Great Blogs - The Geek Stuff
Posted by Dave
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I like to think that I patronize other blogs because I'm engaged by good writing and insight. But that's not really true. Sometimes I'm only moderately engaged or interested but I stay in the audience because I like the producer's approach and style insofar as the presentation goes. If they're doing all the things right such as tastefully embedding non-obtrusive ads or even better not advertising at all, and take pains to keep the visual balanced, I am enamored enough to keep coming back.
I guess I owe this dynamic more to a love of the craft and a hope that people will re-discover HTTP as a valid method of exchanging information as authors of their own publishing world.
My last incarnation of this blog included a section of blogs that struck me with this sort of happiness, and I am going to restore it. Probably before I leave for the gym today. I often find it hard to articulate why I think a blog is a good blog but by maintaining such an index here, I can at least present the pattern, which is probably more telling.
For the second though, here is The Geek Stuff. You see everything as it should be in blogging world.
I should disclaim that I run an ad blocker so my perspective of a "clean presenting" blog is somewhat mitigated. I've had to acquiesce to the fact that even if a blog producer still uses ads, they remain exceptional if they don't challenge the blocker or beg to be "unblocked". It's just the way it is. :(
Googling From the Command Line
Posted by Dave
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I did not know this existed. You can use Google as a command line search tool using Google Shell, or "Goosh".
So, if you're a command line/Unix freak, as I have been lately, you can still do meaningful Google searches sans the crapitilstic web experience they throw at you.
Sample output of a Goosh search.
This seems to be a non-profit arm of Google operations something ran by a guy in Germany, so that probably explains why I only learned of it by -- Googling -- command line search options for the web. They sure aren't going to be flouting it.
It's neat and I'm using it, but there's probably no future in it if there is no $$$ in it. If anyone knows of any other interesting command-line web search tools I'd be interested in hearing about them.
I Should Go Linux All the Way
Posted by Dave
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Working with a recent project has had me wading around in Linux more intimately than I ever have. The experience is pushing me into leaving the large commercial-slanted Microsoft and Google ecosystems entirely (and by insinuation of this, Apple's too, though I barely touch it) .
The fresh air of commercial-free computing is liberating. Executing commands and running through processes without the artifical injection of "crapitilasm" is putting power back into my hands. I can program and configure at my old-days "hacker speed", and nothing drags on me as I go.
Except of course for the drag of proficiency. And, the drag of failed interfacing to the more ubiqutious world of device drivers designed for people who don't leap from the ship.
Those are real problems. Proficiency is the lesser issue since you learn as you go, and with the fluidity of processing, I'd probably be one of those wicked command-line tackers that bothered me so much working at Rakuten (great guys the Unix people were, but non-stop clackity clackity clackity in an open floor plan - I suspect I have a case of Misophonia) in no time.
But bringing home new tech appliances and toys, or suddenly needing to rely on a productivity or content generation apps for which no Linux native or port equivalent exists. That would be a buzz kill.
Still, I eye this potential strongly. When I am reminded of how empowering computing is supposed to be as my recent foray has, I am all the more resentful that the evolved form of computing is wrong at a fundamental level. It is a perverse model consisting of convenient information gathering, advertising, and fabricated depedencies for sake of profit only. And worse, it may all be designed to make people consumer processors of digital output, while exactly straining away the empowerment.
Have Something to Say
Posted by Dave
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The new first rules of blogging are to be sure to have something to say. That means, establish that your message has these attributes:
- Facts, Good Data (even if an opinion blog - support your position!)
- Unique Perspective
Mind you, not having those qualifiers does not mean that your viewpoint or information is worthless in the grand scheme of things; just that it may not contribute to the digital sphere.
Today's web is not the 2002 web.
Let me explain. Stream of conscious blogging centering around the events of your day or weigh-in in on national economic policy was and has "tried and died". It died because millions of people deciding to give themselves the daily "homework" of self-reporting their day to an electronic diary could only end the way that it clearly did. Until we're all forced to live our days hiding in attics, most of what we experience is mundane and in need of serious primping in order to properly storify. It takes serious work, and that's after the work of maintaining the blog engine itself.
It's not that people lost the impulse to digitally share themselves. As blogging limped through its lifecycle, services like MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter showed up to the party. And they offered ways, powerful and easy ways, to satiate this impulse. Social media trimmed down the expectation for long form presentation into blurbs -- or -- quite literally "Tweets", if you will.
Sure, it's all something you could be forgiven for, for still calling it "blogging", but these expression conduits are more in the moment and thus held to less an integral intellectual or grammatical standard. My label for this kind of online writing is "bullet prose form" and in 2021 it's about the only thing people posting online at all anymore, know.
Personally, I am sure that I discounted how things would turn out way back before all this noise and sludge took over online. I just assumed everyone's lives were fascinating if articulated and storified properly and that blogging would never die accordingly. But the barrier to online publishing is now too low and the noise too great. If you have a blog and bother to mention it, people have zero curiosity, sans other agendas, for checking it out.
The attributes I list above will beat the assumptions and leave people interested in what you have to say, if you are consistent about applying them. If it means you say things less often because the criteria just isn't there, that's fine. Your social media blurbs, wherever you are making them, are probably ideal for the point.
My own custom engine, Battle Blog, includes a feature that actually accounts for posting lulls -- de-stigma-fying lulls in the process. If you don't post in 10 days, no problem, the blog engine replaces the front page which normally contains your stream of blog postings, with a kind note that you are living life and building up to your next post. It then offers to show you the blog anyway and gives other options to explore. So far as I know, my clunky homebrew engine is the only blogging platform that does this, although I prodded the real blog engine makers to follow suit.
Someone landing on this text might wonder if as a whole my personal blog meets any of these criteria on a consistent basis. Look it over, does it seem to? Probably not. But that's because my motivations have less to do with building an audience and more to do with keeping the craft alive personally and as a whole. It's a living experiment in online publishing and as all experiments go may or may not prove to be anything of tangible value in the end. Put another way, even though I do have other blogs and online efforts I do in fact care about, here at this blog, I may not add anything to the digital sphere in this specific effort and that doesn't bother me.
Alerts Are Fake Ads Now
Posted by Dave
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The latest trend in obtrusive "advertising" (if it really is something "new", maybe not) is sending you alerts. These alerts actually contain no pitch or ad copy whatsoever, they're actual alerts about a scan on your computer completing or "Your statement is ready" from your bank.
Here's an example from Malwarebytes, an alert that I receive in the lower right of my computer waking up the PC each morning. You might think maybe it disappears after a few seconds but it doesn't. You have to manually click the X to close it. And no, you can't turn this off.
These are needless "alerts" because everything could just as easily work transparently in the background, doing their jobs and letting you focus as needed on whatever they are alerting you about. But every alert sends along a brand name and getting that brand name in front of you in the form of a subject line in your inbox, or a push notification on your phone, as often as possible, is crucial.
The Importance of the Digestible Blog
Posted by Dave
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One of the most energetic blogs on today's web is something I hold as a beloved example of what blogging should be. Streetsblog USA has all this going for it:
- It is a grass-roots publishing effort (or at least appears to be)
- It covers transportation, and advocates car-free living - it aligns with my interests
- It doesn't muck up its desktop presentation (too much)
- It's updated regularly
- It has RSS available
And yet, I don't read it. Or at least most of it.
I subscribe to its RSS feed but inevitably when I land on its daily-refreshed article list in my RSS reader, I only pick through but a few of the articles at most, skimming for the gist, then moving on to someone else's content.
So, what's happening here? What is the seemingly perfect blog in my eyes doing wrong such that while I certainly appreciate and advocate its content, I keep it outside of my thorough field of daily online consumption?
We're supposed to respect blogs that build up their content engine as aggressively as Streetsblog USA. Even more so when that volume of output doesn't result in the diluting of the substance of that content, again as we can observe of Streetsblog USA.
Something just doesn't jive. I should really be eating Streetsblog USA up.
After some mulling I came to realize that, for a blog, it actually publishes too much for the moniker of "blog".
It's a firehose, and that's a problem. It seems to produce at least three articles a day, and when you factor in a missed day or two of purusing the RSS reader, this results in a wall of articles to wade through.
You might think I'm (Pea) Nuts
Pretend that it's 1975. You subscribe to a newspaper and inside the folds of its many sections back then, you open up to the daily funnies and look for your favorite strip. Peanuts by Charles M. Schultz was my favorite as a kid, so we'll pick that strip for this example.
What if on that funnies page there were not just one clean four-panel row of a Peanuts gag, but, say, there were 30 of them. 30 rows of different Peanuts strips taking up virtually the entire page.
You might read the first two before realizing that there isn't enough coffee in your cup to read all 30 separate cartoon strips of the same title, not to mention consume your other favorite strips and newspaper sections. I mean, you do have to be at work in an hour.
So, it's a great cartoon strip and you love it -- but even though you mechanically have all the capability in the world to indulge it, you simply don't have the luxury of that much time to do so. You didn't wake up looking to read a book. And that means you don't read most of what you love.
That would be comic strip fail. And in the same way, it's blog fail for publishing entities who crank out articles every 5 minutes. I should pause to mention it's not as if Streetsblog USA is the only example.
So, now, as far as I am concerned, blogs that do this, worthy as they are as conduits of information and viewpoints for niche subjects, are not actually consumable as blogs. They can be something else, "news sites" maybe, "repositories of data and commentary" about a topic, perhaps; but not a blog as long as we add the additional criterion for blogs as something that produces pointed content that can be digested in a single breezy pass. This pacing attribute turns out to be crucial.
My thinking here is certainly open to critique because of its subjective assertion. Maybe some people don't pan a list of blogs each day. Maybe some people are hardwired to consume more, faster, and might feel cheated not having a buffet of articles waiting for them each morning.
Many blogs are deemed failures when their producers under-produce and "wane away". But not much attention is given to the other extreme. To me, the blogging form feels most right when, whether weak or strong, a single impression is left before turning the page of a day to consume the next.