bestkungfu weblog

Toward a new blogging environment

Filed in: blogging, projects, Web, Mon, Jan 12 2004 00:52 PT

Anyone who has read me in the last year or so knows that I’m working on a blogging application named Logme. (Which is likely be renamed to Entropy. Anybody got a problem with that?) I hope to have Entropy working by May, when I hope to return to Boston and demonstrate it for the Harvard blogger crowd.

In a recent blog entry, I cited Don Box in pointing out why I wrote all my own stuff instead of using one of the numerous existing blogging apps. What I’m looking to do in Entropy is to create a testbed for some theories I have about the propagation of blogging throughout the Internet. Namely:

  • It’s too hard to set up your own blog.
  • Bloggers deserve ultimate control over their raw content and how it is presented.
  • The content of blogs is affected by the facilities and limitations of users’ blogging apps and servers.
  • The power laws cited by Clay Shirky, in combination with the distributed nature of blogs, creates a “might makes right” scenario in which high-traffic bloggers direct attention to and deflect attention from sources.
  • The distributed nature of blogs tends to stifle one-to-one interactions between bloggers, creating complex and hard-to-follow threads of discussion.
  • If given a project I don’t hate, I’m not the worst programmer ever.

It should be noted that the current implementation merely proves that it’s too hard to set up one’s own blog, largely because of its dependence on Python, a language most have never heard of. So I’ll be tackling that in a later version or implementation.

The bit on one-to-one interaction triggered a chat between me and Jay McCarthy. Jay and I have been going back and forth, first on decorum, then blogging, then politics. We’ve created a thread of discussion between our blogs which is reasonably hard to track even for the participants, and tedious to the extent of frustration for anyone who has been following.

We have mechanisms which approximate a solution: namely, Trackback and Pingback. However, to date, these technologies are used only for a one-way reference. There is no way to follow extended threads as they hop from blog to blog or subject to subject, except manually. This is not a monstrous problem at this point because 99% of Trackbacks are one-way. But must that always be the case?

Why not use these inter-blog transactions for something that’s a little more persistent? What if we created a system where discussions can happen in common space, and see both (or all) of the relevant blogs benefit from the traffic?

A Trackback spidering app might work. That’s just an idea I’ll float without comment. But I think there’s got to be a way that can be fleshed out which involves applying a URI to the thread, and gathers complete messages to create a permanent archive of the discussion at hand. And one that keeps the feel of things familiar to both bloggers and the audience. My stuff is still my stuff, and I want to feel some degree of control, if not ownership, of what I’ve written. Ideally, though, I want to float my idea, in my chosen style and format, into a common discussion, in the structure of a typical message board. I still want to keep my message intact, and to use the features blogging affords me: a blank slate, not limited by political or technical barriers, to make my pitch; and a permanently archivable reference to my work. The more we can do in this space, and the more open we can make this to the average blogger, the more we have to share with readers and each other.

I think this is worth being solved, so we as bloggers and readers aren’t limited to a short-term history when long-term archives could help us gather and understand our thoughts. I think this would help bloggers in a number of areas where collaborations and disputes aren’t necessarily helped by two blogs talking to (or past) one another.

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