A Novice Blogger's Thoughts...

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Term Paper

Web logs, better known today as blogs, are among the fastest growing communication mediums of our time. It seems as if everyone is blogging; from preteens to political organizations, to pastors, to retirees and everyone in between, there is a place in the blogisphere for you if you have the patience and the technological means to access it. Fast-paced and easily accessible, blogging has become a way for people to read, write and comment on the thoughts of others across the globe with the click of a mouse. For the first time, we have a medium of communication void of human contact that allows us to react and respond instantly.

For the last three months I have been ‘blogged on,’ but I am more than ready to ‘blog off.’ In short, I have found most bloggers have too much time on their hands. They have read and commented on more blogs by noon than the average person could in a week, and for what? The hope that their posts may lead to linking and commenting on their own blog? That their rating may increase a quarter of a fraction? I have found much of the blogisphere to be an elite community of techies trying to out link or out design the next guy. Most of the blogs I have read lack real discussion, in spite of the obscene number of comments many of them boast. Bloggers only link and read other like-minded bloggers, which too often prevents any sort of realistic two-sided dialogue. Thus, despite wishful thinking on the part of many bloggers, the blogisphere in its current condition will never, in my opinion, be able to compete with mainstream media. Its freedom prevents it from ever becoming a viable source of true information. For me it is a frustrating arena, which requires more time and energy to weed through than is worth for the lack of return I receive. That said, in the spirit of the movie High Fidelity (a film the whole class seems to agree is worth quoting), I give you the top five reasons I hate the blogisphere.

5- Anonymity.

You can be anyone or anything on the blogisphere, thus so can everyone else. There are no background checks when you create a blog, no name verification, you only need internet access. You can name you blog whatever you want, you can choose to call yourself whatever you want and you can certainly write about whatever topics you want- none of which require any truth. This concept frightens me, not for my own risk but for that of others. You see, I do not read blogs for factual news, for serious information or specific facts, mainly because how am I to know if anything I read is true or correct? Just because a blogger claims to be a medical doctor does in no way mean he actually is one. He could be fourteen-year-old kid pretending to be Doogie Howser and I would not know, but that is my own skepticism, or my own intelligence depending on how you look at it.

I read blogs for entertainment, to see what is being discussed, even to spark the flow of ideas, for these purposes the blogisphere can be invaluable. However, am I amongst the minority? Are there are people out there who look to blogs as a solid information source? There most certainly are, and those are the people I worry about in this medium. A perfect example of the danger in finding information on the blogisphere recently occurred on Wikipedia – an online community blogged encyclopedia. Incorrect and accusatory information was posted about a former friend and administration member of President John F. Kennedy. This information remained posted on Wikipedia for several months, partly because no one with the correct information looked at it, and partly because Wikipedia does not require text citing to post. Like many others, I ‘wiki’ someone or something on occasion to clarify who or what about a specific person or thing, but I am fully aware Wikipedia is anything but the encyclopedia Britannica. There are plenty of blogs out there that look and claim to be legitimate news sources, when in reality what they are ‘reporting’ and commenting on is completely false, fabricated and/or biased. Worst of all, there is no real accountability in this medium, as few readers ever actually meet the bloggers behind their favorite blogs. The blogisphere, veiled in anonymity, allows people to say things they may never say otherwise, including all things false, hurtful and inappropriate, but then again- no one is forcing you to read it.

4- Language and terminology.

The Blogisphere has a language all its own. Words like blog and blogisphere don’t appear in spell check, while linking and commenting take on entirely new meanings in this realm. The vocabulary alone could take weeks to learn on your own, as there is no such thing as a blogging dictionary.

Let’s begin with ‘blog,’ which is the abbreviated form of the words ‘web’ and ‘log.’ “Blogisphere’ is the term commonly used to describe the medium of blogs as a whole, while establishing it as a separate entity from the rest of the internet. ‘Bloggers’ are people who read, write and comment on blogs. ‘Proto bloggers,’ the first real group of people to explore this medium, create and maintain blogs that resembled online, public journals - www.livejournal.com and www.myspace.com are excellent examples of proto blogging sites. ‘Megablogs,’ such as www.slashdot.com and www.dailykos.com , are large multi-user blogs that resemble communities. Most megablogs have set of rules or guidelines specific to their blog, with a fairly regular group of bloggers who post frequently about their common subject.

Beyond the technical terms used to describe this new medium, the blogisphere has birthed a number other words. To be ‘dooced’ it to be fired from one’s job because of one’s job, coined by proto blogger Heather Armstrong. A ‘wiki’ is a type of megablog where a community of people is working together toward a common goal or task. The most successful example of this to date is the Wikipedia, a site attempting to write an online encyclopedia from the information bloggers post on it. ‘Blogonomics’ is the art of making money on the blogisphere.

Yet confusion in the blogisphere occurs when common words take on new meanings. For example, linking to and commenting on blogs are more than what their definitions mean. Sure, linking one blog to another does join the two, and commenting on a blog is posting your own thoughts about a subject, however there is another way to define these terms. In the blogisphere, linking and commenting can increase your blogs rating or score. They become a means to determine how successful your blog is. Links lead to hits, hits often lead to comments and both lead to a better blog rating- the ultimate goal for any serious blogger.

3- Speed.

One of the greatest appeals of the blogisphere is its speed. For the first time, we are dealing with a medium that allows nearly instantaneous information sharing. You have a thought or an opinion and the amount of time it takes you to put your ideas on your blog for the world to read is only the amount of time it takes you to write it and click ‘post.’ You as the blogger are in the driver’s seat, there are no editors, proof readers or panels to grant you their seal of approval. With literally one click of the mouse your work is available to be read by any and all interested. There is no arguing the speed of the blogisphere is hugely appealing, but on the flip side, this asset can also be extremely dangerous, and rather obnoxious.

In The Fat Woman’s Joke, British novelist Fay Weldon wrote, “One has to be careful with words. Words turn probabilities into facts, and by sheer force of definition translate tendencies into habits.” To me, this should be the surgeon’s general warning to bloggers and blog-readers alike. Between the mere structure of this medium and the speed in which it changes, words can quickly become weapons of mass destruction and /or a powerful advantage. There are no official fact-checkers on the internet, thus you can write whatever you want how ever you choose to, which can be a fabulous way to blow the whistle on story being ignored by the mainstream media, or a quick fix to a sticky situation. However, it seems too often on blogs that people react instantly to posts they read, and often this instant commentary is more heated name calling than intelligent disagreement. And with a total lack human contact, it is far more likely for a reader to misunderstand a post, taking it completely out of context or missing the sarcastic undertone. All the while, the speed of the blogisphere lends itself to posting and reposting, comment after comment after comment appears, and in a blink of an eye a vicious verbal war can erupt on a blog. It is the speed of this medium that allows both blogger and reader/commenter instant gratification, thus often turning normal individuals into blogging fanatics.

2- The Minions.

Blogging minions may be a creation of those of us taking the ‘Blogging On’ course at Trinity College, however, it is quite clear to me that they are a huge annoyance on the blogisphere. I liken the minions of a blog to mob or gang thugs. If you mess with their leader, and by mess I clearly mean post a comment they deem disrespectful, the blog thugs will rough you up, by which I mean post nasty, disrespectful comments on your blog. The bloggers who have extra time on their hands tend to fall into the minion role, as their constant reading, posting and commenting has increased to a fanatic level. They read and comment on the same blogs each and every day, sometimes multiple times in a day, so they become familiar not only with the blogger, but the other fanatics of the blog.

Most blogs have a small or sometimes large community of readers faithful to the site, who usually agree with the point of view of the blogger. It is this tight knit virtual community of strangers that can and will become extremely hostile very quickly. Because they are so familiar with their blog or blogs of choice, their intense monitoring makes it easy for them to notice new visitors to the blog. It is important to keep in mind that true minions are fanatical about their favorite blogs, so there is a sort of emotional attachment to them. This is probably why when they feel the blog has been verbally threatened or undermined, they must defend it. In my experience, and the experiences of some in our class, the blog minions don’t waste a moment’s time before they strike back. The speed of the blogisphere allows them to respond as quickly as they want, which often leads to very heated comments as there is no cooling off period.

Whatever you want to call them, minions, fanatics, crazy people, the out come is the same: the squashing of any real discussion and debate. This to me is incredibly obnoxious and it makes me hesitate to post a comment on a blog that may not be in complete agreement with the blogger, which totally defeats the purpose of the blogisphere for me. If this cannot be a place of free discussion, the birth of new ides and challenging dialogue, then for me it becomes a place where I can find a good laugh, which is all well and good, but disappointing nonetheless. Considering all the blogisphere could be, it is too bad it has settled to be what it is: a place for like-minded people to virtually pat one another on the back for their like minded ideas.

1- The Frontier (or lack there of).

Unfortunately, as has been the case many times before, when you have a medium with no regulations like the blogisphere, people who participate in it begin to self-regulate. In many areas of the blogisphere, this self regulation has become a web of differing complex rating systems, point scales, and elitist restrictions, thus losing much of the freedom. On some blogs it takes longer to figure out the rules of the site, than it does to read the blog itself. How is this accomplishing anything but more confusion?

Take www.dailykos.com for example. This blog truly angers me. In the frequently asked questions section of this blog, there are 14.6 chapters – each one explaining how to function on the site, which includes everything from how to post a comment to how comments are rated and everything else imaginable. As a blog reader, I want to be able to log online, go to the blogs I am interested in reading and if and when I feel so moved, I want to post a comment. This is not possible on Daily Kos, even after I have read the directions; a blogger must earn the right to comment, earn the right to post something on the blog. Now, Daily Kos is by far the extreme, but it is out there, with all 14.6 chapters of instruction/regulation amongst the most popular political blogs.

Blogs are such a fast paced, cutting edge medium, that they truly are on the frontier of the internet. And this does have some appeal, I don’t want big brother regulating what I can and cannot read, say, or think, but along those same lines, I don’t want Markos Moulitsas Zúniga from Daily Kos regulating me either. I understand a blogger makes the blog, thus he or she makes the rules, but I cannot support a tyrannically constricting blog, such as Daily Kos. Now Heather Armstrong definitely regulates her blog, Dooce, but she does it in what I consider an inoffensive way. Armstrong does not allow comments on her blog, however, you can e-mail her directly with whatever you like. This is definitely a personal choice of hers and a way of regulating both her readers and her blog. And yet I am not offended by it at all, in fact, I love Dooce and I read it nearly daily.

At the end of the day, it is not the regulating of the blogisphere frontier which bothers me, it is the hyper-serious, over-thought, regulation that really pisses me off. It takes all types of people to make a community of any sort, that I understand, but these are blogs, not NASA.

Some Closing Thoughts:

Blogs are among the fastest growing communication mediums of our time. It seems as if everyone is blogging; from preteens to political organizations, to pastors, to retirees and everyone in between, there is a place in the blogisphere for you if you have the patience and the technological means to access it. Only by blogging on myself and experimenting in the blogisphere as both a reader and a blogger, was I able to discover it is not the place for me. I am sure I will continue to dabble on blogs here and there, but not on my own blog and not with any sort of consistency. I have found an appreciation for those people who have found their inner blogger, but as for me, I am ready to blog-off.

Bullied into Blogging

How can I say no to Bill and Patti??

I will at least give blogging some more thought- that's not a no, it's a maybe. But I know I won't have time to even consider blogging until after our move this weekend. I'll give it a new shot then. :)

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Bitter Sweet Goodbye

I came to this class in my first semester as a graduate student with certain expectations - this class met none of them, and yet exceeded even my wildest imaginations. Never have I experienced a class truly become a small community of its own like our class did. And though I have been rather vocal both on my blog and in class about the fact that I am uncomfortable and frustrated with the blogisphere, I also realize that it is because of the blogisphere that we all got to know each other better and the class dynamic became what it is. Every week I read about your lives, I can listen to Jeff's music and hear Eric speaking. And so even if I never blog again, which I think is a distinct possibility, I know and better understand why other people decide to log on and blog about whatever they have on their mind at that particular moment. I can see now how blogging can be a cathartic experience, a release of some sort, even if it is anything but for me. And I know that I will continue to read the updated blogs of those of you who choose to continue on your blogging path, long after I am required to do so for this class (but maybe not as often, because I have to read Dooce, which I am not so secretly addicted to).

I know I have learned more from listening and reading all of you than I possibly could have from any text book or outside blog. You have each made me think about things in different ways, or from new angles. For that I thank you. I hope that my path at Trinity crosses all of yours at one point or another, but for those it doesn't I wish you the best of luck. I've enjoyed peaking into your thoughts these last few months.

New Beginnings...


I definitely had a good laugh when I read Colin's new names for our blogs. Not sure how he figured out I have aspirations of writing novels, but I wouldn't rule out the possibility of borrowing personality traits for some future character. A wise professor once told me that good writing and great dialogue is a direct results of life experiences - so who knows...

In the spirit of our last class, I thought I would attempt blogging in an entirely new way for me, although I am skeptical about how successful it will be.

Today,my boyfriend, Christian, and I closed on our first home! (Who knows if this picture thing will even show up, but I figured there was no harm in trying.) It looks like we will be in, but far from settled by the weekend of Dec. 18th, and construction of our new bathroom will begin sometime this week. The house is older, built in 1872, she has great bones but needs some TLC. With large windows, tall ceilings and beautiful wall to wall wood floors, we are excited about making this little house ours. I have absolutely no idea how we are going to manage packing the rest of our apartment, full time jobs, and my two term papers in the next nine days, but I am not dwelling on the logistics of those things. Besides, as I have learned many times before, sleep can be highly over rated. In the end, how we manage to accomplish the task at hand doesn't really matter as long as it gets done. I am a true Machiavellian at heart in that respect. And I am slightly obsessive compulsive and I can only handle things in the limbo of inbetween for so long, so I would rather be all packed in our new house, than starring at half packed boxes and mostly emptied walls. But the physical move is going to be a breeze in comparison to the emotional move my family has made to survive this process!

You'll notice that I said boyfriend and NOT fiance' Bill, as we are not yet engaged. A topic of much concern and conversation amongst my extremely conservative, Catholic family.
They love Christian and are more than ready to make him a part of our family- but they don't quite know what to with him without the whole marriage certificate thing. To me this is completely ridiculous, and so I continue to give my parents grey hairs by living in sin out of wedlock with my Protestant boyfriend. So you can imagine their displeasure when we told them we were buying a house, and pushing back the engagement another year. That said, they are beginning to come around nicely. My grandmother gave us her verbal blessing last week when she said it was ok by her if we did things 'lopsided.' That in and of itself was a small miracle from the heavens, so maybe there is a god of some sort! My parents are still grappling with the whole concept, but rumor has it they bought us a house warming present so that has to be a good sign!
But in the end, Christian and I are so excited and happy about our new home and that is what really matters. And sometime this week we are planning on buying our Christmas tree and somehow that feels like the finishing touch to a wonderful new chapter in our lives!


(On a side note: While I am glad I tried it, I am sure now that blogging is not for me. Sharing all of this about my life did not make me feel anything but uneasy and strange. I know that I could not write about the intimate details of my life for the world to read, especially not daily.)

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Some thoughts...

I have been reading the classes blogs for the past few days and mulling over some of the topics being discussed. It has been a few months now that I have been blogging and I still can't get to that comfortable place so many others have where I can just log on, read and post. I still have to take time to process all the information and ideas that I am reading, which I am pretty sure means I am a bad blogger!

Recently, I have been thinking a lot about something Patti said on her blog (that she updates MUCH more frequently than I do, which means she is definitely a better blogger than i am! :):
"Has this theory come true through "Blogging On"? Have 15 or so naive students become more tuned in to the blogisphere through our interaction within it rather than through watching it from afar? Some have willingly become a part of this ant hill, some of us have moved forward to our own ant hill while yet others have settled comfortably within a predisposed "frontier" place. I am still uncertain of where my particular place is--but I know one thing for certain--I will never be alone there--and neither will you!"
She is talking about something I never really took to heart, before I read her blog that is. In a very unique way, we have all impacted the very medium we are trying to understand and that is a pretty cool concept, for lack of better words. And even though I am a self-proclaimed bad blogger, who won't continue my blog beyond this class, I'm glad I was a part of this class, that I had this experience. That said...

I completely agree with Marc- the blogisphere for many is about attention and being louder than the next person. This is painfully obvious on many of the blogs we have read- from Daily Kos, to Sarah, even to dare I say it, Aldon. Now everyone blogs about different things and different opinions, but I am arguing bloggers blog for the same basic reason- they want to be read, they want to be heard. And those things are exactly why the blogisphere is an amazing space. It gives people who may not have a powerful voice, a chance to impact they way someone else, a complete stranger, and the way they think. I, personally, become overwhelmed and often frustrated by all of the information thrown at me on blogs, and I have no desire to impact people I have never, and will never meet. Thus, blogging just isn't for me, but I can completely understand why others flourish on the blogisphere.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Vlogs...

This is the THIRD time I have tried to blog about vlogs, but each time I decide I need to watch rocket boom one more time to comment on it and it shuts down my whole browser, and I lose my in-process blog! So I am done with rocket boom- Mercedes of vlogs or not.

I have mixed feelings about vlogs. One the one hand, I think they are an even bigger time suck than the blogs on the blogisphere, but on the other they can be extremely entertaining. Thus I am torn. I hated Human dignity, sock puppets talking about and having sex disturb me quite frankly. But my boyfriend and our roommate thought it was hilarious, so maybe I am just not the target audience. I did, however, get a good laugh out of bath tub yoga. I think it is pretty stupid, but somehow very funny.

The site I really loved this week I happened to stumble upon, and I am not even sure if it is a vlog or not but it is so funny that I don't care. Foamy, the extremely pissed of squirrel, was successful is whittling away almost two hours of my time. His rants are beyond funny and say all the things we sometimes wish to say- everything from the sleazy guy at the bar to the ridiculous sizes of starbuck's coffee, this squirrel is mad and speaking out about all of it. I think this might be vlog because clearly the cartoonist is voicing his/her opinions and concerns through Foamy, and a new cartoon comes out almost bimonthly. So I don't see why it couldn't be classified as a vlog of sorts- it definitely has vlog-like tendencies.

Overall, I am more uncomfortable in the vlogisphere than I am in the blogisphere. Somehow there is a voyeur-like capacity that I just don't love. Vlogs are definitely entertaining though, so I may have to force myself to become more comfortable with them after all.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Surprisingly Charming...

Although I do not understand much of the Jewish termonology she uses, I find her blog surprisingly charming. Reading her posts I get a sense of who she is and what she believes in, and that extends to more than just her faith. Her blog is clearly a reflection of her and what is going on in her life that day. She is not as funny, or any where near as entertaining as Heather Armstrong is on Dooce, but there is definately a realness to this blog that I like. I highly doubt I will ever read her sight regularly like I do Dooce, but I don't think I really fit her target audience and that's ok.