Dave Winer said that we can build a better news network (please read his post for exactly what he said).
The problem is that most people are just listening to figure out when it’s there turn to talk. They aren’t paying any attention to the substance of what the other person is saying. I think the abbreviation tl;dr is indicative of how that same principle translates into the print medium. I have lost all confidence in the news organizations in this (or any other) country. I feel less informed about the world than I ever was before the digital revolution. I can talk to someone on the other side of the world individual to individual but when the media is involved it all boils down to who stands to gain financially and who has paid whom the most to get their spin broadcast. I would like to see the internet give rise to a better news system as you advocate. What can we (users and developers alike) do to help bring this to life?
After struggling with getting links to this blog posted to Facebook and Twitter (manually, I am having trouble getting my process down to use Radio3), I discovered that Dave had replied to my comment:
Right now, the answer is simply to post using a tool like Radio3, which can post to the corporate networks as well as to the open Internet. So we get a chance to use your links to bootstrap a new open network. You sacrifice nothing, your posts still go to your current subscribers. That’s the outline of the plan.
I haven’t got Radio3 set up to post to Facebook through my corporate firewall so I am still figuring out the process to get this to work while I’m at work. Perhaps I should just refrain from posting while I’m at work. Any way, thanks for the response, Dave.
I have a blog called Occasional Comment. I am attempting to set up a facility to automatically cross post links to my blog posts to my Facebook account. This is a test of that capability.
I just updated WordPress and I want to be sure that I can post from Fargo.
I’ve been thinking a lot about writing lately. I’ve read some advice that various writers, in particular Neil Gaiman, give to aspiring writers. As I thought about it I came to some realizations.
First, writing is difficult. If it were easy, everyone would do it. The difficult part is thinking. Everyone has random thoughts. They are interesting to them but not necessarily to anyone else. The trick is to think about things that other people find interesting.
Many writers advise to write about things that you feel passionate about. It seems that this is the best way to write things that interest other people.
Another common piece of advice is to write a lot. And then write some more. This is very good advice. The only way that you learn to do something is to practice doing it.
One thing that I read recently surprised me. The author said that he doesn’t recommend that his students “write what they know”. He goes on to explain that when they try to follow that advice novice writers tend to report their experiences as they happened instead of exploring the infinite possibilities of what might have been. A work of fiction is an exploration of an imaginary place inhabited by imaginary characters, not a recapitulation of reality.
So much for capturing some of the advise about writing that I have collected and thought about recently. It only took me three days to wrap this post up.
Dave Winer wrote a piece about a lesson that he learned from listening to his users. In it, he talked about how he saw his product, Fargo as an outliner and Mathew Ingram wrote an article calling it a blogging tool.
I think what we have here is a case of two different concepts of blogging. I think that blogging is more about the content than the medium. A blogger could write a blog with a text editor in raw html and post it to his site using ftp.
A different concept of blogging is that it is anything that is published in a blogging framework like WordPress or Blogger.com. I have seen more than a few WordPress sites that were anything but a blog. It turns out that the templating facilities of blog publishing tools make building a more conventional site easier too.
An outliner is not synonymous with a blogging tool. It is like a word processor. It can be used for a lot of things. The fact that it can be hooked up to a blogging API is incidental to it’s primary identity as an idea processor. As Dave points out in the “What is Fargo?” Document section What outliners are used for, it can be used for:
- 1. Notetaking.
- 2. Organizing projects.
- 3. Course outlines.
- 4. Bulleted lists.
- 5. Narrating your work.
- 6. Thinking.
- 7. Presentations.
- 8. Brainstorming.
- 9. Writing.
- 10. Design.
- 11. Programming.
- 12. Specifications.
I think that what often happens is that someone sees that Dave has come out with a product, associates Dave with blogging, and naturally assumes that the intent of the product is as a blogging tool. I think it is fair to say that is one of the uses of Fargo, just not the only one.
I must acknowledge that Dave learned one important thing from Mathew. You’ve got to listen to your users. They are the ultimate authorities on what your product is good for. We have heard a lot of interesting ideas that people are using Fargo for in the Fargo Community Forum.
I suspect he already knew it, as he has been advocating for users for the entire time I have been reading his blog — some fifteen or twenty years now.
We anthropomorphize our pets a lot but I’ve got to say that they have taken on a lot of our human characteristics by hanging out with us. I’m not saying that they haven’t retained their underlying animal nature. A dog is going to roll in stuff that smells bad. A cat is going to pounce on little scurrying things. But when my dog hears me talk about cooking steak and gets excited there is true understanding, not conditioned response. She may not be as good at abstract reasoning as I am but she has got common sense.
On the other side of that coin, there are things that we humans do that are outside of rational thought. We try to tell ourselves that we intend to do them but the entire field of stage illusion is based on the fact that our attention is very easy to misdirect. It is not something that we consciously control. It is part of our fundamental mental make up.
I think our domestic animals are capable of genuine affection for us. I sometimes wonder if there isn’t a kind of Stockholm effect going on but I have long since dismissed that notion. While intelligent and affectionate our furry friends are also naive. They are unaware of dangers, especially in our urban world. That’s why we have to take the responsibility to protect them. Although sometimes, they in turn protect us.
That’s all I can manage tonight. I’m making a list of ideas for posts. I’d love to hear from anyone that is reading this blog. If you have any ideas drop me a line at gmail. My account is jkelliemiller.
I haven’t kept my commitment to post to Occasional Comment every day. It is difficult to work all day, do any errands that need doing, come home, eat dinner and relax for a few minutes, exercise, and post a blog post every day. I am not making excuses though, just listing some of the challenges that I haven’t managed to conquer yet.
I’m not giving up though. I will find time to blog more regularly. Determination and stubbornness are qualities that will insure my success. It’s not enough to post just to be posting. Posts should be worth reading. My blog should eventually reflect my personality.
Another obstacle to writing every day is the pressure of finding an interesting topic. A way to overcome that pressure is to create a list of potential topics to draw from. My experience with this approach has shown that if you have such a list, the pressure to come up with a topic is alleviated and you often think of topics that aren’t even on the list.
Thinking is hard, especially when you don’t have a purpose in mind. You can’t think about generalities. At some level you have to ground the abstractions that you are thinking about in concrete realities. Before you can come up with profound abstractions, you first have to examine several specific examples that you extract the generalities from. Then, you need to test the validity of your abstraction by finding or creating another example or examples that adheres to the same pattern.
When I sit down to write a blog post, I have an idea of the type of piece that I want to write. I’ve written several examples that I am pleased with. I have written a number of posts that I am less pleased with. The larger the population of blog posts that I write, the better the chance that I can figure out what makes a good blog post and so, my writing will get better, at least from the point of view of my personal taste in blog posts.
This is a motivating factor for me to write more blog posts. I am attempting to write a blog post a day. What are my criteria for good blog posts? I don’t know exactly and I’m sure the criteria will be refined by experience.
One prime criteria is cohesion. A blog post should be about one topic, not just a hodge podge of thoughts that run through my head. I write 750 words every morning as part of an exercise inspired by Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. Such free form writing is great for an exercise but doesn’t produce my idea of a good blog post.
Another important criteria is engagement. If you don’t capture and hold the interest of an audience, you’re not blogging, you’re pontificating. I have a long way to go to meet this criteria.
I will occasionally revisit my criteria for a good blog in these pages. I hope to understand better what constitutes a good blog and improve this blog through that understanding.