Sunday, January 15, 2006

What's So Bad About Blogs?

Blogs are all over the place. Once a fringe tool, they took off in a big way. Corporations are being urged to blog. CNN has a Blogwatch. More than one story has been broken via a blog. So, what's so bad about blogs? There are a number of weakenesses in the blogging concept-- or more to the point-- how people use blogs. Ironically this is being posted in a blog, but nevertheless...
Blogs are web pages. Blogs are a repackaging of web pages. Where before you had to write the text, get the HTML right, find a place to post it, figure out FTP, FTP it and hope some notices. I know. I've been publishing material for almost 10 years. Yet, if you look for my work on the web most of what you will find are the blog posts. Part of this is because of two things: conformity and ease of use. Blogs pipe content into templates so that the material is ordered and predictable. By being predictable, the pages are machine readable. Because they are machine readable, search engines have an easy time indexing them. Most blogs are created through engines like Blogger, Wordpress and the like. This means that any schmoe who can hit a keyboard can publish on the web. Blogs are like a content management system (CMS), but they don't do so many things that you would like to have out of a web page. My personal site holds files, applications and so many other pieces of information. Were I an online retailer, a blog wouldn't suit my needs because I couldn't hold a catalog in my blog. So, a blog is a partial solution to anything you want to do-- unless all you want is an online catalog.
Blogs are not secure or safe. One aspect of blogging is the interactivity. You post and someone can comment. When you let people comment, you're letting them publish on your dime. They post anything. They can hype their own sites. Splogging-- spamming blogs-- is an abuse of this capability. But you know, you've invited the guests: don't solely blame them for eating all the lox.
Blogs are not vetted. DIM rules the day. Is that a non-sequitor? Bear with me a moment. If you post something on a website, it gets indexed and shows up in the search engines in a matter of weeks. That way, opportunistic posters don't get their message spread overnight. With blogs: the material is either timely or useless. Because of that: search engines index blogs almost immediately. No? Check out this link. I wrote this on Sunday, January 15th. Within three hours, it appeared. It dropped off two days later fueled by a fast-food algorithm that forgets its last meal. Of I've just edited this piece, so it may make it back again. By the time you check this link it will likely re-indexed. That isn't right. You need enough time to check to see if something is accurate. If yesterday's post becomes today's news, it could turn into tomorrow's scam. If you don't believe me try to order a copy of the little Red Book. This speedy indexing is great for giving us a viable alternative to the traditional media-- the same media that hoodwinked us into believing there were WMDs (a crazy man yelled it out, but the networks repeated it and gave it a rubber stamp of legitimacy to the public). But when a blogger fakes some news in their post, they won't lose their job: at worst, they'll lose their blogger account.

Way, way back (circa 1995-1996), Yahoo and Webcrawler and the like were eager get links. They'd grab the links and speed them into their index. Well "speed": between slow machines and some vetting, it took a while. By 1999-2000, most of the search engines took months to list sites. They would offer expedited service for cash. Google was still taking in the links for free. Fast link indexing was concurrent with the Internet boom. Picky search indexing came in tandem with the Internet bust. Now, we're into another boom cycle and voila: it's in tandem with link hungry speed indexers like Google's Blog Search, Technorati, Digg and others.

Two example of what's going on.

First: Look at two parts of the world (both which I have not been to): Stockholm and Banglore. Stockholm is all sophisticated, rarified and solemn. It's exclusionary. Banglore is crazy: every street corner is packed with tech colleges. Every tech college is turning out graduates. The new Internet whiz kids are sharing the sidewalk with oxen; and with people who dressed and worked like their great-great-grandparents. Everything is going on and what's happening in this energetic environment is driving the New Boom.

Second: Look at retail in December and Febuary. December is shopping frenzy. Stores have to pump a lot more money into their staffing levels. With all of the people shopping, the shoplifting levels are way up. People buy stuff and return those items in January. Contrast that with the dead zone of Febuary. Low staffing, modest shoplifting and people make certain purchases and not impulse buys to stuff under the Christmas tree.

The blogging boom is filling servers with uninformed opinions and half-truths, before you can blink: those stories are peppered throughout the search engines. Despite the drop in quality, the quantity of stories is some weirdo indicator of Internet health like hem lines and the economy. Freneticity runs parallel to success.

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