NYTfilter - is weblog technology here to stay? February 25, 2002 2:56 PM   Subscribe

NYTimes: Is Weblog Technology Here to Stay or Just Another Fad? You have to wonder how many times they can write the same damn article.
posted by owillis to General Weblog-Related at 2:56 PM (31 comments total)

You have to wonder how many times they can write the same damn article.

Precisely the same amount of times that the same damn article will be posted to MeFi/MeTa with that same damn comment/complaint attached to it. Or is this MetaTalk-post-as-ironic-modern-art-piece? (If so, nicely done.)
posted by jkottke at 3:32 PM on February 25, 2002

The question now, is, how many levels down can we go into this piece of art? 1. Article--> 2. Article Commonality Complaint--> 3. Complaint about repetitiveness/snarkyness/necessity of complaint itself--> 4. Defense of the snark....

Consider this step 3. And a nicely done to you as well for contributing to this object d'art.
posted by thebigpoop at 3:48 PM on February 25, 2002

Or is this MetaTalk-post-as-ironic-modern-art-piece?
Yes! Finally, my artistic genius recognized.
posted by owillis at 3:50 PM on February 25, 2002

he's well, kottke, isn't he?
posted by goneill at 3:54 PM on February 25, 2002

Well it's nice when people talk about us. I'm now so far advanced I read "us" into every mention of the word weblog. It may be boring for you guys, goneill, but for those of us who cottoned on to weblogs thanks to the traditional press(that Brill's Content issue with Matt on the cover is almost holy to me)it's nice to think another twenty or thirty people are going to want to find out for themselves and get hooked.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 4:09 PM on February 25, 2002

4. Why doesn't everyone just lay off kottke?
posted by rodii at 4:16 PM on February 25, 2002

Are weblogs fads? Yes, definitly. Indymedia and Newstoday are examples of the next step in weblog evolution. In-house content side-by-side with user produced content. Weblogs will become a piece of larger sites.

Strategists called this the 1/3 rule. Media sites would consist of 1/3 in-house produced content, 1/3 user produced content, 1/3 syndicated content.

(At least, I hope most personal weblogs die in the next few years.)

“Employees of Web design firms ... are well represented in the blogging world, as are journalists, who ... never have enough column inches, or air time, to satiate themselves”


That's a really nice photo of Dan Perkins, isn’t? Looks like he went to a salon or something.
posted by raaka at 4:25 PM on February 25, 2002

raaka, how are you defining weblog?
posted by rebeccablood at 4:55 PM on February 25, 2002

If Indymedia is any kind of model for the future of web content, we're going to need a lot more tinfoil for all those helmets.
posted by owillis at 4:56 PM on February 25, 2002

Indymedia's more a wiki than a blog, innit?
posted by aaron at 5:02 PM on February 25, 2002

(At least, I hope most personal weblogs die in the next few years.)

posted by rodii at 5:03 PM on February 25, 2002

I hope most personal weblogs die in the next few years

WTF? This is like saying, "I hope most personal photo albums spontaneously combust in the next few years" in the context of photojournalism.
posted by daveadams at 5:17 PM on February 25, 2002

Just knowing those personal blog are out there makes me...SO...MAD!
posted by jpoulos at 8:30 PM on February 25, 2002

posted by moz at 9:02 PM on February 25, 2002

It is far scarier to me that "cottoned" (albeit correctly used by Miguel) may become a verb of choice in Metafilter.
posted by G_Ask at 10:41 PM on February 25, 2002

I know this thread is going elsewhere, but what the hell, I'll address a couple of things from the article:

But is this a truly new media species, with the power to command the attention of big Internet media companies? Or is it simply that in this, the Internet's fallow period, anything even remotely buzzworthy is given more of a spotlight than it deserves. Is the Weblog, in other words, a fad that is destined to fade?

This is the kind of thing that should alert one to what the story is really about -- not at all about weblogs, what people are doing with them, or what their future is, but what the current business media "take" on weblogs is. Notice that the reporter is measuring importance by the amount of "attention" from "big Internet media companies" -- It's a "is this still hot?" story. This is a common thing in the press, and I both understand how these stories get run, and believe that they wind up as mostly hot air: reporting on "what the buzz is" rather than what is or isn't happening.

That said, I'm also baffled by Mark Hurst's closing comment: "If you want to communicate with people, e-mail it to them," Mr. Hurst said. "Don't force them to come to your site every day to read what you've written." This may work when you have customers who choose to be sent updates, but I know that if I emailed people daily with my unsolicted ramblings, I'd just be burdening the overcrowded inboxes of a lot of folks.

posted by BT at 6:50 AM on February 26, 2002

whoops -- apologies for all that blank space. Don't know how I let that happen.
posted by BT at 6:51 AM on February 26, 2002

BT, following our pleasant phone conversation: there seems to be some evil bug on MeTa that plants a lot of empty space between the last word and the signature tune. What you've got to do is hit the 'delete' button until it sucks it all up.

I blame the "multiple paragraph" lobby myself, at their hacking worst, pretending, as they now do, not to be able to discern where one comment ends and the other begins... ;)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 8:04 AM on February 26, 2002

Hey! I like 'cottoned'! It's colorful and rustic as all get out. As part of a developing MetaFilter idiom, at least it beats Putting. Periods. Between. Words. and 'shit weasels'.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 9:24 AM on February 26, 2002

What I want to know is, why does the NYT persist in calling them Weblogs? Isn't that Very Seventeenth ~~CENTURY~~? Should there not be an HYPHEN betwixt the words 'Web' and 'log' (or, indeed, 'Logge'?). Especially since the venerable Times doth use an hyphen in E-MAIL.
posted by rory at 9:43 AM on February 26, 2002

From the article: Before changing to the Weblog, the site attracted about 40,000 visitors a month. Now, it is nearly 100,000.

[Hammers 'refresh' on site stats page] Where's my extra sixty thousand visitors, damn you!
posted by rory at 9:46 AM on February 26, 2002

why does the NYT persist in calling them Weblogs?

it's a hangover from AP style - which insists that web be capitalized in all instances, as well as any words which come from "web". I have to use AP style for work, and "Web site" feels like nails on a chalkboard.

I gather they were using "Web log" until fairly recently!
posted by epersonae at 10:02 AM on February 26, 2002

Hence the glut of articles on the subject in recent months. No one would have known what they were talking about when they had to call it 'b logging'.
posted by rory at 10:18 AM on February 26, 2002

Well, of course "Web" is capitalized. It's like "internet" vs. "Internet." An internet is any interconnected network of networks, while the Internet is a specific one. A web is any collection of hyperlinked documents, while the Web is a specific one.
posted by kindall at 10:50 AM on February 26, 2002

The capitalist model for developing something new often works like: 1. Find out about the new thing (game, technology, food, whatever). 2. Ridicule and discredit it. 3. Play with it. 4. Comercialize it and claim it as your own. Thus Starbucks, 'Indy' film and music mfg. by the major studios, 'private label' microbrew beer, drag racing and stonewashed jeans.
posted by Mack Twain at 11:33 AM on February 26, 2002

The Web is to 'web' as Earth is to 'earth'. We walk the earth, we (b)log the web. We don't blog the Web, or all our weblogs would be a googolbyte in size.
posted by rory at 2:23 PM on February 26, 2002

(jeezuz fuck this turned out long. take a nap before checking this comment.)

Mack, you forget 6: Sell it back to those who developed it. (And that's the circle of co-optation. Hakuna matata.)

dave: comparing weblogs to journalism is an insult to journalism.

rebecca, I see the evolution like this:

personal pages (glassdog): personal-based collaborations (fray): weblogs (take your pick): collab weblogs (metafilter, slash, etc): collaborations with collaborative weblogs (indy, newstoday)

(this isn't to say collab weblogs are always better than personal pages, or vice versa. But one does take more management, people and endavour than the next to be successful.)

So when I say I hope most “personal weblogs” die away I'm talking strictly about that group in the third step of the evolution that are mostly about the individual’s day to day life and media intake. I don't dislike all weblogs, just those that are so narrowly focused as to engender superficial observations about superficial things. I mean, I also hope celebrity worship mags die in the next few years, but I don't see any sign of that happening. I do see signs that weblogs will pass on.

I found this advice on commonplace books equally relevant to weblogs:
The big risk, if you accumulate a lot of chirographic bits and pieces, is that you will be tempted to quote more of them than you should. In a review of a book called The Progress of the Intellect, George Eliot criticizes the author (Robert William Mackay) for writing pages that “read like extracts from his common-place book, which must be, as Southey said of his own, an urn under the arm of a river-god, rather than like a digested result of study, intended to inform the general reader.” Don’t feel you must recirculate everything that you have found; a recopied passage will urn its keep even if you never quote it anywhere.
Nicholson Baker, The American Scholar, Autumn 2000
Back in the day, commonplace books weren’t even public artifacts. I can’t imagine the derision Eliot would lavish on webloggers, but I’d certainly read her before the weblog crowd began a rebuttal.

And the backlash would be inevitable wouldn’t it? There seems to be a pretty consistent vehemence toward the idea that the weblog is not a paradigm shifting revolution in reportage, writing, communication or whatever. Good examples are the above couple of comments and the thread a day or two ago about advice to weblog writers from a weblog writer. When faced with criticism weblog owners act very much like the typical high school art student—not so much impervious to criticism as not mature enough to accept it.

That really gets me, too. The best artists and writers on the planet had great relationships with their critics and improved immeasurably due to them. Webloggers, for whatever reason, just can't stand a good critique. Maybe because criticism is customarily defined in the negative; maybe people don't see the positive influence criticism can have. Whatever the reason, ignoring good critics will kill the form faster than a Blogger server crash.
posted by raaka at 6:52 PM on February 26, 2002

There would have to be an acceptable school of weblog criticism, and there isn't one yet. Telling people to learn to write doesn't cut the mustard, really. Nor does calling them boring.
posted by D at 10:18 PM on February 26, 2002

When faced with criticism weblog owners act very much like the typical high school art student—not so much impervious to criticism as not mature enough to accept it... Webloggers, for whatever reason, just can't stand a good critique.

That's valid up to a point, raaka, but must you be so sweeping about it? Some weblog owners act like high school art students (some are high school art students, no doubt); some can't stand a good critique. Every time I read these definitive statements saying 'webloggers are this' I end up wanting to say 'but the ones I read are that.' I've watched particular bloggers develop over two to three years now, and some of them have changed their blogging style enormously over that period. Surely others have seen this too? And not all those changes are because of changes in their daily lives; they're changes in response to criticism, direct or indirect or inferred. Every time one reads a metablogging article its particular lessons and criticisms sink in at some level; why else do they get discussed so fervently here and elsewhere?

Many of us will have seen favourite webloggers drift from links-blogging to journal-blogging, and in the other direction, in response to a perception that this is what their audience wants them to do. We've all seen blog-comments systems take off all over the place, and part of the reason for that must be that those bloggers want to encourage criticism of their work, both positive and, when it's called for, negative.

We've also seen plenty of bloggers just quit, or take a break, because they decide they're not doing anything worthwhile; that, too, can be in response to criticism, and self-criticism - or lack of criticism. How many give up because they never hear much in the way of criticism from anybody? That can feel like the harshest criticism: 'your work is so humdrum that it's not worth commenting on.'

Is this acting like a high school student? Or is this taking the form seriously; if it's not worth doing well, it's not worth doing? For some bloggers it's one, for some it's the other, or both, or neither. We all have different reasons for doing what we're doing, but there are plenty of bloggers out there who take this form seriously, take criticism of the form seriously, and do the best with it that they can. There's a bunch of them in this thread, for a start.

Yeah, sure, there are plenty of trivial, ephemeral blogs around. There are also blogs that are trivial one week and substantial the next. Sometimes we're in a thoughtful, metablogging mood and open to critique, and sometimes we feels pissed off at the world and don't wanna know. Just because weblog articles draw the occasional response in the latter vein from some (bold, underlined) webloggers doesn't mean that 'webloggers can't stand a good critique.'
posted by rory at 2:20 AM on February 27, 2002

(And sometimes we feels like making typos.)
posted by rory at 2:21 AM on February 27, 2002

(long, sorry)
Good points, rory, and I've seen what you're talking about, when people change their style in response to reader criticism - and I find this usually doesn't help. (It's really too complicated a process to accurately second-guess what your readership really wants, and if you change based on a few letters or comments, odds are some other readers strongly dislike the new direction.)

If there was a better base of weblog criticism, however, bloggers would be better served. If I may quote at length from something related: Henry Jenkins talks about the role early film critic Gilbert Seldes' work had on film, and longs for its equivalent in the game industry:
Such questions warrant close and passionate engagement not only within the game industry or academia, but also by the press and around the dinner table. Even Kroll’s grumpy dismissal of games has sparked heated discussion and forced designers to refine their own grasp of the medium’s distinctive features. Imagine what a more robust form of criticism could contribute. We need critics who know games the way Pauline Kael knew movies and who write about them with an equal degree of wit and wisdom.

When The Seven Lively Arts was published, silent cinema was still an experimental form, each work stretching the medium in new directions. Early film critics played vital functions in documenting innovations and speculating about their potential. Computer games are in a similar phase. We have not had time to codify what experienced game designers know, and we have certainly not yet established a canon of great works that might serve as exemplars. There have been real creative accomplishments in games, but we haven’t really sorted out what they are and why they matter.
Obviously we bloggers would need to grow the criticism from the ground up, and not rely on outside pundits, who will inevitably take us to task for not being enough like journalists or traditional writers or whatever the offline measuring stick. But so far the community's own efforts haven't been up to snuff.
posted by D at 7:02 AM on February 27, 2002

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