Sunday, September 26, 2004

The Grey Lady looks at weblogs

The New York Times online is one of those registration sites, so I expect most people won't take the trouble to follow the link. I will just report that the Magazine today (September 26) has a lengthy piece about weblogs. Good writing, in depth, as befits the Times, it is worth reading. Here is a description of the "Tank", aparently some backwater area at the Republican National Convention where bloggers were holed up.

The Tank was just one small room, with theater lights on the ceiling and picture windows that looked out on the parking garage across 42nd Street. Free raw carrots and radishes sat in a cardboard box on a table by the door, alongside a pile of glazed doughnuts and all the coffee you could drink. The place was crowded. Everyone was sitting, staring at their laptops, at bridge tables or completely sacked out on couches. Markos Moulitsas, who runs the blog Daily Kos, at, was slouched in the corner of one squashed-down couch in shorts and a T-shirt, his computer on his lap, one of the keys snapped off his keyboard. He's a small guy with short brown hair who could pass for 15. Duncan Black of the blog Eschaton, who goes by the name Atrios, sat at the other end of the couch, staring out the window. On the table set up behind them, Jerome Armstrong of MyDD worked sweatily. Jesse and Ezra, whose blog is called Pandagon, were lying with two cute women in tank tops -- Ezra's girlfriend Kate and Zoe of Gadflyer -- on futon beds that had been placed on the tiny stage of the performance space. Their computers and wireless mice and some carrots and radishes and paper plates with Chinese dumplings were scattered between them. A month ago, at the Democratic convention, Zoe had accidentally spilled a big cup of 7-Up on Jesse's computer, killing it. She and Jesse now looked as if they might be dating.

Meantime, I have been working on a second weblog myself, an attempt to archive my participation in the Piccadilly Message Board at Yahoo. This project has no meaning to anyone but me, but it gives me practice learning the nuts and bolts of blogging.
On of my complaints about blogs is that they scroll the wrong way. Journals and diaries are not directional, except that today's entry presupposes that the reader knows what went on before. To that end, when a reader picks up a journal it is helpful if he already has read the preceding material. Blogs, of course, only show the latest ideas. It is up to the reader to dig backward and try to understand what might have been published earlier to fully know what that writer is trying to say.
This morning I figured out that blogs are oranized to default entry order according to dates. The default has the most recent date appearing first, with others appearing in reverse order. Think of the logic. If I want to read background I have to scroll to the end, then up to the start of the first post, then repeat the same forward and backward maneuver for every post, until I get to where I want to be. Too much jumping around.
By tinkering with the date assignments, I can cause my other blog (or any being edited) to start at the beginning, then read like a letter or book, scrolling down to the end. I will have to invent backward dates to make "new" entries appear at the "end", but the result will be more easily read. I'm looking forward to an experiment that my change the way we do blogging.

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