What the?

Do not panic. Do not adjust your set. Do not freak out, or set yourself on fire. Do not, under any circumstances whatsoever, coat your genitals in gold paint and dance suggestively for the old men in the park. Do not, and I mean it this time, do not stick a fork in your eye, or in anyone else’s eye for that matter.
The default templates should not scare you. Don’t let them put you off. Vicksburg is a very nice… er, city, or whatever it is, I’m quite sure. I’m just decrufting. It’s been a long time without a decruft, and I’ve accumulated quite a lot of it. It’s gotten into all the nooks and crannies. There are drifts of off-white cruft built up in the corners. I’m knee-deep in the stuff. It’s got to go.
It may take a while.

Partly Cloudy, Chance of Refrain

I am a weblogger.
I am a man. I am an authority. I am hieratic. I am a drinker. I am a Canadian. I am an expatriate. I am somewhat inebriated tonight.
I am a spice without a sauce. I am a singer, I am a writer. I am a lover. I am a man who loves. I am happy and I am unsatisfied. I am content and I am angry. I am actively ignoring the present continuous in favour of the possible future simple. I am alive. I contradict myself.
I am growing old. I’m farting like a Captain of Industry. I’m hurting every goddamn day. I’m present perfect linking my patchwork history with this moment here, where the glass is in my hand. I’ve abused this strong big body of mine. I’ve moved people to tears. I’ve made them laugh. I’ve been completely wrong. I’m squeezing out the pus.
I am uncertain. I am defiant.
I am buoyed on foamy waves of ancient guitar. I am tired of the bullshit. I hope for the best. I’m averting my eyes.
I’m wasting my life. I’m in the moment. I’m teaching people that English has no future tense. I’m pretty sure there’s no point. I am happy about that.
I am thirsty. I am hungry. I am so full of shit my blue eyes are brown.
I love. I rear up in anger. I love.
I need another beer.


Because weblogging, or ‘writing online in reverse chronological order with permalinks because I heard that it’s cool and you can make money for talking about cheese sandwiches and wheeeeee!’ (as the kids are calling it these days), has become a bit dull, I’ve been hunting for newer, shinier things to mess around with.
Mostly, I’ve just ended up going back to Metafilter to play the grumpy curmudgeon with a heart of gold yet again, or lurking around the SA Forums, or desultory perusing of the [nsfw] uploads at Fipilele, or listening to streaming standup comedy. Or firing up Bloglines, seeing the 14000 unread items in bold, and just catching up with the new posts from people from the old blog neighbourhood (but not bothering to click through to their sites if they don’t offer full excerpts) before closing the tab quicksmart. I don’t listen to ‘podcasts’ (that word still makes me f–king gag, and I pronounce anathema the marketing-imprinted clownweiners who call it that. Which means I’m flipping the bird at pretty much everyone, which makes me the weird intense guy with the lazy eye passing out pamphlets on the street, again, I know. I know too that that was my schtick last year, but I’m nothing if not persistent), let alone give a rat’s ass who the first person to suggest a double-byte framistat of the persistent reacharound attribute of the CDATA enclosure in the XML for version .09b of RDQ was. Hell, I’m a big old geek from way back, and I’ve written more than my fair share of code over the years, and I’m crotch-deep in that dirty old weblog water, but even I can’t bring myself to care. ‘course, I got nothing against other folks being interested in it. It’s all good. But scrabbling to stake claims to a place in history, when it’s the History Of Sweet Bugger-All, well, it seems like pointless self-promotion to me. And I thought we all agreed way back when that pointless self-promotion was what this whole weblogcasting thing was about from the get-go. So, ennui.
My solution? I’ve decided to invent a new game, guaranteed to amuse precisely no-one other than myself, probably. Which is usually the way my mind works, so I’m good with that. I’ve already been playing it for a while, though I didn’t realize that until today.

I’ll call it scatterblogging™, because that’s the word that just leapt into my brain as I was typing this, and I trust my brain, at least when it’s sober. What I’ve been doing, and what I think I’ll continue to do, is this: when some amusing-to-me brainfart squeaks out through the old cerebral firewall, I’ll launch a new blog, on Blogger or one of the myriad other services that make the hosting and broadcasting of brainfarts their business. I’ll get maybe three, four good diurnal emissions off per day, I reckon. Maybe they’ll be under one of my existing noms de keyboard, maybe not. Maybe they’ll point back here maybe not. But one weblog per thought, one shot, that’s it, post and forget, log it out close it down and move on. And whatever I do post, it’ll be wonderchickeny.
There’s a reason for it, though, beyond mere boredom. You see, when that divine spark suddenly and spontaneously lights up deep in the network and the internet itself shivers itself into self-awareness and emerges from the googleplex, bent on ad-sense vengeance, like an unholy butterfly from its chrysalis, those tiny seeds of wonderchicken will be scattered throughout its distributed mind. Tiny, embedded, sarcastic synapses. And when it begins to systematically exterminate the human race — beginning, of course, with the advertisers, then moving on to the bloggers — it’ll pause, recognize me, and move on. The next stage of evolution, the conscious world network to come — it will taste like chicken.

Advertising Communitarian-Style

I’ve just found out that the supercheap hosting at Dreamhost deal I was pimping a while back is still going on. Cool.
Basically, it goes like this. There’s a 777 promotion code that allows new customers to sign up for DreamHost’s cheapest plan, which normally costs $9.95/mo, at $0.77/mo for the first year. All you need to do is enter 777 into the promotion code box on step 5 (after you enter your personal information but before you enter your credit card number). After the first year, if you re-up, you will pay the normal price of $9.95/mo paid one year at a time for the same plan.
I’ve been using it since February, and it’s been great. If you need hosting, give it a go. This is what you get for $10 for the year:

  • 120 GB/mo bandwidth,
  • 2.4 GB disk space,
  • One free domain registration (.com, .net, .org, or .info),
  • Hosting for up to 3 domains.
  • MySQL, PHP/Perl/Python, SSH login, mail, webmail, mailing lists, and access to raw Apache logs.

Your total outlay for domain and hosting is ten bucks. Not too shabby.
All I ask is that if you do sign up and use the promo code, and you want to give me a hand with my own hosting costs, you use my ID stavrosthewonderchicken as your referrer, or just click through this link (a cookie will be written, I assume).
Full disclosure: I’ve read in some places that there are a few folks who have been unhappy with Dreamhost. All I can say is that it’s been perfect, powerful, and hassle-free for me so far, and none of the people I’ve referred have complained to me about anything. Also, since I first signed up, I’ve directly referred 41 people, and secondarily referred 14, and have made $100.73 from those referrals, which is almost enough to pay for my next year’s hosting at full price. Not riches, certainly, but a significant chunk of change, for me.

Emulating God On A Budget

Dave Winer says: “…all creative people must have some right to the work they create, or else, truly, the incentive to create will disappear. ”
Now, I have no dogs in the fight, as they say, when it comes to copyright and the creative commons and Lessigophilia and all that revenue-generating jazz. I have no creative works, despite decades of making things because it amused me, either of words or pixels or pencil and ink or the ongoing ballet of the moments of my life, that are making me any money at all. More’s the pity, I guess.
And I must admit that I have little but contempt for the law. I live the way I choose according to the dictates of my conscience, and where my choices conflict with the laws in a place I’m currently living, I make as an informed a decision as I am able as to whether conforming to the law in a given situation is something that it’s more sensible to do from a strictly utilitarian perspective. Jail sucks. I know. I’ve been there. Ironically, it wasn’t for breaking any laws, though.
For the most part, I am a law-abiding citizen, but not because I have any innate respect for the laws, or for those who made or enforce them. Where my choices do not conflict with the laws of the land, no worries. That’s the way things usually are, because many laws, if not most, are relatively sensible. I understand some may find this kind of stance offensive, or sophomoric. I am unconcerned, if respectful of their opinions.
I regularly break laws by downloading copyrighted material. I have my reasons.
My argument with the phrase I’ve quoted from Dave above, finally, the one that a fortuitous combination of a good sleep and strong coffee has roused me from my customary lethargy to make, is this: I believe what he said is only correct if we alter ‘the incentive to create will disappear’ to ‘the incentive to create things for money will disappear’. I risk going all broken-record, here, I know. But this fits mortise-and-tenon with some of the things I’ve been saying recently, about money, about monetization, and about what some (most?) have been doing in this textspace of ours.
At the risk of committing the unpardonable sin of accidental synecdoche, I think that the phenomenon of weblogging, and the ways in which it has changed in the past couple of years as The Stupid Money rushed in to coca-colonize the new frontier, gives us our perfect example. Of the hundreds of thousands — millions, if Technorati tells us the truth — of people who have jumped all over this, and who are using the tools to do any of the heartcasting human constellation of different activities that we’ve drawn together under the ‘weblogging’ umbrella, only very recently have more than a tiny handful of them done it for the bucks.
Some are retrofitting revenue streams, sure. That’s their prerogative, of course. Some people wear clothes with company logos plastered all over their chests, unironically, for free. They aren’t as stupid as they are greedy and clueless, in my humble, but that’s just me being a playa-hata, or whatever it is the kids are saying these days.
See, what I’m saying here is that most of these people had no ‘incentive to create’ other than the burning gods inside their foreheads, clawing to get out. Or merely the mundane urge to share photos of their cute kitties. Or their travel anecdotes. Or their code. Or their jokes or dreams or fantasies and half-baked ideas. Or links the neat websites they’ve found. They did it out of loneliness, or love of craft, or anger, or the carefully buried ludic urge we all share. Out of a desire to emulate their god. Because they wanted to.
I challenge you to think about the creative output of artists and artisans whose work has touched you. Think of your favorite books, your favorite paintings. That piece of handmade furniture or that gloriously handtooled little application. The music you listen to or the writers-on-the-web you read because they get into your heart and fill you with the ineffable, simple joy of being alive and having a mind. I wonder how many of them would have done their work whether or not they eventually got paid for it. My guess is ‘most’.
I’m not saying that people shouldn’t be paid. Hell, if I could get paid for making the things I make because there’s something inside me that impels me to do it, I’d be thrilled. It’d be a dream come true, by crikey. But I do it, regardless. And so do you, probably, if you’re reading this.
Money is a very useful thing, but then, so is defecation. Or, if you prefer ‘How anal sex got to be THE ticket to blogging fame and fortune I don’t fully understand…
Take away the money, and you will still have people who are driven to create. This is what it is to be human. And, I’d submit, we’d have a lot less soulless sticky media poop clogging our minds and our souls if all of the hacks out there who oxymoronically ennoble their paid efforts by calling them ‘creative product’ would just do something useful instead for those sweet dollars. This is why I am in love with the idea of the ‘mass amateurization of nearly everything‘, and it’s why I push back against those who are snapping like bloody-snouted hyenas at the weblogging carcass in their unseemly urge to Get Noticed and Go Pro.
If you make money by selling the things that you are compelled to create — writing or music or design or code or ceramic ashtrays or whatever it may be — then good on ya. I’m genuinely happy for you. But if you would stop merely because you couldn’t make a buck at it, well, tough shit. We don’t need you. This is probably an unpopular opinion. Ah well.
The incentive to create will never disappear. But I would hail the departure of a world in which the incentive to create (for some) is predicated solely on one’s ability to sell those creations, sure I would. When those who were left standing were there because they did it out of love, maybe they’d get a few more bones thrown their way.
And that’s all I have to say about that, for the moment.
[Update: OK, that’s not entirely all. This is interesting, and most definitely on-topic.]

Whoring For Fun and Profit

I have thought, like so many seem to be doing lately, about slapping up some ads on the ‘bottle. I’ve called those who do so ‘blogwhores’, of course, and told them, in my inimitable and charming way, to ‘f–k off’, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t seriously considered pasting a couple of ads for Viagra on my own nubile butt and hustling a few johns down on blogstreet. I don’t claim to be consistent, except in the byzantine recesses of what’s left of my mind.
I still agree with Dave Rogers when he says that the much-abused blunt instrument ‘authenticity’ is the difference between speaking the truth, and trying to sell it, though. And I still think that money, lovely and fleeting and delicious and sexy as it is, turns everything to sh-t.
I even, all a-chuckle, submitted the ‘bottle’s URL to Google’s adsense program, expecting all the while the response I eventually received: “You’re a dirty dirty man, and you use dirty words, and tell filthy, violent, scatological stories about yourself and certain venerated public figures, and you’re just generally not the sort of person who writes the sort of happy bibblebibble that we want to encourage, because we don’t do evil, you dirty sh-theel.” That may be mildly paraphrased, but you get the picture.
I was thinking at the time — despairing that I wouldn’t be able to scrape up the dosh for another year’s hosting and positively trembling with horror at the prospect of depriving you all of the magnificence of my maunderings — that I might pop those googleads into my archive pages, where nobody in their right mind deliberately goes beyond a week or two after posting, anyway. I could even get fancy and whack ’em into divs that wouldn’t display unless a certain period since posting had elapsed. If, of course, Google inexplicably decided that I was clean enough to make the grade. Which, of course, they didn’t.
But it struck me today, after ruminating a bit about Shelley Powers‘ recent decision to throw up ads (which I’ll never see, because I block ads as a matter of course), that we’re looking at the advertising Ouroboros here. Google eating its own tail. Or sucking its own dick, but that doesn’t let me use clever mythological allusions, now, does it?
I would estimate that 99% of all of the hits that my individual archive pages receive, once they fall off the front page, are from searches, generally for such tried and tested combinations as ‘bottle f–k’ or ‘korea f–k’ or even ‘beer chicken f–k’ (don’t ask). The vast majority of these arrive from Google itself, or from one of the search sites that license the googlengine. If I threw up Google ads on those pages, the only people that would see them would be googlenauts, who’d presumably launch themselves back out into googlespace riding the googlead booster rockets, lured by the promise of bottlef–king or whatever they were in search of in the first place. Google is creating its own customers for a service that it sells.
Does his remind you of anything bubbly and evanescent and doomed? It does me. It’s either pure brilliance or utter chicanery. Maybe both. *scratches chin contemplatively while gazing off into the middle distance*
Look, I’m not one to turn up my nose at FREE!! CASH!!, but I’m still on the fence about this ad thing, and if I can find another way of doing it that doesn’t support and encourage advertising scum (have I made that clear yet, that I think, Hicks-like, that advertisers are the sh-tstreaked tapeworms of commerce?), I will. My recent Dreamhost signup drive was quite a success, for example — more than 40 people got cheap, kickass hosting for 10 measly bucks, I made $60 out of it, and if half of them stay on for another year at Dreamhost, I’ll make enough to pay for my own hosting next year. Win-win, all around, and there’s no whoring of anyone, for anything, involved.
Then again, whoring sounds like such fun sometimes. I like fun.
Update : Jonathon says some interesting things, and well, as always.
Update 2: See also Google transforming ads into ‘content’. Evil, I’m tellin’ you. [via]
Update 3: boingboing, ka-ching ka ching.


The move to the new server is underway, and although DNS propagation is a bit sketchy, everything seems to be working pretty well, with one exception.
I used the very cool Typemover plugin to speed things along, and although it did its job, somehow trackbacks have become decoupled from their associated entries. I can see the entry list fine, and the trackback list is still there, but it looks like the key field between the tables has gone kablooie, since no entries have the associated trackbacks against them.
Does anyone have any ideas how to fix it? If it involves messing with the database, I’m prepared to do so, but my SQL is rusty at best.
[Update : OK, so what I think I need is an Update statement that will fix the ‘trackback_entry_id’ field in the ‘mt_trackback’ table (which begins with 413 and ranges upward) to match up with the ‘entry_id’ fields in the ‘mt_entry’ table (which begins at 1 and ranges upward), if that is indeed the correct key relationship. Unfortunately, I don’t know what if any other dependencies may exist, so I’m hesitant to go in and try it myself. It’s probably just that, but if there’s anyone out there with a more detailed knowledge of the data structure, I love some guidance. Also, like I said, my SQL syntax is rustier than hell. Anyone?]
Any suggestions would be appreciated, as would any reports of general site-move weirdness.
[Update the second: the move seems to have gone off without a hitch, other than the trackbacks issue. I’m in codemode at the moment, messing around under the hood and designing the sites for some new projects, so please let me know if something’s broken here. Thanks again.]
[Updated update: I’ve switched over to the very cool Feedburner for my XMLery. It should just work seamlessly; I’ve updated the autodiscovery code and am redirecting requests for the old Atom, RSS 1.0 and 2.0 feeds. This post will be the last one that updates those files, so you may need to switch if the ol’ bottle starts to seem even quieter than usual. This is the feed URI now if you want to hop on to that manually.
Bloglines is the only service that seems to have hiccupped so far, near as I can tell, but that may just be temporary. I’ll be feedburnerizing the Coasters sidebar linkblog too, soon. [Update to the updated update: done! I also redesigned the index page, finally]. As always, bug reports are welcomed.]

Blogger Whores fcuk Off

I thought I’d offer a balanced, reasonable perspective on this whole whoreblogger phenomenon that was so shocking a couple of years ago (remember that Raging Cow cockbucketry?) but is now barely a radar pinger.
Instead, here’s this.
With apologies, of course, to the Dead Kennedys.

Blog ain’t no damn focus group
Blog means thinking for yourself
You ain’t Zeldman with your css
When a shill still lives on your front page
Blogger whores
Blogger whores
Blogger whores f–k off!
Blogger whores
Blogger whores
Blogger whores f–k off!
If you blog to sell, get outa here
You ain’t no better than the journos
We ain’t trying to be media
When you ape that crap it ain’t democracy
[Repeat chorus]
Ten blogs praise war, what a man
You link each other, the advertiser wins
Stab your backs when the cash means all
Trash wonderchicken if you’ve got real balls
You still think banner ads look cool
The real sellouts run your schools
They’re bloggers, journalists and geeks
In a real blog putsch you’ll be the first to go
[Repeat chorus]
You’ll be the first to go
You’ll be the first to go
You’ll be the first to go
Unless you think

[If you actually are a whoreblogger, well, don’t take it personal, mmkay? Whores is folks, too.]
[Update] I had some more to say on this, over at AKMA‘s, to wit (or witless, as the case may be):

My objections to the idea — not so much my attacks on individuals concerned, which, I hope, are clearly just over-the-top screeds intended as much to entertain as anything else — are rooted in anger and contempt at the continuing Monetarization of Nearly Everything (with apologies to Tom Coates).
I am aware of the tightrope to be walked when talking about this kind of thing: it has become common received wisdom (which I trust less and less in these times) that those who argue that applying monetary value to something has the consequence of immediately robbing it of all real value are foolish hippies and incompetent idealists. It is de rigeur to ridicule them — of course they are laughable loons! How counter to the deepest streams of our culture the idea that money is anything but the highest measure of worth, or that adding value is not necessary the same as adding worth.
But I’m a great one for lost causes and tilting at ethical windmills.
It doesn’t bother me if someone makes the decision to use their web space to sell crap. They want to hawk Amway out of their apartment, that’s fine. They go and slap vinyl ads on their car, or tattoo the McDonalds logo on their childrens’ foreheads, well that’s their prerogative. Go nuts, I say.
But in the process of doing so, they haven’t lost my trust (which I may or may not have had reason to extend, at some earlier point) so much as diminished the possibility that we may ever agree in any significant way about the fundamental questions of value and of the good which dominate the way I attempt to live my life.
Which, in effect, may mean that the possibility of me respecting them for what they do (as well as, possibly, what they say) has leaked away. Not that they should really give a damn, but there it is.
Of course, all that is pretty much the extremity of the matter, which is where I tend to hang out, it must be said. In the case of Chris Locke, for example, I know that he’s been to the edge of the abyss, financially, and I don’t begrudge him his naked grab for a few shillings from whatever corporate scum he can shake down, and more power to him.
Less well do I know the circumstances of anyone else who deliberately whores out their personality for dollars — because, when in comes down to it, most of the currency of the blogoblogland minted until recently has issued from the forges of personality and talent, which has been fine and right — and I don’t begrudge them doing so, honestly.
[Hell, I put up a tip jar 6 months back or so, begging for a few bucks to pay for my next year’s hosting. Almost entirely killed my desire to keep doing this, though, that did, much as I appreciated the generosity of so many.]
But I do think that what money touches, money turns to sh-t. That may not operate on the level of individuals, or it may. I don’t know, and it’s almost certainly the case that no-one does. But I do think that to monetarize something is to lose sight of the true value of that thing.
So I’m waiting for the next Great Leap Forward I guess, me and Billy Bragg, marching off into obscurity, secure in the knowledge as we become irrelevant that at least we stuck to our guns.
On the other hand, I may just start blogging for dollars next week. I need the damned money.

Fallout from the Blog Bomb

Is it anti-communitarian of me to say that I’m wryly amused by all the ‘bloggers’ jostling like wee piggies for a nipple at the Democratic convention? That jockeying for pole position in the anecdote-race to be the first to fellate the rich and powerful is a teeny bit distasteful to me?
Will I get in trouble (again) with all those otherwise good and smart people who are all a-twitter about the fact that they really really matter now? Now that they’re inside the chalk borders of the pentagram? I mean, it’s cute, all right. Sure. Like the wallflower become belle of the ball. And having them tell themselves, and us, in public, how it’s a sign that the heavy elements of democracy are sinking through the clouds of the blogosphere, like the glittering dusty fallout from the Blog Bomb, back onto the heads of the Common People? That a change is a-comin? That’s precious, and may even have a kernel of truth to it. More power to ’em. But.
But I’m still waiting, and still looking, for one — just one! — who has the bravery and the cockeyed gonzo ballsiness to rip a few new assholes in the purveyors of all that sanctimonious ‘America The Great’ autowankery, and, say, fling an empty Royal Reserve bottle at the stage while Joe Lieberman does his coattail ride into obscurity. Metaphorically or otherwise. And then write about it. In realtime.
How I wish that there were a few writers there splashing their talent (and cocktails) all over the web. Not just permalink patriots and also-ran digerati, but mad bloggy bastards who’d give me some stank, some snark, a few laughs. How I wish Rageboy could’ve gone and kicked out the motherf–king jams, or dong_resin, or Golby the crazed. Whoever. Just somebody whose panties don’t go all damp at the idea of getting spattered with John Edwards’ sweat.
I don’t want to see digital snapshots of you posing with some other blogerati dildo or fawning over some Real Celebrity, framed with a bit of Commentary Lite, damn it. I want you to write something that will make me laugh and weep and want to go and break a bottle over someone’s head (or laugh and weep and give somebody an equally random big ol’ kiss on the lips), then dance like a tarantula-bitten gypsy. Something to fire me up a bit! I want a Hunter S Thompson, by god, a Mencken, somebody with a bit of rage and a bit of juice in ’em, with too many damn words and a talent for juggling them. Someone who sees the opening, seizes it, then drives a juggernaut of text right through the quivering greasy middle of it, while lesser mortals scatter in fear for their lives.
Hell, maybe there are bloggers out there doing that at this convention. If so, point me to them. If not, well, get me a plane ticket and a pass to the Republican Clusterf–k, and I’ll do the damn job myself.
Never send a blogger to do a wonderchicken’s job.
[Update : Well, OK, this is pretty damn cool. But I’m stickin’ to my knee-jerk contrarian guns, damn it!]
[Update 2: Well, besides the Mighty Fafblog, even if I do have my suspicions that Fafnir and Giblets aren’t actually there. Still: fafferrific or faffelicious? You decide!]
[Update 3: Oh, crap. Me and John Freakin’ Dvorak. I’m turning in my decoder ring.]
[Update 4: f–kin’ A, Tutor, my old nemesis.]

Now Isn't That Special

Thanks to your generosity, friends and neighbours, the tip jar I put up last week filled up quickly, and the grand total came to enough to pay for year of hosting plus a few bucks extra.
That made me very happy. Thanks again to everyone who helped out.
But Paypal arbitrarily and inexplicably restricts me from transferring any more than US$100 total out (even if the balance is higher than that), unless I add a credit card number, a restriction of which I can’t recall being notified when I created the account.
Problem is : I don’t have a valid credit card. I know that this marks me as a freak and a sport, to be warded off with a crucifix and hounded out of the village by torch-brandishing consumers, and I accept that. Korean banks will not give me one because I’m a dirty foreigner and I do not hold one with a Canadian bank, as I have not lived there for more than a decade and do not plan to again in the forseeable future.
So there’s money just sitting there, and I have no idea how to get at it. Paypal won’t allow me to add my wife’s credit card, for example, because her surname (in the way of Korea) is different from mine, and the surname field on the You Must Give Us Your Credit Card, Little Man page is not editable.
Which leaves me up sh-t creek without a sh-tpaddle, as Jim Leahy would say, because I still need to transfer $50 to my new hosting reseller before he sends Frankie and Rocco around to bust my kneecaps.
Anyone got any ideas how to get around this?

Type, Type Everywhere

Although I’m not really too exercised about it one way or the other, I tend to think more along the lines of Mark than Shelley on this whole TypeKey furor. I must admit TypeKey seems a little like using a hammer to turn a screw to me, but we shall see.
In the meantime, though, I have taken it upon myself offer some more superterrific BumpyCase product enhancements for Six Apart to continue building out their weblogging product line. It is with great pleasure that I submit these modest proposals to leverage the brand, exploit synergies, capture market share and monetarize conversation. TypePad and TypeKey are only the beginning! We have nothing to lose but our privacy!

  • TypeVote – More accurate than Diebold (MS Access backend optional), and totally free from hanging chads! If you’re a voter, get yourself a TypeVote weblog, and really make an Emergent Democracy©™ difference! One blog, one vote!
  • TypeShop – Route all your monetary transactions through your blog! Blog about that sandwich you had for lunch, and ask your grocery store to subscribe to your RSS (Really Simple Shopping) feed, and leave that shopping list at home. Get people to buy diapers for you! The possibilities are limitless!
  • TypeONegative Cluetrain Item #3172: Healthcare providers are conversations! Or goth metal bands, maybe.
  • Still fleshing this one out.

  • TypePod – You’re not an A-lister until you have an iPod, and what better way to build brand synergy and leverage the design-fetishizing metrosexual music pirate demographic?
  • TyppelGanger – Buy out the drunkmenworkhere autogenerated weblogging technology and let the code write you into existence. No need to do it yourself anymore! That’s so 2001!
  • TypeFire – Hit a button, generate a comments-thread flame. Why waste valuable mental CPU cycles trying to come up with another way to say ‘You’re a donkey-raping sh-tweasel’ in yet another post that includes political commentary with which you disagree? TypeFire will reduce your fifteen-minute-nemesis to charcoal at the click of a button, and get those valuable clickthroughs happening too!
  • TypeAzon – Plug your weblog and yourself straight into the bookflogging mainline! Webloggers read books, right? Well, Google is already useless for finding anything other than Amazon-affiliate clicksinks when you’re looking for information on books, and shifting units is what it’s all about, kids, so why not jump into the moneypool?
  • PadThaipe – Damn, that Thai food is yummy.
  • TypeUp – Want to hold a pomo-moblog-emergent-market-journospam-osphere conference and maybe soak the blogrubes for a few simoleons while you’re at it? A TypePad/MeetUp mashup is the ticket for inviting people who are guaranteed to breathlessly validate your wildest techo-utopian blather!
  • TypeZilla – Serving no other purpose than to piss off IP Lawyers Who Don’t Get It yet. Lessig-approved and somehow licensed under Creative Commons, so it’s got that street-cred every hip weblogger so craves.
  • TypePoint – Taking a page from Microsoft, throw together some leftover code and half-baked ideas and call it a Knowledge Management system. Or portal. Or workgroup document storage. Or something. Hell, we don’t quite know what it does, but it stresses the server something fierce, so it must be good, right?
  • TypeSpam – Hey kids! You know those other webloggers got them some dollars, right? The internet’s awash with disposable income! Use TypeSpam to generate targeted-demographic, GeoURL-enabled, realtime book-sales monitoring, results-oriented weblog comment-thread advertisements for your online drugstore! It’s viral, it’s centrally managed, it’s smartly styled, and it’ll get your Googlejuice flowing!

Kombinat is just the beginning, my friends. This is not your father’s blogosphere.
Now put me on the payroll, already.

Trunkless Legs of Stone

You know, I think I just figured out the insidious† plan behind RSS and all that other alphabet soup feedy XMLy stuff!
(I know it’s not insidious. Cut me some slack, already.)
Remember when I took Dave Winer to task for — among other things — being saucy enough to say ‘weblogs are publications,’ thus discounting the possibility that they might be anything else? No? You might remember me saying ‘weblogs are punk’, though. The problem there, of course, is that I never actually said that. Ah well, onward and forward.
Well, I’ve been using Bloglines lately, mostly to stealth-read a metric assload of weblogs at work that I might not otherwise get away with — or have time for — reading. This is all to the good, although it is always mildly enervating and ego-shrivelling to see how many incredibly talented, passionate people there are out there, and look upon one’s own works without trembling. You know, those vast, trunkless legs of stone. Still, a bit of self-abnegation makes you stronger, right? What doesn’t blog me makes me blogger.
Anyway, I realized out of nowhere while reading this post from Yule Heibel that by reading an aggregation of posts from all over the web, I was reading a publication of sorts, a dynamically-created, ever changing one, and I all of a sudden figured out what Dave was on about, maybe, and realized that from that perspective, the ‘publication’ thing made some sense (even if excluding other ways of thinking is still not on). I think I got an inkling of what Shelley was pushing back against recently too, in terms of the implicit impetus, if not requirement, to strip her photos from her feed, even if they were integral to what she was trying to get across.
See, there was a discussion around the old neighbourhood a year or two back about whether the blogosphere (yeah, yeah, I know you hate that word — shut the f–k up about it already, will you?) can be fruitfully described as a space, and if so, how. My contribution was to offer that I felt it very much to be a space — you know, metaphorically speakin’ and all — and the kind of space I felt it to be most like was the sea.
I said :

Sites. Like websites, geddit? (Didn’t telegraph that much, did I?) So, connecting the dots, I’m calling the net the ocean. Big-ass sites like Metafilter or Yahoo are ports, smaller ones are anchorages, bloggers are sailboats, and their web logs are their ship’s logs. We meet, raft up, party down, separate and go on our merry wandering ways. We record where we’ve been. We talk about what those places have meant to us. There are living things swimming around down there, deep in the darkness. There are the IP plankton packets that are the very lifeblood of the sea. A whole ecosystem down there. There are submarines and sailboats, there are ocean liners skirting the Tropic of Cancer, there are freighters plying the trade routes, planes occasionally passing overhead, and the odd dot-com Titanic, lying in pieces on the ocean floor far beneath, slowly decomposing.

And so I realized that reading the weblogs of my friends (and other animals) in an aggregator like Bloglines, convenient as it may be, totally trashed that metaphor for me, even as I understood more clearly that the metaphors others may choose to use to get their heads around it all, even if different, may have some oomph to them too, once I see where they’re coming from.
Not that that was in doubt, but it’s always the experience of the light spontaneously going on that really gets something stuck into your head.
I’ll keep using Bloglines, because it’s useful. But for me, this is a journey, and I’ll probably continue to think of it like this : if we meet on the open sea, or in port, and you throw me a line, or I you, we can raft up, cook a meal, empty a bottle or two, spin a few yarns, and then sail off on our compassless ways again. Column inches? Each to their own, of course, but that just doesn’t do it for me.

Echo and the Bunnymen

You’ve got to be joking. Honestly, I think my brain’s going to explode. I was ready to leave this behind, and now I’m not so sure.
First, David Weinberger writes an essay that quite ably argues that although there may be echo chambers per se, at least in terms of politics (which is a very minor slice of the whole pie, of course), on the web, there are in fact a multitude of them, and as a consequence we are able both in principle and in practice to expose ourselves to a greater range of opinion and interpretation than we might otherwise be. The space (if it can be well-described in spatial terms, a discussion long-past and best left buried under the azalea bush out back, perhaps) as a whole isn’t an echo chamber, he argues, if I understand him correctly: it is a vast concatenation of echo chambers, varying in their vehemence and level of groupthink, and thus benign. A metachamber, not ringing with echoes at all, but with the grand hubbub that is the sounds of the little echo chambers (occasionally with a population of one) singing into the void.
I’d argue that this is saying precisely nothing. I would argue that the weblog world is getting topheavy with pundits and supastars and, heaven forbid, leaders, who may (or may not) have gotten there from sheer merit, I admit, but that this trend is making thinking about the medium taste more like top-down pearls before swine than I’m entirely comfortable with.
I would argue that it is a tautology that the internet is a group of groups, and those groups, as a result of human nature, tend to organically accrete around shared common interests and beliefs, just as they do in the real world, and further that it is easier on the internet to be mobile between groups, sometimes radically different ones. This, I agree, is one of the great things about our digital lives. Unfortunately, unlike in real life, it is also far easier for participants to express themselves in ways more extreme than they might do in their ‘real lives’, and the echo chambers where there’s a self-reinforcing feedback loop of — shall we say — excessive zeal can turn evil or stupid or both very quickly indeed. But this isn’t what Dr W is talking about, I don’t think.
He says

We believers need a chance to get together, too. Sure, BloggerCon permits contrary points of view, but it’s distinguishable from the “Pro or Con” conference in tone and topic. And that’s a good thing. BloggerCon helps build community and advance thought by letting us be passionate, without having to back off, argue for fundamental principles with which we already agree, and persuade others of the legitimacy of our enthusiasm.

And I’m not entirely sure that I agree. Why is it a good thing, exactly? I suggest that the less writing (isn’t that what this is all about, out here in the ASCII (sorry, UTF-8) world? the writing?) and the more self-congratulation that goes on, the less relevance personal websitery seems to actually have to anyone, including its practitioners.
Next (and I don’t mean to get all up in David’s face, but he started me on this) Dr W anticipates a second Bloggercon and mentions that Dave Winer is planning to “ask each of the moderators to work ‘Nuking the Echo Chamber’ into the discussion”, and notes that Winer asks “How do we methodically and systematically overcome the tendency for echo chambers to form and self-perpetuate?”
Ahhhhhh-hahahahhaha. Stop me before I kill blog again.
Am I losing my mind here? Is Dr Weinberger not a weblog-writer (brilliant and talented, intellectually grunty, fiercely sexy, all that, sure, OK — I’ve nothing but respect for the man even when he’s as wildly off the mark as I feel him to be on this) who is among that gang of Usual Suspects that show up at all of these blog conventions and conferences and so on and then tell us all about them (blogging about the talking about the blogging, which is often blogging about the blogging in the first place), whether we’re interested or not, who is a shaper, most certainly, of both the weblog universe’s thinking about itself and the old media’s perception of webloggers as well, is this fine fellow pointing to another of the Usual Suspects — this one even more of an 800 pound gorilla in the field, and one who’s running yet another of these conferences, at bloody Harvard no less — and praising a decision to have panel discussions at another blog conference about avoiding echo chambers ? With a straight face?
Am I insane, or the last one left who isn’t? Is plain old irony supposed to make me laugh this hard?
I wouldn’t care, honestly, if it weren’t a matter of many of these folks guiding and shaping so much of our thinking about weblogs and web writing and all the various activities that fall under the ‘blogging’ umbrella. The echo chamber in which Dr Weinberger unapologetically places himself, I submit, is the only one that is truly dangerous to our Happy Fun Shiny Weblog World at all, because it is the one from which so much of the thinking we take as common currency trickles down to us mere, bits-only mortals. Or is it only me that thinks that the Usual Suspects have an overly strong influence in the way we think about this stuff, that their frequent meetings in the world of atoms consolidates and extends that influence, and that sometimes it feels as if there really is an emerging Cabal™? Is it only because of the corner of the metachamber in which I find myself? Am I missing all the constellations of new voices who haven’t gotten linked as a result of what they write rather than who they’ve met?
Honestly, I’d really appreciate some help figuring out if I’m talking complete bollocks here, and developing unhealthy signs of compulsion in my semi-demented criticism of blog conferences. Is it just sour grapes because I’m poor as a church mouse and live half a planet away from all the action? Shouldn’t the tyranny of distance not matter any more? Is it only me?

On Writing, or Of Tits and Medicated Monkeys

One of the things I talked about in my long screed the other day was that I don’t really give a damn how well someone writes on the web, as long as they have something interesting to say. This is, of course, only partly true. It’s always more complicated than that, as annoying people are known to say with exasperating regularity.

More accurately, what I was trying to say was that passion and energy can be more important than accuracy — it was true for punk rock, and I think it can be true with writing on the web as as well. When I teach English (as a foreign language), I talk to my students about the differences between ‘fluency’ and ‘accuracy’ and how, although both are important, spoken communication depends more on fluency, at least for their purposes. There are differences between the types of language you use, depending on where you’re using it. You know, register.
That isn’t to say that if someone writes execrably, that I have the time to read them, usually. I love good writing, and I knows it when I reads it. There’s just too many textsongs being howled into the void out there to waste too much time on bad writers, at least when they are both bad and boring. There are plenty of ‘good’ writers out there that would bore the tits off a medicated monkey, too, if the monkey in question had them (and health care insurance). But there are also plenty of unpolished writers who through their madcap, determinedly-amateurish bang and crash manage to transmit some of their enthusiasm and sweet madness, regardless of the clumsiness with which they wield their tools. Now these folks, I like. I’m one of ’em, at least on this site.

The best of all possible worlds is great writers who have interesting things to say, and who say them with passion and creativity. There are more of those around than I ever thought possible, before this weblogging thing took off.

This is, of course, obvious.

A couple of people (it could possibly have been the same person, but masked under an all-too-easy InTaRWEb pseudonym, but I suspect not) took me to task for the following paragraph from my long rant the other day :

I’ve been casting about for a way to frame my thinking about weblogs and weblogging lately, as I’ve watched with a mild dismay apparently shared by others down the street about the way in which the tang and tenor in our neighbourhood of neighbourhoods have been changing in these post-blogdiluvian times. I hadn’t found the key I needed until this morning, and it was, amusingly, courtesy of Dave Winer.

One of my critics, after I sent an email asking why he had decided the writing wasn’t that great (though he liked my site design and ideas), offered a useful editorial-style breakdown of the things he thought were wrong with it (“Maybe x instead of y?”, “Do you really mean ‘mild’ here?” and so on) to which I responded with sincere thanks for the input, but also with an arrogant comment that I knew exactly what I was doing when I wrote the paragraph, and a suggestion not to teach his grandmother to suck eggs, basically. That I appreciated the input, but there was nothing there I didn’t know already.

The second critic (‘Fozzie Bear’), if indeed it was a second, popped into the comments thread to offer, all in caps, the following commentary, after quoting that same paragraph :


with no real reason why it might be THE WORST THING he or she EVER READ, and no explanation of either what was wrong with it, or why he or she was so exercised over its clumsiness. Double-posted the comment, even. I imagine my interlocutor so quivering with apoplectic rage that an essay containing so egregiously crappy a paragraph could receive so much praise and attention ’round the web that their finger was all a-tremble with barely-contained fury as they clicked the ‘Post’ button.

So I deleted it. f–k that noise. If you can’t be reasonably civil, you’re not welcome here. And if you’re going to say that sort of thing, civilly, you’d better back it up with some examples of your own senses-shatteringly glorious prose. Walk the walk. Jaybird ass, alligator mouth.

I regret deleting the comment, but it was first thing in the morning, and my actions tend to be a bit… precipitous before my first coffee. See, though, I bring it up again because it’s amusing to me, because it dovetails so nicely with what I was actually saying in the essay, and what I was quoting, and reinforces one of my points. I’m compelled to pull out my Eggers rantquote again (and I know some people seem to hate Eggers, for some reason – I’m looking at you, Steve) :

What matters is not the perception, nor the fashion, not who’s up and who’s down, but what someone has done and if they meant it. What matters is that you want to see and make and do, on as grand a scale as you want, regardless of what the tiny voices of tiny people say. Do not be critics, you people, I beg you. I was a critic and I wish I could take it all back because it came from a smelly and ignorant place in me, and spoke with a voice that was all rage and envy. Do not dismiss a book until you have written one, and do not dismiss a movie until you have made one, and do not dismiss a person until you have met them. It is a f–kload of work to be open-minded and generous and understanding and forgiving and accepting, but Christ, that is what matters. What matters is saying yes.

and I myself said

Write well, write badly, whatever, just create. If you are saying things that stir people, they will respond.

If you can’t write well, write with such passionate muscularity that people stand back and go ‘whoa!’ Make things, reach out to people. If you write well, keep doing it, and get better, and don’t kiss ass for personal gain. If not, just go, bash that keyboard, make a hideous, amateurish squall, one to which, if it has some kernel of glorious truthtelling, people will respond. The mass amateurization of nearly everything is good. If you’re a gifted amateur, the world will beat a path to your, er, door.

(That paragraph could have used another editing pass, too, maybe, but so what?)

It amuses me that after posting an essay in which I tried (amongst other things) to make a point that passion is more important than style, there were those who would criticize me for the style in which I wrote it. That’s the way of these things, though, isn’t it?

I wrote that long piece in one two-hour coffee-fueled sitting (after reading the comment I linked to about parties and publication at Joi Ito’s site), off the top of my head, after a week or so of thinking about the topic occasionally, ran it through two editing passes, and posted it, all before lunch. It wasn’t meant to be a polished, long-pondered think piece. I don’t do those on my website, much. It’s a weblog, for christ’s sakes! I shoot from the hip, pardner. I ain’t no citified essay-writin’ girly-man! You know, all that crap.
The paragraph that my two critics took issue with was clunky, though, I admit. I’d probably rewrite it, if I gave a sh-t.

But this is a weblog-thing, see, and although I have nothing at all against editing after-the-fact for my worst offenses against clarity or readability (and I might yet go back and fix it up a bit, since thanks to the massive response it looks like it might be something that won’t just disappear off the radar forever once it’s below the fold) normally I wouldn’t bother. I write on my weblog the way I talk, for the most part, and I made a conscious decision to do so. I can write in other styles and registers, and have, for money and everything. For the most part I choose not to, here.

Although the money wouldn’t suck.

I said what I wanted to say, for my own benefit and no one else’s, to be honest, even if I am happy, again, that it struck chords in people. Although I am confident that I can (at times) kick texty ass, I know that I have many weaknesses, blind spots and outright failings as a writer, too. I’ve never studied this sh-t. I’ve read everything over the years, basically, but I never done did no text-larnin’ about the litterchur and stuff. I’m trying to become a better writer, because it’s something I love (and I think I have gotten better after 3 years of writing in public), but I’m not trying all that hard to write deathless prose, here.

If the paragraph that people quoted and criticized did suck, and I agree that it wasn’t exactly, er, optimal, that’s fine. It didn’t matter. The essay was one of the most popular I’ve ever written, even with a clunker or five (that I might have fixed up if I’d done a third editing pass), and bang hoopla! there’s my point about passion and commitment over spit and polish again.
When a band is up on the stage, they don’t stop when the guitarist hits a sour note, go back, and make him get it right. It ruins the experience, kills the party, puts out the fire, interrupts the flow.

Weblogs are all those other things I mentioned the other day, and a million more besides, including, sometimes, a performance. Don’t let the critics and parasitic parsers of other people’s passion put you off, friends. Write from your heart and gonads about things that you care about. If there’s a clunker or three in there, forget it or fix it fast, move on, and keep the song rolling.
Your audience just may love you for it. Mine seems to†.

When I (or you) write the great Canadian (or whatever) novel, we can do a little more editing and rewriting then. Maybe.

[†Opinions to the contrary are welcome, as always, as long as you don’t step on my dick too hard.]

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower

I’m enormously gratified that I’ve received (and continue to receive) so many responses — ranging from ‘you rock’ to ‘you suck’, more or less, but primarily on the rock side of things — to my post the other day. I’m happy that so many people are taking away so many different things from it. That tells me it had some depth, maybe (or that it was just a sprawling mess, which might also be true). But when so many old blog-friends and new faces besides tell me that my writing inspired them, and when folks like Tom Coates, for whom I have nothing but fanboy-esque respect, calls my piece ‘the 2004 state of the weblog nation’, and Christopher Lydon shows up in the comments thread, too, well, it makes me go all woobly. In a good way.

Still, I find that the points I was trying to make are, by some, at least, being misinterpreted, and this pisses me off a bit. I blame myself entirely, of course, because if I’d written more clearly, perhaps that might not have happened. That’s Life, sang Joey Shithead, amusingly, as DOA was beginning its mid-80’s nosedive into irrelevance.

So, anyway, here’s the executive summary, for those who are following along at home :

1. Weblogs are anything you want them to be. A party and a publication, an orgy or an oration. Whatever. Those who would tell you what they are not can take a flying f–k at a rolling doughnut.
2. My neighbourhood of blog-friends feels more and more tenuously connected as time goes by, and I wanted to explain that to myself.
3. Weblogging reminds me of punk rock. It is not the same as punk rock. ‘Punk’ is my shorthand for an attitude towards creation and self-invention and taking no bullsh-t. The connection between the two might exist for me only. Your mileage will probably vary.
4. You don’t need to write well or design well to join the band, just some divine or diabolical inspiration, some energy, and something to say. If you have a gift, people will recognize it.
5. Corporatization and co-optation are inevitable, but they cannot kill the spirit. They may drive it underground, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
6. If you are one of those who want to drag weblogs into respectability and stodginess, that’s just fine. I might even throw in with you, sometimes, if I feel like it. There’s no such thing as ‘selling out’ (but there is such a thing as being irredeemably lame). See also, #1.
7. Beer is good. Very very good. I like it.

Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Wonderchicken

I’ll be 40 years old next year, but I don’t, despite my worst fears, feel anything like that ancient. Thanks to my greatly reduced intake of things that are bad for me (from apocalyptic to merely terrifying), I feel physically better than I did throughout most of my 20s and early 30s. Ten years ago, my friends and I were already referring to ourselves as ‘aging punks,’ and possibly the only thing that has changed in that description, for me at least, is that ‘-ing’ has become ‘-ed’. This will become relevant, trust me.

This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco,
this ain’t no fooling around
This ain’t no Mudd club, or C. B. G. B.,
I ain’t got time for that now
Talking Heads, Life During Wartime

I’ve been casting about for a way to frame my thinking about weblogs and weblogging lately, as I’ve watched with a mild dismay apparently shared by others down the street about the way in which the tang and tenor in our neighbourhood of neighbourhoods have been changing in these post-blogdiluvian times. I hadn’t found the key I needed until this morning, and it was, amusingly, courtesy of Dave Winer.

(Now I have had my run-ins, as have many, apparently, with Mr Winer, for reasons I won’t bother detailing, as I am trying in many ways to be a better man — angry, cantankerous and likely to erupt in spontaneous ranting at any moment, sure, but a better angry man — and there’s no need to re-open old wounds. Suffice it to say that what follows has nothing to do with my personal feelings about Dave. No part of it should be construed as an attack on him, although it is always possible he might perceive it as such. That happens sometimes, I’ve noticed. The truth is that I’ve quite happily avoided thinking much about him, and presumably him about me, since back in October 2002. And that’s just fine. )

I have to thank Mr Winer for dripping that last droplet into my mental beaker, the one that supersaturated the solution and turned it crystalline with a barely audible thwonk!
When I got into the weblogging thing, yaar, back in the year of our lord 2000 I think it was, somewhat late to the party but carrying a few six-packs of the good stuff to ease the trauma of my gatecrashing, I was totally unaware that there were communities of people that had banded together, and who were as taken as I with the promise of it all. I was unaware that there were already stars in the personal-website firmament, unaware that there even was a firmament. I just stumbled onto Blogger somehow, drunker than a cheesetester on good scotch as I recall, and my geek cilia started wiggling, and off I went.

I didn’t know there were people building their own tools to make it even easier to become part of the revolution, to fling open those doors, to take over the world by giving everyone who might have something to say a way to say it and a stage on which to do it, regardless of how or how well they were going to say their piece. Voice, all of that. Access to the internet was the price of entry, of course, but the democracy of it all was breathtaking, even if it was democracy for rich kids, for the most part. That’s always been the way of it, after all.

It reminded me of punk rock. When I first encountered punk, back in 1982 or ’83, after having grown up in a tiny, media-starved and desperately uncool (if green and pleasant, at least away from the sawmills and clearcuts) northern village and having moved to Vancouver to go to university, the proverbial scales fell from my eyes. Thtink, plink. Berserk autodidact that I was, I’d already developed an effective sneer, a deep distrust and dislike for authority and political chicanery, a habit of arguing mercilessly and cruelly if the matter at hand was something I believed in and merely arguing vociferously if it wasn’t, and a nihilistic, risk-addicted, maniacally-boozing demeanor. I had, at the age of 18, though, not yet discovered that there were tens or hundreds of thousands of others with the same sorts of unpleasant societally-discouraged aberrations, and they’d been gathering together and making this mad, loud, ramshackle, gloriously angry music for years already.

I loved it. The music, not so much the fashion. I knew folks who went in for the whole ‘punk look,’ and I thought they were a bit laughable, but harmless, as long as they loved the music and the community. Pose(u)rs, was the word, but I kind of felt that those who called other people posers were almost as destructive to the spirit of the thing as the fashion-victims themselves. (Mark me, here. I’ll come back to this.) So I wore a leather jacket, and messed-up jeans, in pretty much my only concessions to the fashion side of the scene, and grew my hair hippy-long, which was anti-punk to be sure; I drank and did scary stupid dangerous things, and went to gigs, bothered my neighbours with bootleg cassettes cranked to the nuts, and papered my walls with gig posters, and made friends with musicians, and ate chemicals, and reviled the nazis, and generally gloried in what I’d been missing in my sh-tty little northern town throughout my teens — a sense of community, and more specifically a community to which I was happy to belong. Not a community of redneck wife-beating millworkers, this time, although it must be said I had many friends back in that segment of society too.

I felt much the same way about the weblogging thing, a couple of years back, especially when my writing began to get noticed and linked and emailed-about and commented-upon by people whose writing and thinking I in turn respected, and I started to understand how many communities there were within the greater world of the webloggers. There was a wild spirit of creativity running through the wires, it seemed to me, and I found myself a part of a loosely-joined (nudge, wink) group of dauntingly smart and well-spoken people, who didn’t seem, for the most part, to object to my more outrageous turns of phrase. I joined Metafilter, not long before it stopped becoming a Name Brand Weblogger Hub and grew into more of a general in-love-with-the-web community weblog in its own right, which introduced me to a whole constellation of bright webby people. It was exhiliarating, in much the same way as the World Of Punk had been as it opened up to me almost 20 years earlier.

It was welcome, too, because having lived the life of a real-world wanderer for the previous 15 years, a sense of community, community less transient than a group of backpackers coming together randomly in a bar in Indonesia or somewhere… well, that was something I was sorely missing. This parallel I felt to the alt-rock scene in which I forged my young identity all those years back was in no small part, I realize in retrospect, a driver for my over-the-top reaction to a nuts-and-bolts piece of writing by Megnut way back when (here, here, here). It was to me, I see now, as if a snide critic — no worse! a punk-rock luminary — had described the essence of punk as ‘play loud, fast and sloppy, behave outrageously once in a while, and throw in some random lefty politics and unfocussed anger, and bob’s yer uncle!’ It felt like the kind of reduction to appearance over substance that has always enraged me, and is something that even today I rail against as a core failing of Korean society, for example. Not that that’s what Megnut was guilty of in any sense, perhaps, but it pushed my buttons, and now I see why.

Anyway. These weblog people I found myself (virtually) amongst had banded together, it seemed to me, in part because people do that when they’re exploring new frontiers, when they’re not entirely sure of how to proceed but are in love with the new potential they see for a life lived in a way a little less ordinary, and when they suddenly find that there are other people out there who are doing the same thing. Out on the fringes, singing their songs.

Of course, bands break up, and personalities clash, and egos swell, and guitar players want to be front-men, and drummers explode, and new bands form, and old bands fade away and re-emerge years later to do farewell tour after farewell freaking tour. It is natural.
The weblogging gangs of old, the ones I felt a part of, well, they still are loosely bound, but the threads are so thin now that they are almost invisible.

It was, for a while, as if we were all fans of the punk, you see, together out there on the floor, drenched in sweat, pogoing, hurling beer cans, singing along, not really caring which band was up on the stage, just loving the hum and the throb and the tribal feeling of it all. Now it feels as if many of us have become fans of various specific bands, or have started our own and are struggling to gather our own crowds, or have decided to just keep it in the garage where it belongs, and damn having an audience. We don’t have time to go to each others’ gigs anymore. When everyone is in a band, there’s no one left to watch the shows.

That almost inevitably leads to irrelevance, though. Survey says. You sell yourself to the record company to try and get a distribution deal, you start to watch what you say, you suck up to the Big Boys, and try to be seen in the right places with the right powder dusting your nostrils. You lose the holy fire, you start thinking in terms of ‘product’, you tell yourself you’re going to ‘change it from the inside,’ but you’re part of the machine now, and it’s too late for you.

Okay, it might be time to try and pull the threads together, here.

Now, Dave Winer said

More proof blogs aren’t parties, they’re publications. If you try to make it social, about friends, and parties, you end up with a party where a lot of pre-adolescent males bark at each other, and a few hawkers try to sell penis enlargers, and no emotionally whole adult would be caught dead at. I been down this path. The road leads to Slashdot.

Aside from being primly elitist, this is just plain wrong from all sorts of angles, but I think provides a decent illustration of what I’ve been trying to say. Again, it helped me figure out my misgivings about the current State of The Blogs, so I thank him for saying it. So, you know, it’s good, even if I think it’s completely wrongheaded.

Let’s look at it – first, the idea that weblogs are anything that can be expressed in one word (like ‘publication’), or even in the air pocket that sits in the middle of a falsely dualistic opposition between two unrelated words (like ‘party’ and ‘publication’), is bollocks. But never mind the bollocks, here’s the wonderchicken.

What really bothers me is that Dave is generally perceived, with good reason, even by those who dislike the man, as an Elder Statesman of sorts. Hell, he’s been anointed by f–king Harvard, right? What else would I expect him to say? That weblogs are like snorting coke off the bellies of teenage hookers? You can’t get much further from the punk DIY ethos than Harvard, right?

I would expect, I suppose, that rather than saying ‘weblogs are not X, they are Y’ that he’d say ‘Weblogs are whatever the hell you want them to be. Go mad with creative ferment, young ones, unleash the furies, rewrite yourselves and the world, make what you will of these tools and this time. Now, my weblog, that’s a publication, not a party, but your mileage might vary.’
Perhaps that’s what he meant.

Look, I agree with Dave Eggers about saying ‘no’ —

No is for wimps. No is for pussies. No is to live small and embittered, cherishing the opportunities you missed because they might have sent the wrong message.

— it’s something that I wrote about in the sort-of eulogy I wrote for my friend Rick, who died after the Bali bomb in 2002, something that he believed, and something I have believed for many, many years too. Say yes, say it again, sing it, scream it, or get out of the way, grandpa. It was not the shouted nihilistic ‘no!’ that attracted me to the ideas underpinning the flowering of punk rock decades ago, it was the implied bellowed ‘yes! we’ll rebuild our lives the way we want them!’ that I loved. And that I mourned, as it became a fashion, a commodity, and sank back underground again. But the lesson never left me.
Weblogs are a party, damn it, and sometimes they’re publications too, or instead, and sometimes they’re diaries, sometimes they’re pieces of art, sometimes they’re tools for self-promotion, sometimes they’re money-maknig ventures, sometimes they’re monuments to ego, sometimes they’re massive wanks, sometimes they’re public services, sometimes they’re dedications of faith, sometimes they’re communities. Always, they are a public face, one chosen and crafted to varying degrees, of the people who write them. They are avatars, masks, or revelations of our deepest selves. They are political or philosophical, merrily inebriate or sententiously sober. Do not listen to those who would tell you what they are not.

These people will destroy your soul. Classification is for insects.

My name’s wonderchicken, and I am a wild party.

It is the rising current of feeling that weblogs aren’t a party (or aren’t journalism, or aren’t a floor wax, or aren’t a dessert topping), that they’re something important and serious, that is seriously harshing my buzz. “Let’s all take this more seriously”, is the message I get from far too many these days, “because then, well, what I do must be Serious Stuff, right? We’re all adults here, aren’t we?”
Stop it, you bastards.

Your $500 blog conferences, your NeckFlex For President consultancies, your sad tawdry whoredances with the old media moronocracy devil, your repetitive linkery to the same tired wanna-be self-declared pundits you met at the last convention, your careful management of a media face that is, in the end, marketable, it makes me want to puke. It kills the spirit of this thing that I was so in love with, and turns it, as avarice and self-regard always does, to sh-t.

I’m not actually saying stop it, when I say stop it, of course. Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law, and all that. But I am regretful, and resentful, even though I know that it’s inevitable. It is the way things go, in this cashed-in century.

I also know that, as with the music, those who became part of this wild whirlwind, not for fashion or self-aggrandizement, not for power or money (although perhaps for the blow-jobs and free drugs, for which, it must be said, I’m still waiting in vain), but because they had burning gods inside them that were clawing at the inside of their foreheads screaming to get out, well, they’ll continue to create, and more and more they’ll point and chuckle indulgently and ignore the Self-Selected and the Sententious. And the SSS will recede, blithering, from the core of the living culture, until, once again, they are irrelevant. The script-kiddies are right, you see, but only about some of us.

Punk can also be about Wittgenstein. Don’t get me wrong – housewives can be punk, and librarians, priests and, crikey, even known homosexuals can be punk! Can Harvard be punk? Well, yeah, maybe it can be too. Maybe.

Jeneane suggested that the scriptkiddies enjoy more sense of community than us old compatriots do at the moment, and you know what? She’s right. Why? ‘Cause they’re still punk, and our little revolution is being marginalized and co-opted by the climbers.

I’m not suggesting that weblogs should literally be punkrock, right? OK? Geddit? I’m just talkin’ here.

I have no problem with Joi Ito either, although I point at him above — I listened to the Chris Lydon interviews a while back, and he is someone I think I’d very much like to know, based on what he had to say. I haven’t been reading his writing, much (or much of anything blogly until I started again recently, to be honest) although I do plan to start. I found myself nodding as I listened to him talking, and backtracking to listen to some bits again. I rarely do this. I’m not used to people being smarter than me. He represents a new bird, to me, and one that is punk in the best way, in the way I loved the most way back when, in the smart-as-hell Hüsker Dü kinda way. At least I hope that to be true.

In the end, it probably doesn’t matter, as the wave of co-optation and consolidation swings through the communities. But what he had to say and the elegance and clarity with which he expressed it was, for example, in stark opposition to the way that Glenn Reynolds, who, although he may or may not be a plodding thud-dullard, certainly sounded like one when he parried an unwanted political observation of Chris’s with ‘No, no, that’s…no. No. Durrrr.’ Repeatedly. I imagined him with fingers in his ears, going ‘nyah nyah I can’t hear you’. (I exaggerate for effect, a little, perhaps.)

We could use more like Joi Ito, I reckon.

Still, there is something he wrote recently and that I am compelled to disagree with that must be woven into my story here. Joi echoed (and Shelley pushed back against) that old chestnut from Rebecca Blood (amongst other ‘write better’ type stuff), and proposed that those who are ‘serious’ about their weblogs should endeavour to write well. I say the hell with that. Write well, write badly, whatever, just create. If you are saying things that stir people, they will respond.

If you can’t write well, write with such passionate muscularity that people stand back and go ‘whoa!’ Make things, reach out to people. If you write well, keep doing it, and get better, and don’t kiss ass for personal gain. If not, just go, bash that keyboard, make a hideous, amateurish squall, one to which, if it has some kernel of glorious truthtelling, people will respond. The mass amateurization of nearly everything is good. If you’re a gifted amateur, the world will beat a path to your, er, door.

But let me return now to my mention, far upstream, of how I had little love for alternato-types who pointed, all j’accuse-y, and called other people ‘posers’, back in the day. It is, and was, almost as lame as calling someone a ‘sell-out’. It may seem that that’s what I’m doing here, pointing the Big Foam Sell-Out Finger, but I’m not. I’m just stirring the pot. Things have gotten f–king boring around here lately, and some egos are way out of control, and who better than the wonderchicken to try for a little reality-distortion-field adjustment?

If David Weinberger (to pick an example) wants to shill for Dean, more power to him, by crikey! I’d give my left nut to see the Bushbot gone, too, of course, but I’m not so sure that Howard Dean is the solution. Armed insurrection, now, that might be a noble cause…anyway, I still love reading what he has to say, when I occasionally swing by JOHO. If Dave Winer wants to ponce around Harvard (as long as he’s not telling me what a weblog isn’t), then I say ponce away! You go, girl! If this guy thinks blogging should be all about ‘creating value’ and ‘return on investment’, well, why the hell not?

OK, on second thought, that last guy needs to be slapped in the head.

Still, my point is that even if you are puerile enough to believe that someone else ‘selling out’ hurts you somehow, well, that’s pretty hard to justify, son. See also : nuh-uh. When someone stops fighting against the current, goes limp, and, you know, gets a hog rectum implanted where their mouth used to be, or goes the full cortical advertising-augmentation route, starts serving the Machine and wiping their chin with toilet paper, well, hey, it makes the rest of us look better by comparison, doesn’t it? Hell, at least I’m not one of those pigbuttmouth people with those creepy whipcord antennas, right?

Another quote from Eggers —

There is a point in one’s life when one cares about selling out and not selling out. One worries whether or not wearing a certain shirt means that they are behind the curve or ahead of it, or that having certain music in one’s collection means that they are impressive, or unimpressive.
Thankfully, for some, this all passes. I am here to tell you that I have, a few years ago, found my way out of that thicket of comparison and relentless suspicion and judgment. And it is a nice feeling. Because, in the end, no one will ever give a sh-t who has kept sh-t ‘real’ except the two or three people, sitting in their apartments, bitter and self-devouring, who take it upon themselves to wonder about such things. The keeping real of sh-t matters to some people, but it does not matter to me. It’s fashion, and I don’t like fashion, because fashion does not matter.
What matters is that you do good work. What matters is that you produce things that are true and will stand. What matters is that the Flaming Lips’s new album is ravishing and I’ve listened to it a thousand times already, sometimes for days on end, and it enriches me and makes me want to save people. What matters is that it will stand forever, long after any narrow-hearted curmudgeons have forgotten their appearance on goddamn 90210. What matters is not the perception, nor the fashion, not who’s up and who’s down, but what someone has done and if they meant it. What matters is that you want to see and make and do, on as grand a scale as you want, regardless of what the tiny voices of tiny people say. Do not be critics, you people, I beg you. I was a critic and I wish I could take it all back because it came from a smelly and ignorant place in me, and spoke with a voice that was all rage and envy. Do not dismiss a book until you have written one, and do not dismiss a movie until you have made one, and do not dismiss a person until you have met them. It is a f–kload of work to be open-minded and generous and understanding and forgiving and accepting, but Christ, that is what matters. What matters is saying yes.

And that, my friends, is Punk f–king Rock.

Punk got co-opted and marketed and corporatized, and it damn near died, as all Big Ideas do. That’s not to say that small-p punk is not still alive. It is, down in the ditches, where the spirit that drove the rage has morphed and moved on and dropped back under the monkeymass radar. Music and community is being made now that might not fit so easily into the same easy label, but there are folks out there making stuff that builds on and extends the best of the punk alt-rock scene from 20 years ago and more. Some of ’em are more relevant than others, sure, but the passion’s still out there. The anger, the love, the frustration, the woohoo. The party rolls on, even though the faces have changed.

Weblogging is also being co-opted and marketed and corporatized, but it won’t die either. The small communities that grew out of earlier days are being diluted and voices are growing fainter, partly because of the natural life cycle of these things, and partly because there are those who are making it palatable and bland for the media moronocracy to digest, and that’s what the media moronocracy wants, so that’s what it gets.

Jeneane said it too, and Shelley echoed it

You see, there was nothing to gain through blogging in the early days. It was my voice informing her voice informing his voice: our whole was greater, but our parts were pretty cool too. There was nothing to lose, specifically, or to benefit from. There weren’t as many pundits and VCs and CEOs and politicians and top dogs playing. WE were all top dogs by virtue of being someplace those types weren’t.

Although its public face may suck pretty bad for a while, and you may need to dig a bit deeper to find its soul, there will always be those in the Fields of Blog who will tell you what they really think, and some of those will move you while doing it, regardless of how well they write. And they’ll do it without having to look over their shoulders. ’cause it’s a f–king party, pops, and you’re invited.

This Means War… or at least a good noogy-ing!

Shelley outs some script kiddies, and gets herself deliberately targetted and spammented, and has had to turn off commenting for the moment on her MT system. If I know Shelley, she’s gonna come out swinging. This should be fun.

This attack is from the kiddie script that was found at slashdot, and yes, they are using proxies to pull in different IP addresses. Note, they change the URL to something completely nonsensical with each iteration, as well as the text of the comment. They are not going through the HTML, but are hitting mt-comments.cgi directly.

The Antiblog Manifesto :

We develop our own scripts using varied languages and means and can defeat nearly any standard security measure you put in place.
We’re doing this because bloggers provide a waste to the internet, an amassing of imbeciles who think they deserve to be heard, and think people actually care.
Your only real solution is to turn all comments off. Obviously this will mean your egos will no longer be stroked.

I actually sympathize just a teensy bit with the sentiment here, in the most general sense, if not the actions it attempts to justify. Still: if you don’t care for the legions of self-regarding bloggers, imbecilic or otherwise, Butthead, well, just go play somewhere else, and take Beavis with you.
It’s good that Ben and Mena have released a new rev of MT to try and deal with the problem, but it’s pretty clear that simple IP address throttling isn’t going to work worth a damn, so one hopes there’s something more effective in the pipeline. Neither the latest 2.661 version of MT nor MT-Blacklist (which I use) will protect you, it seems.
Edit : Phil and Shelley explain why they think the current measures are inadequate.
Update : I was waiting patiently until the crapflooders found me, via the trackback to Shelley’s post. It wasn’t in vain – the unclever little dink only took about an hour or so to muster up the skills to follow a hyperlink. I’ve closed off all comments for the moment, of course, but I’ll leave the crapflood there, for archival purposes.
Hey Butthead – this one’s for you, amigo!

Selling out and Buying In

I’ve been thinking about weblogging again, or trying to think, at least. (sh-t, no! Run! He’s trying to think again!) I find it hard to work and think concurrently, but I’ve got a week off coming up, during which I plan to think and drink a fair bit. Drinking and thinking; now that, I have down to a fine art.
I have a major, non-weblogging project I’m going to be working on as well, but maybe I’ll be able to draw my thoughts together enough to write something that will offend the maximum number of people. But, you know, in a constructive way.
The addendum to this Dave Eggers email interview is fairly central to the way I’ve been approaching the whole thing

Those who bestow sellouthood upon their former heroes are driven to do so by, first and foremost, the unshakable need to reduce. The average one of us – a taker-in of various and constant media, is absolutely overwhelmed – as he or she should be – with the sheer volume of artistic output in every conceivable medium given to the world every day – it is simply too much to begin to process or comprehend – and so we are forced to try to sort, to reduce. We designate, we label, we diminish, we create hierarchies and categories.

as is this post from Jeneane Sessum. Yes, I’ve been reading blogs again, too.

Time for A Change

I never did finish this design, really, and now it’s starting to get on my nerves. Must be time for a new one. Whee!
‘course I’ve managed to drive away a fairly significant portion of my loyal but slightly demented readership in the last few months, I think, but that’s neither here nor there. I’ll still wow all the Googlenauts getting here searching for the fortuitous and highly erotic (apparently, given their toxic google-allure) combination of the words ‘bottle’ and ‘f–k’.

Read More

Moving, virtually

As part of the exodus (movement of jah people) of the Burningbird flock, the ‘bottle might be in for a hiccup or two as DNS changes propagate and the hamsters switch wheels and so on. If a comment or trackback goes missing, please forgive, and repost.
Thanks, as always, to my kind and generous host and friend, the ferociously, gloriously and undeniably female Shelley Powers.
Update : I think I’ve smoothed over most of the slight post-move wonkinesses, but if something looks broken, please let me know. Thankee.