Photography Weblogging


Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I’m going to be exploring moving my sites to a multiple weblog tool. I’m currently looking at Lyceum, which is a multi-weblog fork of WordPress.

In the meantime, to lighten the atmosphere here and allow the smoke from the gunpowder to settle, as well as give the cleanup crew time to remove the dead bobbies–oops–bodies, photos from tonight’s Botanical Garden twilight visit. These photos were earned, I’ll have you know, at a great cost: at least a pint of blood to the mosquitoes. I. Itch.

Dragonfly on Day Lily

Chihuly globe and lights

Weed and Chihuly glass

Chihuly and lily and water reflection

Technology Weblogging

WordPress and DoS attack

It would seem that there’s a new WordPress installation with security updates. My site was what was causing the DoS attacks that’s been bringing down the server because I don’t have this upgrade.

The only problem is, I have several sites running WordPress now.

The fact that WordPress does not provide multi-weblog capability, and there is no clean upgrade feature, or even a list of what files are changed is making me rethink using this software. Especially when the developers refuse to upgrade the code to create a valid Atom feed.

PS Before someone else mentions it, yes I know it’s free. And I appreciate it. And I like the software. I just have several sites with it installed, and an upgrade is no longer trivial for me. Makes me cranky, especially when I come to find out it’s my site that’s causing havoc for others.

And I really wish the default Atom feed was valid.


Takes one to know one

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Nick Carr wrote a post that has resonated strongly with several people.

He writes of the A Listers who say, “link to me to be linked in turn”, and thus perpetuate their own dynasty. He calls it an innocent fraud from John Kenneth Galbraith’s book The Economics of Innocent Fraud. It is, Carr says, about a lie, but a lie more white than black. A lie that makes people happy. The A Listers who write that anyone can become like them if they just link and write well, are perpetuating this new innocent fraud:

The powerful have a greater stake in the perpetuation of an innocent fraud than do the powerless. Long after the powerless have suspended their suspension of disbelief, the powerful will continue to hold tightly to the fraud, repeating it endlessly amongst themselves in an echo chamber that provides a false ring of truth.

I like what Nick writes, and I can agree with him in most cases. If I have any concern at all about Carr is that I’m afraid he will become somewhat the ‘poster child’ of contrarians. He is, after all, a Harvard educated white male, quite WASPy in fact, who drops literary references rather frequently, and thus could be more acceptable and given more credence as a challenger of the status quo than others who have been, and continue to be, just as vocal. (Both Dave Rogers and Seth Finkelstein are two that come most readily to mind, though there are others who will, I hope, forgive me for not calling them out).

In regards to Carr’s current, post, I think once upon a time there was some truth to this ‘lie’ but that was before much of the attention in weblogging was co-opted by professionals who scented both money and power in weblogging, and moved in using well honed marketing tactics we mortals cannot possibly hope to match.

People like Michael ‘Core Values’ Arrington, who talks from experience of being a weblogger one whole year, and in that time quickly bobbing to the top of the food chain like a bad lure spit out by a fish. He starts his post with his now trademarked approach of writing a flammatory title, which leads to certain types of responses that he can deplore being the noble kind of guy he is. He then continues with:

None of this is accurate. The “biggest” blogs have changed dramatically over the last year since I started writing. Guys that commanded large audiences have fallen, new people have risen. Sure, there are massive politics and games involved, and a lot of mud gets thrown about. But at the end of the day those people with interesting things to say tend to get listened to. Those that don’t…dont.

Actually, it doesn’t work that way, Michael. You rose to the top because you fed the egos of many of the people who you eventually supplanted. You also focused purely on the game in Silicon Valley, and since marketing is now the new pink (hey Tara!), you received a great deal of attention for same. After all, attention in weblogging is now part of the new funding cycle for startups in SillyValley.

In other words, you focused on that, which is measured. You cover all the new startups, most of which any thinking person knows have no chance of survival. You give them the attention they need to hopefully generate enough cash to make enough of a splash so they’ll be bought out. In return, I believe you when you say you don’t accept money or gifts. People wonder at this, but they forget what is the coin of this realm: attention.

You cultivate these desperate companies and their many bloggers. From this pool of willing subjects, you gather both attention and information. You throw parties for a thousand and get sponsors–sponsors, good lord–thus creating an even wider pool of the hopeful, as well as the frantic and the fearful. And woe to the company that doesn’t come to you with a story first, so that you have the inside track.

Its a tried and true tactic used by others outside of tech. Michelle Malkin used this approach. I watched her go from new blogger to the top of the pile, as she coldly and methodically used attention as both draw and weapon. I believe she actually received help in developing these techniques by a think tank, of all things. Fascinating to watch. But I digress.

Arrington also writes:

It’s not so much about how one blog can rise through the ranks and get popular. What I love about blogging is the fact that an ecosystem exists, where conversations spring up about anything at all, involving all who wish to participate (through blogs, comments and trackbacks), evolve and move on to other things. Geography, time zones, and cultural differences are mostly irrelevant. It’s about the purity of ideas and the two-way web, where we get to say what we think when we disagree. And trust me, I see disagreement on a constant basis in the trackbacks and comments on my blog. But I’m just happy I’m part of the conversation. Is the system perfect? Nope. But its the coolest thing I’ve ever encountered, and my non-sleeping life is now dedicated to being a part of it.

Now this is where Carr’s writing must stand out as a beacon on a rock to ships at sea. This is the innocent fraud. To be part of the discussion, all you need do is invite yourself in. The reality is, it doesn’t matter what you write on your weblog, or how many times you trackback if you’re not allowed into the converstion. Yes, allowed into the conversation. A few years back, attention threaded. Now, attention swarms.

Debate occurs too frequently now based on rank and familiarity and similarity rather than being open and cross-blog as Arrington seems to imply. It has all but disappeared in the community interested in weblogging and even Web 2.0 technologies.

It’s not necessarily a matter of not being linked or acknowledged, though there is that. It’s when the ‘outsider’, the critic, is responded to, it’s in the most personal sense. Rather than being critical of what’s written the response is usually critical of the person in addition to, or in place of, being critical of the writing.

I’ve seen this approach used with women involved in debate, where every time a woman makes a point, someone refers to her as being as ‘hysterical’ or ’shrill’, effectively underminding the person rather than the words. As such, perhaps I’m more attuned than the men, but reference to the critic being ‘bitter’ is becoming all too common in these debates; even when the writing is rather intellectually aloof, as much of Nick Carr’s writing is. Remarks such as this even become a self-fulfilling prophecy: you tell a person they’re bitter enough, and by god, they will become bitter.

Even Carr, the Champion, zeros in on the emotional context of what other critics are saying in his post, though more as proof than as deprecation.

Now listen to Arrington’s response:

If you find that you are blogging just to get influence and attention, you should stop because you are going to be dissapointed. No one wants to hear about your woeful stories of bitterness, despair and rejection (except Nick of course). If you are writing because you are absolutely passionate about whatever you are writing about, and you can’t stop yourself from writing, keep doing it. You’ll be happy, even if no one is reading. (emph. mine)

Cry babies. Whiners. Jealous. Envious. Bitter. Rejected. Spoil sports. Stop crying about it and post something interesting. … really, stop me when I reach the end.

Then there’s this: If you are writing because you are absolutely passionate about whatever you are writing about, and you can’t stop yourself from writing, keep doing it. Sounds good. Sounds noble. I have to wonder, though, where Mr. Arrington would be now if he weren’t at the top of the heap. Since most of his sites are now written by others, I wonder what his passion really is? What is your passion, Mr. Arrington, other than copying other successful sites?

As for concept that being passionate about what you do being enough to sustain you, and how one shouldn’t need to have attention, shouldn’t need to be included in the discussion–what an effective way to shut down people critical of the environment. If being called bitter isn’t enough to muffle and filter, then appeal to nobility of purpose. This wouldn’t irk me so much if it weren’t for the fact that too many at the top who make such arrogant statements do so with a smug self-serving assertion that only the best floats to the top, the best being, we assume, themselves.

Now, this is a lie, but it is not an innocent fraud. There is nothing innocent about this fraud.

Rob Hyndman writes about Carr’s post, and Carr’s Jay Rosen example (Rosen being the weblogger who suggested to link to be linked):

…I would have riffed off of Rosen’s other point: “at least when they have some substance.” The A-listers are A-listers for two reasons – history of course, but also quality (and for some, the former carries more weight than the latter). And a significant reason that non A-listers don’t give that link back is because it’s just not worth giving – the writing simply does not merit the mention. Much of what is written, after all, deserves obscurity. The barriers are now gone, but our appetite for reading writing of quality remains. Absent editing, how to filter what is worth one’s attention? I don’t see why blog writing should be any different from any other creative activity – quality matters, is noticed, and distinguishes those who offer it from those who don’t. Few have it; many don’t and toil away in obscurity (been to Nashville lately?) until their will fails, others don’t but don’t particularly care and continue whether anyone notices or not. Expecting A-listers to give mentions to much of what is written in the ’sphere today is simply unrealistic.

Excellence is not the name of the game in weblogging. That is the not-so-innocent fraud. The name of the game is attracting attention, and writing skill and interest and passion all matter less than marketing skill when it comes to attracting attention.

Not just marketing, or only marketing: similarity also attracts attention. We’re more likely to respect the work of those more like us than not. The old chestnut about how people are judged on the quality of their work rather than their race, culture, or gender is based on an assumption that one can separate one’s own gender and race and culture out of making a judgment of what is good. Hogwash.

Going with the flow also attracts attention. Those who are critical are less likely to get attention than those who are complimentary; especially if the criticism is of the platform from which you rise above the ‘less talented’ hoi polloi.

Going against the flow can also attract attention, but it helps to be part of that which you’re criticizing. No one likes an outsider, pointing fingers, grinning like a mad man at the monkeys behind the glass.

A scent of money attracts attention. The gadget weblogs appeal to our consumerism and they attract attention. Extremely polarized views attract attention–especially those who villify the ‘opposition’. Rubbing up against, and attaching to, like a suckerfish, those with attention attracts attention. Even sex–a certain Washington DC weblogger comes to mind, because sex attracts.

None of this has to do with quality of offering, and to make an implication that this is so, will cause people to burn out and quit, to our loss. I think of Dave and Seth and how discouraged they sound at times and realize how much I would miss their weblogs if they quit.

No matter how much you love to write and are passionate about it, or the topics or the causes you write about, if you’re continually fed the lie that quality and popularity/rank are synonymous, even the most dedicated will wonder over time, Is it worth it? Most people are fragile when it comes to such an intimate act as writing, and if we can survive not getting positive feedback, it’s a rare person who can survive such implicit negative feedback.

Dear, no one is commenting, because your work sucks, we’re assured solemnly by those in the know. Bilgewater.

Making an assumption that those who are not at the top of the heap are somehow less than quality is to misunderstand weblogging. Getting attention has nothing to do with quality and everything to do with this environment.

Even Nick Carr’s very rise in popularity is, in some ways, proof of this. He is a good writer, true, but he’s also so very palatable.


Then there’s Hugh MacLeod’s succinct summation of weblogging in comments to Carr’s post:

There are basically two rules of blogging:

1. Nobody is going to read your blog unless there’s something in it for them.

2. Nobody is going to link to your blog unless there’s something in it for them.

I can actually agree with Hugh: I read many weblogs for the joy they give me. Linking is nothing more than a natural extension of that joy. Where I’m failing, and denying myself pleasure, is not linking to them enough.

Second Update:

Interesting exchange between Don Park and Michael Arrington in comments to Arrington’s post.

Don wrote:

I have to agree with others on the unnecessary harshness of the post title. Nick’s post reflects feelings of millions. 90% of Kids in Korea has a ‘hompy’, usually at Cyworld, and most of them have gone through or is going through the feeling Nick’s post evokes.

Arrington responds:

Don, you HAVE to realize that Nick knows this and is leveraging those feeling for links, right? He’s not helping these people, he’s using them. You must know that this is his thing – he has no core values, he’ll do anything for attention.


Our own battles

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

A long time ago, I wrote a post called Tyranny of the Standards for O’Reilly. I was basically ripped a new one by about 40 or 50 of some of the web’s more influential people. They did so because they didn’t agree with me. I’d like to think they also did so because whether they agreed with me or not, they knew I meant what I said. I still do — I happen to think I was right on that one.

One of the people who lit into me was a guy who called himself The Head Lemur. “What an asshole”, I thought at the time.

It was about that time I started really getting into weblogging. It was later, in 2002 that I ran into Mr. Lemur again. This time, he wrote a piece called, Shelley Powers wants to be Center of the Universe. If you search on my name, this is still one of the first items that appears in the result. “What an asshole”, I thought at the time. So did Jeneane Sessum, who wrote:

Anyone following the ebb and flow of Blog Sisters knows that Shelley and I don’t always see eye to eye. She’s taken me to task more than once over my theories of unopposed estrogen (heh). And I don’t always agree with her. But I do respect her and value her among the highest-caliber voices in blogaria today.

AKMA also responded. He disagreed with what I wrote and agreed with much of what Head Lemur said, but not with how he said it. It was actually a pretty strong topic at that time. I finally found the original post because I used a different permalink structure then, and I’ve since turned off the thousand or so redirects.

Head Lemur, Alan, also wrote some pretty strong statements in comments. Eventually one day I said enough, and Alan said, “OK”. Since then, we’ve been friends. It was as simple as that.

Now, how do you think two people who exchanged such acrimonious discussions could possibly end up friends? Because no matter what we said to each other, we did so accepting responsibility for our own writings and our actions. We respected each other. If Jeneane defended me, it was also after several disagreements. How can this be? Because we accepted responsibility for our own writings and actions, and from this, we respected each other.

I can name you a host of webloggers who I have gotten into strong disagreement with on one post, and then turned around and either agreed with, or even defended, in a second post. Why? Respect.

I bring this up, because Alan is at it again, except this time, the object of his ire is Maryam Scoble and her participation in the BlogHer critic discussion. He wrote a post titled Maryam Scoble, English Major, Conference Organizer, Blithering Idiot. Yup, yup, yup, the post pretty much lived up to that title, too.

Now Maryam could have handled this in one of two ways: she could have acknowledged the post, and gave as good as she got, writing some variation of, “F**k you, monkey brains”. She could have also just ignored it–a perfectly good option. She picked neither. What she did was invoke her husband, Robert Scoble, dismissing Alan’s post as a way of getting links from Robert.

Ahhhhh, I wish my husband would spend more time listening to what I say as Head Lemur has been doing at Raving Lunacy. He still doesn’t get my point but I am flattered that he spends a lot of time and space trying to analyze what I say. From what I gather, critical thinking according to him means ad hominem, inviting people to a conference is elitist behavior but telling them to shut up because they have not written a book or have high ranking in Google is in spirit of healthy debate. All I had said and still maintain is that you might be able to be a better judge of a conference if you actually bothered attending it. It sounded pretty simple and straight forward to me but I guess that makes me a blithering idiot. Frankly, I didn’t know where all the venom was coming from, until I read my husband’s post this morning about hacking A-listers. I guess this is Mr. Lemur’s way of getting Robert to link to him? Sorry to disappoint that you wasted your time, but Robert will only link to you if you pick on him not me.

I tried to be cordial with Maryam in my comments, even with her condescending references to people doing ‘real work’. Others tried to be cordial or encourage debate, though they were dismissed out of hand. Everyone bent over backwards to try and engage Maryam. She should have left well enough alone, because her writing today was the lamest response I have ever seen in a weblog post.

If you can’t fight your own battles, Maryam, quit. Don’t fish about for a reaction, be rude to one and all, and then run home to Bobby when the heat is turned up. You will lose respect for this.

I can guarantee it.

I have had my fill, and beyond of Scobles this week. Scobles and newbie A listers with their pontifications of ‘core values’ and being ‘nice’ while they passively aggressively slam each other and those who get in their way. You’re here to rip off this environment; end of story. Smarmy, useless assholes, the lot of you.

Time for some pictures, and to clear this crap from my mind.


Fire the W3C

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I have to disagree with Dare on his recent post about the troubles at the W3C.

I had to work, quite extensively at times, with the W3C working group related to RDF when I was writing Practical RDF. There were times when I thought I had walked into a lab and was chief rat. In particular, I was concerned about the R & D aspect of the work: where were the ‘practical’ people?

It was only later, as I saw RDF hold up under the challenges that I realized that the model has to be mathematically vetted before practical use could be made of it. For better or worse, the only people willing to take on this kind of effort, and having the background, are the R & D, academic types of folks. They’re not easy to live with at times, but they have more background for this work then the average person.

I know that the W3C has had problems. I do think it needs to connect more with the user base. I agree with Molly that it desperately needs to be diversified. But what are the alternatives?

Dare mentions relying on defacto standards. Would that be like HTML? We’re only now starting to pull ourselves out of the nightmare of inconsistent HTML markup and elements such as BLINK, or worse, FONT.

Dependending on proprietary standards such as RSS? But certain aspects of this syndication feed are imprecise, and this imprecision leads to confusion. All you need do is link two enclosures to see this for a fact, and this is only one of the more obvious. Look also at the fact that RSS has political overtones to it that will always cloud it use. Heck, the one organization ‘picked’ to help document it, was fired by the person who picked them! Excuse me, but exactly how are the W3C efforts worse?

As for the microformats community, are we forgetting nofollow? Well if not that, then ask ourselves something: what purpose does hAtom solve? Considering that the generation of the page is most likely from a data set and is dynamic, then how is hAtom any better than just generating Atom from the same data?

Lately I’ve been really looking at microformats and I can understand the utility of some–such as calendar and reviews–focusing on using specific markup to define business data. Others, though, look to me like an exercise in pushing data around just to do so. Have you ever played with dominoes? Where you line them up just right and then push them down? It’s cool a couple of times, but most people get bored and move on. Some (not all) of the microformat effort reminds me of dominoes.

More importantly, there is no real organization unassociated with a specific company driving out microformats.

The W3C has work to do. But I’d rather have the W3C, than not.