Weblogging Community

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Dave responded to my earlier post with a thoughtful and considerate posting that asked a very valid question:

So anyway, here’s a question for Shelley. When I see your site update on Weblogs.Com, I usually go for a visit to see what the bird is burning about now. I think of that as a community feature. Do you think it’s valuable? If not, why do you participate?

First, thanks for stopping by Dave, always appreciated. And as a point of clarification — I dropped that silly rule about comments I had about five minutes after I originated it, so please feel free to drop in with comments.

Back to the question: Why do I participate in pinging, when my interest tends to be on the people aspect of weblogging rather than the technology?

Though my focus is on the participants, I also appreciate much of the technology used in weblogging, particularly the weblogging tools such as Movable Type, Radio, and Blogger. And I also appreciate community services such as that let me know when my favorite webloggers have updated.

To me, technology provides a framework that allows me to communicate with my weblogging community easily and without a lot of hassle. I’ll alway be grateful for the folks who create all this technology that makes my weblogging life a lot easier. Still, technology is only an enabler — the content of the weblogs is the key aspect to “community” in my opinion.

If technology could be considered equivalent to the nerves in the brain, it is the people that provide the chemistry that enables the synaptic (community) connections to be made. Without the chemistry provided by the webloggers, the technology is nothing more than bits and bytes and wires all jumbled about in a chaotic and undifferentiated mess, thrown into the ether.

Consider my own community of webloggers — the virtual neighborhood that I reference fondly and at length. Technology will tell me that Bill Simoni’s weblog can be accessed at the URL, And technology can let me know when Bill has updated his weblog, through

Bill uses technology to create his weblog (using Radio), which is accessed through additional technology (the Internet). And I read the weblog through my browser (Mozilla by preference), contained on my laptop — yet more examples of technology.

However, technology doesn’t tell me that Bill is expecting a baby any day now. And technology doesn’t tell me that Bill has a nice, self-deprecating sense of humor, is pretty excited about the baby, and has a a thing about grammar and spellchecking 😉

That’s community.

If Userland and Movable Type and Blogger were to discontinue innovating their products as of this minute, we would perhaps have less fun toys to work with. We’d miss out on better products, and more reliable hosting, and more interesting ways to post, and better ways to aggregate the postings, and more efficient approaches regarding notification…

…but we’d still have our community.

You’d have to take the Internet down to take down our community, and due to the pervasive nature of the Net, I don’t think this is even possible, now.

Ultimately, the community is not dependent on the technology as much as the technology is, itself, dependent on the community. Because without the community, why would we need the technology in the first place?

And the topic is continued here.


Overlapping images

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I’ve had entries in my comments in addition to email that the images are overlapping the text when my new weblog is viewed in Netscape 4.7.

This is not an unknown problem with Netscape 4.7 and usually has to do with wrapping the IMG tag in paragraph tags. This is also further complicated by the use of the CSS attribute LINE-HEIGHT.

I’ve experimented around with one of the postings — removing the line-height attribute from the surrounding DIV block, removing automatically generated line breaks so that I can use my own formatting and so on, but from what I can see in Netscape 4.7 on my Linux box, the images are still overlapping the text.

I have the following options at this time:

  1. I can go back to Blogger and forget all about Movable Type because this problem didn’t occur with Blogger.
  2. I can change the formatting on this new blog to emulate what I had in Blogger, completely.
  3. I can stop using images.
  4. I can leave things as they are, continue to look for a solution, and hope that all the Netscape 4.7 people will:
    1. Understand these things happen when you use an old browser and
    2. Consider upgrading or
    3. Realize that they’re going to have these problems and adopt a philosophical approach to the whole thing.

At this time, I’m following the last option.

For more on Overlap Problem:

Fear of Style Sheets 2

Technology Weblogging

Weblogging Centralization/Decentralization summary

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Earlier in the week I made a statement about Radio being centralized that caused some interest and reaction from the Userland folks and others. A lot of back and forth and intense discussion in the comments associated with the postings here and here and continued at Backup Brain (here and here) as well as at Doc Searls and, of course, Userland — both John Robb and Dave.

A lot of cross-posting and cross-discussion. Some confusion. More discussion.

Other than pointing out the links I don’t want to go back and rehash the old stuff. As a point of clarification I did want to say that Radio doesn’t have a dependency on Userland’s or any other RCS (Radio Cloud Server) if you choose the FTP option to upload your files, and don’t use the Radio comments or upstreaming. That’s not to say that there isn’t connectivity between the Radio application and the server, Userland’s by default. There is a handshake that occurs when your Radio application starts, and when you shut it down, and there is no way to disable this as far as I have been able to find out by going through all the associated script. If there is a way, Userland will have to point this out.

Dave also wrote his views of the more popular weblogging tools and how they compare from a centralization point of view. And this essay is something I do want to talk about. However, I’m going to try and talk about it in such a way that I question the views not the person. I guess my comments will tell me if I’m successful in this or not.

In his essay, Dave writes that Blogger is centralized for editing and decentralized for reading. I agree with this assessment. If you host your Blogger weblog on Blogspot, then the tool is centralized for editing and reading; but you don’t have to host your weblog on this server, you can easily use your own.

I had a Manila site from Userland before I switched to Blogger and, again, I agree with Dave’s assessment that Manila is centralized from both an editing and reading perspective.

Where I disagree with Dave’s conclusion is his interpretation of Movable Type being “centralized” because the tool and the posted content rest on your own server.

If Blogger’s posts are decentralized because they can reside on your server, then the same logic must, must apply to Movable Type. And if Movable Type’s posts are decentralized then the tool, which resides in the same location, must also be decentralized.

Finally, I agree with Dave’s assessment of Radio in that the posts can be decentralized (hosted on your own server), and the tool itself for the most part is decentralized but there are some aspects of the tool that aren’t autonomous (I grabbed that from Doc, it is a better fitting word). It does communicate with the RCS — Userland by default, though this can be replaced by your own RCS if you wish to host it.

One other aspect of Dave’s Essay that I thought was interesting and perhaps explains where we have such different viewpoints is this concept of community services. In my own opinion, a weblogging tool is just that — a tool to create a weblog. Associated with this is the ability to archive postings, add other content, and faciliate comments.

To me, community enters the picture through the people rather than the technology. People link to a weblog posting, or add comments or both. Eventually, you can get a chained sequence of communication going, as was demonstrated with the postings earlier this week related to this topic.

I think, though, that Dave sees a more important role for technology in this process, through community servers providing services such as chat, technologies such as news aggregator, OPML outlines and so on.

Neither of our viewpoints are wrong — they’re just different. But they do color our perspective on other aspects of “weblogging”. However, this can add interest to the whole discussion.

After all, if we all thought alike, then we wouldn’t need weblogging, now, would we?

Update 5/5/02 Thread continued here.