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.


Join the conversation! 2 Comments

  1. Why Blogger?

    The title is a pun on “why bother.” At work, I’ve been talking up weblogging and syndication to anyone that will listen. This post accompanies that talk, so if you are reading this under duress after enthusiastically blah blah-ing about…

  2. I like your “web as an ocean” meme, and immediately upon reading it, the blogsphere recrystalized into “the raft” from snow crash….
    on the off chance that you didn’t read snow crash, “the raft” was a federation of hundreds of sea craft of various sizes tied together by whatever materials were available. The raft become somewhat of an artifical island, that pointlessly meandered through the pacific.
    Its also worth mentioning that the majority of raft-dwellers were essentially third-world slaves to an underground, worldwide media cult… but thats besides the point.

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