Weblog on the Internet and public policy, journalism, virtual community, and more from David Brake, a Canadian academic, consultant and journalist

Archive forMarch, 2004 | back to home

20 March 2004

“Giles Turnbull”:http://www.gorjuss.com/index.html asked readers of a mailing list he runs “why they gave up blogging”:http://www.gorjuss.com/luvly/20040317-blogless.html. The answers were interesting, particularly if you look at them from a Bourdieusian perspective. Reading between the lines, several of them started weblogging because it was ‘cool’ then gave up when it seemed like everyone else was doing it and it therefore became uncool. Or as one respondent said, “General sense of despair with: a) myself, b) the internet population in general.” I wonder whether the generally more snarky and amusing character of the comments he received were anything to do with his respondents being more likely to be British? Hmm…

Thanks to the ever-interesting Danah Boyd for the link

19 March 2004
Filed under:Weblogs at11:43 am

It’s always worth taking a look down the right side of blog.org from time to time, as I keep adding little additional features there as I find them on other people’s weblogs. Since my last major innovation, “adding RSS links to the subject categories”:http://blog.org/archives/cat_weblogs.html#001012 I have:

  • changed the way I represent the weblogs I subscribe to. Rather than give you an increasingly long, unorganized list, I now point you to “my bloglines page”:http://www.bloglines.com/public/derb/ where you can see them all organized by subject and read them the same way I do
  • added it a section for “what I’m reading”:http://allconsuming.net/weblog.cgi?url=http://www.blog.org/ (with its own “XML feed”:http://allconsuming.net/xml/users/currently_reading.derb.xml of course)
  • added the “Weather Pixie”:http://weatherpixie.com/ at the bottom to let you know what the weather is like here in London UK where I live.

Any suggestions about what I should add next?

18 March 2004
Filed under:Academia,Interesting facts,Weblogs at11:57 am

Over at the academic group weblog Crooked Timber, they are asking their readers why do you run a weblog? This just happens to be one of my own PhD research questions! I intend to look at a much broader field than simply academic blogging activity but I still find the answers interesting – particularly as I try to think how I might fit such responses into my own (Bourdieusian) theoretical framework.

By a bizarre coincidence a friend of mine posted “a very similar question”:http://www.electricpenguin.com/blatherings/archives/002289.html at the same time. A “paper on the subject”:http://www.ics.uci.edu/~jpd/classes/ics234cw04/nardi.pdf [PDF] has been submitted to Communications of the ACM.

What about you? Why do you have a blog or personal home page (if you do)? If you had one once and abandoned it was there something you were hoping would happen that didn’t? Please use the comment feature to answer – I would be interested to know.

17 March 2004

I just found the website of journalist Andy Raskin who chronicled (often in a humorous fashion) the rise and fall of the dotcom era through a number of publications. In fact, two of the stories he has highlighted side by side are, “What’s a Nice Systems Engineer Like You Doing in a Place Like This?”:http://www.inc.com/magazine/20020501/24172.html Speed dating meets job hunting in the land of the laid off Inc., May 2002 and “Take My Job Offer, Please. Pretty Please?”:http://www.inc.com/magazine/20000301/17273.html Begging and other strategies for hiring during the dot-com boom. Inc., Mar 2000.

But for my money the real gems on his site are two lightweight stories from Japan he did for NPR – “Ramen Jiro”:http://www.andyraskin.com/RamenJiro.ram about a rite of passage at a noodle restaurant and “Tokyo All Aboard Melodies”:http://www.andyraskin.com/TokyoTrainMelodies.ram [both in RealAudio format].

16 March 2004

I’m coming to this one a little late – Wired reports that according to HP researchers, the most popular weblogs aren’t necessarily the ones that come up with the interesting new ideas first:

topics would often appear on a few relatively unknown blogs days before they appeared on more popular sites.

and often bloggers fail to mention the sources of their ideas:

when an idea infected at least 10 blogs, 70 percent of the blogs did not provide links back to another blog that had previously mentioned the idea.

You can try out the software that they used to do the research – the “Blog Epidemic Analyzer”:http://www-idl.hpl.hp.com/blogstuff/index.html

If you want to read their (pre-print) paper about their results it’s “here”:http://www.hpl.hp.com/shl/papers/blogs/blogspace-draft.pdf and there’s a thread about their work on “Slashdot”:http://slashdot.org/articles/04/03/05/152244.shtml though before you read it you should probably read the researcher’s own “comment”:http://www-idl.hpl.hp.com/blogstuff/faq.html#10 on that thread.

15 March 2004

According to the upbeat article “Smile, these are good times. Truly” in the latest issue of the Economist, the drop in living standards for median income Americans since the 1970s which I have oft cited as proof that the US system doesn’t work for most people is due to the number of immigrants.

Strip out immigrants, and the picture of stagnant median incomes vanishes. Indeed, for the nine-tenths of the population that is native-born, middle-income trends continue their improvement of the 1950s and 1960s. For these people, inequality is not rising, but falling… [moreover] A quarter-century ago a typical household had three members. Today, it has just 2.6 members. Simply by this effect, median households have seen their real incomes rise by a half.

Before I start looking on the sunny side, however, I would like to take a closer look at The Progress Paradox by Gregg Easterbrook which The Economist cites and see in more detail how he constructs his figures – the devil, as usual, is in the details. I hope that some economists will be by shortly to help with this as well.

In any case perhaps the more worrying economic statistic I have come across is about the decreasing chances of improving your lot in the supposedly meritocratic US. As I “blogged earlier”:http://blog.org/archives/cat_current_affairs_us.html#000975 sons from the bottom three-quarters of the socioeconomic scale were significantly less likely to move up in the 1990s than in the 1970s.

13 March 2004

The Guardian Online produced a report on “Nokia’s Lifeblog software”:http://www.guardian.co.uk/online/story/0,3605,1166303,00.html for turning the contents of your picturephone into a life journal. BBC followed up with an article with a few more details – most interestingly the clever idea that the software would automatically match up the pictures you took with your phone and the location where they were taken using the automatic phone location service that mobile phone operators provide. So as well as relying on labels you add yourself you can query your lifeblog software and find all the pictures you took in central London last week.

Before you get too excited it isn’t due to be delivered before the end of June and the first version (“blog” name notwithstanding) does not connect to the Internet but this still represents the first appearance of the next generation of ‘life capture’ software on the mass market.

12 March 2004
Filed under:Interesting facts at11:54 am

This site puts London’s subway system into perspective. Toronto and San Francisco are not there yet but are promised shortly.

Thanks to Harald for the link.

11 March 2004

The UN has released a report into the negative environmental impacts of computers. Much of the BBC’s summary is familiar (at least to me) but here’s something I didn’t think of – energy-saving devices which automatically switch devices into standby mode can be deceptive as they are frequently ‘woken up’ by traffic from servers if they are connected to a network.

More information on the report is available from the UN University’s “Zero Emissions Forum”:http://www.unu.edu/zef/publications.html. Also see an “this entry about the negative impacts of computing”:http://blog.org/archives/cat_negative_uses_of_technology.html#001000 and “this posting about an earlier report”:http://blog.org/archives/cat_interesting_facts.html#000301

Filed under:Virtual Communities,Weblogs at10:53 am

Will Davies “questions the blogosphere gift economy”:http://www.theisociety.net/archives/001145.html, suggesting that some people use that gift economy to benefit themselves – a charge levelled by others earlier against virtual community boosters like Howard. Personally I don’t see the problem – if people choose to give out valuable information for their own altruistic reasons and others take that information and use it for self-interested reasons that doesn’t invalidate the original motivation. But perhaps I have misunderstood Will’s post which was more in the nature of a provocation than an argument.

David Wilcox responds to this with a long interesting post containing this key observation:

Media, politicians and think tanks get locked into self-regarding loops paying too little attention to enlightening wider publics. Blogs could be a way to break into this… citizens’ self-publishing and all that. But not if the ethos becomes just as self regarding, with bloggers mainly writing about other bloggers. It is a bit scary, I suspect, for most people to start blogging, and so they look around to take comfort from others doing the same thing. If you want links and mentions – easiest from other blogs – you can easily fall into following the prevailing ethos.

For a lighter look at blogosphere cliques, see this humorous “Village Voice piece”:http://www.villagevoice.com/issues/0409/essay.php.

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