Sean Harding (sharding) Mon 5 May 03 23:51
What's wrong with it? It's likely easy to fix. We should probably move that discussion over to blog.ind if you want to try to fix it.
The Fucked-Up Piano Chicks (magdalen) Mon 5 May 03 23:54
anyway, for the purposes o' this discussion: if you don't "get" RSS per se, check out an RSS feed. you will immediately see the love.
David Calvarese (dhcalva) Tue 6 May 03 05:15
On the subject of the cover: I have to say I rather like it. It has a kind of 'Wired' quality to it.
Rafe Colburn (rafeco) Tue 6 May 03 06:40
A couple of other weblogs that I'd recommend (there are really too many good ones to list). Dangerousmeta http://www.dangerousmeta.com/ Real Live Preacher http://www.reallivepreacher.com/ I like Dangerousmeta because Garret is a great example of a guy who posts little commentary but whose opinions come through strongly in the links he chooses. I see something interesting at Dangerousmeta every day that I didn't see anywhere else. Real Live Preacher just blows me away for the quality of writing and for the different perspective he brings.
A veteran rc3.org rss subscriber (klopfens) Tue 6 May 03 07:03
As a Well and a blog lurker, let me put in a word from the demand-side. (I seem to post to the Well about twice a month and to my blog at about the same rate, but read blogs and several Well conferences hourly). RSS and the tools that support it add the "seen" functionality of engaged and picospan to the blog universe. You don't need to check a site over and over to see if it has been updated since the last time you read it. Your aggregator does this for you. I used the Radio Userland aggregator for about a year, but have switched to SharpReader (Windows). There are a number of similar readers for the Mac and even one that integrates RSS with the Microsoft Exchange client.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 6 May 03 11:34
> That's a hard, impossible question, not an easy one! Heh - I knew it was hard! I'm having trouble coming up with a favorite blog that I visit and revisit... instead I find myself surfing to new blogs quite a bit. I wonder about others - does anybody find a half dozen or so blogs that they visit regularly, and stick pretty much to that list? Rebecca, my next question is about blogs vs journals. Is it true that dogs blog, and cats make journals? What about the alligators?
Rebecca Blood (rebeccablood) Tue 6 May 03 11:53
I second the vote for dangerousmeta. Another outstanding filter. I've never heard of Real Live Preacher before. I'm looking forward to reading it, based on your recommendation. Does anyone else have any others? I'm always on the lookout for good new weblogs. > klopfens: RSS and the tools that support it add the "seen" functionality ... to the blog universe < it's funny, isn't it? I remember a few years ago when "push" technology was all the rage. It was going to be the next big thing. I think that lasted about 6 months. But that's what RSS is. It allows people to bring their favorite weblogs to their desktops--or, as many people use it, it allows them to have a weblog update tracker on their desktop. As a result, people are following many more weblogs than they ever could before. From what I've read, part of this is a result of improved RSS-reading tools. Once the tools started doing what people needed from them, they became very popular very quickly. Then it becomes a chicken and egg thing. People read more weblogs because there are more good weblogs AND more weblogs offer RSS feeds AND there are good readers available. It's interesting to observe the tipping point on something like this. People will adapt their behavior to a poor tool that does something they *really* want to do, but otherwise they will stick with their previously defined behavior (even if it's sub-optimal) rather than bothering to break into a new, sub-optimal tool. But once you put something in their hands that does what they want fairly easily, off they go, and then they invent new uses for it. Blogger is another example of this, actually. Though it was one of the first of the automatic weblog updaters, it's ease of use was unsurpassed by the other tools that came out at about the same time. Once those other tools matched that ease of use, large numbers of users could be tempted away by more extensive features, but not before.
Rafe Colburn (rafeco) Tue 6 May 03 12:41
I have a number of blogs that I've been reading for years. Rebecca's, Dangerousmeta, Matt Haughey's personal blog, Anil Dash, whump.com, Medley (uncorked.org), NowThis, and there are a number of others as well.
The Fucked-Up Piano Chicks (magdalen) Tue 6 May 03 15:24
have you long-time bloggers found that RSS changes how you write your blog? one evening with the newsreader thingy, and i found myself wanting to re-conceive how i post. again, technology calls the shots. on Blogger, you can choose headlines-only, short descriptions (no links/HTML are included, first 255 characters go to the newsfeed or the first paragraph of your post) , or full descriptions. i chose "short" and find myself wanting to post differently, knowing that RSS is making a one-paragraph "teaser" possible...
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 6 May 03 18:00
I try not to think about it - but I didn't go for the short option, didn't consider how that could lure readers into my lair... Magtiff, I think the first webloggish bit I attempted was TAZMedia at FringeWare... you took that over when I split, were you blogging links, or did it become more of a webzine?
andyp (aapark) Tue 6 May 03 18:46
Hi Rebecca, first off, thanks for writing the book. I found it interesting to know a little bit of the history of blogs. I stumbled onto blogging by chance, one of those Saturday afternoon googles that ended up being a triathlon and an added plethora of links in my favorites folder. I remember I was looking for some CSS tips, and all of a sudden I come across my first blog, hey whats a blog? And a dozen or more links were added to my favorites folder! I think that is why I blog. A public web page keeps my links a little more organized, like when you clean house minutes before the guests arrive. Do you think with blogs taking off as they have, some not only with great info etc, but also great design, do you think that blogging will encourage software developers to come up with browsers that interpret HTML and CSS without major differences in how pages are rendered? Or do you see RSS as being the more important side of blogging, e.g. content not design? I hope that made sense. Again thanks for the book.
Rebecca Blood (rebeccablood) Tue 6 May 03 19:39
> jon: Rebecca, my next question is about blogs vs journals. Is it true that dogs blog, and cats make journals? What about the alligators? < Boy, if I had a nickel for every time I've been asked that. :) When weblogs emerged, they were quite distinct from journals in a few ways. First, journals were about the thoughts and experiences of the writer; weblogs were centered around links. Second, journals tended to use the one-page-per-entry format; weblogs stacked a series of short entries on a single page. Third, they were separate communities. The journalers shared a vision of the personal Web, read and linked to one another, and thus a community was born. The webloggers, coming together in 1999, did the same thing in their corner of the Web. (At the time there were E/N sites, as well, weblogs that resembled Livejournal sites more than anything else. They tended to have dark backgrounds, and they seemed to be maintained by a group of high school students who knew each other in real life. They never really merged with the weblog community--they were doing their own thing.) At this point, with so many people using weblog software to write daily entries about their lives, I'd have to say that it has to do with community more than anything else. If you visit diarist.net, you'll see that they include "personal weblogs" in the list of sites they serve. I suppose that one way of looking at it is to say that now weblogs are about the form, and journals are about the content. I think most people start by reading sites and emulating the sites they admire. To some extent, new personal publishers choose to align themselves with the community of online sites they already read, whether that be the journaling community or the webloggers. Alligators tend to create zines.
Rebecca Blood (rebeccablood) Tue 6 May 03 19:53
> magdalen: one evening with the newsreader thingy, and i found myself wanting to re-conceive how i post. < I recently read something online lamenting the poor titles most bloggers attach to their posts, rendering an RSS feed nearly useless as anything more than an update tracker. I think this is worth thinking about, depending on what your goals are for your site and your feed. If all you want to do is to notify people that you have updated, I don't think it matters what you write. If you want to entice them to your site, a teaser style is the ticket. If you want to inform them of the nature of your posts, an informative title or first line will serve your purpose. I find it to be quite an interesting development. Back in the day, pithiness was one of the weblog virtues, and concision was admired by many weblog readers and writers. It's good discipline. Writing short is hard, and if you can get your subject and opinion across in a few words, you've got it nailed. It was only secondarily about our opinions--mainly it was about the link, and one of the biggest challenges was to write text that would entice the reader to click through. But entries started getting longer and longer. Now it's quite common for people to go on for paragraphs about their subjects, but here we are again, with a new short form demanding that writers compose their subject lines and first sentences in order to get the reader to click through. On the Internet, it seems, everything comes back around to microcontent. http://www.useit.com/alertbox/980906.html
Rebecca Blood (rebeccablood) Tue 6 May 03 20:25
> andyp: Do you think with blogs taking off as they have, some not only with great info etc, but also great design, do you think that blogging will encourage software developers to come up with browsers that interpret HTML and CSS without major differences in how pages are rendered? < If only! I think the only thing that will encourage the software developers to create browsers that support standards is consumer demand, and I'm not quite sure how to bring that about. It's a bit of a chicken and egg problem: if major sites coded only to standard, people would move to browsers that rendered them properly. But major sites are unlikely to do that until the browsers support the standard. I think we can do what we can on the personal Web, but the biggest changes will have to come from within the commercial sites, as developers evangelize standards and convince their managers to allow them to create pages that look good--but not necessarily identical--in every browser. Having said that, the personal Web has always been a hotbed of design experimentation, and proof of concept for various innovations. Watch the designer and coder weblogs for new approaches that will appear on commercial sites in a few years. People like Jeffrey Zeldman http://www.zeldman.com/, glish http://glish.com/css/, and Mark Pilgrim http://diveintoaccessibility.org/table_of_contents.html spend their days doing the experimenting and hard thinking for us, and then explaining how we can do the same things on our own sites, or on the sites we maintain for others. For those who are interested in learning more, visit the Web Standards Project http://www.webstandards.org/ to learn why standards will make all our lives better, and how to achieve the peace of mind only standards can bring on your very own site. > andyp: Or do you see RSS as being the more important side of blogging, e.g. content not design? < Content is king, but on some weblogs, design is a big part of the content. RSS will change the way some people get their weblog fix, and it may change the way people write for their weblogs, but it has its limitations, too. We're still experimenting with this stuff. After a while, people will figure out which pieces are good for what and settle into time-tested patterns of use. > andyp: thanks for the book < thank *you*. :)
your arms too short to blog with gopod (xian) Tue 6 May 03 22:21
klopfens, what do you like about SharpReader? i'm stuck using windows during the day on a project for the next few weeks so i downloaded syndirella but i really don't like its feel.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 7 May 03 06:06
Rebecca, do you see weblogs as an interim step toward "social software"? I just checked my dictionary for the definition of "social": of or having to do with human beings living together as a group in a situation in which their dealings with one another affect their common welfare
Ari Davidow (ari) Wed 7 May 03 06:50
In a way, weblogs remind me of samizdat's, the old xeroxed collections of articles that circulated in the former Soviet Union. Except that they are the K-Mart version of samizdats--thousands of people have them, the content isn't necessarily about much, and there are all too un-surreptitious. It's like, the form has changed, but there still are a very few people who have something to say, and say it well. And there are still lots of people with websites who feel they should say nothing. It's like the zillions of personal websites that got put up in the late '90s by people who would put up lists of their favorite links, most of which had to do with current media fads. I guess my real question is "to what degree does the software matter? what makes weblogs more than a fad?"
Jim Klopfenstein (klopfens) Wed 7 May 03 06:57
What I like most about SharpReader is the control it gives me over my blog reading. I'm subscribed to about 50 RSS feeds, which I have in two folders, one I read and refresh several times a day, the other when I have a little extra time. After I refresh (I have auto-refresh off), I can see at a glance which blogs have new content. I usually read the sites that tend to have shorter entries first. All but two of the sites I read put their complete content in the RSS, so I do almost all of my reading in the SharpReader window. All in all, the experience is a lot like Engaged on the Well. There, I keep a browser window open on the "My Conference List" page. When I am ready to check the conferences I read, I refresh this page. The "New" flags tell me where new content is, and I organize my reading from there. It would be great if the Well had conference-specific RSS feeds.
Rebecca Blood (rebeccablood) Wed 7 May 03 12:04
> jon: Rebecca, do you see weblogs as an interim step toward "social software"? < With one exception, not really. When I think of social software, I think of software that is designed specifically to promote, support, and enhance personal interactions. Weblogs *can* do those things, but they also can be used as mini-broadcast systems, with one voice speaking to whomever cares to listen. I guess it's the difference between a club or cafe, which is designed with the idea that people will come to hang out with each other, and a grocery store or park, which *may* become a community hub, but isn't necessarily designed for that purpose. I think of weblog-tools as a step toward realizing the promise of the Web as a democratic medium. These tools have encouraged hundreds of thousands of people to become Web publishers, and as they have linked to each other, they have amplified each others voices and developed close ties. The community is an important component of the phenomenon, but it isn't necessarily an inherent quality--I know of a number of weblogs that *don't* link out to other blogs, interested, apparently, in being a personal publisher rather than in promoting the fortunes of others. So, short answer: no. It's the nature of people to make social connections, and that is reflected in the behavior of the bloggers, but I don't think that behavior is inherent in the tools themselves. The one exception is LiveJournal, which is, from everything I've read and seen, a community-making machine. The ability to link to and track other LiveJournal users is so embedded in the system that the software itself encourages the creation of social alliances.
Rafe Colburn (rafeco) Wed 7 May 03 12:10
Jumping in in front of Rebecca here (my apologies), I'd say that weblogs are a fad that matters. Let's face it, 90% of weblogs (conservatively speaking) are utter and complete crap, even some of the popular ones. Some people, I'm certain, would say that mine is, even though I don't think so. At the same time, there are some really important weblogs out there as well, making and breaking news. Where else would I get to read Larry Lessig's thoughts on the Eldred v Ashcroft case without a journalist filtering them, or what a guy like Ed Felten thinks about our intellectual and academic freedom? I'll never go to law school or graduate school for economics, but I get to read opinions by really smart guys like Brad DeLong and Ed Felten. That's more than a fad.
Rebecca Blood (rebeccablood) Wed 7 May 03 12:19
> ari: I guess my real question is "to what degree does the software matter? what makes weblogs more than a fad?" < The software is the revolution. The software has made it possible for anyone with a Web browser and Internet connection to publish their thoughts to the Web. A weblog is a pretty simple format, so weblog-updating software is no big stretch. I fully believe that if we had easy-to-use e-zine-making software, we'd see an explosion of e-zines. It's as much about the availability as it is about the form. The reason I don't think it's a fad is that people have been doing this very thing in one form or another for millenia. People used to share news and tell stories around cave-fires, then in taverns, then around the water-cooler. Now it also happens on the Web. One of the things you can say about human beings is that we are pattern-makers and communicators. That will never stop being true, it's hard-wired into us. Humans will turn every new communication medium to that same purpose as soon as they have the opportunity. Having said that, individual weblogs will come and go. The weblog universe may continue to expand, or it may settle into a steady state at its current size (I estimate it to be about 500,000) or 1 million, or whatever. Bloggers will get new jobs or new girlfriends or have babies, and they will no longer have time to maintain their sites. But new people will discover the form and think they'd like to give it a whirl, and new weblogs will be born. I think the form itself will be unremarkable in just a few years. Businesses will use internal weblogs to point employees to internal information, and major media will use the form (as the Christian Science Monitor has since September 11 http://www.csmonitor.com/specials/sept11/dailyUpdate.html) for what it's best at: filtering and contextualizing timely information. And as Rafe says, there is so much important and interesting information being disseminated via weblogs, I don't think the audiences will dwindle. Furthermore, as we continue to be inundated with information at faster velocities, the need for smart, reliable filters will only increase.
Ari Davidow (ari) Wed 7 May 03 12:39
>> weblogs a fad? > The software has made it possible for > anyone with a Web browser and Internet connection to publish their > thoughts to the Web. I think I'd argue that HTML and even Mosaic were the revolution, with weblogs making it easier to post a particular form of expression to the web. On the other hand, I've been exploring use of an RSS News Reader all afternoon, which is a lot like this Usenet news readers I used 10 years ago back when Usenet was often useful, and I'm thinking, hmmmm, an unlimited number of moderated news feeds. So, forget weblogs, qua weblogs and thinking of them as RSS generators, and suddenly there's a way for people to access dozens or hundreds--whatever they want--of channels of news, entertainment, technical info, whatever--via a simple desktop based reader. THAT's cool, at least, imho. Thoughts?
Rebecca Blood (rebeccablood) Wed 7 May 03 17:51
> ari: I think I'd argue that HTML and even Mosaic were the revolution, with weblogs making it easier to post a particular form of expression to the web. < Sure, the Web is the new medium, but it was a democratic medium only to you and me and a few others who took the time to learn HTML. What the tools have done is to allow everyone on the Web who doesn't want to bother with all of that to have a voice as well. It is this--the ease of publishing--that is, for so many people, the most exciting aspect of the weblog phenomenon. > So, forget weblogs, qua weblogs and thinking of them as RSS generators, < Certainly, many people are starting to think of them in those terms (Clay Shirky among them, judging from his article) but I'm not sure that's the most useful way of thinking of either thing. Weblogs do not necessarily provide an RSS feed. An RSS feed can be generated from any sort of publication. Weblogs and RSS are two separate things. For me, keeping the technologies and the forms separate allows me to more easily see what is really going on, which bit is good for what part. Conflating weblogs with RSS, or using the term "blogging" to describe all personal publishing (I see that a lot and it always bugs me), too often leads to sloppy thinking. Weblogs are a specific form of Web publishing, but personal publishing existed on the Web before weblogs were a gleam in anyone's eye. So when we use weblogs strictly as RSS generators, what do we lose? Well, the community aspect, to some extent. Trackback, perhaps, commenting systems, easy communication with the weblog editor. We lose webpage design, the visual experimentation that marks many of the weblogs maintained by web professionals and enthusiasts. What do we gain? A desktop update tracker and the ability to follow hundreds or thousands of weblogs. Scale. But RSS need not be restricted to weblogs and news publications. Why should it be? Would it ever be worth a writer's time to create their publication strictly in XML, with the sole intent of syndicating their content? Why would a publisher *not* do that, if it enabled them to get their thoughts to many more people with the least expenditure of time and bandwidth? It sounds like you're saying that, as a reader, you're more excited about the prospect of reading a bunch of RSS feeds than in visiting a bunch of weblogs. Is that just a matter of scale for you? Nostalgia? Or something else entirely?
Devil's Advocate, Esq. (xian) Wed 7 May 03 18:14
Re Rebecca's "I fully believe that if we had easy-to-use e-zine-making software, we'd see an explosion of e-zines," I think one key distinction between (most) weblogs and (most) e-zines, is that weblogs are usually created and maintained by a single person and e-zines, at least in the sense that they emulate magazines, generally include the works of many people. Now bOingbOing has multiple contributors and runs on Blogger. TheMorningNews.org is clearly a 'zine and runs on MovableType (with, I gather, some clever templating). So in one sense we do have easy-to-use e-zine making software already, but the problem with 'zines is always getting the contributors to meet deadlines, editing their content, etc. It's just easier to make yourself do stuff and take responsibility and ownership. Collaboration and group effort is very rewarding too, but what would an easy-to-make e-zine tool look like anyway? I do realize that most paper 'zines were/are produced by individual people, so if an e-zine is based on that model then the difference between an e-zine and a weblog would either come down to layout/presentation, or maybe the lengths of the articles? Rebecca, what are you thinking of when you refer to e-zines?
Rebecca Blood (rebeccablood) Wed 7 May 03 20:57
> xian: Rebecca, what are you thinking of when you refer to e-zines? < oooh, I should have known I'd be busted if I used that analogy here. (xian is a former zinester himself :) I don't mean that analogy literally; my point is that having software that makes creating a weblog so very easy has helped to engender a fervor for weblogs. Nothing succeeds like success, and when people think of carving out their own space on the Web, weblogs seem to be the first form people think of. You're right that Movable Type is a lightweight content management system that allows users to create more than just weblogs. I expect to see it and products like it used to create publications that go beyond the weblog model. But let's talk about the difference between weblogs and zines for a minute. There are many collaborative weblogs out there, so I don't think size of staff is the key difference. I think it has to do with the publication model itself. Online zines (commercial or not, collaborative or not) were patterned on offline publications. They had a periodical publication's schedule--once a day or once a week or whatever--and they consisted of full-length pieces, articles of a similar length to the those you would find in a paper publication. A handful of personal publishers scoffed at the weblogs when they appeared. "You call that content? Linking to other articles? What next, a bunch of websites that link endlessly to each other, never, ever landing on a real piece of content?" Weblogs were different in several ways from those publications: they were published continually, not periodically; they were made up of a series of short entries, rather than article-length pieces; and their content consisted of or was formed around pointers to full-length pieces or other sites. They leveraged the qualities of the Web: always on, limitless pages/no pages, and hypertext. Weblogs were of the Web itself, not something transplanted from another medium. Since then, weblogs have expanded to include other styles of writing, and other technological features, but those key elements have remained constant (except on the blog-style weblog, where links are incidental). A form that was based on short entries changed everything. A form where a piece can consist of a bit of hypertext changed everything. It takes a long time to hunt up interesting articles and good links, and it can take quite a lot of time to compose scintillating link text, but it's not the same as planning and executing a full-length publication once a month--even when the word count in both publications is the same. And the weblog is more forgiving, perhaps. If you say something stupid, there is always a chance to get it right tomorrow, or an hour from now. And you have the option to say as much or as little as you like about each of your topics. Weblogs can look effortless from afar--I think you have to maintain one for a while to really understand the demands of the form. It was very frustrating in 1999 to read snarky pieces from people who saw the new form as a refuge for the untalented. I was always surprised that they didn't instantly see the value of the filter. But I do understand that, from their point of view, a group of people were gaining traction by doing something that appeared to be easier than what the zinesters had been doing for years. But they clearly underestimated the appeal of a form that allows individuals to create a Web presence one entry at a time. Your point is a good one. Software is fueling this revolution, by allowing people without a shred of technical knowledge to create Web pages, but the form itself is what captures people's imaginations, and allows them to envision themselves as a Web publisher. "Wrangle a staff? No way. Write a full-length article? I wouldn't know how. Post a few entries? I can do that."
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