Sunday, December 23, 2007

Yawn Blah-ger

Wired.com posted a small article on Dec. 15 featuring Jorn Barger, the man who coined the word “weblog” and ostensibly invented the concept of blogging ten years ago with his site, Robot Wisdom. In the Wired.com article, Barger offers ten tips on how to blog successfully. I, however, think the first three tips suckle the goat’s horn nubs, to say it in the manner of a badly translated idiom.

I actually put up a post in 2005 talking about my surprise at what meager livings Barger derived from his baby, which is so hugely popular now. A quote from the old post: “I owe him a debt, as do millions of other people who now have a means of publicly prattling about any subject they choose.” (A follow-up clarification to that quote: I totally meant “debt of thanks,” not “financial debt.”) Anyway, if George can politely give James Wolcott what’s-for in defense of foodies and food writers, then I too can tell someone “Thank you, but I think you’re maybe the opposite of correct.” (Granted, George's target is the culture editor for Vanity Fair and mine is a man who invented one of the most popular communication mediums of the modern day and who is nonetheless penniless, as far as I know, but I'm still going ahead with this.)

Barger’s rule one: A true weblog is a log of all the URLs you want to save or share. (So del.icio.us is actually better for blogging than blogger.com.)

What I say: Okay, maybe this is true, especially if you want to imagine some technical difference between a blog — that being the everyman’s version of the entity, more often used as a diary, humor column, one-man publication or a vanity press — and a weblog — with it being the purists' version, truly a log in the classic sense. Fine. Barger invented the term. I suppose he has a claim to making distinctions like this.

Barger’s rule two: You can certainly include links to your original thoughts, posted elsewhere … but if you have more original posts than links, you probably need to learn some humility.

What I say: You hear that, you know-nothings with those Stephen King novels you call posts? Stop it. You’re being selfish, taking up the internet, which belongs to links.

The hell? Who needs to learn humility here, the people using their small bit of internet real estate to do as they please or the man who doesn’t seem to like people using his invention in ways that he didn’t envision? If the majority of bloggers I knew just posted links, I think I be bored to tears — and overwhelmed by chunks of text listing link after link to the point where one wouldn’t stand out from another. (Kind of like a certain website maintained by the inventor of the word “weblog.”) Also, I like how Barger suggested that personal thoughts should be posted elsewhere. Where, exactly? On another blog? Or perhaps on some less Web 2.0-friendly homepage, so the blog software can support… lists of links.

Barger’s rule three: If you spend a little time searching before you post, you can probably find your idea well articulated elsewhere already.

What I say: Okay, I actually tried this. I went to some of the posts in which I felt I proposed original ideas and turned up nada as far as sites that posted those ideas before I did. Nobody else noted the physical resemblance of the wife of supergamer Billy Mitchell to the female character from Donkey Kong. Nobody else has correctly ascribed angelic qualities to anteaters and demonic ones to aardvarks. Nobody else posted a photo of Dina’s face upon hearing the punchline of a story about anal sex gone horribly wrong. Then it struck me that I’m surely not the first person to criticize Barger’s list, especially since it first ran on Dec. 15. So I looked into that. I found all of following blogs dinging Barger for one reason or another for his list of tips:

link blogs different from weblogs? (frantic industries)
"i'd prefer original content" (blogissues)
lacking personality (nick vanderleek)
"imagine if all the scientists went home" (la vie quotidienne)
the entire point of blogging (cadillac tight)

Granted, that was just what showed up in the first two pages of Google hits, and each either acknowledges Barger for having pioneered the medium or also come up with good points alongside the bad ones, but clearly a sentiment exists online that Barger could have missed the boat here. Nonetheless, I'm choosing to post this anyway. None of what I read, I feel, seemed to pick over the list at a depth I felt appropriate. Besides, what of the notion of a clamor of voices rather than just everyone else allying themselves behind someone who kinda-sorta said what they might be trying to say? Logic like that led to a bicameral house of legislature, and look where that has gotten us.

The remaining seven suggestions I’m basically okay with, but I’m curious as to why Barger would set out with the three that he did. He notes in the article that 1998-1999 was “the Golden Age of Weblogs.” I can’t help wonder if the fact that the medium exploded in a way that would seem opposite the way he intended has left Barger more than a little miffed. And I wonder if this list serves as his chance to redirect some impressionable bloggers into quitting this silly “writing thing” and just posting more links, robot style.

Beep bop boop bop beep.

1 comment:

  1. Hi. I know you are on Blogger but my post on this topic was a Hawt post on Wordpress. That means it showed up as one of the most read posts which in a spiral of virtue made it an even-more-read post.

    Thanks for the link love.

    Shefaly

    ReplyDelete