Personal Publishing

On blog design popularity…

Weirdly, a lot of people have commented on my thoughts on why a weblog is popular. More interestingly, exactly what I feared would happen has happened – by actively trying to demonstrate whether or not my theory was true or not (ie. by producing reviews) I have wandered slap bang into the middle of the debate (once again) about whether weblogs are popularity contests and whether or not good design is something that can be quantified.

It’s strange – in most other areas of web site creation it is considered a given that there are certain designs that are better than others. Unreadable content is surely always the sign of a bad website, as is unclear navigation. I consider to be incredibly well designed – it’s clear, elegant and easy to find your way around. So I can only half agree with Blog for One when he says: “on a personal site, one should be able to do whatever they want, and not have to worry about being judged, or measured, or ranked” because while no one should feel under pressure to compete, there is no reason to think that the design, content or character of a personal site cannot be improved, nor that the individuals who run those sites are not interested in doing so.

Personal Publishing

Blogger could do with a global search-and-replace…

It occurs to me that the awesome blogger could do with a search and replace facility. I mean, I know it could be a right pain in the arse, but what happens when someone moves their blog to a new domain? I mean, how useful would it be to be able to just replace with, while still maintaining the integrity of the permalinks?

Personal Publishing

Death of the Weblog?

Did everyone in the weblogging world get sent this link: Death to the Weblog? It’s a really weird site, which I can’t quite get a handle on. It seems to be about 2/3 spoof and 1/3 serious, or maybe the other way around, and includes great quotes like this:

“It just seems so restrained… like they worry. “Oh God, what if ‘so-and-so’ reads this???”.
FUCK EM!!!! If people can drag a loved one on a talk show, and drop a bomb like: “Honey, there’s a reason why we haven’t had sex in our eight years of marriage…I’M REALLY A MAN.”, in front of 20 million people….Why can’t we call someone an asshole on our webpages????”

This is one of the oldest online personal publishing problems: the “what if someone I know reads this” syndrome. The things you gradually excise out of your daily monologue to the world increase with time (does this make your weblog less interesting). The first minor spat I had with Sam before our unceremonious parting (case in point – don’t think I mentioned that) was about whether or not I could legimately talk about our burgeoning relationship in a public place. And then there’s my oft repeated story about when my brother e-mailed me about something I had written asking if I thought he should tell my mother. And then of course there’s the fact that everyone at work knows that I post my thoughts here. Am I to be fired, excommunicated or even prosecuted simply in order to maintain the purity of my weblog? I feel the same impetus as every other weblogger to tell the truth (what’s the point otherwise), but there will unfortunately be limits.

In the meantime, what is one to write about? It has to be said there are indeed a lot of boring weblogs. Many of them just don’t match my interests (and I am sure that barbelith doesn’t do it for everyone), but there are a few that are genuinely dull. Honestly, I think it all comes down to passion. Write about what you care about and everything is fine. If that is something in your personal life, then fine. If it is something in your professional life, great. If it is something on the web, also cool. You just can’t go wrong with an attitude like that.

There’s this really interesting weblog run by a guy called Matthew Rossi that I read occasionally, which has been looking at the criticisms in “Death to the Weblogs” (metacubed has a piece too). I think I’ll leave this subject on this point because he illustrates how one can take a fairly average subject and make something gripping out it. He says:

“While [the “Death to Weblogs”] rant was right about a lot of what goes on in Weblogging, it was also guily of it. Where’s the rage?

“Where’s the ‘I slave over the embers of my diseased imagination all day to bring you blogs about my twin brother, a necromantic hold over inside the lining of my skull, about Yahweh as Azathoth, about the arcane attributes of mayonnaise and Zueglodon sightings…and the best you can give me in return is dietary restrictions? A POX ON THEE!’ Where are the howlings of ‘Be more like Meghan! Be more like Barbelith! Hell, be like none of them…but for God/Yog Sothoth’s sake, be something other than this! If I wanted painfully boring details of your life, I’d be reading Proust!’?”

Personal Publishing

Six months of weblogging…

The 1st of May (next Sunday) will be my six month anniversary of weblogging, and I find myself confronting the same questions and situations now as I did when I began. My first entry came together at the beginning of November [1/11/99], when was just about to start a contract at Time Out. At the time I didn’t know what the job was or even what the title was. Now I am about to be promoted – at least this time I know what the title is.

The same concerns about writing occupy me as well. Is it all right to write about friends and family? How candid should a weblogger be? Why do I want to write about myself and is it a positive means of expression, or is it too constrained to be anything other than completely artificial. When I am frustrated, can I vent? Or must I be wary of saying something that I might regret later? It took me only two weeks [15/11/99] to start worrying about these things, and I haven’t found a solution yet:

“And then your fourteen year old brother is wondering whether or not your parents should be told about the what you have said on the site. And should I really be advocating the dismantling of the phallogocentric hetero-orthodoxy within his tender earshot? More to the point, how on earth are you going to talk about sex when you know your brother (half your age) is looking over your shoulder?”

And the most depressing thing of all? As I am (finally) about to move in to my new flat I decide to find out when all this horror began – when the spectre of homelessness first loomed above my head. I find that while I only (!) moved out of my flat at the beginning of March [2/3/00], I first started talking about the process way back in January [20/1/00]. It’s no wonder I feel tired all the time…

Personal Publishing

On writing about one's partners…

So I am sitting in my new office, everyone else has gone home and I have a few things to get done before I can go drinking with Nick and friends. I’ve got the Sex Pistols playing on the G4 as compensation for the Drum and Bass that has been in the background for much of the day. I’ve been thinking a lot today, between bouts of savage work, about what limits a weblogger must set on themselves.

I remember reading an article a few months ago about how a guy kept an incredibly personal and detailed online diary. All his friends knew about it, as did his girlfriend. She made the astonishing statement that she actually checked his diary to find out the state of their relationship. It sounds horrific, but it seemed to work for them.

Other webloggers, while accepting that there will always be things which they don’t feel comfortable talking about publicly, are less certain about where these limits lie.

A few weeks ago, Jason Kottke said that there was something happening in his life that he really wanted to talk about, but didn’t feel able. Meanwhile, Riothero keeps his relationship with Lyda very much in the foreground of his log. Of course, this hasn’t been without its difficulties.

I’m very interested in hearing about how people reconcile this difficulty (although the question I perhaps should be asking is “Why would anyone want to talk about their relationships publicly on the web anyway?”), but I suppose at the end of the day it comes down to this – the only appropriate public comment about a partner is one that they are happy with.