mm229: Writer’s diarrhea, continued

December 21, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

(… the opposite of writer’s block, right?)

Our wonderful host, WordPress.com, lets us know on its Statistics page what were the leading posts on one’s site for the day, and the day just past. They even provide a link that allows one to learn how many cumulative hits a particular post on one’s site has received over its life.

We mention this because for the first time someone actually was listed as having read post “mm167: Writer’s diarrhea” from 11-October-2007.

So I reread it; damn! I’m good! 😉

Odd that this popped up when it did; it’s the rare post on the topic of blogging; now that WordPress can show how in the Categories listing on the sidebar many times “blogging” has been used as a category, one can learn that it’s been called out here in this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© only 15 times in 240+ posts. And of course, I’m certain that constant reader knows that clicking on any category will bring up all of the posts for which the category has been invoked.

So, I reread the entire category; damn! I’m consistently good! 😉

Most days we try not to be too self-referential or navel-gazing, within the constraints of course of the entire concept of blogging, which is built on self-reference and navel-gazing, and the often much too intimate sharing of one’s quotidian banalities.

Ahem. So here we try not to spend too much time in such pursuits, attempting rather to peg the day’s post on one or more external hooks, external being the zillion page world wide web. Once pegged, then one is permitted to be self-referential and navel-gazing, because it’s now in an external context.

No secret that among the zillion blogs out there (WordPress.com says that as of this writing it has 2,020,627 blogs with 71,011 new posts today, and they’re just one good sized corner of the ‘sphere, and I do mean good — love you guys!), there are predictable concentrations of subject matter: religion, politics, the politics of religion, the religion of politicians, etc. This nanocorner has even been known to indulge its political side once or twice (hence the name of the place, (Left-Handed Complement, you know) one supposes).

So yesterday I was harvesting promising stories for potential future posts, and I found this one, on a site that MUDGE is distinctly undercredentialed to be reading, The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Fascinating to me that before I even went to look for my own entries on the topic of why we blog, and why we choose to read certain others’ blogs, someone came to WordPress’s notice, and mm167 showed up in the stats. Meant to be, I guess.

chroniclehighered

The Polarization of Extremes

By CASS R. SUNSTEIN

In 1995 the technology specialist Nicholas Negroponte predicted the emergence of “the Daily Me” — a newspaper that you design person-ally, with each component carefully screened and chosen in advance. For many of us, Negroponte’s prediction is coming true. As a result of the Internet, personalization is everywhere. If you want to read essays arguing that climate change is a fraud and a hoax, or that the American economy is about to collapse, the technology is available to allow you to do exactly that. If you are bored and upset by the topic of genocide, or by recent events in Iraq or Pakistan, you can avoid those subjects entirely. With just a few clicks, you can find dozens of Web sites that show you are quite right to like what you already like and think what you already think.

Actually you don’t even need to create a Daily Me. With the Internet, it is increasingly easy for others to create one for you. If people know a little bit about you, they can discover, and tell you, what “people like you” tend to like — and they can create a Daily Me, just for you, in a matter of seconds. If your reading habits suggest that you believe that climate change is a fraud, the process of “collaborative filtering” can be used to find a lot of other material that you are inclined to like. Every year filtering and niche marketing become more sophisticated and refined. Studies show that on Amazon, many purchasers can be divided into “red-state camps” and “blue-state camps,” and those who are in one or another camp receive suitable recommendations, ensuring that people will have plenty of materials that cater to, and support, their predilections.

Credit for finding this article goes to the consistently phenomenal and charter member of the blogroll blogroll2 Arts & Letters Daily, a regular read long before we ventured into the scary practice of creating content (derivative though it may be frownie_thumb[1] ) rather than simply consuming it.

Of course, Cass Sunstein’s focus is on those Web 2.0 sites that tailor content to the scourings of past choices; Amazon.com still represents the ultimate commercial application: you bought this, other folks who bought this bought that, we think you might like the other.

There are news aggregation sites that do the same, picking up on what you click on, and presenting you with more of the same. Thoof.com is an extreme example, and Mixx.com an even more recent and slightly more high minded one.

In Sunstein’s observation, backed by the Colorado experiment cited, once one finds oneself with like-minded people in such sites, reading like-minded bloggers, that mass of like-mindedness tilts one further toward the extreme end of whatever spectrum is on the table.

The Internet makes it exceedingly easy for people to replicate the Colorado experiment online, whether or not that is what they are trying to do. Those who think that affirmative action is a good idea can, and often do, read reams of material that support their view; they can, and often do, exclude any and all material that argues the other way. Those who dislike carbon taxes can find plenty of arguments to that effect. Many liberals jump from one liberal blog to another, and many conservatives restrict their reading to points of view that they find congenial. In short, those who want to find support for what they already think, and to insulate themselves from disturbing topics and contrary points of view, can do that far more easily than they can if they skim through a decent newspaper or weekly newsmagazine.

And the person with moderate views leaning in one direction continues to read, the leaning’s become a tilt, which reinforced by continual one-sided content, becomes polarization.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

The Polarization of Extremes – ChronicleReview.com

Thus far, 7Âœ months in, we don’t feel too polarized, except maybe on a few choice topics: Bloomberg for President, One Laptop Per Child, UAVs, web conferencing (boy am I overdue there!).

Covers a spectrum, one hopes, of interests and political positions, nothing too middle of the road, but nothing extremely polarizing either.

We’ll endeavor to remain open minded. Tell us if we’re not, won’t you?

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm135: Process, again

September 10, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Couple of months ago, we wrote about the process of blogging, as we understood it after about 2œ months of consistent posting.

Not sure that understanding has increased, although the consistency has remained. At least in frequency, if not quality.

The quality thing can always be improved.

Received a modest number of hits in the past four months; averages about 16 per day, day in and out. A couple of times about 90. A bunch of times, a loyal few. Some of the early weeks — totaled 20.

Thanks, loyal few!

Where do those statistics come from, you may wonder? From our weblog host, WordPress.com.

What a terrific organization! Hosting at this site is free. Support has been superlative.

Two examples: Recently registered at a site that promised to promote this blog. (Early days yet and the jury is still out — so a more complete mention will wait for a future process episode.)

L-HC was rejected. Why? They reported that L-HC was not interpreted correctly due to a bug (go figure!) in Internet Explorer v6. We never saw it, because we run v7 at the CurmudgeonDungeon (say that 10 times quickly!).

At work next day, pulled up the site on the office PC (something we try not to do because we’re not at all sure that freedom of expression in a blogging context exists there) to verify the issue; sure enough, the sidebar contents fell to the very bottom of the lengthy page. A very ugly look.

So, I contacted WordPress support. Got a prompt answer: Yes, it’s a bug in IE6, usually caused by graphic elements of excessive width in the main panel. Maximum such width for our theme, Contempt (wonderfully appropriate for a curmudgeon — and one of WordPress’ most popular themes) was stated as 460 pixels.

Thus, I needed to go back into the bowels of history to find the offending post(s). A big task, that took some time to get to (this is supposed to be a hobby, right?).

Finally, a couple of weeks later got around to rooting around in the past, a job made reasonably easy by WordPress and a member of MUDGE‘s Blogging Process Hall of Fame, Windows Live Writer.

Found a couple of potential offending graphics, resized them with an ancient, paid for version of Paint Shop Pro, and all seemed okay in IE6. Reapplied to the promotion site, was accepted this time, and am gradually figuring out what makes that site tick.

But the point: the rapid response from WordPress support, considering that their census of blogs they host is up substantially from last reported on 21-July-2007:

wordpress7721

Take a look at today’s stat:

wordpress7909

A 20% increase in 50 days!

And yet, got an answer within hours to my query.

Last weekend, WordPress was experiencing some kind of problem, because several posts did not land cleanly. The result, a lack of synchronization between Windows Live Writer and the blog on WordPress. Thought it was me.

Sent off a query. Got a response within hours seeking further information. Replied with a clarification of the incident, and received a response to the reply within a very short time, promising some research.

Received another response shortly, admitting a WordPress.com server timing issue, since repaired, and all has been well since.

The point is not that they had an issue on their side. The point is, with nearly 1.5million sites, they still could respond so promptly, courteously and effectively.

Thus we proudly announce an update to MUDGE‘s Blogging Process Hall of Fame:

blogginghallv2

WordPress.com has vaulted to the top of MUDGE‘s list, not to make any less of numbers two and three, used to great effect every post.

And, the price for the entire suite is right: $0.00. Can’t beat that!

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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