Friday, December 30, 2005

A terrible case of tonsillitis has shut my brain down...

in the meantime, check out Those Bastards!--the meanest blog in the blogosphere. (actually, it's alot of fu n)

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Yes, the Broads are Gonna Bust Up Your Good Thing

A new report issued by the Pew Internet & American Life Project notes that women's use of the Internet is on the rise

So, the stats that came out at the end of last year--that made it a point to note the majority of blog readers (and Internet users) were white males between 18-34 with incomes in the 90k bracket--may be challenged by these new findings...
Women are more likely to see the vast array of online information as a “glut” and to penetrate deeper into areas where they have the greatest interest, including health and religion. Women tend to treat information gathering online as a more textured and interactive process – one that includes gathering and exchanging information through support groups and personal email exchanges.


Steve Yelvington, who must've read the PDF, notes that the report also states "...women are highly sensitive to "worrisome behavior in chat rooms"...

perhaps this has something to do with why women are, to some degree, more concerned than some men with how we conduct ourselves in the blogosphere. While some women could stand to "toughen up" a bit when it comes to interacting in this place, some of the men, who know how to debate but don't act like the emotinoally stunted and issue-laden Bill O'Reilly, could contribute to the dialogue.

After all, y'all don't want Big Momma smackin' you over the head when you don't make nice, now do ya?


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Chronic!

Better that Briney Spears and Kevin Whatterline pretending their marriage is so chronic comes this bit of Chronic from SNL...

talk about Nerds on the Loose...! Laughed so hard I almost died...

via Lost Remote
I've had this little blog on auto-pilot while I work on a piece on civility and gender...

BTW, I've been corresponding with Ben Metcalfe.

In the whole discussion (or is it argument?) of Us vs. Them, I wonder if my communication with Ben will turn me into a Them...vs. being Us.

Then again, it kind of depends on who defines "us" and who defines "them"...anyway...he's a pretty civil kind of guy, with a great understanding of the concept.

More on the whole civility thing soon...


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Thursday, December 22, 2005

a few thoughts about anonymity

A couple of anonymous-blogger friends emailed me recently, concerned about statements I'd made about anonymous blogging...

so, here is what I *really* think of anonymous blogging: alot of people have reasons for anonymous blogging. Usually very good ones. Their anonymity, however, does not stop them from having honest, truthful, clear voices on their blogs. They still comment on others blogs, take comments on their own, and participate in this whole communal thing. Their anonymity does not prevent them from being civil. And they contribute alot to the blogosphere.

We have the right to be anonymous. And most people who blog anonymously support the positive and necessary aspects of anonymous blogging.

However, there are people who like to hide behind anonymity....They like to bully others-- and I don't mean the kinds of bullies who provide counter-point to high-profile public or political figures who can definitely take care of themselves. The anonymous ones that trouble me are those who seem to exist solelly to bully their peers--who like to say that they are protecting themselves by being anonymous, when all they are really doing is hiding so that they can be as nasty as they wanna be. They aren't protecting anything at all--and their incivility can end up hurting all of us.

I'm sure some of y'all are thinking "that's preposterous! how can negative, incivil bullying hurt an entire community! just ignore it!"

Why ignore something that can be used as leverage against the whole? Consider the Forbes Magazine article that was published in November, 2005. Examples like those in the Forbes article have damaged reputations of people as well as products. The bloggers are protected by free speech laws, even though they have significantly hurt others--and hurting others was their main intention.

So, how can negative bloggers who attack business end up hurting the wider blogging community? Because when the focus in MSM (still the main portal of information for the general populace) is on how bully-bloggers use anonyminty, the general public (and even some bloggers) begin to believe that negativity is all of what blogging is about. If people see blogging as negative, they will not participate in what could turn out to not only be a vibrant new Town Square but also an incredible forum for bringing people of like minds together in ways old media never allowed.

It all seems to be a form of self-hatred on the part of anonymous bullies. What is it then about people who appear to hate blogging but feel the need to use blogs as forums for their hatred and incivility--and who foster communities that thrive on incivility and negativity? They can say that they are exercising their right to free speech, and are helping others to exercise their need to free speech without exposing themselves, but it seems that they are manipulating the ideal of free speech and of anonymity to further something that has more to do with feeding the ego than with defending either ideal.

What to do about this? Who knows. Censorship? Doesn't work. Ends up making the concerned parties look like Nazis. Ignore the negative ones? Not really--ignoring a bully feeds the bully's ego. And the bully will only move on to others until it wins some pyrric ego victory.

So, perhaps the solution is to support anonymous bloggers whose blogging furthers the understanding of this as social media and who truly support our right to use the medium to share information and ideas as well as foster conversation and community.

Just a thought.

Hypocricy in Action

If y'all are interested in reading some annoying (and less than cogent) comments and conversations about civility on a blog, go over to the most hypocrical Alas, a blog here.

Amp doesn't quite get that he's got something that's more like a newsgroup going over there, not a blog. There are few bloggers and some who post actually don't like blogs or bloggers. Ironic, eh? His own comments about wanting to make his space more "feminist friendly" are nothing more than a condescending display of large cojones.

The blog has a distinctly negative and incivil community--and the feel of it is that the blogger in charge has wanted it to develop just that way. By not interacting with posters and letting the incivility get to critical mass, shows an abdication of responsibility on the part of Amp, who, as a blogger, is supposed to be like a good barkeeper and make sure that kind of thing doesn't happen.

With the way the comments unfold there, with the majority of contributors anonymously and furiously posting with a high degree of incivility, perhaps calling it "Alas, a Newsgroup" might be more accurate.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Grace Davis, one of my SXSW Interactive panel cohorts, tackles blog civility and the gender divide.

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I have drafted and re-drafted a post on the civility thing--and realise I need to get out of the house for a bit before my words will gel properly..

in the meantime check out the following posts by Sean Coon on a
Noam Chomsky podcast and Sean's thoughts on social tagging.


Was the Mena and Ben's "Backchannel Incident" Really a Coverup for Secret U.S. Torture Practices in Europe?

Better Bad News went to some effort to put together this whacky little piece.

Was it all a "buzztrap"?

What the heck is a "buzztrap" anyway?

If anything, this piece takes a good swing at blog conferences. In a nice, constructive way. Kind of like the backchannel....

Friday, December 16, 2005

The Value of Irony in a Scrupulous World

Idyllopus left a comment this a.m.:
I am interested in why you call this particular blog "snarkaholic" when there's so little snark involved. You don't snark. I've read you for months and you seem pretty up front and dedicatedly interested in social networking in a non-elitist way.
(the rest of the comment is
here)

I had to think about this because Idyll is pretty much spot on--I really am into social networking, breaking down old barriers, being non-elitist and getting those outside the Long Tail to understand peer-to-peer communication.

So I thought about what, really, motivated me to call this blog Snarkaholic...And discovered that Snarkaholic expresses my love of irony--esp. as it exists in the Shameless Art of Self-Promotion embodied in hyperbole.

Just think about the last time you wrote a resume, about standard resume advice, and about how, in order to simply get someone to read your resume you just might have to use some rather bloated language. I figured Snarkaholic might be something like a bit of resume-style hyperbole.

And think about how ironic it is to have to engage hyperbole in order to get a job--that we can't just be ourselves, but must be some sort of meta-self on two sheets of paper in order for someone to deign to read about us.

The other side of Snarkaholic, though, is that by claiming it I reserve the right to snark at the A-listers or Bloggerati or Blogebreties or anyone else who annoys me when the occasion warrants a snark-- I've always wanted to be able to call a spade a freakin' two bit shovel if and when I see it and decide I want to do just that thing.

Because, for women especially, it's usually awfully impolite to challenge anyone who's higher up on the food chain than yourself.

Think about it. How often are women raised and corrected into politeness in one way or another--told to have good manners and to be respectful and be exactly who they a re told to be. We are told we shouldn't say anything bad about someone who has more experience than us in a certain field because if we knew what they knew we'd probably tow the same line. Think about how, when women start out being polite, and we say something a bit snarky, people are "shocked, shocked I tell you!" because we've ceased being Good Girls maintaining the status quo and our position in society. (I will amend this slightly by saying that I'm not sure how much gender matters with this issue in the blogosphere--I know there are a few men who feel the same pressure to capitulate.)

My sense was (and is) that if I started out being nice, I would have been stuck with a mamby-pamby facade that would have set up an expectation of all nice all the time.
With Snarkaholic I have the inalienable right to snark at whomever I choose, when I choose to do it and with good reason to do it-- which isn't all the time because I know how to use Good Judgment.

Most of the time I prefer to be my smart, witty, social, and diplomatic self. I like the role of mediator and of catalyst. If I were to be polite, without irony, I believe I would not be able to be either mediator nor catalyst in this ego-driven little medium.

My sense of irony extends to my picture as well. I recently asked a local business guy to look over the blogs. He told me that my pic was "a bit off-putting." I know he meant well--that if I had a nice stock photo of me smiling and confident that people would probably trust me more, esp as a consultant...or at least they'd think I wasn't such a hard-ass.

Because I'm really not a hard-ass. I can be firm in my opinions, esp. when I know my stuff, but I'm not some egotistical hard-ass who will rip your head off just because you disagreed with me. The businessman found me very approachable and highly knowledgeable-- not like Robert Conrad daring someone to knock the battery off my shoulder--and thought it might work better for me if I let people visually know this.

I figured they could just read the blog and determine it for themselves. Then again, maybe that's asking a bit too much in a sound-byte, short-attention-span society.

Yet all this leads me to think how the sense of irony in general is kind of lost in a internet-based world where we talk about the need for transparency on the part of business and journalistic entities, yet still defend anonymous snarking by the proletariat.

At least when I *do* snark at the business or journalistic entities, they all know who I am. I have a name, and a face. They are free to comment, to email me, to make friends with me, to establish peer to peer communication with me if they get that I'm smart enough to engage them, even if I'm not at their level just yet.

So far it's kind of worked. I've had a few A-listers read me, some of them even leave comments. I've also made a number of friends who are also amazingly smart and talented and haven't got the big-time recognition yet either. So even though I'm not "all snark, all the time" I don't think there's a need nor a reason to be--but sometimes staking the ironic and hyperbolic claim is what one must do in order to get read. Just a fact of life.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

If you think that cat herding just might be your next dream job, I urge you to check out this video. It may change your life.

thanks Barb!

230!

Yesterday, this little blog it a milestone: 230 readers.

Thank you Phillipp Lenssen!

Monday, December 12, 2005

Battle of the Splog: Aggregating vs. Conversating

In two great posts, Steve Rubel takes on the issues of blog content theft and a splog in general. Steve is, rightfully, a bit peeved over bot-powered aggregating blogs that totoally crib someone's content thus making it look like the content is their own. (but if they are providing a link to the original, is it a problem? read J. Pepper's comments on Rubel's splog post for an interesting perspective.)

But Steve misses a the opportunity to raise a distinction between splogs and blogs when he says :
Content “theft” or whatever you want a call it has been an issue long before the Internet became a mass medium. It mushroomed over the past 10 years and now that everyone is a publisher, it will only get worse


The aggregator problem will only get worse if the emphasis on blogging remains on providing content and on telling people that they can make big bucks by providing subjectively judged "kick-ass content". If the emphasis continues to shift towards conversation, the importance of "kick-ass content" that does nothing will be a lesser issue. Creating conversation and community requires that bloggers become more involved in their blogging--and consider themselves contributors rather than simply spewers or sponges for content. If this happens, there will be little reason for the existence of sites that are only aggregators and never interact.

Besides, aggregators in general are IMHO boring and cheap. It's real easy to provide a link and a couple of pithy words.

Rubel also brings up the problem of RSS. RSS is great for finding out who's saying what, but it doesn't get individuals involved any further. This simple factor has lead to enterprising individuals designing bots that steal content without contributing anything--which is what happened to him. The solution might be to limit one's RSS feed to just a few lines. Sure, folks might not subscribe to your feed, but, then again, what's the purpose of what you do? Is your purpose to get people to only read your content, or is it something more social??

If conversation can start with good content, the problem with splog also becomes a problem for search engines who want to help people find original content and subsequent conversation. Mark Cuban suggests a broad definition of a splog:
any hosted website that only uses redirected or copied content and doesnt add any unique value. Aggregation is not value add. Why ? Because a search on any blog engine should uncover the unique content on their original source


I somewhat agree with Cuban (although the theory needs some refining)--and take it one step further: aggregated content with that personal touch should, eventually, create some conversation.

Conversation, though, doesn't always have to be on the blog...it can happen in email or on forums, too. If the blogger is involved with his/her blog beyond being a content aggregator, he/she can create short posts around email and thus demonstrate that one has community.

Yet, fundamentally, there seems to be a problem with the perceptions of blogs and blogging, in part because of the current emphasis on monetization and on persons as brands and their networks as markets. This kind of thinking makes the motive for cribbing someone's content understandable--they want to make some money on *your* content. Yet people aren't *just* brands, our groups of friends aren't *just* markets, and is a person's reason for blogging (or splogging)*always* with an eye on monetization? We are more than those narrow little pidgeonholes. I *think* Mark Cuban gets it--but does Steve Rubel get it?


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Technosailor likes Snarkaholic! but I did have to straighten him out about something...I'll forgive him though...but just this once. next time, a spanking... ;-)

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Toward a Definition of Civility

So, I missed blogging about Mena Trott and Ben Metcalf's bustup at Les Blogs, but

Nancy White blogs about it as a precursor to our SXSW Panel titled Us and Them: A Blog Conversation Guide...

and I'll pass along this clip of it all courtesy of sean that shows what went down.

However, I will make this observation on the whole thing: in the blogosphere, there's a great misunderstanding about what is/is not civil. Ben gives an interesting breakdown of it, which points out that the notion of civility varies from culture to culture. In the blogosphere, we are creating a culture that is pan-global and our mores are bound to clash. What we have here in this realm is a mix of mores and attitudes about civility. Even from my own observation of the speech, Mena's ideas of civility are very touchy-feely. Ben's ideas are rooted more in the idea that two persons can disagree (and disagree greatly) but not have that disagreement be personal. I would have felt the way that Ben did--that I was being patronized by Mena's comments.

However, what is also caught up in the exchange between Mena and Ben is the problem of IRC backchannel conversations at conferences being posted on a screen behind a speaker. While it is indeed a civility issue, it is a different issue from what Mena seems to address in her speech. Frankly, projecting the IRC chat is simply rude, rude, rude and doesn't add any sort of "texture" to a presentation. Perhaps if we consider "texture" something like the hockey match-style brawls in the Korean Parliment...but I don't think most of us would want to have that happen at a conference. So, the solution is simple: if attendees want to have a conversation, that's fine. Tell everyone where it's going on, and let them find it. But don't upstage the speaker-- because when you upstage the speaker, you end up annoying those of us who actually want to hear what the speaker has to say! Perhaps we're paying good money to hear someone and don't want to be distracted by your idle chit-chat!

There. It's just that simple.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Where Do Your Readers Come From??

As I mentioned the other day, Greg Gershman at Blogdigger.com keeps a nice little blog. Recently he wrote a great post on how people find blogs, where he references a short discussion on it between Scoble and Scoble's buddies...

I don't know...I don't quite see myself and Scoble and friends on the same level. Sure, we're both bloggers, but he is far more well-known and people will even search under his name to find him.

Heck, people might even know some of Scoble's friends and search under their names rather than under the subject their blogging about.

So, a discussion by Scoble about how people find other people's blogs is, well, kind of like George Bush I going into J.C. Penney and trying to buy socks...

On the other hand, Greg makes a couple of good comments about Google's dominance of blogsearches. No, people do not find conversations via Google searches. They do, though, search for seriously obscure things and find blogs. Often, my other blog gets hits from people searching the gosh-darndest subjects, some of which actually make me blush! But, as noted in a comment on a post titled
When is a Fetish Not a Fetish?, one of the Googlers actually appreciated what I'd wrote on the subject and left a really great "thank you" comment.

So, apparently, I'm a "trusted voice" on something! ;-)

Greg also comments about use of RSS feeds. Considering yours truly is horrifically tech-inept, I'm still having a devil of a time figuring out a couple of RSS readers I signed up for, so I don't even think of using RSS to find conversation. Rather, I've begun exploring various tags for Recently Posted stuff.

But what about people finding me? With this blog, they come from all sorts of interesting places, including "unknown" and sometimes under a search for Spap-Oop, which is Doo-Dads upsidedown and backwards (Doo-Dads being a Sunshine Biscuit manufactured snack food no longer in existence--so, yes, I'm also an expert on obscure snackfoods.) Although the other day I did receive an email from someone who got a link to this blog via an email from a friend...but I believe that accounts for a very small portion of the people who read this blog.

It seems that, with this blog, I'm in Google searches, and Topix.net searches, and a few other searches on other search engines, including Greg's. Of the other Big Three, MSN and Yahoo searches haven't hit me yet, and that *could* be because this blog neglects a certain rule of Search Engine Optimization: that a website will get more hits when the name and the URL correspond (it certainly makes searching for the site much easier--and makes it easier to remember).

So, I'm curious to know, fellow Average Bloggers...where do some of your readers come from?

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

A short time ago, I removed the link to my personal blog from the sidebar. I've recently restored that link.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Blogging with "The Real Thing"

While waiting to see Walk the Line (the really great Johnny Cash biopic), a slide flashed on the screen advertising blogging at MyCoke.com.

If I'd had coke in my mouth at that moment, it would have come spewing out my nose.

I was aghast--amused, yet horrified. First, that they were blatantly ripping off MySpace.com. Secondly that the folks at Coke have the cojohnes to believe that they will be able to establish a blogging community around a soft drink

I read the Privacy Policy (came up in a pop-up window with no URL) which has a specific provision for children under 13.

Obviously, they are aiming their "blogging" community feature at very young people.

Rob Capriccioso out in Washington D.C. heard about this MyCoke thing back in July and blogged about the ridiculousness of it. Funny thing is, at that time, they must've been testmarketing it because they used the term journaling (as Rob notes) rather than blogging. (I have to agree with a lot of Rob's assessment of the whole thing)

Guess someone hipped them on the proper term before letting Coke push the idea on those of us out here in the hinterlands of Massachusetts.

Either way, there's something kind of creepy about asking people keep their "blogs" on a site hosted by the Coca-Coal Bottling Company. But, there may indeed be enough naive parents out there who will have no problem letting their children spew their most intimate thoughts to a corporation.

After all, there's just a lot of perverts over there at MySpace...and we can't tell the kids they're too young to have a blog...oh, no...that would be squashing their creativity....

More and more I keep thinking Rollerball.....

Friday, December 02, 2005

What's Alll This Then? A Hit from Blogdigger.com

Checking the referring links on my stats today, I noticed I received my first hit from a search on Blogdigger.com.

Someone decided to search Pluck.com, and a particular piece that I did where I mentioned Pluck (and their very nice reps) came up in the search. Said person who did search also came over and looked at thisahere blog.

So I went over to check things out at Blogdigger.com myself.

It's a curious little site, pretty spare in appearance, and offers searches for Links, Media, Local and Groups. Since I'm always looking for local bloggers (and often finding few to none other than the folks listed on Masslive.com), I was hoping that this feature would help.

No such luck. The closest blogger was four miles away. And I know there are some just over the border in Springfield, so the Local search didn't work all that well.

I also did Links searches to see if I had any more links listed on Blogdigger than I do on Technorati and IceRocket.com (the two search tools that give me the best number of links). Blogdigger came up with nothing for Snarkaholic and a handful for my other blog.

It seems that, at this point, Blogdigger isn't all that helpful to me in my searches for local bloggers nor for people who link to me (and y'all can sit there and say searching's all about finding "kick-ass content," but, hey, sometimes it's all about Me...isn't it that way for you, too?? c'mon, be transparent--you know you like the ego stroke too....)

However, they have their own nice little blog! Kept by Greg Gershman, CEO and Founder of Blogdigger, the Blogdigger Development Blog has some great observations and commentary on a number of blogospheric things, including the Interactive Local Media Conference (and some commentary by Scoble on finding blogs, which I will have a great deal to say about in a subsequent blog post.)

So, if you don't get much of a rise out of Blogdigger's search capabilities, read the blog. It's kinda fun!

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Thursday, December 01, 2005

When Everything We Do (including blogging) Is An Addiction

After perusing today's New York Times, I have determined that we live in a time where every breath, tick, or activity we engage in that is not directly related to work or family is considerd an addiction. Hooked on the Web: Help is on the Way (in the Style section, no less) details the problem that so many of us seem to be developing with our excessive/obsessive Internet use.

Here's the skinny on onlineaholics
These specialists estimate that 6 percent to 10 percent of the approximately 189 million Internet users in this country have a dependency that can be as destructive as alcoholism and drug addiction, and they are rushing to treat it. Yet some in the field remain skeptical that heavy use of the Internet qualifies as a legitimate addiction, and one academic expert called it a fad illness.

Skeptics argue that even obsessive Internet use does not exact the same toll on health or family life as conventionally recognized addictions. But, mental health professionals who support the diagnosis of Internet addiction say, a majority of obsessive users are online to further addictions to gambling or pornography or have become much more dependent on those vices because of their prevalence on the Internet.

But other users have a broader dependency and spend hours online each day, surfing the Web, trading stocks, instant messaging or blogging, and a fast-rising number are becoming addicted to Internet video games.


I don't know...sounds more like it's just easier in many ways to do stuff on the 'net than it is to go out and do it. When there's no longer a town square to venture out to, when one has to drive from here to there, and never meets a friendly soul, one might just as soon spend more quality time online than in the physical world.

Sometimes the better community is online rather than in one's own backyard.

Perhaps, though, this is just the disease-du-jour. In an article titled "Our National Eating Disorder" (NYT 10/17/04), our problem then was carbophobia We'd developed such a reverence for Atkins-style diet programs that many of us here and across the Pond in the U.K. were developing an unhealthy aversion to breads, pastas and potatoes. We were neglecting the need for healthy carbs, and were getting hysterical over Panina Bread places moving into our neighborhoods.

Personally, I think our latest "addiction" is just another buzzword for some enterprising shrinks to solemly banter around, then sell it to some poor souls who have a general existentialist angst about life and feel a pathological need to patholigize themselves.

The problem isn't with unhealthy internet use, or an unhealthy aversion to carbos, but an unhealthy and bovine-like acceptance of psychobabble.

Makes me long for the days of simple patholigies like "sex addiction"...and Bill Clinton.

Now, where'd I put that bag of potato chips?? I'm gonna be here for awhile....

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Because Cross-Linking Creates Community....

Ron Brynaert, who writes the most excellent Why Are We Back in Iraq? (and has been linked in the NY Times, of all places), recently wrote a great piece on titled Blogroll Purge about--what else?--purging his blogroll of links that do not link to him.

Ron's discovered that it doesn't pay to link to people who won't give *you* the time of day and link back. He's realized what I realized when I started doing this blog-thing on a personal level--that if you're not linking back and forth to each other, you're not creating community.

If you're not linking, and you're not creating community, you and others with whom you share common ground, stand to lose--in many ways. Ron sees it thru a political lens. In Blogroll Purge he notes how the right seems to have a big thing about all that linklove, but the left seems to be as snooty as a Hollywood double-cheek airkiss. Ron is very right to note that this gives right-wing bloggers more clout in the blogosphere. It gives them more links to more supporting viewpoints, that's for sure.

I see it in simple, social terms--if I like you enough to link to you, just link back. If I find out you've linked to me, I'll link back to you. Kiss, kiss--Link, link.

I've heard the excuse from some bloggers that they will not link to someone who links to them because they think the linking blog doesn't reflect their blog's sensibilities. Please. Are all your friends exactly like you all the time? Blogrolls should be about diversity. We should be able to demonstrate that we aren't so fixated that we can't read content that isn't completely parallel with ours. If we want to shatter the image of blogs as being nothing more than echo chambers (and, believe me, MSM loves to tout that bit about us), listing blogs that are not our mirror image shows that we're open to being more than navel gazing diarists and that we can converse with others.

And even if someone IS a navel-gazing diarist, if the writing's good, then I just might link. If someone's a Rush Limbaugh right wing, Shania Twain-lovin' navel gazer....well, I might have to think a couple of times about that....then again, they'd have to think twice about me, too...

Now, yes, there's the problem of A-listers and links. There are indeed A-listers who get far too many requests for links from their blogs to the rest of the blogosphere. I tend to think that A-listers should just be left to themselves--unless we're lucky enough to establish peer-to-peer communications with the ones who are open to such a thing. Some are, some aren't. Many are no longer providing permalinks, but many will provide postlinks which can be great for us Upstart bloggers. But I don't believe it's necessary to immediately link to A-listers when we start our blogs to prove something about ourselves or about our blogs. What are we proving? That we can give a link to someone the rest of the world already knows about?

I link to a few "A-list" types, but that's because it's easier for me to go to their blogs from my blog. It's also way for my little blog to show up in their stats. If they bother to look, it *may* get them over here. No other reason that that.

Further, how A-listers want to handle their blogrolls and links is up to them. If you think about it, some of those A-list blogs aren't even blogs in the same sense that many of us are blogs....in the sense that they are not looking to interact and build any kind of community. They are content providers, that's it. If you're into reading their content, then read it. But don't look for community in a space dedicated just to telling *you* what's what.

Likewise, if some blogs have a huge number of comments, but the blogger (or bloggers)let the comments ramble like an unmoderated USENET newsgroup, then let them be just that-- unmoderated USENET newsgroups. Personally, I don't participate in blogs of that sort. Why should I? I had my share of Forums/Newsgroups years ago with alt.goth and the New York Times Film Forums. Forums are one kind of social software and blogs are another. I'm posting on a blog to get to know the blogger and his/her commenters who also blog--I'm not interested in numbskulls who don't know the first thing about blogging and probably hate bloggers but love to leave comments on blogs because they think blogs are their new Forums.

So, the message is easy: those of us out here in the Long Tail--well, we need to work together, support one another and give each other that permalink when we discover we've been linked to. (If I've missed anyone in my blogroll, let me know. I'll provide a cross-link)

And if you think the whole blogroll thing's too much of a pain-in-the-ass, but you still want to give props to posts or people you think are great, then postlink...which I will do right here for Sean Coon's blog because he recently postlinked on his blog to mine.

Gotta share the linkluv, baby! Purge that deadweight! provide that perma or postlink! Because if we don't, there's no community. If there's no community, there's no point...

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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Blog Migration

I am considering migrating this blog to another URL to enhance my Search Engine Optimzation criteria. I think that I may be missing a number of readers because the URL and the title of the blog do not correspond and people have to search to find me. That's unfortunate. I may also have to change the title to something like Snarkolholica to get the two to correspond.

I found that some buttwipe claimed the snarkaholic.blogspot.com URL and is holding it hostage. Nothing like bogarting someone else's idea....

I'd appreciate any comments regarding migrating this blog. It's a big decision.

Monday, November 21, 2005

I've been selected to be on a panel at the SXSW Interactive Festival! I'm so super excited!

The panel is Us and Them: A Blog Conversation Survival Guide

There's alot to think about in this topic. I just keep thinking about my strange experience on Alas, a Blog and the gentlemanly art of disagreeing with someone's opinion while still remaining friendly. Alot of folks--both men and women--have a bit of trouble understanding that concept.

It also makes me think of "echo chamber" arguments that are levelled against blogs. Not all are echo chambers, but some often end up looking like unmoderateed USENET newsgroups.

oh, and I'm also indexed by Topix.net! You can find me under Chicopee, MA and in a few other spots, too. I seem to be the solo blogger out of Chicopee at the moment (although the indexed stories aren't the Chicopee-related ones.) I'm fascinated by Topix. There seems to be alot of room to grow with it and it could end up being a valuable search tool.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Tag! You're It!: Talking Tag Turkey with Technorati's Kevin Marks

Before I got embroiled in the film festival and then hopped over to the Corante Symposium on Social Architecture, my friend Dawno sent me an email asking if I could help her figure out how to get those pesky Technorati tags to work for her. She said:
I was wondering if you feel that the Technorati tags are worth the effort. I was frustrated tonight when I thought I'd tag my post about women in tech but the tag Technorati's site gave me was "women" and not what I was looking to be 'sorted' with. How do you deal with that?

After playing with tags for a bit, I figured a few things out about them: that you have to use them consistently to come up in the Recently Updated catgories; that you can indeed tag in categories that aren't necessarily exactly what you want but may lead some readers to your site (who might actually read you); and that tagging can help you to focus your content a bit better (kind of like adjusting the lens on binoculars).

I told Dawno that tagging with "tech" as well as "women" will get both tech and women readers to her site. Hey, I'm all for beating the bushes in two categories! Also, she could now use the "Blog Finder" to make her blog easier to find as well as create her own tags. So, if she really really wants a "women in tech" tag, she could create it *and* have it all to herself (until some other enterprising person finds it and uses it too).

So when I ran into Kevin Marks of Technorati at the cocktail party after the Symposium I said "ah ha! you're with the Evil Empire!"

"No, no," he laughed, "we're really the Rebel Alliance!" and to some degree he's right.

We got to talking about what I mentioned to Dawno about the use of tags--to use them consistently, and to create your own if necessary--and he said this was spot on. From using tags consistently and regularly, I have begun to see how, with a blog like Snarkaholic, they are quite helpful for getting readers.

That, he said, was pretty much the point of tags--to help drive traffic to blogs by putting them in categories people would want to search.

I also noted to Kevin that tagging is quite helpful for honing one's content. I do indeed think that if one wants readership, and one is not either flashing a boob, exposing one's sex life, or geeking out with gadget-talk, and one is not an "insider" or "authority" of any kind, or isn't co-opting a people's medium to start her own media empire (yes, Huffington, I mean you) one has to have an intention or clear focus to one's blog. (one could also socialize like crazy, although that's another topic for later discussion)

In our conversation, I got to mention to Kevin that I spoke with Dave Sifry, that he was quite gracious and friendly, and that after the talk I had a better understanding of how big a job Technorati has in scaling the web--that there's just so much the algorithms can handle at one time and that the web has a strange, almost elastic quality to it. The blogosphere looks so vast, yet is so densly populated that it is very unweildy to scale--it expands exponentially and trying to count and categorize all of it to meet the needs of all the bloggers out there is something akin to the labor of Sisyphus.

Which he also agreed! it was nice to hear that my observations of the whole thing are in concert with what Kevin sees thru working with the stuff.

While I get a bit pissy when I don't show up Technorati's Recently Updated in a timely manner, I do indeed realize that no system right now is either perfect enough nor strong enough to handle the massive amount of content that is out there. It's nothing personal but rather something mathematical.

oh, well.

After my 2 drink minimum and far too much excellent sushi, I bid Kevin adieu and headded back to my hotel.

And then, when I read my email, Dawno sent me this piece by Daniel Terdimanabout tagging. Ah, the synchornicity of the universe!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Check this out: Andy Carvin's quicktime piece on the prototype of Nicholas Negroponte's $100 laptop...

what jaded Americans may see as a simple child's toy is a device that would not only connect the rest of the world to the Internet, but just might help our own butts out when another disaster hits us and FEMA gives taxpayers the big middle finger....

Martha Stewart sez:" It's all about content..."


Oh, yeah Martha? think again...

Martha Stewart opened her yap yesterday and said the stupidest thing on her show--that there's a new generation called "Generation C" and they are all about Content.

I sincerely wish people would get rid of the whole Alphabet Generation thing. It's awfully trite and annoying. And in this case, not quite right.

Martha's handlers (or are they wranglers?) have clued her in that there's a whole generation out there who knows how to surf content...that they are content savvy...and that their existence on the Internet is content based

I think Martha's handlers need to get out a bit more. Or at least read a bit more themselves. It's not just content, but conversation Martha old girl.

It's pretty easy to see, too....if you've got the cojones to simply go in and look around. Get a MySpace.com account or surf some Blogger blogs and see what's going on. Sure,people are creating content and monkeying with their spaces (kind of like decorating one's bedroom) but they're also stopping in and chatting.

That whole idea of chatting--not in the chatroom sense, but in sense of creating conversation thru comments--is what is truly going on underneath all that blogging and linking and animating of little things here and there....it's all about connecting and conversing with others and building community. Even if you happen to be an post 18-34 blogger, it's still about conversation and connection and community.

Content providing and content management will only get you so far. There are loads and loads of content providers and sites that have their content managed by savvy content managers. But unless the content is truly fresh and spun by those considered "authoritative", the average Joe & Jane blogger really isn't apt to get recognized, or even read, in the vast blogosphere. So, conversation is where it's at. Provide content about one's life or one's musical interests, or one's band or *something* but read others, add links, leave a comment or two--and hope others will leave comments too.

Sitting there spewing mindless content will get you nowhere. Only reading content will bore you stupid. Going out and being social may not make you wealthy, but will get you read. When you are read your content has meaning. If content is not read and interacted with, then it has no purpose. It's all about being social, not about being a boor.

Think of it this way: if all we wanted to do was provide content, we'd all get into regular media--print journalism, tv, radio, something of that sort. They are great content providers. But people are tired of being passive receptors of content. They want to create but share--the only way one can create AND share is thru social interaction. Within the blogosphere, that social interaction is conversation.

Wake up Martha....your handlers are trying to swim in New Media using Old Mediathink...get yourself a lifejacket babe, or you'll sink too...

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The Latest from Chicopee--Mayor Gets Passive-Aggressive and We Lose a Chunk o' Change

So, soon-not-to-be-Mayor Rick Goyette got a bit passive-aggressive yesterday when he decidednot to brief the aldermen on Chicopee's financial orders...

well, can we really blame the guy? One of the largest unions in W. Mass asked for his resignation, and the Aldermen asked for his resignation....guess he's feeling a bit of pressure, so the only way to deal with it is to just, well, stall a bit....

I do, though, wonder how much Goyette's holding back this information actually affects the town. Then again, when the town just got zapped for $2.45 mil on a wrongful conviction suit, we could be seriously pinching pennies for a bit.

This just in: apparently, Chicopee's bond rating isn't all that bad...but did they get wind of the $2.45 mil settlemen? or has Dunn & Bradstreet's database not caught up to us yet? Only time will tell...

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Thursday, November 10, 2005

I'll be away from blogging over the weekend due to a commitment to be the Volunteer Co-ordinator for the Northampton Independent Film Festival.

It's like herding cats.

But if you're bored, feel free to continue commenting on Anti-Social Social Media which has a really great discussion going on about problems with software engineering and the inability to receive comments on some newspaper-linked blogs.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Following "Goodfella" Goyette....

So, I'm reading the paper on a fine Sunday morning and find out there are more sordid details regarding Chicopee mayor Richard Goyette...

and I'm reminded of those great films by Martin Scorsese--you know, the ones with all the happy go-lucky gangsters having fancy dinners and saying "yo!" alot.

Although I do feel a bit sorry for the Board of Aldermen, who've never had to deal with something like this before, and had to figure out that the best thing might be to ask Goyette to resign even though they've never done anything like that before.

okay, I could make a very bad loss of virginity joke on that one...esp. in light of the Scorses comments...but I won't. I'll leave it up to your own sordid little imaginations.

I have to say, though, the more I stick around here, the more it's feeling like my old home, New Jersey, where there's trouble with the Senate race *and* the Governor's race (please note that the trouble's so intense that it made NPR)

Now all we need is for *some politician* to come out that he's gay...oh, wait, isn't that the case over in Northampton? Never mind on the gay politician part--it doesn't mean a heck of alot out in these parts....

It's strange though...when this kind of petty corrupstion stuff happens in New Jersey, we just shrug it off and chalk it up to politics as usual. There's a benign resignation to political corruption over there--so much so that people still vote. Out here, though, where these sorts of things Just Don't Happen (other than in Springfield) people are losing faith, figuring that all politicians are crooks, etc.

They've probably been crooks for years, just none of them got wise enough to push the wrong guys and get caught.

oh, well...life goes on...we'll get a new mayor after tomorrow's election. By default. We didn't even get to choose between the "lesser of two evils." I think that's what I miss--the idea that we have a choice of candidates.

This year? Fuggettaboutit!


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Saturday, November 05, 2005

Anti-Social Social Media


Why is it that our local newspaper's blogs don't have a feature for comments? Recently Greg Tulonen, who posts on a Massslive.com/Republican political "blog" titled The Fray, popped in to help sort out the political parties of the candidates for the Chicopee mayoral race (since I wasn't able to readily discern those parties from the candidate's promotional materials.)

I wanted to be polite, go over to The Fray, and thank Greg for leaving that comment--try to build a little sense of community between myself, the Grassrootser and The Man--but comments cannot be posted to the Masslive.com/Republican blogs.

What's up with that? From all my blog-education, blogging is a social activity. Its mode of communication is meant to be horizontal--peer to peer. If I cannot go back and establish dialogue with Greg, and thus extend not only my own community, but also the Masslive/Republican community then what's the point??

If I can go in and establish horizontal communication with Jeff Jarvis, who, from what I know, helped to set up blogging for papers like The Republican when he was with Conde-Nast (the Republican's parent company), and thus facilitate a face-to-face meeting with Jeff, why can't I have the same sort of communcation with Greg Tulonen?

What has ended up happening between myself and Greg is a top-down, old media communication style--something Jarvis preaches against and other newspaper editors, like Lex Alexander also try not to continue. I really appreciated the heads up from Greg (it spared me some additional embarassment and if I gaffed again, I'd welcome another heads up), but I don't like the sense of pulling rank.

So, I am puzzled and want to know why the Masslive/Republican blogs do not allow comments. Is it that many of the folks running them are somehow connected to the paper and don't have the time to be social? Or is it that, with their particular format, The Forums are meant to be the social medium and not the blogs?

Forums, however are one kind of social media, while blogs are another. Both build community, but do it slightly differently. And while there are some notable blogs where the Comments sections end up functioning like unmoderated Forums, blogs in general aren't meant to function like unmoderated Forums.

Or, more insidiously, is it the fear that an outside blogger might post a link which may not express the opinions of the parent company??

That's shouldn't even be a point, but just might be part of the answer.

Blogs are, for the most part, a means for the blogger to interact with the world around him/herself. They are a means of disseminating information (political, personal, tech, whatever) and thus establishing connection with others not only within one's own community but with the wider world. Blogs, for the most part, are meant to break down barriers not only between nations but between people and institutions. Some bloggers may choose to disallow comments, but for an entire group of blogs, clustered under the umbrella of a local newspaper, to completely disallow comments is not just anti-social but in a sense defeats the idea of blogs as social media.

I would like to run into someone from the Masslive/Republican blogs at the Symposium on Social Archetecture on 11/14-15, but I doubt that will happen. If they can't be social within their own sphere of influence, what makes me think they'd want to be part of a social architecture symposium?

Hey, I can dream, can't I?

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Friday, November 04, 2005

Party, Party, Whose Got My Political Party

Unless you've been following local politics for a bit there doesn't seem to be a quick at-a-glance way to tell the party affiliation of soon-to-be former Mayor Richard Goyette or his opponent, attorney Michael Bissonnett belongs to.

Bissonnette's website doesn't mention political party affiliation.

And Goyette's is gone. The only way I could double check his status was to look at this three-day old piece in the Republican, and read it all the way to the end.

None of the posters that litter the lawns of Chicopee mention any party or have the Republican Elephant or Democratic Mule (some would say jack-ass, but I won't say it)...

Apparently, being soundbyte-friendly isn't necessary in Chicopee.

Then again, maybe claiming to be Democrat or Republican isn't all that necessary either. Can't tell what parties Charlie Ryan and Tom Ashe, mayoral candidates for Springfield, belong to....

Doesn't seem to be much of a priority in New York City. You can't tell the party of mayoral candidate Mike Bloomberg from his website...but you can tell who endorses him. He looks like a Democrat--but isn't he a Republican? I can't tell...

So, does political party affiliation matter any more when it comes to local elections?

Or is it that candidates simply not want to alienate voters that might be put off by the label of "Demorcrat" or "Republican"? Perhaps there is the assumption that people will indeed be like "yellow dog Democrats" and just vote along party lines. I figured that those days were over. I thought we were past those days and into the times when voting with one's conscience would be more important than voting the party line.

If we are indeed voting our consciences, then saying what party a candidate represents should be considered, at least, an FYI point. After all, isn't this a two-party system and don't we have a right to know a candidate's party affiliation well before we get to the polls?

Then again--maybe on the local level anyway--we don't have a two-party political system...we just get two candidates. If we're lucky.

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And then there was one....

Chicopee Mayor Rick Goyette withdraws from mayor's race yesterday. And his website www.mayorgoyette.com has been taken down.

However, someone has posted an nasty little anonyomous website here...I can't believe someone would waste the bandwidth. And leftyblogs lists a link to another blog in the Republican that says Goyette could still win.

What a joke.

Although, since he can't be taken off the ballot, people *could* conceivably vote for him....the philosophy being that since he's THE Republican candidate people are supposed to bury their heads in the sand and vote for him anyway.

People who used to do that were called "Yello Dog Democrats" back in the 60's--as in they'd vote for anyone running on the Democratic ticket, including a yellow dog. Guess it can apply to either party nowadays.

But even if you wanted to jump ship and vote Democrat, you can't find Mike Bissonnette's website all that easily. Is it because they aren't using some kind of Search Optimization Criteria, or just that they're too small to be noticed by the big search engines? Or is it that the site that's listed on his campaign posters--www.MikeforMayor.com--ends up being the one for New York City mayoral candidate Mike Bloomberg. Perhaps Bissonnette's people, knowing this region is a technological backwater, simply decided not to bother to create a website once they discovered their snappy little domain name had already been consumed. Correction: you can find Bissonnette's site at www.MikeforChicopee.com.

Although it's rather odd that his political party isn't mentioned on the main page...

Too bad--since someone who appears to be something of a techological low-brow found a really cheap and easy way to create a bash-Goyette site. And seemed to use some pretty good Search Engine Optimization criteria to put it pretty high up in any searches on the subject.

This whole situation is revealing some pretty pathetic aspects of this corner of the State of Massachusetts--crooked mayors and low techonological savvy.

Yeah, we're real ready for the Information Age out here...one party electoral system and all that jazz...

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Thursday, November 03, 2005

Visit Beautiful Downtown Chicopee Mass and Watch The Two-Party System Fail


So, Chicopee's Fearless Mayor, Richard Goyette's office was searched yesterday in conjunction with his arrest on corruption charges.


All this comes one week before the election--which means the residents of this little city have a choice between a Crook and Some Other Guy. But how much do we know about Mike Bissonette?

Apparenly, anonymous mud slinging documents, with mud directed at both candidates, started showing up before Goyette's arrest. So far, though, the mud has stuck to only one.

What if it stuck to the other one too?

Small-town politics troubles me. The whole thing with Goyette--demanding money from tow-truck operators in exchange for city contracts--is something that, anecdotally anyway, always happens in the hurly-burly of Big City politics. It's business as usual in some places. The fact that it's blown up in Mayor McCheese's face here makes me think that some small-towns are a little less corruption-riddled.

Or did he just cross the wrong Wise Guys?

So, where does all this leave voters? We have the choice between a crook and someone who might not represent what we feel is right for our city.

It makes me think, too, about how so many of the Capitol Hill issues don't really mean a Hill of Beans out here. The Republican Pary's stand on abortion and The War really don't cut it against issues like environmental clean up and job creation. Out here in a working-class city of roughly 56,000, the issues are jobs, dealing with a growing elderly population, and environmental clean-up (the result of years of neglect and greed). We might not like abortion or The War, but what a local politician thinks about those particular issues is, well, a personal matter out here. Voters can overlook that stuff if the guy is willing to address the larger issues--like whether or not the local farmer's market can accept food stamps.

It's a shame that Goyette did what he did for what amounts to chump change. He managed to get a program going that has helped revitalize an abandoned mall--and while it means we have a new Payless Shoe Source, Wal-Mart, Home Depot, and 99 Restaurant--blights and some labor law violators, as well as bad food purveyors--it also means jobs and services of *some* kind. There's also been two new high schools and now a possible new senior center... all while every day we watch fresh groups of reservists ship out from Westover AFB to fight an immoral war.

What do we do? How do we choose the person who's right for our city? Do we turn our head to chump change extortion--shrug it off and say "well, he's brought alot of development here." Or do we keep one set of morals and issues for the Big Guys in Washington, another set for the Little Local Guys, and vote for who we figure isn't taking a kick-back?

In small-town politics, who do we choose when corruption jeopardizes our Freedom of Choice?



Tuesday, November 01, 2005

We might not be the Big City out here in Chicopee,MA but we got crooks too!

Chicopee Mayor Arrested, Charged with Extorting $10,000 in Campaign Contributions

CHICOPEE, MASSACHUSETTS (WWLP) - One week before election day, a bombshell in the City of Chicopee. First-term Mayor Richard Goyette was arrested and charged with extorting $10,000 in campaign contributions. FBI Supervisory Agent Michael O'Reilly tells the Associated Press that Federal Agents arrested Goyette Tuesday morning. He's expected to appear in U.S. District Court in Springfield on Tuesday. The 36-year-old mayor, who is up for re-election next week, is charged with accepting 2 campaign contributions of $5,000 a piece. Under the law, candidates are only allowed to accept up to a maximum of $500.


This happens one week before elections out here. Unbelieveable. This kind of stuff used to go on all the time in New Jersey--it's just the way that politicians did business back there. Ten grand might not seem so much to all y'all city folk, but this is only one of many corruption scandals out here in this predominantly working poor part of the world (where one year's college tuition is more than what some working folks earn in a year.) Springfield, MA was rife with it under former mayor Mike Albano--just go to the main page of The Republican (www.masslive.com) and you'll find the latest on that particular mess.


(via Channel 22 with a heads up from Carlos Tropicana)


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Rafat Ali whines: "Where are the entrepreneurs?"

A recent blogsurf under "citizen journalism" on Technorati revealed this piece by Mark Hamilton which directed me to this piece on Paid Content...consisting of Rafat Ali's observations at the recent ONA confab.

Rafat's one of those young dudes with enough clout to be at a whole bunch of high-profile conferences...and, like a petulant child who's tired of watercress sandwiches and thousand-dollar toy cars, he whines:
where's the entrepreneurship? The Web 2.0 thing, while may have been over hyped, at least has something at the core of it: innovation, on the cheap, and available to all. These are people who believe, and believe me, that's half the battle won. Why is that mentality not coming to journalism, and specifically online journalism? Why isn't more startup culture being encouraged at media companies? Yes, they'll start blogs on their site, but beyond that, what? Why aren't journalists being encouraged to be entrepreneurs, and the other way around? When will we have our version of the young-out-of-school-entrepreneurs amongst us?


Rafat, here's a clue: the entrepreneurs aren't sitting in expensive conferences. We aren't hearing what you or any of the others Up There are saying. We have day jobs or are in grad school for something unrelated to proper journalism. We do "citizen journalism" or "grassroots journalism" or whatever y'all want to call it on our own, in our own time, NOT under the auspices of the local newspaper or something like Backfence.com. We are in the Technorati Long Tail and don't have time for attending conferences, or whining and kvetching and complaining. We aren't all young, wide eyed, and moneyed--we are all ages, races, and creeds. We sometimes even have trouble finding one another. Yet We are articulate and educated and are blogging daily.

We're there Rafat. We have the Passion you talk about. But you, and most of The Press are still up where the Air is Rare and can't see us. And when you find us, you want to find ways to diminish, disparage, and degrade what we are doing. There is no support from established journalists or organizations--only talk of ways of commodifying us and paying us wages that are well below what someone of less talent and more education earns. Come down from your conferences Rafat and check out what The People are up to. There is passion and raw talent far beyond what you will find in a conference.

Get out of the clouds and into the Long Tail. You'll be amazed.


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Sunday, October 30, 2005

Speaking with Mr. Sifry

When guys used to give me their numbers and said "call me," I usually thought to myself, "yeah, in your dreams." But when the CEO of Technorati gives you his number, those old rules don't apply.

So, yes, I called Dave Sifry. Got the voicemail. Left a message.

He said he'd call again, but I know CEOs are busy guys. So, I called again.

I am, obviously, not lacking in chutzpah.

Dave was friendly, and very gracious; asked what about Technorati might not be working for me and what about it could he explain. Mentioned that, for the most part, I used Technorati to check my own stats and standing--doing the old "ego search" and we both laughed at that one. (it seems to be quite common among bloggers.) Noted to him that Technorati doesn't seem to be counting permalinks quite the way it did, although it is now counting post links much better.

I used to like it when it gave me a more accurate permalink count--but I understand how it's difficult to get the metrics to balance out post and perma links and keep up with the ever-expanding nature of the blogosphere.

It really *is* a big job.

Mentioned to Dave that I thought Technorati's basic search features such as Watchlists would be great for anyone with a business (or particular interest) who might want to monitor what's being said about a particular product or interest. But that wasn't what I used it for. Was very frank and mentioned that I didn't think Technorati's features worked all that well for social blogging...(although, according to one social blogger I know, Watchlists work pretty good)

Mentioned, too, that I don't necessarily search for stuff on blogs--my blog reading seems mostly for pleasure, not information. Perhaps it's weird--or just not what the heavily-surveyed people do with blogs. Who knows? Then we went over to the new BlogFinder section of Technorati--where Dave explained a bit about customizing the features and finding blogs on this feature. I played around with it for a bit--didn't find anything related to western Massachusetts, Holyoke, Chicopee, Springfield (although did find Springfield,MO)

Sadly, I wasn't finding any local bloggers. BlogFinder works when people participate--but if people don't participate, you can't find them. So, how do ya get people to participate???

Dave mentioned that Technorati's features could help find the "authoritative" blogs on this or that...the "authoritative" blogs seem to be the ones most linked. Guess that *does* impart authority (frankly, I think who the author is might also impart authority) The "recently updated" blogs were more fun...

This part of our conversation reminded me of a conversation I had with Laurel Touby, CEO of MediaBistro--she asked me why there might be so few women blog readers, and hazarded her own guess that women simply do not spend as much time on the Net as men do, and might not be looking for information of the same type or kind that men look for. That's a distinct possibility...

Dave and I got to talking a bit about search habits and where things might be going with blogging--with the creation of so many blogs and the possibilities of blogs being abandoned when people figure out that they're really not all that easy to keep up on and there's no guarantee of beaucoup readers. Talked a bit about a side project I recently started....

And then he had a meeting. That was fine. I was surprised he gave me as much of his time as he did.

Before he hung up, he left me with a small thought that was a kind of compliment--I won't repeat it as it seemed kind of like a bit of personal advice.

He's recognized something I wasn't aware of--not the self-flaggelation, but the "A" ranking....Thinking about it, though, I get it now.

Thanks, Dave. Catch you again sometime.

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Friday, October 28, 2005

Is there *any* value to "citizen journalism?"

More often than not I get asked why I'm doing a "citizen journalism" type of blog. I sometimes wonder that myself, esp. in light of this rather negative and limited-view piece on c.j. by Tom Grubisch in the On-Line Journalism Review.

My main gripe with Tom's piece is that he keeps the assessment of citizen, or, as he likes to call it grassroots journalism (thanks for adding another term to the stew, Tom.) Tom seems to believe that if it's not connected to an old media-think outlet, or under the auspices of some sanctified citizen journalism site(such as Backfence.com) then it just ain't proper citizen journalism.

Yet I wonder if it's just Tom's limited viewpoint, or the way independent citizen journalists limit themselves. Jon Garfunkel has a great story on how citizen journalists in the Eastern part of Massachusetts dropped the ball on a story about how an evangelical christian group in California was allowed to purchase a low-wattage high school radio station in Maynard, Mass.--yet are adding ad nauseum commentary on the Judith Miller story.

Jon has a good point (Jon also talks about page format, but that's not my thing). Why cover what's already being trampled to death not only by MSM but also by big-name bloggers (yes, I'm talking Huffington and Kos here)? Why not cover this sort of stuff that's not quite re-hashing the blogerati's re-hash, and a little bit more than the latest news on the traffic light replacement on Main St? Doesn't that seems to make more sense?

Maybe I shouldn't be the one kvetching here....I certainly don't know what's going on in Chicopee any more than I what read in The Republican. But I never said that Chicopee, or even Western Mass., was my beat. I did mention the Microsoft-UMass Showcase school deal, but since I wasn't there for the announcement, didn't have much more than the local paper had to add.

So, perhaps what it comes down to is citizen journalists deciding what they want to cover, and limiting what they cover, rather than covering a broad swath o'stuff (or monkeying with the blog format to allow for lots of stories). For instance, I won't be covering anything out Boston way because, well, it doesn't really affect me the way, say a new blog search engine might (or what Search Engine Journal is saying.) Maybe I won't kvetch about Chicopee's mayor Rich Goyette (who looks younger than me--how the heck can he run a city of 56,000?) but I'll still kvetch about Dave Sifry owing me a phone call (just a friendly nudge from a nudge) because blogging's the beat I kind of enjoy.

I guess it's a matter of picking one's turf and understanding that turf. It might also depend on what impact one wants to make. Maybe grassroots journalism that looks at the ugly gnarly little roots of one's town isn't quite it, and maybe if one is just adding another twig to an already roaring fire (as in the Miller and, now, I'm sure, Scooter Libby stories) and expecting to be the Dura-Log, one might want to re-consider. A twig has as much a chance of turning into a Dura-Log as I have of metamorphosing into Arianna Huffington.

Essentially, effective (or at least not re-hash) citizen journalism can happen--depending on how the citizen journalist views oneself. And, for the critics, let's not rush the practitioners any more than we rush the medium. The medium itself is still evolving and we are still trying to understand the ways in which people communicate/socialize within it. Sure, it might give lots of old media folks the heebie-jeebies to let us be free-range thinkers out here in the Wide Open Spaces, but we have the right. and, eventually, if we're smart, our styles will evolve and we will become what we are meant to be.

After all, this is still a very, very young medium of communication. Just give it, and us, time.

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Monday, October 24, 2005

BlogOn Pt. 2: And Then There Was Lunch (and more pastries and a cocktail hour)

Before we broke for lunch, I managed to run into Susan Mernit, who introduced me to Marc Brown of Buzznet--got alot of attention from the guys from Pluck.com and Jamie gave me a fairly good explaination of their Shadows product. I haven't had a chance to demo it yet for myself, but it looks like it might actually work for tracking Social Butterfly Syndrome in the blogosphere...(Social Butterfly Syndrome happens when you go around to a bunch of blogs and leave comments, then sometimes forget where you left them. It's awful fun and really tests the Social part of the term social media but trying to track it has been, up to now, gosh bloody awful-requiring copious bookmarks and sometimes just a handwritten dated list. man, what work!)

Also got to know two new terms: "thought leaders" and "influencer." Apparently, on some leve, I'm a "thought leader." Who knew? It was mentioned that "thought leaders" were better than "evangelists" because thought leaders will be critical--constructively critical--whereas an evangelist will be just singing the corporate praises ad nauseum

But who the corps really like, and who they will be willing to promote will all be contigent on the thickness of their skins--are corps more like oranges? or are they pretty little grapes in a bunch?

"Influencers" are the well-meaning marketing people who go around to blogs and are actually gracious to bloggers. I think Dave Sifry awhile back tried to be an influencer here when he left a couple of comments--but his followup was awful. Guess I'm not A-lister enough to get real attention.

Speaking of Technorati, Kevin Somebody took up part of the overcrowded lunchbreak with a rather razzle-dazzle presentation we could have done without. I was eating in the dark and not real happy (also spotted Stowe Boyd and Tony Pierce). The presentation was a bit too ha-ha for me--it highlighted a shoeshine guy who knew quite a bit about blogs and the internet. Well, doing manual labor and having a computer, let alone knowing how to use the Internet and Blogs are not all mutually exclusive. I'm sure you can find a business owner or two who knows diddly about blogs and blogging (just come to where I live and I can find you a few.) At any rate, the only highlight of this overblown bit of Technorati showmanship was that I popped up in their blogger-face montage at the end. Elisa and Jory turned and said "HEY! THAT'S YOU!" To which I said "HEY! THAT"S ME!"

But when I went up to Kevin after the show to say "hey! I'm one of the people in your montage!" (as a matter of fact, I'm the one in the police hat...) but I got blown off with a very "well, of course you are. we put the faces of bloggers up there..." oh? did he ever really expect to run into one of those bloggers??? maybe that's what got him. I could've probably said something about needing to get a release form to use my image, but just kept moving along...

The afternoon panel consisted of Steve Rubel, Shel Israel, Deb Schultz (from six apart) and Vicki Walker (V.P. of Marketing and Products, Sprint Business Solutions.) Shel made the point to say that "markets are conversations," and I got to thinking about my last four years in retail. Yes, they are. But it was fairly evident from the conversation going on that marketers aren't getting this message...and I would have loved the opportunity to tell all of them that it's the fear of people and the needs of corporations to control what is being said and done on their salesfloors that's killing Customer Service on the retail level. Yet here they are discussing what to do about blogs.

It's very simple. As Shel Israel sez: Markets are Conversations

Get it?? Better. Because you're going to have to live with it, deal with it, and develop thick skins. And if you can't handle it, don't interact with The Rabble until you can. But you'd better or start looking for a job in food service (according to Shel and Steve.)

Gil Schwartz from CBS was up next, and I had a small flashback to We Media (oh! no! another CBS guy!), who advised on how to deal with a crisis situation (Respond Quickly, Be Open, Be Truthful, and Be Aggressive.)

I managed to get up somewhere in all this, ran into Mary again, who introduced me to Stowe Boyd...who reminded me of a few gentlemen I met during one of my more colorful careers--the ones who were often addressed as "Sir" (I'll leave the speculation up to y'all...)

Then, the wonderful Judith Meskill (of The Social Software Weblog, part of Weblogs, Inc.) who had some jet lag I could very much relate to, managed to get Jason Calacanis up there with her. He believes that AOL will NOT censor/edit what bloggers on the Weblogs, Inc. blogs will do because they have "Lead Bloggers" who vette (or test) new bloggers, as much as they let the audience decide if they do or don't like a particular blogger. Jason also suggested that bloggers who are working for a blog network not get stuck on a "beat" (and there was something about Wonkette getting stale) and that bloggers need to flex their brains on other topics from time to time.

So, tired, cranky, full of too much coffee and pastry...with my ankles swelling and a head full of stuff, cocktail hour mercifully arrived. I went up with the rest of the folks, and didn't quite know what to do with myself. Getting some wine, I looked around, got my courage up and went over to Tony Pierce and had a great little conversation. Turns out he defended me on a Buzznet post (I think, against Jarvis) sometime back in August...my, what a small world blogging is at times! Got an invite to the party, and really wanted to go (unfortunately, that wouldn't happen)

Also briefly ran into Renee Blodgett, who actually *did* recognize me without my Hat; and Andy Bussey of Pluck who I shared airport horror stories with and who also promised to help me with *anything* that might go wrong with or give me trouble with Shadows once I get in and play around with it.

Ran into Mary one last time, and then those of us stragglers got thrown out of the Copa. Guess they had to get it ready for the evenings festivities, which did not include us. I ended up back at my hotel...seriously exhausted and seriously swollen...but it was a great experience nonetheless. I feel like I certainly know more about business blogging than alot of businesspeople do. And I got to meet some really cool people.

Sometimes these things are more about the people than they are about what's said there...all depends. But, seriously, where else could a girl from podunk meet both Jeff Jarvis *and* Tony Pierce in the same day? AND have actual conversations with both of them. Must've been a lucky one for me.

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Saturday, October 22, 2005

BlogOn: the Fine Art of the Conversational Pitch

It's been three days since I got back from the
BlogOnSocial Media Summit and I'm still going thru all the stuff I collected--the business cards, the experiences--the notes I took, and the other blog entries about it.

Where do I start? what do I say first? The Copacabana is beautiful, I can say that. Its shades of burgundy and pinkish purples accented with black, silver and white, makes it quite pretty. There were pink orchids sandwiched in plexiglass behind the bar, and candelabras on the bar (which Mary Hodder photographed because, well, who'd of thought we'd see candelabras--with candles-- at 8 a.m.?) The sound system is great, too--when a person speaks, it makes him/her sound like The Voice of God. I can imagine what the place is like when it's hopping with clubbers. I keep thinking of the Barry Manilow song--not because they're using it as a theme, but because the place just has that disco era vibe. But it's comfy to me. Guess it's just the old New York club person in me...

As to the shindig itself: the Summitt most definitely tried to help business/marketing/p.r. find a better way to interface with those of us who blog (hence known as The Rabble.) The Rabble is unweildly, unpredictable, capable of hurting Business--or so it seems from the tone of some of the businesspeople who were speaking (more on that in a bit.)

I ended up sitting next to Jory DesJardins and Elisa Camahort (two of the founders of BlogHer) and behind Mary. It was a prime seat, that's for sure, and nice to sit next to people I know. That's one crummy thing about conferences--at this point, I don't know too many people, so it's not like "old home day" for me...it can be excruciating at times.

Seth Godin opened the keynote. If you've never seen Seth, he's a short, wiry guy with a bald head. Very amusing on top of being brilliant! Yet his keynote tuned into a demo of his new product Squidoo...Susan Mernit blogged about how it felt like a giant commercial and Seth responded why it was like thathere. It felt, though, kind of like sitting in the room with one of your friends who just got the Gospel of Mary Kay. If marketers want to know how to use customer evangelists, all they really need to do is consult the Mary Kay Corporation.



In retrospect, I think it was a physical demonstration of what marketers want to do with blogging--get familiar, entertain us or earnestly give us good information, and then tell us about something they've got that we think might be useful. That's alot like old-fashioned, one-to-one salesmanship--something we used to do alot of in retail, until the marketers decided we needed canned scripts about products to sell them more effectively (ask me about my days at Frederick's of Hollywood and how retail stopped being fun for me.)

BlogOn's recap of the morning, with links, is here.

But I was actually there on a mission....and one of the best reasons for sitting with Jory and Elisa and Mary (other than the fact that I really like them) is that Jeff Jarvis was two rows in front of us. And when the session break came, I turned to Elisa and Jory and said "I'm going to go over and talk to Jarvis, watch this."

And I did..."Hi Jeff, I'm Tish G"....Jeff laughed and we shook hands and said how much fun it is getting into the back-and-forth that happens in blogging. Jeff's really a great guy. Very open and warm and, IMO, what he's trying to do with Buzzmachine is indeed get some of us Rabble involved in the conversations that he's always into at conferences (the conferences are often Rabble-free zones--although there's lots of talk about Us.) Jeff suggested I get into consulting (and had a quick and dirty strategy for doing that) and when I told him my true interest in blogging had to do with how our identities are being shaped by the Internet and things like social software, he told me he would be doing a sermon along those lines at his congregational church on Sunday.

And then I realized why I like him...he reminds me a heck of alot of the guys I used to work with in Princeton. He's got that same Presbyterian air, but something earnest that comes from being mainline protestant in a time of social change, when being mainline wasn't a bad thing.

I like Jeff...I don't think he dislikes women, as some people tend to think. But he is rough and tumble and it seems to me that he does expect women to go toe to toe and prove themselves. And I know from email that he probably doesn't mind when I engage in a blog-version of a Bronx Cheer from time to time.

There were lots of demos between the talking-heads...

The panel Jarvis was on, chaired by Susan, also had Bill Schreiner of AOL and Peter Friedman, Chairman & CEO of Liveworld, Inc. The funniest thing to come out of this panel were the comments that bounced between Jarvis and Schreiner who couldn't understand why young people where so into IM'ing and email and all that. And Elisa and I turned to each other and went "well, duh! didn't they ever pass notes in school? don't they know that girls always check out a guy's rep before going out with him?"

From my position in the Peanut Gallery of Life, there seems to be some things that are wildly self-evident if you're not sitting somewhere where you never interact with The Rabble. Kids pass notes. They like to talk. In talking to one another, they are practicing social skills. the kids I had to endure on the train back were evidence of that. Kids are alot like chimps--they chatter alot and bounce off the walls. But it's practice for adulthood!

Shreiner, Jarvis and Friedman also puzzeled over if whether young people will continue to use mediums of communication they are now "really into"--from IM and email and sites like MySpace and LiveJournal and Xanga--when they are a bunch of paunchy (or scrawny) greyheads. Once again, none of these guys probably ever passed notes. If they did, do they do that now??? Probably not. The things we do as teens that are ways of practicing adult communication patters are unnecessary in adulthood. Sure, as adults we will still use IM and email and blogs as various ways to communicate across the great digial landscape, but the frequency of use and the reasons for use might be different.

These guys also don't seem to realize that youth is not a static stage of life. There seemed to be this belief that who one is as a young person is who they will *always* be. I have two words for them: Jerry Rubin. If you don't remember him, he was a really huge Hippie leader--along with Abby Hoffman, kind of the poster boy of the Hippie generation. But, he turned into a businessman--much to everyone's chagrin.

If it happend to Rubin, it'll probably happen to everybody at some point. Future generations are not exempt from the experience of life any more than us Old Folks.

I shook my head and we went to lunch...

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