the edges of popular culture and occasionally rolling the results into a wicked spitball has a noble tradition that includes the best work of of Voltaire, Dorothy Parker, Oscar Wilde, and a handful of people I count as good friends and brilliant editors. There's nothing wrong with fucking shit up every single day. But you have to bring some art to it. Not just typing.
What worries me are the consequences of a diet comprised mostly of fake-connectedness, makebelieve insight, and unedited first drafts of everything. I think it's making us small. I know that whenever I become aware of it, I realize how small it can make me. So, I've come to despise it.
Good blog posts are made of paragraphs. Blog posts are written, not defecated. They show some level of craft, thinking, and continuity beyond the word count mandated by the Owner of Your Plantation. If a blog has fixed limits on post minimums and maximums? It's not a blog: it's a website that hires writers. Which is fine. But, it's not really a blog.
At this juncture, I wish to apologize and formally atone for any role 43 Folders or I have had in popularizing "hack" as the preferred nomenclature for unmedicated knowledge workers dicking around with their "productivity system" all day. 43 Folders regrets the error.
If the work that really matters to you involves understanding a relationship between a handful of seemingly unrelated things and then figuring out the best way to portray, magnify, or resolve those relationships, then you're already doing creative work. Any time you make a connection between two or more axes that hadn't occurred to you 10 minutes ago, yes, you've done something creative. Seriously. This does not require your wearing a beret.
But, then -- and this is really important -- if you want to actually make something out of all that insight, and if you have the will and desire to polish and improve the execution of all the things you produce, then we'll have a lot to talk about.
Good luck with your new direction, Merlin. I never really read 43F too much before this summer -- spending a lot of time reading about all those little productivity tricks and whatnot seemed oxymoronic -- but I'm paying attention now.