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June 6, 2005

One minute’s worth of weblogs
Posted by Teresa at 09:09 AM *

I found Weblogs.com because I’d gotten exasperated with Technorati and was looking for something more reliable. Which is not to say that I succeeded, because Weblogs.com is a useless site. What it gives you is a single flat unadorned list of weblogs that’ve updated that minute. Given how many weblogs out there are doing that at any given minute, trying to make sense of their list is like reading the phonebook for the plot.

When I first looked at the site, several days ago, their list showed 66 updates for a single minute, 11:08 a.m. Mind you, that must have been a low-traffic period, because for one minute of the morning I’m writing this—9:54 EST, Saturday, 04 June 2005—Weblog.com listed 376 updates. Still, those 66 entries were a minute’s worth of the weblogging world. I copied off the list and looked at all of them, as though I were doing a species count in a wildlife area.

Here’s how they break out. My categories are arbitrary, but all categories are.

1. Potemkin weblogs that have a parasitic relationship with Google Ads

These nineteen weblogs are automated googletraps. They show up on Weblog.com’s radar because they use weblogging software and formats, but they contain no original content, and there’s no detectable human intelligence shaping or filtering the second-hand content that fills them. My best guess is that they exist solely to sop up Google advertising dollars. They are:
Technically, I’d classify this little dodge as the great-grandchild of the “reports” scam, which is older than the internet. In its original form, the mark in the reports scam is the person who thinks he can make big money publishing and selling the junk content he buys from the scammers. In this variant, the junk content is being automatically scooped up and aggregated from free content feeds to create Potemkin weblogs. The sites’ owners then sell ad space on them to Google Ads, which is itself heavily automated, and thus doesn’t notice that it’s placing ads on junk sites.

These fake weblogs come in familial clusters. For instance, “Fly Fishing” and “Home Mortgage” are both hosted at totalfreedomforever.com (the phrase “total freedom forever” is a variant of “m@k3 m0n3y f@st”), which also hosts “weblogs” named Fitness, Credit Card, Home Decorating, Jewelry, Pet Supplies, Scrapbooking, Self Help, and Weight Loss.

“Skateboard CentralPark” and “Mattress Finder” both belong to a large group of nearly identical pseudo-weblogs that can be spotted via their self-descriptive text:
Skateboard CentralPark is the definitive source for skateboarding news and reviews. Updated daily as news breaks, Skateboard CentralPark is widely read throughout the world.

Mattress Finder is the definitive source for mattress news and reviews. Updated daily, Mattress Finder is widely read throughout the world.

You get the idea.

Posts in this group invariably start with the first paragraph of a news story or press release related to the weblog’s declared subject. The story’s headline is used as the title of the post. Subsequent paragraphs are a random selection of the first paragraphs of other stories they’ve already used. It’s obviously a completely automated process, because major text glitches don’t get corrected. The resulting “weblog” couldn’t fool anyone but a computer.

Other clones in the “definitive source/updated daily/read throughout the world” group include daily sport news, daily finance news, online banking news, daily business news, daily flower news, Las Vegas 24 hrs, best internet service, daily auto news, best new york info, digicamera news, weight loss facts, best insurance deals, miami news, the home spot, daily Las Vegas, dating news, cellphone tracker, education news, the furniture spot, Las Vegas hotel reviews, wireless news today, pet news, breast cancer news, and best printer ink deals. Those are just the ones I spotted in a few minutes’ quick googling. I’m sure there are a great many more.

2. Moneygrubbing fake weblogs that don’t depend on Google Ads:

“Belmont Stakes Live Gambling” is exactly what it looks like. “Flaunting It” has a small amount of original content, and does a better job of imitating a real weblog than any other commercial site in this list. “Hotel Wildwood NJ Restaurants” is a porn site whose URL includes the string “anime-bikini-pics.” It’s using a spaces.msn.com account, so I doubt it’s long for this world.

3. Just using the software

Ten of the listed “weblogs” are sites that have adapted the weblog software and format to non-webloggish purposes. I expect we’ll be seeing more and more of this. Weblogging software is cheap, flexible, feature-rich, and extremely easy to use.
“Dane101” is a collaborative site about Madison, Wisconsin. “Brownglasses” is a photographer’s display site. “Slank en Gezond” is a Dutch site about health and fitness. “CivicSpace” is a bit puzzling. I think they’re offering some kind of software template for community activist groups. “www.GayInRealLife.com - be yourself, be proud, be g.i.r.l.” is pretty much what it looks like. The same goes for “Twin Cities PHP User Group.”

“PrimeMinister.ca” aggregates news stories about Canada, adding almost no original content, but it’s being selected and presented by live human beings. “L’herbe n’est pas plus verte ailleurs” is another photography display site. I think. “NextBillion.net - Development Through Enterprise” says “Our goal is to identify and discuss sustainable business models that address the needs of the world’s poorest citizens,” but it doesn’t feel much like a weblog. I wouldn’t personally guarantee that it isn’t astroturf. Finally, “Bringing Dearborn, MI into focus” is a civic website that makes Dearborn seem more boring than I think it’s possible for a city to be.

Running subtotal:

The overall count for the weblogs-that-aren’t-weblogs categories comes to 32 out of our list of 66. If there’s a moral to be drawn, it’s that weblogging is an activity and a set of customs, not the software and templates used to do it.

I can testify to that myself. Much of what I know about “weblogging” I learned when our technology was mimeographs, Selectric typewriters, and postage stamps. Walt Willis and Bob Shaw put it better, in a work that’s still surprisingly applicable: The Enchanted Duplicator, whatever its make, model, and condition, is the one with the trufan at the handle.

Onward, then, to those other 36 weblogs, online journals, and miscellaneous electronic perzines. My categories are about to get very arbitrary indeed.

4. Spaces.msn.com: bringing self-expression to sensitive students worldwide

Nearly a fifth of the total, a dozen weblogs in all—or at any rate I think they’re weblogs—are located at spaces.msn.com, which must be making it cheap and easy to get on. I can’t make out most of their names, or the titles of their weblogs, but most of them give their location:
(If someone wants to tell me how to make the Chinese and Japanese names display properly, I’ll be grateful.)

I’m sure there must be spaces.msn.com members who are in their thirties or even forties, the majority of these webloggers are fairly young. It’s nice that they have a place of their own they can go to.

5. Non-spaces.msn.com weblogs in languages in which I am not fluent:

Here’s what I can tell: Hessamblog’s blog is in Farsi. It’s one of the many Iranian weblogs hosted at Persianblog.com “Antin It�-Bloggi” is Finnish. “Coredump” is a bunch of French UNIX/Linux/BSD types. The author of “Ciencia Rabia” lives in Chile. He’s very upset about desertification, and has a poor opinion of Greenpeace. “Franchement!” Is Francophone Quebeçois. “Antidig” is written by Erkin G�ren, a Turk who’s into deviant art. “Serializer” is by Henrik Erlandsson, in Stockolm. And “diario de wendy” is in Spanish, but all I can tell is that Wendy’s probably in Europe.

7. Anglophone blogs-for-the-sake-of-blogging:

Fourteen weblogs, between a fourth and a fifth of the total. Naturally, since this is the category I’d fall in, I can see all kinds of fine distinctions and subcategories within the list. And, since I can, I won’t. Look ‘em up yourself. You read English.
Okay, a few notes: “The Top 100 Oasis Songs” is a maniacal Oasis fan counting down the days to some major concert, one song per day. The “Ask Water” weblog seems real enough, but for some reason I’m not sure the blogger is. And I’m pretty sure I’m not in the demographic for glennandangie.com. I suspect that the people who are all know each other.

Wheel of Morality, turn turn turn:

So, there’s the lot of them. What do I conclude?

— Automated intelligence is stupid.

— Google Ads ought to be more discriminating about its ad placement.

— As noted earlier, weblogging is an activity and a set of customs, not the software and templates used to do it.

— Weblogging as currently constituted may or may not prove to be an enduring literary form, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the weblog template—episodic, open-ended, easily modified to have sidebars and text jumps and comments and embedded mini-blogs, imposing no relationship on it elements beyond chronological order—outlives everything else we’ve done. When people talk about innovation on the internet, all too often it’s about, say, some ditzy proprietary e-business software nobody’ll remember a few years from now. Inventing a new documentary form is a far rarer thing.

— We don’t have to read all the weblogs all the time—who could?—but as long as they exist, those parts of the world they illuminate can’t be invisible to the rest of the world. Hardworking teenagers in China, beleaguered housewives in Iraq, avant-garde art students in Turkey—they’re all real to us.

— If there’s an overall message to weblogging—not that there has to be one, but still, if there is—it’s HELLO WORLD.

Addendum: Jim Macdonald tells me that Wendy of “diario de wendy” had a fight last night with her mother over her clothing, and over the Catalan slang that she and her friends use. Her mother is of the opinion that as Spaniards they should only use Spanish. Jim also says that “Ciencia Rabia” means (approximately) “The Ass of Science,” or possibly “Science, My Ass,” rabia being a slang term for buttocks.

Feel enlightened now? I sure do. Thanks, Jim.

Comments on One minute's worth of weblogs:
#1 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2005, 11:56 AM:

"I have a ham radio!"

#2 ::: Steve Eley ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2005, 12:04 PM:

Kip W:
"I have a ham radio!"

CQ
QRL
TNX
SK

#3 ::: Bill Peschel ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2005, 12:47 PM:

With half the sites pomtemkin blogs, I've stopped looking at Weblogs for that very reason.

Your survey also shows how fallible the number of blogs created can be. When they talk about the rise in the number of bloggers, how many of them are fake sites set up to scam money from google and others?

#4 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2005, 12:50 PM:

m@k3 m0nk3y f@st? Can't PETA or the ASPCA shut them down?

#5 ::: Giacomo ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2005, 12:51 PM:

Unfortunately, it's not about AI being stupid, but about humans being scumbags. Technology won't ever be able to counter that.

#6 ::: Giacomo ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2005, 12:56 PM:

Oh, and one might study so many internet phenomena (email, newsgroups, blogs...) and find very interesting things about parasitic behaviour. The human condition, on a mass scale, shows inherently parasitic traits. Nothing new, I know.

#7 ::: aphrael ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2005, 01:05 PM:

The Potemkin weblogs are, in point of fact, every bit as annoying as weblog spam comments - because they often get surprisingly high google rankings for their subject matter. Which means that when you're searching for information on, say, mattresses, there's a high probability that you'll click on a potemkin mattress weblog's search result ... driving money to the proprietor and leaving you irritated at the wasted time and frustrated at the inability of search engines to provide you with real information.

#8 ::: Patrick Connors ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2005, 01:36 PM:

Using Weblogs.com for a manual search was impractical within a week of the site first going live.

The best comment filters I've found have been following links on weblogs I trust. I tend to give preference to folks I recognize from rec.arts.sf.fandom, but then I follow their links as well. I build my own list based on what I find there. That is a time-consuming task, though, and not suitable for everyone.

When I post a message on my blog, I notify the world by using a service called pingomatic.com, which updates about twenty aggregators (including Weblogs.com and Technorati) automatically. That way, anyone using an automated search tool can find out that I've posted.

I'm moving to a new ISP soon, and reorganizing as a result. One thing I'm seriously considering is a combination of JavaScript and cookies to point out new items to regular visitors.

#9 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2005, 01:37 PM:

The Chinese/Japanese display issue:

You appear to have the Movable Type default PublishCharset of iso-8859-1. This is marginally more international than ASCII (as you may have guessed from the names; the International Organization for Standards vs American Standard Code for Information Interchange), but is still a Latin-alphabet, Western European-centric character set.

To get those characters to display, you'd need to switch to something that supported them, like UTF-8 (Unicode) or ISO-2022-JP (an older code-switching standard) or...well, something else. Unicode is probably the best bet moving forward.

See anyone can be provincial or I can eat glass for some amusing browser tests of Unicode support.

#10 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2005, 01:52 PM:

Is that "switch" as in "switch your entire weblogging setup"?

#11 ::: Stephanie ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2005, 01:54 PM:

FWIW, CivicSpace is a really nifty content management system for social groups (as opposed to the ones for huge businesses, newspapers, etc.) and even though it's a little rough around the edges, I think conventions and other fannish groups ought to take a serious look at it.

One of its optional features is a blog for every registered user, so it probably turns up on weblogs.com every time one of its users posts something.

#12 ::: Stephanie ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2005, 01:59 PM:

Teresa: no, you can change the character set in the MT templates like so.

And I forgot to link to CivicSpace's features in my other comment. Argh.

#13 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2005, 02:28 PM:

"Technology won't ever be able to counter that."

Well, not until the FDA approves my invention, a ray-gun which remotely and selectively paralyzes the Jackass Lobe of the human brain.

#14 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2005, 02:32 PM:

Well, I just now tried switching the main template to UTF-8, and the immediate result was that in sodding Windows Internet Explorer 6, our banner (special character-free as far as I know) is immediately garbled.

So, for now, the heck with that.

#15 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2005, 02:32 PM:

Teresa:

It's a sitewide configuration setting, so it would apply to all the blogs in your Movable Type installation. All, er, one of them.

Another option that I had forgotten, though; for a one-shot situation like this one, you can include Unicode characters using &# and the numerical value of the character.

Let me do some fiddling to see if I can come up with a quick conversion for you to copy & paste in.

#16 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2005, 02:34 PM:

Actually, there are five blogs in this MT installation: Making Light, Electrolite, Particles, Sidelights, and the nielsenhayden.com home page, for which we use MT as a content manager.

It may be that the screwy banner in UTF-8 is because Teresa has a title tag with ashes and thorns lurking underneath the weblog's subtitle.

#17 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2005, 02:37 PM:

Patrick: you have some ISO-8859-1 special characters in the title= attribute for the subtitle. Those may have confused things, if MT thought it was supposed to generate 8859-1 but the browser was expecting UTF-8.

I suspect the best approach will be the numeric Unicode entities, unless either of you expect to be posting in Japanese on a regular basis.

#18 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2005, 03:08 PM:

Never mind the real weblogs, where's the cat gone.

Tabitha!

My Uncle and his floozie from Sheffield persona very non grata around here after their visit this morning. The idiots leave the door open and the cat gets out.

Black and white, very affectionate, but Tabitha doesn't know the area. We've only been here a month.

And the aforementioned floozie is one of those elderly ladies who, if spoke Japanese, would pursue any passing cat with shrill squeals of "kawaii!"

Floozie no baku!

Nobody reading this in Barnetby?

#19 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2005, 03:13 PM:

adamsj, I saw on BoingBoing that researchers have succeeded in getting lab monkeys to use 'money' in transactions with one another. These include having one monkey pay another to trip a lever that will give the one with money a treat -- an exercise in trust that will last until a chimp manages to cheat its way into the cage and stage a 'blowout' with the trust so far created, then proceed to bankrupt the lab.

So now the question is, if you give 100 monkeys 100 pieces of monkey money, how long will it be before they all go in on a copy of "Hamlet"?

#20 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2005, 03:14 PM:

"Hamlet" -- ham radio -- ooh, I almost brought it all together there. Better luck next time, Me!

#21 ::: Rich McAllister ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2005, 03:38 PM:

Switching this page to UTF-8 isn't going to help anyway, those strings look like they are in some other encodings. Unicode is by no means dominant or even very popular in the East Asian countries. We'd have to find out which encodings each one is and find translation tables to map them into Unicode. No doubt Weblogs.com has lost the character set tags anyway, so we'd have to track all the way back to the original sites. Even that might not work since they might not necessarily send out the right character set tags, depending on their readers to have set the most common encoding for their language as the default.

#22 ::: Jesse ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2005, 03:55 PM:

Interesting. Thanks for the mention on Dane101. I don't really agree with your definition of blog. The founders of Dane101 are all bloggers. We met through our personal blogs (mine - cometstarmoon.blogspot.com) and through common interests for the state of media in Madison. The city is considered one of the most wired in the country, yet blogs are scarce. Dane101 works basically like this, we see something interesting happening around town, we blog/write about it. The main thing we do that other blogs don't is we often do the research, we talk to people - it isn't simply cut and paste the news story.

We also try to edit one another. if I post something, one of the other writers may edit it for grammar. I need it. :)

What makes us a simialr to a blog is that we can write whenever we want, generally about whatever we want. As long as it is Dane County related. A more structured site that is simply "about Madison, WI" couldn't do that. They would have an editing process that would delay the speed in which something gets written about. Not to mention much of what is written on the site is opinion.

Also, all of the writers on Dane101 are volunteers. no one gets paid. While we do have google ads, any profit we make from that goes to server costs.

I guess we should be honored that you don't consider us a blog, because that means we must look professional and not cookie cutter. But I would like to know what your definition is?

#23 ::: Michael Hall ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2005, 04:04 PM:

An interesting analysis. I've linked to your post on my blog. Several of my own previous posts have been about blogging, but I wasn't willing to do the kind of close analysis you did. Thanks.

#24 ::: Jeff ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2005, 04:15 PM:

I'm just wondering why, when it is that easy for Teresa to find that many scam sites so quickly, it is so hard to get sites like that shut down?

#25 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2005, 04:31 PM:

Okay, here are the titles as re-rendered with Unicode entity references:

5. 日々悶々気ままに戯言
22. 若さゆえの過ち
35. J♡王子殿๑۩۞۩๑
40. →☆★☆★◎_◎★☆★☆←
58. 追逐太阳的风

#26 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2005, 04:53 PM:

The former owner of my computer speaks Japanese and set up the browsers with character support for not only that language, but Chinese, Korean, Russian, Hebrew, and Arabic, as well as some other European and Asian languages (but not ancient languages or Georgian or Tamil). I really don't know how she did it, but most sites with those languages display fine (which is nice for me because I can read a little bit of Russian and often can make sense of it). I know it has to do with the fonts that are loaded in the browser, but that's all...

Those sites display fine on my computer when I click on them, but not your rendering of them.

#27 ::: Kevin Marks ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2005, 06:04 PM:

Putting on my Technorati hat briefly, if we're frustrating you Teresa, please tell me how and why and I'll do what I can to fix it.

Your characterisation of Potemkin blogs is spot on, and part of the problem we face in filtering out the spam. I do wonder if as we get better at spotting these, they will get better at faking it. If we can keep this evolutionary arms race going long enough, they may start being useful.

By linking to them form here you are both raising their profile and potentially risking being grouped with them by other automated spam-catching tools.

On the language issue, the sooner you bite the bullet and adopt utf-8 the better. It is the best way to encode arbitrary languages, but you will likely have to convert your templates to it too. Technorati converts all encodings it detects to utf-8 internally. AFAIK, weblogs.com just passes through the bytes.

Jeff, if Teresa can find that many that fast, imagine how many are being created every minute. It's an ongoing battle.

#28 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2005, 07:49 PM:

Rich, that sounds like way too much trouble. Anyone who's interested can follow the links and find out in person what's on those weblogs.

Jesse, I yield entirely: Dane 101 is a weblog. At least half of what convinced me is that you're watching your incoming links closely enough to show up here only a few hours after the piece was posted.

Jeff, I agree with your point in principle. I won't go so far as to advocate the death penalty for high-end spammers, but I'd like to see the nonlethal book thrown at them. However, the cloned pseudo-weblogs aren't violating any law I can think of. They'll go away as soon as Google Ads stops paying for ad space on them.

Christopher Davis, the first, second, and fifth character strings match the ones on the websites. The third and fourth have been translated into Oblivian or Venusian or Old High Syldavian.

Kevin, I'm sorry I spoke unkindly about Technorati, but since its last major transformation it's been very difficult to use. Let me see if I can be specific here. I haven't kept notes.

1. It's haphazard and slow about spotting links. At least half the time when Brad DeLong links to me it never shows up at all, and the other times Technorati can register the existence of his link days after Brad puts it up. Same thing happens with Crooked Timber, though not quite as often; and if Patrick didn't tell me about it, I'd hardly know that Body and Soul has ever linked to me at all.

Any time I put Making Light's URL into Google's search box and choose the "who links to this URL" option, I can find handfuls of links to Making Light I never saw on Technorati at all. Of course, by then they're so old that they're not part of the ongoing discourse.

There are times when I can more readily find out who's linked to something on Making Light by revving up my tracking software and looking at its "last 20 referrers" screen to see if I'm getting multiple hits from one URL. In fact, I did that just now and discovered that Neil Gaiman linked to one of my Particles a week ago.

2. I can't get past the first page. I think I've gotten the second page to load maybe two or three times in the past six months. I just tried it again: no dice.

3. Slow updates. At one point Technorati said I had the same number of incoming and outgoing links for several weeks running. At its best, it updates maybe once or twice a day.

4. It stutters. Sometimes two-thirds of the entries on page 1 will be the same entry over and over again. Some weblogs are especially prone to this, but right now I can't think of a one of them.

5. Links o' mystery: At least once a day I'll click through to a weblog that's supposedly linked to me, only to discover there's no such link present on that weblog. Waiting a few days and running a Google search on the snippet of text quoted in the entry doesn't turn it up either.

6. Resurrected links. A few times I've suddenly seen several entries from the same weblog for links to Making Light that that weblog had posted over a period of weeks or months.

7. I miss that fast-moving left-hand column of current hot links.

I think that's the list. If I remember more, I'll let you know. It's been distressing. Technorati has been such a favorite vice of mine that for the past two years in a row I've given it up for Lent.

You have my utmost sympathy about the problem with fake weblogs. Those things are deliberately set up to woof Technorati and Google. You might try complaining to Google. They've got all that state of the art searching and sorting capability. Let them apply some of it to their ad placement policies.

#29 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2005, 08:19 PM:

The other problem with going to utf-8 or utf-16 Unicode character encodings is that Windows supports neither of them properly, although it supports both of them nominally. (This is a significant and vexatious fault in Windows.)

Current OpenOffice uses the Unicode code points in its 'insert special character' dialogue (along with everywhere else inside itself), so you can chew through Unicode character categories like "general punctuation" and "letter-like symbols".

#30 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2005, 11:06 PM:

Robert, Teresa:

An image capture of what those titles look like on my machine in Safari is here. This matches what Safari does with the titles of those blogs when I visit them.

The third and fourth ones use some odd characters (hearts, stars; what, is the Lucky Charms guy blogging now?), which may be why they look different on your browser. The renderings that I get appear to be the ones intended, though.

#31 ::: Therese Norn ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2005, 01:12 AM:

Serializer is all in English.

(Huh. Not that I know who he is, but he lives two kilometers from here.)

#32 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2005, 01:22 AM:

It's all in English? That's what I get for being a brain-damage case.

#33 ::: Mark D. ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2005, 01:33 AM:

The Enchanted Duplicator was a delightful and instructive read. Most is understandable, and I can see the application to other fandoms. But who are the 'native bearers', called 'Subrs', in Chapter 13? Subscribers? Sub-editors?

#34 ::: kate ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2005, 01:41 AM:

LOL - my life is complete... or at least becoming stranger than ever. I never expected to see my blog linked from Making Light for any reason. It's enough to make me stop lurking and actually comment.

(words my censor missed)

#35 ::: Jesse ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2005, 02:03 AM:

Teresa, thanks for that, we are a little obsessive with watching our incoming links. Glad it led me here, the astroturf is an issue that needs to be seriously addressed for the sake of the future of blogging.

#36 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2005, 02:22 AM:

You're right about the convenience of blogging software - the only time I've actually used it is as a way of distributing course notes, problems, corrections, etc, while tutoring a university course on Smalltalk. It was simple, neat and it worked.

No more than about 60 people ever knew of it, and no more than about 15 (my tutorial group) had any need to read it. But... I never took it down, and when I looked at it the other day, each of the hundred or so postings I made had about 70 pieces of comment spam.

Which I guess makes me part of the problem. Must clean house.

#37 ::: Duncan Riley ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2005, 03:23 AM:

I agree with your main contention that Weblogs.com is useless but I do take offense at your description of some sites as not being blogs but using blogging software (3. Just using the software, note none of them are mine): seriously, who died and made you the god of who decides what a blog is. I'm not familiar with all the blogs on your list here, but I have read a few of them and I hate to tell you that THEY ARE BLOGS. Just because they digest content from elsewhere doesn't make them not blogs, blogs are not defined by the quality of their content, but by their structure.

Seriously, there is no reason for you to attack lots of decent people just to make a point about Weblogs.com

#38 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2005, 04:17 AM:

I'm pretty sure that "Subrs" are subscribers.

#39 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2005, 07:25 AM:

Duncan wrote:

> Seriously, there is no reason for you to attack lots of decent people just to make a point about Weblogs.com

You sure there? I didn't notice any attacks on anyone other than people who were using weblogs for content free advertising. You're treating it as is saying something is not a weblog is a criticism, and I very much doubt that's what's intended.

#40 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2005, 08:38 AM:

seriously, who died and made you the god of who decides what a blog is.

Teresa is the Empress of the Universe.

Alas, my friend, you have stumbled into the latest iteration of the long-running discussion (I first became aware of it over thirty years ago), "What Is a Fanzine?"

#41 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2005, 10:29 AM:

You're treating it as if saying something is not a weblog is a criticism, and I very much doubt that's what's intended.

In fact, I've seen people use the adjective "bloggy" as an unfavorable comment on someone's writing style.

#42 ::: Jan Egil Kristiansen ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2005, 11:45 AM:

Feed/html combinations that are not weblogs are not weblogs.

But they are still very useful tools, e.g. upcoming.org is much more manageable on the receiving end than a mailing list is.

#43 ::: Jp ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2005, 12:12 PM:

A general tip for dealing with non-ascii characters in web pages is to cut and paste them into Word, use the "save for web" feature and it'll translate all of the characters into Unicode entity references you can then cut out of Word's horrid HTML and paste into your own. No need to convert to UTF-8 or anything but obviously impractical for more than occasional usage.

At least that's how I currently do it. I'd love to know of any better ways.

#44 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2005, 02:17 PM:

Incidentally, the mp3 blog aggregators such as www.mp3blogs.com have a very simple way of eliminating "Potemkin blogs"--if a site doesn't regularly post mp3s, off it goes...

#45 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2005, 04:08 PM:

Just in case anyone cared, the cat came back.

I shall be able to sleep soundly now.

#46 ::: Tim Hall ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2005, 05:46 PM:

On the subject of "Blogs that aren't blogs", I know of one e-zine, Fudge Factor where some readers have actually complained about the editor using blogging software (actually Blogger), because they automatically associate the format with vapid diaries or angry trogloditic ranting.

Personally I think blogging software and templates are an extremely good way of publishing an e-zine.

#47 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2005, 06:12 PM:

Good news, Dave! It knows where it lives. Why does my cursor in this box have a little serif on the top right?

#48 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2005, 10:29 PM:

Laura Roberts wrote:

> In fact, I've seen people use the adjective "bloggy" as an unfavorable comment on someone's writing style.

Oh yeah. I'm having a hard time convincing a workmate that there really are intelligent, interesting and non-egotistical weblogs out there. My case isn't helped by the fact that so many of them really are awful.

#49 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2005, 11:23 PM:

Dave: Just in case anyone cared, the cat came back. I shall be able to sleep soundly now.

Good for you and for the cat. Alas, I shall probably shall not sleep soundly as you have installed an earworm.

Oh! The cat came back...

Where's that bourbon?

#50 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2005, 02:11 AM:

Sorry--that address in my last post should be: www.mp3blogs.org

#51 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2005, 02:18 AM:

BTW, blog #39 is kind of funny. I'm also interested to see that the author uses "K" to mean "que" in the same way an English speaker might use "2" to mean "to" or "too"...

#52 ::: Fred Meijer ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2005, 07:01 AM:

One minutes worth of weblogs

Thanks for Judging my Blogs 'The Food and Health Awareness Archive' by given me the Hello World wink.

#53 ::: Jean Rogers ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2005, 07:18 AM:

I'm not sure why you classify L'HERBE N'EST PAS PLUS VERTE AILLEURS as not-a-blog? Looks to me more like "Spaces.msn.com: bringing self-expression to sensitive students worldwide".

It's the photoblog, if you will, of an unemployed Belgian in her 20s, and although she's using it to showcase photos she hopes to sell, it also has blog-type text, including a recipe for elderflower cordial.

#54 ::: Chad Orzel ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2005, 08:14 AM:

The overall count for the weblogs-that-aren’t-weblogs categories comes to 32 out of our list of 66.

[...]

Onward, then, to those other 36 weblogs, online journals, and miscellaneous electronic perzines.

It pains me to be this much of a dork, but I can't help it: 34, not 36.

On the general topic, Weblogs.com has been around for quite a while (I used to manually ping them for booklog updates). It was never really useful in the way that Technorati is, but it used to be good as a means of finding interesting weblogs. After doing a manual ping, I would scan down the list of recently updated blogs and look for eye-catching titles.

Granted, most of those are also crap (the ability to write and the ability to think up snappy titles appear to be orthogonal), but you can find some interesting things that way, if you're bored. It's also one of the better ways to get out of the immediate circle of blogdom that you operate in (most of the links I've found via Technorati turn out to link to several of the same sites I do-- via Weblogs.com, you can sometimes turn up sites that have no recognizable links, which is a nice reminder of the real scope of blogdom).

(This last point is also why I think most blogger triumphalists are missing the real point of the whole weblog explosion, but I really do need to go to work at some point, and if I start ranting about that, I'll never get out of here...)

#55 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2005, 11:59 AM:

Mark D., David Goldfarb, the Subrs are indeed subscribers. Subscriptions were a bigger deal back then. The message was that the best way to attract subscribers is to demonstrate commitment by putting a lot of solo work into the project.

By the time Patrick and I were doing fanzines together, subscriptions were no longer an issue, but it was still true that the best way to attract contributors was to write the first issue (or two, or three) yourself -- and make it good.

The only part of The Enchanted Duplicator that's outdated is the section on how to avoid overinking. The rest is both relevant and illuminating, though it may need a bit of explication.

I think about Subrs and bootstrapping one's own projects when I see ads for clever schemes that will drive huge amounts of traffic to your site, get you a high Google rating, all that sort of thing. The One True Secret Technique for attracting traffic is to put stuff on your website that people want to read, look at, play with, buy, or view with indignation.

This morning I got a letter from Jim Macdonald on that very subject:

While indulging in vice* today, I came upon this:
Getting a Decent Search Engine Ranking is Costly!

There are millions of websites across the internet and everyone wants a top search engine ranking. Do you see the problem? Getting a decent ranking for a popular keyword has become nearly impossible if you don't shell out big bucks. First you wait 6 weeks for your site to even show up in the search engines (unless you pay $300 for a quick listing in Yahoo), then you hope for the best. If you're not listed in the top 20 for a keyword, you won't be getting many visitors from the search engines.

These fellows were touting their own software program that would deliver thousands of hits to your site with the touch of a button, and they were running down the other ways people use to get traffic.

So I checked:

Search on Teresa:

You're #1 on Google, #4 on Yahoo**

Search on Science Fiction Bookstores:

I'm #1 at Google, #1 at Yahoo

Search on Literature of the Fantastic:

I'm #1 at Google, #1 at Yahoo

Search on Truth about PublishAmerica:

I'm #1 at Google, #2 at Yahoo

Search on Learn Writing:

I'm #2 and #4 at Google, #8 at Yahoo

All this without paying some fly-by-night scamster anything!

Even if you do pay these scammers, they won't do you a lot of good. By contrast, Jim and I put our content up on the web because we wanted to put it there. The readers followed the content, and the rankings followed the readers.

____________________
Notes:

*"Indulging in vice" = "hunting down online scammers."

**Since dropped to #6 in Yahoo's rankings. Note my nonexistent concern.

#56 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2005, 02:52 PM:

Teresa: "The One True Secret Technique for attracting traffic is to put stuff on your website that people want to read, look at, play with, buy, or view with indignation."

You are wise in the ways of the Web, Grasshopper.

I'm in da bidness of Web publishing and we learned that for ourselves. Indeed, it's a phase new online editors go through — they become fascinated with search engine optimization and start cranking out e-mail with tips on how to optimize pages for search. We older, wiser heads indulge this obsession, partially because it's something we know that newbies have to get out of your system, partially because sometimes they DO come up with a couple of good tips, and partially because Search Engines and How They Do Things is something that a commercial online site really does have to stay on top of.

And, if high traffic numbers are important to you, it is important to make your site friendly to search engines. But that's not very hard, and it only takes a little time. The really important thing is to create a site that people want to bookmark and come back to, and you do that by posting interesting stuff.

(I initially wrote "creating compelling content" as the last three paragraphs of the previous paragraph. I really AM spending too much time with the corporate people.)

The thing about search engines in particular, and traffic from external links in general, is that it's evanescent and completely out of your control. Sure, it's swell when one of our articles is tops on Google News, or it gets Slashdotted — everybody involved with that article just feels good about life all day. But the next day, the link will have faded, and you're back to getting traffic from your loyal readers. And you'd better have loyal readers so that you have traffic when you're not being highlighted on Google anymore.

Earlier, I said that it's important to keep up with search engines if high traffic numbers are important to you — and that "if" is very important to keep in mind. If traffic was important on my personal blog, I would have stopped doing it years ago, it never really took off. If InstaPundit and Boing Boing are A-list bloggers, and Making Light is a B- or C-list blogger, I'm, like, an N-list blogger. Still, my friends and family read it and enjoy it, and I have a small but loyal group of commenters, so I'm happy. And, heck, maybe this will be the month that I'm catapulted into Blogging Glory.

#57 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2005, 04:46 PM:

It's an interesting question: in what does the quality of blog-ness inhere? Structure, content, intent?

What's less clear is how it is that taking a position on this amounts to "attack[ing] lots of decent people."

#58 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2005, 09:08 PM:

Mitch wrote:

> (I initially wrote "creating compelling content" as the last three paragraphs of the previous paragraph. I really AM spending too much time with the corporate people.)

At least you didn't say "Content is King".

Patrick wrote:

> It's an interesting question: in what does the quality of blog-ness inhere? Structure, content, intent?

Imaginary statistics show that fully 60% of internet arguments are matters of definition.

> What's less clear is how it is that taking a position on this amounts to "attack[ing] lots of decent people."

Quite.

#59 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2005, 09:44 PM:

Zen Blogging Koan:

"What is the sound of one blogger blogging?"

Only a matter of time before Chip Delany will criticize us for trying to define the Science Fiction Blog instead of just discussing it.

Did telegraphers of the Wild West (cf. the Russian in Deadwood) have a secret Western de facto Blog? Are the walls of the Lascaux cave a Paleolithic Blog? Is there something on the wall that we should understand before we clone the extinct Cave Bear whose genome has recently been sequenced? Just wondering...

#60 ::: wendy ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 09:31 AM:

Hello!

I'm wendy.

The last weekend I have a little discussion with my mother but no about MY CLOTHING!!! whe discussed because I screamed in Spanish to a man who wanted to stealed me (to steal = robar; clothing = roba -in catalan-)...

You are not a very good Spy!

[w]

#61 ::: Jill Smith spots comment spam ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 10:00 AM:

I doubt that wendy and her lack of clothing are germane to this discussion.

#62 ::: Mary Aileen Buss ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 10:40 AM:

Actually she is. She's the owner of one of the foreign-language blogs discussed way up there. Jim Macdonald gave a rough translation, which Wendy is now telling us is incorrect.

--Mary Aileen

#63 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 10:44 AM:

On the other hand, Jill, I agree with her that Teresa is not a very good Spy. She's good at a lot of things, but I'm reasonably sure that outright espionage isn't one of them.

#64 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 10:49 AM:

But Xopher - how would you know?? Perhaps she's just perpetrating the Best. Cover. Ever.

#65 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 10:51 AM:

Mary Aileen - I stand corrected!

#66 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 12:24 PM:

But let's not do anything to break their cover, or we'll erupt in a Plame war....

#67 ::: Zack ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 03:30 PM:

Re The Enchanted Duplicator, I think I know who most of the strange races are, but I can't figure out the Headeaters. Help?

#68 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 03:35 PM:

Headeaters, pronouced EDITORS!

#69 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 11:47 AM:

Kevin, if you're still reading this thread, I just got another instance of one of the problems I mentioned earlier. Of the twenty entries on Technorati's first page of links to Making Light, four are to a single post, Deceiving Us Has Become an Industrial Process, on the weblog Rational Grounds. The first link quotes from that specific post, but links to the weblog overall. The second also uses the general link for the weblog, but the accompanying text makes it clear that the link is from RG's blogroll. The third link is to the specific RG post, but the identifying text says only "Making Light post." The fourth link also links to the specific post, and has identifying text from the post, but it's a different selection than is used for the first link.

Also on this morning's first page are two links to a single post, Counting weblogs at mlhall.com. The first has a sample text from the post; the second just says "Making Light."

As you've probably figured out by now, I've gotten over my snit and am back to using Technorati.

Tell me -- is it at all useful for me to describe these problems? That's the only reason I'm writing about it. If this is stuff you're already aware of, just let me know.

I've been thinking about how complex a problem it must be to track weblogs. Bloggers are forever adding new modifications: stories jumped to a second page, comment threads in a separate floating window, comment threads plus the original post on a separate page, sidebar indices of posts ... much stuff.

I've never wondered until now whether it gives you guys a headache when I link alternate letters in a word to two different sites, or all the words in a phrase to different sites but the spaces in between them to a single site. Come to think of it, the headache probably belongs to the linked-to site, which would come up on Technorati with a separate listing for every wordspace in that phrase.

The more I think about this, the more impressed I am that you make Technorati work at all.

#70 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 07:37 PM:

Teresa, if I understand you correctly, that's my problem with Technorati, too: It seems the overwhelming majority of links I see are blogroll links that don't change from one day to the next.

#71 ::: Kevin Marks ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2005, 04:55 PM:

Teresa, Mitch, the feedback is much appreciated; the 'blogroll link' problem is one we are working on, as is the 'multiple links to the same place' one.

As for how to achieve good Search Engine ranking, my son Andrew worked that out when he was 7

#72 ::: Xopher finds comment spam ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2005, 05:09 PM:

Indecipherable urls again. Comment spam!

#73 ::: Capt. Spastic ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2005, 06:40 AM:

Yes, it's true. I must admit it.
I blog just the sake of blogging.

Isn't it time we put a stop to this madness?
What about the children? Who'll protect the children from the bloggers?

Wait, or is that boogers?

Eh, screw it!

Choose:
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Even larger type, with serifs

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Making Light copyright 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 by Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden. All rights reserved.