Notes from underground

يارب يسوع المسيح ابن اللّه الحيّ إرحمني أنا الخاطئ

Archive for the tag “metablog”

Is blogging doomed?

One of the blogs in my blogroll is Aquila ka Hecate, which had an interesting (to me, anyway) discussion on the changing seasons. I wanted to comment on it, and found that I could not. Google had somehow linked the commenting facility to their Google+ (which becomes more clunky by the day), and it would not let me enter a comment. I could type the comment, but nothing appeared on the screen.

It was because of such things that I moved this blog from Blogger to WordPress several months ago. And the last thing I posted there was some negative comments about their trying to link blogs to Google+. In that case it was because of the reduced functionality of the Google+ profile, which they wanted to substitute for the Blogger one. But now they have included the commenting system as well, which doesn’t merely have reduced functionality, it simply doesn’t function at all.

And Aquila ka Hecate tried to move her blog to WordPress, here, and that doesn’t seem to have been too successful either? Is blogging doomed? It seems that the major blog hosts are out to destroy it.



A guest post on my blog?

Today I have had three (apparently) different people sending me e-mails to follow-up on queries about whether I was interested having them write guest posts on my blog.

I vaguely remember having a spate of queries to that effect about a month ago, and deleting them as spam or a scam. But now there is a follow-up.

I find such requests bizzare.

It is dead easy to start your own blog.

You can do it in about 2 minutes right here on Blogger.

So what puzzles me is why these people (or this person) wants to write posts on my blog. Assuming they are three different people (but why do they all write on the same day?) that would mean three posts by other people on my blog. If they really want to do that, perhaps the three of them could all start their own blogs, and then write guest posts on each others blogs. It would probably really confuse the readers though.

A similar problem is the people who write long comments that have absolutely nothing to do with the posts they are commenting on. I don’t mean spammers, I mean people who have a preach coming on. And with them, too, they could easily start their own blogs and air their views to their hearts’ content.

But guest posts? I don’t get it.

If someone writes something that I think is interesting, I’ll link to it and blog about it– that, after all, is what blogs are for. But why would they want to write it on my blog? I just don’t get it.

But what makes me really suspicious is that they all three came on the same day. That seems to be the kind of stuff conspiracy theorists should be interested in.

Has anyone else been getting odd requests like this, in threes?

Old Blogger interface – a huge improvement

Recently my Blogger dashboard switched from the old interface to the new one, which I’ve been struggling with for the last few weeks.

Now someone has explained to me how you can get the old one back.

If you have had the new and degraded Blogger dashboard foisted on you, you can (at least for the time being) get the old one back.

There’s a little cogwheel thingy up in the top righthand corner of the new and degraded Blogger dashboard.

Click on it and among the options that are revealed is the option to revert to the old and improved Blogger interface.

Hat-tip to a commenter on nourishing obscurity | Google/Blogger/WordPress’s kindergarten coders

Ah, bliss!

If the new interface is foisted on us, I predict another huge move to WordPress.

Google revamps Blogger — is it worth it?

The last time Google revamped Blogger, it was dysfunctional for 6 months or more, and thousands of Blogger users packed it in and moved to WordPress.I myself started a WordPress blog, and got ready to move completely if Blogger got any worse, but I kept this one open, and eventually Blogger was more or less fixed, and most of the stuff that was broken started working again. But my WordPress blog quickly passed this one in the number of readers, and still gets about twice as many readers a day as this one. 

Now they’re at it again. According to their hype, “Introducing the completely new, streamlined blogging experience that makes it easier for you to find what you need and focus on writing great blog posts.”

Does it live up to the hype?

Not really.

It actually makes it harder to find what you need. Perhaps some of that is unfamiliarity, and we’ll get used to it, but the main change is that they’ve put everything into a smaller type in order to make it harder to read, and they’ve hidden a lot of functions behind cryptic symbols so you have to hover your cursor all over the screen to find what you’re looking for. There used to be a clear and unambiguous label “Edit Posts” and you would get a list of recent posts and drafts that you could edit. Now they’ve hidden it away behind a cryptic symbol, but I can’t remember what it is. In the past (and still on blog posts) they’ve used a pencil icon for “Edit Post”, but now they sometimes use it for creating a new post, so it gets very confusing.

On improvement has been the linking. You can now, when you add a link, choose if you want it to open in a new tab or page by ticking a box, instead of editing it afterwards and typing in ‘target=”_blank”‘. That’s a definite improvement.

Another improvement has been in simplifyingt their HTML code. Now if you click on the i for italics it uses the code , which is better than the nonsense that the older editor produced, but is still not as good as WordPress’s use of the standard HTML .

It seems to put pictures where you want them in posts, rather than putting them at the top and leaving it up to you to move them down if you didn’t want it at the top. But its picture placement is still not as easy to use as the one in WordPress. Where it scores over WordPress is in the same ways as it did before — the use of Javascript widgets, for example.

And then there’s some weird stuff:.

On the new Blogger dashboard they say:

Connect Blogger to Google+ and get a suite of new features that will help you build and engage your audience. Learn more.

Well, I clicked on the “learn more”, and learnt nothing, zilch, nada.

All it does is that it gives you some hype about Google+. It tells you nothing about what happens when you connect your blog to Google+, which is what I wanted to “learn more” about. It also doesn’t tell you if you can disconnect it if you don’t like what happens.

And this seems to lead into and link up to this: Can We Still Trust Google? – Danny Brown

The South Africa blogosphere, unravelled

Amatomu’s slogan used to be “The South African blogosphere, sorted.”

Well, now it has become unsorted, because Amatomu no longer seems to work. To “unravel” means to pull a knitted garment apart so that all you have is separate strands of wool, and you can no longer see the pattern or shape of the garment, or even the garment itself. It has gone.

And one by one the tools that I used to use to find interesting blogs have gone, or become unusable.

The first to go was Technorati. It’s still there, I think, but it’s no longer useful. It used to have tags that found blog posts with particular topic tags, but that no longer works. It’s become a thinly disguised advertising gimmick.

The next to go was Blog Catalog. That’s still there, but some whiz kid who had never heard of the old adage “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” decided to “improve” it. Now it no longer works.

Then it was the turn of MyBlogLog. Yahoo! bought it as a successful running concern from the original developers, and then pulled the plug on it. Yahoo! does that a lot. They did it with Geocities, they did it with Webrings, and they did it with MyBlogLog.

MyBlogLog and BlogCatalog were social blogrolling sites. They allowed each person to sort the blogosphere according to their own preference, but in such a way that others could see them and join in, the theory being that if you liked someone’s blog, you might like the blogs they liked, and the people who liked their blog might like yours. Since those two disappeared from the scene, I’ve lost contact with a whole bunch of blogs that I used to read, and I missed them. I found some again and put them in my blogroll, but that doesn’t tell me how often the writers of those blogs visit my blog, as MyBlogLog and BlogCatalog used to do.

But there was still Amatomu for South African blogs. You could see who had posted what recently, and which recent articles were most popular and so on. But now even that’s gone.

There’s still Afrigator, but I’ve never understood its user inferface, and no matter how much time I spend on it I never seem to find anything I’m looking for.

Occasionally someone comments on my blog, and I think, hey, I used to read your blog, but I haven’t seen it for a long time, and now I no longer know how to find it.

It’s all rather sad.

And when I say it’s sad people say, you must move on… move on to Facebook and imbibe popular culture and immerse yourself in banal and trivial stuff like “What my friends think I do, what my mom thinks I do, what my boss thinks I do” and so on.

Blogging’s better, but it’s getting harder to find the good blogs.

SA Blogging Awards

Just got a message to say that the SA Blogging Awards close today. I didn’t realise they had opened because Telkom had reduced our bandwidth without informing us, and so we were without Web access for four days. Not that it makes much difference, because the SA Blogging Awards are just as narrow-minded this year as they were last year.

The categories to enter have been simplified this year, and are as follows:

  • Best Business / Political Blog
  • Best Entertainment / Lifestyle Blog
  • Best Environmental Blog
  • Best Fashion Blog
  • Best Food & Wine Blog
  • Best Music Blog
  • Best Photographic Blog
  • Best Science and Technology Blog
  • Best Sport Blog
  • Best Travel Blog

Please choose a category which best fits your blog.

None of my blogs, nor any of the blogs I regularly read, fits into any of those categories. The organisers seem to have a very blinkered view of human life. Or is is just me?

As far as I can see there are huge swathes of human life and experience (which is what most blogs are about) missing from the list. I think quite a large number of the missing ones are covered by the H*U*M*A*N*I*T*I*E*S. As, of course, are the categories in Digg, which I avoid for the same reason.

I really think that blogging awards thingies should not be run by technogeeks. For them things like art, literature, history and religion simply do not exist.

Is there anything else you can see that has been left out?

Carpenter’s Shoes: Fun with Technorati

I’ve just visited Technorati for the second time this month. and that’s probably also for the second time this year.

This time it was the result of reading Carpenter’s Shoes: Fun with Technorati

Technorati provide blog ranking stats ( It’s a bit of a mission to find out the rankings of the South African religion blogs that I am interested in, but there are a few that I check once in a blue moon. Blog rankings are based on what Technorati calls authority.

My previous visit to Technorati this month was because I got an email asking me to take part in a survey on the state of the blogosphere. Though the survey wasn’t very satisfactory, if you are a blogger it might well be worth taking part in it, as the more who do so, the better the picture it will give of the state of the blogosphere, despite its flaws.

But Jenny Hillebrand’s post on Carpenter’s Shoes got me thinking about why I only visit Technorati once or twice a year, if that. A few years ago I used to visit the site three or four times a week.

What has changed?

Well the Technorati site has changed.

Back then it had stuff that interested me as a blogger. I could go there to find blogs and blog posts I was interested in. There used to be “Technorati tags”, and one could click on them to find who was blogging on what topics. If I was going to blog on a subject, I’d look up tags related to that subject, and if those blogs said anything interesting on the topic, I’d link to them.

Now, however, you can’t find stuff that you find interesting on Technorati. If you look at their tags page, for example, you can’t search for tags. They only show you the currently popular tags for the last month. Do not expect Technorati to give you what you like. You WILL like what Technorati gives you and tells you to like. There is a kind of arrogant authoritarian flavour to it.

What is going on here?

I suspect that Technorati was started by a bunch of bloggers who enjoyed blogging and tried to produce a tool that would be useful to bloggers and that bloggers would like. And it grew a bit beyond their capacity and they needed a bit of capital injection to keep it going and growing.

But capital injection also means that the marketing people come in and have more say, and in their philosophy giving bloggers what they are looking for is no good at all. What is important is to steer bloggers towards the stuff that brings in the most advertising revenue for us.

So they modify it, and tell you:

Welcome to the

The blogosphere evolves and so do we.

And that means they make it harder to find what you are looking for, and easier to find the stuff that brings in the most advertising revenue for them. And finding what you are looking for, as Jenny says, is “a bit of a mission.”

And that is why I now visit Technorati only once or twice a year, instead of three or four times a week.

Media, Schmedia

Bishop Alan of Buckingham writes some interesting stuff about social media in the vein of Mashall McLuchan, extending McLuhan’s thoughts to things McLuhan never knew, and writes about the uses of Facebook, Twitter and other things. Like him, I haven’t quite worked out what to do with Google+, but I like what he says about blogs: Bishop Alan’s Blog: Media, Schmedia:

Where does that leave the humble Blog?

As what people used to call a commonplace book, with occasional comment, it’s unbeatable. I need to invest more in it. Some of the comment threads it stimulates turn are fascinating, and it becomes a focus for a form of community. It’s brought great joy this summer to meet a few of the people whose comments I most respect and like. That and the occasional diary or policy reflection does make it worth some effort.

I think his analogy with the commonplace book is spot on. That is certainly what the best blogs have mutated into. In that way they have combined two different ideas into a third, so the word “blog” is something of a misnomer.

Ten or fifteen years ago years ago there were blogs and there were online journals. There were web sites devoted to journals and journaling, and it became quite a popular pastime. Then there were web logs, which soon got shortened to “blogs” – people kept lists of web sites they visited. Some early blogs were just that – lists of links to sites and nothing more. But then people began to add comments on the sites they visited, and so blogs became a kind of review, and people began readingt the treviews of others to see which sites to visit. In some cases the reviews expanded and became articles on their own, sometimes without any reference at all to another web site.

And so in blogs today the idea of the journal and the idea of the web log have merged into what is, in effect, an electronic commonplace book. Indeed, one of the blogs that I like to read is Notes from a Common-place Book.

So what is a commonplace book?

Wikipedia puts it rather well, I think. Commonplace book – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

Commonplace books (or commonplaces) were a way to compile knowledge, usually by writing information into books. They became significant in Early Modern Europe.

“Commonplace” is a translation of the Latin term locus communis (from Greek topos koinos, see literary topos) which means “a theme or argument of general application”, such as a statement of proverbial wisdom. In this original sense, commonplace books were collections of such sayings, such as John Milton’s commonplace book. Scholars have expanded this usage to include any manuscript that collects material along a common theme by an individual.

Such books were essentially scrapbooks filled with items of every kind: medical recipes, quotes, letters, poems, tables of weights and measures, proverbs, prayers, legal formulas. Commonplaces were used by readers, writers, students, and humanists as an aid for remembering useful concepts or facts they had learned. Each commonplace book was unique to its creator’s particular interests.

Not as personal as a journal, not as impersonal as a web log, the electronic commonplace book has a unique value.

I’m nore aware of this since I’m trying to rebuild my blogroll, after the demise of social blogrolling sites. MyBlogLog was culled by Yahoo! last May. Blog Catalog is waiting for the last rites. And another one spectacularly imploded last week, causing me to delete all my blogrolls.

So now I’ve lost touch with most of the blogs I liked to read, and am beginning to reconstruct the blog roll, which makes me think of why I liked reading certain blogs. Not that I necessarily agreed with the authors; very often I didn’t. But the ones I liked most were usually the ones that were like commonplace books.

Bishop Alan also has some interesting things to say about other social media. He sees Twitter as useful for news, and perhaps it is, if it has links attached. But I find I just do not have the time to wade through dozens of Tweets, so I like the “Daily Paper” digest of the Tweets of the people I follow that have links in them. Its selection sometimes is not brilliant, but it is usually adequate. If you haven’t seen it, mine is here.

One thing that Bishop Alan hasn’t mentioned is mini-blogging platforms like Tumblr and Posterous. If Twitter is microblogging, then Tumblr and Posterous are mini-blogging, and if you want a tool for liveblogging at a conference or such, please please please use one of those rather than Twitter. The contextless linkless tweets that emanate from such events are the height of frustration.

But back to the theme of the commonplace book. A blog is useful as a public commonplace book, but not everything I want to keep is really of much interest to anyone other than me, and there is also software for that. One of the best I have found is askSam. I’ve heard that Microsoft One- Note can do similar things, but it doesn’t come with documentation so I don’t know how to use it, but askSam might even be a boon to busy bishops.

End of blogrolling, end of blogging?

This morning I got a message about a new comment on my blog, so I went to have a look at it, and my blog vanished. There was just a message saying that the page could not be displayed and I must contact the administrator.

The comment I tried to look at was from “Anonymous”, so, thinking it might contain some malicious redirecting code, I deleted it.

But still the blog would not display. I went to the Blogger forums and found that others had had similar problems, which appeared to be caused by blogrolling widgets. They either had bugs, or were being hacked, it seemed.

So I deleted all the blogtolling widgets.

But now my blog is isolated.

It was bad enough when MyBlogLog disappeared, and BlogCatalog was “improved” so that it became almost useless. But I still had blogrolls of blogs I liked to read, and I could see when they were updated, and so could read new posts on them.

But now I’ve had to remove them too.

Someone really does seem to be out to kill blogs and blogging.

I liked to read “The poor mouth”, but can’t remember the URL, and the same with lots of other blogs.

Blogging fame

I’m Like Totally Happening | Clarissa’s Blog: “Today, this reader was sitting at a coffee-shop close to his university in Southern California. He was reading my blog when a complete stranger came up to him and said, ”Hey, I read that blog, too!” So they talked about the blog for a while (hopefully, in positive terms.)”

And here am I reading it on a sunny winter’s morning in Gauteng.

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