Dave The Web Guy

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Yes, Your Blog Can be Censored, But...

01/02/2022

I happened upon:

Snippet from Reddit forum.

Reddit discussion.

Yes, a web hosting provider can "censor" you as much as Twitter, Facebook, or any other social media forum might.  A web hosting provider might decide to take you offline at any time.  So why do I offer up "running your own blog" and "hosting your own site", like yours truly, as some sort of panacea for avoiding it?

It's because it's more a question of resiliency and the culture of web hosting providers.  Twitter and Facebook have decided to become moderators.  Chances are your web hosting provider of choice, such as GoDaddy, has not.

Twitter and Facebook have hired teams of people looking for things to act against.  A wise move considering that the top energy of these places involves people pumping in ground-level content, at what must be millions of interactions per minute. 

On the other hand, a crank like me pushing out a blog post maybe once every few weeks, and then having that blog post generate enough interest to push people over the friction barrier to comment back, hardly merits a single intern doing the same.

But of course there are "high velocity" personal blogs out there, so even if there is a temptation to monitor activity with an eye to zap any hint of non-conformity, the impulse goes against the early-established ethos of web hosting which is something along the lines of "we just give you the space to rant, the consequences are on you".

Those dynamics do not make for bulletproof protection of course, which is the basis for my overall philosophy that no forum, analog or digital, is ever going to be completely free of the risk.  In fact the Wikipedia article for internet censorship currently breaks down 7 control points that can be exploited in a way that either knocks you offline completely or severely diminishes your reach and influence.

But look:  Having your own hosted blog or website drops you much farther away from the frontline debate and all of its component triggers.  You are protected much better in cases where you are making a strong statement with perhaps ambiguous clauses, than you are on social media where there is less tolerance for either, particularly in the accumulation dimension.

The snippet from a Reddit thread above about Marjorie Greene's Twitter account being suspended over Covid misinformation posts, which prompted me to make this entry, is ironically itself a reminder why you can't even rely on the conduits of discussion on these matters to take place.  If you visit the thread now, you'll find that it has been locked by the moderators.

So yeah, if you want greater resilience against censorship, and certainly more direct control, you need to get back to blogging and web hosting.



  By Dave for Personal Blog.

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Great Blogs - The Geek Stuff

05/16/2021

I like to think that I patronize other blogs because I'm engaged by good writing and insight.  But that's not really true.  Sometimes I'm only moderately engaged or interested but I stay in the audience because I like the producer's approach and style insofar as the presentation goes.  If they're doing all the things right such as tastefully embedding non-obtrusive ads or even better not advertising at all, and take pains to keep the visual balanced, I am enamored enough to keep coming back.  

I guess I owe this dynamic more to a love of the craft and a hope that people will re-discover HTTP as a valid method of exchanging information as authors of their own publishing world.

My last incarnation of this blog included a section of blogs that struck me with this sort of happiness, and I am going to restore it.  Probably before I leave for the gym today.   I often find it hard to articulate why I think a blog is a good blog but by maintaining such an index here, I can at least present the pattern, which is probably more telling.

For the second though, here is The Geek Stuff.  You see everything as it should be in blogging world.

I should disclaim that I run an ad blocker so my perspective of a "clean presenting" blog is somewhat mitigated.   I've had to acquiesce to the fact that even if a blog producer still uses ads, they remain exceptional if they don't challenge the blocker or beg to be "unblocked".  It's just the way it is. :(



  By Dave for Personal Blog.

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Have Something to Say

05/08/2021

The new first rules of blogging are to be sure to have something to say.  That means, establish that your message has these attributes:

  • Conviction/Passion 
  • Facts, Good Data (even if an opinion blog - support your position!)
  • Unique Perspective

Mind you, not having those qualifiers does not mean that your viewpoint or information is worthless in the grand scheme of things;  just that it may not contribute to the digital sphere.

Today's web is not the 2002 web.  

Let me explain.  Stream of conscious blogging centering around the events of your day or weigh-in in on national economic policy was and has "tried and died".  It died because millions of people deciding to give themselves the daily "homework" of self-reporting their day to an electronic diary could only end the way that it clearly did.  Until we're all forced to live our days hiding in attics, most of what we experience is mundane and in need of serious primping in order to properly storify.  It takes serious work, and that's after the work of maintaining the blog engine itself.

It's not that people lost the impulse to digitally share themselves.  As blogging limped through its lifecycle, services like MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter showed up to the party.  And they offered ways, powerful and easy ways, to satiate this impulse.  Social media trimmed down the expectation for long form presentation into blurbs -- or -- quite literally "Tweets", if you will. 

Sure, it's all something you could be forgiven for, for still calling it "blogging", but these expression conduits are more in the moment and thus held to less an integral intellectual or grammatical standard.  My label for this kind of online writing is "bullet prose form" and in 2021 it's about the only thing people posting online at all anymore, know.

Personally, I am sure that I discounted how things would turn out way back before all this noise and sludge took over online.  I just assumed everyone's lives were fascinating if articulated and storified properly and that blogging would never die accordingly.  But the barrier to online publishing is now too low and the noise too great.  If you have a blog and bother to mention it, people have zero curiosity, sans other agendas, for checking it out. 

The attributes I list above will beat the assumptions and leave people interested in what you have to say, if you are consistent about applying them.  If it means you say things less often because the criteria just isn't there, that's fine.  Your social media blurbs, wherever you are making them, are probably ideal for the point.

My own custom engine, Battle Blog, includes a feature that actually accounts for posting lulls -- de-stigma-fying lulls in the process.  If you don't post in 10 days, no problem, the blog engine replaces the front page which normally contains your stream of blog postings, with a kind note that you are living life and building up to your next post.  It then offers to show you the blog anyway and gives other options to explore.  So far as I know, my clunky homebrew engine is the only blogging platform that does this, although I prodded the real blog engine makers to follow suit.

Someone landing on this text might wonder if as a whole my personal blog meets any of these criteria on a consistent basis.  Look it over, does it seem to?  Probably not.  But that's because my motivations have less to do with building an audience and more to do with keeping the craft alive personally and as a whole.  It's a living experiment in online publishing and as all experiments go may or may not prove to be anything of tangible value in the end.  Put another way, even though I do have other blogs and online efforts I do in fact care about, here at this blog, I may not add anything to the digital sphere in this specific effort and that doesn't bother me. 



  By Dave for Personal Blog.

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The Importance of the Digestible Blog

04/09/2021

One of the most energetic blogs on today's web is something I hold as a beloved example of what blogging should be.  Streetsblog USA has all this going for it:

  • It is a grass-roots publishing effort (or at least appears to be)
  • It covers transportation, and advocates car-free living - it aligns with my interests
  • It doesn't muck up its desktop presentation (too much)
  • It's updated regularly 
  • It has RSS available

And yet, I don't read it.  Or at least most of it.

I subscribe to its RSS feed but inevitably when I land on its daily-refreshed article list in my RSS reader, I only pick through but a few of the articles at most, skimming for the gist, then moving on to someone else's content.  

So, what's happening here?  What is the seemingly perfect blog in my eyes doing wrong such that while I certainly appreciate and advocate its content, I keep it outside of my thorough field of daily online consumption?

We're supposed to respect blogs that build up their content engine as aggressively as Streetsblog USA.  Even more so when that volume of output doesn't result in the diluting of the substance of that content, again as we can observe of Streetsblog USA.  

Something just doesn't jive.  I should really be eating Streetsblog USA up.

After some mulling I came to realize that, for a blog, it actually publishes too much for the moniker of "blog"

It's a firehose, and that's a problem.  It seems to produce at least three articles a day, and when you factor in a missed day or two of purusing the RSS reader, this results in a wall of articles to wade through.

You might think I'm (Pea) Nuts

Pretend that it's 1975.  You subscribe to a newspaper and inside the folds of its many sections back then, you open up to the daily funnies and look for your favorite strip.  Peanuts by Charles M. Schultz was my favorite as a kid, so we'll pick that strip for this example.

What if on that funnies page there were not just one clean four-panel row of a Peanuts gag, but, say, there were 30 of them.  30 rows of different Peanuts strips taking up virtually the entire page. 

You might read the first two before realizing that there isn't enough coffee in your cup to read all 30 separate cartoon strips of the same title, not to mention consume your other favorite strips and newspaper sections.  I mean, you do have to be at work in an hour.

So, it's a great cartoon strip and you love it -- but even though you mechanically have all the capability in the world to indulge it, you simply don't have the luxury of that much time to do so.  You didn't wake up looking to read a book.  And that means you don't read most of what you love.

That would be comic strip fail.  And in the same way, it's blog fail for publishing entities who crank out articles every 5 minutes.  I should pause to mention it's not as if Streetsblog USA is the only example.

So, now, as far as I am concerned, blogs that do this, worthy as they are as conduits of information and viewpoints for niche subjects, are not actually consumable as blogs.  They can be something else, "news sites" maybe, "repositories of data and commentary" about a topic, perhaps; but not a blog as long as we add the additional criterion for blogs as something that produces pointed content that can be digested in a single breezy pass.  This pacing attribute turns out to be crucial.

My thinking here is certainly open to critique because of its subjective assertion.  Maybe some people don't pan a list of blogs each day.  Maybe some people are hardwired to consume more, faster, and might feel cheated not having a buffet of articles waiting for them each morning. 

Many blogs are deemed failures when their producers under-produce and "wane away".  But not much attention is given to the other extreme.  To me, the blogging form feels most right when, whether weak or strong, a single impression is left before turning the page of a day to consume the next.



  By Dave for Personal Blog.

blogging

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Earl Pin Astrology Launches

09/20/2020

The first real blog (aside from my personal blog, this one, which serves as the development iteration) to use Battle Blog 3.0 is Earl Pin Astrology

Earl Pin Astrology Logo

I use it to talk about astrological topics which is a subject I've been interested in for years though, despite so, this interest has been rather dormant since about the time I was 20-something or so when chart analysis and interpretation were a daily thing for me.  

Since about that time I quietly kept up on interesting articles and practices but didn't overtly carry on about it so much or offer to chart anyone other than the occasional love interest or family member.

My interest renewed in light of the apparent cultural resurgence in astrology, making it relevant again.  At 50+ now, I find myself in social circles with an iota of something to say with any depth that actually impresses people when the topic comes up.  Who'd have figured? 

I am proud to marry my interest in blogging and astrology to produce the first real Battle Blog 3.0 presentation.  Look it over, register, and also consider subscribing to the YouTube channel which I plan to use to address any commentary that arises from the discussion.



  By Dave for Personal Blog.

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Blogging Only Works, As Work

06/27/2020

As you know, I'm in the build phase of this blogging engine.  Though it looks completely functional there are major functions still a work in progress.  One of those is the archiving system.

To prep up with real content in which to actually test archiving with, and to keep up with a strategy of reflecting all of my online expressions synchronized between Twitter, Facebook, and this blog, I cross-posted most of my Facebook posts of recent months here.

The maneuver did help fill the tank for archive work, but I was surprised at what all that Facebook-ish inspired content wound up doing to the blog as a quality production stream.  Rather than give the audience a predictable rhythm of emotion and topic as they read through the posts, the disjointed and wayward thought processes between them were more likely to give them a headache.  Now, this blog has the production quality of bathroom graffiti.  What happened?

To understand, one has to compare how content as it is drip-dropped into a (personal) Facebook feed versus how it is dropped (more like a brick than a drip) onto a blog like this one.

Facebook posts are spurred by the moment, and like Twitter, are meant to draw your impulsive remarks and shares as captures of the second.  The resulting string of sentiments is an enjoyable cacophony of your mundane thoughts within a sophisticated framework where everyone is either doing, or at least knows that they can do, the same thing.  Whether they do or not, the random screeds and shares as disconnected intellectual matter are tolerated and appreciated thanks to compositional empathy.  Everyone gets that you might write about Aunt Maddie's tasteful potatoes in one post, then the impact of Trump's trade policies with China in the next.  

That empathy doesn't exist with longer form platforms, such as a blog.  Forget about the fact that a blog is not supposed to capture and cast impulsive thoughts in the first place, people can't relate to the process of feeding one as they do on a universal platform like Facebook.  Loosely they understand that, well, first you have to build or customize a blog, then you have to log into it, then you have to "build a post".  They imagine each post to be, what it is, which is work

So, when a reader encounters spotty point-making and flippant ideas one by one on a blog, as my Facebook dump renders, it looks and sounds bad.  It's just uncomfortable.

Hence, a consistent blog expression strategy will never be fulfilled by merely directly grafting content from your social media channels to your blog.  The blog is too much of a production channel, and the content that needs to be on display there needs to be a reflection of focus and work.  It has a voice to maintain, and it probably has a broader thesis to which each and every entry must be connected to.



  By Dave for Personal Blog.

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