Well, this is two nights in a row now that hitting “Post” on Micro.blog sent the post into the afterlife, never to be seen on earth.
Well, this is two nights in a row now that hitting “Post” on Micro.blog sent the post into the afterlife, never to be seen on earth.
The other bit of digital housecleaning I’ve been doing is downloading and clearing all data out of my previous Google account. I’d originally intended this to be precursor to deletion, but then I realized all my old Blogger blogs are in there, and I’m not sure if I want to remove those, as they are easier to refer back to if they are online somewhere still.
Sorry to anyone who’d subscribed to the photos-only RSS feed; I keep forgetting to add photo posts to the category which, well, feeds that feed. There was no disruption to the photos-only JSON feed, as that’s generated differently.
config.jsonand not only did it not work, other things started not working right.
MetaFilter users take a look at the death of comments at The Plain Dealer and elsewhere, just in time for Micro.blog to have added the ability to include replies on blog posts.
Oh, terrific. Inexplicably, my site’s CSS is rendering ordered lists with an unindented circle, except that I did not change any CSS regarding
margin-left, so what the hell?
The hilarious irony of reading CJ Eller talk about marginalia and memory and wondering why part of it seemed so familiar only for Eller then to turn around and link me in fact having discussed something similar. Memory? What memory.
Warren Ellis, no slouch or stranger to blogging, has some thoughts on Micro.blog: “I guess IndieWeb is still for devoted hobbyists rather than, you know, just people.”
One aspect of hosting your blog on a static-site generator service: browsing to a category page to find something and finding only that your largest category — with 327 posts — has only had one page with eight posts built, and having no idea how long it’s been that way.
It will never not be confusing to me that it’s faster to edit
custom.css, because for some reason the latter takes an order of magnitude longer to rebuild and publish than the former.
One more brain-addled addition to the blog: a new Subscriptions page, generated from a Feedbin
.opml export that I converted to an
.html file and then pasted into that page; if you’re interested in what I’m reading via RSS.
Just made a small ennui-prompted design tweak, changing the font for the main site header and page headers to
My difficulty, ultimately, with calling potentially-radical formal experiments “blogging”—no matter how far they might end up deviating from what we know as blogging—is that words have to mean things. It’s sort of like how I feel about “reading”. New things don’t have to usurp old words just to be valid, and in fact if they do so they can disruptively dilute the meaning, and therefore the specificity of use, of the word.
I admit that I find public proclamations that one doesn’t blog about the news to be akin to public proclamations that one doesn’t own a television. To me, a fair amount of the news is “my world” or “things happening in the realm with which I live”, and discussing it isn’t just “hive mind”. Which isn’t at all to say that one somehow is obligated to do so. It’s the weird public pronouncement that seems a bit la-dee-da to me, not the decision itself. I mean: bully for you?
Colin Walker (discussing a purported “text renaissance”) loops back to an earlier discussion about Dave Winer being dissatisfied with blogging. This is back when I made the observation that for all intents and purposes what Winer is doing these days is disavowing the blog and writing a bletter instead—by which I meant drafting his daily newsletter in real-time and in public.
Which certainly makes perfectly good sense given the history of how his blog came about in the first place.
When you consider that Winer’s blog evolved from his DaveNet email list it’s easy to see why he might want to return to that mode of delivery for the best experience. From a more mainstream perspective, it would likely involve, as Winer hints, redeveloping the subscription/delivery mechanism that is currently served by RSS.
The thing is, he can already do what he wants with RSS, especially given that he works entirely with home-grown tools: he just needs to code his blogging platform to not update his RSS feed until the end of the day, and that update would be just a single RSS
item containing all of his writing for that day.
By all means experiment with forms and methods during this “text renaissance”, but there’s not actually anything especially wrong with blogging as a form and a format.
Make something new, that’s fine. It can even be an offshoot of the blogging form. But one crotchety guy’s dissatisfaction with how blogging serves him doesn’t mean blogging somehow has to be fixed, or that whatever he or anyone else might come up with must need redefine what we consider to be blogging.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to write a bletter. You just don’t have to declare that blogging, or RSS, is broken in order to do it.
Despite the general understanding that internet comments are an existential exhaustion, I feel (for now?) vaguely excited for replies on Micro.blog. If you missed it earlier, Manton also put up a help page about it. My one caveat for those looking to turn this feature on: typically in real community design, moderation tools aren’t an after-thought or something to be provided later, but there aren’t any here. It’s all-or-nothing, and Micro.blog’s own sense of decorum is the only thing keeping replies on your blog from becoming problematic.
I’m really pretty exhausted with DuckDuckGo’s search of this blog. Despite even having a
sitemap.xml with every blog post in it, I often just get category pages as results, and not posts. Google’s results are a bit better, but I don’t want to use them. Options?
So I didn’t, after all, re-read some early 2000s books before finally writing up Lurking but I still intend to do those re-reads, plus I’m adding We’ve Got Blog to that list (no link because it’s not available on Bookshop).
In some sense, it’s interesting that I had to pause my reading of Building and Dwelling: Ethics in the City in order to read Lurking: How a Person Became a User (the latter suddenly came through for me on NetGalley), in that a significant part of why I’ve wanted to read the former is my casual interest in ways to apply urban planning lessons, or at least language, to online communications and communities.
(I’ve a casual interest generally in the interplay of how we talk about online and offline communities and whether there are ways to apply one to the other, in both directions.)
McNeil’s book was a useful history reminder-lesson for me. I don’t know how old she is in offline years but in internet-self time she’s been online since right around the same time as me (I logged in for the first time in the fall of 1993). Lurking, then, in many ways told the story of the very internet that developed while my online self did.
In general arc if not always specific sites and services, Lurking is the story of my internet, too. For her, it was AOL and Geocities; for me: gopherspace, MindVox, IRC, and Usenet.
Mostly I was struck by McNeil’s recounting of what for lack of a better phrase I’ll call the social networking era, as opposed to the social media one which grew out of it. Once upon a time, we had user profiles with all manners of information about us, as provided by us (or as permitted by us, in the case of things such as testimonials from others or posts to our “wall”). To actually find each other, and connect with each others, we had to instant message, group chat, or visit a forum.
Messages sent user to user and public testimonials were how people communicated, but the promise of the social network was realized in the observable and intuited. There were no alerts when changes were made; a person had to look over the same profiles again and again to see their latest updates.
It was an internet of place. Once services like Friendster or MySpace gave way to services like Twitter and Instagram which rely predominantly upon the notion of the feed, place went away in favor of a more amorphous and identity-flattening space. Profiles as they once existed truly defined and denoted our personhood, or at least our personahood, and chat rooms and bulletin boards felt like places to visit. The feed, though, did away with all (or at least most) of that.
Add in the rise of the smartphone which was far better suited to quick-hit, bite-sized, on-the-go consumption, and out goes the blogs and discussion forums and real-time chats which were so intimately tied to larger, more fixed-in-place devices.
The internet had a station before, like a shoebox full of recipes on a countertop, like the kitchen itself. As smartphones blurred organizational boundaries of online and offline worlds, spatial metaphors lost favor. How could we talk about the internet as a place when we’re checking it on the go, with mobile hardware offering turn-by-turn directions from a car cupholder or stuffed in a jacket pocket?
This transition from place to space also fundamentally transformed the nature of the activity for which McNeil titled her book.
Once upon a time, lurking frequently was how you learned the shape of an online place, how you learned its rules and came to understand the dynamic of its residents. There might have been common points of (n)etiquette but each place also had its own flavors and its own boundaries. In the borderless expanses of “platforms” such as Twitter, there’s no there there, and so no real opportunity to lurk around its edges to observe and learn its ways.
A testimonial was always a one-off, and there was no space for someone to respond to another person’s testimonial. And if it was no good, the recipient would delete it (mortifying). Unlike email (private) or forums (within a community), the testimonial widened online communication within set parameters: user to user in public, or user to an audience (friends and onlookers). A testimonial was written with the expectation that lurkers would see it.
I’ve expressed the changes in our internet experience as a move from interaction to indication, from expression to excitation. “Social media on mobile,” writes McNeil, “had a different tempo and friction as users documented in the moment, rather than retrospectively.” (Note: I’ve written often about friction here.) Mostly, how we began to behave on mobile became how we behaved on other devices, as well, because it’s how the new crop of sites to which we all gravitated were designed to be used.
McNeil herself thinks that lurking remains, just in a somewhat redefined and restrictive sense.
Friendster users found themselves liberally adopting the word “friend” to describe various relationships. Instagram and Twitter used language that accounted for the potential of a mass of strangers watching another user’s activity. Instead of friends, users “followed” users and were “followers.” Lurkers weren’t just a possibility now, but an expectation.
As suggested above, I’m not sure I agree with this. What’s been forced upon us, I think, is the inaction of consumption as opposed to the active engagement that was lurking.
“Earlier social networks and social digital environments,” writes McNeil, “benefited from smaller, segmented communities: no obligation to participate, IRL intervals between logged-in sessions, and more flexible online identities.” It was those smaller, segmented communities that drove both the sense of place and the action of lurking. What we have now is a cognitive state more akin to a coiled spring, where we consume “content” with the expectation of engagement rather than of participation.
McNeil properly defends her use of “lurking” only as a positive thing: “Lurking is listening and witnessing on the internet, rather than opining and capturing the attention of others.” More than anything else, that does capture what we’ve lost as the frictionless, placeless spaces of social media have taken over.
Richard Sennett, in Building and Dwelling, connects the question of place versus space to the matter of speed.
At a walking pace, the spotlit objects are ‘round’, in the sense that we can dwell on them, studying their contours and context, whereas at a speeding pace the single spotlit object appears neurologically as ‘flat’ – a fleeting image with no depth or context. In this sense, walking slowly produces a deeper lateral consciousness than moving fast. Lateral accounting is one of the criteria for distinguishing place – a site in which you dwell – from space – a site you move through. It establishes the basic cognitive claim for privileging cyclists over motorists – the cyclist knows more, neurologically, about the city than the motorist.
This, too, describes what happened to the internet in its “progression” from boards and rooms and walls, to social networking, to social media. We no longer dwell online; rather, we move through it.
McNeil and I both started off in the internet of places, and witnessed a sort of gamification of what it meant to be online. There are plenty of remaining spaces but few to consider “ours”, or, really, anyone’s. Most of these internet spaces are like McNeil specifically describes Facebook: “an infinite ant farm”.
It’s not that place no longer is possible on the internet, but that as commerce took over, everything else online became just as transactional. Which is not to say that commerce never should have come to the internet; it just should not have imposed its ethic and its view of human behavior upon everything else that was here.
It’s not that boards and forums and chats no longer exist, and there’s nothing stopping us from maintaining profile websites of our own, divorced from any particular platform’s designs upon us.
It’s just that the dominant ethos of the internet right now is one that maneuvers us into being users rather than people. One of the ways we get back to being people is to learn (or perhaps relearn) how it used to be—by reading accounts such as Joanne McNeil’s of our one-time lurking life.
They weren’t cows inside. They were waiting to be, but they forgot. Now they see sky, and they remember what they are.