BloggingOn 3.6 – MegaBlogs Part III: MetaFilter

First a confession. I think I’m becoming addicted to MetaFilter. After the substanceless mess of FARK and BoingBoing, the in-crowd clubiness and left-wing ranting of DailyKos, and the all-around wishy-washy lame-itude of HuffPo and Plastic… MetaFilter is sort of refreshing.


BloggingOn 3.5 – Megablogs Part II: Plastic

Why am I so thoroughly unimpressed by Plastic? I’m not a fan of the layout, or the cute icons, but I have a feeling that what’s really to blame here is the sheer dearth of content. Have I really sped up to meet the pace of the blogosphere that quickly? I’ve looked at this page almost daily since the last class, and some of the same stories are still on the front page. It seems like there are less than 15 or 20 stories at any one time, and most of them are not very noteworthy.

Maybe Plastic’s posting procedure is what's amiss. Basically, average folks suggest story ideas to a group od Plastic editors who then decide whether or not to run the piece. Once it gets posted, the comments ensue. Comments are rated much like DailyKos… blahblahblah.

I’m sorry. Maybe I’m missing something here, but I just don’t care about Plastic.


BloggingOn 3.4 – Megablogs Part I: the Huffington Post

My sneaking suspicion is that this blog (nay, website) is online news for people who really don’t want to get their news online. (read: older folks) Check out the front page, designed to look much like a newspaper front page (though not quite as slick as everyone’s favorite satirical news-source), bold headlines, irritating columns and all. Just in case you haven’t quite warmed up to this whole “internet thing” yet, the Huffington Post (or “HuffPo”, as they apparently want you to refer to them… fondly, no doubt) will help soften the blow by making you feel like you’re reading an actual newspaper.

Appearances are not the only indicators of old-fashioned (read: outmoded) news-type signifiers. Let’s peruse the “Blog”, shall we? This section of HuffPo is basically an over-large collection of op-eds and editorials (more on HuffPo’s namesake shortly). All of these people seem to be well reputed or credentialed in some way. The link for each article is accompanied by a picture of the author’s grinning snarky mug, and a “bio” link beneath their disembodied head. This is a news blog for big kids who are not of the generation in which irony and cynicism are standard issue. For some reason, they still think they need to “trust” their news sources. Hey! You old fogies, mistrust EVERYONE. It’s so much easier.

A few more indicators of a distinctly “older” audience: ads for prescription drug coverage, lower mortgage rates, and… Deepak-f@ck!n-Chopra.

Oh, and… Arianna Huffington. I remember being vaguely interested in the Detroit Project, and I’m pretty sure I saw her on the Daily Show a few times, but don’t recall her being all that funny. Does anyone else think her blog is the work of a ghostwriter? (How’s that for a meme worth spreading?)

So, all in all, HuffPo is a harmless little left-ish website of a blog. It doesn’t create a community in the way that Kos or MetaFilter attempt to. Anyone can post a comment (as far as I can tell), but not just anyone can contribute an article. The news stories seem to come mostly from the AP wire, BBC and other reputable news sources. Even the self-proclaimed “Blog” section is not all that bloggy. Like I said, it’s more a random collection of op-eds, and not too many authors put an effort into making their articles part of the blogosphere by adding hyperlinks and the like. I know, a hyperlink does not a blog entry make, but why not play on the strengths of the medium? Flashy animated are nice, but interactivity is so much nicer.


BloggingOn 3.3 – Antecedents

Before I get into the thick of it, some random, and unorganized thoughts…

- What’s so frickin’ exciting about some fuzzy underwater pictures of a giant squid? Why is this thing showing up EVERYWHERE!? All of the MegaBlogs I looked at this week mentioned squiddy somewhere or other. Of course, he was on boingboing, too. But, believe it or not, I couldn’t find mention of the pics anywhere on FARK. They were more interested in this Squid related news item. The trademark tantalizing FARK one-liner lead-in is not to be missed: “Giant squids have schlongs as long as their bodies; claim sex has nothing to do with motion of the ocean.” Ah, FARK, you’re so refreshingly unabashed, er… I mean, shamelessly tacky. Personally, I think the old Jules Verne illustrations are a lot more interesting.

- Has everyone received that Bush joke via email? The one about the Brazilian soldiers?

- And what about this Honda Ad? According to Snopes, the implausible backstory is totally legit. Either way, it’s very cool. Most. Assuredly. So. (Again I’m not so concerned with questions of authenticity. Now the sounds, on the other hand… there were some foley artists involved here, right?).

Of course, all of the above could be potential memes, but if I have more time after this post, and before I ingest some food-type-stuff, and before driving like a maniac to class, I think I’ll look into that other (not so, um… appetizing) meme I came across this week.


A Sure Sign of Success

I received the following email today (from my sister)...

>For some reason your blog is filtered out in Jordan....
>Begin forwarded message:
> From: ted way <___________>
> Date: September 25, 2005 8:12:07 AM EDT
> To: "Lisa Bernasek"<___________>
> Subject: Re: Greetings from Jordan!
> Reply-To: ted way <__________>
> Eric's blog is blocked by the Yarmouk U filter. Interesting...

And though I still receive more comment-spam than actual comments, I feel some vague sense of satisfaction in knowing that the most moderate of moderate Muslim nations has deemed my blog unsafe for public consumption. Hoo-ray for me.


"self" expression

I like school because it helps to fulfill my need for social interaction and "self-expression" (though I'm afraid my classmates might soon tire of hearing me talk). But what "self" am I expressing? How can we express oursleves when we have no clear idea of what that "self" is?

My likes and dislikes. Are they my "self"? My views, opinions and beliefs. Are they my "self"? What about my appearance? My physical body? Are they my "self"?

Tastes change. Opinions change. Even appearances change. It's a "scientific fact" that this body is completely recycled every seven years. So if these cells have completely replaced themselves 3 or 4 times now, how can I call my body my "self"? Can I point to my arm or leg, or even look at my face in the mirror, and say that it's my "self"?

My body is not my self. I am not my body.

Yet, as all these things change (externals: body, appearance / internals: opinions, desires) there is one thing that remains constant... consciousness. That consciousness has accompanied me throughout my "change of bodies" ("...from boyhood, to youth, to old[er] age..."), isn't it reasonable to expect that it will continue beyond the death of this body?

That constant that remains, that is unchanging, must be my "self".

What are its characteristics? Its properties? How are these things expressed? If my self expression communicates anything that is inconsistent with my factual identity, how can it truly be identified as self-expression? If my sense of self is based on misconception (I am male. I am white. I am American.) then my self expression can only be an exercise in confusion and miscommunication.

What is the nature of self expression for one who is fully self-realized?

"Those who are seers of the truth have concluded that of the nonexistent [the material body] there is no endurance and of the eternal [the soul] there is no change. This they have concluded by studying the nature of both. That which pervades the entire body you should know to be indestructible. No one is able to destroy that imperishable soul." (Bhagavad-Gita As It Is 2.16-17)


BloggingOn 3.2

I think this a perfect candidate for meme of the week, but I'm afraid of what a search for "war pornography" or "gore for porn swap" might turn up. I didn't visit the website, nor am I likely to. This is absolutely sickening, but seems like it has a pretty good chance of making its way around the blogosphere. IMO, it would also be a valid entry into any "why-they-hate-us" conversation.


BloggingOn 3.1

A good deal of last night's class discussion was focused on the legitimacy of this and this. Personally, I think Sally and Sarah are both all too real, but why does this stuff so easily lend itelf to questions of authenticity?

Btw, if you want to take a look at something that is most definitely bogus (and you like to hear kids from Jersey rapping in passable Russian accents), click here.


BloggingOn 2.6 - Just Another Meme In the Crowd?

This showed up on DailyKos a few days ago. Though I'm still nor entirely sure what I'm looking for in a "meme of the week", this one felt right. Here's a link to the original article that inspired the diary on Kos (and there's the accompanying heart-wrenching photo). It's from the UK's DailyMirror. Compare it to this one from the AP Wire (apparently originating in Jacksonville, Arkansas). The quick run-down is this... Brits donated some 400,000 MREs to help with Katrina relief, but because of FDA regulations concerning the importing of meat products, they were likely to be incinerated and nor distributed. While I'd like to believe that the US government has gone vegetarian, the truth of the matter is that the FDA regulations are linked to concerns over mad-cow.

Two days later a search on Technorati pulled up a few concerned bloggers (here and here and here), and a Google search pulled up some 19,000 hits. After scanning through the first few pages of results, it appears that quite a few of these hits are links to the original diary posted on DailyKos.

It seems pretty obvious that Kos can create quite a stir (and this diary was posted by Kos, himself), what's not so obvious is what happens afterward. It was pretty easy to find mention of the original story, but what's happened since then? The internet has undoubtedly increased the speed with which we receive and assimilate information, but if it just amounts to momentary eddies of outrage and never brings about any result, what's the point?

Can anyone else find some evidence of an outcome? What happened to all this food?


BloggingOn 2.5 - Sleepless in Krum

I spent way too much time on this one. I never really figured out what happened to Matt (aka "Inidgo"). Jail maybe? I did have a good time following all of the comments, though. Check out these out. Can you believe it? Matt/Indigo and Igor (the Brazilian) are both 18 years old, and they're, like, both Leos!?!??! OHMIGAWD! Like, what are the chances? And then there's always this fine specemin. Reading this stuff makes me want to make fun of Texas, but then Seth hails from my home state. Speaking of coincidences (maybe, maybe not), it seems like there's a new love in her life. His name is Matt.

Just in case you don't like pointing and clicking, it would be a shame to miss out on some the finer aspects of "Take Me Back To Once Upon A Time". Here's an excerpt:

He knew that when he kissed this girl, and forever wed his unutterable visions to her perishable breath, his mind would never romp again like the mind of God. So he waited, listening for a moment longer to the tuning fork that had been struck upon a star. Then he kissed her.

And all courtesy of some hopeless sap in Texas, whom I don't know, and will never meet. Ain't the internet FAN-tas-tic!? I find some easy satisfaction knowing that in spite of all her foibles in teenage love, she lists "grammar" as one of her interests. There's hope for this one.


BloggingOn 2.4

Maybe this is a good example of what could happen at a site like DailyKos without the elaborate slef-policing mechanism...


BloggingOn 2.3 – Daily Kos

(I recommend listening to this while reading my break-down of Daily Kos. It is one of several mp3 files posted on the “About” page, composed and performed by Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas Zúniga. I think we could spend an entire class discussing how incredibly odd it is that the founder of Daily Kos is also responsible for this bot-so-unique brand of tepid piano drivel.)

In “unlocking” Daily Kos I found the following link by Kos member “pastordan” fairly invaluable. In it, he outlines the basic ground rules for the Daily Kos community, and also states what he believes is the purpose of DailyKos: “to build up a strong Democratic party capable of resisting Republican political domination.”

So, DailyKos is a liberal/leftist forum for political expression. It is not created by a single individual, or even a small staff of writers. It is rather a complicated message board where members are invited to contribute “diaries” for public review. Anyone who joins DailyKos can post a diary, after abiding by the one-week waiting period. Similar to waiting periods for purchasing firearms, DailyKos’ policy on this is meant to prevent trolls (“A troll deliberately exploits weaknesses of human nature or of an online community to upset people.”) from disturbing the flow of ideas.

There is also a similar waiting period (24-hour ) for posting comments. Comments then receive a rating from 0-4. Ratings can only be given by “trusted users”. This rating system (referred to as the “mojo system”), serves to either elevate the user to “trusted user” status, or to force them off of DailyKos altogether. As pastordan explains: “This is a self-policing community, and we covenant with one another to make this board a place where all voices can be heard without fear of ridicule, hostility, or overtly hurtful responses.”

The obvious questions is this: can’t this system be easily exploited in order to marginalize or censor opinions that don’t jibe with the DailyKos message? And while the obvious answer is yes (insofar, at least, as that possibility exists), pastordan clarifies again: “Many users believe that the rating system is intented to be an opportunity to express agreement or disagreement with a post, or with the poster themself. This is not accurate; ratings are intended to help elevate those posters that consistently make clear, good arguments and points, regardless of content, and to prevent trollsfrom invading the message board. Downrating commenters on the basis of agreement or disagreement with their arguments leads to a monolithic forum, free of new ideas and input.”

In my opinion, the attempt is admirable. DailyKos, while firmly established on the left, seems to provide an open forum for the intelligent exchange of ideas. I’m sure there are more than a few message-boards and discussion groups on the internet that could benefit from similar strategies. Just the idea that someone (or a community of individual someone(s)) is interested in minimizing emotional knee-jerk reactions and maximizing responsible intelligent dialogue is a good thing.

However, while that may be the ideal, you don’t have to look very far to see that emotional knee-jerk mentality bubbling up here and there. Granted, he is an easy target, but I think that Democrats willingness to personally attack W makes it difficult to see them as opinioned but level-headed contributors to political dialogue.

Aside from the knee-jerk, the desire for status and recognition always seems to be lurking around somewhere, too. Check out these t-shirts from the DailyKos store. I don’t know which is worse: letting anyone buy one of these shirts, or restricting sale to users who have actually earned the “mojo 4.0” rating.


BloggingOn 2.2

After-after-class wrap-up(-up)

A lot of interesting stuff flew by in class this week. Can’t possibly touch on all of it, but I want to sum-up my thoughts before they disappear.

We discussed the blogs in Technorati’s top-ten (with some additions). Colin’s comments about “code” at the end of class made me think about the blogosphere in terms of audience… Maybe this is what demarcates different types of blogs from one another...

As I see it, we have discussed four different types of blogs so far: list-o-links, gadgetngizmo, personal/diary/self-expression, political/news-based. It seems that the main differences between these sites are the types of people that read/create them.

I mentioned in class that I thought the list-o-links blogs seem to be focused on bored office workers. They are, perhaps, the TVGuide(s) of the blogosphere. Have ten minutes to kill? Can’t bring yourself to fill out another TPS Report? Click on this for more inane crap. Notice how some of these links are accompanied by warnings or ratings of some sort: may not be safe for viewing at work, etc.

Another aspect of the list-o-links that is common to gadgetngizmo is the water-cooler factor. Colin was saying how he “just didn’t get” blogs like gizmodo and engadget. I think there’s probably a gene involved in that particular equation that Colin (thankfully?) doesn’t have. I was, at one time, making electronic music on a regular basis, and there is a personality type that is drawn to that stuff mostly because of this mystery gene’s dominance in their physical make-up. They are far less concerned with great music, than they are in the hardware and the software that was used to make it. Guys like this (and no, that’s not sexist, it’s pure fact… GUYS like this) can stand around for hours “comparing processor speed and CPU size”. How do guys like that stay informed? Right. Honestly, I’m surprised that these types of pages don’t feature more of the soft-porn elements that lurk about on the list-o-links pages. They’re really not too far from those auto magazines with women in bikinis sitting on the hood of some fast shiny chrome something-or-other.

And now, for the opposite end of the emotional spectrum,... blogs of the personal/diary/self-expression variety, seem to be more about the writer than the reader. Perhaps there is a small group of friends who drop in from time to time (along with a rotating cast of more voyeuristic readers), but for the most part, these things exist mainly for the blogger.

Personal expression in the political vein finds its way into political/new-based blogs. A lot of these are pretty similar to the last sort, but there is a much more clearly defined agenda here. These blogs are not necessarily the work of lone-wolves howling in the wilderness. They often have a staff, or some collective of isolated individuals all contributing to the cause.

What else is out there? What doesn’t fit into these not-so-neatly demarcated groups? Would any of these purposes be better served by websites instead of blogs? Are they all really blogs? Does it really matter all that much?


BloggingOn 2.1

So far, the best thing about having a blog is all of the comment spam I've been getting. Please spammers, please prey on my insatiable need for approval. If you say something vaguely nice about my lame blog, there's no doubt I'll check your out, too.

This has to be my hands-down favorite. Marketing genius.


BloggingOn 1.4

In Technorati's top 100. I doubt this insightful commentary will make it into our class discussion...

I trust the irony needs no introduction?



BloggingOn 1.3

I don't know if it's addiction or obsession, but I tend to have problems saying "when". So diving into this whole blog thing is accompanied with some due caution. There may have to be some limits to time spent per day. And after however long I've been pointing and clicking and scrolling and gaping, it doesn't seem like I've improved the quality of my life all that much.

Today's objective: examine the variety of perspectivesavailable in blog-type news coverage. This was by no means an exhaustive search, but I did manage to find some unexpected repetition here and there . I suppose the references to Clinton/Lewinsky have been showing up throughout the GW reign, but the juxtaposition of sources seems odd. Speaking of thedailyshow, have blogs contributed to, or do they just echo, the increase in news outlets that are sincerely insincere, to put it one way, or, rather, require some interpretation or irony-filtering on the part of the audience?


btw, how's my blogtone shaping up?


Radhe! Radhe!

Today is Radhastami, the "appearance day" of Srimati Radharani. In a class on Bhagavad-Gita (74/09/23 Calcutta, Bhagavad-gita 4.10 ), His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada explains...

"So we shall pray to Radharani... What is Radharani? Radharani is the pleasure potency of Krsna. Pleasure potency. Parasya saktir vividhaiva sruyate [Cc. Madhya 13.65, purport]. The Supreme Lord has many potencies. Na tasya karyam karanam ca vidyate. Therefore He has nothing to do. He has got so many potencies. Just like big man, a rich man. He's sitting. But his energies, his potencies, are working. Big, big factory. And he knows everything. Similarly, parasya saktir vividhaiva sruyate. He has got many multi-potencies. One of them is this pleasure potency. Pleasure potency...

He also wants pleasure. So when Krsna wants... Krsna is Param Brahman. He cannot enjoy anything material. He has to create the source of enjoyment by His own spiritual potency. That is Radharani. So Radharani is described in the sastra: radha-krsna-pranaya-vikrtir hladini-saktir asmad [Cc. Adi 1.5]. That is Krsna's hladini-sakti. She gives pleasure to Krsna. So She is very kind. And today is Radhastami. If we pray to Srimati Radharani... Therefore in Vrndavana you'll see. They are first of all glorifying, "Jaya Radhe!" Everywhere you'll hear. "Jaya Radhe."

In another Radhastami class, Srila Prabhupada says that "Krishna is Radharani's property." If we want to approach Krishna, we have to go through Radha first.

Sri Sri Radhe Shyam ki Jaya!


BloggingOn 1.2

After trolling around today, a few off-the-cuff reactions…

One of the more interesting facets of the blogs that address news events or issues is the more personal or behind-the-scenes perspective they give things. This is, of course not wholly good or wholly bad. When most major news coverage seems prefab, like it gets unloaded out of the same sort of box that gets shipped to starbucks franchises around the world, it seems “important” to be reading this stuff. At the same time (and this isn’t the negative part quite yet) it has the air of being the realitytv end of news reporting. It’s somehow more attractive because it’s just someaverageschmoe telling his story .

While reading this stuff is sort of exciting, it is also leaves me sort of empty, like eating a candy bar when you really should have had a meal. It is similar in many ways to the overwhelming success of farenheit911… totally inconsequential. That is to say, there is some feeling of dire importance to getting the message out there and informing the public, but that also comes with the disappointing realization that the people who will read your blog probably already feel quite a bit like you .
No one’s mind is changing all that much about all that much.



BloggingOn 1.1

Of all the ways to get from idea to action... I'm finally taking a swing at this whole "blog thing". This semester i'm taking a course called "blogging on", so let's just call this "assignment 1". The desire to start a blog has been kicking around for a bit nonetheless. I actually started a blog on livejournal last year that never got off the ground. It was supposed to be a way to track my (mis)adventures in India last fall, but I vastly over-estimated the ease of internet access in the out-of-the-way locales I spent my time. When I got back from Inja, the idea was still festering. At that time it was a little more tech-savvy and creative (a regular audio/visual blog w/ mp3 field recordings and digital photos from daily life), but like most of my best ideas, it never became much more than an idea. So, at any rate, here we are again...

My exposure to blogs thus far has not been all that inspiring. Perhaps that's why i've been reluctant. The blogs i've seen have been little more than outlets for bitching-and-moaning at worst, and attempts to showcase one’s cleverest drivel at best. The blogs I’ve seen have also been light on outside traffic, so they seemed to be the virtual equivalent of opening the door to a dark empty room, shouting nonsensically for a bit, and then shutting the door again.

I’m more than willing to have my perspective changed/expanded on those points.

Here’s something more substantial though… blogs share a trait that is common to most current media: their success depends on approval that is anything but local and is often highly impersonal. That is to say, self-expression used to be a fairly local and community based affair. Just as your town might have its local grocery store, hardware store, library, bank, etc. it might also have it’s own local brass quintet, string quartet, garage rock band, etc. Now you have your own local wildoats, homedepot, borders and bankofamerica. Forget the brass quintet and the string quartet, the local garage band is Coldplay. Maybe you had a community theatre, but there’s not really time for that now because we can’t miss the last episode of sixfeetunder or theapprentice.

While blogs may present the illusion that they are engaging in a direct, personal, one-on-one dialogue, the connection is made with persons who are most likely not a part of your local community, on a(n arguably) shallow level (opinions meeting in cyberspace… reminds me of highfidelity: you’re not what you own, you are what you like). Lifehouse, anyone?

“Ok, ok… let’s take it from here…”


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