Events of note History

The 1989 Hare and Hound Race

The program for the race yesterday featured a story about the 1989 balloon race, the only one where the balloons actually took off and landed in the same place (lack of wind). The story was so funny that I re-printed it here…with a photo. Of course.

A small issue with balloon “races”–of the Hare and Hound variety, such as the Great Forest Park Balloon Race–is that spectators rarely get to see both the beginning and end of the event. The balloons tend to fly away.

That wasn’t the case in the 1989 race. In fact, the balloons never left the park–they just flew from the Balloon Field to the eastern edge of Forest Park, near Kingshighway. Winds were extremely light. Hare pilot, Ted Staley, rightly judged that the balloons would never clear the city, or even make it to the Arch grounds, it was so calm.

The Hare landed across a lake. The hounds gently floated to the target. Some, literally. The ingenious pilots tried it all: Steve Lohr used the Slighshot Approach, with his crew swinging the basket of his flying seven-story balloon across the water to the ‘X’. Gene Grace tried the Cleopatra Crossing. His crew swam the lake, haulted the tethered balloon lines across, then pulled the basket to the target.

The race was contested greatly. Some heated exchanges were recorded. Then all were reminded that the trophy was a broken toaster, and protests weren’t allowed anyway because there is no protest procedure for the Great Forest Park Balloon Race (as noted by Ballooonmeister Henry Fett at the pilot’s meeting every year).

The result: Grace was awarded the win because of the damp effort of his crew. One balloon ripped through the trees, hit near the ‘X’ and was cited for second place and dim judgement.

I think you can see now why I enjoyed this race so much.


This is wrong on so many levels

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

As Matt Mullenweg said recently in comments about another post, this is wrong on so many levels.

Both Biz Stone and Robert Scoble have a ‘How to Win the Blogging Game’ entries, except their posts are titled, Promoting your Blog and How will your blog get discovered. There is much in what both write that I can agree with; but there is an underlying implication with both writings that the act of having our participation discovered is more important than the act of participating, itself.

Wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong.

I do agree that webloggers can help themselves be discovered by pinging the recently updated services such as Pingomatic or or Technorati. Unless you’re writing for a closed audience, and aren’t interested in new readers, you’re going to want to ping when you post. Same can be said for making your site search engine friendly, though many of us are taking a closer look at the viability of this.

I also agree that comments are a wonderful calling card for other webloggers. I think that almost all of the people I read now I met at one time or another through links in other weblogs or through comments: in my weblog or other weblogs. I still think this, and links to specific posts, are great ways of connecting with new people.

I also see the benefit of putting your weblog on your business cards or email signature, or attaching it as part of your profile – if you want the extra visits (not everyone does). And of course, providing interesting material is always helpful if you want readers.

But Scoble talks about linking to other weblogs just to get them to notice you, and that reminds me of the kids we all knew back when we were young who would bring candy in so that the other classmates would be friends with them. And I also think this is much of a reason why many of the top webloggers are in the A-lists – because they have buzz and people want in on that buzz, not necessarily because anyone is that interested in what the person is saying.

He follows this with a suggestion to ‘hang out with’ the bloggers you want to connect with, such as Glenn Reynolds, or the gang that ended up at FooCamp. Leave aside that geographically, webloggers live in cities other than Boston, San Francisco, LA, Seattle, New York, London, and Tennessee, all this will do is give even more ego gratification to those in the upper echelons of weblogging. Bluntly, he’s advocating groupie behavior.

Wanting to meet people who you’ve come to know over time on weblogs is not only natural and healthy, it can be an exciting prospect–think about meeting people for the first time when you’ve read their writing for years.. And wanting to spend time with someone you admire or are interested in is a great way to grow personally and intellectually; isn’t this the main reason why we weblog? But wanting to ‘hang out’ with someone specifically to get your weblog noticed? Sad stuff. Very sad stuff.

I am more ambivalent about Scoble’s suggestion to do things for people and they’ll remember you. I happen to think it can be very satisfying doing things for others, but to do so primarily because you want to get more buzz for yourself or your weblog–well, all I can say is there is a fine line between whoring and marketing. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with marketing your site, your abilities, or something you believe in; I don’t do it enough, myself. But marketing should be peripheral when you’re ‘doing things for others’.

I remember conferences and going to this bash or that put on by a company. This was expected and accepted as such – none of us believed that the invitations and gifts were personal. But to do something, personally, for others, personally, purely for marketing purposes can lead to mixed messages and confusion about the reasons you’re doing what you’re doing. There’s few things I can stand less than a person who is acclaimed a ‘hero’ for helping others, when the only reason they did their ‘good deed’ is to add to their own status.

Someone bringing martinis for a group of people in a biz-tech environment can be seen as indulging in friendly marketing without any confusion about motives. But taking a weblogger out to lunch just to chat, or exchanging books or gifts, or even dating a person–that’s personal. If you do this just because you’re trying to get hits and buzz, that’s cheap. And pretty sleazy too.

As for pitching your site or a post to others–that’s a tough call. Sometimes we want something we believe in to have a wider audience than we have ourselves, and I can’t help thinking this can be a good thing. But pitching something just to get links: see above.

Biz Stone had some of the same suggestions as Scoble, but he also gets into type of weblog posts and following memes.

Like Scoble’s suggestion on doing things for others, I am ambivalent about Stone’s suggestion to follow the memes that circulate throughout weblogging. On the one hand, they can be a lot of fun and a great way to connect with others. He mentioned the Friday Five, but I’ll also add the Carnival of the Cats, which has been nothing but fun when I’ve participated with it recently. The Ecotone projects that people participate in also seems to provide a very positive kernel to some very interesting writing, as well as a way of finding great new folks to read.

But in each of these cases, the people participating are doing so based less on hits and more on interest. The interest is in the topic of the meme, not the fact that it is a meme. I think that someone participating just to get noticed is going to come across phony – as if they’ve studied weblogging as a genre and are now applying the ‘Ten rules to become an A-Lister in 6 months or less’.

As for style of weblog writing, Stone wrote:

Keep your posts and paragraphs short. Note the brevity of the aforementioned Kottke post. People will come back daily to read your fresh new work but spare them the one thousand word diatribes. Strive for succinct posts that pump pertinent new information into the blogosphere and move on. Keep it short and sweet so visitors can pop in, read up, and click on. Think of you[r] blog as a cumulative effect. This doesn’t mean you should never practice some long form writing now and then, it’s just something to keep in mind.

This is wrong on oh so many levels. (I love this phrase, and I’m not even sucking up to Matt. Honest.)

You, who ever you are, do what you want; but if you’re only here to be the next Kottke, or Scoble, or Stone, quit now. You’ll never get to their position aping their behavior or their rules; you’ll just end up miserable because you’re not writing the way you want, and for the joy of the act. Fuck me, too many sheep in this environment. How can your ‘ba-ah-ahh’ be heard when you’re surrounding by people bleating the same thing?

Someone let in the wolves – it’s feeding time.

Of course, you have to take what I write with a grain of salt. Domestic, refined, mined salt. I’m not as popular as Robert Scoble or Biz Stone, so one can assume that their suggestions work, while my ‘long form diatribe’ won’t do you a bit of good if all you want is to be known.

Or as a friend (someone who I actually like and respect as a person, regardless of how many hits he could send me) says: do what you want, anyway, because we’re all just making this stuff up.

Use of surnames does not imply lack of friendly feeling towards those who have been referenced in this weblog entry. Just a quirkly thing I feel like doing today.


More on Firefox

Another new, or I should say heavily modified, feature I accidentally discovered with the RC 1.0 version of Firefox (I don’t think it was in the .9x releases) is the “Find in this Page” text search capability. Previously, the search function was a window that would open, you’d type in the phrase, and it would scroll to item.

Now when you click the link for “Find in this Page”, a bar opens at the bottom of the browser. As you type in the word you want to find, Firefox immediately scrolls to the first word that matches the letters as they are being typed. And it works very, very fast, too.

You can also highlight the words if you want to see all occurrances in the page. And leave the Find bar up for use in all your pages, if you’re doing some heavy researching on a term.

Firefox beats out any other browser I’ve used, on either my Mac or my Windows laptops. Unfortunately, I still have to use IE for printing on my Windows 2000 laptop because Firefox does not work well with my printer. In fact, I have to re-boot the machine to kill the runaway process triggered by Firefox if I forget and do a print. But the HP drivers I have for this printer are badly behaved anyway (I must see if there are updates that fix the problem) so I’m not blaming the browser.