Tag Archives: weblogs

Blogs Designed Like Magazines

With the blogs of Dustin Curtis, Gregory Wood and Jason Santa Maria as examples (each worthy of your time, by the way), Smashing Magazine looks at blogs designed like magazines,* discussing what these ‘blogazines’ mean for the future of boring blog posts.

Dustin Curtis had this to say on the drawbacks of designing like this on the web:

The biggest disadvantage is that CSS and HTML are terrible technologies that weren’t designed for page layout. They were designed for structured content presentation, like for a newspaper, where all the elements throughout the website are the same and are re-used. But I’m trying to make a magazine, where the content and presentation are inextricably mixed and unique.

* A blog where each post is unique in terms of design and presentation, and where the content and design are one and the same.

via @mocost

Blogs as Public Billboards

First seen over at Raul Gutierrez’ Heading East, this Tim Berners-Lee quote on the role of the home page from 1996 or so seems to come from an interview with Rohit Khare and DC Denison:

With all respect, the personal home page is not a private expression; it’s a public billboard that people work on to say what they’re interested in. That’s not as interesting to me as people using it in their private lives. It’s exhibitionism, if you like. Or self-expression. It’s openness, and it’s great in a way, it’s people letting the community into their homes. But it’s not really their home. They may call it a home page, but it’s more like the gnome in somebody’s front yard than the home itself. People don’t have the tools for using the Web for their homes, or for organizing their private lives; they don’t really put their scrapbooks on the Web. They don’t have family Webs. There are many distributed families nowadays, especially in the high-tech fields, so it would be quite reasonable to do that, yet I don’t know of any. One reason is that most people don’t have the ability to publish with restricted access.

It’s an interesting, yet now fairly obvious idea: blogs as signalling.

Reporting and the Internet

It seems you can’t spend five minutes on the Internet without coming across an opinion piece on the end of traditional media or an article riffing on the age of the blog. I’ve so far refrained from noting (m)any of these articles, mainly because the argument is becoming stale and the articles are so widespread.

Michael Massing‘s latest for The New York Review of Books is one worth your time, however: it’s a balanced, detailed view on the new landscape of reporting—that of a symbiosis between blogs, online media outlets, and traditional national and international newspapers. (It also serves as a good resource to some of the best blogs around.)

This, in response to David Simon (he of Baltimore Sun and The Wire fame) likening the Internet to a parasite “slowly killing the host”:

This image of the Internet as parasite has some foundation. Without the vital news-gathering performed by established institutions, many Web sites would sputter and die. In their sweep and scorn, however, such statements seem as outdated as they are defensive. Over the past few months alone, a remarkable amount of original, exciting, and creative (if also chaotic and maddening) material has appeared on the Internet. The practice of journalism, far from being leeched by the Web, is being reinvented there, with a variety of fascinating experiments in the gathering, presentation, and delivery of news.

Taming White House Trolls

When the Obama administration embraced blogging, sans commenting, on the White House website there were a number of detractors saying that Obama had retreated from his campaign promise of providing a site enabling public discussions. The reasons why are fairly obvious, but Clive Thompson looks at how the WhiteHouse.gov blog could enable commenting and successfully/safely control trolls (the original link is currently 404. Google’s cache of the post is up).

If the White House were to use humans to filter posts, it could get into some dicey political situations. If it were to outright ban them, it could draw First Amendment lawsuits. So the genius of modern troll-taming techniques—leaving trollery intact, but mitigating its impact—neatly fits the bill.

The World of Web Trolling

The New York Times goes inside the world of online trolls, who “use the Internet to harass, humiliate and torment strangers”.

[…] Even if we had the resources to aggressively prosecute trolls, would we want to? Are we ready for an Internet where law enforcement keeps watch over every vituperative blog and backbiting comments section, ready to spring at the first hint of violence? Probably not. All vigorous debates shade into trolling at the perimeter; it is next to impossible to excise the trolling without snuffing out the debate.

If we can’t prosecute the trolling out of online anonymity, might there be some way to mitigate it with technology? [One possible] answer is persistent pseudonymity, a system of nicknames that stay the same across multiple sites. This could reduce anonymity’s excesses while preserving its benefits for whistle-blowers and overseas dissenters. Ultimately, as Fortuny suggests, trolling will stop only when its audience stops taking trolls seriously. “People know to be deeply skeptical of what they read on the front of a supermarket tabloid,” says Dan Gillmor, who directs the Center for Citizen Media. “It should be even more so with anonymous comments. They shouldn’t start off with a credibility rating of, say, 0. It should be more like negative-30.”

Of course, none of these methods will be fail-safe as long as individuals like Fortuny construe human welfare the way they do. As we discussed the epilepsy hack, I asked Fortuny whether a person is obliged to give food to a starving stranger. No, Fortuny argued; no one is entitled to our sympathy or empathy. We can choose to give or withhold them as we see fit. “I can’t push you into the fire,” he explained, “but I can look at you while you’re burning in the fire and not be required to help.” Weeks later, after talking to his friend Zach, Fortuny began considering the deeper emotional forces that drove him to troll. The theory of the green hair, he said, “allows me to find people who do stupid things and turn them around. Zach asked if I thought I could turn my parents around. I almost broke down. The idea of them learning from their mistakes and becoming people that I could actually be proud of… it was overwhelming.” He continued: “It’s not that I do this because I hate them. I do this because I’m trying to save them.”

via Mind Hacks