Joe Crawford
Web developer & user interface engineer
Tinkering with the web since 1996

email: joe@artlung.com · twitter: @artlung
San Diego, California, USA
aka joecrawford.com


Blogosphere Part 2: Musings/Blogosphere

A Small L.A. TripPart 1
Part 2
Blog

Sunday, February 15, 2003

The event last night was both overwhelming and underwhelming. The thing I come away with is that anyone can do this blogging stuff, which is what I believed before too.

The impression I got was that several of the people on the panel were interested in how to monetize their blogging in some way. Now for me, this feels strange. Perhaps I’m being naive, but I do this thing called “blogging” for myself. That others read it is terrific, but I can’t help but think that when you do something for yourself, you’re not going to be able to consistently productize and monetize it. Several people: rabbit blog, reverse cowgirl, and the guy with the “Anna Kournikova Nude” blog said that they don’t think about their audience very much.

Now to me this flies in the face of traditional media, which is good, because traditional media tends to want to force all “content” to be “Content.” As though writing were this commodity with a generic label on it. Like, say, Government Cheese or generic or house brand corn flakes. Doc Searls rightly disses the use of that term for writing and journalism.

My point is I think that if you want to make money at something, you should have some kind of consistent level of quality and regularity. I don’t know if I see that in many blogs or even online communities.

I look at the San Diego bloggers site, which I maintain, and look at the amount of turnover of blogs. Blogs start, and stop, and go on hiatus. In this way much of blogging is transient and ephemeral.

For me, I’ve always viewed what I put on the internet as permanent. I take an extraordinarily long view. The Web Archive appeals to be greatly. I want my personal ramblings to live forever – a kind of grandiose, exhibitionist immortality. Jakob Nielsen discusses the fact that “urls should live forever“—but how to maintain that? That takes some wherewithal. I’m a geek, and know what an .htaccess file is. I know that my old earthlink site still redirects to me because I put an .htaccess file in that space a very long time ago.

Blogging is still new, and transitory. And how do you make money at like this? I remember a line from Gibson’s novel “Idoru,” Chia is talking to Masahiko (or is it Masahiko’s brother) asking about a club in Shinjuku—and he tells Chia that “clubs in Shinjuku are short-lived—there is no ‘Monkey Boxing'”

Perhaps blogs are more like “Monkey Boxing”—like clubs people will frequent for a while, then leave behind. People will hear tell of them, and by the time they get there, they are gone. I remember when I heard my cousin, who was maybe 7 years old at the time, say “ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US” to me. He giggled uncontrollably at me then. He was in on the secret. Thing was, I had heard the phrase, seen the parodies of it, and talked it to death months before that. My experience was an “early adopter” – but there it was—filtering out into the culture. 6 months later, the 3rd graders get it.

When I think about the things on the internet that have moved me and tickled me, I think—could I find them again? Hm.

I also think about things I have read – longer things – which are must reads – which I first encountered on the web.

These are things of substance. There are ideas contained there which are fully formed, and re-readable. They may at times refer to technologies which are less relevant, but the ideas are worth revisiting. I have a hard time thinking of blog entries that I make an effort to go back to.

Perhaps that’s the nature of the beast as far as the length of writing goes. Blogging is by it’s nature typically shorter in length than a whole essay. So there’s less there there. Not there is no value. I’m not saying that at all. There is a great deal of value in the daily musings of smart, informed, witty people from around the world. But I get more out of the multiplicity of blogs than out of individual bloggers. I enjoy very much reading backupbrain, or Doc Searls, Oliver Willis, and especially Matt Haughey—but it’s ephemeral stuff. I read them to keep abreast of technology, or important net companies, the Macintosh world, Britney Spears, dope rock. It’s hard to see me wanting to revisit those things often. But I’m glad as heck that they’re out there, chronicling their lives and experiences and thoughts.

Speaking of “keeping abreast”—so I’ve not had a net connection in about 16 hours. The HUGE news from last night announced was that Google bought Pyra Labs. Part of me immediately thought that I hope Matt Haughey gets some dough from that—I know he and several others put their hearts and souls into that company. My paranoid conspiracy theory is that now Blogger blogs will get a slight goosing in google’s PageRank algorithms. That into the mix of content, inbound links, outbound links, title tags, there will be a “B” factor. In some measure I hope to gain from this. ArtLung is still technically a Blogger blog.

It was nice to see the news “live” as Ev had his “Holy Crap” message posted.

Geek Warning: If you’re not interested in tedious web programming and technology thoughts, you might want to skip this paragraph
Admittedly, it’s a Blogger blog tricked out with a lot of tricks. I have a php/mysql include on all my pages to help me track referers. I have a php widget which allows me to slurp up my blogger template and munge it into an RSS feed. I have rolled my own widget to allow my archived months of blogger to be navigated month-to-month, I added a widget which replaces the traditional blogger archive page with one that is generated based on my actual archive files. I also have a mod_rewrite which accounts for the initial urls I was using (shtml) and rewrites them to how they are today. I don’t have a Blogger Pro account, but sometimes I wish I could. I’ve tried all the blogging packages out there. I don’t really care for any of them. I’m with blogger because it was where I started. I distinctly remember Matt Haughey telling me in an email that I should blog – I think replied with “what do I have to say?” Matt knew me from various listservs on which I was a noisy fellow. Anyway, I’ve not moved to MovableType or greymatter or Bloxsom or pMachine or PostNuke or b2 or any of the others because they just were not fits. MovableType is wonderful – but it feels like PhotoShop to me. It’s got so much functionality. Too much even. And it’s not open source. And I just don’t like people telling me that something is the only way to go. But I recommend it to others. But it feels like Photoshop in that once I start using it, all my documents will be in Photoshop. I think I want to be able to stop using it if I want to. I get a sense that if I used MT, I’d be stuck with it.

Did that last paragraph make any sense? It looks awfully tedious. I don’t even want to read it. I’ll put in an indicator that it might be dull before it. A “Geek Warning.”

I may be done for now. I’ve been writing this on the train. I want to get back to Pattern Recognition now. I had a great morning—visited the Los Angeles Cathedral (my Mother will be glad of that!)—and then milled about downtown before my train. I walked down to Little Tokyo, everything was closed. Then I walked down to Olvera Street and looked at the wares there. I considered buying a “churro” but demurred. Then I called Leah from Chinatown, went down to Philippe’s and bought some macaroni salad, 2 French Dip Sandwiches, and two cokes for the train. Then I hotfooted it to catch the Amtrak train in Union Station. I got on with 5 minutes to spare. I had intended to spend more time in L.A., Leah is driving her kids back up here today. She has them this weekend. And she was going to pick me up in L.A., or maybe pick me up in Oceanside or somewhere on her way back late tonight—but I just decided to come on home now. The signs all indicated that the subways for L.A. don’t run on Sundays – the Red Line is what I wanted to take down to Hollywood. I thought I’d make a run at World Book and News (my favorite newsstand on the planet), and Amoeba records, and maybe see a movie (any movie) at the Graumann’s. I’d also like to see the new stuff in Hollywood – the new malls and such. But the plan didn’t work out like I’d hoped. C’est la vie—such is life—as they say. But no matter, I enjoy the train, and enjoyed my lunch. I got the second sandwich for Erin, my friend of 14 years and roommate. She might appreciate it. I hope to see Leah tonight. I definitely WANT to see her at least tomorrow.

Heh. We just pulled into the station at Solana Beach. There was a woman. Maybe 40 years old. I had noticed her looking my way a bit. Not obvious though. Maybe she was just looking at my odd-shaped computer? Or trying to look out my window? Not clear. So we did not make any eye contact. But as she was leaving, she got up and said to me, like it’s a secret horse-betting tip “You know… it’s Sunday… you shouldn’t be working…” and I said to her “Oh it’s not work, pure enjoyment” and she said, maybe a bit too delightedly, “Oh! Love Letters”—drawing out “love letters” in the same way a child says “Nyah nyah – neh nyah nah!” I said, “well, not that either, but it’s pure fun for me. And with that she left with a parting, cheerful “have a good one!”. And I sure will try. She had a nice smile.

I’m beginning to understand my friend Kynn‘s writing much more. He talks about the fact that he writes best when he is in a public place, not at home, with a steady supply of Cherry Coke, with people around, but not people who are going to want something or want to talk or have you take out the trash or do chores or anything.

I need space to think, but not have a connection to the internet. When I have a net connection I tend to want to read the net. With only a browser I can only read. With a browser and an ssh client I am read/write. When I’m disconnected from the net I tend to write. Or code. Or do graphics. But I tend to create, which is the critical difference. It’s a forced discipline.

I stayed last night with someone I knew only vaguely, and through a listserv I’m on you. He put me up in his lovely guest bedroom overnight, and I had some breakfast and a nice chat with he and his wife this morning. Amazing, tremendous generosity on his part. Explaining the rationale for inviting me to crash, he said “well I don’t know you, but I know you”—by which he means he knows my reputation. And he knows me well enough to know that I went through a lot of stuff with my wife earlier this year. These are things he could only know from reading my blog at least once or twice, or perhaps looking at the front page of my site. In any case, this is the kind of generosity that if you had told me about, I would not have believed five years ago. And yet, it happened.

Anyway, it was perfect for me to stay with him because he had been planning to come to 8am mass at the new Cathedral downtown anyway, and he could drop me off at the station downtown. At the last minute I told him I’d like to see this new (Catholic) Cathedral, and so we sat down for the readings and the Homily. It was good stuff. The Cathedral is huge, modern, imposing, and inviting. I found myself wondering if my Mom would like it.

I’m preoccupied now with the reflection of a girl in the window. She’s all of 15 years old maybe. She’s mugging into he reflection. Primping herself – tweaking her make-up to get it just so. Smiling, checking her teeth, her lip gloss, the whole thing. She’s entertaining, and has no idea she’s being watched. Is she going to San Diego to see family? Friends? For a day trip? Is she returning home?

We’re very much in San Diego now. We’re passing under the 52 freeway, where it intersects with the 5. Close to Tecolote Canyon, which I have fond memories of walking through with my Aunt’s dog Crystal maybe 17 years ago. I think I’m done writing again. I need to figure out which bus I’m taking home. Probably the 2 bus. I hope it runs often on Sundays. It’s been a full weekend. And yet, I still have one more day of it. Albeit tomorrow will be an unpaid holiday for me.

Pacific Beach.

Mission Bay is in sight now.

Sea World.

Under the 8 Freeway.

Old Town. Moving fast. Almost home. Time to pack it up.

I hope you enjoyed this. I definitely did.