Sunday, November 30, 2003

Blogging from Iraq, a US soldier

One of the great things about blogging is that you get to see things from different perspectives. If you rely solely on the media for your news, you're getting the usual bias. The blogs by Iraqis are interesting. Some usually make our Top Ten list each week. Here is an interesting blog by a U.S. serviceman in Iraq. Unfortunately, some of his most recent blogs have been from the hospital.

"One of the reasons that I continued writing in this journal for so long, was to let people know what it was really like for alot of the soldiers in Baghdad. I tried to give a perspective beyond what we hear about in the media. In these days where you can buy an ANARCHY T-shirt or a Che-Guevara watch at the mall, it's so easy to gt swept up in hte image of a government run by fat old men trying to line their coffers with gold, greasing their oil pumps with blood. It's easy to think that Iraq is just a piece of land that a Jingoistic Presidential Prince wants to hold onto regardless of the human costs.

I hated the way this war started. It took me along time to come to terms with my role as a soldier in Iraq, but with time, I came to realize that although the method was flawed, the result was freedom for the poeple of Iraq for the first time in 30 years. It's been slow going but we've made great strides in getting the country back on it's feet and no one can deny that the Iraqi people will be better off now than they were under Saddam."

Friday, November 28, 2003

Wisdom from a blog

Here's a nice bit of wisdom that is really appropriate for the Christmas season. It comes to us from the Islam 4 Real blog:

"Look to what you don't have and you'll never be happy, but look towards what could be taken away, and you'll be satisfied"

Library blogs

There are an amazing number of library blogs around the world. The fact that two library-related blogs are in our Top Ten list goes to show how active librarians are in the blogging world and how popular library blogs can be (they often have very high Google rankings).

If you're interested in library blogs, Library Weblogs is a listing of library blogs around the world with RSS feeds.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Put a song in your blog

Here's something fun. A site that takes your printed words and converts them to a song made up of "cuts" from famous singers for each word. You can then email the song or place it in a blog. Hard to explain, so try it yourself here.

Blogging defamation

On the downside of blogging, there is always the possibility of being sued. It is easy to tell a friend something like "I think Joe Smith has links to terrorist money laundering." Now, if you put that same thought in a blog and push the "Publish" button, you now have what is literally called in the legal world "publishing" which is a necessary element of defamation.

There is an interesting article in Tech Central Station about the subject of blogging and the potential for liability in the blogging world. In a further twist on the exposure bloggers may have for what they say, how about this: getting sued for what someone says on your blog in a comment? In other words, you didn't say anything at all, but are being sued regardless because of a comment posted by a third party on your blog. This is exactly what happened to Justene Adamec. She has been threatened with suit by the company Infotel based on comments made about the company by commenters on her blog.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

A blog for Christmas?

This article in Slashdot about a Christmas gift for grandparents got me thinking. Someone was asking about how you might create a really simple Web site for grandparents where they could post family information and pictures and then make the site a Christmas present. Does it get any easier than Blogger?

Suppose you set up a blog with Blogger, install the perfect template, add several blogs and upload some family pictures. In other words, go ahead and do the small amount of work it takes to get things going. Maybe even put it on a good host or go ahead and pay for BlogSpot Plus (to take care of the picture uploads). Then, on Christmas, you show them the blog site, show them how to post, and then turn over the site password to them. A done deal and something that would probably tickle the heck out of Grandma and Grandpa.

Monday, November 24, 2003

Blogging and Muggles

So, what do the two words have in common? They were both added to the newest CD edition of the Oxford English Dictionary.

In case you didn't know, a Muggle is someone who has no magic powers (think "Harry Potter"). The other word you probably already know.

Will Google be the next company you love to hate?

There is an interesting article in the Boston Globe about how companies go from admired to hated at some point in the climb to success. With Google, it seems that perhaps the acquistion of Blogger may be the beginning of that point.

But as Google expands beyond mere search services, it sometimes alienates tech-smart users who were once devotees of the company. Consider Google's acquisition of Blogger, one of the companies that launched the personal weblog craze. It's got Dave Winer climbing the walls. Winer, a Berkman Fellow at the Harvard Law School, founded UserLand Software Inc., maker of the blogging program Radio Userland. Winer says that Google may crush rival blogging systems like Radio Userland.

Friday, November 21, 2003

News coming for Blogger users

There has been quite a bit of concern among Blogger users about the direction Google is taking Blogger. Since the buyout, there has pretty much been a total lack of communication from Blogger. Have you tried emailing Blogger with a question? Forget it. They don't respond.

Things may be changing for the better. Google hired Biz Stone a few weeks ago and apparently plans to set him loose to do what he does best within the Blogger division of Google. Biz was involved early on in the blogging community with Xanga and is the author of one of the only good books out there about blogging.

In response to our complaints about Blogger, Biz had this to say:

I am actually working with the Blogger team here at Google and I agree with you. Getting more information out to our users about what we're working on, how things are going here at Google, and that sort of thing is very important to me. I'm going to send out a Blogger Buzz newsletter with a bunch of info at the end of the month (you can sign up for that at and I'm looking to add more content to our site on a regular basis.

So, there you have it. A commitment to at least let us know what is going on in the Bloogle world by the end of this month. That means that Biz will have to take some time out from writing his new book on blogging to put together a newsletter for us. We'll be looking forward to it and will let you know what's up as soon as it comes out.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Earthlink to offer blogging

Earthlink has announced that it now will provide blogging as part of its ISP services:

"Additionally, the high-speed PSP features a link to EarthLink's new 'blogging' tool. Web logs (or 'blogs') are personal journals that users post online, covering a variety of topics. Along with 10MB of free Web space and access to Trellix, a free, easy-to-use Web page publishing tool, EarthLink subscribers can get tips on building, publishing and promoting their own blogs."

Blogger craze started with Google?

It's amazing how an article can be so wrong. The SMU Daily Campus seems to think that the blogging craze began with the purchase of Blogger by Google earlier this year:

Although blogging has occurred since the mid-'90s, the blogging craze did not begin until Google bought from PYRA labs in February of 2003. According to the Web site, Blogger started out as a small company developed in San Francisco by PYRA to develop web tools for the average person. After surviving the dot-com boom and bust, PYRA was acquired by Google. Google has now incorporated the software into its toolbar so that any user can click a button and set up a blog site. estimates that 1 million people are posting blogs, with the number growing daily.

Sorry folks, you don't know what you're talking about. Google owning Blogger has done nothing for the blogging craze. As far as I can tell, Google has set Blogger adrift with many of the serious Blogger users leaving in droves for serious blogging software. Secondly, the authors of the article seem to think that the Blogger button on the Google toolbar somehow creates a blog or somehow enables blogging. It doesn't. All it does is open a new blog post in Blogger with the site's URL so you can more easily link to the site from your blog. It really has no practical significance other than operating as an advertisement for Blogger sitting on the toolbar.

We've got quite a bit invested in the future of Blogger and hope they do well. However, all that has happened since the sale to Google in February is the dropping of Blogger Pro. And what has that accomplished? It has left some of the features of the former Pro available to the former Pro users, but not to the new users of Blogger. In essence, anyone who signs up for Blogger now is getting a crippled version. Blogger is cutting it's own throat with this bit of non-logic.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Are bloggers anti-social?

How introspective are bloggers? There is a view of blogging and bloggers that carries with it a sense of self-absorption tinged with anti-social behavior. Diane de la Paz has an article that looks at this issue in considerable depth. She carefully reads the blogs and then interviews the bloggers to get answers to the anti-social blogger question. From one interview:

Others imagine the blogger gazing alternately into his navel and at his keyboard, hour after hour, instead of going out to face actual people. The bloggers interviewed for this story, when asked about that image, make a pretty good case against it.

"Sure, we do spend a lot of time visiting each other (online) and updating our own sites," writes Dayment. "But it's certainly not a waste of time. I've met some truly awesome people via blogs, and I try to meet whoever I can in person. If I'm about to travel to a foreign city, I can find bloggers who can tell me where to go and what to see. If I'm having a computer problem at work, I have a large group of geeky friends online that can help me. We get a lot of support from each other. Bloggers are out there experiencing the world, only we get to share these experiences with everyone online as well."

Sunday, November 16, 2003

Bloggers in love with themselves

Jennifer Howard of the Washington Post has an interesting editorial on blogging:

A year ago, I barely knew what blogs were. Within a few months, they'd become a staple of my daily media diet. Now I can't live without them, but already I'm feeling betrayed -- and a little bored.

The more blogs you read and the more often you read them, the more obvious it is: They've fallen in love with themselves, each other and the beauty of what they're creating. The cult of media celebrity hasn't been broken by the Internet's democratic tendencies; it's just found new enabling technology.

New world of "I" politics

The Dean campaign is acknowledged to be the first political campaign that was truly launched from the Internet. That is, the Internet took a candidate who was a long-shot and re-made him into the Democrat front runner.

Few dispute that the Dean campaign's shrewd use of the Internet is one of the key factors that has rocketed the former Vermont governor from being a long shot candidate to the front-runner in the Democratic race. Many Internet scholars say that the way the campaign has made it possible for supporters to contribute online, connect with one another locally through "meet-ups" and a service called "Deanlink," while participating in the decision-making process -- such as the recent Internet vote on whether Dean should opt out of public financing -- has transformed political campaigns forever.

But the real power center of the Dean machine may be a crowded corner several steps from campaign manager Joe Trippi's office, where members of the 10-person Internet team stationed under a sign reading "Mission Control Dean" spout unintelligible chatter about "cookie problems," bandwidth and "simultaneous streams."

Any of that sound familiar? For Blogmasters (bloggers are, in essence, webmasters), the challenges of creating and maintaining a blog can be a daily affair.

Friday, November 14, 2003

Bloggers getting spammed

It's happening more and more frequently: blogs suffering from spam attacks. One popular method is to hit all the commenting services with spam that repeats on the blogs using the commenting service. A comment will appear to a blog that seems to be legitimate but somewhat puzzling because it isn't quite relevant to the blog topic. Or, the comment will simply be "Yes, I agree completely with that." The link back, however, will be to a porn site or gambling casino.

We had this happen to us at Blogger Blog yesterday with a half-dozen comments left that linked back to something called Norsk Porn. We had to go to the trouble of going to our control panel at the commenting service and delete the comments.

It seems more and more like a good part of the day is spent wading through and deleting spam from our various email boxes. Now we have to do the same with commenting. If ever a segment of our society needed to be taken out and lynched, it is the spammers. At this point it is estimated that over 50% of all email is spam. On my computer it is more like 90%. Think of the bandwidth wasted and the dollars this is costing. But wait. Spammers will think of ways to make life even more miserable for bloggers. Spamming your comments is just the beginning.

The Great Chinese Firewall

The government of China wants it two ways: they want the technological and commercial advantages of information access for their citizens, but they also want to decide what that information will be. As an example, CNN is totally blocked in China.

In our part of the world this does not make sense. Information is information and should be freely available. In China, the gateways into the country are limited and owned by the government. So, the whole system depends on information coming from the top down. Xiao Qiang, who now lives in the United States and has his own blog, sees a change coming:

However, what they cannot really completely control is when the Internet starts to spread through China, reaching the new middle class in urban populations, young professionals who are educated, it's started to have input from the bottom up.

In response, the government has started monitoring the exchange of information from the bottom:

There's Internet police divisions being built up in every province, in every city. Their job is to monitor online content. And they also use this highly sophisticated technology not only blocking the international Internet information but also monitoring the internal information flow. All these things are happening at the same time. They are constantly arresting people. Just last week, there were two major cases of Internet writers being arrested because they are publishing things that the Internet police think crossed the line. These things are happening all the time.

This is another example of the way we take basic freedoms for granted. When you're writing a blog you don't even think twice about what you want to say from the perspective of whether it will land you in jail or not. In China, the information coming from the top is controlled at the gateway while the information from the bottom is controlled by the "thought police."

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

CNN recommends Blogger Forum

Here's a welcome thing: CNN has an article I was going to mention since it has some good advice on getting into blogging from a business perspective. When I got into reading the article I found the most interesting part: they suggest Blogger Forum as a good resource.

Top Tips on Business Blogs

"• Check Web sites like,, or"


The idea of joint blogging in a niche topic area is not new. But consider this: sites that specialize in an area of interest and have several contributing bloggers who are experts in that area seem to be doing very well. Om Malik has come up with the name Micro-pubs for these types of blogs that are actually more like publications. Malik described a Micro-pub as "a combination of old fashioned newsletter, blog and a directory service, managed by one to 10 people."

JiWire, which is a guide to WiFi spots, was cited as an example of what Malik is talking about. Anyone seriously into blogging about some specialty should seriously consider morphing into a Micro-pub.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Fired blogger finds new job

You may recall the story of Michael Hanscom who was fired by Microsoft because of his blog, eclecticism. Well, not because of his blog specifically, but because he published a photo of Apple computers being delivered to Microsoft.

The reason for publishing the photo was fairly obvious: the irony of Microsoft using Apple computers and the Apple OS to do work at Microsoft.

Unfortunately for Michael, Microsoft had no sense of humor about employees blogging what Microsoft considered to be sensitive material. This raised quite a debate among bloggers about the ethics of blogging and whether free speech is infringed by the threat of employer retaliation for what is said in a private blog. Michael himself admits that the post wasn't a very good idea.

Michael Hanscom

Michael now has a new job at a print/copy store. "It's nothing overly glamorous -- no dream job, no mind-bogglingly cool opportunities were dropped into my lap during my week of notoriety -- but it's a good steady job, which I'm quite satisfied with."

Monday, November 10, 2003


Just when people were starting to catch on to the meaning of "Blog", we now have Moblogs. From the Star Tribune:

"Moblogging works like this: You're away from the computer, but you want to update your blog. So you whip out your celly, snap a picture, record some sound or message in some text. Push a button to connect to your blog server and voila! -- instant update."

Not all blogging platforms support moblogging --Blogger does. Kablog takes things a step further by providing support for devices that can handle the J2ME platform. For example:

-PalmOS devices running PalmOS v3.5 or higher with a network connection. For example, the Handspring Treo, Sony Clie, Palm Tungsten or Zire.
-Nokia 3650 (available from T-Mobile, Cingular, ATT, and others), Nokia n-gage, Sony-Ericsson P800, T610, and other Symbian OS devices
-Sprint PCS phones that can download J2ME MIDP games and other applications.
-NexTel Motorola iDen phones that can download J2ME MIDP games and applications.
-RIM Blackberry devices that can run J2ME MIDP applications.

Sunday, November 09, 2003

Not everyone is a fan of blogging. Take this, for example, from the Press Harold:

Blogs, another pretentious, made-up label for writing stuff on the Internet.

Short for Web logs, meaning, literally, stuff you write on the Internet. Fans of blogs say they are unfiltered, the thoughts of one person flowing right from the brain, through the fingers and out to the rest of the modem-connected universe.

The ultimate self-indulgence in our self-involved world.

Saturday, November 08, 2003

Understanding RSS

The Seattle Times has a very good article on RSS. The article goes from the very basic (what is RSS?) to suggestions on RSS aggregators with links. Check it out.

Friday, November 07, 2003

Flavors of blogs

The online edition of Courier & Press quotes a law student blogger who says that there are basically two types of blogs: blogs that comment on the current scene and blogs that are maintained as a personal journal. Although grossly simplistic, if you had to put blogs into two categories, I guess that might fit.

Personally, I think blogs could go into several important categories, one of which would be information rich blogs. That is, blogs that collect information in certain topic areas and then add comment. There are a large number of blawgs (law blogs) that would qualify in this area. Among the blawgs, many are specialized into legal areas, like copyright law and so on. Many others comment on general law topics.

So, to say there are journal blogs and comment blogs would be like saying there is vanilla ice cream and chocolate ice cream. Yes, that's true, but there are a lot more flavors if you look.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Will blogging replace Web consultants?

In a very interesting Yahoo Finance article, entitled "What your company's Web consultant doesn't want you to know" the option for business owners to update their Web site from their own desks is explored. The article discusses blogs, but quickly points out that it doesn't need to be called a "blog." All the owner needs to know is that Blogger provides a free service that allows him to update his Website from his desk, or by email, whenever and however he wants. He doesn't need a staff to re-publish to a Website.

"... a powerful, yet relatively misunderstood Web publishing tool is available that business owners can utilize to quickly update their sites without waiting for busy and expensive Web consultants to perform simple tasks like adding new pictures, changing text or adding a new email address. And the best news - it's free! Welcome to the world of 'blogging.' "

Interview with Google CEO about Blogger purchase

As all of us keep scratching our heads about the Google purchase of Pyra Labs (former owner of Blogger), a recent interview with Eric Schmidt, Google's CEO, was intended to perhaps shed some light on things.

When asked in the AlwaysOn interview about the prime reason for the purchase, the response was:

"What we really bought was a team. With these little companies, the asset that you get is the knowledge in the people's heads, and that's what we care about. They will be enormously creative in the next few years."

"The next step in general for information is the self-publishing part. If somebody takes the time to write something, having Google understand that is very important to that person. So if you view the world as one person at a time, getting that person, that author to understand that we value, we index, we search, and we care about their information is a very important part of our strategy."

So, Google seems to be saying they wanted Evan Williams and the other Blogger creators as part of the Google team, and they want to lend some sort of importance to what everyone has to say. I'm sorry, but I don't think I buy any of this. Does anyone really think that "I had a cheese sandwich for lunch" is important? We refer to blogs that go through the daily humdrum of someone's life --what they had for lunch, for example --as "cheese sandwich" blogs.

Search engine strategy isn't about making everyone out there feel good because whatever inane thing they say is picked up and indexed by Google. Why? Because the importance of a search engine is from the searchers viewpoint. A search engine is a tool, and a very important tool at that --perhaps the single most important tool anywhere on the Internet. If I do a search on "cheese" I want to know how cheese is made, or the history of cheese, or the relationship of cheese to Wisconsin. What I don't want to know about is the cheese sandwich someone had for lunch.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Birth of blogging?

No, blogging a birth. In what has to be a first, Mathhew Sturgis is using Wi-Fi and his blog to create a blog journal of the birth of his child.

"The day is finally here: in just a couple of hours, The Wife and I are leaving for the hospital to begin inducing the baby."

"The Labor and Delivery suite has wi-fi. How cool is that?"

$1,000 prize for best opinion blog

The Week magazine will be awarding an annual prize for opinon journalism works in four categories, one of which is blogging.

Here's the catch: the award will be made to the charity of the winner's choice. Oh well, I guess the prestige of the award is what really matters. "...columnists play an increasing role in framing and shaping the debates of our time. ... We wanted to recognize the people who do this type of thinking and analysis and argument."

Monday, November 03, 2003

Internet littered with dead blogs

Ajay Powell is cited as an example of the mass of dead and out-of-date blogs littering cyberspace. Ajay ran in the 2001 Honolulu marathon and created her site to track the progress of her training for the event. She updated the next year for her anticipated bike run from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Since then, her site has "remained frozen in time."

Like many others who enthusiastically start blogs, Powell lost interest. The novelty wore off.

Of course one of the major problems with dead sites is that the search engines still like them. For some reason, they end up with a life of their own --the undead, so to speak. The zombies of the Internet live on to clog our searches with outdated material. Ever go to what sounds like an interesting site only to find that it was last update two years ago?

By the way, I tracked down Ajay's blog for you. Notice that it is ranked 5 by Google. Doesn't it make you sick that you fight so hard for a good ranking while a zombie that has not been updated in two years does so well?

Big Blogger covers summit

What if instead of having a journalist send a news item to the editor which is then transformed into newsprint over a period of days, you had several journalists reporting live on an event? That is exactly how the first World Summit on the Information Society will be covered. You can catch it live and as it happens at DailySummit. According to the Media Guardian, you can keep up with an important event and a new way of reporting at the same time.

The journalists - most of them twentysomething and with no previous experience of web-logging - will be responsible for a single news site,, providing instant news and comment from the three-day event in Geneva in December. The summit, which will attempt to do for the global "digital divide" what last year's earth summit in Johannesburg sought for sustainable development, will reconvene for a second phase in Tunisia in 2005.

Sunday, November 02, 2003

Seinfeld blog

I knew it had to be out there somewhere. For you Seinfeld fanatics, check out the Seinfeld Blog.

Definition of blog

When asked by a reader to define what a blog is, Ed Kemmick of the Billings Gazette responded:

Have you seen "The Fellowship of the Ring," the first part of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy? Do you remember when the good guys are passing through the dwarves' subterranean digs and that big green monster comes up out of nowhere and tries to kill everybody with a massive club? He is a blog. The name was borrowed to describe any Web site in which a grotesque, insensate creature wildly bludgeons everything in sight.

And if Microsoft takes over Google?

Microsoft and Google have been talking recently about a Microsoft takeover or even a merger between the two companies. Although the two companies have apparently put things on hold for the time being, especially with Google going forward with an IPO, it makes you wonder what a takeover would do to Blogger.

If the takeover of Blogger by Google seems to have made Blogger a bastard step-child of Google, would a takeover of Google by Microsoft make Blogger a bastard step-grandchild?