Categories
Writing

However you’re blogging, it’s wrong

Last year, when I’d only been blogging for a few months, a friend of mine IMed me saying that he was interested in starting his own blog. I was only too happy to bombard him with handy tips and tricks I’d learned about formatting pages, organizing archives, search engine optimisation, and other tidbits, to which he replied with the textual equivalent of a one-finger salute. I told him it was his site to do with as he pleased, and he reasserted his agreement with this. Shortly thereafter, he added this text to the bottom of his site:

If you have any suggestions for my blog, please mail them to SHUT THE FUCK UP c/o GO TO HELL. I’ve had too many people tell me what I “should do.”

Little did I know at the time that this would be the best advice on blogging I’d ever receive, and the guy hadn’t even written his first entry!

I’ve been reminded of this prophetic advice a few times in the past week while reading and vehemently disagreeing with various lists defining blogs and best practices.

The first such list, entitled 10 Things Your Blogger Won’t Tell You, comes to us care of SmartMoney.com which was a hint of idiosyncrasy right off the bat. The list is comprised of outlandish generalisations, any one of which would surely turn away prospective readers after one visit. I’d like to rebut some of the more glaring beFUDdlements:

1. Hardly anybody reads me.

And? All the bloggers I read address their audiences and even answer some questions, but largely they write about themselves as they see fit. Personally, I keep an eye on my Google Analytics statistics, but I see this as a separate matter of server administration. I relish comments, but continue writing when I don’t receive any. I more often will ask myself a question than ask my readers one. Bloggers won’t tell you that no one is reading because it is a given, and is irrelevant. If you’re blogging for anyone but yourself you have already failed.

3. Did I mention I’m not a real reporter?

The text accompanying this point pigeonholes blogging as a poor man’s substitute for accredited (thus, infallible) news media. Give me a break. The gut reaction of the general populace to world-changing events IS news. Reporting from the trenches by the people themselves, not a homogenized commercial-break-friendly TV spot, is the wave of the future. Which is more poignant – the 30 second newsreel stating 100,000 people were killed in a tsunami, or the 3000 word essay written by an orphaned teen in a small affected village?

4. I might infect your computer with a virus.

Cheeses n’ rice, kindly fellate the nearest tuber or squash. I suppose what the author was trying to convey here was the fact that there are many advertisement websites hosted on blog platforms like Blogger which offer no value to readers and exist only to trick people into clicking a pay-per-click site. The only thing this has to do with blogging is the publishing platform. I don’t think I’ve seen a virus on a web page in a decade.

The rest of this list really isn’t worth glorifying with criticism. It’s reflective of the typical tiny plea coming from traditional mainstream media outlets too stubborn to change with the world they’re supposed to be the authority on.

The other list I’d like to comment on is by a hugely respected name in publishing and technical communication, Tim O’Reilly. His list is a Draft Blogger’s Code of Conduct. I suspect such a code is in response not to the needs of bloggers, but to those who criticise them. This is a wooden fire escape, in my opinion, since “blog” is a squiggly-defined term to begin with. Here are some of the points I take exception with:

2. We won’t say anything online that we wouldn’t say in person.

Why? Isn’t that kind of the point? (not to do so, but to be free to do so) I’m pretty sure the above statement is true of my blog, but I defend the freedom to do otherwise.

4. When we believe someone is unfairly attacking another, we take action.

If that action is to thrust with our pens then I agree. Otherwise, who is “we”? What is the consolidation between bloggers? I don’t think I’m in the minority of bloggers for having a self-centred blog. If a blogger I read is insulted, and this, in turn, insults me, then I will attack with my +2 verbiage of scathing. Otherwise, good luck buddy.

5. We do not allow anonymous comments.

Two words on this proposal – FUCK THAT. The real power of blogs is that they are portal to the human being who offers the content. A door is a better portal than a window. By default WordPress requires an email address from commenters, but I disabled this. The internet is all about freedom, and I want to assist people in choosing their degree of anonymity. Net neutrality encompasses more than bandwidth allotment.

Blogs are not mass-produced widgets that come in a plastic vending machine egg. Blogs are different things to different people. That’s the real power. You can make a blog designed for daily ranting, product placement, customer support, organizational planning, document storage, radio show playlists, a public calendar, communicating with employees, or whatever else you can dream up. Why limit this? Why impose guidelines? Why craft one size of reins when you don’t even know which animal will be pulling?

Thanks to James for teaching me this.

–edit–

I just read this post on Matt Cutts’ blog and thought it was a great follow-up on my comments. It’s short and sweet, plus it has a picture of his cute kitty, so check it out. His is one of my favourite blogs so be sure to bookmark it!

Categories
Nerdliness

Three free random nerdy-ass thingies

Between my work-related exhaustion and my as-of-recent under-active imagination I haven’t been able to think up anything interesting to write about. Thus I bring to you the answer to the question no one asked – Brian, can you give me some totally random free crap?

Yes!!

The Arcade Ambience Project by Andy Holfe

Even though I was scant 5 years old at the time, I can still sit in the dark and see in my mind’s eye arcades of yore; the cacophony of bleeps and buzzes, the contrast of neon games in darkened dens, the wocka-wocka of PacMan munching away, the audacity of the exorbitant 50 cent fee for Dragon’s Lair…

If your memory of this scenario is as fond as mine you’ll absolutely relish The Arcade Ambience Project! TAAP features a series of 60-minute audio files comprised entirely of emulated era-specific arcade games (from 1981, 1983, and 1986 respectively) and various crowd noises.

What’s the point? Good question! Incredibly I’ve found more than one use for these electronic aural tapestries.

My first use, which sounds far less useful than it turned out to be, was for the sole purpose of making noise. I found this very helpful while toiling away on school projects ,sequestered away in my basement, feeling alone and… insufficiently distracted, let’s say. The illusion of a busy environment around me felt inexplicably comforting and motivating.

A few years ago I’d been reading about externally invoking lucidity in dreams and tried using these recordings on a loop to convince my dreaming self that I was in an arcade, and then realizing, still in-dream, that I was playing this CD in real life. While I never did get this to work, I still found it rather soothing having soft chaotic white noise in the background which helped lull me to sleep.

Finally, I’m determined to slap together a contiguous bleepy techno mix with arcade ambience in the background. It’d add some atmosphere to the sound, I think, and will make the quiet parts of songs a little more interesting. “Live at the Arcade,” perhaps I’ll call it.

Iconoid by SillySot

Perhaps a decade ago my dad bought me one of the first 3D accelerated video cards on the market, the Matrox Millennium. Whether the card really accelerated 3D is debatable, but the drivers included a very innovative and, for my friends, enviable feature of memorizing and restoring the positions of desktop icons. For those of us that meticulously align icons across the desktop, such a feature is greatly welcome as there are few non-critical computer errors more annoying than having one’s desktop besmirched.

Thus, it is with elation that I introduce to you one of my favourite free software programs, Iconoid!

Not only does this whiz kid remember where your icons belong absolutely or relative to desktop resolution, it has a bunch of other rather varied and ridiculous yet fascinating features. For instance, it can hide your desktop icons if your mouse cursor is idle, it can toggle shaded icon text or analyse your desktop wallpaper to find the mathematically perfect coloured background for the text, it can partially or completely fade a window when you rest the mouse cursor over the X button, and introduces the hypnotic and befuddling icon dance!

It’s important (well, not really) to note that although this program is free of charge, it is not classified as freeware. Actually, it is categorized as “sillyware”, for which the author asks those who enjoy his software to send him something silly in return! I’ve emailed him a picture or two of some wacky crap in penniless thanks for his tireless efforts to bring me original software that fills a huge void in Microsoft’s Windows desktop. Ain’t I a saint?

nLite by Dino Nuhagic

The last motherboard I used was one of the first to support Serial ATA hard drives. While it did support this standard just fine in Windows, I ran into a snag the next time I tried installing the OS – the blue PXE (pre-boot executable environment) phase of the WinXP install couldn’t see my SATA drive even though my BIOS could! Some research revealed that a floppy disk was required for the F6 SCSI detect phase of the install, but I had no floppy drive so I was, to quote yet another TLA (three letter acronym), SOL!

Thanks to an amazing bit of freeware called nLite my goose was not yet cooked! This application allows you to create customised Windows XP install disks based on legitimate Microsoft-original CDs! It took me less than 20 minutes to study how to slipstream the rare but requisite NVidia NForce 3 SATA driver right on the installation CD so that no floppy was required. My first attempt worked like a charm!

The “fun” only starts here, though. nLite allows you to add all your hardware drivers to an install disk so that no after-installation configuration is required – a MUST for any company who mass-produces identical systems. Additionally, other programs such as Mozilla Firefox and FoxIt PDF Reader can be added to the list of default programs appearing immediately after install. Plus, many features inherent to WinXP can be toggled which is great for power users who routinely enable file extension views in Explorer, reveal system directories, and other such noob-centric annoyances.

Stay tuned for future episodes of Demodulated Crap Theatre!