Megnut

The big blogging fad

In the past few weeks, as I've been rather quiet on this site, there's been an explosion in weblog coverage by various news sources, including: Wired's Blah, Blah, Blah and Blog; Canada's National Post 'Bloggers' emerge from internet underground; Henry Jenkins (director of the Program in Comparative Media Studies at MIT), Blog This; three Guardian articles (1, 2, 3); Andrew Sullivan's, A Blogger Manifesto; and today's New York Times article, Is Weblog Technology Here to Stay or Just Another Fad?.

Goodness, but that's a lot of coverage in a short amount of time. Unfortunately most of it fails, once again, to penetrate or probe in any sort of meaningful way. Of especial disappointment to me is the New York Times' piece asking whether blogging is just another fad, not because I'm afraid of the answer but because I think the question is so meaningless. Fad, especially as it relates to anything Internet, is a terribly loaded, and potentially dismissive, word. And its use in this instance precludes a more interesting examination of where the hype is coming from. Bob Tedeschi, the article's author, asks, "[I]s it simply that in this, the Internet's fallow period, anything even remotely buzzworthy is given more of a spotlight than it deserves. Is the Weblog, in other words, a fad that is destined to fade?"

Previous Internet fads, which had all the longevity of a firecracker (the expectant hush, a boom and burst of light, and then nothing), included Portals, Vortals, Push, B2B, B2C, and the whole "dot-com" thing. But those fads emerged in a top-down fashion -- they were created by marketers and analysts making big pronouncements because they had something to offer or gain by doing so. The weblog hype, for the most part, has come from the bottom up, from the people actually doing the weblogging. Sure the tool makers/bloggers (Dave Winer and LiveJournal come to mind) have spent a great deal of time proselytizing, but the majority of the weblog buzz has come from the individuals themselves. As the amount of bloggers has grown, so has the collective noise.

The term fad describes something that's popular for a short period of time. Whether blogging will be sustained, and more importantly, continue to evolve, remains to be seen, but I believe it has a greater chance of success than previous Internet fads because of its grassroots beginning. The increase in professional media coverage simply demonstrates an increased awareness of the weblog phenomenon. And whether that's due to the dearth of more deserving fads, I cannot say.

[Snarky aside: The best part of this article was the analyst from Forrester who, "predicts the technology will be adopted by the big portal sites for reselling to their users." Portals + Weblogs = Two Great Fads that Taste Great Together! [Additional aside: Big portal sites? Who's left besides Yahoo!?]]

And speaking of professional media coverage, the "blogs-are-not-journalism" camp is quick to point out that capital J journalism is focused on researching and presenting facts. Journalism is concerned with credibility and to that end employs editors and fact-checkers to ensure that the public receives a valid and informed piece of writing. And yet with a quick glance at the articles above, I see errors -- errors that have been continued from one weblog article to the next, the same "facts" repeated over and over. Of course Journalists are informed by previous pieces that have been published on the topic they're writing about, but does that relieve them of their fact-checking obligations?

Take for example this quote from Andrew Sullivan's "A Blogger Manifesto," which ran yesterday in the Sunday Times of London, "Blogger - pioneered and still run by one man, Evan Williams - makes that completely easy". People familiar with Blogger may recall that there were three of us at Pyra when that product was launched. And there were many more folks that poured lots of time and energy into Blogger, at various points in its lifecycle, to create the product that's seen today. It's even mentioned on the Blogger/About the Company page yet I've lost count of the number of articles that have given Evan credit for creating and building Blogger all by himself. I'm not trying to be a brat here, and in fact I've avoided pointing out most of these mistakes as they've occurred because whenever I do I get an inbox full of email saying, basically, "Sit down and shut up, you left Blogger so stop your whining." And perhaps because of that, because some other webloggers and I have not spoken up and pointed out mistakes, these mistruths prevail.

My point is we shouldn't be so quick to say that Journalists get it right and webloggers don't. I think the weblog articles are a good example of the often shallow approach taken by mainstream media towards "quirky" topics and demonstrate that fact-checking may consist of copying "facts" from previous articles on the same topic. Of course, it's easy for me to spot mistakes in these stories because I participated in the events being described. This isn't black or white, fact or opinion, journalism or weblog. We're well into shades of grey, into a fuzzy realm where the distinction between amateur and professional is blurred. Where and how articles are published should not overshadow the examination of the quality and credibility of what's being written.

[Note: the author does not wish any of the above to be construed as Journalism.]

Over at Jason's an interesting and related discussion is taking place.

Thinking about dreams deferred

I've been thinking recently about things I used to want to do or learn that never quite worked out, for any number of reasons. It's funny to look back on some of these things, the longing is still there.

A list of dreams deferred:
- Learn to play the violin (also included bout of learn to play the flute)
- Become a doctor and cure cancer
- Become an astronaut (travel to the moon!)
- Go to the Olympics
    - as a downhill skier
    - as a rower
- make movies (write and film them with my own little camera)
- live in Europe

All hope is not lost on the dream front though, as one long-held dream's status has changed to "realized." In the past week I've received two checks for writing I've done. I can now say I'm a Writer, which is (for most of my life anyway) what I always wanted to be when I grew up.

Happy Valentine's Day

Announced decrease = increase

Dan writes in the comments on the right, "Whenever you announce that you're cutting back on Megnut, we see an increase in content!" Funny, I was thinking the same thing this morning as I was washing the dishes. I always say that and then write a ton of stuff. Maybe it'll happen this time, but don't hold your breath.

I'm speaking at Etech

I'll be speaking in May at the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference in Santa Clara on the topic, Web Services for the Real World: A User-Centered Examination. If the conference is anything like last fall's P2P and Web Services Conference, it should be packed with great sessions, brilliant speakers, and really interesting attendees.

I was on a high for weeks after the P2P conference; it got my brain buzzing again about all kinds of exciting things, including the ideas for what may be the next big thing in my life. I can't think of a better conference that I've attended, ever, so I have high hopes for "e-tech" (as do others, Cory says, "this con will kick ass"). If it's at all in your budget and is stuff you're interested in, you should check it out.

A new schedule

Thing may be a little quiet around here for the next while. I've assigned myself a difficult schedule because I have so much to do and it leaves very little wiggle room for fun stuff like writing on megnut. It involves less pleasant things like waking up at 7:15 AM and running and exercising, working, and writing a book.

A sporting complaint

You know, I really want to watch the Olympics, I really do. Why do they make it so hard? Why do they make it so so so American-centric? And filled with stupid commentary? I just want to see the downhill, is that too much to ask? Why couldn't they tell me it was delayed a day? No, I watched nearly two hours of figure skating until I came online and discovered the downhill was postponed until today. Grr...

My downhill dreams

Watching the men's downhill on Sunday evening I was so craving the slopes and wanting to just point my skies straight down the hill and tuck. See, I've always wanted to be a downhiller. Always. Even now. And no matter how many people say to me things like, "but don't you realize how fast they go?" And, "wouldn't you be scared?" I have to say, "yes" and "no."

I love skiing, it's probably my favorite sport in the whole world. And I learned how to ski before I even remember doing so. I've always known how to ski. For a while in the 80's I was skiing four days a week (high school ski team and weekends in Vermont). Now I never go, I don't have the budget for it. But watching Sunday, visions of a comeback formed in my head. Perhaps I still could fulfill my dream of being a downhill racer. Or at least just going very straight and very fast down the slopes without getting my lift ticket pulled by the ski patrol.

Useful etiquette advice

The Morning News has an article on NY City etiquette and I think it's got some pretty good advice for city-dwellers in general. Especially for those folks in San Francisco who always try to get on the MUNI before other people get off. You know who you are.

Spam is bad

But you already knew that, right?

Photos of the park

Golden Gate Parkpb's new snapGallery! makes posting pictures a, ahem, snap! I enjoyed a nice walk through Golden Gate Park yesterday afternoon and took some photos along the way.

Posting with the API

I'm glad everyone is enjoying the sidebar comments thingy, it's fun to read the comments. But one favor: could people please refrain from mentioning the end of the LOTR series for crissakes! I'm still reading them and I don't need to hear what the last chapter is about. If people are going to give away secrets, I'm taking the thing down. And don't forget, if you're wondering how it works, please read the how-to here.

The calm before the game

I still can't believe the Patriots won the Super Bowl. The team I root for never wins, never ever ever ever ever. Sometimes the team I want to lose loses (see Yankees vs. Diamondbacks 2001 World Series) but the team I want to win never wins. Not since the 80's, since the great years of the Celtics (DJ and Ainge, Bird, Parish and McHale, man oh man...), has my team won. Until yesterday. I was on the edge of my seat until the very end, knowing (as only a New England fan can) that until that clock ran out, anything was possible. The Rams comeback was no surprise to me, the fact that NE actually pulled off the win still is.

Apparently NE quarterback Tom Brady was so calm before the game, he took a nap in the locker room. If I'd known this during the game, I might have relaxed my guard a little. A nap? That's confidence, and it reminded me of all the sporting events I've been involved with, and the only time I really won anything big. Usually before an important event (high school soccer play-offs and ski team races for state championships, Head of the Charles, New England Collegiate Championships for rowing), I'd be filled with an aching, intense, anxiety. Full of hope but scared, I'd just say to myself, "I hope we can do it. I think we can do it. Jeez, it would be great to win." Only once was it different.

Tufts Crew, Spring 1992. I was rowing in the 2nd varsity boat, and we'd had one loss all spring. We got to the New England championships and that morning, before our preliminary heat, I was walking around with the strangest sense of calm I've ever experienced before a sporting event -- I just knew we were going to win. I wasn't nervous, I wasn't anxious, I wasn't even impatient to row, because I knew how it was going to turn out.

We went out and rowed perfectly in our heat, beating the team we'd lost to earlier in the season by a hefty margin. Then in the afternoon, we went out and rowed again. It was a close final and in the last 500 meters we were dead even with one other crew. But we poured it on and pulled away, just like I'd known we would, and we took home gold medals. I've never felt that level of confidence again. I can't help but wonder if Tom Brady felt something similar yesterday afternoon as he took a nap before the biggest game of his career. I think Brady just knew they were going to win the game.

Still with the API

Added a little more security to the comments thing to strip any HTML that a user may enter. I want to make sure we all play nice around here. And with that I'm done goofing around with this, at least until the weekend.

Capturing facets of life in film

Ever once in a blue moon, a movie is released which perfectly captures some facet of society (western/American at least) and the result is pure genius. Often though, the movie is undervalued because it's not cinematically great (it's not a film) and its ability to capture a specific sociological aspect of our culture is not appreciated. Office Space is one such movie, in my mind. There is real genius in the way the officeplace interactions are represented (and in those TPS reports.)

I saw Zoolander recently and I think it too manages to perform a similar "feat," if you will. (If I were more adept at writing about filmakers making social commentary through their works, this would be sounding more erudite, but I hope you get my point at least.) The male model gas fight scene near the beginning of the film is so over-the-top, so patently ridiculous, that you can almost see someone sitting in the Conde Nast building thinking, "Hmmmm...sexy, splashy...we'll have the boys out-and-about, having fun, getting into a rolickingly-good-time, old-fashioned, GAS FIGHT!" I mean, come on, that was about the best god-damn thing I've seen in a movie in a very long time! I can't wait to see Zoolander again.

Still playing with the Blogger API

Praise be to Aaron who suggested I try 1 or 0 rather than true or false in my request and it works! (The Blogger docs say "true" but it's obviously false since that behavior was spotty and unpredictable.) Now we're cooking!! I wrote up how I did it in case you want to do it too.

Alas, the API is still not "publishing," it's only "posting." Many people have tried it out but it's only appearing along the right because I went into Blogger and manually published as I was setting up the archives. Yes, now there are archives to all this so you can catch up if you miss anything. Drat! I really wanted this to work. Now I feel all pouty!

It seems other folks have had similar experiences with their TiVos like I mentioned on Monday. I posted my suggestion to the TiVo forum; if you have a TiVo and would like to see a similar feature implemented, go voice your support.

Playing with the Blogger API

I whiped up a little interface to the Blogger API this evening that allows you to post to megnut there along the side (see where it says, "Experimenting"). It may or may not work, since it was working when I first started playing with it and now Blogger refuses to FTP the file to this server. Anyway, try it out. The goal here (as explained also on the posting page) is to allow megnut readers to share content. I could have/should have implemented comments but for a variety of reasons haven't done that yet. So this is my alternative.

Of course there are a couple of caveats: only five posts will ever appear at a time, and I reserve the right to delete anything that's inappropriate. Also, HTML won't work, but I'm not doing any client or server-side checking for it. It will just barf behind the scenes on the XML-RPC call and your post won't appear. Consider yourself warned. Aside from that, it should, in theory, work. Let me know what you think.

Update: It simply does not seem to be publishing to the site, though I'm setting the publish param to true. If you have any ideas as to why, I'd appreciate it. I'm giving up for tonight and going to bed. Perhaps it will fix itself tomorrow.

A useful TiVo feature

This would be a good TiVo feature: a warning asking you to confirm a channel change if you're watching live TV on delay. TiVo allows you to pause as you watch TV (like when you need to go to the bathroom and you're watching a football game, say the AFC Championship Game). If you pause enough, you sometimes get "behind" the actual live game. Now it's not the same as having it recorded, because it's only temporary and there's a buffer max (you can't get more than 30 minutes behind the "live" action). Unfortunately, if you change channels (like when the cat climbs on your lap, so you try and move him off of it and onto the sofa, whereby you accidentally place him on the remote control, and his enormous paw happens to hit the channel "up" button on the remote) while watching not-live TV, you lose whatever's in this buffer and there's no way to recover it.

TiVo should give you a warning along the lines of, "Hey! You know you're not watching live TV here. You're behind. Do you really want to change the channel? Because you can't get back to this point if you do, and that means you'll *miss* the Steeler's field goal attempt, which I think you might be interested in seeing, only because New England is going to block it and run it back for a touchdown. If you change the channel now (perhaps by accident), and even if you come back really really fast, you'll just jump ahead seven minutes to the current action. Oh, you'll see the score is 21-3, but you won't know why. Now, tell me the truth: Do you really want to change the channel?" Yeah, I think that would be a good TiVo feature.

Visiting the new Prada store

While in NYC, I also visited the new Prada store designed by Rem Koolhaus and I was very disappointed. I had decided that no matter what the price of the items, I would try something on, just to experience the dressing rooms with the "butt view" display screens. But there was nothing, and I mean nothing, that even looked cool to me. In Vegas I'd seen a beautiful little black dress at the Prada store at the Bellagio, so I thought maybe something like that would be ideal. But this store was filled with ridiculous, horrible, peasant-style blouses and $4,200 pants with fabric flowers attached to them. The only thing I tried on was a pair of black, fur-lined, snowboarding gloves, but that didn't necessitate a trip to the dressing room.

Oh, the space was cool and all that, but the vibe and the fashion was just too-too for me, as in "I'm too smart (and poor) to spend tootally too much money on this absurd clothing." It's a shame, I want to like Prada, I really do. But I don't. (Except some of the shoes, I do like some of the shoes.)

McSweeney's fun

From McSweeney's Warnings Affixed to Laboratory Doors at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology: If you accidentally flushed something up the condenser of the rotavap or some of your compound somehow sublimes on the condenser... Also includes the words "bump trap" and "unnecessary purification challenge."

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