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December 20, 2001 10:56 PM   Subscribe

BlogBack RIP, November 16th. SnorComments: RIP, about a week later, due to a massive migration of BlogBack's deserting rats. With the blogging community reaching critical mass, is it possible for a remotely-hosted comments service to survive the bandwidth bludgeoning?
posted by tweebiscuit (37 comments total)

 
Sure, as soon as someone charges for it.

I don't think people quite understand how insane it is to create a central comment system. There are hundreds of thousands of blogs on just Blogger now. In those blogs, there are several million posts. Now imagine several comments per post. That's a lot of data, and I can't possibly see anyway someone could continue a centralized comment service, for free, forever.
posted by mathowie at 11:00 PM on December 20, 2001


Time to thin out the ranks. If you can't chisel your own weblog and comments system out of raw code, host it on your own goddamn server, and send weblogs.com the appropriate XML-RPC messages for updates, you don't belong in da scene, kiddo =)
posted by Jimbob at 11:00 PM on December 20, 2001


Maybe I don't understand the post (i get the gist of the issue for sure) but I am using BlogBack currently on my Blog without any problems. It will probably hit critical mass soon and screw up, but until then, what's the point of the post?
posted by Ufez Jones at 11:06 PM on December 20, 2001


In November, BlogBack stopped accepting new signups and kicked off all of those who didn't upgrade. (Including myself, which I was frankly miffed about since the only way to be informed of the need to upgrade was to go to the BlogBack website, which I had no reason to check frequently.)

As for me, I'm personally in a bind because I don't have the money to pay for any sort of scripting on my own server. I'm sure that lots of people have this problem. Of course, I realize the near-impossibility of running a completely-open service like BlogBack, and I'm not complaining -- I just wanted to open up the topic for discussion.
posted by tweebiscuit at 11:37 PM on December 20, 2001


I feel for those guys. I think part of the challenge of hosting any sort of online multi-user database system (Metafilter included) is knowing when to shut out new members to manage growth.

It sucks having to tell people they can't join your site or service, but it's necessary if you want your site to be around for other users.
posted by perplexed at 11:40 PM on December 20, 2001


agreed, perplexed...;)
posted by modofo at 11:43 PM on December 20, 2001


Blogback's problem is a symptom of a larger phenomenon: much of the current blogging revolution is a castle built on sand. It exists to a great extent because those doing it are utilizing "free" resources.



Only they aren't free; it's just that they're being paid for by someone else. Eventually the money will run out, and those services will go bye-bye -- either by shutting down outright, or by trying to convert to a pay model. As it currently exists, there are a number of "single points of failure" whose demise would shut down huge amounts of the blogging community. For example, if Pyra ever goes to that great dot-com in the sky, about three quarters of the blogs out there will be dead in the water.



I, personally, am not vulnerable to that. I bought my own server, I bought my own discussion system, I bought the tools I run (I'm switching over to Citydesk) and I pay for my own bandwidth. But to do that I ended up spending $2000 in one-time expenses ($1300 for the server, $100 for a RAM upgrade, $250 for UBBS and $350 for CityDesk), plus paying about $150 per month for my network connection, and that's beyond the reach of most bloggers either because they don't have that kind of money (being impoverished college students) or because they're smarter than I am and are not willing to waste it on a hobby.



If there's any lesson in Twee's experience, it's that blogging as it currently exists isn't sustainable. It's not clear that it has to be as expensive as it has been for me, but it's going to take a pretty routine commitment of at least $30 per month to amortize capital costs and to pay for bandwidth and other recurring expenses. (I spent the money I did because I can afford it and because I wanted complete control over my site.)



And while we're talking about "unsustainable", MeFi also is. We're using donated hardware, home-brew software and donated bandwidth; Matt and Jason are paying for this out-of-pocket. Someday they'll get tired of it and MeFi will also go bye-bye.



Nothing is free. Having someone else pay for it isn't "free", and it's a perilous thing to rely on because they may get tired of doing so or may run out of money.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 12:39 AM on December 21, 2001


Didn't Blogger start out because Ev & Meg had their own CMS for their blogs and they pooled it together to be used on internal blogs?


If we ever come to a point where people have to code their own software, it'll be a full circle.

The way I see it, remotely hosted apps like Blogger start charging a small monthly fee, like $3 for 30 entries per month and $5 for unlimited, cause the other option is to get hosted and install your own software which costs money too.
posted by riffola at 1:16 AM on December 21, 2001


There are quite a few people out there now, myself included, who host comments for a few friends and that's all. If free comment hosting survives, I'm pretty sure it will be in that form.
posted by Nothing at 1:24 AM on December 21, 2001


Yep, that probably is the best idea. Blogger should have a small charge, don't wanna pay? you can always install greymatter on your paid-for/full of annoying ads site, either way, it should cost money, otherwise, blogger will end just as blogvoices did, dead.

and about the comments - if you can't host it on your own, maybe you don't need a comment system.
posted by martz at 3:10 AM on December 21, 2001


All of this begs the question of what blogger-type tools are out there that can be run locally instead of on someone's server? I never quite got the gist of the idea why blogger is on a server when I'm sure it can be written as a local app. The only advantage I can think of is having a backup on a remote server, which is redundant because a local backup is just as good.



I use blogger and everytime I hit publish I know I'm just getting into a rut and that the service will disappear probably without much if any notice. Recommendations on blog-type, auto-archiving, local apps?
posted by skallas at 4:18 AM on December 21, 2001


I'm not outlaying a whole lot of money myself, and I usually resell space at a cut rate to friends and such. Adding commenting isn't that expensive to do on your own system. Right now I'm using dotcomments for my commenting on the site, and it works really well. It is not server intensive and can be run on a shared hosting account which supports PHP.



I imagine a lot of people will be migrating to paid hosting eventually, albeit in shared form, not everyone having their own servers. As I explain to people who ask me, oftentimes it is about control of the server environment. Personally, I use Blogger. But I have a stand-by in case Blogger ever fails. I also explain that not only with these hosting accounts do you get the space to put your content, but it can also be your e-mail as well, which eliminates the dependance on your ISP's mailing system (and address, should you ever change ISPs).



I think people are inclined to pay some, but they have in their mind how much this stuff is going to cost already. I would love to see how much GeoCities coversion to premium has been, because they are charging rates a regular host would charge, but that regular host would provide more bandwidth on average, and allow scripting like CGI and PHP. I'm sure it's high because people don't shop around.



You've just got to make it easy for people to set it up, because the average user doesn't know HTML, nor does he want to pay $150 for a copy of FrontPage, or more for GoLive or Dreamweaver, and the average user doesn't want to learn HTML, they just want to publish on the web.



To that end, I think Blogger will continue to have success, even if it introduced a monthly or annual fee, but people will have to go simple-scripting applications on their own servers to enable extra features such as commenting, because no one can carry the load for free forever.



And when you get down to it, and you can find server hosting for around 6 bux a month for enough space for the average blog and PHP for commenting, and their e-mail as well, people will be willing to make that jump.
posted by benjh at 5:04 AM on December 21, 2001


There are plenty of alternatives. Firstly, webhosting with scripting is cheap. I've seen unlimited PHP enabled space for $10 a month, and 50 megs of space on an IIS box with ASP for the same. If you can't write your own weblogging + comments software, there are plenty of free scripts out there (I'm doing an ASP based script myself).





Failing that, LiveJournal runs a nice service, with weblogging and comments all rolled into one. There's a free service available as well as a premium service.





This is hardly the end of weblogging. In fact, IMO, the scarcity of free services may make it even stronger.
posted by helloboys at 5:27 AM on December 21, 2001


$10 a year can get you a domain. $5 a month can get you domain hosting with CGI access to run Greymatter or Movable Type with built in comment features. That's about 20 cents per day for the purposes of being able to write whatever you want, whenever you want, and receive all the feedback that you want, without any need for anyone else's anything. If it isn't worth 20 cents a day to someone, maybe they ought to take up pen and paper. They can't continue to think that they can suck up someone else's bandwidth and resources for free indefinitely. It's just insanity.

You've just got to make it easy for people to set it up, because the average user doesn't know HTML, nor does he want to pay $150 for a copy of FrontPage, or more for GoLive or Dreamweaver, and the average user doesn't want to learn HTML, they just want to publish on the web.

You know, if you want to communicate with the deaf, you learn sign language, because that's how the deaf communicate. If you want to make pottery, you learn how to throw on a wheel, because that's how pottery is made. So why is it such a stretch to suggest that if you want to publish your own website, you learn HTML, the basic language of the web?

It's not that big a deal, millions have done it strictly on their own with little difficulty, and there are dozens upon dozens of resources available both online and off. Just like the lack of excuse for continuing to mooch bandwidth, there's no excuse to rely upon other people's templates and direction because you can't be bothered to undertake the most minimum of self-training.

Simple final analysis: Self-publishing ought to require a modicum of self-reliance, and if you don't have it, perhaps you should consider another hobby.
posted by Dreama at 5:31 AM on December 21, 2001


If you can't chisel your own weblog and comments system out of raw code...

I built this PC out of matchsticks, chewing gum, and discarded tin cans. The code...pah. I wrote that while skydiving naked on mescaline. Sniff. Amateurs.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:35 AM on December 21, 2001


A moderately lengthy quasi-dissent:

I agree with much that's been said here, particular Steven's reminder that nothing we do with blogs/MeFi is free -- it only seems free while other people donate their time, server space, and bandwidth. And I think it's obvious that any of us willing to pay monthly for internet access and/or hosting wouldn't have a big problem paying a small charge to a Blogger or other CMS that charged a reasonable fee (whether a "reasonable" fee could actually sustain biz for Pyra or another outfit as things stand is another question: I really don't know, but I imagine someone would eventually figure out how to do it). As benjh says, the basics are out there.



But I will also suggest that there's a bit of a prejudice I sometimes pick up on in this community against weblogs from people who don't do their own coding --



Time to thin out the ranks. If you can't chisel your own weblog and comments system out of raw code, host it on your own goddamn server, and send weblogs.com the appropriate XML-RPC messages for updates, you don't belong in da scene, kiddo =)





-- I assume that's tongue-in-emoticon-cheek, Jimbob, but I get the sense that this still is the prejudice: that the programmer/coder is really the only person who belongs in this space. And it's a little short-sighted. For my money, I'd rather have the "ranks thinned" on the basis of intelligence and the ability to either inform or entertain with whatever the individual throws up on the web. The self-publishing revolution won't mean anything to our culture if it's confined to those people who can code.



I write this as one who has been diligent about learning HTML and basic design principles, who has decided that I'm serious enough about this to pay for some hosting, who tinkers constantly with the code on his page to make it more of something I understand and built myself, and who has constantly thought about moving to GreyMatter or some such (as opposed to Blogger) but who doesn't have the time to make such a complete transformation in my technical knowledge as quickly as I'd like. It'll happen, but more slowly, and in the meantime, I'll publish using whatever tools I can grab and use without a problem. BlogBack and SnorComments were nice opportunities to make my weblog more of a dialog, when I didn't have the personal time to set up something of my own. It's obvious why such things only work for a limited number of users; but let's not use the failure of such community-spirited initiatives to chastise non-techies (right here, folks) for their dependence on code and scripts they could not have created for themselves -- there is always going to be some of that: part of the learning process, if nothing else. And it broadens what's available to the rest of us online.

(Note: a few comments have come up as I wrote this, including Dreama's; after reading them, I stand by what I've written).
posted by BT at 5:46 AM on December 21, 2001


BT: This was exactly my point with FrontPage. Me, I know HTML and PHP and ASP and such. But the average person doesn't, and doesn't really care enough to learn all the inner workings. All over the Internet I have seen this attitude that if you can't write HTML then you shouldn't be posting on the Internet. If you can't code your own database system, then you shouldn't have a weblog. Both of those concepts are absolutely rediculous.



Anyone who has something to say can and should be able to say it, whether anyone agrees with it or not, and that is one of the basic premises of the Internet, is that it levels the playing field for publishing to a worldwide audience. Some people love to write, but they don't know a lick of code, and have no desire to learn. I don't think the analogy of the 'if you want to communicate with the deaf, you learn sign language, because that's how the deaf communicate' is entirely accurate. The written word is the communication here, not the underlying code. And the deaf can communicate with the written word just as well as the non-deaf.



I don't think it is about self-reliance for coding, but the desire to express your feelings into the written word in the first place. As I said, people don't want to learn code, they just want to publish. And if technology can make it easier (which is what technology is supposed to do) for people to reflect their written word on a worldwide scale, then more power to them. Give them easy to use template tools, and HTML editors, and instruction books with easy to use tools. And for those who wish to code and handle the minutae, I bet your sites might look a bit better because you chiseled out the code by hand, but as the rule always is with the Internet, the one with the best content shall be the most visited site.
posted by benjh at 5:56 AM on December 21, 2001


Having written and supported dotcomments for six months, I can definitely confirm the concept of reaching a point where the ends no longer justify the means. It ended up costing me so much time -- 40+ hours a week -- (and what little sanity I had) trying to support a free commenting system, and I eventually pulled the plug on development. The yahoo group (which, in retrospect, I should have set up right from the beginning) that Steven linked to above seems to be self-sufficient in getting new users started.



I recently came up with what I perceive to be the solution to many of the problems with commenting mentioned above, and it's so compelling that I may release a special new version of dotcomments to take advantage of the idea: commenting nodes.



The primary user -- someone both relatively experienced with HTML/PHP/etc. and who has the existing server capability required to use it -- sets up a commenting node on their system. Basically, all this requires is a server with PHP, enough server space, a username/password file. This person, in turn, would literally host commenting for their friends/family/hostees/customers/etc., who would supply an encrypted username/password in their HTML to access the shared commenting.



This provides a method by which:

- A single setup would be able to cover multiple users. Those inexperienced with HTML/PHP wouldn't need to wrangle confusing code for themselves. Those who cannot afford to pay for PHP hosting can operate for free (if the node owner so chooses)



- A small network of users using a common tool, able to support eachother in the setup and use.



- The ability to run multi-user commenting without the massive requirements of relying on a central host (i.e. BlogVoices, BlogBack, etc.)



Hell, the node users could even drop the node owner a buck or two per month to help defray the cost of Web hosting, etc. That would account for $12-24 per year per user, which is extremely reasonable and more than enough to get a PHP-powered hosting account.

Seems to solve nearly all of the aforementioned problems at a really low cost to everyone involved. S'best thing I can think of, anyway. Now someone needs to develop it.
posted by Danelope at 6:21 AM on December 21, 2001


For my money, I'd rather have the "ranks thinned" on the basis of intelligence and the ability to either inform or entertain with whatever the individual throws up on the web. The self-publishing revolution won't mean anything to our culture if it's confined to those people who can code.



I totally agree - and I also feel that a person shouldn't call themselves "intelligent" if they can't cobble togther a few sheckles to pay for their vices. If a person feels that what they have to say is important enough to their audience or to themselves they should feel that it is important enough to pay for. Hell, I'd love for my local bar to give me free drinks all the time but it just isn't economically feasable for them! But, if I just cut one night of social activities out a month it results in enough extra cash to rent a movie, buy a pizza AND pay for a month's worth of hosting.



I guess it comes down to priorities - and I personally think that ANYONE who has computer/web access and the time to blog who can't afford $10/month for hosting has got theirs seriously screwed up...
posted by RevGreg at 6:24 AM on December 21, 2001


I'd also like to point out that a large number of high-profile webloggers are professional web developers -- something I'll never be. I've had enough time to teach myself HTML and CSS, and I enjoy web design enough that I practice my flashy design skills, but I have no reason to learn PHP, and therefore no time to devote to it. I see no conflict between this and the desire for a comment system. (Of course, what's really denying me commenting is my reluctance to pay for a better hosting plan... that's another matter entirely.)
posted by tweebiscuit at 6:32 AM on December 21, 2001


if you want to communicate with the deaf, you learn sign language, because that's how the deaf communicate


This is crap. This is like being told unless I know machine language I shouldn't use a PC. After all, thats how computers work.


What is HTML? Its gopher on steroids and as artificial as machine language. Like someone already said technology, apps, etc should be making things easier.






I'm sure we can go on and on about how easier doesn't necessarily mean better, but blogger and the rest put themselves up for free and have to live with the consequences. According to SDB these tools aren't free. Well anything when you analyze it enough isn't free, so its a moot point. If blogger's need for early on popularity means eventual subscription or shutdown, then that's their problem. The users should be prepared and look into different options if they're very dependant on the tool.
posted by skallas at 6:53 AM on December 21, 2001


If you can't chisel your own weblog and comments system out of raw code, host it on your own goddamn server, and send weblogs.com the appropriate XML-RPC messages for updates, you don't belong in da scene, kiddo.



by logical extension (retraction?), if ya can't chisel your own OS and file system out of raw code, you got no business owning a computer?



anyway, i used to agree, but then i realized the blog scene wouldn't be worth diddly without the deep emotional clarity and profound insight provided by all that jailbait!
posted by quonsar at 7:17 AM on December 21, 2001


why is mefi inserting all those break tags all of a sudden?
posted by quonsar at 7:18 AM on December 21, 2001


I started blogging using Blogger, when I got tired of their servers going up and down, I rolled my own version in Cold Fusion and used it for almost a year.



This type of solution isn't available to everyone, and they shouldn't have to be able to write their own code to be able to blog. I don't need to provide examples to demonstrate how silly that sentiment is; res ipsa loquitur.



The death of free services such as these is sad, but is also generally more healthy for the internet space. As more free services vanish and pay services rise up to take their place, the effects of real-world market forces will continue to increase on the net. This is good, because it means competition, and THAT means more choices and better prices for end users.



The free services on the web have done a marvelous thing; they introduced all sorts of new ideas and new technologies to a huge audience. In most cases, the ones that people feel are worth paying for are the ones that will survive.
posted by DWRoelands at 7:22 AM on December 21, 2001


The free services on the web have done a marvelous thing; they introduced all sorts of new ideas and new technologies to a huge audience. In most cases, the ones that people feel are worth paying for are the ones that will survive.





If it wasn't free, I never would have started web logging. But now that my web logs are a part of my day, I'd be more than happy to pay someone to be able to do it. Further, it seems to me that there are some great applications for web logs in the classroom (I'm a high school English teacher who has been experimenting with Blogger and Diaryland in my writing/journalism classes this year.) I know basic HTML, no PHP. We've been able to set up our web logs on a school server, but it's the mechanism that these services offer that is obviously the biggest part for us. If Blogger went belly up, I'd be in a tough spot. (I'm already suffering since SnorComments' demise.) I've looked at Manilla, but education budgets are, shall we say, tight. Anyway, I know I would be willing to pay a reasonable fee out of pocket for my own school web logs since I find them really useful in my teaching. (95% of my students have Internet access at home and I keep all my class info on my web logs.) I'm thinking at some point, however, setting it all up locally is going to be the way to go. I'm hoping there will be more and more options on how to do that very soon.
posted by willrich at 9:03 AM on December 21, 2001


I never quite got the gist of the idea why blogger is on a server when I'm sure it can be written as a local app.

The main reason Blogger was written as a hosted web application was because it was easier for people to use. Someone can go to Blogger, sign-up, and be posting online within a minute. It's that easy. Requiring people to install software and have their own hosting is too complicated for the majority of people, whether or not they know HTML.
So why is it such a stretch to suggest that if you want to publish your own website, you learn HTML, the basic language of the web?

It's not that simple, since many of these tools require knowledge beyond HTML. While you're at it, pick up some Perl. Oh, and do you know how to set up a Linux serving running Apache? I hope so to use some tools.


A major reason for Blogger's success is its ease of use. That's why so many people continue to flock to it. And as long as it exists, and as long as it continues to be free, there's no space in the market for a similar for-pay tool. If Blogger/Pyra should go bellyup, then the marketplace is opened up a bit and someone could launch a for-pay version of the tool without the competition from Blogger. And that would be really interesting, because then it would continue to be developed and could offer features such as comments, syndication, photo uploading, open blogs (where anyone could post to a blog if the user allowed it, a la MeFi), etc. Keeping this stuff free hinders development.
posted by megnut at 9:15 AM on December 21, 2001


Good points, meg, although anil and I have agreed that not only would we pay for Blogger Pro, it might make sense to limit free Blogger's functionality. (The same way that a 3ppm bubblejet printer is ... a 6ppm bubblejet printer, with a crippled controller.) It works in other markets with other products.

But getting back to the comments system issue, while remaining with blogger, too: I was kinda hoping that the Trellix investment would lead to a hosted product that would integrate Blogger with other tools, such as templates and ... yes, a comments system. This is really what should happen.

Right now a lot of new blogs are hosted on blogspot, which is nice in its own way. (The performance issues Pyra was experiencing through last weekend seem to have been resolved thanks to Ev's tweaking, but there's been a small groundswell of folks "buying" their blogs off of the ad-supported version, by paying $12 for their own blog or for a blog they like. I don't actually know if that's better in the long run, though I assume the price point is set accordingly.) But ultimately it would be nice to have a more robust hosting option available, an enhanced blogspot if you will.
posted by dhartung at 9:36 AM on December 21, 2001


I would love that, and not necessarily BlogSpot. I just wish there were an easy turn-key solution for quality hosting AND weblog service (MT, GreyMatter, Radio, whatever) for pay, for a reasonable price. That would help so many people.
posted by megnut at 10:45 AM on December 21, 2001


You don't have to learn sign language to communicate with the deaf -- there's all kinds of gestures that pretty much anyone will understand. Now, that's a very imprecise method of communication, and it'll cause problems.

If you want to get a little bit better at it, then you hire or find someone to translate what you say into sign language. This works out a lot better, and your communication will improve. There's still, however, a block between you -- you can't really be sure how accurately the translator is, and some things are going to be lost that way.

So if you really want to communicate, and you want to do it exactly the way you want, yes, you learn sign language. If you're not that picky, a translator will do.

The same thing goes for blogging -- you can use some terribly restrictive form system where you just type in how you're feeling and what you're listening to, or you can use Blogger and Blogspot, which will let you do a fair amount of customization and work pretty well about 90% of the time. If that level of customization isn't enough for you, switch to GreyMatter or Movable Type hosted on your own server. And if you're really, really picky, learn PHP and MySQL or whatever and write your own CMS.
posted by fidelity at 11:07 AM on December 21, 2001


meg, someone has started offering something like what your'e talking about. greylogs has hosting plans where, for a reasonable rate, your site will come with greymatter already installed.
posted by mikhail at 12:27 PM on December 21, 2001


Yeah my comment (way way up the top) regarding "thinning out the ranks" was a bit toung-in-cheek; I realize that the blog-centric web would be a colder and darker place if it only had the inputs of goddamn PHP-coding computer geeks. However, that's the way I was introduced to blogging, and it's always been kind of discomforting and amazing to me the amount of free blogging services that have popped up. I discovered the concept of weblogs, within a week I'd coded my own database system.... then joints like Blogger and Edit This Page started appearing, and I was left feeling a bit...silly? underappreciated? My ego was crushed, as no-one could recognise the 1337ness of my site...it was my own, but anyone using Blogger could do the exact same thing.


Which is all good, but I wish these people taking advantage of the free services would take the time to learn a bit about how things work, to educate themselves. I don't know, I can't explain it. It shits me for the same reason hotmail.com shits me; most people's ISPs now offer web-based email. Here in Australia there are dozens of local free email services rather than using an overseas one like Hotmail. But somehow, hotmail becomes synonymous with email, AOL becomes synonymous with internet, and Blogger becomes synonymous with weblogs. Pfft ignore me, I'm just bitter.
posted by Jimbob at 4:31 PM on December 21, 2001


There was an interesting article on ClickZ today talking about how all the "magical mystery behind the door" stuff about the web was fading into the background and how people were just using it.
posted by owillis at 4:39 PM on December 21, 2001


We are empowered by understanding. If the internet-using public continues to grow more and more ignorant (instead of more and more knowledgable) about how the web works, they get cut off from being able to control it. It will be left up to Da Man to create our corporatized internet experience, without us being able to control HOW we use the internet. There are two forks of potential subversiveness in the weblog phenomenon; new information being presented, and a new WAY to present information. People have got to be smart, and be on top of things on BOTH fronts.
posted by Jimbob at 4:59 PM on December 21, 2001


Jimbob - while I agree that we are empowered by understanding, I'd also have to say that those without understanding are empowered by tools that alleviate a need to understand. The general Internet-using public hasn't been taught to care about the underlying structure of what makes the web work. They've been weened and coddled by AOL and MSN and other portal type services that remove the need to know.

Users who want to take it a step further and begin to actually do things on the web get greeted by services like Geocities, Blogger, etc. which continue to alleviate the need to understand web design, or HTML. These services are empowering for that very reason. They allow people to create things and not be held back by their lack of knowledge or understanding.

Some people grow into a certain level of understanding through these services, some don't. Invariably, those that do, and want to continue to learn, eventually find the resources to expand their knowledge. There are also still plenty of baby-birds chirping "help! It doesn't work", who are just looking for someone else to do all the work, so that they can continue to create. I think it's part of the medium, as it's part of most things in life where we create tools that replace understanding.

Calculators can replace the need to really understand mathematics. Samplers, sequencers and drum machines can remove the need to understand theories of rhythm, harmony and melody. They don't have to, but they do. It's a philosophical argument. Does society become less intelligent as their knowledge of how to do things is replaced by tools that do those things for them? Is knowledge devalued in the face of these tools? Does the reliance on such tools ultimately lead to some Orwellian nightmare? Who knows? I think there will always be people who want to know and understand things, and people who don't. As long as people aren't prevented from learning how something works, we'll all be ok.

In the end, whether people have the knowledge, or not, the tool just facilitates achieving an end result. I always think having some understanding of the knowledge behind the tool leads to better use of the tool, and better end results, but I don't wanna stop people from using services like Blogger because they don't really understand how to make a webpage.
posted by mikhail at 8:43 PM on December 21, 2001


If anyone's interested in a Blogger-like app, there's Blog, a freeware prog that supposedly works like an offline Blogger (compose blog entries offline then FTP to whatever server the blog is hosted on). It apparently doesn't support commenting however.
(Tripod page with a small popup ad)
posted by StOne at 9:57 PM on December 21, 2001


As one of the non-programmer types, I can still see the reason for the disdain accorded to the completely non-tech-savvy bloggers out there. I use Blogger, but the ups-and-downs of the service over the past year provided enough impetus for me to learn a little HTML, some CSS, and so on. Now, I still use Blogger but if it went away it wouldn't cripple me. And I think that if someone doesn't consider their ability to publish to the web important enough to at least learn the basics, then maybe a degree of disdain is appropriate. If you value the content you create, and your ability to create it on an ongoing basis, then relying on free services - whose long term viability is by definition questionable - seems foolish.
posted by JParker at 11:04 PM on December 21, 2001


I keep thinking how many things we use that we never really learn how they work. Cars for example. If a part of getting a driver's license was being able to fix your own car, I lot of us wouldn't be driving. Sure, we'd be motivated to learn how to fix it since the reward of being able to drive is so great. But that's why we have mechanics that we pay to keep them running. The difference with blogs is that we're not paying for the service, yet. So, more people get to "drive" their web logs. Now if you learn how to do it, you can run your own log for less money (at least after the startup) and with a more personal touch. But the fact that there are places like Blogger and Pitas who pretty much offer to build and maintain our sites allows a great many more people to have their own web logs. And I think the addition of a great many more voices only makes it harder for the corporate types to wrestle control from us.
posted by willrich at 4:59 AM on December 22, 2001


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