Blogging 'bout Blogging

Pontification and bloviating about weblogging. Dear God, please make this the smallest category on my site.

Blogging for Belarus

map of BelarusToday I met with a trade delegation from Belarus. I'm pleased to report I did not create an international incident. In fact, I actually may have been helpful.

The delegation was looking into online journalism. The members ranged from news agency director to chief of an online portal. Today was the second and final day of their visit. They'd already talked with journalists and professors. I think I was recruited to play the "talk to a live blogger" role. Regardless, I tried to lead them towards issues relating to blog community and blog technology.

Full Content RSS

Tonight, I switched my RSS feed to include full article content instead of just an entry synopsis. I'd been ambivalent on the issue. I realize many people like full content, but I wish they'd come to my site to get it—for the comments if nothing else.

That, however, is imposing my preference on others. Probably the best thing is to give people the choice and let them pick whichever they want—and just be grateful somebody wants to read my crap.

Unfortunately, I have a lot of content that will not work in RSS. Many of my blog entries use relative links. Although the newer Atom standard allows for relative links, prior RSS versions do not.

Today I realized I don't need to worry about historical entries. I just need to be sure that from here on out I only use absolute links in my entries. The RSS feed contains only recent entries. The old ones don't matter.

There are some very good reasons to put full content in RSS. So, as of now, it's there.

SXSW: RSS Solutions

I spent the morning doing the "search" track at SXSW. First was Don Turnbull's panel on Revolutionary Search Technologies, followed by Marissa Meyer talking about Google.

I asked a question of the first panel, more related to information architecture than search. "Since RSS has become a fad, people have been rushing to move all their structured data into it—even if it's not an article for syndication. Is that a good thing?"

Scott Johnson fielded the question. He said a year ago he would have said stuffing everything into RSS was a bad thing. He's changed his mind. People are putting all sorts of things into RSS and it seems to be working. At the very least, it gets the information partitioned properly.

After the session, I introduced myself to Scott and explained that I was thinking about this problem in the context of event scheduling. I'd like to see organizations, say, around Austin be able to publish their event calendars in an XML format. Then people could aggregate a calendar of events from whichever organizations they might choose. RSS provides a powerful syndication mechanism for the project, but not the appropriate structure for schedules. Scott pointed out there is an RSS extension out there for scheduling. I was excited to discover that. This project suddenly seems more feasible.

I tagged along with the search people for lunch. Over ribs and chopped beef sandwiches, I mentioned one of my worst, current RSS annoyances. I stuffed the Austin Bloggers blogroll into an RSS feed, but it won't validate. The <author> tags for the blog entries sometimes are names or 'nyms and not full email addresses, which violates the RSS spec. I guess I'm not the first person to complain about this. Sam Ruby rolled his eyes and said, "Use <dc:creator>. It's a perfectly good tag." I'm not sure why I overlooked the Dublin Core tags, but that's the perfect solution to my problem.

Austin Bloggers Status

The Austin Bloggers web site has been unavailable since last Friday. The problem is that the domain has lapsed and gone on hold. It's moved into a redemption period where it's a lot more difficult and expensive to renew. The web site will be back shortly, once the problem is resolved. Hopefully at the same location, maybe somewhere else.

Nonetheless, in the meantime, you still can reach the site at the legacy address austinbloggers.soaustin.net.

Another Day, Another Portal

I seem to be creating a cottage industry out of coding backends to personal publishing portals. It's keeping me busy, I'm getting very good at it, and--of course--not making a bloody cent on the work.

I helped develop the Austin Bloggers web site, which aggregates articles that webloggers write about Austin. Last week, I built a portal for on-line journal writers called Holidailies 2003. The Holidailies project, now in its fourth year, consists of journalers who make "a solemn vow" to write an article every day during the month of December. It's quite an endeavor, especially considering that the only thing I've ever seen journal writers solemnly vow is to have a second margarita. (Oh boy, I'm going to get mail now...)

Happy Blogaversary (urp!) to Me

One year ago this week, I became one of the cool kids. I started my weblog.

I sense the breathless "blogging will change the world" fad is receding. Still, I find it a viable and vibrant medium. Consider the Austin Bloggers site. Many of the names you see there are (now) old friends, still posting away and often posting interesting things. The news is reporting a lot about abandoned blogs. I suspect those are mostly the "what I had for breakfast" blogs, and it's just as well.

Bloggers Protest, Nobody Cares

Last week offered yet another reality check on how disconnected webloggers can be from the real world. Last Friday was Fair and Balanced Friday. I participated along with scores of other bloggers. It was a very, very big thing in the ... *roll eyes* ... blogosphere.

But out in the real world, nobody much cared. A Google News search on the phrase fair and balanced locates 470 articles. Refining the search to just those articles dealing with the Friday event yields zero.

So the bloggers patting themselves on the back about their grand protest may want to consider that maybe nobody noticed. Particularly Fox.

postping: A Utility for Trackback Aggregation

Link: Software Archive: postping

In one of the earlier incarnations of the Austin Bloggers web site, we used a simple utility to aggregate trackback pings into a meta-blog. This system would encapsulate the trackback into an article, and post it to a Movable Type weblog.

I have received periodic queries for this utility. I finally got around to packaging it up and publishing it in my software archive.

We no longer use this utility. We currently use a more sophisticated system. I wrote an earlier article that discusses the evolution of this site. It explains the reasons for moving from the simple utility (published here) to the more sophisticated (but as of yet unpublished) package currently in use.

Pack my Bags, I'm going to JournalCon

JournalCon 2003Last week, I momentarily overcame my fear and trepidation and submitted my registration application for JournalCon Austin. Shortly thereafter I returned to my senses, and ever since I've been saying, "My god, what have I done?"

The Web Writers' Weekend brings together journal writers from across the country. Austin was selected to host the event this year.

This is all fine except for one thing. I ain't no journaler. I'm a blogger.

I know that we are all supposed to hold hands and sing kumbaya, because it's all one big, happy web. That's crap. Journaling and blogging are two different things.

Sure, there are some people that blur the line. Maybe it's hard to articulate the differences. Nonetheless, if I threw up a web page and asked, "Blog or not," nine out of ten dentists would agree. (Memo to self: register amiblogornot.com.)

So, I feel a bit like a spy infiltrating the enemy camp. Or the ugly American visiting a foreign land. It's a bit scary, but it could be an exciting trip. Who knows, I might even run into a few fellow bloggers along the way.

The Statesman Discovers Blogs

Link: Blogging it with Xlent.

David E. Hollingsworth left a comment in another thread pointing out that the local monopoly daily newspaper has started up a blog. There is only one posting there, but already things are looking pretty bleak.

Let me count the ways.

  1. No recognition that there even exists a blogging scene in Austin. In fact, Austin is blessed with multiple vibrant scenes. I'm thinking: Austin Bloggers, Austin Journal Writers, the bizarrely arbitrary Koax list, the Live Journal alternate reality. That's a few that come to mind. Yeah, Statesman, here's a big fat sloppy thank you for discovering weblogging and introducing it to Austin. Jeesh, now I know how the Indians must have felt when Columbus "discovered" America.
  2. For their example of weblogs, they trot out a small list of the old hoary warblogs we all know and ignore. You probably can guess the list even without visiting the article.
  3. No permalinks. Sorry Chuckles, that's not a weblog. It's just a periodically updated web page.
  4. And the clincher: no comments. This is so very wrong. Man, talk about dead tree media not getting it. Journalist blogs can have comments, you know.

Guys, this is not a blog. This isn't even a bad doppelganger of a blog. It's like, "Woo hoo! We discovered the Interweb!"

Nonetheless, there is hope. All blogs suck, at first. The problems I listed can be fixed. The question is, are the authors of the Statesman's blog willing to change and adapt to what works and what people want? I suspect that may be one of the greatest difficulties of business blogs. Have the authors been empowered to make the changes necessary for the blog to work and thrive?

As fun as it is to slag the Statesman, I'd prefer to see this work. In the aforementioned thread, I was expressing my frustration with the paper's local news coverage. This blog could be a solution to that problem. For instance, let the Business/Tech section remain the Chamber of Commerce mouthpiece that it is, and use the blog to cover some of the interesting developments that matter to the local community.

So let's all welcome our local monopoly daily newspaper to the (cringe) blogosphere. And let's pray they never post an article that actually uses the term "blogosphere".

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