In a move that is sure to do wonders for my productivity here at Semantic Drift, I have decided to join the team over at Legal Geekery. You’ll never see a more wretched hive of scum and villainy, if by “scum and villainy” you mean “law students and writing” and by “wretched hive” you mean “awesome blog”. I’ll be inflicting my more law-related writing on the unsuspecting public over there. That should free up more of my headspace here to talk about what I ate for breakfast and which movie I saw over the weekend. Lucky you!
Anyway, my first post over there is a listing of the Most Evil Lawyers from film and television. When I found out that maybe people don’t like lawyers and there were unflattering portrayals of them in pop culture, I was shocked, shocked I say!
Go check it out.
Semantic Drift is a personal blog in the sense that it is just one guy (infrequently) writing about whatever’s on his mind. I operate it largely as a hobby; it this blog started as a way to keep myself writing even when I don’t have to do so in the service of my academic pursuits. At least that was the idea. I have no hopes of monetizing it and don’t give a great deal of thought to the traffic it draws. I check the numbers more out of curiosity than anything, and over its lifetime Semantic Drift has chartered a steady course of low but consistent readers.
One problem that I’ve encountered is that the blog isn’t nearly niche enough in that it doesn’t cover one area especially well. The best blogs tend to carve themselves a specialty. It gives readers a good idea what to expect when they fire up their browsers. Boing Boing is all over steampunk/tech/copyright news. Kottke covers the odd bits of coolness that pop on the liminal edges of the internet. They might stray from time and talk about other areas of interest, but for the most part you know that reading them is reading about the things in their wheelhouse.
Part of the problem is that this blog has come to largely mirror the way my mind works: Scattered, unfocused, lazy, and occasionally pretentious and unjustifiably sure of itself. I suppose it was inevitable.
I am something of a polymath in the sense that my interests run wider than they do deep. I love comic books, movies, and television but I also dabble in law, politics, and literature. That’s not to mention that I love to hear myself talk (see myself write?) about my law school experiences or the occasional bit of travel. My writing is autobiographical. All writing is. But I maintain something of a distance between my personal life as I live it and as I write about it. Despite putting up links to my social networking hotspots, I try to keep a vague anonymity to my stories. I generally obscure or leave out names and the details remain fuzzy. I am of that certain age where I get freaked out by the vulnerability of putting my life into the public space of the internet. I did not grow up tweeting my every activity or communicating with my friends largely through status updates. I was an early adopter of Myspace, but the idea of putting up personal details is unsettling and applications that reveal your real world location via geotags give me the fantods. As a result, I’m hesitant to get truly raw or go into my emotions at any given time. That is, if I actually have any. Does “hungry” count as an emotional state?
I initially entered the blogging fray with the idea that Semantic Drift would operate as a place where I could self-publish essays, sort of like my own personal newspaper column. I never intended to exhaustive descriptions of what I had for lunch or cute pictures of my nephew. I haven’t, but nor have I turned this blog into a modern day Algonquin roundtable where I create thoughtful and incisive pieces of writing into the public consciousness where they interact with the blogosphere intelligentsia and place me within a larger discourse.
No, Semantic Drift has tended to chronicle the movies I saw over the weekend or the amount of stress I go through during finals season. The end result is a blog that has no clear area of interest, full of personal stories that aren’t terribly personal. I’d say I’m still trying to find my voice, but that isn’ exactly true. I have my voice, I’m just trying to decide what to say.
1:00 PM Lorelle Van Fossen – Kick-Ass Content Connection
- We would have gotten a free book, but UPS has proven unreliable. It is possible that a certain British Boy Wizard has gummed up the shipping works.
- Problem with Blogs (according to her Israeli pal): Too many posts look like they were written in 10 minutes by bad spellers and deficient typists.
- Secret to good blogs: “Show something new.” Failing that, “Show them something old in a new way.”
- Search before you write. Try to ignore the ubiquitous and focus on the fresh. Look for what is missing on any given topic. (I like the way she speaks. She is animated without being annoying about it.)
- You are the editor and publisher. Inspect your content, and thereby find the holes.
- Lay off the feeds first thing in the morning. Look at them at night, and sleep on it. Think about before writing (unless you blog the news) because you cannot be the first out of the gate so don’t bother trying.
- Blogging in the moment causes haste, you process without thinking and your readers will do the same as they read. Calm posts lead to calm readers, and calm readers will perceive you as wise.
- “Relationship Blogging” is the new black. Comments create conversation.
- Check out Liz Strauss. She says that you blog for yourself. What are you saying? Blog for yourself and to yourself. You create a sense of home and a place unique to you that will create the same sense in the reader.
- When a blogger is faking it –
- Inaccurate Information
- Too many ads
- Linkdumping/blockquoting without your own words
- Reposted Twitter feeds (Someone in audience has been accused of having intercourse with her computer. She doesn’t deny it).
- “Dear Diary” events from boring people’s boring lives without engaging the audience. No one cares what you had for breakfast. Unless you were ancient and blogged about it on the Dead Sea Scrolls. Then, it’s gold.
- Blog for the future. Blog well. Blog for the children. (She’s reaching a bit here.) In Israel, there is a saying about “fucking the land” inserting yourself, penetrating it so that you build something for future generations.
- Stop whining about not having any commenters. Improve the conversation:
- Stop writing for your 8th grade teacher because she was probably a bitch.
- Purposely leave things unfinished to encourage readers to fill in the blanks. Incomplete thoughts allow readers to complete them. Lists of 6 or 7 encourage readers.
- Responding to every comment is crap. Trick your readers into thinking that you respond to every comment. (They are a cowardly and superstitious lot.)
- Don’t ask “What do you think?” It doesn’t work. Pretend that your reader is like an old friend or your partner in an old married couple. Make readers finish your sentences.
- Blog about what other bloggers are writing about. Link to meaningful conversations. Memes are stupid.
- circularcommunications.com a guy made an interview by blockquoting her old posts. (She finds her own ideas brilliant. Who’s to say she is wrong?)
- Comment on other blogs, preferably in an intelligent manner. This will encourage others to click back and find out just how clever you are. Comment incompletely. Help each other carry on the conversation.
- (She is now giving shout-outs to members of the audience, including a guy who gave her a ride on a motorcycle. She also talks about Israel a great deal in the manner that people who have lived in foreign countries are wont to do.)
- Be generous in your backlinking.
- Return to the spirit of the pioneer.
- Entertainment Blogs:
- “Blogotainment” (A ridiculous word that the speaker did not come up with.) Disclosure of intentions is important.
- Stick to your themes. Stay within the scope of your blog.
- Use triumvirate of spam controls:
- Akismet, spamKarma, Bad Behavior
- Join the fight against comment spam! (She’s giving a call to arms.) Kill it dead.
I’m sitting in the Swedish American Hall in San Francisco with a gaggle of other bloggers at Wordcamp 2007 . We are listening to other WordPress users talk about blogging. I got up way too early for this, but so far it’s worth the bleary eyes and the hosts were kind enough to give us free coffee. I’ll try to post my impressions throughout the day. Please bear in mind that they are my impressions, and I give them to you free of the restraints of linearity in the order that makes the most sense to me.
Regarding the Blogs vs. Journalism Panel:
- On Blogs and the Mainsteam Media
- Dvorak: Blogs being coopted by mainstream media
- Malik: Blogs see stories as ongoing processes, not finished events. Covers evolution.
- Dvorak: Digg got biggest upsurge from Paris’ Hilton’s PDA- Bloggers fall for non-news celebrity tripe as much as mainstream media
- Dvorak: Blogging = “Institutionalized Ankle-biting” -scrutinizing mainstream media, which the big dogs find annoying
- Dvorak: New York Times is designed after the Onion. Bloggers suffer from being typecast as “only a blog,” partially because of simplicity of template. If they had slicker design, people would have more faith
- Dvorak: All Bloggers are citizen journalists, even if they report on nothing but whether or not their cats can have cheezburgers.
- Malik: Bloggers should make attempts to call the subjects of stories, this
covers their ass legally
- Dvorak: Bloggers should maybe take one journalism class, look into libel law. You
can’t legally call someone a crook, but you can call them a douchebag. Is
calling someone “shady” libelous?
- Malik: Big media sites should engage smaller bloggers and engender a sense of trust with readers. NYT does a poor job of this. NYT does not use audience effectively.
- On Comments:
- Malik: Comments good, bad, and ugly show a level of engagement and involvement
- Dvorak: If your filters are worth a shit, they will do most of the moderating for you
- Malik: Like a bar, you decide what kind of bartender you want to be and what kind of joint you want to run
- Dvorak: leave some of the “You suck!” comments in, if they offer evidence for why you suck
- Dvorak: rated comments are bull (except for reviews) because they are prone to partisan smack-talking
- On Mistakes- Permanence of Articles v. Changing Copy
- Dvorak: changing the text after mistake is noticed is fun because it can make commenters look like dopes
- Malik: write the post, step away for 15 minutes then check again before posting
- On Blogging Internationally:
- Malik: mostly via mobile phone, especially in India
- Malik: Australia not good at cricket, may or may not be good at blogging. Blogging is directly correlated to availability of broadband
- There is a NYT Blog worker here and we are experiencing our own little Crossfire. The last word? Dvorak says the NYT are clueless. (Possibly douchebags, although this goes unsaid).
Taking a page from Stephen Colbert’s playbook, a guy named Hammer is trying to monkey around with the way Google works in order to make himself the first search result for World’s Smartest Man.
I am relatively certain this isn’t the same Hammer who we can’t touch, although it remains unclear whether or not he will hurt ’em, despite our entreaties for him to please don’t.
Here’s who else is playing: