Smokes your problems, coughs fresh air.

Tag: blog

Blog competition

Wiebe’s posting of the two-hundred-and-first post, made me think of this image of the front page I made a short while after the new design went life. The image clearly shows that we have a little competition thing going on in that we both seem to be pretty determined to have our face dominate the home-page. 😛


I’ve been struggling with the decision whether to start a microblog or not. Actually, I had already decided ‘yes’, but then had trouble deciding the software or on-line platform. I actually preferred a self-hosted solution (otherwise, I’d feel the need to backup or even mirror everything myself anyway). Trying to choose a solution took me so much time that I actually reconsidered the need for microblogging. What is it, after all, that attracted me to it?

The first reason that I consider microblogging a great idea is context. I have all these little jots in my computer and bookmarks spread all over the place and most of it is completely irrelevant and should probably be deleted or at least buried and forgotten. Everything that I blog about is immediately buried and I can forget about it, knowing that I can pop it back up whenever I want to by Googling for it or by doing a quick tag search. When I’m blogging about something, because I know it’s going to be published, I take care to put it in proper context so that I’ll know its relevance when I later stumble upon it. A very important piece of this context is the date on which I post something. Every post being dated is also a very important factor in being able to ‘bury’ it. There’s nothing like having a date in the URL for saying: “This might have been important then, but it might not be so now.”

So, I wanted a microblog to be able to much easier organize all these little thoughts and links I encounter by simply dropping them into a stream, but not a data stream. No, not a data stream., for example, isn’t really working for me because it’s just the same as having a whole lot of crap URLs on disk. I don’t bookmark stuff because I want to have a neat catalog of the world; I bookmark stuff because I want to get it out of my head and get on with what I’m doing. Then, later, I might want to revisit depending on the context. Normally, when bookmarking something, you might be assigning tags and everything and even a description in which you could put the same as you’d put in a post to a microblog, but I’m still in a different mode than when I’m saying:

  • While researching microblogs, I just stumbled across
  • I’m really wondering: shouldn’t I simply use Twitter?
  • But what about the crap limitations on length and layout? I want to be able to put in at least a paragraph.

Even as I’m writing this, I notice how much easier this flows as a method of note-taking than trying to turn something into a coherent story. Note that the context is immediately apparent because the posts follow each other in time.

What has basically hijacked my desire to start a microblog is Twitter, which allows you to send updates by SMS, which imposes a ridiculous limitation on the length of posts. The problem with this is that is confuses my choises, because the second reason to want to start a microblog is sharing. With Twitter and its competitors it’s possible to reply to others in your status updates and some even support a rudimentary form of tagging and groups. This promises a lot of social advantages which I’ve also enjoyed with this blog. However, being limited to interaction within the walled garden of Twitter to me is no better than posting everything as status updates to Facebook (or Hyves, the Dutch social network). It’s actually worse, because at least Facebook has a convenient interface and less arbitrary restrictions coming from SMS.

To solve the walled-garden problem, there’s the OpenMicroBlogging (OMB) protocol with two open source implementations: StatusNet and OpenMicroBlogger. Both can be installed on your own web host, but both also have a free sign-up service (OpenMicroBlogger and respectively).

Some guy has even figured out how to post from (now StatusNet) to WordPress. But, I have to wonder: why did I want to impose the OMB restrictions on myself in the first place? I still can’t use mark-up. This makes me having to use weird line-noise such as ‘@’ and ‘#’. But, worst of all, it means that putting in an URL quickly makes the post exceed its maximum length, because it’s all simple plain text and every character is counted. And that’s my problem with OMB and many of these services in general: 140 characters is just a little too restricting, especially if I’m going to use it for URLs. I simply don’t like URL shortening services. So, why was it that I’d want to use OMB? Interoperability. But my blog has excellent interoperability. Why would I need to torture myself by requiring even more protocols, while all I could really need is some custom theming for short posts. There’s plenty of microblogging themes for WordPress to prove this point.

There’s just the issue of blog posts being a bit meta-data heavy: they require a title, a nice slug and tags. But, on the other hand: OpenMicroBlogger, for example, has already added support for meta tags because inserting lots of little ‘#’ characters in your posts makes them look like line-noise.

I have to resist the temptation of sticking my nose into every new fad and network. It’s simply the reality of the day that the whole World Wide Web is a disjointed mess of data islands, each with different context definitions. For now, I think that I should restrict myself to the context of the blogosphere.

In the end, with my blog blog interoperability is actually better than with a OMB microblog, because of nice features such as trackbacks and the ability to comment without the commenter first having to register with a microblog themselves.


  • Louis Gray has written quite a bit about and microblogging in general.

Blogging: quantity over quality

They say that blogging is a long way down from essaying. Articles were already better than essays, and books even more so. So they say. A lot is said these days. I say: the more, the merrier. I say: let us say! Let us say whatever we want. And let people read whatever they want, now that they can.

I try to blog as much as I can, not because I think that each post is a piece of poetry that needs to be enjoyed by as many as possible, but because each post represents a train of thought that I need to get rid of. The sooner, the better. Noise is not a problem. The Internet is filled with noise, but nevertheless we only read what we want to read and we still find what we need. We filter. If you don’t, good luck surviving the digital age.

There is a convergence movement towards media integration. Eventually, this will lead to the collapse of all these media, meaning that the need for distinct, specific media will be less and less. This is good. We need to be truly press-less before the original promise of the press can be fulfilled: information liberation.

What I mean by this is that, when we publish, we don’t need to make a clear distinction between the weighty and the weightless. After all, God Google defines the weight of our publications not by means of what we say about it, but by means of incoming link frequency and the relative weight of these links.

When I say something worthwhile, I first have to convince others that I did, but before I can do that, I have to convince them to come look. Then, after visiting me and having been convinced by my great content, they might decide to link to me. Only as soon as that happens, do I gain weight. (According to Technorati, the weight of this blog is pathetic.)

Not every post I write resembles even an essay. Most postst don’t even come close. That’s because blog posts don’t need a point. I’ve made this point before, but I can’t repeat it often enough, because every time that I’m thinking “Shit, what did I do then and what was I thinking?” I’m reminded of it. I’ll stop reiterating this no sooner than I stop forgetting to write these things down.

When a blog post does attempt to make a point, there are even stronger arguments for quantity over quality, because publishing—really publishing—something makes it possible for others to respond, be this in comments or in their own blog. There’s something concrete for them to cite and to reference. This process gives me valuable feedback and I can simply republish my thoughts (which have matured not only through time, but also through argument) in a new post. Voila! And maybe the old post is so shitty that nobody is interested… Who cares?! Obviously, they don’t! So go on and do something else with the time that you’ve freed by not having to polish a turd.

Remember that blog posts are not naturally organized into some sort of reading hierarchy. There’s no reason that the same subject can’t be treated twice. Just hit that “Publish” button, get it out of your head and get on with your life!

Blog posts don’t need a point

I take blogging very literal. For me, the primary use of a weblog is to keep a log of (complicated) thoughts and activities. The reason to keep a log is very self-evident: to be able to find out how and why I came to some solution or how far I was in the problem-solving process. This becomes ever so clear to me when I find myself confronted with finding out something which I’m sure I already did.

Most of the time I still don’t think about blogging my thoughts because I associate writing with making a point and supporting that point well. That association is a mistake. Instead, I would like to cultivate the following reasons to blog:

  1. Writing is fun because sharing is fun.
  2. Writing is fun because reiterating an experience is liberating.
  3. Redoing my research and problem-solving is not fun.
  4. Receiving comments to your writing is fun.
  5. The very act of writing down an unsolved problem often reveals the solution.
  6. If it doesn’t, some visitor will.
  7. Often a problem is really not a problem at all. Trying to formulate such a problem will make this painfully obvious.

Blog posts don’t need a point, blogging is the point.

First post!

A blog, or weblog, is a website which is regularly updated with new entries. These entries usually appear in reverse chronological order. If they appear at all.

I’ve started a blog a few times before, and now I’ve succumbed to the urge to start yet another one, almost as if the world is waiting for yet another blog. Almost.

Have I any reason to believe that this blog won’t die of the same neglect that killed Greg’s blog and my own previous blogs? No. Honestly, I don’t see any reason why this blog would go anywhere beyond this first post, so we’ll just have to see if and how it will.

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