Weblogging is for winners

Page archived, with comments, at Wayback Machine

Marc Canter called me a couple of months ago about a new concept he was working that would help webloggers make money. The concept became reality today, as several people started making 800.00US a month to promote a new CMS called Marqui.

When Marc and I talked, I was ambivalent about the idea and whether it would work. Ben Hammersley has been a sponsored site for some time, but it worked with Ben because he could be enthusiastic about the products of the company that was paying him bucks. Ben likes cigars, and the ambiance associated with cigar smoking, so being sponsored by a cigar company suited his site. I remember reading one of his cigar reviews and being surprised at how much I enjoyed it, precisely because he does feel enthusiastic about cigars.

But I don’t know of many people excited about Content Management Systems, or CMS. I’ve used too many commercial variations of these product to have anything even remotely resembling enthusiasm for them, myself. And if you couldn’t be enthusiastic about the product, wouldn’t the sponsorship come off like the old Geritol television show sponsorships of the past? You know the kind, where the host would stop whatever he or she was doing, plant a fake, bright smile on their face and extol the virtues of a product that would re-build tired blood?

Still, there is a great deal of discussion about the ‘purity’ of this environment and compromising the faith with our readers and that sort of thing, all of which gives me a rash. It’s as if weblogging is for winners only — people who are supremely successful and need no other help; or independently wealthy, and couldn’t use a few extra bucks. Let me tell you something: only the rich can be Saints, and the rich weren’t Saints to become that way.

Or as Alan, Head Lemur, wrote:

This is going to facilitate a dialog, between the company, me and most importantly you. They are paying us for this. They are paying me to tell them and everyone else who reads me what I think. It may not be what they want to hear. This is a risk they are taking.

I do not need the money, I have a day job.
Can I use the money? You bet!

Here are my risks.

Will I be regarded as a whore for taking money?
I already have. And if I am successful I will become a call girl.

Isn’t that ‘call boy’, Alan?

Can I use the money? Damn straight. I had a hard time making enough money to keep this site going, without having to pass the hat not once, but twice in the last few years. So which is better, and more dignified? The hooker on the corner, or the beggar across the street from her?

Still, I write tips and techniques and help folks and I like to think that when the people have contributed to keep the site going, it’s because I’ve provided something that’s been helpful a time or two. But it would be nice to be able to do this _without_ having to pass the hat.

*sob*

(Of course, what I really need to do is finish my own weblogging tool, Wordform, and then I will automatically become both wealthy and hugely popular.)

So what’s stopping me from tugging at Marc’s shirt and saying, “Hey buddy of mine, can I get back into this deal?” It’s that old Geritol thing, I can’t get it out of my mind.

Stowe Boyd covered some of this in a writing about the Marqui Effect, saying:

Note: I am not a purist who turns away from ads. On the contrary. But I think there needs to be a clear separation from content and commerce. I don’t say good things about Silkroad just because they are sponsoring my blog and the True Voice seminar series. Their ad occupies the upper right rectangle on the blog, and by all means, click through sometime and see what they have to offer. And if they don’t get enough traffic, I am sure that they will put their ad dollars elsewhere. But I am not being paid to write about Silkblogs once per week. And that distinction, although nuanced, is important.

Mitch Ratcliff responded to Boyd’s assertion, writing:

Of course Corante has incentives to increase click throughs, because most ad programs are priced based on click performance. Sorry, but the condescension here is just annoying, since the substance of the Marqui agreement seems to be identical to the ads placed on Stowe’s site, from the simple click through on the SilkRoad ad to the “free” seminar offer (Corante presumably gets some kind of compensation for promoting the conference, even if it is sponsorship placement at the event) that are clearly compensated placements or else they would not be on the page. I’ve been a publisher and editor and trade show producer, so let’s step back from the ledge (or “Get Real,” as Stowe’s blog is called) right here and now: Admit that publishers, especially early-stage publishing companies, exist on in-kind trades. If these are not “not evil,” how are they qualitatively different than what I am doing in relation to Marqui? I put a sponsorship graphic on my site and say thanks once a week, creating a kind of periodicity in the appearance of the company’s name in the blog, just as Corante creates a special section sponsored by Zero Degrees that features fresh links.

Ratcliff’s point is good, as is his earlier notes in the post about how at one time he used to make a lot more money for his writing. Hey, if a few bucks can help Ratcliff and others continue writing, where’s the bad?

Boundaries. I’m hearing people say, “boundaries”. As if Technorati and Google aren’t already placing boundaries in this game.

From the Wikipedia article on the history of commercial television:

In the earliest days of television, it was often difficult to perceive the boundary between the actual television programs and the commercials. Many of the earliest television shows were sponsored by single companies, who inserted their names and products into the shows as much as possible. One of the most famous examples of early television broadcasting was Texaco Star Theater, the variety show that made Milton Berle a household name. Texaco not only included its own brand name as part of the show, it also made certain that Texaco employees were prominently featured during the course of the show, often appearing as smiling “guardian angels” who performed good deeds in one way or another, while the Texaco musical logo would play in the background.

I know Alan, aka Head Lemur, and I have no doubts that he wouldn’t be corrupted for a mere 800.00 a month. A couple of grand now…

Seriously, unlike the television shows of yore, the amount of money at stake, and the number of people involved is going to limit how much the Marqui Effect will impact on the weblogging environment. As for me, personally, at a minimum it doesn’t impact on how much I trust the webloggers involved. If I trusted the weblogger before, I still do now. If I didn’t know the weblogger before now, I don’t have an increased sense of trust because they’re, like wow, sponsored.

In comments to this post at the Kitchen, I wrote:

I have known some people in weblogging for years. I trust them and their judgment. If they were to tell me that a product is great, I would trust what they said. Even if I found out later they’re being sponsored by the company who sold the product, I would still trust what they said. I would be surprised, but my trust would still be in place.

But, and here’s the kicker, the people who I trust and who I’ve known for years would not, I feel, do such a thing. They would either tell me they’re being sponsored or make note of this in their recommendation. So in a way, my trust is based on their past behavior, which would preclude the need for the trust anyway, because their behavior is such that they would issue a disclaimer.

After some thought, though, I realized that even if I trusted another weblogger, and there are some I have known for years now, and do trust implicitly, I would still not likely act on just that trust, alone.

If it comes to buying a product, especially something fairly expensive, I research reviews at publications and read opinions in forums and scrutinize the specs in addition to listening to those I know from weblogging. I would value the other weblogger’s opinion, highly in fact; but would also understand that they bring into their discussion all sorts of assumptions about what is a ‘good’ product that may not agree with mine. A case in point is my recent purchase of a photo printer — I had advice from several people I know and trust, but ultimately made my decision based on which printer fit my needs the best.

And if others are more easily influenced? Well, I guess they’ll have to find room for their boxed CMS software — perhaps next to the Chia pet, or up against the Ginzoo knives.

Sponsorship isn’t the Titanic event of weblogging; our ‘purity’ is not compromised because some people are selling some space and words in their weblogs. Still, those webloggers who protest that being sponsored in this way will have no effect on them whatsoever are being idealistic and even a little naive.

Becoming sponsored does impact on you. You will be made aware of it each week as you write your little thank-you note to Marqui. You will see it every time you access your site and the first thing you see is the largish “Sponsored by Marqui” graphic. Your readers will be aware of it, and it will, even subtly, alter their perceptions of you and your writing. This may not be bad — in fact, you may get increased respect for swinging such a good deal. But your relationship with your readers will be different.

Eventually, the Marqui Effect could impact how you perceive your own space. Being hired to write an article for O’Reilly or weblog posts at a Marqui weblog, still leaves you your space to do whatever you want in it: to write obscene material, and be hateful all you want; or write your most intimate thoughts, which could eventually be equated one in the same. You may find yourself hesitating, even a moment, before you put down those words.

Or maybe you’ll continue just as you are, sane or not. Who knows? Me? I’m still working through that “weblogging is for winners” thing–but I think he or she who has the cutest kitten picture, or the most lovely poem, or is the most amazingly well read and erudite, or can bake a mean loaf of bread, be the best friend, or is the biggest pain the butt (that’s the rest of you), is a winner in my book. But then, I’m a begger on the corner, so what do I know?

I guess only time will tell what impact the Marqui Effect has. Stay tuned, and we’ll return after a word from our sponsor…

update

Marc was kind enough to extend the offer to me once more, and I was tempted. And it was tough to decline, but decline I must. I didn’t know that Marqui used to be Maestro, and Maestro is an ASP (Application Service Provider) — a service that you subscribe to, to manage your content; not a product you install and own.

It’s comparable to using Blogger or TypePad to manage your weblogs, rather than WordPress or Movable Type. This isn’t bad, but it does make you dependent on the service, and that’s something I’ve been rather vocally against for some time. However, I also know service-based products can be faster and easier to use for non-techs.

Personally though, regardless of subscription service or installed product. I think most CMS (and that’s Content Management System, no matter what word games are played) are bloated, over-priced, and over-engineered. They’re the primary reason why I now only work with lightweight, modular, open, PHP-based or comparable technologies. They’re why I’ve rejected ‘frameworks’ or anything of that kind — because the clients of the software more often than not buy into systems more complicated than they need, too costly to maintain, and usually dead-ended proprietary to boot. And I helped by supporting these products.

It would be tough for me to endorse a CMS, but to endorse a centralized one? No, just cannot do it. And endorsement of the product is what this is about. Reading the contract that the webloggers have to sign with Marqui, the following spells out a direct endorsement of the product:

It is our desire that acceptance of this agreement reflects your basic confidence in the product and that it serves as an endorsement on your part of the Marqui product.

I can’t help thinking it would send confusing signals to spend three months being negative about a product that supposedly you endorse.

However, just because I am burned out on CMS and large-scale, complex, proprietary, centralized applications doesn’t mean others should be. Each of us has unique interests and challenges, and one woman’s corrosive drain cleaner is another woman’s fragrant tea.

In other words, lots of really smart and intelligent people like CMS, and have excellent reasons to do so. This, then, could be a very good deal for them, and for those of you who have gotten the golden goose for the next three months, I am glad for you.

And if I were to beg on the corner for alms to support this site again–which I don’t plan on doing but lord knows I change my mind more than my underwear– but if I were, then you’re more than entitled to a ‘neener neener’ all the way to the bank.

But since I’m not being paid, consider this my last word on Marqui.

The Semantics of Starlings

This weekend I played a bit more with the attachment that allows me to take photos of slides with my digital camera. The ones shown here I took years ago when I lived in Portland, Oregon. The subject is a flock of European Starlings at sunset, just after a storm.

Every year our apartment complex in Portland would be overrun with flocks of starlings that swooped and swirled about, covering the trees and darkening the sky — whatever that part of the sky that wasn’t already darkened by the rain clouds that were a part of our life in Portland. Pretty as they may seem from the photos, the Starlings were a pest — a species that didn’t belong in the area, and one that would take food and habitat away from native birds. Their waste was corrosive to cars, and damaging to buildings and streets; additionally, the birds are known to carry and spread disease.

swallows1.jpg

The apartment would bring in a bird specialist who had this explosive air cannon, which he would shoot at the trees to scare the birds off. (Rather unnerving for tenants in addition to birds.) The starlings would leave for a time, but they always managed to find their way back; they are nothing if not tenacious.

Starlings are a flocker, following lead birds almost obsessively, and it was fascinating to watch as one flock of starlings would meet head-on with another flock — thousands of birds racing towards each other in what you would expect would be a collision, but would coalesce into this wonderful ballet of birds flying over and around each other, literally riding the wake in the air each other caused.

What do starlings and their behavior have to do with the Semantic Web? Only in that, I was reminded of this ‘heads on’ behavior this weekend when I was quietly reading the various entries out at the W3C’s TAG (Technical Architecture) email list — all about URIs and resources, and what it all means…and doesn’t mean. The discussions spilled out into weblogging when Tim Bray wrote a posting titled On Resources. Focus on the web of now, Tim says, and document what we have now:

So, explaining the Web-as-it-is would be enough to make me happy. Clearly, we should have an eye to the future, and, in writing down the architecture, try to avoid making life difficult for any others who are working to make something new and important involving the Web. Obvious examples are the Semantic-Web and Web-Services efforts.

But at the end of the day, the success criterion for me is having the success criteria for the Web-as-it-is explained clearly and convincingly.

In other words, the focus of TAG should be on what exists now, not what might exist some day. As for resources and their identifiers — those pesky little devils — Tim wrote:

We could just not talk about resources in the Architecture document. That wouldn’t get in the way of any software that I know of. But I suspect that this would impair the document’s usefulness as people paged frantically back and forth trying to figure out what URIs identify. Perhaps there’s a middle ground, where we say that the nature of resources is outside the scope of this document, aside from the fact that they are what is named by URIs.

Tim Berners-Lee wasn’t particularly happy with Tim Bray’s essay. In the TAG email list he wrote:

You say that the TAG should concentrate on the web as it has been
before the semantic web and web services, and that you will be happy if the architecture works for that, even if it does not work for web
services and semantic web.

That is a pity, partly because the web is no good unless it can be a
sound foundation for the semantic web and web services too. WSDL (ed. Web Services Description Language) and RDF (ed. Resource Description Language) have real serious issues on the table, working groups which need a consistent framework.

At first glance, it seems as if the two Tims were at opposite ends of a circle — the web of the now versus the web of the future. Mathematically defining resources as compared to basically ignoring the concept as one that can’t be effectively defined. One could then assume that their opinions cancel each other out, leaving us a big fat zero in understanding. On the contrary: like the two flocks of starlings converging together from opposite directions — resulting in a thing of great beauty and great destructiveness — Tim B and TimBL have articulated the dichotomy behind the debate of what is a ‘resource’, and how is it identified within the Semantic Web (as introduced earlier this week). But that’s a dry summation — what they’ve really done is articulate the challenges of the Semantic Web:

To be a Semantic Web, it must be mechanical, and therefore precise, mathematical, and ultimately unambiguous. But to be a Semantic Web, it must also encapsulate meaning, context, and embrace ambiguity. Ignore the discontinuities, embrace the discontinuities.

What does this all mean? If a resource is defined to be anything, including something abstract then how can it have an identifier on the web, in the form of a URI? But if a resource within the context of the Semantic Web is defined to be something on the web, then how can it not have a URI? If we limit resources to things on the web, how can we identify things as disparate as a person, a galaxy, and an abstraction such as a metaphor in a poem? And how can one global set of URIs work for all items, at all granularities?

If a resource is a representation of something, and one that exists on the web, then software can be designed with an assumption that if you access the URI, something is returned. But can all ‘resources’ of interest within the Semantic Web be represented with something on the web, and identified by a URI? What about peace — can it be constrained within a representation? It’s hard enough identifying it in ‘real life’, how would it be represented on the web? How about you and I? Can we be represented on the web?

Questions! So many questions. And topmost in your mind might be: Why should I care?

Frankly, I’m not sure you should care about this debate and the Semantic Web — you cannot eat it, sleep with it, or use it to rear your young. However, you might care because what’s being discussed is the scope of what will be a part of the architecture of the Semantic Web. If the Internet and the Web, and all of its simple hyperlinkness has invaded your life to a degree now, how much more so will it if it becomes richer, more complex, and more meaningful?

I personally care about this debate because I want to make sure my metaphor, my syllogism, and my analogy are represented effectively or my own Turing Test for the Semantic Web will never come about. I don’t want these abstract concepts to be discarded because they can’t be mathematically defined.

“What we need to understand may only be expressible in a language that we do not know.”

Anthony Judge

That would be a pity.

In the title, I introduced FOAF, and you might be wondering where this simple RDF-based vocabulary fits into this grand debate. I could wish that the membership of the W3C wasn’t so averse to webloggers — our seeming arrogance and assumptions of our importance on the web, and our messiness — because the issues the TAG members are discussing are related to what’s happening with FOAF among the weblogging community. It is a microcosm of the Semantic Web, with its rich possibilities and its many ambiguities and misunderstandings.

To return to FOAF: FOAF represents both people and relationships, the former being concrete but difficult to physically put on the web, the latter being an abstract concept.

Me. The representation of “me” in this context is that which is described in a FOAF file. I am identified primarily by a hash of my email address — in this case, in this microcosm, I am known as:

cd2b130288f7c417b7321fb51d240d570c520720

You may call me “2b” of “Bb” for short.

In addition, my current FOAF file has a property defined within it — knows — and the object of this property is another person — Simon St. Laurent. In this file, I say, “I know Simon St. Laurent”, and to identify Simon within whatever FOAF system might exist, I use the hash of his email address:

65d7213063e1836b1581de81793bfcb9ad596974

I suppose you could call Simon “e183” for short.

Both Tims should be unhappy with my FOAF file, I would think, following from their arguments described earlier. For instance, there is a resource with a representation on the web — myself — but there is no URI for it; not only that we’re not completely sure what the resource is, but we’re not ignoring it, either.

Within a Semantic Web of moving parts and grinding bits, FOAF doesn’t fit.

Tim Bray took on an action item recently to draft language surrounding information resources as compared to resources. As he wrote in another TAG email:

Many existing Web servers and clients (for example web browsers) do not have any notion of what the Resource identified by a URI is. However, humans and Semantic Web software are strongly concerned with this issue. Some resources are perceived as falling into a class called “Information Resources”. That is to say, they are on-line units of electronic information or service. Examples would include a photograph, a news story, and a weather forecast for Oaxaca. Other resources named by URIs may exist entirely apart from the Web. Examples include an edition of some book identified by urn:isbn:0-395-36341-1, a person identified in an RDF assertion using http://example.com/foaf#Dan, and an XML namespace such as http://www.w3.org/1999/02/22-rdf-syntax-ns#. The
Web may be used to obtain representations of both kinds of resources.

What Tim is saying is that either a resource exists on the web, or a representation of the object exists on the web. If the URI has an associated protocol, such as the FOAF identifier given in Tim’s example, it’s representation is accessible on the web if it isn’t itself.

Or is it?

Not one FOAF file I have seen uses a URI to represent the person. They either don’t use anything, or they use what is known as a blank node identifier, which is only relevant to the file. However, the lack of a URI hasn’t impacted adversely in FOAF because each person identified within the context of FOAF is done so through two alternative keys: the mbox_sha1sum, which is the hashed representation of my email address; and/or the URL (URI) of my FOAF file — http://burningbird.net/foaf.rdf.

Neither key is officially a URI of my representation within the context of either the existing or the semantic web. We have simply worked around the debate and issue of how can one identify a representation of ourselves on the Net by not using an identifier. We could use an analogy of parents arguing about proper diet, while we hungry children raid the fridge and eat all the pie. We could, but there’s no URI for analogies, either, and therefore must not have a proper place in a proper discussion of the proper Semantic Web.

Then there’s the issue of what’s being identified — is the person the resource? Or is the FOAF information the resource, and I’m defined by many such? Additionally, FOAF files also denote other resources — or what we’re assuming are resources because they are, after all, defined within the Resource Description Framework — and they’re parameterized, if that’s the right word, by using the RDF property ‘knows’. However, we don’t have a good understanding of what it is we’re defining with ‘knows’. Is it denoting a relationship? Or is it nothing more than an acknowledgment that I literally know who Simon St. Laurent is? Is Simon a friend, because he’s in a FOAF file? If so then, what were to happen if I wasn’t in Simon’s FOAF file?

If I were to remove Simon from my FOAF file, am I disavowing the friendship? Or am I ‘pretending’ that I don’t ‘know’ Simon? With FOAF, we not only assert the truth, we assert a lie because I know Simon, and him not being in my FOAF file or not doesn’t change this. If I don’t list him, am I lying by omission? What does it mean to be in one of these files? What does it mean when you are not?

Will you ‘feel’ it, when you’re not?

The fact is that FOAF is being used as a representation of something, we’re making assertions about something but we’re not sure of what. Whatever it is, though, it’s loaded with connotations.

Within FOAF we’re representing information about ourselves, but it’s not us — too flat, too two-dimensional to be a representation of us. Additionally, we’re representing relationships with other people, but we’re each bringing our own interpretations of these relationships along for the ride. In other words, we’re making assertions of relationships and attaching social context to them.

In the RDF Concepts working draft, there was a section that discussed the social context of assertions. It is the one and only section of all the RDF documents that brings up the issue of social context about RDF statements. The only one. And of course, it is this section that the Semantic Web Architecture recommended be struck.

Why the cut? From the meeting minutes where the recommendation arose, it would seem to come back to our old debate of URI and context. There was too much confusion about what was meant by ‘identify’, by URI, by resource. As Dan Brickley said in IRC notes:

21:10:54 [bwmscribe]
authoritive definition of URI’s: i.e. who gets to say what a URI denotes
21:12:48 [danbri]
something like “RDF graphs have propositional content. Their meaning is fixed by a bunch of hairy stuff only partly understood and documented (eg. implicit theory of reference associated with URIs). Minor health warning. The End.”

But that doesn’t stop the confusion — ignoring the concept of ‘resource’, postponing the issue of identity, and ignoring social context because it’s too hard to define, won’t prevent problems when people act to fill the void that’s left. As Kendall Clark wrote:

This way of carrying on the social meaning debate was unlikely to lead to a satisfactory resolution, since it was possible to strike the problematic language without solving or addressing the substantive issues which animate the debate in the first place.

Consider FOAF files again: Marc Cantor and Eric Sigler are working on this thing that Marc is calling a “PeopleAggregator”. From bits and pieces I’ve picked up at their weblogs, in emails, and in comments elsewhere, this application will be able to create and consume and maintain FOAF files as well as networks of interlinked people who ‘know’ each other, as defined in these files. More, if someone within the network designates you a ‘friend’ in their FOAF file, the PeopleAggregator sends you an email asking for some form of confirmation.

(Again, this is based on casual discussion in comments and may be incorrect in whole or part.)

Rather than the network of friends being maintained behind walls ala Friendster, it’s out in the open with decentralized FOAF files that anyone can read. Now, what will become the social context of the relationships denoted as resources within these FOAF files? And what can be the social consequences of same?

Personally, I expect the first ‘Technorati of FOAF popularity” before the year is out. I wonder, what crown will we give to the man and woman voted most popular? Prom king and queen? I also wonder, how soon will we get emails saying, “Please remove me from your FOAF file — you don’t really know me” How soon will we get emails saying, “Why am I not in your FOAF file”?

If you doubt this, then look no further for proof than the plain, ordinary, unsemantic hypertext links that form our blogrolls. Remember public delinking, and how in the past this has been used as a measure of censorship, and as a form of punishment and control? I’ve been delinked, publicly and privately, from friend and foe, and believe me when I say there is more to this than a simple hypertext link, and the removal thereof.

Remember also the discussions of the power that these links provide within this communication medium because — as Clay Shirky has demonstrated with his power laws — those with a disproportionate share of weblogging links also have a disproportionate share of attention, and even respect?

Power and pain, reward and punishment, all encapsulated in a simple hypertext link, in a simple blogroll — what can happen within the socially explosive context of FOAF?

Both Tims might say that the FOAF example isn’t relevant — weblogging is its own problem and isn’t really representative of the web as a whole. After all, there are billions of pages on the web, and only about a half million webloggers, if that.

But webloggers are becoming the Semantic Web lab rats — through our curiosity and our interest, we’re the first to test these Semantic Web tools outside of labs and universities. We’re the ones that propagate the data and the technologies. When faced with confusion, we’ll wing it. We did so with RSS 1.0, we’re doing so with Pie/Echo/Atom and now we’re continuing the trend with FOAF.

FOAF is becoming the bastard child that grew from the seeds that fell between the cracks of W3C debates or were discarded with all the other messy ‘touchy-feely’ stuff, such as social context surrounding URIs. It’s the wolf child tempered in the pack, surviving on an existence of “keep what works, throw out the rest”. One can’t blame it, then, if it, and we, don’t behave properly when invited to the Semantic Web tea.

And the more I look at these photos the more I think some are upside down. I can’t really tell for sure, the slides aren’t properly marked — but the images are pretty and my representing them upside down on the web doesn’t stop the birds from flying.

 

Value Judgements

Just found another weblog where my comments were ‘altered’ due to weblogging comment policy.

I guess I just lost my sense of perspective — maybe I should have quit reading for the day after my last post. But I don’t understand how people can criticize me for editing my writing, and then turn around and edit my comments. Excuse me? But does anyone else see that this might be wrong?

I don’t edit out material that is critical of other folks, and I apologize when I’m off-base or too harsh. I have taken my hits for being critical of others. I’ve not run from a fight.

Do you know where most of my edits have come from lately? I have exposed something happening in my personal life that shouldn’t have been exposed because I don’t want to make my readers uncomfortable. And because there are certain things I’m just not sure about exposing online. Not yet.

But I also don’t want to make a production of the edit with strike-throughs and hugely bolded comments saying:

I’ve been edited. I’ve been edited. Neener neener, you don’t know what was edited. Too bad, jack. A dollar short and an hour too late because I’ve been edited!

People criticize my editing without proper annotation, but will strike through what I write on their weblogs, or bold it, or otherwise make a point of demeaning what I say in “their” space.

You want to control what I say in my space and you want to control what I say in your space. It’s all about control, isn’t it?

Well fuck it — I’m tired of the hypocrisy, the legions of blind fans, the complacency of the people who feel that they have a right to control what I say! And how I say it! Keep your goddamn morals and your oh so righteous ways of doing things the proper way to yourself — I would rather have an honest argument then bland conformity any day.

Any day.

You all don’t want to read me. Why don’t you go read someone who has both a comment policy — to prevent flames, you see — and a policy about editing — for accountability, you know. If you look hard enough, search through all of the blancmanges that’s left when all of the rules and restrictions have been applied, you might even find someone who might, just might know how to write, too.

But god help them if they don’t tell the truth. Oh, and they can’t bad mouth certain people. By the way, they should be using the right weblogging tool. Oh, and are they providing the appropriate feeds…

Edited for spelling corrections There. You happy?

Archive and comments at Wayback Machine

Editing Comments

Yesterday’s jury duty was very dull. I was almost called in once, but a settlement was reached at the last minute. However, when they sent us home last night, they said we didn’t have to be in today. This is lucky because I’ve been out of sorts the last few days, including a deep ache in my joints, even in my hands. Since I had the day off anyway because of the jury duty, I was able to stay home, trying the alternate heat pad, ice pack treatment. No computer work, either, except for reading the weblogs, which sometimes isn’t a great idea at the best of times.

I went against my better judgment and walked into another RSS discussion today. What can I say? I can no more ignore these conversations than Dorothea can walk away from a discussion about grad school.

Today’s RSS debate began with a discussion associated with Dave Winer’s new PSS ‘idea’, the creation of which is the best reason I’ve seen for moving RSS and other weblog interoperability technologies to standards control. Or to another country, whichever comes first.

As I said, I went against my better judgment and made a comment about PSS in Sam Ruby’s weblog. This discussion degenerated as these discussions always do, and yes, I contributed my part to the degeneration. I slammed, was slammed in return. This isn’t unusual and wasn’t necessarily a disappointment — what I expect with a conversation around RSS.

What was the biggest disappointment was when Sam Ruby edited my comments.
I can’t think of anything worse than to edit other’s comments. I can see deleting abusive comments in weblogs, or editing them on the request of the person who wrote them, or banning someone who’s abusive — but not editing comments without permission. I’d rather all the words be deleted.

Changing the font to create strikethroughs, changing the words or the order — these are unacceptable. By any standard. To do so is to manipulate my words to work against me, and there is no honor in this. None.

I won’t comment at Sam’s weblog. I won’t read Sam’s weblog. And I’m very disappointed at both Sam and others who accept such blatant censorship without batting an eye.

Shame.

edited comment

Archive including comments found at Wayback Machine

A vacation of sorts

Work continues apace on the first Weblogger Co-op server. We’re starting with a goodly mix of people in the test phase and I’ll post the weblogs who have moved with me to the new server when we’re up and running. I can tell you that we will be hosted on a dedicated server being managed by Rack Force, a Canadian ISP who has been extremely helpful in assisting me to configure a system that should work nicely for us. We should be fully moved and up and running by month end.

But that’s not the focus of this writing, which will be a rambling sort of posting, and I beg your indulgence and patience as it winds about like the River I walked by yesterday. Speaking of which, In my last posting, Euan wrote in a comment, I just love reading about your walks and seeing your photos, Shelley. I’m glad he said this because it forms a nice segue into this writing. Well, if you stretch it a bit. Maybe all I wanted was an excuse to note a nice comment.

Weblogging is, unfortunately, clannish, and taking on the clans is just not something I’m into right now. I was talking to a friend on the phone recently and he asked me if Anil Dash had ever responded to my Weblog Standards essay last week since I wrote it in response to a question he asked. I answered no, and said I didn’t expect Anil to post a comment on the response because the only reason he asked the original question is that I injected a note of what could be considered criticism of people in his clan, Six Apart, in the posting. (He did talk about Six Apart’s web standards compliance in an interview recently.) That’s okay, though, because I’m part of a clan of my own. Except my clan is this sorta hybrid poet, philosophy, technology, political, photography, social, humorous, artistic, academic, esoteric, and writing kind of clan — which can get a little weird at times, I can tell you.

(Come to think of it, my clan looks a lot like Anil’s. Fancy — we have something in common. Do you know that sometimes the greatest insult you can give another is to say to them, “We’re a lot alike, you and I.”)

Anyway, back to the subject. This last week with the intense disagreement with Sam Ruby about comment editing and the usual go-arounds about RSS made me realize that I’m immersing myself in discussions in which nothing positive is accomplished, and all I’m doing is letting other people control my space and my thoughts. No fault to them — this was my own doing.

I found that Sam’s comment annotation is the chastisement that keeps on giving, long after the original act, reminding me for all perpetuity that I did a Bad Thing, so I don’t look anymore. Beat, beat, beat at me with tiny fists of conformity, warnings of if one can’t say positive things, not to say anything at all; and kind words of helpful advice in how I would be so much better if I would just not be so quick-tempered and impulsive. But it’s the impulsive part of me that sends me out on the trails and helps me rediscover what a beautiful world I live in, anew, each time. My center of impulse is too close to my ability to act silly, like, love, rejoice, dance about, and believe to excise cleanly.

I was also reminded this week that life’s too short and I’m not getting any younger to spin my wheels on someone else’s track.

Unlike others in the neighborhood who are taking a break from weblogging, I’m taking a vacation, instead. I have one more weblog essay for the Corante Many-to-Many weblog, later today, and after that, I’m going to be ready for that vacation.

A beautiful vacation, indeed, though it might be boring for some of you who like to come to the Bird because you like to see me burn. But I’m sitting at my window and it’s a wonderful day, with blue skies, and a good breeze and birds singing. I’m watching a puffy white cloud roll past — which I realize sounds tritely sentimental and more than a bit sappy, “I saw a white cloud float past” — and I just don’t want to burn. I’m taking a vacation from the burn, the windmill tilting, and the business as usual.

I’m not going to discontinue my writing to the weblog, but I am focusing it on specific external experiences rather than internal weblogging matters. So, for a time, you’ll see less writing, perhaps a lot less writing; and the writing you will see will be of the nature in my last post — my experiences along the Katy Trail this summer, or other explorations, accompanied by bits and pieces of what are in my mind and hopefully a few edible photographs. Gentle, quiet writing.

Postcards.

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