"Write a better weblog" article February 22, 2002 7:31 PM   Subscribe

Surprised this hasn't surfaced here, but Dennis Mahoney has written a "Write A Better Weblog" article. He makes some good points, some of which many (myself included) MeFi'ers could stand a lesson in. And, you've gotta love the great Hemingway quote.
posted by Ufez Jones to General Weblog-Related at 7:31 PM (42 comments total)

It hasn't surfaced, because it's only been around a few hours. That's this week's new article.

But on the article itself: I take serious issue with a "blog manual of style."
posted by Su at 7:58 PM on February 22, 2002

It's full of general, obvious advice. Could be worse, but if you are having any success at all with your blog, you already know all this stuff.
posted by kindall at 9:51 PM on February 22, 2002

When I was reading it earlier, it didn't make me happy to see someone lay down the rules from on high. It seems to me that the majority of bloggers are like amateur musicians who do it for their own enjoyment first and foremost. Not everyone needs to know about cadences, modes and intervals.

If through blogging someone decides for themselves that they want to write in a more structured way, then let them go for it. His article just smacked of snobbery.
posted by jackiemcghee at 9:54 PM on February 22, 2002

I thought it was elitist crap as well. The cool thing about blogging is there are no rules. If you want a manual of style, might as well go to j-school and be a part of the machine.
posted by owillis at 10:14 PM on February 22, 2002

I enjoyed the article, personally. I found it to be a succinct systematization of my own opinions of weblog writing. Of course there are no rules, but the best weblogs share the trait of having the best writing. It's inescapable. The cream rises to the top.
posted by Succa at 10:32 PM on February 22, 2002

/me hits bottom with a loud thud.

I'd agree with all of you, actually. I thought the piece was annoying, but mostly spot on - patronizing and pithy.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:47 PM on February 22, 2002

summary: learn to write.

thanks for clearing that up.
posted by palegirl at 10:54 PM on February 22, 2002

Here's the problem with critiquing weblogs: they're personal.

In the world of writing, acting, film making, heck, even running, you can find a workshop or a local group that can act as some venue to help you get better. Writers gain from workshops where people seemingly butcher each other with harsh criticism. It simply builds better writers. If you are trying to get your 10k runs below 40 minutes, you can train with a club and people will critique your stride, your breathing, and your conditioning to make you a better runner.

Unfortunately for the growth of weblog authors, there is no arena to formally accept or dish out criticism, no matter how helpful. They're mostly personal and personalized, so you're not attacking the writing when you say "whateverfoo.blogspot.com is boring as fuck" you are attacking the author, the person (this idea isn't completely my own making, paul ford of ftrain.com was the first person I read to notice you can't criticize weblogs without critizing people).

Personally, over the past few years I've tried to build as a writer. I went from writing short "I had a cheese sandwich" posts to screeds on issues with supporting evidence and reasons for my positions. I try to only add new things to my personal site when I think I have something worth sharing. There is no place I can go to get an honest opinion on my output, as a writer, and I can't start up a site to critique other bloggers without looking like a cynical ass.

Look at how much we criticize MetaFilter and try to figure out how to make it better. We can only do that because it's depersonalized. It's not 100% me, it's all of us, and we can say that one user wrote a great post while another didn't, but we couldn't do this if it were a personal blog community on someone's site.

There are thousands and thousands of blogs, but few of them readable or worth revisiting for most people (which is ok, you could write a dreadful blog for yourself or your family and I don't have to read it). Among the publicly known blogs, it's hard to say what makes one good and another not so good, and it's hard to tell someone what they could do to make their site better without stepping on toes or hurting feelings.

Even writing an article about having a better blog, people's feelings will get hurt. "Why did he write the article?" Billy asks. "Is it because of me? Is it because my site should be better?" Billy might say. "Who they hell is this guy to tell me how I should or shouldn't write!?!" is the quick turn to anger you might hear.

I've found that the act of writing day in, and day out has improved my writing immensely, and I've been cognizant of my writing, and made an effort to improve it as much as possible. I also show some of my stuff to friends for editing when I feel like I need help, and I ask them for feedback when I write something new. I guess it took two years to get to the point where I cared about how well I was writing, and it's all self-imposed. I don't know what could possibly go into a "how to write a good weblog" article that wouldn't be open to criticism, though I wish it were possible to put a mirror to ourselves once in a while, ascertain what we're doing right, what we're doing wrong, and grow from that knowledge.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 10:57 PM on February 22, 2002 [1 favorite]

If you want a manual of style, might as well go to j-school and be a part of the machine.

Where you will discover that every cog in the machine has a different manual anyway.
posted by aaron at 12:10 AM on February 23, 2002

Matt: I think you're right about the personal slight aspect of blogs. I've done my site for about a year and half now, and I know my writing on it has improved substantially since I started (or the pills are taking hold). As a result I have more regular readers (I like to think I've moved up to at least the P-list, fingers crossed for "O"). But at the end of the day, it's still my crap. I had a guy email me yesterday and his basic complaint was that I didn't write like Andrew Sullivan. Well, I wrote him back and told him I'm not Andrew Sullivan, and that my site is filled with phrases like "I'm going on a long-ass walk today" and "Britney is in my house" so if he didn't like it he was free to change the channel. So yeah, I suppose I did take it more personally than another format.

Plus Britney is in my house. Beat that, Sullivan!
posted by owillis at 12:36 AM on February 23, 2002

This coming from a guy who has a 250 word description of gaurs on his site. Not a bad article-- except no one who needs to read it would sit through it. Know your audience, a 'top ten blog mistakes' would have been more effective... another lesson for writers.
posted by chaz at 2:33 AM on February 23, 2002

Here's the problem with critiquing weblogs: they're personal.

My two cents as a weblog reader. The personal aspect is what makes them so interesting, a seemingly lofty form of intellectual voyeurism fueled by the cult of personality. One (constructive) critique I would put forth is many weblogs should become way more personal. The person (ie, mind, soul, heart, experiences, even appearance, etc) behind the weblog is the key differentiating factor. . The weblog's (primary) content comes alive the more we know about the author through the author's (secondary) suggested links, short or long articles, commentary, opinions, photographs, etc. In effect, the site in its entirety is the bio. Bottom line, the more (tastefully) personal a weblog can become, the more interesting it's content becomes. (Don't know if this is "original" thinking, its simply my point of view)
posted by Voyageman at 6:52 AM on February 23, 2002

[generalizations ahead, for ease of discussion]
I think what's happened is that two basic camps have formed:
1. Original-definition "found this cool link, go look" blogs, like usr/bin/girl. Interesting links, which is what they're good for, but usually little to no content. The author as a person is only marginally present.
2. Personal pages, like Found. People who run these exclusively will sometimes be seen agonizing over terms like journal(ogue), lifelog, etc, showing a desire to separate themselves from the "blog phenomenon."(*barf*)
2.1 Photologs, artist sites and the like. I tend to bunch these under personal, as a someone's artistic output still says something about them directly.

Some people do both, drifting back and forth between them. Others keep them separated, as Zanna above. I personally prefer the personal sites, unless it's a topical blog like Lines&Splines, where the author doesn't really matter. In that case, I actually prefer that the author just stay out of it.
posted by Su at 7:55 AM on February 23, 2002

Know your audience, a 'top ten blog mistakes' would have been more effective... another lesson for writers.

Except when he posted something very much like that on his site ("hereby banned from all weblogs"), he was taken to task for being negative. "Write something positive! Tell people what they should do, not what they shouldn't!" he was told. So he did.

Except that doesn't make people happy either. Go figure.
posted by kindall at 12:46 PM on February 23, 2002

Here's the problem with critiquing weblogs: they're personal.

I don't see how this applies to the article in question. he didn't name names, he just put forth what he felt were good principles.

I think it's quite a good article, actually. I'm a little puzzled by the idea that because weblogs are a form of personal expression, no one should ever make any comment on them at all. I do believe it's impolite to publicly criticize other weblogs on your own, but how does that resolve into this being a bad or inappropriate article?

as for elitist crap.... I don't see it. "the best weblogs are well written, and here are my suggestions for doing that" isn't elitist. if you revel in poorly written weblogs/articles/books/films, go to town. if the world shares your taste, you'll have lots of company. if not, accept that your taste is dissimilar to most other people, and live with it. few people will love the sites you love, or read the ones you make. so what?

if you don't agree with it, ignore it. if it makes sense to you, try to follow some of the suggestions.
posted by rebeccablood at 12:59 PM on February 23, 2002

Keep trying is an interesting blog on blogging, amongst other things. The guy that runs it has been involving numerous other bloggers in the blogversation, as they call it, with good results. Whether they've got any closer to answering their own question is a matter of opinion, but it has been fun watching them try. Oh, my point - I like blogs that interact with other blogs, and ones that involve the readership in the conversation.

posted by RobertLoch at 1:09 PM on February 23, 2002

If you don't want your writing to be critiqued, keep it in a locked diary under your pillow. The Web is a public space, and putting your work in a public space means running the risk that somebody might not like it and (gasp!) say so.

The fact that most weblogs suck doesn't bother me all that much; it's the attitude of willful mediocrity that elicits my contempt. The collective response of the weblog community to any notion of criticism seems to be, "Yes, we suck. We suck because we're not trying to be any good. We refuse to try, and fuck you for suggesting that we should."
posted by jjg at 1:14 PM on February 23, 2002

I don't see how this applies to the article in question. he didn't name names, he just put forth what he felt were good principles.

If you look at the responses on this thread that state what a load of elitist bs it is, etc, you can see what I was getting at: anything remotely critical of anything weblog related will be panned by the community by and large, because the weblog genre is so intensely personalized.

I can't think of a literary or academic equivalent, so there's no way to draw an appropriate analogy. I just think most attempts to get people to put a mirror to themselves and their work will fail, just by the nature of the beast.

The "Yes, we suck. We suck because we're not trying to be any good. We refuse to try, and fuck you for suggesting that we should." attitude is right on the money, and what I hear from most webloggers in response to things like this article, rich's article at ALA, ben brown's/greg knauss' condemnation of blogs back in 2000, etc.

I guess if I had to compare it to something, these types of articles often come out sounding like a father attacking his 14 year old daughter for not writing well in her personal diary under her pillow that he took a gander at. It may be valid, but will be ultimately fruitless.

For the record, I liked this article, but if you think it is about you, relax and move on. Hopefully some day we'll come up with a way to take a critical look at weblogs (or at least some weblogs) without looking like hitler for merely suggesting they could be written better if the authors put more effort into them.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 1:50 PM on February 23, 2002

i don't think it's so hard to be critical of weblogs in a constructive way. you need to decide what the writer intends to gain out of their site; why are they writing about their lives, or linking to weird links? are they doing so because they like to write and hope to learn to write well? are they looking to educate others, or educate themselves? are they looking merely to connect with their friends? i think it's really not fair to pan a website for its poor writing if the quality of writing was never a point for the author.
posted by moz at 2:26 PM on February 23, 2002

If you look at the responses on this thread that state what a load of elitist bs it is, etc, you can see what I was getting at: anything remotely critical of anything weblog related will be panned by the community by and large, because the weblog genre is so intensely personalized.

I understand the weblog community panning an article that states that weblogs--all weblogs--are crap (ie the examples you give). and rightly so: that's like saying short stories (or novels or american films) are crap, or football (or baseball or tennis) is crap, or diner (or french or ethiopian) food is crap. that is elitist, and worse, stupid.

this article says "many weblogs would be better if they were better written" and yet the knee-jerk response has been the same as it would be to your examples.

posted by rebeccablood at 2:40 PM on February 23, 2002

and fwiw, all artists work, in any genre, is intensely personalized. every serious writer, painter, filmmaker, etc, regularly pours their heart into their work, and all of them are sometimes panned. all of them take it to heart, all of them hate it, and all of them learn to move forward or they just quit.

any claim that an entire form is inherently crap is insupportable, and should be called out as such.

but there's no reason that the weblog community, as a whole, can't develop the modicum of maturity it would take to receive an article like this one in the spirit intended, and either take from it what is useful, or to ignore it altogether if it doesn't seem to understand the point.
posted by rebeccablood at 2:45 PM on February 23, 2002

Ten Tips for a Firmer, Slimmer, Sexier Weblog!

Some very good, general tips about weblogging which have stood me in good stead...

... I will say I'm finding it increasingly difficult of late to fall in love with weblogs like I used to -- with Rebecca's for example or Anna's. What attracts me and I suppose anyone to these things is the individual who writes them. Their personality, and who they are. In looking for sites for my Blog! feature I'm finding site after site where personal opinion and stories have been replaced or blanded out by community crazes. Meet the average new site and you'll find yourself in a quagmire of online quizzes; I would also note that the same pieces are linked to over and over ... the blogdex syndrome I suppose ... which is fine, but often it's without a personal comment by the log author, which I thought was part of the point of interest -- how does that writer feel about that Slashdot Proposal or the Sedgeway?

Also, as a weblogger it feels like a duty to look for material out there which hasn't been linked to before -- the obscure yet fascinating piece or story which has been missed by the mainstream media. And why do things even need to be linked to? If you'll pardon this self link, I recently posted one of my top ten favourite articles and it was from a fifty year old magazine not available on the web.

If I sound a bit self-righteous I don't mean to. It's just with all this writing being done, I'm hoping there's some point to it ...
posted by feelinglistless at 3:24 PM on February 23, 2002

I read this article (from ev's link) this afternoon before signing into blogger, and it resulted in my writing something much different from what I originally intended to post. Something better.

On looking at some of the criticism here, and rereading the article, I can understand a little why there is some criticism directed its way.

My great masters were the two North American novelists who seemed to have the least in common. I had read everything they had published until then, but not as complementary reading - rather, just the opposite, as two distinct and almost mutually exclusive forms of conceiving of literature. One of them was William Faulkner, whom I had never laid eyes on and whom I could only imagine as the farmer in shirtsleeves scratching his arm beside two little white dogs in the celebrated portrait of him taken by Cartier-Bresson. The other was the ephemeral man who had just said goodbye to me from across the street, leaving me with the impression that something had happened in my life, and had happened for all time.

- Garcia Marquez Meets Ernest Hemingway.

There is room for people who write like Hemingway, and people who write like Faulkner on the web, no matter how different their approaches to writing might be. I don't think that Dennis Mahoney is telling us that we need to emulate one over the other, but that we can get more out of our sites if we put more into them. A better weblog can come out of showing more attention and care when we express ourselves on our pages.
posted by bragadocchio at 3:58 PM on February 23, 2002

Actually, I read the article last night before I posted, and changed around what I was going to write. I read it again this afternoon when going to blogger and editing someone else's entry. (A situation that arises when someone thinks that you are better at grammar and punctuation than they are.)

RobertLoch, keep trying does have some interesting writing about writing blogs. Anyone else have favorite sites about writing? Not just weblogs, but writing in general?
posted by bragadocchio at 4:40 PM on February 23, 2002

It can be helpful to impose restrictions on one's own writing. It tends to increase one's creativity, paradoxically. I'm going to try eliminating the first person from my blog for a while and see what happens. (I've also meant to try a "Bad Blogging Week" to get a better feel for what I hate about weblogs, but something about the idea scares me.)
posted by D at 5:49 PM on February 23, 2002

Matt : "Yes, we suck. We suck because we're not trying to be any good. We refuse to try, and fuck you for suggesting that we should."

I've been noticing lately the enormous number of Blogsnob textads (which I also include on my blog at the moment) which include in their short blurb something to the effect of "this is no good", "this is boring", "the usual crap" and so on. An interesting phenomenon, or perhaps just plain dumbitude - if the idea of having one of those puppies is to attract some new readers to your blog, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to tell them not to bother.

If it were only a few, it might be amusing and pseudo-hacktivist. But there are a lot. An attempt to pre-empt criticism, perhaps.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:37 PM on February 23, 2002

Su said: People who run these exclusively will sometimes be seen agonizing over terms like journal(ogue), lifelog, etc, showing a desire to separate themselves from the "blog phenomenon."(*barf*)

For the record, people, webjournals existed at least a decade before weblogging en masse ever did. Though Generation Blog may start maintaining online journals as an alternative to weblogs, this is far from the de facto reason they exist.

(On a sidenote, I've had my own personal site in one form or another since 1993, and have always maintained a webjournal. Weblogging was an afterthought, a place to dump all the links, thoughts, and soforth that couldn't be formulated into a full journal entry.)
posted by Danelope at 6:47 PM on February 23, 2002

Why write a weblog? To get links and be popular and approved? Or to air your personal feelings and pov in a web vacuum? If it's the former then almost every 'how-to' article is valid in some way because counting your log hits is important to you and you might need help increasing those numbers. If it's the latter then matt is right and they are, for the most part, meaningless.
posted by victors at 6:48 PM on February 23, 2002

Not only are there a multitude of other reasons for keeping a weblog, of whatever flavour, victors, I don't think the two that you happen to note are in any way mutually exclusive.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:38 PM on February 23, 2002

I have to admit it's a little hard for me to imagine someone openly groping for popularity while insisting on merely being a publicly documented solitudinarian, perhaps you missed the point of my comment because I never said they are only two reason to weblog, I never said they were strictly mutually exclusive.

I maintain the original that there is a correlation between what reason(s) a person weblogs and the usefulness of any given how-to weblog article.
posted by victors at 9:13 PM on February 23, 2002

Professional journalists (the author said "writers," but I presume he meant "journalists," given the gatekeepers stuff) don't write lines like, "New York is magnificent in spring" anymore. They would write as follows:

New York is magnificent.

Boy, is it ever.

It is even better in spring.

Just wait.

Blah blah blah blah blah long paragraph chock full of bad puns and pop culture references and whatnot, followed by another one-sentence paragraph, then a dry listing of, say, New York events in April and May.

I went to journalism school in the mid-1980s, and no one there taught me to write in such an annoyingly choppy, bloodless way. Granted, plenty of weblogs are poorly written. This also only makes sense, since most people are not getting paid, have no hope of being paid and only have so much time. But weblogging's lack of rules (like alternative journalism's) is promising, because it gets around all this canned and choppy crap that the "gatekeepers" have decided is the way to go.

But there are problems in blogland that could keep its promise seem empty later on. First, I wish there were something in the culture that rewards blogs for being interesting and innovative as regards their writing, rather than for simply being popular or well designed from a graphical standpoint. Second, there is the phenomena of the would-be pundit. The world doesn't need another pundit who only reads and sucks up to other pundits. This doesn't make said weblogs a new thing. It makes for more of the same, only with different names and somewhat sturdier writing. Mainstream journalism does need to be shaken up, and maybe these pundits could end up doing that. Who can say? But after that, what?
posted by raysmj at 10:28 PM on February 23, 2002

As the FPP'r to this link, i have just one question. How does this change, (and maybe it doesn't) when you're doing your blog for people that you know that aren't into blogging, yet, want appreciation for those that are into it? Yeah, maybe you post a meme that everyone has seen on daypop or salon or whatever. Maybe you even link to MeFi, but only one person that regularly reads my blog is a member of MeFi .(and he's an old schooler that is no longer active, sadly {if you're really curious, it's sean meade}). Yet, when MeFi'ers read my blog, i appreciate it, and feel pressured to do better than i currently do. Am i just anal, or what?
posted by Ufez Jones at 11:02 PM on February 23, 2002

Ufez Jones, what you're talking about is not only natural, but right. A huge part of writing is knowing your audience. Write for your readers. It makes perfect sense that, when you get new readers, with different backgrounds, you have some desire to change your writing, to create something they will also find rewarding. And it's up to you to decide if you want to act on that desire -- if you want to keep the new audience, or if, after all, your site is not for them.

The dilemma with blogging is that the primary audience for a personal journal, or for a hobbyist's collection (which it seems to me is what blogs focusing on cool links and personality-test results are), is the author him- or herself. If you do something for your own satisfaction, then altering it so that other people will find it more interesting or entertaining sometimes has a very high cost. You can lose sight of why you were doing the thing in the first place.

(I think that's why so many bloggers get their panties all in a bunch when people say anything that seems even remotely critical. They feel like they're doing the thing for themselves, not for these people they don't know, who have adopted standards they don't agree with. (And just because they're publishing it doesn't mean they're publishing it for everyone.))

It's a legitimately tricky thing, self-publishing. Even people who have reliably high-quality, audience-focused websites occasionally turn them to strictly personal purposes that serve themselves and not their readers. (I admit I was surprised to see Rebecca Blood and Dean Allen and others publish links to David Gallagher on their sites. But they are, after all, their own personal sites.) There's nothing wrong with any particular style of self-publishing, and ultimately you are the only one who can say what's best for your own site. The only important thing is to be clear with your own self about who you want to publish for, and what you want to say to them.
posted by mattpfeff at 11:46 PM on February 23, 2002

I think that's why so many bloggers get their panties all in a bunch when people say anything that seems even remotely critical. They feel like they're doing the thing for themselves, not for these people they don't know, who have adopted standards they don't agree with

riiiiiigggggghhhht.... standards like style and insight. Or lacking that good sentence structure, being funny, and generally appealing. matth tried to sell the same thing earlier and I think you're both letting these panty bunchers get off too easy for being disingenuous. Personally, I think a huge portion of them get defensive when criticized because they are feeling guilty for not spending more time on what should be a more crafted effort.

It's possible that the discipline required to put out really good blogging (including consistently good writing, linking, commentary, etc.) will evolve into a more spontaneous talent -- something bebop and rap improvisors have perfected in their respective fields, both evolving from more static forms of the root art forms -- but that's nothing to get defensive about. Meanwhile, admit that your working on a new art form that requires a new skill set at a new tempo that will sometimes (often) suck and that you have real life to attend to.

posted by victors at 1:31 AM on February 24, 2002

I don't see how this applies to the article in question. he didn't name names, he just put forth what he felt were good principles.

Good principles for personal writing perhaps, but when the title is “How To Write A Better Weblog”, you are applying specific rules to a largely indefinable genre. This is analogous to writing an article on “How To Write Better Punk Rock” with the thrust of the article detailing how much better the genre would be if only they would learn to play their instruments properly. I think Matt was spot on in his assessment of how articles such as these are received when he characterized this response, “Yes, we suck. We suck because we're not trying to be any good. We refuse to try, and fuck you for suggesting that we should.”

Part of the problem as I see it is in the presentation. “How To Write A Better Weblog” implies that weblogs need improving, and titled as such, gives rise to a backlash of negative comments. What makes a good weblog is wholly subjective. Neither I, nor anyone else can categorically state what a weblog is or should be, so how can we write a better one? An improved, less inflammatory title might have been “Improving Your Writing Skills: Tips for the Online Personal Journal or Weblog”. This title would appeal more specifically to those looking to improve their writing skills instead of condescending to those who don't give a flying fuck what other people think of their writing or weblogs.

Suggesting, even purporting to know what should, or should not be in a weblog is going to invite harsh criticism, because weblogs are personal. Not only the writing, but the entire idea. Blogging is whatever you want it to be. It's up to the individual. It is a formless form. You can write about the state of blogging at any given moment, but you can't pin down what blogging is; only it's basic concepts. The minute you try you'll become irrelevant. Don't start telling me how to write better links, be more funny (Simpson reference), or how much better my blog would be if I wrote like Hemingway instead of like some zit-plagued teenager. If writing was what I cared about or my raison d'être, I would be well aware of what makes great writing and how to improve; online or off. Weblogs are evolving all by themselves, they don't need help from anyone.

Why doesn't someone write an article like “How to be a Better Cam Girl”, or “Better Link Whoring: A Guide to Popularity on the Internet”. You know, useful stuff.

Get over yourselves already, weblogging is not yours to define.
posted by mikhail at 9:47 AM on February 24, 2002

I think Matt was spot on in his assessment of how articles such as these are received when he characterized this response

Dude, that was me! I said that.
posted by jjg at 5:07 PM on February 24, 2002


jjg then...sorry 'bout that.
posted by mikhail at 5:13 PM on February 24, 2002

my chicago style manual bit me then left with the Bartletts....personalblog...yes, to critque the personal is like commenting on clothes. When someone presents a work for review, then the full ax can drop. i think it rude to rip apart someones whining prattle about non-existenet possibilites for THEM and the future in which they inhabit. A sense of ego is manadory for that biz, no question. A wise man (wise he was) told me to be your own editor, censor, and typist. when that is met and it still needs work then you go for help. I do not think so much as if one has something to say, is the saying worth doing...or was it the women, the money and then guns, no the guns the girls and then the money, no....ive been trying to wrangle a conversation with elmore leonard and wonder if its it worth the doing, seeking advice, i think perhaps if i cant answer that, i have already answered my question... thus...wasting...someones...time.
posted by clavdivs at 9:52 PM on February 24, 2002

The article belabours the obvious for all who believe blogging should be measured by a traditional literary template, and it hasn't the ambition to criticize (or even acknowledge) other communications models.

In its hurry to achieve legitimacy, the web (and blogging in particular) is abandoning the experimentation which might have preserved its uniqueness, and is instead assigning to itself old media standards and goals - with the dreary result being scrolling reams of 72 dpi paper - black-on-white, 10pt sans serif - grammatically adequate and instantly forgettable.

See? We're uninvited print media, without credential, saving trees and being all immediate and everything.

IMO - bleh. It's the web. Make.it.different.
(Or make it ordinary - but don't tell your neighbor to cut his hair and get a job.)
FUBU forever.
posted by Opus Dark at 3:51 AM on February 25, 2002

I think some of the problem with evaluations about weblogs is that when anyone writes something generically, it's immediately taken to mean 'ALL'. And in many cases, that isn't true.

I don't think Dennis' article treads any new ground past what Scott Cohen's ALA compliment article to my (widely hated among the weblog world) article. But I still think it's valid to say to people 'Hey, cmon. If you're going to do something, why not do it well? You put so much time and energy and emotion into it.. why not go the extra mile, half-mile, foot, or inch?'

Matt has a point that people take these things personally, mainly because it is personal to them. For Matt, my article at first read to him like an attack on the blogger tool (which it wasn't), and he took me to task for it.

See the thing about weblogs is that it's not just about weblogs. It's about the personal experience on the net. If we are here to be part of a commmunity, don't we have an obligation to enhance that community? And isn't writing a better weblog part of that?

And Mikhail - wanna be soopafamous?
posted by rich at 7:42 AM on February 25, 2002

if you write a weblog, i feel the only obligation you have is to yourself. you owe nothing to your readership besides what responsibility you have placed on yourself. i think that writing is a form of art; it's a form of self-expression. if a higher quality of writing betters the community, then i think we must admit that bettering the community is secondary to the goal of challenging and satisfying ourselves. should the focus fall instead on the community first, then we shall descend into a pit where everyone is busy thanking each other, discussing each other and pining for the spotlight to do much of anything else.
posted by moz at 10:27 AM on February 25, 2002

And Mikhail - wanna be soopafamous?

If I was 16 I might. =)

rich, while there's nothing fundamentally wrong with Dennis', Scott's, or your article in what they say, I feel that there is something inherently wrong in the way that they say it. They impose a specific viewpoint on what I see as a creative abstract. Defensively you seem to be saying that by their generic tone and generalizations, these articles shouldn't offend anyone, but I would counter, and say that this is precisely why articles like these are decried by a portion of the so-called community.

You (generally; not specifically) pine over the dilution of great content brought on by mainstreaming, and community overpopulation. You long to find the next FTrain or Textism, but feel stifled in the quagmire of teenage, talentless hacks. You're bored and you'd like to see the bar raised on what constitutes content before the entire community is written off as a waste of space.

While applauding your sense of community, and the selfless way in which you want to give back, I'd have to stop you and ask, "What makes you think you understand the community you are trying to reach?" It may be your opinion that the web is harmed by what you see as valuless crap, but I would say that this viewpoint makes you irrelevant. You obviously don't understand. The community is changing exponentially, and sub-cultures and genres form and disappear in the blink of an eye.

You might say, "But Blogging is about the writing" and I would say "Nope, sorry, thank you for playing." Blogging is about more things than we can define. Writing is an element of blogging, and while good writing may be essential to you when determining what constitutes a good blog, it is not the yardstick by which all people judge blogs.

Weblogging itself is not seeking validation. I will stipulate that there is an element of narcissism at it's core, but it is not out to replace the vanguard of professional writers. Some people may have high hopes for what the community represents but that is their delusion. There certainly is a small group of people using the web, and blogging, as a means of self-publishing their writings, or achieving some amount of fame, but I don't see this being the majority.

I view blogging, and bloggers in general, much like a form of graffiti. It's arguably an art form, tends to be viewed as valueless by many, and is created by people for various reasons, who ultimately don't care what anyone outside of their peer group thinks of what they are doing.

I certainly wouldn't walk up to a graffiti artist and explain to him that he's bringing the whole art world down with this crap, or that people would take him more seriously if he took some painting lessons, spelled his tag correctly, and used a font that was readable. It's missing the forest for the trees in my opinion.

If you can't embrace blogs as a form of outsider art, or can't find solice in the onomatopoetic scrawlings of the typical blog, and all you see is mediocrity, and valueless crap, then I say back away from the microscope and lighten up. It's a weblog, not the death knell of the serious writer.
posted by mikhail at 2:07 PM on February 25, 2002

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