Category Archives: Blog

The shrinking web

The reason the World Wide Web is called the World Wide Web is because it’s filled with interconnected links, allowing you to move from site to site.  Do you ever do that?


When I first started using the web, yes, I did click around from site to site, it was kind of neat.  Now, when I want some information I go to a search engine (typically Google, but I’ve just installed the MSN toolbar, but I digress), type in a search and go directly to the info I want.  I do very little “browsing” when on the web.  Two reasons:



  1. Many sites actively seek to keep you on their site
  2. The web is getting really, really big… wandering is not as interesting as it used to be, there’s just too much random crap.

The thing that has brought back interest in web surfing for me is the concept of the blog sphere.  A blog sphere is a subset of a subset of the web; it’s the blogs (one subset) I read (another sub set).  This narrowing of scope has made it much easier to navigate the web in an ad hoc fashion as I am no longer presented with the overwhelming scope of the web… I’m presented with the web as seen by people I think are interesting (who find interesting links, produce interesting content or are, simply, interesting).


All day today I’ve been listening to a new, free album I downloaded from Mercedes Benz (yes, the auto manufacturer).  Seeing as you don’t expect go looking for music on a car manufacturer’s site and I don’t own a Mercedes (or a Chrysler for that matter) it’s unlikely I would have happened upon this site on my own.  I found it because Paul left a comment on my blog, and he entered the URL for his blog.  Reading his blog I found the info on the Benz free music download.


Viewed as a whole, the web is full of a bunch of random crap.  Viewed through the filter of the people with whom I share a connection it becomes a whole lot more interesting.

RSS Readers

I’ve found that without an RSS reader I don’t get around to checking out my friend’s pages, so I need to get myself a reader and am now going to make a concerted effort to find one that fits my needs. Throughout this process I’ll keep you updated with my impressions of the various clients I try out. Note that I may end up finding a great client and/or get bored before I can try out every client out there, so don’t be disappointed if I peter out.


So, what are my criteria?


Must Have:



  • Offline Reading – I tend to live most of my life on my laptop and if I can’t take care of some of the reading while on an airplane or sitting in a waiting room it won’t work for me.

  • Comments API – The original post is not all of the interesting content related to a post, I need to be able to read the comments on my blog and the blogs of my friends without having to navigate to the blog and dig down to the comments page.

  • Windows application – I use Windows, if it runs on another platform it obviously won’t work for me (and please don’t start any religious Mac vs. Windows vs. Linux discussions with me, I can’t be bothered).

Like to Have:



  • Saved Searches – When part of my feed base relates to work it’s great to have a “feed” which is a view of all posts which contain a particular keyword (e.g. Hotmail).

  • Outlook Hotkeys – I use keyboard shortcuts in Outlook to speed up reading of messages. If my RSS reader were to use the same keys I’d be able to quickly mark things read, delete and forward posts without having to learn a new set of keys (which would potentially get confused with other applications).

I’ve started an initial list of readers with my main requirements: http://www.little.org/tips/rssreaders.htm. If you have an app you really like, please let me know.

Are Blogs really “all that”?

Seriously now… blogs are little more than personal home pages with built-in text editors.


People put up web pages for a number of reasons, but it’s really all about a real or perceived notion that what they have to say is interesting to other people.  Blogs are all the rage now because they’ve cut through the painful overhead of setting up and maintaining a web page.  Here’s what I say, they’re nothing new, just a better implementation.


Bill Gates is now going to get a blog.  Doesn’t he already have one right here?  Sure… it doesn’t look like a blog, but it serves the same function.  So, if Bill Gates already has a web page that provides a forum for his views and news what is he really getting?


Perhaps it’s not that simple.  Our society is continuing to evolve from a formal to informal society.  We don’t wear ties to work anymore.  We don’t like our neighbor’s kids to call us “Mr. This” or “Mrs. That”.  We prefer instant messaging over e-mail.  Are blogs just an extension of that formal to casual transition our culture is making?


A formal home page is cold and corporate.  It has pretty graphics and structured layout.  A blog tends to have fewer static pictures and the content, while structured, tends to be shorter and come in fits and bursts (My posts range from a couple lines to long boring rants no one reads… are you still here?).


So what do you think?  Are blogs really something new?

Say what?

Stop me if you’ve heard this one…



Someone who speaks three languages is…
trilingual
Someone who speaks two languages is…
bilingual
Some one who speaks one language is…
American!

Sure, an oldie but a goodie. Now in my defense I speak English, French and a little German. I don’t, however, have any idea what is being written into the comment fields of my blog (see here and here). I found a Norwegian to English translator on the web (but have since lost it… I’ll find it again I know, if only IE had some sort of history feature ;)) and had fair results. Perhaps I should try Swedish or Finnish… I’d really love to know what this person has taken the time to write. Anyone speak… well… whatever?

Wow, you really do think highly of yourself.

Blogging seems to be seeping deeper and deeper into our culture.  Aditya posted a link to a great NYT article on blogging.


Here’s the quote that got me thinking:



And while there are exceptions, many journal writers exhibit a surprising lack of curiosity about the journals of true strangers. They’re too busy writing posts to browse.


Blogging is really very self-serving (except in my case, because I’m special).  People have a strong need for validation, they want to know they are liked, respected, feared, or whatever resonates best with their psyche.  When you think of blogging as simply people looking for acceptance, is there any surprise that high school kids gravitate to it?


No, I don’t think it’s wrong to seek validation, I think it’s natural.  I wish more people recognized the want for validation as a basic human need.  You want to experiment with validation? 


Fun with validation:
People will be giving you information all day long, it’s unavoidable.  Next time you get information from someone you have two choices.  You can say either:
a.  “Yeah, I knew that”
       or
b.  “Cool!”


Try it out, watch their face.  So, what did you learn? 


Choosing option “a” is really an attempt to usurp validation from the other person.  Sure, you’ve made it clear you already have the information, have you made them respect you?  If you short circuit their request for validation they are not going to be happy, in fact, they will be so distracted by you being a “know-it-all” that you will not get any benefit.  With choice “a” you both loose.


Choose “b” and you you’ll get a much better response from the other person.  Will they think less of you?  Unlikely.  Will you feel worse?  You already know you knew the information, who cares if the other person knows you knew?  Get over yourself.


Validation isn’t limited to sharing knowledge, it covers every aspect of the way people communicate.  When someone shows you their new camera they really don’t want to know it was the wrong purchase, they want to hear “cool!”  There’s no point in telling them they paid too much, who wins?


Okay Reeves, this sounds very touchy-feely… what’s in it for me?  Validation, of course.  If people feel validated when they talk to you, they will like you.  People who like you will do stuff for you.  Pretty simple, huh? 


Now go tell all your friends to read my blog because I’m really really cool and I know stuff.