Category Archives: Weblogs

“The Power Of The Blog”, Ann Arbor Observer, June 2013

The Power Of The Blog“, Ann Arbor Observer, June 2013

Vacuum’s subject material is a hodgepodge, but that’s because Vielmetti sees the blog very much in the classical context: as a personal, yet very public, journal. A longtime notebook keeper, Vielmetti sees Vacuum mostly as just another way to record and archive his own thoughts–although it recently hit a traffic milestone, with one million total page views.

Patrick Dunn’s story also has accounts from A2Gastroboy, Ben Connor Barrie of Damn Arbor, and Mark Maynard.

Yahoo in talks to acquire Tumblr, users are not happy

Yahoo is in talks to acquire Tumblr, with a price tag north of a billion dollars. Who knew that simplifying the blogging interface could be so profitable? I wonder, though, how Yahoo is going to make money off of Tumblr page views without ruining the service. (cf Flickr) (cf MyBlogLog) (cf GeoCities) etc.  See what Tumblr users think of the acquisition.

You know that house your friends got that was the best hang out, watch tv, party you face off, great pot lucks, still clean and comfy to chill in place? Then the landlords were like ugh, yall gotta go, and then the best hang out place was gone?

Yeah, so where is everyone heading now that Yahoo bought this place?

There's nothing like a big messy purple smooch from Yahoo to make users fear for their accumulated friendships on a service that just wants to monetize page views with ads.

The import-export problem and fragile Internet services

Here's the scenario. You and your team work hard to use a new piece of collaboration software that offers some unique features that are suited either to the work at hand or that appeal to your sense of novelty. The tool works great and you get into it, using some of the more complex parts of the system to great advantage. Then the system's owners send out the dreaded self-congratulatory message saying that they have been acquired by a big company, or some beleagured product manager announces that their system is being sunsetted. You need to move.

Moving turns out to be hard. Once upon a time when the only thing you needed to move was electronic mail, there were only a handful of email file formats, and though they were incompletely specified you could readily move among them. Moving between news readers was just a matter of reusing your .newsrc file. Life was simpler then (cue sad violins).

The situation now is much more complicated. If you are extremely lucky, the system you have has an export file that is the same as its import file, and someone has built a faithful clone of your original service for you to migrate to. That was the case in my move from Delicious to Pinboard. If you're keeping a weblog, though, things can get really unhappy really fast, and a friend to recently migrated from Posterous to WordPress went through gyrations that I'm not sure that I would have tolerated.

The fundamental problem, I suppose, is that the more innovating the service the less likely that its data is structured so simply that you can drop it in to someting else. Brand new user interfaces, the ones that attract traffic because of the ever present need for novelty, also have novel data structures. Watch out when getting into something new that you may find it easier to start than to stop.

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I’ll miss Google Reader, but it’s no longer how people read this site

Screen shot 2013-03-13 at 11.29.45 PM
If my Google Analytics reporting is to be behaved, the peak of Google Reader usage for me was in mid 2008, and by early 2010 it had been reduced to background noise. I can understand based on this graph (and perhaps millions of other graphs like it) that it might be time to call it quits.

It looks like from other charts (that I won't show here) that Twitter picked up the slack, as did Facebook. 

Google's "sunset" announcement for Google Reader says that you can get your data out; I'm sure that at least one service will appear to let you load it in and carry on reading.

AOL buys Huffington Post; also, piffle

Paid Content, on the New Yorker's Auletta's take on AOL:

Auletta, who dismisses most of AOL’s content as “piffle,” says “quality is a problem for the entire AOL (NYSE: AOL) empire.” 

And some piffle from the Huffington Post, which has elevated the SEO of inane comments to a science:

Piffle.

What unthinking right wing piffle.

Piffle. Absolute piffle from the pifflinges­t of all British Rightwing, hate-monge­ring tabloids. 

Now, AOL with more piffle, buying the Huffington Post (NY Times); quoting AOL's Tim Armstrong:

“I think this is going to be a situation where 1 plus 1 equals 11.”

Techcrunch understands, though:

The fact is, it’s almost impossible to find a single ‘content’ company on the web that maintains a horseshit:quality ratio better than 10:1.

As for content, you might better find it on the blogs than in 'content' companies, preferably blogs written by people who are not getting paid to write; e.g. the weblog "Piffle", written by someone who is a bit ambiguous about who they are writing to and what they are writing for, but still manages to keep it up for 4 years and 350 posts before giving up. 

image from upload.wikimedia.org

some details of setting up Movable Type: day 13

public notes from day 13 at AnnArbor.com.

I'm noting some MT setup details here, since I need a spot for it, and since I've been relatively spoiled by having the Typepad crew figure out how to make things just work.

1.  "Replace Word Characters".  A default setting when you paste in Word documents is to have them paste in with entity characters; this setting converts those to ASCII.  (Word, bleah, but it's the norm.)

2.  EntryIfExtended.  A template tag to use to conditionally include a "more…" button at the bottom of a page or entry, to link to the whole thing.  (Typepad doesn't do extended entries.)

3.  Creating comment feeds.  A forum post showing a couple of wrong ways and a right way to do it.

more to come, but that's tonight; spelunking through the docs to see what's possible.

blogger vs journalist, day 5

Trying to keep the chronology going – this is back to Monday of this week.

I had a nice and mostly non-confrontational interview with a journalist-with-a-capital-J about my new role at AnnArbor.com .  The discussion seemed to center on what kinds of standards (or lack of standards) people have when they self-identify as bloggers, and how that compares with the ideal of what a professional journalist is supposed to be.

I've been wrestling with this, in part because I've been blogging so long (since 1999) that there has been a big shift in what the popular press has characterized and categorized bloggers as.  When I started, the blogger was either the extremely widely read Internet explorer who kept a log of the many interesting things that came across their path, or it was the expert in some field (at times a very narrow field) who used a less formal sequential writing tool to capture details and query others in their niche interest about what was going on and relevant.

It's only much later that in some people's minds that blogger turned into the text equivalent of political talk radio show host as seen in text.  There it's been obvious that whatever standards of practice there are are much less interested in pursuit of Truth or of careful observation and much more about propoganda in one form or another.  Not that the press and the media and public relations hasn't done propoganda for many years – it's just that it's not the norm for old school blogging.

I'm hopeful as I suppose I have to be that AnnArbor.com's experiment with giving voice to readers as contributors makes for something that adds to the whole operation.  I've talked to any number of people for whom when I describe what I'm looking for as "experts who can write but who are not professional writers", rather than "bloggers with free reign to spew unsourced and unedited opinion", that some of the concerns ease.  But I suspect it will take a whole year of refining what the Ann Arbor School of Blogging has as a style and attitude that sets it apart from the rest of the world that will make the difference.