Sunday, August 07, 2005

Fiftieth post

All right, to be totally self-indulgent, I've given some thought to the first milestone along what I hope will be a long and winding road, and this post is the result. So far I've explored only one section of the Alpha Quadrant of the blogosphere, to change the metaphor to a more appropriately twenty-first century one (or twenty-second, to be accurate). But boldly I go, where so many, many have gone before.

As a refugee from Usenet, I had been looking for something that would provide me a little writer's discipline, avoid the time wasting cyber equivalent of phone-in talk shows with their flamage and assorted grotesqueries, and encourage a harder look at current events. I like writing an article nearly every day, usually first thing in the morning, and I like being part of a group of progressive bloggers.

The daily blogging ritual does indeed encourage the development of Sitzfleisch. I'm a writer and consultant by profession, and an anthropology student in some of my spare time, so I have the concentration required to get into a subject and do the late hours. But blogging has proven an excellent way of getting the day started properly on a consistent basis. And it's made me look at the news in a different way, how it's constructed, where the humour and the tragedy and the fault lines are. It's kept me from filing it away in the little boxes we all construct in our minds when we aren’t really paying attention.

On the other hand, I have found myself doing far too much blogsite visiting, and wandering off into the various Comments sections where the old Usenet habits appear to prevail. If I could just stick to the sites themselves, and scan the variety of commentary therein, then by a little later in the morning I could begin to devote myself to honest toil. Balance and moderation in all things. Maybe someday.

I've met a wider variety of people than I would have thought possible generating matter here in the blogosphere: amiable right-wingers, vituperative religious narcissists, Ann Coulter wannabes, political illiterates, sound progressive commentators, graceful stylists, American nutcases, American wits, and much in between. I've met people who would be great to share a few beers with during a late-night philosophical discussion. And people, frankly, that I'm proud to have as enemies.

But how does one keep up? There are literally millions of sites out there. So many blogs, so little time.... It's hard enough to get my New Yorker and Harper's and Sunday NYT read when they arrive. I'm gnawed by the suspicion that I'm missing the really good stuff, lost in the stacks of an infinite library with a lifespan too short to do more than read titles.

Bloggers, I quickly discovered, are obsessed with traffic. In other words, they (no, in all honesty, we) crave an audience. We aren't writing for ourselves; these are public diaries, we seek attention. So a plethora of devices has been made available to help us get more widely known and to check to see if anyone cares. We cling to the ladders in this new hierarchy: I'm not sure I like being a "slithering reptile on the TTLB ecosystem," but it beats being an "insignificant microbe." I'm proud to have outgrown my crawly amphibian days, and hope someday to be a large mammal. Such are the strange vertical pathways lit by ambition.

More than a few people in the blogosphere seem to have a lot of hours at their disposal. In a foolish moment I registered on Blogshares, but I have no idea how to proceed from there, even though I was given start-up money, and a gift of shares from some welcoming soul. It seems to me that I might more profitably use the time required to learn this game by becoming an effective day-trader. More generally, the blogging rate of some is nothing short of prodigious. They crank the stuff out by the yard, day in, day out. Where do they find the time? Some of it's good, too.

While Usenet eats its young, the blogosphere has proven to be a place where help is freely given. There seem to be technicians standing by to grapple with almost every problem in a timely way. Given that most of this appears to be offered on a volunteer basis, I am tremendously impressed. In fact, even if I am wrong on the latter, and suitable emoluments are being dispensed, I promise to remain tremendously impressed.

Finally, blogging has something of the feel of treading water about it. You post what you think is a fine polished piece, it appears on blogrolls here and there, you might even get a few comments--and then it disappears into the memory hole, while new posts bubble up all around you. Must keep writing...can't to...keep...blogging....Let it go more than a few days, and I think you could experience something very like death: the chatter of life carries on unceasingly, but you just aren't there anymore.

There's a commercial for hair colouring on TV right now where a woman asks, "If I start colouring, am I stuck?" I've just started blogging to cover the grey, and I guess I am. Back to the good stuff, political and cultural commentary, tomorrow.

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