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Friday, June 27, 2003  


*When the 'personal' isn't

What is personal blogging? I use the term to mean blogging that focuses on minutiae about the person writing the blog. That is to be distinguished from the allusions to personal life that are part of any writer's oeuvre. I won't go so far as to say 'the personal is political,' being an '80s person, but the maxim is close to the truth. One simply cannot pare blog entries of all personal references. Nor do I believe doing so would be a good idea. Some personal detail needs to be present if the writer hopes to connect with the reader. The human mind functions that way.

And, no, I am not retreating from my preference for blog entries that are about more than the personal. Frankly, most of our personal lives are boring. If you are going to impose on my attention, I believe I deserve to learn something about a field I don't already know about or gain some insight from a perspective I would not have arrived at on my own. I owe readers exactly the same thing.

So, how can an entry about dating, for example, not be fully a personal blog entry? Because dating is too general a topic for it to apply to only me or you if it is discussed in a general sense. The phenomenon of the middle-aged dater, discussed in an entry earlier this week, is one of the most intriguing demographic issues of our times. Later ages at marriage and a high rate of divorce make it a hallmark of contemporary life. Discussion of typical pitfalls of dating is not personal per se. However, such material could be made very personal. If one opted to describe the intimate details of a date (assuming there were any) that would be a truly personal entry because it would focus on the individual's experience, not the generalities of dating.

*The blog as newspaper

Frank G. would like to know if blogs can substitute for the traditional weekly newspaper in small towns that no longer have one.

I've worked for two small town newspapers as a reporter. As mundane and sometimes goofy as the news can be, it is very important to those who live there.

I wonder if there are any dedicated bloggers out there who've made a concerted effort to create the equivalent of a "newspaper of record" for their municipality online. And if not, how do we encourage movement in this direction?

The content model is straightforward. You need town council coverage, a police blotter and community listings -- births, deaths, engagements and wedddings, national honor society rolls, military enlistments and assignments, fire hall bingo and bean supper announcements.

Kudos to Frank for coming up with a thoughtful suggestion. However, my thoughts in regard to the idea are skeptical.

Nah. Blogs are too opinion-oriented. People need to get as objective information as possible. Opinions should come second or third. Besides, if they already have computers and Internet access, they can read the paper from the closest city.

That zeroes in on the single most frustrating thing I find in reading blogs. Few bloggers grasp the difference between fact and opinion, something I had drilled into me in j-school. Not only that, but some of them will utterly freak out if one says their opinions are just that. For example, there is a movement in Bloggersville to declare autism syndrome illnesses not illnesses, because a few folks with autism in the family want it that way. Of course, the facts are the exact opposite. But, why let that get in the way? Because facts matter. Nor can I see any way that denying the facts will help people with the conditions at issue.

I suspect a blog as newspaper would have the fact/opinion problem on a grand scale. If the blogger(s) own dogs then their 'right' to have the run of the town leash free would be offered as fact, not opinion. (I've seen that done by dogowners in Portland, who have a long history of fouling public parks with canine feces.) If the blogger(s) is anti-fluoride, then fluoridization of drinking water would be described as a pinko plot. If he or she is a vegetarian, rants about the evils of eating meat would be offered as if they have a more solid basis in science than they do. Since I have next to no faith in most bloggers ability to distinguish opinion from fact, I have no choice but to be wary of the blog as newspaper idea.

Of course, I could be wrong. If you can think of convincing reasons why the idea might work, let me know.

*Chronicle Lite v. Blogger New

My API client for Blogger,Chronicle Lite v.1.2, is sort of working today. By sort of, I mean I can type into it and use its shortcuts. It hasn't been in postable condition for more than a week. However, the last couple days were the worst because it would not open at all. I laboriously typed every letter and symbol for those entries by hand. Chronicle seems to be half-way back because Mac-a-ro-nies has been transfered to Blogger New. For bloggers who haven't encountered it yet, that means the 'Dano' interface comes up instead of the traditional one. I will have more to say about aspects of the transition after I have analyzed it. For now, my main interest is in getting either Chronicle or some other Mac-compatible API client to work with Blogger New. So far, attempts to post lead to the dreaded "NullPointerException."

2:55 AM