Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Who Let The Typos Out?

I've been reading Who Let the Blogs Out? by Biz Stone. Many of you will recognize the name as someone who has contributed several articles to Blogger Knowledge.
For some reason, I always thought Biz Stone was a woman but there's a picture on the book cover and he looks like a cross between a Blue Peter presenter and a porn star. Not that the two things are mutually exclusive. Look at my old friend Peter Duncan. He's now Chief Scout, for God's sake. (That's a shameless and misleading piece of namedropping: I only met him once at a function and he put his arm round me. I didn't think quickly enough to say 'Bob a Job?').

As Biz is always busy giving advice to the rest of us, let me give him some advice. Next time you write a book, darling, for heaven's sake get a decent proof reader. Typos may be acceptable in blogs where the content is free and the odd one slips through in most books but the number in your book suggests that either you or your publisher couldn't be arsed to check it. Next time, come and see your Uncle Willie and I'm sure we can come to some mutually satisfactory arrangement. And I love it when you talk HTML.

Having said that, it's one of the better books on the subject and I think both the novice and the old hands could get something out of it. If he has a fault it's that he should have reined in some of the metaphors, analogies and sweeping generalisations. For example: "Bloggers tend to be smarter than ordinary citizens." The whole point is that bloggers are ordinary citizens. The activity of blogging won't in itself make them much smarter. If they think shit, they'll write shit. Even the most limited random survey of blogs confirms this.

I also think that talking about the 'blogging community' is as far from reality as talking about the 'gay community'. From my limited experience in the blogosphere there are thousands of separate blogging communities among the millions of blogs in existence. Even if you spent 24 hours a day online, it would be impossible to interact with more than a small circle of fellow bloggers. And, just as in the physical world, we surround ourselves with a circle of bloggers based on shared interests/political views/sexuality/writing style, etc. The difference with the 'real' world of course is that we'd take an instant dislike to some of these people if we ever met them, but I've always thought that's one of the advantages of cyberspace over 'real' life. Appearances, body language, accents, etc, don't get in the way of conversation or developing a rapport at an intellectual level.

Biz Stone is a little too fond of building huge abstract entities on the back of discoveries from anthropology, zoology and neuroscience. At one point he says "Neuroscience explains how intelligence can emerge from the chaotic free-for-all of the neurons in our heads...." Actually, it doesn't. From the several books I've read on neuroscience, it's discovered a great deal but explained almost nothing and I doubt that any neuroscientist would disagree with that statement.

On a lighter note, there's a lot of fun to be had in the Glossary. I suspect he's invented some of the terms, such as 'Clog Blog: a blog written in Dutch.' GSOH, our Biz, as they say in personal ads. (For years I thought that stood for 'Good Salary, Own Home', so thank God I've never looked for love or sex down that road).
There's also 'Blurker', a silent reader of blogs who never leaves comments. Bit silly, that one, since it comes from 'Lurker' which is usually perjorative. Whereas I know that my hundreds of blurkers only remain silent because they can't improve on perfection.
What I'm doing now is 'Meta-blogging': blogging about blogging.
This is also a 'Progblog': a left-leaning blog. And it seems that, if I become a member of the 'Blogerati' (the intelligentsia of the blogosphere), then I'm also a citizen of 'Blogistan' (the sum total of political bloggers).
Best to keep quiet about Blogistan or George Bush will send troops there to bring freedom and democracy and Tony Blair will put it on the White List which means we won't accept asylum seekers.

Note to m'learned friends: when we implied that Mr Peter Duncan had appeared in a porn film we of course meant a piece of erotica of the highest artistic integrity.

Note to American readers: Blue Peter is a British children's television programme of mind-numbing worthiness. It does not describe the male organ suffering from hypothermia.


At 3:17 PM, Blogger The absent referent said...

... either you or your publisher couldn't be arsed to check it.Is this a Midlands sort of phrase, or is in use everywhere people have arses? We Americans, of course, do not. We have (and sometimes are) asses.

Just trying to learn new things. An English relative by marriage, by the way, was always running down the Midlands and Midlands accents, until it came out one day that she grew up in Blackpool of all places. She's not allowed to pretend superiority anymore.

At 3:35 PM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

I know you like learning new things. I've read your blog.
'Arse' is the English equivalent of the American 'Ass'. The former has the advantage that it avoids confusion with the animal, although those are a bit thin on the ground in England. Sadly, in my view, 'arse' is dying out because of your cultural colonisation of our country, not least in movies and pornography. Most young people would now write 'ass', although they would usually pronounce it 'arse'.
I'm a long way from the Midlands, although not by American distances. 'Middle England' is more of an abstract concept or a state of mind. It usually signifies the 'moral majority', the Daily Mail readers, the fucking bastards who often make life here so intolerable. I like to think some may be drawn unwittingly to these pages and get a nasty shock.

At 8:22 PM, Blogger The absent referent said...

More new things. This is great fun. Sorry for being so literal. Another American inheritance, I suspect. We have mid-American, always as an adjective, midwest (or midwestern), "the heartland," and several others, all of which seem to be both geographical and to represent what you mean when you Middle England (though Middle English is something like Chaucerian English, isn't it?) I guess the closest we get is the less specificall American "mainstream" that all good things flow in, and "out of the mainstream" where the rest of us flow.

At 9:10 PM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

My Middle English isn't too hot. I'm better at Anglo-Saxon (that being a euphemism for words like fuck).
I think some of our commentators talk about 'Middle America' just so we can make the analogy.

I meant to say that Blackpool is quite a popular gay destination, though not to the same extent as Manchester or Brighton. It's brash, tawdry and kitsch in a very British way and therefore quite wonderful. But they now want to open lots of casinos there and turn it into Vegas.


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