Ravings of A Rabid Anti-Blogger

7 Habits of an Anti-Blogger

Think before posting
Write for tomorrow
Google is a means not an end
Traffic isn't everything
Write clean, valid markup
Add value, not links
Memes don't need your help

The only thing more shamelessly egocentric than blogging, is creating a vanity web site, like this one. I mean come on, who do these people think they are? Do they think anyone really cares about their poorly organized (the essence of blog is stream of consciousness diluted by sheer cosmic-rays-hit-a-neuron randomness seasoned well with lots of links to more chaos) rambling mass of disjointed thoughts? It's a desperate cry for attention, I think, among personalities who are very shy and unable to interface any other way, or personalities that just clamor to seem hip and can't get into People magazine or GQ. They need a new way to be hip. New York is old school hip, but bloggers don't live there much and want to steal that limelight. Ditto all of that for us vanity web site creators too, BTW. We're playing out some closet need to express ourselves.

Adding value is the name of the day. Real men add value to their web sites, they don't blog. We can add value in several ways. One would be by bothering to format our content in conventional ways known to make it easier to assimilate and more attractive to the eye. It may have been cool for old time writers to spell their names in only small letters, but ever since I got an email from a know-it-all SRI guy who'd been on the web so long he had to write his mails that way I concluded it was just laziness coupled with a misplaced sense of "I'm part of the hip elite digerati intelligentsia and you're not". Get over it!

Bloggers do seem to believe that all order is best derived by Google without human intervention. But the laws of thermodynamics will out. Eventually, even Google can't figure out a way to use its billions of dollars in market cap and hundreds of thousands of IQ points to put your Humpty Dumpty ideas back together again in a reasonable semblance of what they should have been pre-blogging. The funny thing about this blogging concept is that except in the most obscure possible searches, where I'm resigned to clicking on page 25 of Google results and looking at every one, do I ever come across one in the natural course of my travels. The one exception to that rule is where I'm searching for a person and that person has decided they're lazy enough or enamored enough to make their personal site a blog.

Heinlein once opined through his character Lazarus Long that if it can't be expressed in figures, it isn't science, it is opinion. He's right about that, and I would venture to say there is a corollary: If it is expressed with a blog, it isn't content, it's drivel.

I admit, I admired the notion of blogging briefly. The internet is an "I-get-something-for-nothing" kind of place, and here was a way to "give-something-for-nothing." What could be more sympatico with the whole internet idea? What I quickly discovered is that none of the blogs was very interesting. People didn't have much to say, or if they did, they were such lousy writers they had to fall back on a blog.

As close to a real application as I could find was that some people wanted to view the blogs as a way for really smart people to tell the rest of us what to think and how to be hip without working at it too hard. Davenet is a perfect example of this concept. Dave even thoughfully provides a list of the digerati who fawn over his blog. It includes names such as Bill Gates. Why if you want to be hip, you surely must have read Davenet each morning and be ready to engage in hip discourse at Buck's with the VC's you're pitching your latest hip idea, right? No, I don't think so. Those VC's that cared about all that lost their shirts on bubble companies. The real talent wants to talk about something more meaningful. Return on investment. Barriers to entry. Boring stuff. Being a digital gadfly is fun, but no longer very lucrative.

Sure, the bloglodytes (my pet name for the rabid pro-bloggers) want to rant on about the blogosphere. They're so proud because the news media (a crowd almost as content free as the bloggers themselves) has decided that bloggers knew what was going down in the Bush-Kerry contest before anyone else. Yeah, but who else was reading that stuff, how much before everyone else did they know, how do you decide which ones were right, and all the rest? This is perfect 20/20 hindsight, which is excellent for conspiracy theories and web bubble thinking, but seldom moves the ball ahead in the game of life.

Wired Magazine is an example of what the blogger mindset can do to a magazine layout. I used to read the thing in the interest of keeping my digerati membership intact, but finally gave up. Between hopelessly hyped but not all that interesting content to completely opaque formats (gee, is that an article, or an ad? where did my article go? the trail just petered out...), it just wasn't worth the effort.

What about this traffic idea? If the bloggers aren't getting traffic, nobody cares, and they really have created a meaningless monument of shortlived value. But are they getting traffic? Does anybody care? I confess to having doubts. As I mentioned, I don't run across these blogs often in my personal flights of the digital biplane through infospace, but maybe there are other paths. Maybe I'm not navigating with the right instruments. Yes, I use Google, and that is a blogging mainstay, but perhaps they have other means. Maybe blogs are only read by people linked by word of mouth, for example. I have come across some bizarre sites created by kids, which is to say those under 30 and usually in college. I found one while checking the web stats for this site. Inexplicably someone was pirating an image of my daughter Laura's birthday cake.

Let me digress briefly on this topic of image pirating. If you are going to do it, and Google Image Search makes it easy, at least have the decency to copy the image so that you're not stealing my bandwidth too!

But back to the cake. There is no way I or anyone else could have found this site unless we'd been told about it by the owner, or unless I had traced the unlikely theft of bandwidth back to the perp. I get a lot of image theft of my exotic PC images or cars, but this was new. Frankly, with all the creeps out there in the world, I didn't like this idea. It turned out that the cake was linked as a picture into the blog of some Goth-worshipping young girl whose name was also Laura, and whose birthday it was. This was a blog where all could contribute, so the image was put there by Laura's friend. How odd. Odd that somebody went to so much trouble to find my Laura's cake and paste it in, but they evidently couldn't be bothered to give Goth-Laura a cake of her own and take a picture of it. Do you see the curious way the blogging community chooses to add value? They don't really. They're just random impulses that twitch the muscles of the ideacorpus in weird ways to make us think the body is still alive.

And that's really all bloggers do. Not much original content. It's all talking about and linking to other people's original content. Or it's opinion, which I guess is content of a sort, but is easy to come by without wading through blogs.

The Wiki phenomenon is closely related to blogging. What else is it but a blog that isn't even under the care of any single person? There's even less opportunity to add value. Take the Wikipedia. What a great idea. But what happens when a lot of the information in it is wrong, either intentionally, or because the people writing didn't know what they thought they did? Encyclopedia Brittanica look out! It isn't about being correctly factual, it's about being dense, or at least oft repeated! I find that when I use the internet for research its great, but you really have to get past all the people that repeat something they heard that was wrong and find the corroborating evidence.

This is a funny thing about the net. It's a Darwinian system of sorts, but the survival equation is largely based on popularity, with admittedly low penalties even when there is none. Since it is a land grab of how many visits, pages, or kbytes can I serve and how will I be indexed by Google, it's more about quantity than quality. Interestingly, while people expected the net to enable all sorts of diversity and personal expression, and the blogosphere certainly believes that myth, all that happens in Darwinian systems is they are exceptionally good at distilling things down to a few workable niches. Perhaps people didn't really have that much to say after all? Hence that ringing you hear is the sound of ideas resonating as they are endlessly repeated without being vetted for accuracy or updated in any way. Can you say "perfect conspiracy theory medium?" Better yet, can you say politics? Yes, Virginia, its just a popularity contest. It really is, after all, just about being hip on the net. As we like to say in the value about certain know-it-alls, the net is frequently wrong but never in doubt.

BTW, I intentionally wrote this essay in the style that would most appeal to a blogger. Hence it rambles, presents ideas that are never completed (you can add value to a web site in several ways but I only talk about one), introduces crazy catchy cyberpunk metaphors, and has weird bold-faced text all over. Anti-bloggers know who they are and wouldn't waste time on this drivel. You bloggers should pay attention!

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All material 2001-2006, Robert W. Warfield.