25 Backstroke

25 Backstroke
Delaney in the 25 meter backstroke

Cassidy and Delaney had their second swim meet tonight. They both improved most of their times. In their heat of the 25 meter freestyle, Rachael, Cassidy and Evie finished 1-2-3.

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Get Well Sawyer!

I saw this post on Scoble’s blog about Howard Greenstein‘s nephew Sawyer, who is recovering from a mysterious spinal incident that has impaired his mobility from the hips down.

I don’t know Howard, but according to Scoble he ran the Twin Towers Fund which raised millions of dollars in support of the 9/11 victims. Sounds like a guy who knows how to make a difference, so it’s an honor to do a little something to help him help Sawyer.

In an effort to raise Sawyer’s spirits, Howard has started a web site where people can send well wishes and photographs with a “Get Well Sawyer” sign.

Here from my study at beautiful Rancho DeNada in Bellaire, Texas is my contribution.

If you are a blogger and/or have a camera and you want to do something cool for a kid who needs everyone’s support, here’s your chance.

Agoraphobia in the Blogosphere

agoraphobia

Early 2006, like late 1989, was the year the wall came down. There was a lot of good conversation about gatekeeping in the blogosphere- the much debated phenomenon whereby the bloggers with the largest readership link primarily to each other and guard carefully the door to the elite blogging clubhouse. As a result of these discussions, a lot of people decided the blogosphere should be a free and open place, where new voices would be welcomed and everyone could join in the conversation.

Quite a few A-List bloggers did their part to promote and nurture the open blogosphere concept. Some even drew maps for the rest of us to use on Blogger’s Hill.

That was a good thing- for everybody. Because it is fair and just, sure. But also because the blogosphere is tiny in general (some people continually forget this)- and the tech-related blogosphere simply cannot survive and stay fresh without an inflow of new voices.

But after the walls came down, it seems a few of the old clubmembers began to feel anxious about the public and potentially crowded nature of the evolving blogosphere. A few seem to be suffering from agoraphobia. They have decided to build some new walls around themselves in an effort to recreate the blogging caste system that seems to be their safety zone. Several people (like Mathew Ingram and Scott Karp) do their best to convince these faux agoraphobics to get treatment, but their cries fall on deaf ears- because these agoraphobics (unlike real ones) don’t want to be cured. They just want their walls back.

Some, like Seth Godin and Russ Beattie (who later stopped blogging altogether), decided that interacting with the rest of us is just too much trouble. Others, most notably Steve Gillmor and those under his influence, argue that conversing with the rest of us is bad for their reputation and makes them seem less of an authority. I’m sure glad my college and graduate school professors didn’t think that.

Here’s the thing (again). There are no rules that require anyone’s personal web page (be it a blog or a walled in soapbox) to look a certain way or to link here, there or anywhere. Not wanting to talk to the rest of us is OK. Turning your blog into a personal newspaper or magazine equivalent of a one-man band is fine. Really.

The problem is that some of these faux agoraphobics want us to believe that they are making all of these decisions based on logic and reflection and with an eye toward the greater good, when the fact is they are being made primarily as a result of unchecked human nature and for personal gain. Cattle ranchers, miners, merchants and bloggers all benefit from being there first. The early arrivals get the best land and a head start on mining for gold and readers. When the gold rush starts and the rest of us head west, we are encroaching on their land and their fortunes. What began as a head start for them has transformed into a God-given right that demands protection. So ranchers, miners, merchants and bloggers try to circle the wagons against the newcomers. This isn’t some story I’m making up- this is history. Grab a book and check it out, or turn on the Westerns channel on DirecTV.

Add to that concept the other human need- to belong and exclude, and you can understand why the open and crowded blogosphere (or the possibility of it) is a ripe breeding ground for faux agoraphobia.

The absurd lengths some people go to in a silly and transparent effort to separate themselves from the rest of the blogosphere makes me wonder what these folks would do if there was actually any money to be made blogging. I suspect these turned up noses and fence building exercises would erupt into a full fledged range war.

Faux agoraphobia is spreading in parts of the blogosphere. There are lots of proffered explanations as to why. But there’s only one reason.

Human nature. They just won’t admit it.

More Firefox Extensions

Claus Valca has a good post outlining the extensions he uses with Firefox. I found some good stuff in the list that I didn’t know about before.

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The Swift Way to Blog Stardom

Seth Godin has a wonderfully satirical post today that provides 56 tips to increase your blog traffic.

Among my favorites:

11. Don’t write about your cat, your boyfriend or your kids.
13. Write about your kids.

10. Encourage your readers to help you manipulate the technorati.

19. Do email interviews with the well-known.

21. Use photos. Salacious ones are best.

31. Write about stuff that appeals to the majority of current blog readers–like gadgets and web 2.0.

37. Keep tweaking your template to make it include every conceivable bell or whistle.

15. Be sycophantic. Share linklove and expect some back.
44. Don’t interrupt your writing with a lot of links.

This is good stuff.

The point is that there is no recipe you can follow to ensure a popular blog. All you can do is write hard, try to write well, join in the conversations and wait.

I am a songwriter, and have been for many years. There is a camp within the songwriting community who believe that writing a song is like baking a cake. You put the right ingredients in, mix it up and bake it for the specified length of time and, presto, you’ll have a good song.

Of course when you listen to excellent songs by Bruce Springsteen or Van Morrison or Bob Dylan, you quickly notice that many of their songs ignore many of the so called rules. I’ve had people who claim to be songwriters tell me all the reasons why some of my songs that have been recorded by more that one artist will never get cut. Normally, I just let them go on, without telling them about the cuts, because the purpose of that conversation is for them to talk, not for me to hear. I know that, more times than not, their strict adherence to the songwriting recipe will keep them from the experimentation that can lead to great art.

Recipes are fine for science. Blogs and songs are not science. They are art. And while there are some basic principles you can follow to make better art, good art is what people who see it like.

It’s the same way with blogs.

Synergy Spinergy

Henry Blodgett reports that there is an article in the Walled Street Times (which I can’t read because I’m not going to pay for it) about Time Warner and it’s out of favor stepchild, AOL. It seems that Time Warner has decided that all of that synergy that was going to be realized upon the marriage of Time Warner and AOL isn’t going to come to pass after all.

In fact, Time Warner’s president calls the synergy concept “bullshit.” That’s pretty much how I feel whenever I hear one of those fancy words that mean let’s do this even though there’s no demonstrable benefit to be gained.

Henry sums up this ill-fated deal beautifully:

“Perhaps synergy is, in fact, bullshit–perhaps the merger was doomed from the moment it popped into Steve Case and Jerry Levin’s bubble-addled heads.”

AOL is like the oldies concert circuit- there’s my former hero up there on stage, but man he looks old and I can’t believe he’s come to this.

Technorati’s Spam Problem

Blogspotting has an interesting post today about Technorati and its spam problem.

nospamOne of my 5 Things That Would Make the Blogosphere a Better Place the other day was if Technorati would work the way it’s supposed to. I mentioned the fact that I come across links to Newsome.Org all the time that never show up in Technorati. Stephen Baker of Blogspotting was talking with Dave Sifry about this issue. It turns out, unsurprisingly, that it’s spam-related.

Everyone who’s been on the net for more that a day knows that spam is a gigantic problem. I continue to be a little amazed at the ridiculous spam I get, both via email, Comments and trackbacks. I am even more amazed, however, at the fact that some idiots somewhere must be responding to spam or else it wouldn’t still be happening. It’s like the rest of us are subsidizing the idiot tax for those who think random strangers are doing them great favors by sending them get rich quick schemes and online degree offers.

I don’t feel a bit sorry for people who lose money by responding to spam. But I do feel sorry for the rest of us who have to weed spam out of our email and blogs.

These problems present a great challenge to Technorati, as they try to filter out the massive amounts of spam blogs that litter the blogosphere. Occasionally, legitimate blog posts get flagged as spam and quarantined- i.e., not indexed. Dave says that Technorati has people who manually try to resolve these issues, but that they are “a little backlogged.” I can’t imagine how much effort it would take to separate the spam blogs from the real ones, so it’s understandable that they are backed up.

Here’s the thing- more of this filtering should be done on the front end, by the blog platform provider and ISP provider. Granted, some spam blogs probably have blogging platforms installed on private servers, but the majority of the spam blogs I have come across seem to be half-assed attempts by some idiot to make some easy change by tossing up a blog on blogspot or some other online services. If these spam blogs were filtered more effectively at the platform level, Technorati’s job would be a lot more manageable.

Even the blogs that don’t reside on the major platform providers seem to be hosted on other, likely spam friendly, services. These domains should be blocked at the domain level and their ISP providers notified and blocked if action is not taken.

AdSense and other ad servers should also be more proactive in identifying this sort of thing and closing those accounts sooner rather than later. A nudge from their customers wouldn’t hurt either.

Like cockroaches, you’ll never kill all the spam blogs, but you can kill enough to make the infestation manageable.

The war on email spam has been raging for years, and we can learn from the successes and failure there. Unlike email spam, however, blog spam can’t be filtered on the end user level, like Outlook now does fairly effectively. Blog-related spam has to be addressed more adequately on the front end (domain and platform) level, before it multiplies and spreads.

It’s a big problem, and I don’t think Technorati can win the war by itself.