Dear Blog....
October 11, 2000 6:40 AM   Subscribe

Dear Blog.... with all the "ranting" and "whining" going on out there why would anybody want to be a part of this online community?
posted by jaz (38 comments total)

Rants in and of themselves are not a bad thing, but I have been wondering why so many HTML-slingers feel the need to rant purely for ranting's sake.

If something bothers me enough, I'm prone to rant. But I don't go out of my way looking for things to complain about.

posted by ethmar at 6:53 AM on October 11, 2000

All this umbrage is a misshapen thing indeed. Whining and ranting are basic human predispositions, and any medium of self-expression bears their signature. Are weblogs any more interesting or lame (depending on your outlook) than any of the sundry other venues for said preoccupations? "No." Is it necessary to actively deflect all criticism this specific form (whatever it is) of expression seems to invite? "No" squared. Only a few hundred years ago, novels were regarded as self-indulgent populist trash; and while many of them still are, more than a few are quite excellent. This same index of selection applies to any combinative human endeavor. It's a lot easier to find crappy weblogs simply because crap outweighs excellence always always always -- but it's ultimately unimportant and beside the point to make such distinctions on a macroscopic level.
posted by highindustrial at 7:42 AM on October 11, 2000

Somebody had their coffee this morning. :-)
posted by ethmar at 7:52 AM on October 11, 2000

internetcoolguide? Even the name smacks of high-handed snobbery, if we decide it's cool, it's cool - Urgh!
The author sounds pretentious in the way she writes too and then to cap it all, self promotion:-
And I did the unthinkable: Went out and bought myself a Web site: Don't go there. Please.

Did anyone else think it was strange that out of the thousands of blogs out there, she managed to 'stumble' across those of Matt, Ev and Meg of Pyra's. Is there something we should know guys?
posted by Markb at 7:58 AM on October 11, 2000

I think it's kind of funny how we're all tut-tutting this trendmonger. Blogs are self-indulgent. Oftentimes they are really whiny and kvetchy, just like many novels or movies or paintings or political speeches, and the well-thought out ones still rock.

The more personal-looking ones may qualify as guilty pleasures, and I dont even see how that needs to be attacked or defended.

Perhaps this woman found Matt, Ev, Derek & Meg's blogs because they really are at the forefront of the form right now. Are there other pockets of blogdom, or are the Pyra People really at the vanguard of this teeny revolutionlet?

I mean, how many blogs are out there? 10,000? 100,000? A zillion? It doesn't really matter, of course, but I'm a little curious.
posted by chicobangs at 8:43 AM on October 11, 2000

Oh, I don't know, it's just whenever something becomes popular, out come the pretentious, self-proclaimed style gurus to write stuff like this. Thing is, she comes across exactly like that (look no further than a completely tangential reference to her high-heeled snakeskin boots - is that meant to impress me?) - it just gets up my nose that people like this are actually allowed to have any influence at all.
And the Pyra question was rhetorical really - I have to admit I'd probably start with the three of them if someone asked me to write a piece on blogs, too.
posted by Markb at 8:56 AM on October 11, 2000

>Oh, I don't know, it's just whenever something becomes popular, out come the pretentious, self-proclaimed style gurus to write stuff like this.

The thing that gets my goat (besides not getting my site listed) is the way the writer of this piece DID engage in some heavy-handed name dropping but tried to downplay the "product placement" aspects of it by claiming she "stumbled" upon the sites she mentioned. Hogwash.

And I might be flame-bait for saying this, but CamWorld is "not so much a Web journal but rather an information powerhouse"? Excuse me?

So is Dack, Zeldman, and /usr/bin/girl, if we're going to go that route. I have been turned on to interesting things at all of the aforementioned sites, but I don't particularly classify them as "information powerhouses". This strikes me more as pandering rather then straight journalism.

But that's just me.
posted by ethmar at 9:26 AM on October 11, 2000

Bite me, bite me, bite me, bite me, bite mebite me, bite me, bite me, bite me, bite mebite me, bite me, bite me, bite me, bite mebite me, bite me, bite me, bite me, bite mebite me, bite me, bite me, bite me, bite me.Are you seeing a pattern here?Is anyone as bored with the seemingly endless parade of inane weblog bashing articles as I am?
posted by Mr. skullhead at 9:42 AM on October 11, 2000

>Is anyone as bored with the seemingly endless parade of inane weblog bashing articles as I am?

Equally as much as I'm bored with crappy weblogs.

But as Mike Royko once asked, if you willingly stuck your head in a septic tank, would you complain about the odor?
posted by ethmar at 9:46 AM on October 11, 2000

I have a few problems with the article.

First and foremost, I don't think the writer put much time into the article. There are signs that she just trolled through a few sites, made some snap judgements, then wrote a few words. I don't get the sense that she understands the point of having a weblog, or why people do it.

She writes off me, Ev, and a few others as a bunch of whiners. She stopped by my site during a week where I bitched about a few things that were affecting my life. I kvetch about stuff because it makes me feel better (as others would probably agree). If she met me on the street that week, I doubt she would have liked me either. If she looked back into the archives, she might realize that I'm not just a big fat whiner. But we're all a bunch of Andy Rooneys sometimes.

How long does it take to "get" something like weblogs? I've been wondering about this. Even this site, MetaFilter, doesn't seem to grab people right away. Many people seem to lurk for a while, reading and eventually participating before they come to enjoy this site. If you had never seen this site, do you think you could write an engaging article about the community that takes place here? Or would it be easier to just go with a knee-jerk reaction that there's a whole lot of arguing going on without much of a purpose?

I was thinking on the way to work today how today's music is reviewed by rock critics that know all the ins and outs of music, how it is played, and the industry, film critics know how actors, cameras, lighting, and directors work, but most articles about blogging are written by dot com magazine writers that haven't set eyes on a blog until they get the assignment to write the piece. Does that make for good stories that get to the heart of the people that do it and their motivations?

Rafe summed up the article best when he said the 3-4 pages at internetcoolguide could have been reduced to two sentences: "I checked out a bunch of blogs. Some of them I liked, and others I didn't."
posted by mathowie at 9:47 AM on October 11, 2000

I didn't think it was such a bad piece -- at least she found Memepool and Derek Powazek to talk about, along with some examples she disliked. One thing that's funny about the piece is that the author commits some of the same narcissistic sins as the blogs she criticized. No one needed to know about her boots, the fact she had some kind of problem involving a trip to Hawaii, or her long walk to meet Powazek.
posted by rcade at 9:55 AM on October 11, 2000

Or her brand-spanky new personal (blog-inspired!) site, which she begs us to not visit. (Okay, I won't.)
posted by chicobangs at 10:09 AM on October 11, 2000

Mat, Rafe’s comment is right because most weblogs — Metafilter being one of a few exceptions — are terribly inane. The average post isn’t much longer than a few sentences and an anchor. There isn’t much commentary and if there is, it’s just helpless plathering. CHeK iT! or bIG bROthER sure is boring!

It’s really easy to write off weblogs because most of them aren’t engaging and are totally purposeless. I’d like to note here that I’m not trying troll or incite a riot. Please put that rotten egg back. Thank you.

Most weblogs are filled with a lot of nothing, and if a journalist calls up asking to write about it what are they going to say? Given the material, what can they say?

I keep thinking MetaFilter is the only thing that’ll save weblogs (I truly believe the phenomenon will die quickly), because it’s one of the few that actually makes reading weblogs interesting. This site is a perfect example of post-modern writing, turning the idea of author and reader on its head. The medium is built for this type of interaction, it needs more of it.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 10:19 AM on October 11, 2000

Is writing a nasty article about weblogs any more than the easy way to drive weblog traffic to your site?
posted by harmful at 10:24 AM on October 11, 2000

The best advice is to not care and just do what pleases you. My trick is that I never take or look at usage statistics.
posted by john at 10:25 AM on October 11, 2000

>This site is a perfect example of post-modern writing, turning the idea of author and reader on its head.

Hmmm. Shall we say the same about Table Talk? I find the two sites to be similar in purpose, though not in design.

>I keep thinking MetaFilter is the only thing that’ll save weblogs


Not every weblog is written for the teeming millions. How many diaries (or journals, for you manly types) are written with the expectation of becoming a New York Times best seller?

So yeah, it's easy to bash blogs, but I keep reminding myself that not everything is going to float my boat, regardless of the medium.
posted by ethmar at 10:39 AM on October 11, 2000

Not that there's anything wrong with obsessing over usage statistics, mind you. I check my stats at a truly neurotic rate; I just don't let it affect the nature of my content. If it was raw hits I was after, I'd just type "Britney Spears NUDE!!!" several hundred times and let search engines take care of the rest.
posted by youhas at 10:39 AM on October 11, 2000

one of the biggest problems with so much journalism about the online world is that there's no real *knowledgable* chain of command at even your so-called 'respectable' news sources. people don't understand the basic concepts of the internet. as a result, everything is looked at through the 'hey, isn't this weird' or 'hey, look, money is to be made' lens, and there are rarely interesting angles probed. it's incredibly frustrating to deal with most editors about technology -- the angles they propose are usually banal, very wide-eyed (or, in this case, snide). i will say that while i was writing a column about online stuff for the long island voice (RIP) i was lucky to have an editor who trusted my judgment about what was worthy of coverage; i suspect that most editors don't have that sort of attitude because they just don't *get* the (noncommercial!) internet, they are afraid of computers, and so on.

i can't tell you how much bad journalism i've seen when i've looked at online publications AND print publications writing about online issues and i don't think there really is an excuse for any of it. it's laziness, it's hopping on the bandwagon, it's not being able to see through the 'ooh, computers' smokescreen.

and then at the same time you have the whole idea of what is getting pr in the new media industry. look at, for the most egregious example, entertainment weekly's multimedia section -- a good chunk of it is made up of QUOTES FROM CELEBRITY CHATS! it drives me crazy because it takes up space. but it's 'safe' -- the statements are from proven commodities. (ew does a sort of decent job with its other online coverage, but they come too often from the celebrity angle for my tastes.)

but most other online-focused journalism follows suit, particularly when it comes to noncommercial sites like weblogs/homepages/etc. the angle isn't preordained. even with record reviews, like matt mentioned above, there's usually some amount of pr mediation going on between the actual experience of listening to the record and the eventual publication of said review; there's more of a frame of reference.
posted by maura at 10:50 AM on October 11, 2000

I should probably be more pissed at this article than I actually am (primarily because she disses me in the last paragraph), but I'm simply going to dismiss it as another contrived attempt at bragging about how "whiny" and "neurotic" everyone is. Sort of a holier-than-thou exercise I've seen repeated many a time. The article was obviously written by someone who missed the word "personal" when talking about "personal websites". Personal sites aren't supposed to be useful, useable, insightful, well-meaning, or any other adjective. They're just supposed to be personal. Duh.

Also, did she really think we wouldn't click on the link to her site when she said "don't go to my site!" ??? Blatant self-promo. Heh.
posted by Succa at 10:53 AM on October 11, 2000

I found more whining in that article than in most weblogs.
posted by dhartung at 10:55 AM on October 11, 2000

I just heard from the author of that piece, who can't post here yet. She says that the self-promotional elements of the piece were intentional: "the story was supposed to be a lighthearted, fun poke at the whiny vanity of Weblogs -- because everyone person on earth is whiny and vain... And I'm admittedly probably the worst of them!"
posted by rcade at 11:06 AM on October 11, 2000

From themselves, really. I think — pure conjecture, I realize, hopefuly I’m wrong as licking a light socket — but I just see weblogs dieing off just as fast as they exploded.

And I see MetaFilter as vastly different than web-based chat rooms. Those usually hinge on a strictly defined topic. “Is Gore a liar? Chat about it!” Conversations here blossom much differently than that — they start by people’s interpretations of whatevers been (forgive me) blogged. There isn’t much moderation. People feel free enough, I think some feel it’s their duty, really, to take themselves and the conversation to places the link really had little to do with. The format really invites it, moreso than BBSs or the like. Have you seen the dialog that goes one between people who post to the front page? You know, this link is in response to a previous link.

Then again, maybe it’s just a different level of dialog. But I don’t think so. I think there’s something inherently different with community based webloging compared to individual weblogs and chat rooms.

Usenet : Table Talk :: MetaFilter : ?
posted by capt.crackpipe at 11:16 AM on October 11, 2000

How do weblogs "die off"?

Mine's not going to die. I don't even care if people stop reading it. It's mine. For my site to die, you'd have to kill me.
posted by Succa at 11:19 AM on October 11, 2000

posted by capt.crackpipe at 11:24 AM on October 11, 2000

Neglect is not exclusive to weblogs, though. As long as there are people and websites, there will be personal websites. Neglected or not.
posted by Succa at 11:47 AM on October 11, 2000

Argh! More whining and kvetching. Cancel my subscription. :-)
posted by ethmar at 11:51 AM on October 11, 2000

is that happening?

sure, lots of people get bored pretty quickly, or disillusioned when they aren't instantly linked all over the place (but that hasn't happened since the early days, when a new weblog was a noteable event) but it seems to me that the rate of new ones being created is still larger at this point than the rate of ones gathering dust.

from what I can gather from ev (blogger) and andrew (pitas), the number of new sites being created with their services is still growing.

I wonder if any of the new sites are being coded by hand?

posted by rebeccablood at 11:54 AM on October 11, 2000

>I wonder if any of the new sites are being coded by hand?

One of the top 3 things that get talked about in Blogger-powered weblogs is site alteration. And lots of it.

So yeah, maybe, minus the weblog portion of the site.
posted by ethmar at 12:18 PM on October 11, 2000

>One of the top 3 things that get talked about in Blogger-powered weblogs...

Wouldn't THAT be something if these weblog sites actually DID list what the top 10 things are that get talked about in weblogs?

Where would Radiohead rate?

And site maintenance?

And rants?

(sorry to blow 2 posts on that stream of thought)
posted by ethmar at 12:21 PM on October 11, 2000

You know, ranting about weblogs is so late 1999/early 2000.

posted by solistrato at 1:06 PM on October 11, 2000

The sentance form "x" is sooo "date" has been used to excess. Cease this activity before you turn green and die of something unpleasent.
posted by davidgentle at 3:05 PM on October 11, 2000

Boredom depends on the type of site as well. i have 7 weblogs at the moment. While I have kept going with some, others have either fallen by the wayside or changed into something else. C-Log turned out to be a bad idea. It might have worked if it had been one of those early blogs but there just wasn't any interest. if you're trying to provide a service blog then you need to beknown already. The Universe Contained started as a sort of heavyweight journal. I realised fairly quickly that it would be better as a zine than a blog so it changed. My core 3, the ones that I do write for (just about every day between them) are things that I like to do. It would be nice to get some attention(and the blog hop error has allowed Soap Opera to get some) but I do them because I like them. That's why people will continue.
Bear in mind also that things like Blogger are only the first generation of online publishing technologies. More complicated things will come along that let you do other, more bizarre, stuff.
Just out of curiosity: Does anyone here ever read livejournals?
posted by davidgentle at 4:45 PM on October 11, 2000

Just yesterday I read my first LiveJournal site that was referred by Obscurestore.

It's the one kept by the fratboy who drank too much during pledge week. Which leads me to my next thought: Who will read the journals/blogs/wank-offs of the dead? And if they are hosted on free servers, who will know to take them down? (Lord knows I'm not going to be the one to touch a dead man's site. Bad luck for sure!!)
posted by schlomo at 5:11 PM on October 11, 2000

Interesting observation by Capt. Crackpipe regarding the power of collaborative blogs such as metafilter in terms of discussion.

>I think there’s something inherently different
>with community based webloging compared
>to individual weblogs and chat rooms.

I definitely agree with this sentiment...and, IMHO, think that much (not all) of what occurs on weblogs used to happen in what was traditionally thought of as discussion spaces (such as BBSs, chat rooms, et. al). I found this interesting post at another site which echoes this sentiment.

It definitely seems that MetaFilter fills this niche quite well.

As for people offering their rants and raves about weblogs, it happens to anything that reaches a certain critical mass (and that's a good thing, no?). And, yes, everyone has an opinion...and is entitled to express it. People will apply their own filter to anything they write about (be it a reporter or a weblogger), and may or may not delve deep enough to consider another person's point-of-view. How to overcome any knee-jerk reaction (as Mathowie mentions) is a vexing problem, indeed.
posted by webchick at 9:28 AM on October 12, 2000

What Maura said. Most editors of "respectable" news sources do not get the web at all, and journalists are often given last-minute assignments, without sufficient time to immerse themselves in the phenomenon they're covering.

I know. I wrote for the Washington Post. I sometimes had all of fiteen minutes to compose a short article.

And I know because I've been interviewed repeatedly.

When Edd from asks me questions about The Web Standards Project, the interview or article will undoubtedly be pretty much on the mark.

When a reporter from a mainstream publication asks me questions on the same subject, it's a crapshoot. Just last week I was misquoted by a mainstream publication re: XML and 20 other things.

I could pretend to be indignant about all the misinformation being fed to people via the (online and traditional) press, but it comes with the territory, I've been guilty of it myself (when I wrote under deadline for the Post), and I lost my innocence at 17, when Newsweek ran an entire issue about "jazz," and nearly everything in the magazine was wrong.

I figured, if they got Herbie Hancock wrong, they probably got the Middle East and Ireland wrong too.

Is personal publishing any more accurate? Not necessarily, and often less so—but we don't grant personal publishing the same "factual authority" we assume we are getting from serious journalism.
posted by Zeldman at 3:34 PM on October 12, 2000

And no offense to the author of that piece if she is lurking here, but any serious independent web publisher KNOWS not to expect much from such articles, because the people in charge of such publications don't have the background.

So it's ridiculous to get your knickers in a knot over an article like this.

Is the dedicated community of weblog readers (who are also weblog writers) going to stop reading Matt Haughey's site because of this article? Hell, no. Is my Uncle George going to see this article and begin reading Matt's site because of it? Or AVOID reading Matt's site because of it? Hell, no.

Stop whining about articles that whine about weblogs. None of it matters.
posted by Zeldman at 3:40 PM on October 12, 2000

What matters is what people think of themselves and the sites they visit. They have opinions and feelings and will always defend them. It does matter on an individual basis. Just about every little thing on the net matters to someone.

You can't stop the whinning about whinning about whinning...
posted by john at 5:24 PM on October 12, 2000

This is just my opinion...but Internet Cool Guide's site format and description of their company is telling...perhaps certain webloggers (those of the filtering/guide variety) may be cutting into some of their key online initiatives? (of course, the folks at Internet Cool Guide do kill a few trees to put out a printed counterpart...that 's their "competitive advantage!" :-)

I can't imagine that matters of journalistic integrity were foremost in their mind when they assigned the piece. :-))

>You can't stop the whinning about
>whinning about whinning...

Perhaps not...but remember, it's all free PR. :-)))

posted by webchick at 8:23 PM on October 12, 2000

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