Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Why bloggers drive me nuts

Yesterday I went to "the public library" and "checked out some books." For you kids out there, checking out books is like file sharing, but with books. How the RIAA hasn't yet shut down these fiends is beyond me. I suppose they're working on it.

But anyway, one book that grabbed my attention (don't ask me why) was We've Got Blog: How Weblogs are Changing Our Culture. The book is a compilation of essays on the blogging phenomenon, dating from 1998 to 2002, the year of the book's publication. Now granted, three years in blog time is an eon, and much has changed in the blogosphere since 2002. Still, much of We've Got Blog irritates me in many ways, highlighting the things that bug me the most about society in general.

Irritation One: Age before beauty--Several essays in this collection take the stance that, no matter how high-quality or otherwise perfect your blog might be, it will never be anything more than a pale imitation of the classic original weblogs. Put more succinctly, if your blog was made in any year with a "0" in it, it's a completely derivative piece of shit. After all, anyone with half a brain knows that the new generation of bloggers is just trying to ride the coattails of the original hardcore hackers.

Horseshit. Frankly, I think a lot of top blogs rest too much on their laurels. The reason they're popular is because, well, they're popular and they've been around for a long time. I myself don't read a lot of the big blogs, partially because some don't actually offer that much (unless you consider 500 comments of "Me too!" and "Ha ha!" to be substance) and partially because of bitterness (one blog everyone loves got praise in a major publication for its "write your own caption" feature, as if she invented the concept or actually wrote captions of her own).

Irritation Two: Taking oneself way too seriously--This is the precise reason I am friends with so few artists. Pretentiousness abounds in We've Got Blog in forms that, had I read them before taking up blogging, probably would have scared me out of it.

Regarding commenting etiquette: "Don't be a wise ass. Also, a good point to remember is that webloggers are not [just?] some Internet junkies. They are highly respected individuals in this elite community, such as Internet pioneers, inventors, professors, excellent designers, programmers, etc. They know what they are doing and they are damn good at what they do."

Precisely the types of people who are thin-skinned and not open to criticism of any kind.

Irritation Three: Celebration of strict protocol in the guise of "tradition"--Come on now! I understand that etiquette is appropriate, be it when eating in public or respecting the boundaries of intellectual property. But let's face it: blogging barely existed in any real sense before 1997. In terms of tradition, Changing of the Guard it isn't. I find it more fun to just blaze my own trail, just as the founders did, uh, do. Because they're all still blogging. Because blogging isn't that old.

Irritation Four: Trying too hard to define the meaning of blog--This irritation is compounded by the consensus that a blog exists exclusively to aggregate links or otherwise keep description and commentary to a minimum:

Maybe I don't want wanna see fantastic design from a designer or fantastic writing from a writer every single day... So leave yer 3000+ words at the door, buddy, because it doesn't work for this medium...It ain't gonna give it one ounce of blog cred.

Defining my own blog was too much of a burden to handle. Thanks for saving me the trouble, Neale Talbot. Remind me to look up to you.

Irritation Five: Taking oneself WAY too seriously, again--While several writers in We've Got Blog point out otherwise, a prevailing attitude here is that blogs are meant more for readers than writers. Such a stance is the reason why so much popular culture sucks: because it's made for focus groups and a broad audience instead of from artistic vision. It can't help but feel forced.

Ultimately, I have to agree with an idea espoused repeatedly throught the book: "Fuck traffic, fuck hits, fuck ratings. It's all hogwash. Many of the best sites out there are under-read, under-rated or undiscovered." Rock on.

Which brings me to the pinnacle of these irritations: Chris Pirillo's Libera Manifesto. Written in 2001, Pirillo's piece attempts to encapsulate the sacred tenets of unpaid bloggers, and appears as a chapter in this book. Fittingly, you can read the whole thing on a blog. This list--most of which I agree with in theory, if not in presentation--might be a good thing, if it didn't reek of an "We do this for you, goddamnit!" attitude.

1) Our time is worth something, too.
2) There is such a thing as a free lunch, but don't forget to tip your waiter.
6) All take and no give only works for a little while.
8) Don't expect us to ask for nothing in return.
13) If you can help, please do.
15) We love you.
25) We don't whine, we ask politely.
26) Bandwidth is not free.
32) We still love you. [My personal favorite. Because he feels quite justifiably that he has to remind us that he loves us.]

Perhaps Pirillo should read the rest of We've Got Blog; then he'd notice some of the best words of wisdom the book has to offer:

"[Blogs are] nothing new, they're not changing the world with their content, they're not going to make anyone huge amounts of money, but they are a form of self-expression and community which others enjoy reading." --Brigitte F. Eaton

For my money (or lack thereof), Eaton represents the spirit of blogging far better than do Pirillo's pleas. Quality blogs (and quality bloggers) are true to themselves first, which makes their stuff much more interesting to read. And, in turn, they never have to ask for support, because they'll already have it in spades.


Flamingo Jones said...

No wonder you were feeling tetchy!

Ian McGibboney said...


yournamehere said...

All I want my blog to be is a place to write my crap. I hope people enjoy it. If not, Family Circus is available in hundreds of newspapers across the country.

Fuck the elitists. Somewhere there's a guy at Burger King who thinks no one mans the fryer quite like he does.

Flamingo Jones said...

yourname here--I know that BK guy. His name is Steve.

PusBoy said...

Pirillo's a douche. My blog is for me, not my readers. In fact, I might take it offline and just write on old pieces of toilet paper.