July 14, 2000
1:50 PM   Subscribe

Oh great another "weblogs are stupid and they all suck" article came out, but what I really want to know is: why does the other article running this week at ALA acknowledge that "99% of everything is crap," but the weblog article doesn't? Comparing the cruft at the bottom of weblogs with the 1% best of writers (Ginsberg and Kerouac) seems unfair and pointless. And where are the solutions? Tell everyone to stop? Tell them to write better? What's so hard about ignoring the sites you don't like instead (I do that with most advertising)?
posted by mathowie (96 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Yup. It's a big old web; just avoid the sites you hate. If I have to hear another "when there were just two websites, why, then it was cool", I'm going to scream.

There is a lot of crap out there. I would imagine my weblog would bore the pants off of most people who read it. So? Don't go there. Go to the sites that interest you.
posted by mrmorgan at 1:59 PM on July 14, 2000

Wow. I must say, I'm really disappointed I saw that crap on ALA.

Trash 'blogs all you like, whatever. A three page article that boils down to "most blogs suck. most personal pages suck. oh yeah, there's a couple of good ones. TINC."

puh-lease. This is apart from what? Every other pundit who's managed to stumble across 'blogger and decides to comment on what the next big thing was a year ago?

I go to ALA for insight on stuff that matters to designers, not who's cool and who isn't.

Man, there's a bad taste in my mouth today.
posted by cCranium at 2:06 PM on July 14, 2000

I am so f***ing sick of all of these losers trying to tell me what's good and what's bad about weblogs (or the internet in general). This is just like when old people shake their fist at you and telling you how things were so much better when they were your age. Please shut the hell up and quit wasting my time! The greatest triumph of the web is that it give all of us a way to express ourselves any damn way we feel like it. I've got a simple rule for all of these elitist twits: "If you don't like it, don't read it!" That's what bookmark files are for.
posted by Mr. skullhead at 2:10 PM on July 14, 2000

I also love the fact that this weenie doesn't leave an e-mail address and that his pretentious webpage looks like complete crap in Opera. So much for web design!

Sorry for the double post, but it's fun to vent!!!
posted by Mr. skullhead at 2:23 PM on July 14, 2000

This was actually written for m3tacubed, but Blogger is down right now (D'oh!), so I'm sharing it here:
Ev is working on a thoughtful rebuttal to Rich Robinson's article in this week's A List Apart, but since we are exactly the type of weblog to which the article is apparently referring, I figured I'd go for the big quote and the little snarky comment.

"Some of you will remember this quote:

'Weblog schmeglog, whatever. Kerouac just drove up and down the peninsula and then wrote about it. Other people argued (and still do) over what it should be called.'

Kerouac? Weblogs? Huh?

I've got a name for it. Crap. That the majority of what goes on today on weblogs should be compared to the Beat Generation musings and writings of Jack Kerouac is simply laughable. Ginsberg and Kerouac wrote poetry and fiction that influenced not only their generation, but those that came after. Can anyone, with a straight face, compare Ginsberg's "Howl" to this a typical weblog entry like this one:

'Hey! Joe linked to me! Hey Joe!'

I didn't think so."

Rich, you ignorant slut. Software solutions like Blogger haven't caused the demise of intelligent writing any more than fountain pens and dime store notebooks. Perhaps in your world, writing should be left to the small intellectual elite who can afford to have their elitist musings penned by the town scribe on the skins of unblemished calves and read to the illiterate masses in the square after Sunday church. Certainly, by preventing the average Joe on the street from publishing, you could guarantee that readers would be able to find your work and, because of their limited options, read it. Do you really believe that the Lance Arthurs and Leslie Harpolds of the world would disappear into obscurity because of a few million cat posts? Will Carl Steadman die in poverty because publishers would rather devote his column space to quips about the publishing industry from other magazines? No sir, I believe the only people at risk of being lost in the current flood of self-publishing are those who were mediocre to begin with. Has it ever occurred to you that an .edu account and the ability to cobble together the basic HTML structure are not necessarily the ideal indicators of writing ability? Perhaps you feel that Kerouac and his lot would have never achieved any notice if word processors had been available during their heyday. I'm not suggesting that every site is a literary gem, or even that every weblogger is interested in pushing boundaries or changing the world. Quite the contrary, a great many webloggers are interested in expanding their own personal sphere and creating an extended community that is not restricted to their particular geographic area. Perhaps you should consider that the nature of a personal site is not to wow you, but to create something of a personal nature – even if that something is a group of friends. Amazingly enough, in spite of the millions of other useless blogs already cluttering up the web; they seem to be succeeding. Those people are quite likely to engage in the same sort of chatter that you might hear over cocktails, discussions of the weather, inside jokes, flirtation, even the occasional philosophic musing. Not everyone is going to enjoy the conversation going on in any particular part of the room, but that's okay – it's a big room. Perhaps you need to examine your expectations when browsing a personal site. The world is indeed full of self-important, self-involved people, and I would certainly agree that Blogger has facilitated an increase in the volume of material available on the internet. Given the notion that most people tend towards either art or science, however, I'm of the notion that removing technological barriers can only improve the quality ratio by allowing in the non-technical artistic types. Perhaps you should be less concerned about the work habits of others and more concerned with maintaining the quality level of your own material.
posted by CrazyUncleJoe at 2:27 PM on July 14, 2000

The worst thing about the article is that he's just plain wrong. It may be a little more difficult to find the gems amongst the stones, but they will be found. One of the main benefits of cross-linking is that once you find a page you love, you can find what they love.

The best will float to the top, because when it's good, people come back, and people talk. Proof: how many of you folks found {fray} recently? Say, any time in the last year? I know I did. I found it through a link.

So nyah.
posted by frykitty at 2:30 PM on July 14, 2000 [1 favorite]

I have to agree. This feels like a rerun.

Comparing weblogs to Kerouac is pretty whacked, but for another reason, I think. I've always approached the whole weblog thing as a form of expression, much like a sestina is a form of poem, and not a type of author. (Where did that original quote come from? He doesn't even credit it. Did he make it up? Nice journalism, either way. This from someone who pines for us putting more thought into what we produce.) Playing with the form is going to take some time, more than the months (or year or two or however long you remember this whole spiel) that the form has been recognized as such.

People have been experimenting actively, such as the BoyLog/GirLog team-up currently, and in the past when Mark let Katy and Tom take over his weblog. People have been teaming up, and there's too many topical weblogs for me to think of them all. (And of course, Neale has always been plotting new ways to piss people off and pit webloggers against each other.) Seeing where this will all go will take time. Maybe it'll all become shite. Maybe it'll become useful but average. Maybe we'll see cooler and cooler things as time goes on. Who the hell knows? Let it run its course and don't bitch about shutting it down just because you're bored with it.
posted by jason at 2:32 PM on July 14, 2000

The two articles are indeed oddly paired. The first says, "Everybody and his uncle has a blog. Blecch!", while the second says, "Everybody and his uncle has a blog. Spiritual!" Perhaps if they were presented in a point-counterpoint fashion, the dissonance would be understandable.
posted by droob at 2:33 PM on July 14, 2000

I just went back and read it again, slower, calmer, not allowing my blood to boil with every paragraph.

It's still more of a 'waste of cyberspace' than any blogger-generated page online.

Blogging is popular. Yes, I agree. There are a lot of blogs out there because of the ease tools like Blogger provide. Yes, I agree. The vast number of blogs are crap. I strongly, strongly disagree with that.

I don't care if it's boring, if it's 10 bloggers linking back into each other repetitevly, fighting over who's coolest or who has the most hits, or if it's LanceLog2000, which is almost constantly entertaing.

Every one of those sites gives people the power to be heard.

Every one of those sites is someone being helped create something, giving them the chance feel the rush of "I created this. I made this. This is a piece of me."

To stomp over beginning creative efforts like that is just brutally ignorant.

Ah, you say, but the article was saying that tools like blogger help keep people lazy, uncreative, and self-referential.

Bull. These lazy uncreative people that keep popping up, a year ago, would've been too intimidated to even bother learning more than [html][body]Hello World![/body][/html] (where [ = < etc. etc. to avoid post previewing problems).

Ease-of-use breeds familiarity. Familiarity breeds curiosity. Curiosity breeds knowledge. Knowledge breeds brilliance.

Before writing off the vast majority of the blogging community because they aren't creative enough, or flashy enough, or talented enough, or whatever for your petty little world, realize that we're at the dawn of a completely new medium.

You claim that { fray } would be nothing if it hadn't started in '96. And I claim that's crap, too. MetaFilter, to take a really easy example, didn't start until a year ago, and it started because of blogging.

I've been a part of digital communites for 10 years, from BBSes, to Usenet, to Chat Rooms to IRC, and MetaFilter has gathered some of the most intelligent, interesting and diverse group of people I've had the experience of encountering.

Don't believe me?

In the current thread on racism and police, sudama got leapt upon for quick comments with no support. Rather than proving [her|him]self a troll, s/he rapidly sprang back with intelligent, thoughtful arguments, generating one of the most amazingly blended threads of sheer incredulity, analytical arguments, political bias I've encountered. Despite to magnificant flamitude potential that thread has, the vast majority of posts are still civil. It was over 60 posts last time I checked and all were related to the topic. That's a phenominal accomplishment.

I've encountered this prejudice time and time again, and even been a party to it. "Ease of use is overflowing my world with noise!" Fortran programmers cried it out in anguish when structured programming became common. Old Skool Mainframe Hackers cried it out when punch cards gave way to terminals. DOS users cried it out when command lines gave way to GUIs.

And every step of the way, the ease-of-use and increased availability has paved the way to the next step of wonderment.

If you want to cower in 1996 when life was good for you, that's fine. But clue in, or get out of our way, because we're in it for the rush, the joy, the knowledge, the entertainment, the fantastical new accomplishments we see and report on and help create and refine and perfect every day IN OUR BLOGS.
posted by cCranium at 2:41 PM on July 14, 2000

Wow. when I started that there were only 3 posts. :-)
posted by cCranium at 2:43 PM on July 14, 2000

i just love the fact that this guy counts david siegel as one of "the current 'brand names' in independent web design and content. that just cracks me up.
posted by msippey at 2:46 PM on July 14, 2000

Is it okay to self-link within a thread, if it's relevant? Because I wrote a rebuttal to "Fame Fatale" on my site. It's pretty long, I can't really summarize it here. I also sent a copy to A List Apart.

I will share the cheap shot that I left out of my rant, though: I think the main reason this guy is so cheesed is that no weblogger has blogged his site. >:-)
posted by wiremommy at 2:47 PM on July 14, 2000

The first one pissed me off, the second one made me open up a notebook ( a real one, how odd) and start brainstorming aboout an idea I've been kicking around.

I thought the pairing was perfect. I don't know if one was written with knowledge of the other or if it was coincidence.
posted by Mick at 2:51 PM on July 14, 2000

One point that I took away from this, is something that I was just arguing about with a friend who has no real online or web knowledge. His entire online existence is fed through his Yahoo start page, his Yahoo e-mail, and his commercially spoonfed content. His comment to me was that there IS no good indepently created content on the web. WHAAAAT? Yes, as this spew of an "article" points out, it is increasingly more difficult to find this good independently published content. Yes, it is buried deeply sometimes. These couple of thousand (tops?) blogs strewn amongst the billions just aren't the noise they are made out to be. More like the proverbial needles in the haystack.

Moreover, the conclusion that blogs are to blame for supposedly obcuring good content is idiotic, totally aside from the point that there are some excellent blogs out there. The real blame lies with the search engines that are dominated by commerical sponsors which in turn affect rankings for searches.
posted by faith at 2:53 PM on July 14, 2000

I love my wiremommy.
posted by CrazyUncleJoe at 2:54 PM on July 14, 2000

^_^ Thanks, Unca Joe. And thanks to you and cCranium for also ranting about the article at length. Makes me feel less silly for putting together such a looooong rant of my own.
posted by wiremommy at 3:20 PM on July 14, 2000

Hey... it's all opinions.
Diff'rent strokes for diff'rent folks....

I use the web for different reasons at different times: Research, information, communication, shopping, freebies and entertainment.

And it all seems to be there whenever I want it.

I'm a happy camper, and wouldn't change a thing.
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 3:20 PM on July 14, 2000

I feel everyone is entitled to an opinion. Keeping in mind that my opinions are not those expressed by ALA as a whole or even Jeffrey Zeldman... and visa versa....

I would like to point out that a few months ago Jason Kottke decided to rant about weblogs (am I ringing any bells yet)... I know he took a lot of flack about it and I even threw some his way (since, I was mentioned and linked in the rant for being Blog of the Week). I apologized to Jason for my response that was really uncalled for... I reacted to fast. However, the thing I find interesting is how most of the people who tend to say "gee there is a lot of crap out there," regardless of the fact that may or may not be talking about weblogs, tend to have nothing to show in the way of contributing quality content to the web. (Not to be taken as a slam on Jason, this is not about him, this about rants on "people who say there is a lot of crap out there" in general).

I have a philosophy about the web, if you don't like it, then maybe you shouldn't be reading it... even more so, if you want to tell the world you don't like it, than maybe you should be contributing to the world something that is better. Hai Capito?

posted by Nick Finck at 3:27 PM on July 14, 2000

Well Nick, personally, I agree with the remark about there being "a lot of crap on the internet".

There's some thing for everyone, but *not everything is for everyone* it's a matter of personal tastes.

Sometimes I get in the mood, and enjoy reading someone's (geocities) homepage, surfing their personal links, and whatever they have in their webrings. Some die-hard professionals would cringe and run screaming the second the midi music starts. Some sites float my boat, some don't... what are ya gonna do? Should sites cease to exist because "almighty moi" isn't thrilled? Who the hell am I?

PS: I think where Kottke caused the controversy, way back when was when he named names of people he thought were lame. He's entitled to his opinions of course....

My point? I forgot, so I'll make one up... too many damn sensitive or opinionated people on the web. Shut up, all of you!

No, wait... that wasn't it....
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 4:46 PM on July 14, 2000

"I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness" - Howl, Ginsberg

i'm new at MF, but i like it here...i think there are intelligent discussions and very resourceful people that post here.

it seems a shame that a person would not think that revolutionary poets like Ginsberg and Kerouac would consider this is a new form of verse, a new generation --whatever the reach of it's influence (they wrote 'crap' sometimes too, but it didn't stop them from writing altogether)
posted by alethe at 5:09 PM on July 14, 2000

One last thing, (nobody yell at me for "overposting"... I've been really good lately, admit it).

I just read Wiremommy's piece.... and I don't want here to think my remark about Geocities was, in anyway, an attack on her. (Very well written, btw)

I just like people's "This is my cat, this is my family" web pages. That's all. They have such a charm that takes me back to my roots and simpler times...

I'm done.
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 5:19 PM on July 14, 2000

You know what> A lot of crap gets written with pens, but I don't see anyone screeding against writing instruments, or trashing typewriters.

It's not about the tools. It's about the vision.

"What thou lovest well remains; the rest is dross."

posted by holgate at 6:08 PM on July 14, 2000

And why does it seem like every article trashing weblogs starts out with something to the effect of, "There are some good blogs out there, BUT..."? This is like saying, "There are some good magazines out there, but because 90% of them are crap like Soap Opera Digest and In Style, the whole 'magazine' phenomenon is worthless."
posted by Bryan at 6:37 PM on July 14, 2000

I AM a living example of crap on the Internet.

No one has a more astute position on this topic than me. Cuz I've looked at my own stuff back when I was journaling and the shit I spew out now. And it's crap. You guys aren't doing crap. I am doing crap.

Why? Sometimes it's because I try to make something that will reinvent the wheel and it turns out to be just a square peg. Sometimes it's because I just have something in me that I want to say and so I wax philosophically or just spooge on the screen. Sometimes I'm trying to be artsy. Sometimes I'm just trying to make a point and I fall on my face. Repeatedly. Sometimes I'm trying to impress people. Sometimes I'm just trying to impress myself. Sometimes I'm just exploring with words in the way preschoolers smear watercolors all over the walls.

All my crap is rough draft. None of it belongs in the public arena, but it's there anyway. Why? Cuz I put it there. That's why. Why climb mountains? Why jump out of airplanes? Why be the little engine that could? Why attempt something when you might fail? Why? Cuz it's there dammit! Because we CAN!

Some people say how there should be a *direction* that weblogs or whatever should go. That people who don't do it a certain way aren't doing it right. Fuck that. Admittedly, years ago I was one of those people when it came to journaling. There was a community there. I thought we shoulda done something with it consciously.

And I was wrong. It was doing very fine on its own. It didn't need some schmuck like me saying it had to go in some stupid *direction*.

I would say we don't need this schmuck telling us what to do either. However, I consider Rich a friend. There've been times in the past when it seemed nobody on the 'Net gave a shit about me, and in those times, Rich would actually write me. He wouldn't just turn a deaf ear or a blind eye.

So he's not a schmuck, and when I read through his ALA piece I was actually smiling at it, because I know exactly where he's coming from. I even agree with some of what he has to say, but where we differ is Rich says there's something wrong with this. That there's stuff out there in the weblog community that he personally doesn't like.

And y'know what? So? There's stuff out there I don't like. So? There's stuff out there I love too. And one man's trash is another's treasure and blah blah blah. I mean the place he and I differ now is this: he thinks something should be done about it. I know from past experience that absolutely nothing should be done about it.

Let the weblog community grow and expand and be insane and swallow its own tail and have all the injokes and the infighting and the incest and the wonderful gems of sudden realization and the discoveries and the majesty and brilliance and glorious insanity and just let it fucking FIND ITSELF.

I AM an example of crap on the Internet. And I'm fucking proud of that. And I don't give a shit if no one reads my crap. It's out there for the world to see. It's a goddamn message in a bottle. If you want, come and find me. If you don't, I gotta lifetime supply of coconuts and bananas and tropical sun. It makes no difference to me.
posted by ZachsMind at 7:14 PM on July 14, 2000

Metafilterians: This note will be similar to one I just sent to a friend who was offended by the Rich Robinson article at ALA.

My intention was to publish two contrasting views of the same phenomenon. One mainly positive, the other mainly negative. That's why it was a double issue.

My original intention was not to even talk about the tired subject of weblogs. I received one article and sat on it. I received the other and thought, hmmm, these two could make a pair.

I sat on that pair for over a month, 'cause I just wasn't sure.

I reread them again as a pair of essays and thought - maybe this would work.

So I tried it. Notice the issue header:
Double Issue: Content & Discontent

That's as obvious as I could make the juxtaposition without running the two articles side by side in adjoining columns.

As for my personal feelings about weblogs, aside from the fact that I publish one, I am also constantly linking to ones I like, and I have written about several of those in an upcoming article at Photo District News.

A few weeks back, I published an article on XHTML that diverged from the WaSP party line. I take ALA and the community it serves seriously and personally, but I don't confuse every ALA article with my personal feelings or with the views of the WaSP. In other words, I don't have to agree with something to publish it. The main questions I ask myself are, does this have merit? Should it be said? Is anyone saying it?

Matt H. thought Rich's article was an attack on Blogger or Pyra. I didn't think so. If I had thought so, I would not have published it. I thought what Rich was saying was, when it becomes easy to publish thoughtlessly, many people will publish thoughtlessly. He took a while to say that, but he said it, and nobody else had said it. I thought it might be worth saying, especially when juxtaposed with an article that said something quite different.

I'm sorry that Scott's article has been overshadowed by the negative feelings about Rich's article. I'm sorry that the point-counterpoint thing didn't work for a lot of you here. Perhaps you read only the first article. Perhaps you followed a link directly to that article, and read nothing else but things that offended you. Or maybe the concept was not clear enough. That could be.

And I'm sorry that Rich's article caused some of you pain. It was not my intention to offend any company or any individuals. Maybe in view of what I've said you'll be able to see some merit in the pairing of those articles. Maybe not. If not, that's okay. Just as not every weblog is for every reader, not every issue of ALA is for every reader.

Nick helps with production on A LIST APART, but he does not pick or edit the articles - I do. So blame me, not Nick, if you can't wrap your head around this issue of ALA without getting a migraine.

This was apparently my week to be controversial. ALA is not the half of it.

Next week I will publish a useful article on designing with the DOM. If any of you are still ALA readers, you will learn some cool and useful design programming techniques.

I will be in Seattle and offline for the next five or six days, so if you write to me and I don't answer, I'm not hiding from you - I'm simply offline. Similarly, if this thread continues and I do not participate, it will be because I am offline. At an Internet conference, no less.

If you don't believe any of this - or don't care - or just feel the need to keep poking holes in the article, by all means go for it. If some of you see merit in the article, that would be nice to hear. Now I have to write to someone who's even more pissed off than the angriest person here. Then I have to sleep and get on a plane.

Again, my apologies to those who were offended.
posted by Zeldman at 7:39 PM on July 14, 2000

Am I the only one who liked the article and agreed with the guy? ;-) I guess so. LOL! Yep! I agreed with him.
posted by FAB4GIRL at 8:41 PM on July 14, 2000

well, i think it's a sad day indeed, especially within this community, that someone like jeffrey feels he has to apologize for something he printed on a.l.a. - which has provided more quality web design information to all of us, free of charge, advertisements, and noise than possibly any other source.

the articles made people think and the pos t ings i've followed today have been more insightful and interesting than i've seen in a while.

thanks, jz.

posted by centrs at 8:58 PM on July 14, 2000

Meaning is sacrificed for a quick one-liner buzz, with links to other blogs that link to yet more blogs that refer to what someone said on another blog.Are we supposed to suddenly realize that weblogs are useless flotsam in the online stream and immediately abandon our URLs en masse? Sheesh, I'm sorry I didn't have a webpage in 1996, already. Instead I have a (relatively young) site that I put some time and thought into and derive pleasure from. And to everyone else who does the same, I say go to it -- I may not visit, but I certainly respect the desire to find one's own online niche.
posted by jess at 9:26 PM on July 14, 2000

Sorry, Jeffry. I only thought it was a rehash of already said arguments, not anything horribly offensive. The web was mostly useless to most people using it long before it became simpler to use with things like Blogger. Useless..but my useless is your world-shatteringly important. It all comes out in the wash.
posted by mrmorgan at 9:49 PM on July 14, 2000

I think 98% of the responses to this thread (and oh god, how I dreaded - DREADED - this becoming a thread) only go toward showing just how on the mark Rich was in his article.

How many words will be wasted in tiresome defense against an article which was courageous enough to ask a question in an environment which has made repeatedly clear that Thou Shalt Question the Value of Weblogs Under Penalty of Insult and Defamement?

Could the weblogging community - such as it is - please take a moment to reconsider the rabid knee-jerkism that has all too quickly become its trademark?

Rich didn't insult your mother - he questioned the value and breadth of *some* personal content which has sprung up on the web. He located what he believed to be the possible cause of that lesser quality content and argued it fairly. He made good points - though he was in dire need of an editor - and it's unfortunate that those points are lost to so many, who seem much more content with being personally outraged and offended.

I think it's horrible that Jeffrey Zeldman felt he had to come here and apologize. My god - he has nothing to apologize for! It's a good issue about a contentious topic - and he's right: no one had been asking Rich's questions.

posted by gsh at 10:37 PM on July 14, 2000

"I'm so fed up with elitist ranting about what is good and what isn't good on the web" - Heather Champ -

* Tee hee... I love her! I say the same thing all the time....
* I don't think there was a need for JZ to aoplogize... there was a Yin to the Yang of this story... if only everyone read A List Apart in it's entirety.
* Yeah, yeah... I know I swore I wouldn't post again....

posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 10:39 PM on July 14, 2000

Indeed, methinks the webloggers doth protest too much . . .
posted by aladfar at 10:46 PM on July 14, 2000

I was just looking thru my air-spaced doublet refractor telescope because I wanted to have evidence that, indeed, the world does revolve around bloggers.But instead, I made another even more astounding discovery. Apparently, bloggers are now at the center of the universe.

posted by the webmistress at 11:01 PM on July 14, 2000

I seem to somewhat agree with this assessment. I've yet to find a Kerouac in the midst of all the blogs. By that I mean, weblogs can be cool. I seem to only be able to read so many of them before I become bored. One of the most difficult challenges that I find in creating a personal site (and this is probably why i don't have one at the moment), is coming up with a unique and interesting idea. I don't consider weblogs to fit in this category. They CAN be interesting, but unless you know or have some relationship with the person creating it, they usually aren't.
posted by jbelshaw at 12:07 AM on July 15, 2000

What GSH just said! Yeah, I agree with him!
posted by FAB4GIRL at 5:24 AM on July 15, 2000

Everyone (or shall I say "large numbers of people" to avoid the sin of hyperbole) is defending weblogs saying, "If you don't like it, don't read it."

Why doesn't this apply to an ALA article?
Or do weblogs in fact have less inherent value than an online magazine?
posted by cardboard at 5:57 AM on July 15, 2000

I might've cared about the article if Rich was referring to me. But I don't. So nyah.
posted by GrahamVM at 7:42 AM on July 15, 2000

This isn't directed at gsh, the following is just a quote that effectively argues the "other side" of this debate.

Rich didn't insult your mother - he questioned the value and breadth of *some* personal content which has sprung up on the web.

But see, that's what my problem is.

What right does anybody have to question personal content? By it's very nature, it's personal.

We can't have it both ways, folks. We argue and rail and gnash teeth against the commercialization of the web, then turn around and say that personal content is in any way invalid.

Don't back down from being outraged, dammit. This was an inflamatory article that insulted what we as a community do, and I for one am going to speak out against it.
posted by cCranium at 8:20 AM on July 15, 2000

And on a slightly more personal note:

Zeldman, don't apologize. As picker and chooser of stories, stand behind what you've picked.

I'm disappointed in ALA because it's an inflamatory, insulting piece, which I've never seen on ALA before (having, admittedly, missed a few articles).

If anything, ALA is about causing discussion, exploring and breaking the boundaries of a new environment. Having had a night's sleep to get away from the issue, I'm actually almost glad the article was published. It's helped proved to me - through the violent opposition to it - that this 'community' thing we keep talking about exists, and it's something that I'm able to hold my chin up high and say "Yes. I am a weblogger. I am PROUD of being a weblogger, and being a part of something that is changing the way people do things."

Don't ever apologise for making us think.
posted by cCranium at 8:25 AM on July 15, 2000

Forget about it already. Who cares? Why get worked up over something that matters about as much as television? 90% of television - hell, let's say 98% of it - is crap. But people tune in because people need to be engaged, I suppose. Isn't it better that people are sitting around creating their own crap, rather than sitting around watching someone else's?

Well, that was crap.

Ever onward...
posted by honkzilla at 8:55 AM on July 15, 2000

Any subjective article is asking for some flak.

"as the quantity goes up, the quality goes down"

Statements like this are ambiguous enough to escape any real meaning.

Frankly I think the web is big enough for everyone and everything and that is the point. If you are mucking around in the internet swill and hating it, you have only yourself to blame.

The biggest point I'd like to make is that the only thing these articles and stuff like "Blog nicely" do is release some stress of the author. NO ONE reads these things and becomes a born again web-citizen. Unless they were already on the road to change and this merely pushed them ahead a few days into their decision.

I really don't care if people want to air out their frustration on the internet. There's plenty of room for that. I get better results from a nice long bike ride, but that's just me.
posted by john at 9:03 AM on July 15, 2000

There's a lot of crap out there, in every creative medium. If authors and artists don't take risks and "push the envelope", these mediums will get boring. Webloggers, however seem to do a damn efficient job of providing constant commentary on, critique of, and encouragement for the weblog genre. Carefully written articles published in respectible magazines are only annoying because we tend to think they claim some kind of higher authority as they repeat stuff we already know. Words, words words.

Solution: make it your personal mission to whip alotta ass, in ways that asses haven't been whipped before, using the finest ass-whipping tools at your disposal. And when someone else does something cool, tell them why you liked it.
posted by sixfoot6 at 11:17 AM on July 15, 2000

Me again. I do stand by the issue and my authors. I'm not apologizing for making people think; I'm apologizing because some people's feelings were hurt.

Hurt feelings are an acceptable casualty in a high-stakes arena. For instance, when the WaSP criticizes a browser, engineers who've spent months developing that browser are going to feel pain and anger. I regret that - and it pains me - but interoperability on the web is a vital goal, and therefore it is necessary to speak, even if feelings get hurt.

I'm not positive it was necessary to speak about weblogs - but I published the issue and of course I stand by it.

In the designy-design kingdom, this kind of criticism goes on all the time. People spend months working on a site, only to be told: "It looks like three.oh." OR: "3-D? Again?" OR: "I'm tired of that scrolling text box trick."

And they take it, generally without protest, because they feel they can learn from it.

Maybe people with a design background are used to taking critiques because it is part of their education - and maybe people who've begun self-publishing for the first time are NOT used to it.

I've been attacked by fans of Microsoft, Netscape, and Opera for things said by the Web Standards Project. I've been called a clueless numbwit by 200 Slashdot readers in front of 3 million Slashdot readers. I've been told my design sucks and my writing is worse. Some of that criticism has helped me; some was misguided, and I wrote it off; some was simply mean-spirited and some of it hurt. But none of it killed me.

Every creative community on the web is subject to criticism. This is the only such community that reacts as if it had been struck by a cattle prod every time someone raises an uncomfortable question.

I don't regret raising the questions by publishing this pair of articles. I do regret that some people felt real pain.
posted by Zeldman at 11:50 AM on July 15, 2000

Last note. I also wonder why this community feels it's okay to publish long-running Dave Winer parodies (personal attacks) but not okay to question the validity of personal weblogs as a form.

Or why Jason Kottke can raise uncomfortable questions without getting personally attacked, but Rich Robinson can't. Or why Ben Brown can do it but Rich Robinson can't.

If you wanted something to think about, maybe that is something to think about. Now I have to catch a plane. I do love you all.
posted by Zeldman at 11:56 AM on July 15, 2000

Uh, Jason and Ben did take heat from that. Don't you remember how, about a week after the slashdot thing, we had to get you out of the barrel so that we could put Jason in? Don't you remember the gnashing of 3000 teeth as the Ben Brown pendulum swung both ways? I don't disagree with your decision to publish the articles, and I certainly don't think you need to feel responsible for the hurt feelings of those who felt personally pricked by it - but I think that Rich's article got as much attention as it did because it was offensive and inflammatory. Moreover, I think it was overbroad and 99% full of crap, just like the internet, and television, and the world in general. The difference is, that in an internet that's 99% full of crap, you can pull out the gems and leave the rest behind. With a single article, if you discard 99%, all you are left with is a handful of conjunctions.

I stand by my opinion that Rich's article was poorly thought out and incredibly offensive (almost like it has been written for a weblog), but as an instigator for discussion, it was great. Although I agree that an increase in volume means a similar increase in poorly written material, I disagree with the assumption that technical skill and artistic talent go hand in hand. I disagree with your (JZ's) opinion that Rich was raising topics that had never been raised before ("when it becomes easy to publish thoughtlessly, many people will publish thoughtlessly") since that has been at the core of many anti-weblogger/anti-diaryland/anti-aol/anti-gui/anti-non-edu-account arguments for as long as I've been online.

Oh, and Lance? Easy for you to say forget about it - you made your fortune back in the easy days of '96 before there was any competition. ;-)

Joe - unrepentant user of tools

posted by CrazyUncleJoe at 3:59 PM on July 15, 2000

Hi. The author of the other article here. How you doing?

So here's the backstory: Rich and I are online friends. We chat a lot. We both wrote stories independent of each other for ALA. They were submitted at different times, and Zeldman decided to do the whole point-counterpoint thing. So while there may be some synchronicity between the articles, there's no collusion between Rich and I on this one.


My own views of blogging are well-documented elsewhere. What I wish to talk about is the nigh-on hysterical reaction that this article has received.

I feel Rich makes a valid point in saying that in the Dark Ages of 1996 there was much more emphasis on what should be said as opposed to saying anything. Take the McLuhan/Postman message to heart: The medium is the message. The medium of blogging, by its very nature - quick, constant, time-based - does not lend itself to deep thought. The constraints of the medium do not encourage the same kind of experience that the constraints of prose, poetry, or fiction do.

99% of everything is crap. That's my law. It applies across the board, from blogs to movies to novels to people. No one wants to read a ponderous, bloated, pretentious novel - and no one wants to read a hack blog. Fine.

But some media are better-suited to art than others. You will never see pantyhose art in the Louvre. You will never see the Macrame Exhibit at MoMA. I am not saying that blogs do not have the potential to be art, nor am I saying that a few blogs are not great. I am saying that I believe blogging to be handicapped.

cCranium said that this was "personal content" and should somehow be sacrosanct. I disagree. If this was personal, it would be in your private journal. It would NOT be posted on the Web with a potential worldwide audience. Once you take your work into the public realm, whether it's an open mic nite or the World Wide Web, you are risking criticism. This is an inescapable fact, and if you think your words and thoughts are too precious to be risked, don't expose them.

I am not concerned about hurt feelings. I am not concerned with making people feel good about themselves. What I am concerned with is how this medium of the World Wide Web, and its various submedia, will contribute to the artistic tradition of mankind. So far, it's not doing too well.

I want to see what people can do with this. I want to see if the pilgrimage will pay off, or if we'll all just die in the desert. And I think that the answers lie with that buried spark of genius that a few sick motherfuckers will unleash across the Internet and finally prove to the world that this isn't just a bunch of useless circlejerking, but a medium that can produce a Hamlet, a Citizen Kane, or a David.

Even if it's a blog.

And you know what? If it takes a bombthrower like Rich to get people going, then c'est la fucking vie.
posted by solistrato at 4:01 PM on July 15, 2000

I just don't see where there's a problem. Are people taking offense to the article in question? They are taking it personally because it is an assault on the quality of weblogs and questions whether weblogs have any value whatsoever. Anyone who takes weblogging to heart would logically take that personally. Still I see no problem. I don't see whether the quality or value of weblogs in one person's eyes has any validity whatsoever.

Who said that blogging had to contribute in an historic way to the Human Condition? Who said it has to be art? And what is art anyway? I mean, I could choose to personally classify everything I do for the 'Net as art, including this very message if I wanted. You might disagree. Theyr'e just words on the screen and certainly shouldn't be compared to the great works of Twain or Shakespeare

It's apples and oranges in fact. Shakespeare and Twain both operated without the convenience of immediate self-publishing. Shakespeare worked without a printing press. I mean his stuff didn't make print until fifty years after his death. His true medium was the stage. And Twain's mediums were books and periodicals, decades before vacuum tubes or punchcards.

However, if you asked Shakespeare during his lifetime if he thought he was creating eternal art, he'd say no. Maybe he'd wax philosophical about what he thought was art, but he was just trying to feed his belly, and make enough money to send back home to Stratford. I mean he didn't care about the future of the medium. He cared about entertaining a handful of wealthy landowners and maybe a hundred groundlings standing on the ground and throwing crap at the stage.

Shakespeare didn't care about art, and he didn't care about trying to make himself or his contemporaries produce anything other than crap. He was the Spielberg of his age. He produced to make a living. The fact his success superceded his wildest dreams doesn't change the fact that at the time he wrote Tempest or King Lear, he didn't give a crap about whether or not it was crap. He just wrote from his heart.

Twain was doing the same thing. Oh, he had a couple other alterior motives. He had his own opinions and ideas about the state of the world in which he lived. Huck Finn is largely about prejudice, and how stupid it is. Twain was a century ahead of his time.

Still, was he trying to write to a future after his death? Maybe in the back of his mind he liked the idea of his works outliving his flesh. His mind living on in the hearts of others after his heart and lungs gave out on him. However, he was putting words together to fill pages for books and newspapers. In his youth at least, Twain was a reporter first and foremost, and would laugh in your face if you asked him whether or not his work was art.

Yes. Perhaps a lot of the Web is crap. Someone else may look at your weblog and consider it crap. Someone may look at Rich's article and call it crap, but others will not. Rich doesn't consider his own work crap. Why should he? However, he has his own alterior motives for getting his thoughts out there to the world, just as any weblogger does.

Just because twenty people call something art and twenty-one other people call it art, that does not automatically mean majority rules.

The real determination will happen fifty or a hundred years from now. If some of what's up on the Web now stands the test of time, history will be the true judge of what is art and what is crap. What gets left for posterity, and what gets thrown away? History will decide that. Not you and not me.

However, I have the option now to make that decision for myself regarding my work. In a couple paychecks when I can afford to do it, I'm going to get back in touch with >Ryan Ozawa and pay him what I owe him for Facing the Mask, and then I'm going to ask him to take it down. I'd do it myself but I lost the password to it. I haven't been in there in over a year.

It's crap. From the first admission that my wife wanted a divorce to my nervous breakdown and contemplations of suicide. It will not stand the test of time. It was a revealing chapter of my life but it's over and I've moved on and I don't want it to stand the test of time. It's crap. It should be removed from the Internet, and it will.

My more recent efforts are scattered all over the Web. I do want them to have the chance to stand the test of time, although I doubt they will, for they too are crap.

This, for me, has been an education. Do I put my thought into what I publish on the Web? Yes. However, for me this cyberspace as we call it is a testbed. It's a rehearsal hall. It's an open mike. It's canvas I fingerpaint on. Eventually I'll get perspective and shading right and will actually create something with depth. That hasn't happened yet but I'm working on it.

I'm learning how to improve my writing and I'm learning how better to communicate with other people: how to get the thoughts in my head across to the world in a way that one day will not be considered crap.

I still have a long way to go. I do hope however that by the end of my life, I will find one Tempest inside of me to give to the world. I don't think a single person here asks anything less than that for themselves.
posted by ZachsMind at 4:58 PM on July 15, 2000

dammit I wasn't done proofreading it! Crap!
posted by ZachsMind at 4:58 PM on July 15, 2000

cripes but all this weblog/web content criticism is stressful. if you see a site you don't like, move on, it's that simple. people have the right to make crappy weblogs and crappy websites if they want. those that feel the need to point a wagging, ugly finger complete with a link to someone's personal blog or site as an example of "what's wrong with the web" can take a long walk off a short pier.

i'm proud to have a weblog that only my friends like, and i'm also proud to have a site dedicated to my cat (i invite the friendly and understanding mr. brooks to visit any time). i'm a very happy and prolific purveyor of crap on the internet and considering that i get way more traffic than most people, i guess crap does have it's place, and it's fans.

i often visit the sites that i know i'm supposed to like and be impressed by (we all know who the so called stars are, i'm not going to waste time pointing a finger) but find i visit once and have absolutely no desire to return. so gee, i guess websites and weblogs are pretty darn subjective, like everything else in this world.

the only difference with the internet is that every jerk gets to spew his or her retentive, judgemental, dysfunctional, controlling opinion about what strangers should do with their little web hobbies. pfft. those people are spending too much time in ones and zeros and need to get out in the real world more often.

hooray for the outdoors, i'm glad i never meet internet know-it-alls there.
posted by t r a c y at 8:05 PM on July 15, 2000

*yawn* You guys sure get carried away with all this ;-)
posted by FAB4GIRL at 8:11 PM on July 15, 2000

Metaconcern n 1. People concerned about people who are concerned about something. 2. A URL just asking to be registered.
posted by Mick at 8:49 PM on July 15, 2000

Despite being bored with such articles, and with folks whinging about articles being discussed when posted to a site all about discussion, and et cetera, et cetera -- I will concede one thing in the words of Oscar Wilde: "Diversity of opinion about a work of art shows that the work is new, complex, and vital." That goes for the article (even this fifth or sixth incarnation) as well as every single thing said above.

Then again, he also said, "Bad artists always admire each other's work." Oops.
posted by jason at 11:20 PM on July 15, 2000

Maybe people with a design background are used to taking critiques because it is part of their education - and maybe people who've begun self-publishing for the first time are NOT used to it... Every creative community on the web is subject to criticism. This is the only such community that reacts as if it had been struck by a cattle prod every time someone raises an uncomfortable question.

Oh, bullshit.

Every web community reacts this way, number one, and just about every non-web community reacts this way, number two... From science fiction fandom to NY Lit'ry types (think about the reaction to Podhoretz' Ex-Friends). Thinness of skin is damned near a universal among stringers of text, professional or amateur.

You seem to be subject to a bit of a cattle-prodded posture yourself right now, Zelman. That is, I don't think, reading the responses, that anyone was actually hurt. Rather, they were dumbfounded by how factually wrong Robinson's article was. And now they've said so. Which is a criticism you claim to have to deal with all the time, so, um... Deal with it. {shrug}

Designer, heal thyself...

posted by aurelian at 1:43 AM on July 16, 2000

I thought the ALA article was quite unfounded, and I relished the opportunity to take it to task. I don't think that it shouldn't have been published, though. But having said that, I think that any editor of any magazine has had to apologise at some point for something that has been written that is too strong or a bit unfair. If Jeffrey feels himself to be in that position, it is completely proper that he should apologise as well.

That doesn't mean that such articles shouldn't be published, of course...
posted by barbelith at 8:48 AM on July 16, 2000


It was an opinion piece.
posted by gsh at 11:52 AM on July 16, 2000

And me stuck up here in New Hampshire for the weekend.

Ah well. I will, I promise, get back to each one of you tomorrow at some point. I'm two minutes from stepping into a ca to drive back to Jersey, so this'll have to wait.

I didn't even know Zeldman was running it.. let alone this week. Ah well. Now back to the flaming...

posted by rich at 11:58 AM on July 16, 2000

I think it's interesting that the
posting about the positive review of weblogs
only received two comments so far.
posted by the webmistress at 2:33 PM on July 16, 2000

I would be most surprised if everyone actually read through the entire article. There is an enormous amount of truth in the article but most people seem to avoid the point and the underlying focus. It's not about the vehicle used it about the poor quality of the trip experienced. I will also venture to say that if you were personally insulted by the views of the author, perhaps you need to ask yourself why.
posted by velvett at 8:07 PM on July 16, 2000

Personally, in my opinion there is a man who already addressed this issue perfectly, and he often posts here to Metafilter. But he has not joined this thread. I have no idea why. I was hoping he would.

He does not do it for us, he says. I think it is a good point. I personally do not have a weblog...I have nothing to share...but his is one I frequent. If you can't be bothered to look for such, that is neither his problem nor mine.
posted by ab'd al'Hazred at 9:16 PM on July 16, 2000

He's taking time off from the Wonderful World of Weblogging (the WWW) to work on his book.
posted by the webmistress at 9:27 PM on July 16, 2000

Hi there. I'm back.

First, I'm somewhat surprised by the whole righteous indignation the article got, but then again, I really shouldn't be. Although it has been edited to cull down my rather long-windedness, the essence is still there. I could yell at Zeldman and say 'but you changed everything!' But he didn't, really, and I'll go and address all of you fun loving people who have chosen to personally attack me in due course this morning.

If you are interested, the unedited article is up, just for good measure.

Now, on to the show...
posted by rich at 6:29 AM on July 17, 2000

The first thing I'd like to say is a repeat of what Zeldman noted.

"Or why Jason Kottke can raise uncomfortable questions without getting personally attacked, but Rich Robinson can't. Or why Ben Brown can do it but Rich Robinson can't. "

A number of people have said, here and in emal to me, that they think the web is a great equalizer, that everyone gets the chance to speak. Zeldman apparantly thinks so. But I'm just re-assured by the differences in treatment that it's just not true. I'm more assured that 'community' has become nothing more than self-perpetuation.

Ben and Jason got some flak.. sure they did. Mostly in humorous jests, or thought-out retorts that took what they said seriously. No one called them an ignorant slut. They were insulted in spanish. Their design skills, or writing skills were not dragged through the mud behind a horse like some middle ages humiliation tactic.

I don't take things on the web personally, before anyone decides to apologize (which, of course, I'm not holding my breath for, anyway). I didn't quote specific blogs, or say from where I got a quote because I specifically did not want to make it personal. The article wasn't even about blogs in purpose, I just used them as a current example of the personal web space.

I wasn't sure if Zeldman was ever going to run the article. I knew he was a bit iffy on parts, agreed with some, didn't with others. But I'm glad he did run it. I've gotten more positive mail than negative mail, actually.

That's all I'll say in aggregate for now. On to the individuals...
posted by rich at 6:42 AM on July 17, 2000


Can I say I'm disappointed? I will. I don't think I ever said that weblogs are stupid and all suck. Please point that out to me if I did.

Your comments are blatantly fanning the flames to get everyone else on board so that after they read your comment, they don't even read the article, they scan it for confirming evidence. Solutions? I gave them at the end - did you bother to read that far?

The comparison to Kerouac wasn't mine. It was a quote from someone else's weblog. Sure, maybe they meant it in a 'form' sence as opposed to an art sense, but even in form, a weblog full of back-links to people who linked to you fails as any sort of journal effort.

And as for Beat writers, I personally don't appreciate them as much as other forms of writing, but the two I mentioned are considered to be part of the 'greats' of the written word. And I'm sure when the quote was posted, all bloggers were all down with being compared to Kerouac and thought themselves to be validated in a sense.

You can't have it both ways.
posted by rich at 6:53 AM on July 17, 2000


This should be easy;

"Please shut the hell up and quit wasting my time! The greatest triumph of the web is that it give all of us a way to express ourselves any damn way we feel like it. I've got a simple rule for all of these elitist twits: "If you don't like it, don't read it!" That's what bookmark files are for. "

Follow your own advice and we all should be fine, eh? Or is it just you get to speak your mind in a condescending, attacking tone (loser, elitist), and no one else can state an opinion. Ok, just let me know your rules.

"I also love the fact that this weenie doesn't leave an e-mail address and that his pretentious webpage looks like complete crap in Opera. So much for web design!"

I never designed it for Opera. Pretentious? Did I ever say I was an expert at designing? I'm all about content, baby. As for email; rich@inferiority.com.
posted by rich at 6:57 AM on July 17, 2000

Uncle Joe;

Wow. Ignorant slut. Thanks.

There is a wide difference between a technological tool such as blogger and a pen and a dimestore notebook. I am not forwarding some elitist mantra (calling me an elitist is funny in itself for wholly other reasons, but..).

What I said is 'if you make something easy, people will only use it at its lowest level.' Technology has been well-documented to ruin people. And example; a person creates a report from numbers from a bunch of different departments, then makes a decision based on that number and what he/she knows about the underlying factors.

We computerize that report. nine times out of ten, six months down the line, that same person will be taking the printout, and just doing what the fiunal number says to do. They won't question any underlying factors. They won't use the added functions of MIS that computerizing all those numbers could provide. They'll simply let the computer tell them what to do.

That is the dumbing-down factor.

As for personal sites; I didn't want to get to heavily into that age-old argument again. But Solistrato (Scott Cohen) made a good point when he said; if you don't want the public to see it, don't put it on the web. I say, run PWS on your machine and put it there so you aren't spidered, hyperlinked, or quoted.

(I'll ignore the dig at the quality of my material)

I, of course, disagree with your assertion that the article was poorly thought out and blanantly offensive. And I tried to shy away from the old hat topics that have been run over the coals a million times and address a different point, which Zeldman saw, and some of you didn't.
posted by rich at 7:09 AM on July 17, 2000


You are perhaps the most outspokn right now, other than webmistress, who I'll probably reply to in email about her post on her site. I'd like to keep this out of the mud-slinging that her site evoked.

I wasn't attacing the 'beginning creative efforts' of someone who has no clue about the web. My wife and I got into this same argument over the article (she being relatively technologically clueless). I compared blogger to e-mail. Oh, sure e-mail has enhanced communication beyond our wildest dreams.

But there is a strong feeling that it has also subverted the art of the letter, the idea of thinking out what you are going to say before you type it out at 90 words per minute and click send only to forget what you were sending the note for in the first place. Blogger has brought that same speed and click to personal homepages.

Metafilter is fed by the blogging community. {fray} today is fed by the community it began years ago. There are hundreds more sites like {fray} out there that have not had the same success - some part because Derek has a certain quality himself, but most part is because the critical mass needed to make it to a {fray} level will never be reach because of the flotsom between here and there.

When was the last time you found a truly innovative, unique site that no one else in your community had stumbled across yet? Does that mean they aren't out there or does it mean they're a needle in a haystack?

I'm in it for the rush, for the newness, just as you state.. but there is so palty little that is new, that isn't a re-hash, a copied hyperlink, a stolen design ala glassdog..

As for personal content; I go back to Cohen's comment - if you want it to be person, then don't put it on the web. Password protect it, people used to lock their paper journals. You're writing for an audience, either consciously or subconciously any other way.

posted by rich at 7:27 AM on July 17, 2000


Are you annoyed I didn't use Stating the Obvious? Actually, i considered it, but figured to go with Siegel. I wasn't going for 'idependent', I was going for recognized names that started back when. Like it or not, agree with him or not (and I really am luke-warm on him - no offense, David), he is one of the recognized names, like Veen. Such is life.

But does my simple use of his name disqualify everything else I said?
posted by rich at 7:30 AM on July 17, 2000


I agree with you to a point - yes, search engines are a pain in the ass. But blog communities have added their own little filter in. The more and more they cross-link incestually, the less outside content gets in. The big quote was 'It's your web, log it.' But blog communities tend less to log the web than they do eachother.
posted by rich at 7:38 AM on July 17, 2000

When was the last time you found a truly innovative, unique site that no one else in your community had stumbled across yet? Does that mean they aren't out there or does it mean they're a needle in a haystack?

I stumbled across { fray } because of Halcyon. I found Prehensile Tales because of an old 'links' page of a personal web site.

I don't think I've ever found a 'revolutionary' site without the help of someone in my community. Mind you, my community includes not only Metafilter, but Slashdot, Kuro5hin, various mailing lists, BluesNews, and more than I care to list.

{fray} today is fed by the community it began years ago.

And this is your example of something revolutionary? It was revolutionary. 4 years ago. Blogs are a style that evolved over the past year. Which is newer, more revolutionary? Which has changed the face of the web more? (note: this isn't a slam on fray, it's a fact; one has to be newer than the other)

It's not a competition of newness, everything has merit and everything about the web is revolutionary.

Yes, everything, even a FrontPage hack that links to 3 other FrontPage hacks that link back to it, even if only those 4 people can find merit in them.

The way to get another { fray }-like revolutionary website is to nuture budding talent, rather than abuse it for being new.

Yes, a lot of webloggers are self-referential, inclusive, incestuous, what-have-you. But have you followed a weblog for a long period of time, and watched a person's experience grow, their view of the web expand, their knowledge of HTML et al expand?

It's easy to create a blog and let it stagnate. It's also easy to become bored with your blog and redesign it. Hell, I'd say the majority of bloggers do a redesign every few months, as they learn a new trick, or their style matures and refines. As they see other blogs, fancier, more elaborate blogs, they start thinking to themselves "Man, I wish I could do that!" and most of them start learning how.

My point is that it isn't noise out there. It's growth.
posted by cCranium at 8:05 AM on July 17, 2000

if you think rich is abusing the pool of so-called 'weblog talent' merely because it is supposedly 'new,' which it is not and nor is it revolutionary oh PLEASE, you are obviously missing the point.

i am always amused at the collective response of the louder people around here whenever anyone has something even REMOTELY critical to say about the weblog genre.

rich's points about the effects of technology on the eventual outcome of content are important ones. particularly because this medium evolves so quickly and because memes can spread like wildfire until everyone at the end thinks 'what happened'?—it's good to think about these sorts of 'what hath i wrought' issues while they're happening because that is where you will see true growth, that is where you will be able to take the next step. the unexamined life, etc.

the kneejerk reaction against any sort of opinion that doesn't solely consist of 'it's all good' is really depressing, and reveals nothing more than an attitude of utter complacency. it's more than a little bit gross, really.
posted by maura at 9:14 AM on July 17, 2000

> Wow. Ignorant slut. Thanks.

Uh... not much on pop culture references, are you? You know, Kerouac wrote Saturday Night Live sketches for *years* and yet nobody labelled him as a comedy writer. Speaking of which, did you not understand the Kerouac quote? It was in reference to what something was *called* - not the quality of it's material. Hence the "weblog schmeblog" and "Other people argued (and still do) over what it should be called." Pulling an quote from the "what is a weblog" argument and trying to stuff it into the "if it's easy to write, people will write crap" argument is the sort of thing I was referring to when I said that your article was inflammatory.

> There is a wide difference between a technological
> tool such as blogger and a pen and a dimestore
> notebook. I am not forwarding some elitist mantra
> (calling me an elitist is funny in itself for wholly other
> reasons, but..).

Yes, there is. There's also a wide difference between a technological tool like a fountain pen and a quill and ink. My point was that eliminating a technological barrier made it possible for people who had other skills (like writing) to put their message out. I'll admit (and once again, take all the fun out of it for myself) that the elitist comment was hyperbole, but declaring that one of the big problems facing the web is that there is no barrier to prevent just anyone from climbing up on The Big Soap Box™ is, IMO, elitist. Not everyone is out there to push the technological envelope. The "name brands" that you mentioned did (and do) push the envelope. They have done things with existing technology that are amazing. They also have amazing content to go with it. (Leslie Harpold would be brilliant if her medium was cocktail napkins and lipstick.) Arguing that they would be buried in the dross or that they were only able to achieve their notoriety because there was less competition at the time is to completely undermine their accomplishments. Comparing them to the average teen weblog is unfair to both sides. The teen weblog is obviously going to come up short in the social commentary department, and the name brand writer is going to completely fail to deliver the appropriate level of boy band trivia.

Does making something easy mean that people will use it at it's lowest level? Sure. Does it mean that people will *ONLY* use it at its lowest level. I'm pretty sure there are some logic flaws there. I am having a little trouble seeing how your dilbertesque example about statistical reports illustrates this - or is it just another case of you taking an unrelated analogy to try and prove your point?
  My boss acts on reports without understanding them.
  The reports are generated from aggregate data, compiled from a number of departments.
  The reports do not reflect an accurate picture of reality.
  The reports are generated by computer.
  Computers are a product of technology.
  My boss is an idiot.
  Technology has ruined my boss.
  Technology is bad.

If that's the case, why would you suggest that the technology of 1996 represents the last instance of "valid" technology? Getting back to your "name brands" analogy, Leslie did a lot of work to create her online magazine SMUG. She created something exciting and interesting. She broke ground. She also had authors who did nothing other than submit text articles to her. Are you suggesting that their work is an example of the LCD, because she made it easy for them to publish? They didn't have to know any HTML - not even enough to set up a Blogger template. At most, they needed to be able to use their email. Is it different because they were facilitated by a person who handled the technology, or is it different because they had a brilliant editor controlling the quality? If you feel that it's the former, Please discontinue reading here.

You have made the argument that the "Personal" in Personal Site somehow means private, and I disagree. Personal, IMO, means that the subject matter is very personal to the author, and that his intended audience is not The World. Personal sites are generally written for friends, family, people with specific interests, or just simply as a means of expression. My initial website (11/1995ish) was mostly the latter. Yes, I had links to friends and friend related resources - but mostly it was just me goofing off. My current website is pretty much the same, with the exception of the fact that Blogger allows me the opportunity to update it almost daily. Is it crap? Compared to Carl Steadman? Absolutely. Compared to Kitty Karryall's Kitty Kat Korner? That's probably subjective. The point is that Carl, Kitty, and I all have different audiences in mind. Carl is a Capital 'W' Writer, and is writing to a larger group of people. He has writing skills (vs. typing skills, which he probably has as well) and something to say. Kitty is a Kat Lover, she has a kat, a kamera, and the desire to share kute kitty kommentary with her friends and with other kitty komrades. I'm a frustrated performer - I'm putting out 100s of jokes, hoping that 1 or 2 will strike someone as funny. I've chosen a particular audience (the "weblog community"), a particular topic (the "weblog community"), and a particular venue (the "weblog community"). I don't pretend to be Lance Arthur (well, I did once - but nobody bought it and they threw me out of the club), but I don't think that completely negates my work. I am, FWIW, trying to present who I am, what I'm made of, and what drives me.

I am all about The Funny.

Just because what drives *me* (or Kitty Karryall, or the linky-love crowd) doesn't turn you on, doesn't invalidate it (any more than not designing the page for viewing in Opera or Mozilla would). This may be hard for you to hear, but not everything is about you. The "weblog community" that exists around Metafilter is the community *about* web logging. There are other blogs doing all sorts of informational things - from HMO stuff to Breast Cancer to gossip about Harry Potter books. Those people are part of the medical community, or the breast cancer recovery community or the community of people who read for entertainment - and none of them are trying to break any new ground, they're just trying to deliver their content. Would it be fair to say that daily updates research in gene therapy is worthless, just because they don't have to spend more time publishing it? Would Lance's work be better if he had to use punch cards? Uh...yeah, probably. Bad example.

> I, of course, disagree with your assertion that the
> article was poorly thought out and blanantly
> offensive. And I tried to shy away from the old hat
> topics that have been run over the coals a million
> times and address a different point, which Zeldman
> saw, and some of you didn't.

You're right, I didn't. Unless of course, your point was that Carl and Leslie and Lance have somehow been ruined by weblogs, as you would seem to indicate when you say "It's me looking at people who I know could do so much better, could contribute so much more, but would rather sit back, collect rent for aging past accomplishments, and simply add to the pile of ever more useless crap instead of pushing the envelope further." If that's your point, I'll concede that it's a new angle, but I'll still argue that it was blatantly offensive.
posted by CrazyUncleJoe at 12:01 PM on July 17, 2000

Everything IN Richardson's weblog article was old hat topics, as far as I could tell. Anyone with any online mileage can recognize the same arguments that come up whenever there's a new "ease of use" innovation.

"Now that anyone on the MOO can create a new object by cloning a generic object, the MOO is getting cluttered with all kinds of crap that people just make on a whim! Back when you really had to program in C to make objects, people gave objects a lot of thought before they created them. Now it's just a bunch of trash-- it's ruining the MOO!"

"Mosaic makes it too easy to look at graphics-- now that you don't have to execute a program to look at binaries, all kinds of morons are getting online to see the purty pictures. They're ruining the 'Net!"

"AOL makes it too easy for any dork to get online. Now all these newbies are flooding Usenet with their stupid questions and cluttering it with crap. It's ruining the 'Net!"

"HTML makes it too easy for any fool to put a document online. They're all cluttering the Internet with self-obsessed homepages about themselves and their cat! It was better when it was all FTP sites and white papers! These new people are ruining the Web!"

Ad infinitum. Richardson's article is just another end-is-nigh rant to add to the pile.
posted by wiremommy at 12:48 PM on July 17, 2000

his last name is *robinson*.

and not surprisingly, you are totally missing the point.
posted by maura at 12:53 PM on July 17, 2000

Hey Maura? What is the point? You seem to know, how about letting the rest of us kneejerk webloggers in on it.
posted by CrazyUncleJoe at 1:00 PM on July 17, 2000

What's the point;
that people are unable to filter?
that ease of use = lack of knowledge, ?
that forming a community around a common interest is bad?
that people aren't living up to their potential thus cheating Rich of some great joy?
that mistaking somone's last name undermines thier opinion?

I've still missed the point, haven't I (Damn this text field makes it to easy to reply, Metafilter is ruining debate)?
posted by Mick at 1:05 PM on July 17, 2000


Pop culture references aside, I'd simply like to dispense with the petty insults.

As for my technology analogy, you are well within your rights to think my quick and dirty example is completely unrelated. But I think you are taking it from the aspect hat I think blogs are useless, blogger is a tool that should never have been invented, and I think all bloggers should be reserved a special place in hell.

I did not say any of those things, nor do I think that in the article on A List Apart even montioned going in that direction.

I mentioned 'brand names' (sorry, Sippey) simply to make a point that I haven't seen a new 'brand name' type come out in a long time. I haven't found anyone that has the same wow power recently. Have you? If so, why doesn't anyone know about them? Oh, sure, they're wow to you, but the 'general populace'?

Yes, I'm being blantantly non-specific in defining audience or scope, simply because I am trying to aply it to all. The article wasn't about blogs. It used blogs, as being the latest thing everyone is talking about as a launching platform for a higher level topic.

There is no value in debating the content of specific sites versus the lack of content elsewhere.


Thanks, Maura. See Maura's post. Plus, I've sent you two private e-mails, one specifically about my name. I suppose openly insulting me is the only thing you are really interested in, instead of actually reading the article.

If you had read it, maybe you have my name right by now.

And maybe you would have understood it beyond your own filtering prejudices of anything no extolling the pure virtue of the weblog.


61 comments before I came here, ripping me apart. 3 comments after I came here ready to have an open discourse.

Has anyone who disagreed re-read the article with an eye towards anything I've explained above? (other than cCranium, perhaps)

Oh, cCranium; growth doesn't have to be noise, is all. I think we're closer to agreeing than diasagreeing.
posted by rich at 1:16 PM on July 17, 2000

posted by FAB4GIRL at 1:19 PM on July 17, 2000

Just FYI, people, but it would have been really difficult for Kerouac to write SNL sketches, given that he died in 1969.
posted by gsh at 1:22 PM on July 17, 2000

my point, which i believe i made above, is that looking at rich's article in black and white terms only serves to make everyone riled up and frothing, and totally sidesteps the concept of thinking critically about what you're doing.

(and my corollary point is that it usually helps to get the specifics about your argument correct when you're trying to make an argument, but that's neither here nor there.)
posted by maura at 1:31 PM on July 17, 2000

I wasn't trying to rip on you. I just want to point out that your article was a waste of time. Most people know to stop reading, watching, or doing something that doesn't appeal to them. your subjective viewpoint on the contant of websites will not curtail their growing appearance. You can't wave a wand of quality over the web and make them go away.

The real question is how to find things you like and not bother with the rest. There's an article worth reading. Of course, most people know this already, so you might as well write another rant.
posted by john at 1:41 PM on July 17, 2000

I read it again, and I read the version on your website. You will have to forgive me for misinterpreting passages like this:

"People used to have link pages to those sites they thought their visitors could appreciate, branching out to new and cool things they had found. Blogs seem to have digressed, in the majority, to a high-tech webring of sorts. While Pyra may have a killer app for the business world, its application in the personal web space has just propagated the idea of less, faster, more in our sound byte saturated society. Content is sacrificed for a quick one liner buzz, and more of them, with links to other blogs that link to yet more blogs that refer to what someone said on another blog."

and this:

"I've got a name for it. Crap. That the majority of what goes on today on weblogs is being compared to the beat generation musings and writings of Jack Kerouac is simply laughable. For all the gratuitousness of the Beat generation writers like Ginsberg and Kerouac, they had Content. Yeah, they Wrote. They Created. They contributed to a generation their philosophies and thoughts and beliefs. Yet the majority of people who run weblogs think they are some kind of free love hippie statement-making leader because they say 'Hey! Joe linked to me! Hey Joe!' "

I cut out the Kerouac quote - any new thoughts on it's relevance to this topic?

As for the new "brand names" - I think those things tend to reveal themselves in retrospect, but certainly The Brand New Wheel is an interesting offering, MetaFilter is pretty impressive, and Astoundingweb.org lists a number of sites by up and comers who are trying to break new ground. Will the creators of any of those sites have staying power? It's really too early to tell, isn't it? It's certainly too early to write them off.

re the 61 posts ripping you apart: Has it occurred to you that if none of us got what you were trying to say, you might not have said it all that well?
posted by CrazyUncleJoe at 1:45 PM on July 17, 2000

Thanks gsh. I feel like such a fool.
posted by CrazyUncleJoe at 1:48 PM on July 17, 2000

What's the point;
that people are unable to filter?
that ease of use = lack of knowledge, ?

Given the almost retarted level of "thought" that is pervading this topic, yes.

that forming a community around a common interest is bad?

Can you please tell me what community is being formed here, aside from "people who use the same tool"?

that people aren't living up to their potential thus cheating Rich of some great joy?

No, that was MY point.

There is nothing worse than wasted potential. And if the best people can do is daisychain to one another for no good reason, then the potential of the Web dwindles away.

that mistaking somone's last name undermines thier opinion?

Yes. In journalism class, making a fact error in a story instantly flunked a student. Get your facts straight before you unleash your opinion on an unsuspecting public.

And as for Rich's comment:

61 comments before I came here, ripping me apart. 3 comments after I came here ready to have an open discourse.

Well, Rich, that's because Metafilter is a blog. And this link is SO yesterday, and bloggers can't be bothered to actually think about what happened yesterday.

So you see, that just proves your point.
posted by solistrato at 1:49 PM on July 17, 2000

I think we're closer to agreeing than diasagreeing.

Me too, actually. After hearing you, gsh, Solistrato, Maura, and all the other who have, defend your point, I am starting to understand where you're coming from.

I think we all want to see the Internet continue growing, and I understand the frustration that apparent stagnation can bring on.

Unfortunately, I still disagree quite strongly with the way you presented it in (both edited and unedited version of) the article.

Hopefully though, we can all let a bit of the heat out of this discussion. Flame wars are a pretty good way of wasting everyone's time without learning anything more than a few new profanities.

gsh, maura and others who like saying 'knee-jerk' :-) : I think the knee jerk reaction is a Good Thing. It is, to me, a part of being a community. I seem to disagree with a lot of the people here on subjects (esp. Napster :-) but I consider pretty much everyone who posts regularily quite insightful, and people I'd love to sit around at a cottage, drinking a beer or coffee or water, and just gabbing with, exchanging ideas with, getting to know.

So yeah, when I take something as insulting me and my friends, I'm going to stand up, say "What the hell are you talking about?" and defend us. It is knee jerk, and I don't feel bad about jerking that knee.
posted by cCranium at 2:47 PM on July 17, 2000

I'm sorry that I got Mr. Robinson's name wrong-- I just misread it. But seeing as how I'm not a journalist, I don't believe that invalidates the points that I'm making about his article. Anyway, my issue is with what he wrote, not with Rich Robinson the human being.

Also I have answered his emails and I wanted to publically say this part: My arguments on Metafilter were not intended to "openly insult" Mr. Robinson-- the only thing I wrote which could be construed as insulting is the "he's just mad because no one's blogged his site" which was intended as a _joke_, hence the billing of it as a "cheap shot" and the attendant smiley face.

I don't know Rich Robinson and I have no problem with him as a person. But I disagree strongly with his article. I hope you can tell the difference by what I'm writing, or I'm doing something wrong.

If/when Mr. Robinson gets back to me with his permission, then I'll post the email exchange I've had with him on my site.
posted by wiremommy at 3:34 PM on July 17, 2000

Oh, and: I think the unedited version of the article on Mr. Robinson's site is more even-handed than what appeared on ALA. The point that was really missing in the ALA article was this quote (from the unedited version): "The point is not to trash any form of personal web site over another. The thing is that this latest greatest thing is nothing new."

I still find a lot to argue with in the article, either version, but I do think part of what is so inflammatory about the ALA version of "Fame Fatale" is that it was edited to be almost totally negative, to provide a counterpoint to the other, more positive article. If you're still following this thread, and you haven't read the unedited version of the article yet, I would strongly urge you to do so.
posted by wiremommy at 3:51 PM on July 17, 2000

Wow. I am so damn glad I missed most of this. I only discovered this whole mess because my referral logs pointed me here...somewhere in this mess someone linked to me, although I'll be damned if I can find out who or what for...and so, like the psychoative psilocyibin mushroom I am, I figure I might as well attempt to try and figure out what the hell is going on.

Having initially ignored the furor because I felt, as apparently many people here do, that it wasn't saying anything new about weblogging. I still don't see anything new added to the argument, not after reading the original version Zeldman posted or the expanded version on Mister Robinson's page.

See, the thing is, people like me, brilliant people who just don't care about web design save for the purposes of using the web to communicate information, we don't care if our technical ignorance is somehow annoying to people who know better. Personally, my idea of heaven on a web page is text; lots and lost of well-written, crafted words that convey new concepts and new ideas. I have tried to dress up my site so that it provides some eye candy, but I'm not deluded; the Webmistress, Kottke, DMP, Zeldman, Ryan from Sixfoot6, even a pregnant yak from Uganda with cataracts could design a better looking web page. I simply don't care. I like pages that others put up, pages that are visually attractive, but such is not my forte.

What I am a master of is dialectic, of neural intercourse, of the word itself. I can make people want to kill me, want to make me chicken soup and take care of me, convince them that Atlantis still exists and we're in it now, tell stories of Uther Pendragon and Typhon the Ravager and the best day of my life and any other damn thing I want to. I'm good, and I know I'm good. I'm smart, and aware that I'm smart. But my priorities are not your own, and I make no apologies for that.

Is 99% of the web crap...not just weblogs, mind you, but the whole blessed mess? I think the consensus is yes...and the consensus is wrong. A foetus is not a child, a chrysalis is not a butterfly, and we are not now in the midst of a mature field that we can correctly understand and analyze. It's possible that such frenetic activity can seem chaotic, and I won't argue that some thing seem self-evidently absurd (pages dedicated to someone's cat, pages dedicated to troll dolls, pornography, right wing eschatology, what have you) and we may well deride them. But we are standing at ground zero the second after the blast has erupted, people. We simply do not know what we are taking part in making, and we will not for years. The Industrial Revolution lasted for two centuries, and to stare at it in 1795 was not to see what it would look like in 1892. The mass of memetic connections is accellerating, and nobody alive today can say with certainty that he understand where this thing will go, whether it is a world-changing organism or a faddish waste of time.

In my opinion, and that really is all any of us have to date, our limited human opinions, the work of building the future is more important than the debate over content. The freedom to express oneself can lead to expressions of banality, yes...but as for myself, I'd rather people were free to trowel on the banality than forced to tow some imaginary line of content quality.

Stand up. Create. Don't sit on the sidelines, lamenting, bitching, moaning, complaining. Don't waste your potential, or the potential of your tools for the sake of speed and ease of use. You are the building blocks of the future, and the future starts today, with you. A quote of Mister Robinson's I found useful.

Let's be honest here. Only a few of us have blogs as intellectually demanding as Follow Me Here, Ethel the Blog, or others. That's just a fact, as arrogant as it is for me to say it. Nobody else was going to, so I might as well. Those of us who care more about words than flash animation and pictures will continue to make the sites we like. Many of the people here are that kind of person, and they know what they want to do, and are doing it.

This is not to say that visual art is unimportant...it is not...nor to say that there are no sites that work in that area. This is not to deliberately leave out sites that manage to do both well, either. My point is simply this; The debate is getting distracting. All of this energy poured into quantifying and arguing and sniping...and for what reason? Who decides how much room the web has, and why do they need to do so at all?

This great man-made morphogenic field will continue to expand despite all this, becoming unrecognizeable to we primitives who took part in its embryonic state...and make no mistake, that's where we are. We are in the womb, and all of this is merely the strugglings of the infant to be born. It has not made it out yet. Now, everyone is free to do what they want...create, critique, deconstruct, debate, what have you. I don't cry out for restraint. Go insane, tear down the strictures that confine you, and be wild at play in the fields of this sleeping god.

That's my money on the issue. Now if I could only figure out who linked to me in the first place...
posted by Ezrael at 4:39 PM on July 17, 2000

Ezrael gets it.

And I'm 'Rich'. Thanks for the respect that is confered by Mr. Robinson, but it reminds me too much of the Simon and Garfunkle song.

What might finally be coming out of this pool is that the article wasn't about weblogs. It was about potential. It was about asking what we are doing, now. Ezrael solidified the point better by saying that we are at ground zero, year two (or four, or six, however you want to count it).

But regardless, we are still witnesses of the aftermath. And like it or not, you, and you, and you, and everyone else reading this, and not reading this are participants in building from nothing what will end up being the future in 20 years.

We all bitch and moan about the corporate web, oh the commercialization of the web. I had that in the article, too, and cut it because the concept was just spawning tentrils that no one could chase down and qualify or quantify in a single piece.

But if anything, the commericial web has more focus, more purpose, more going for it. Shit, all web sites don't need goals, but do any of you even consider the concept of the personal web space?

The potential is there for a convergence of visual, written, conceptual, collaborative, interactive, dynamic, constantly moving and living content that isn't restricted by anything we currently put bounds around because of the preconceptions we have been funnelled into due to the limitations we were strapped in by a mere five years ago.

Yet you sit there pissed at me for mentioning blogger, a tool many of you use, as a bane. Not for the tool, because even now the tool offers so much more than almost anyone has tried to stretch it for, but because no one has taken up the challenge and the trend seeems to be heavy weighted in favor of that never happening. But you bitch because you are offended I might be challenging what you do, personally.

I haven't been to your sites, most likely, before now. I've been to plenty of sites, though. And I find it hard to believe that my observations, along with the observations of a wide range of different people, about the trends of the personal web space are different from what I've seen. It's not a rant on the old lament, or a teary eyed piece on the good days gone by.

The good days are ahead, but only if we all stop wasting potential, as Scott said. This isn't some 'Hey, I'm bored, give me some of that good stuff, baby!' I'm not so narcissitic to send ALA an article about my personal wants and desires.

People have been touching on it here and there, complaining over it at the bar over beers, bitching in emails, and on discussion threads, but no one had yet to actually *try* to conceptualize it and put it out there. Probably because it's such an involved subject one article could never do it justice. But it's a start. What you want to do with that start is up to you.

Someone said they were were disappointed that the article was on ALA. ALA is a web site for people who make web sites. Maybe that involves DOM issues, or design issues. But isn't the web mainly about content? And isn't the concepts of design and DOM capatibilities and colored scrollbars really about how to deliever content effectively and in the best manner possible?

What happens when there is no content?
posted by rich at 10:06 PM on July 17, 2000


Per your quote below, I don't think it's hard to misinterpret what I was saying there. There is ample support to show that the blog community functions simply as a high-tech web ring.

I read it again, and I read the version on your website. You will have to forgive me for misinterpreting passages like this:

"People used to have link pages to those sites they thought their visitors could appreciate, branching out to new and cool things they had found. Blogs seem to have digressed, in the majority, to a high-tech webring of sorts.
While Pyra may have a killer app for the business world, its application in the personal web space has just propagated the idea of less, faster, more in our sound byte saturated society. Content is sacrificed for a quick one liner buzz, and more of them, with links to other blogs that link to yet more blogs that refer to what someone said on another blog."

posted by rich at 10:11 PM on July 17, 2000

The incestuous back-linking that is Rich's (it is Rich, isn't it?) biggest complaint has served one purpose at least: since I read Joe's site, it lead me to mathowie's site, who lead me to read An Entirely Other Day, and on and on.

I do not consider myself a blogger, though I use the tool to ease my near-daily updating. I do not consider myself any kind of web designer, though I have a registered site. I am learning, albeit later than all the aforementioned pioneers, and for now my only cyber-project is my measly personal site. I agree that throughout the web the crap prevails, and my site is part of it. But everyone starts somewhere. I may never create the art on the web that I hope to someday read/experience, but I do know that some of the names I read on blogs now, will be the names that create it.

I think Blogger, weblogging, personal sites, and the ilk are just one step towards all the lofty ambitions Rich, and everyone else at Metafilter, long for the web to be; it may seem so now, but weblogging is not in and of itself the end of progress.

I understand the apprehension that even brilliance cannot shine through an impenetrable layer of compost. But compost itself breeds new life.
posted by Awol at 12:40 AM on July 18, 2000

Jesus H. Christ on a bicycle.

I didn't agree with the article Rich wrote, and I thought it was a bit self righteous, but you folks are really making yourselves look stupid and petty.

It's just an opinion. And as Dirty Harry said "Opinions are like assholes - we all got one".

Give it a rest...please?

If was to write an article on bloggers right now, I'd be inclined to say the majority of them were loud mouthed, egotistical individuals with nothing better to do with their time other than personally insult people for stating an opinon they didn't agree with.

I'm sure this stuff isn't what Matt had in mind for MetaFilter. I think this place is like a party at a friends house - have a good time, but make sure not to mess the place up.
posted by tomcosgrave at 4:29 AM on July 18, 2000

Uhm...at least the last few posts before yours, Tom, were interesting and well-written. Ezrael (who I am pleased to see return, even if his name is disturbing), Rich, and Awol all made interesting points. And they did so without name calling or sniping. I personally wish the whole thread had had more of that, although I must admit to finding Crazy Uncle Joe amusing.

If people are contributing useful or evocative thoughts, why must we stop them? I want to see more of those last four posts in future debate, not stifle them because 86 people got there first. (And Rich, I was one of the 61 people who posted before your return, and I don't think I assaulted you. I don't really think I even mentioned you.) Also, I was the one who linked to you, Ezrael, so that you are aware.

As long as people are interested, the debate should continue. I agree that it is trivial but so are many things. Humans are a trivial species sometimes. However, tom's point about not messing up MetaFilter I agree with...but Matt did start this thread.
posted by ab'd al'Hazred at 9:06 AM on July 18, 2000

>...but Matt did start this thread

Yeah, I did, and I started it the moment I finished reading the article, which was a horrible mistake. Setting a vitrolic tone that I felt matched the article was stupid, and for that I'm sorry (especially when I should be keeping a professional tone for the site).

However, even now, after reading all these comments and the unedited version, I don't like the first 3/4 of the article for a variety of reasons I may or may not expound on here. The last few paragraphs of Rich's article are the true gems, the "try harder, do better" message is a good one, one that I wish wasn't obscured by the "other stuff" that the article contained.

Also, I meant to jump in here earlier and post some more thoughts, but haven't had the time - too busy moving my belongings to a new apartment. I'll have time tonight, but perhaps this has been played out. I may just email Rich instead.
posted by mathowie at 11:11 AM on July 18, 2000

You know what's strange? I just checked...and I don't have an asshole. Dear God, where did it go? :)

Sorry, but as was said in cult classic movie Summer School: Tension breaker. Had to be done.

Anyway, I honestly don't think you did anything wrong, Matt. I think a lot of us had that "Dear sweet festering Jesus, not another op-ed on Weblogs. Why do you hate us so, God?" Perhaps your tone was a bit vitriolic, but I choose to see it as frustrated. While Rich did have good points in his article (and I quoted the one I liked) I'm sorry to say that ultimately I didn't really see a lot being said there that hadn't been said before. On the up side, I'm at least now calling Rich by his first name.

I personally don't mind that we're all a bit obsessed on the issue, because as an article I found on Follow Me Here (which is this week's weblog I love better than heroin or pussy, to quote Al Jourgenson) pointed out, people who express themselves via the arts tend to be thin-skinned about it. There's really no way around it. As self-centered as it is, when you sit down and do something creative (or attempting to be so, in my case) you take it seriously, perhaps too seriously.

I come down on this issue as follows: I don't worry about the content of the weblog community, but I do agree that we should all try hard to create something, not out of any arbitrary need to satisfy some nonexistent community standard but because it can be done and we can do it. There's a lot of intelligence and creativity out there, and a lot of it just on MetaFilter from time to time. We don't all agree, we don't all have the same outlook, and that's fine.

We're all here, and that's enough. Will we all always reach our potential? Probably not...but the effort in of itself is worthwhile. And there are other, less tangible rewards of this weblogging thing, as well. I've made friends...granted, they only exist in my life via this glowing box on my desk, but they cheer me on occassion, challenge me on others, commiserate with me over pain I've shared with them, call me on my arrogance when it gets too overwheening, and in general stimulate and interest me. There are some good people out there, and if I won't ever get to meet them in the physical plane, at least I'll get to meet their minds. That's not to be sneered at.

And besides all that, a young woman named Angie sent me a really neat CD today, just because she likes my blog. That ain't nothing, either, and you'll just have to forgive my nongrammatical word choice on it. The spectrum of personalities involved in this little hobby is vast, it contains multitudes, if I can be forgiven for paraphrasing a man who may have had tantric sex with Abraham Lincoln.

I do it for many reasons, this thing called blog. I blog because I have weird ideas to share. I blog because I'd rather post a fit of rage than go out and get in a fight. I blog because I want to share stories with people who are capable of understanding them. I blog to get off on this virtual interaction, to 'meet' minds like my own, to offend people who think the color of my skin or my sexual preference should define me, to attack the world with my mind and see how it fights back, to succumb to the viral nature of my thoughts and spread them all to you.

We are not bodies that developed minds...we are minds that evolved bodies. - Sylvia Fraser, The Quest for the Fourth Monkey

I hate the world. I love the world. Both are true statements, and both can be applied to this tiny sliver of it. I hate weblogs. I love weblogs. I hate a lot of them because they bore me. I love a lot of them because they engage me. Sometimes I read the ones I hate just because I cannot fucking believe that they exist. Sometimes I read the ones I love for the same reason.

I get off of throwing my thoughts around, and absorbing yours. The real reason I joined MetaFilter in the first place was because I couldn't stand lurking around, absorbing you without returning the favor. It was the gun control debate, as I recall, that finally forced me to interact, and I don't regret that. I love reading quotes that I don't goddamn believe people can think, people that refute what I say in any one of a hundred ways. I am the same way with some of the weblogs I read, weblogs that just aren't in the same universe as the one I inhabit.

They are ways for me to see how the other kinds of human animal understands the world. Ways for me, a barbarian from the wastes of Rhode Island, to understand how someone like Sudama or Baylink or Uncle Joe or FABGIRL thinks, at least in some small way. It's the only telepathy I know, and it works pretty damn well sometimes. You are all in my head, and to some small degree, I am in yours as you read this.

I love you people for that. Of course, this isn't going to keep me from ranting like a Hyde Park street preacher on Ayacusha about my various hobbyhorses, but I've learned what people think is important by reading these weblogs, and it's a revelation to me. I've seen families as bad as mine was, and families that make me weep out of envy. I've seen people in love, a weblog by a woman who admits she's using her husband to raise her daughter, weblogs by teenage boys with nudity fetishes and painfully intelligent gay men in England and family men named Brooks. None of these people are like me. I like that about the experience...I could spend my life looking and never meet me again.

Sure, one needs a shock-proof shit detector to wade through everything you find out here. But that's not so bad. And in the end, I really have had experiences here I could not have gotten otherwise...and I don't think I'd give them back for anything. Not even the letters from people convinced I work for the CIA, or that "Jesus Chist" (Yes, apparently he's dropped the r for some reason) will condemn me to hell for my sins.

For me at least, the experiment is progressing nicely. I hope you all get as much out of it as I do. If not...well, I can only say that I'll try harder.
posted by Ezrael at 4:53 PM on July 18, 2000

I read both articles twice before posting this. I can truthfully say that the combination of the two was an eye opener for me. Been on the web seen dirt was invented, my first computer was a Kapro. I have read many weblogs and find most of them rather silly. But I would never begrudge them the cyberspace they need for them. I have my own little world on the web I circulate in and find it a nice place to be. I feel that "Take what you like and leave the rest." is a good overall motto for the web and for life in general. Thanks for the space. bj
posted by bjgeiger at 11:00 PM on July 18, 2000

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