How to lose friends and alienate people

What to say? The level of response to my post on Irish political blogging was certainly not what I expected. I was away from a computer all day, but I did get home to read some harsh criticisms. Pointedly, FMK made her(his?) views explicit:

there’s a lot of blogs (/sites) in the “irish blogosphere” that do not contain blog-rolls or the such like, yet are lauded by the gurus / ancien regime of the “irish blogosphere” – why should new entrants to the game play by different rules when some of the stars can’t be arsed to play by them?

blog rolls are a thorny issue. to have value, i do think they should only contain those sites you really think it’s worth telling someone about, or are relevant to your own site/interests, and not just a link to everyone else in the “irish blogosphere”.

that said though, until the “irish blogosphere” gets some form of central resource, these undiscerning blogrools with their undeserving and indiscrimate linking are something of a necessity. but i’m not sure it’s fair to criticise someone who shows a bit more discrimination in the matter of external linkings.

i do think that we irish bloggers should support the concept of an “irish blogospher” but i think we can only do that by leading by example and by encouraging others to come on board. i also think that the “irish blogosphere” needs to become a bit more democratic – at the moment, it seems you don’t exist until a few stars of the firmament ackowledge your existence, and getting their attention is probably more effort than it’s really worth.

we can argue til the cows come home over what makes a blog a blog and i don’t think we’ll ever reach agreement. for me, they’re about fresh content and feeback between the blogger and the blog readers, for others they’re just about clipping and pasting and providing google with lots of hyperlinks to harvest. who’s to say who’s right? the readers, that’s who.

And continued:

specifically with regard to the sites in the original post. the two ff sites are party sites, they’re the party image and they’ll toe the party line. what is interesting about the little bit of content i was able to consume before my eyes glazed over was that the candidates seem to think that they don’t exist if they don’t exist in the media village. both are what they say in the url bar – diaries, and are about as interesting as any standard “dear diary – today it rained” content.

the peedee page is a mess, both in design and content. the “edit me” links are partic fun. but, to be fair, it probably took most of us a few days/weeks to get our own sites settled down (and if some of the stars of the irish blogospher can get away with not getting their site looking right for 90% of their users then slagging off recent arrivals over a few issues that will – hopefully – be recitified is not really fair.

And after my own post:

and some of that bile is coming from the post on this very site too. if only *everyone* would think before they type …

well i don’t. you seem to think that FI have misidentified “websitesâ€? as “blogsâ€? – yet the simple definition of a blog is along the lines of “A blog is basically a journal that is available on the webâ€?. tom and bernie seem to want to re-define the word to make it include all sorts of other things, like blog-rolls, comments, rss feeds etc etc. but FI’s definition is actually right, and the two FF diary sites linked to could comfortably be called weblogs

Ouch. Maybe I am imagining it but FMK seems to be referring to me alot, though I could be mistaken. On reflection I think this whole issue needs to be opened up into a dedicated post, and perhaps a dedicated category. I will take on board all criticisms, and where I feel that unwarranted criticisms have been made I will seek to deal with them. I shall try to deal with each of FMK’s criticisms in turn. This might ramble and I am pretty tired, and do have to catch a flight to London in the morning, so bare with me.

First off:

to have value, i do think they should only contain those sites you really think it’s worth telling someone about, or are relevant to your own site/interests, and not just a link to everyone else in the “irish blogosphere”

I agree to a point. I try to keep my Daily Reads roll as small as possible. I also only link to a limited number of US, UK and Canadian bloggers, most of whom I have either met, or read on an irregular basis. But they are blogs I liked, and blogs that continue to be ‘alive’, to the best of my knowledge anyways. In relation to linking to everyone else in the Irish blogosphere, it is something I am absolutely guilty of. Why? Because if I find a blog that has recently started, and it turns out its Irish, I would like to encourage that person in any small way. Linking to them is something, perhaps writing a brief post about it would help more. And I have done so on numerous occassions. I remember when I started blogging I used to love getting linked to by someone, so I try to return the favour. I also find that a good few of the new blogs link to me from the start, so I am obliged to reciprocate anyway. My Irish Bloggers roll has increased in size dramatically in the last few months, as I’ve noticed an abundance of new blogs. And obviously this can’t continue – in fact this is something that I discussed with some bloggers in Dublin recently – including Bernie Goldbach and Dick O’Brien – that a centralised hub of Irish blog sources needs to be built, to act as a place to go for all new comers and old ‘stars’. I was thinking something along the lines of GTABloggers, but instead for the entire country of Ireland, since the Greater Toronto Area has more people than Ireland. A new site is being developed at Irishblogs.com , nothing to do with me mind you. But someone has seen the potential for it.

Second:

that said though, until the “irish blogosphere” gets some form of central resource, these undiscerning blogrools with their undeserving and indiscrimate linking are something of a necessity. but i’m not sure it’s fair to criticise someone who shows a bit more discrimination in the matter of external linkings.

I agree with the first statement, as I said above. I think in reality it’s all fair game, but since I do discriminate my external links, except Irish blogs for the reasons stated above, I agree with FMK here too. I wouldn’t necessarily criticise someone for discriminating on links, but to be honest, having no blogroll at all, is something that wouldn’t appeal to me. And that’s my personal opinion. Disagree with it if you please.

Third:

i do think that we irish bloggers should support the concept of an “irish blogospher” but i think we can only do that by leading by example and by encouraging others to come on board. i also think that the “irish blogosphere” needs to become a bit more democratic – at the moment, it seems you don’t exist until a few stars of the firmament ackowledge your existence, and getting their attention is probably more effort than it’s really worth.

Yup, we should all support the concept of an Irish blogosphere. And believe me, I do my best to encourage dozens of Irish people to consider starting a blog, some are in the process of getting into reading them first, as I did. Blogs, at least for the moment, are not democratic. A site such as that I suggested would definately help to put things on a more even playing field, but by their nature, as can be seen by looking at the TLB Ecosystem, there are a small bunch of heavy hitters, or ‘stars’, and then the other 7 or so million of us. That to me is the nature of blogging, for the moment at least. I am going to take it that FMK is referring to people like me when she says ‘stars’ though I hardly would consider myself one. Yes one of the ‘older’ bloggers, but not exactly a star. Getting my attention may or may not be more attention than it’s worth, but sure that’s up to you folks out there. If you don’t like what you see on here, there are lots more blogs out there to look at, and I won’t be offended if you go, but will be sorry to see you leave.

Fourth:

we can argue til the cows come home over what makes a blog a blog and i don’t think we’ll ever reach agreement. for me, they’re about fresh content and feeback between the blogger and the blog readers, for others they’re just about clipping and pasting and providing google with lots of hyperlinks to harvest. who’s to say who’s right? the readers, that’s who.

Fair enough. I would be of the opinion that in order for a blog to be a blog it needs permalinks. But hey that’s just my opinion. And plasticbag was sceptical at first but thinks permalinks are crucial, as he notes here

What was so important about the permalink? It may seem like a trivial piece of functionality now, but it was effectively the device that turned weblogs from an ease-of-publishing phenomenon into a conversational mess of overlapping communities. For the first time it became relatively easy to gesture directly at a highly specific post on someone else’s site and talk about it. Discussion emerged. Chat emerged. And – as a result – friendships emerged or became more entrenched. The permalink was the first – and most successful – attempt to build bridges between weblogs. It existed way before Trackback and I think it’s been more fundamental to our development as a culture than comments… Not only that, it added history to weblogs as well – before you’d link to a site’s front page if you wanted to reference something they were talking about – that link would become worthless within days, but that didn’t matter because your own content was equally disposable. The creation of the permalink built-in memory – links that worked and remained consistent over time, conversations that could be archived and retraced later. The permalink stopped all weblog conversations being like that guy in Memento…

The “clipping and pasting and providing google with lots of hyperlinks to harvest” jibe may have referred to any number of sites, including me, but hey we all do our fair share of copying and pasting.

Fifth:

the peedee page is a mess, both in design and content. the “edit me” links are partic fun. but, to be fair, it probably took most of us a few days/weeks to get our own sites settled down (and if some of the stars of the irish blogospher can get away with not getting their site looking right for 90% of their users then slagging off recent arrivals over a few issues that will – hopefully – be recitified is not really fair.

Yes the PD site is a mess, as i noted in my post. The “edit-me” links are part of blogger software are they not? A few weeks to get our sites settled down? It’s taking me years and I still haven’t got it right. Take a look at my site when it started on the Wayback machine, it’s all there for anyone to see. I started with crappy HTML, a blogroll, monthly archives with no links to individual entries, and a generally crappy layout. But then I moved to Userland and it all became that bit easier. It took me moving to MT, 6 months later, to get a proper blog together, and even then, after a year on MT I had to move to WordPress because the darn rebuilds were timing out my server. Yes I could have done it all on blogger from the start, but I chose the difficult route, my own server.

But that was me, a semi-tradesman with a Leaving Cert, and self thought in everything IT related, and with an interest in reading and expressing some opinions. These guys are would be TD’s, with a party backing them, with resources, with brains, with ideas, with precedents like Tom and Clive and Boris to emulate. Could it have been so difficult to put a little more effort in, I mean they are running for public representation. But it looks like these are just fly-by-nights, writing until polling day, and then forgetting about the whole thing. When encouraging people, or politicans, to blog, I think it would be best that we perhaps let them know where they are going wrong, and what they can do to improve, and let them get on with it.

As for my site not looking right to 90% of readers. Below the belt and uncalled for. I take that as an ad hominem attack. But perhaps FMK is being facetious or sarcastic or both. Given that FMK replied to my post on expressing this problem, it demonstrated that I actually publicised the fact that my blog was displaying incorrectly. And it was remedied about 5 mins after I discovered it – by simply deleting my referrers. And in my defence, I live in the “used to use Internet Explorer but now live in the Firefox bubble” category. So I avoid using IE as much as possible. And hey if it displayed incorrectly for 5 weeks it means I can now no longer claim to be a web developer, running a professional website for which I get paid. Oh wait, in fact, I pay for this site, and I’m not a developer.

Sixth:

and some of that bile is coming from the post on this very site too. if only *everyone* would think before they
type

I do usually think before I type, but then if I chose not to, that’s my decision. It’s not bile in my opinion. See reference to ad hominem above.

And seventh:

yet the simple definition of a blog is along the lines of “A blog is basically a journal that is available on the webâ€?. tom and bernie seem to want to re-define the word to make it include all sorts of other things, like blog-rolls, comments, rss feeds etc etc. but FI’s definition is actually right, and the two FF diary sites linked to could comfortably be called weblogs

I don’t agree they can be comfortably called weblogs. But I can say that if any politican in Ireland does start anything that remotely looks like a blog, and I do not believe any of the current ones stand out as one, then I will be all for it. Even if there is no blog, but they want to know more I would be happy to point them in a direction and offer advice pro bono. And I did help out Clive to start his blog and understand blogging, and helped Tom with some publicity about his.

6 thoughts on “How to lose friends and alienate people”

  1. “Maybe I am imagining it but FMK seems to be referring to me alot, though I could be mistaken.”

    you are mistaken.

  2. gavin – fwiw, i’ve just had a conversation with another blogger who said they thought my comments were aimed at them.

    my comments on the fi site really were just general comments that fit a lot of sites in the irish blogosphere. no one was being attacked individually. if i wanted to do that, i’d name names.

  3. yet the simple definition of a blog is along the lines of “A blog is basically a journal that is available on the web�

    No. No. No. This is a commonly held misconception, held particularly by those new to blogging, (including the FI themselves as evinced by their blog awards and subsequent discussion at Peter Nolan‘s site).

    A blog means something specific and doesn’t mean “any old online writing”. There is something approaching a consensus on this:

    Here’s one of many glossary definitions

    Reverse chronological order, links and permalinks are probably the core elements which make a blog but anything which assists in continuing the discussion is also desirable – trackbacks, comments, etc.

  4. Surely the defining characteristic of a blog is the ability to leave comments? While other points are open to debate, the one element that is always assumed to be present is the ‘Leave a Comment’…so, if there is no commenting, there’s no blog, just a diary, or an events list.

    And, pardon my depravity, but would people not be entitled to simply write an online diary without other people’s comments? I agree that they shouldn’t then call it a blog, but then I see that the FF one’s are called ‘Diary’, whereas Ciaran Cuffes’ is called a blog, but doesn’t allow comments.

  5. FMK, I think the parts that stood out for me, that made me reckon that certain venom was reserved for me, were “some of that bile is coming from the post on this very site too” and “(and if some of the stars of the irish blogospher can get away with not getting their site looking right for 90% of their users then slagging off recent arrivals over a few issues that will – hopefully – be recitified is not really fair.” That’s where i got the impression that you were calling me a ‘star’.

  6. gavin – you have taken issue with various comments i wrote across a couple of sites, yet (by my reading of your post above) you largely agree with my comments. you took it upon yourself to assume i was talking about you. i wasn’t. there’s plenty of sites in the irish blogosphere do not function properly in ie. the only comment that relates to you is the one about there being bile in your own post, and not just in posts by others on other sites. that wasn’t an ad hominen attack, it was in direct response to a comment on this post.

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