Almost a year ago, the excellent India Ink was tagged for excellence in blogging, an award she rebranded as the Charles Montgomery Burns Award. Mr. Burns is the owner of the Springfield nuclear power plant on the Simpsons. Well, India’s blog is hot.
The resourceful C.M. Mayo — a Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction winner, the author or editor of several books, and founding editor of the bilingual chapbook series Tameme — is preparing a panel on “Writers’s Blogs: Best (& Worst) Practices” for the Maryland Writers Association Conference. In preparation for the conference, she asked me to list three do’s and dont’s for writers’ blogs. My answer in brief: Don’t be too self-referential, Do have a consistent focus, Do create useful and original content, Don’t confuse press releases and publicity materials with blog posts, Don’t blog in a vacuum, and Do be generous. To learn more you’ll have to head on over to Madam Mayo’s place and read the full post.
I’ve replaced my html photography page with a simple, casual photoblog.
I’m not sure exactly why, since most of my photos that I put online go on Flickr. Still, I’ll probably post a photo here every week or two.
This site, BTW, started as an adjunct to the Mercury House site that first went up in December 1994. Back then my personal corner was sort of resumelike, and some vestiges of that still linger on. One of my goals for this year is to clean, prune, update, and organize a lot of the older material.
The photo page links from the html home page here:
One of the most impressive things about Google is its staying power. The life cycle of online ventures is usually pretty short. Digg, for example, is no longer as compelling as it once was, despite its inflated offering price.
Then there’s Technorati. Its ascension into the heights of the blogosphere was the result of its being the first search engine or aggregator for blogs. (Over the first two decades of the internet all that has been required for massive success has been one simple idea, but surely at some point more sophisticated thinking will be necessary.) What is Technorati good for now?
No, really — I can’t figure it out. Google Blog Search does a better job of searching blogs for content. (WordPress 2.3 has abandoned Technorati and now uses Google Blog Search to track backlinks.) Sites like MyBlogLog and BUMPzee are better at the social aspect of blogging.
I have a bunch of feeds designed to find new material on various topics, but the Technorati feeds have become entirely redundant and are not finding material that I can’t find more quickly by other means. I think I am going to have to delete all the Technorati feeds. Redundancy creates inefficiency and with a day job, several blogs, and free-lance work on the side I can’t afford to be any more inefficient than I naturally am.
So tell me, what is the use of Technorati?
Whenever I come across a new blog I read the latest postings and, if I like those, I add the site to my news reader. I always intend to go back and browse the archived postings but I rarely do so. Figuring that a lot of visitors to my site also never make it too far into the archives, I decided to pull together a selection of postings from my archives and create a free e-book.
It’s a handsome book in a narrow vertical format (a format often used in travel publishing). The Bodoni face seems a good choice for the subject. My only regret is that there are not more images, which would surely bring value and add appeal, considering the subject.
The immediacy of blogging may cause us to forget that the process is also a way of preserving content and building on it. I think this project is an excellent example of utilizing and repurposing the results of sustained, focused blogging.
It has become necessary for me to articulate policies that will be posted on my blogs.
Outright spam is straightforward to deal with, but here and elsewhere I am increasingly receiving marginal, opportunistic comments that, while they may appear to contribute faintly, are mainly intended to benefit the commenter through their links and anchor text. I have struggled with how to respond to comments that fall into this gray area.
I don’t believe in the default WordPress nofollow function that is intended to prevent search engines from following links in comments. If you contribute you should receive benefit, and I am sticking with that position. But maintaining site quality is paramount — otherwise the time I devote to my websites would not be well spent and the visitor experience would be diluted.
Because I am posting them now does not mean that I did not also reserve these rights previously. I will be going back and cleaning up comments on older posts.
A link to the following statement will appear on all my blog pages (it’s in the left sidebar on this site).
El Blogador at Inner Diablog (whose interesting posts I often consult in the context of my Buried Mirror research) cites Samuel Pepys and Jean Baudrillard as models for bloggish prose. These writers, he says, “pointed towards to a new style of writing that consciously moves out towards the edge of discussion (or the long tail if you must) often adopting “controlled chaos” as the chosen idiom.” An excerpt:
In terms of both style and content, mainstream journalists and academics tend to be repelled by ‘edgy’ writing like this because they have been trained to move towards and assume control of the centre of the topic they are addressing.
Similarly, many people in the PR industry are perhaps more naturally inclined to the mass market side of communications rather than the long tail. They’d rather be a hub than a node, which is why as a group they tend to waste so much time on Facebook and why, in spite of an apparent knack for the construction of narratives, they have thus far met with mixed success in the new medium.
It’s a highly competitive workplace and the bestseller mentality, wanting to be one, and to work with others in that same category, may be preventing PRs from fully grasping the transformations in their industry.
Blogador’s follow-up post is here.
ELA seems to be a pretty good WordPress plugin. I’ve never had an archives link on my blogs, because I don’t think it’s of much interest to most people. Still, one might occasionally want to check out what was going on b in the d. Extended Live Archives lets you create a dynamic archive page, so that instead of the usual list of years and months you only need to devote a simple link to the function. Once at the page you can view archives by date or category.
Let’s try it out. The link (“archives”) is in the group of tightly bunched links near the top of the left sidebar, between the right reading tagline and the drop-down categories menu. (The page links are separated with bold superscript periods.) So what were we doing last October? First, I see I was still mixing in the offbeat stuff that I’ve since moved to Frozen Culture (I should probably 301 redirect some of this); more recently I’ve been keeping this blog more focused on print and electronic publishing issues. I also see that I posted my piece on copyediting Shakespeare, which was picked up by the journal Rosebud; on a more serious note, I put up my Mercury House introduction to Henry Handel Richardson’s The Getting of Wisdom; and I started my whimsical left face/right face project.
At Frisco Vista
If I was still doing trade book publishing I would recommend to my authors that they try blog touring. Conventional book tours have their place, especially for developing bookstore relations and to some degree local media, but a virtual tour via blogs would certainly reach a much larger audience. The return from that audience would be less than from a conventional tour on a percentage basis but probably not as an absolute number, and the cost is minimal.
It does require putting in some time, however. It might be worth hiring and assistant or a professional consultant. M. J. Rose at Buzz, Balls, and Hype offers sensible suggestions. As in any kind of book work, market research is the most important element. The author embarking on such a tour must spend some time researching blogs for sympathetic content and getting to know their authors. Then: “Offer to come and guest blog. Or to do a Q&A. Or to give an except.” That’s sound advice.
I’ve been a little under the weather, and I haven’t been able to keep up very well with e-mails and comments. I hope to rebound and get caught up soon.
Meanwhile, here’s a review of August. Rightreading is command central, so this roundup gets posted on this site but not on the others (I don’t list what I’ve done here). I try to do this on the last weekend of the month.
FRISCO VISTA (San Francisciana)
BURIED MIRROR (el mundo Maya)
FROZEN CULTURE (Freeform)
Another end-of-month roundup of what’s going down at the sister sites.
Previously I wrote about how I had segmented off my Northern Californiana and Mesoamerica material into separate blogs (Frisco Vista and Buried Mirror respectively). This blog is focusing a bit more on print and electronic publishing, defined broadly to including not just publishing industry issues but also writing, editing, translating, graphic design, typography, and aspects of webwork — everything that goes into getting stuff onto a page or screen.
But there are plenty topics that I write on that don’t fit all that well. And these include some of the most popular pages on the site, such as ones on Chinese jades, Taoism, the Yi jing (I Ching), East Asian printing, travel-related writing and photography, and so on. And then there’s also all the weird and goofy crap (like this, this, this, or this) that amuses some people and annoys others.
For all the sobrante — the left-0ver and miscellaneous stuff — there’s Frozen Coagulated Culture. FCC was my first blog — well, my second after a LJ one that is now used mainly for personal and family stuff. The name comes from my first book-length translation, a technical translation done for a big international corporation back when I was a student, called Frozen Coagulated Cultures in Wine, Cheese, and Sauerkraut Production. You’ve probably read it.
I’ve had that blog hosted on blogger. But blogger still lacks the functionality and flexibility of WordPress. You can’t use widgets or trackbacks, for example. So I’ve moved FCC over here to be served up via WordPress. I’ve decided to start mostly fresh, so I haven’t ported over the old material. No doubt posts will pile up quickly. A blank canvas (and a new theme), woot!
UPDATE: How to send a trackback with blogger (using third party sortware or services).
Joe Wilkert makes some good points about book reviewing on his Publishing 2020 blog. Why do so many people like reading the reviews of books on Amazon.com? I think it’s because we all know how much tastes vary. Amazon presents the viewpoints both of those who like a book and those who don’t. Even if no one of these reviews is particularly good, if you read enough of them you can get a pretty good sense of whether the book is likely to appeal to you.
Print media, however, has mostly failed to keep up with the social media revolution. Books reviews in papers have been dropping fast, but those that remain still by and large do things the old way: an editor assigns a book to a reviewer who produces a review to a certain specified length, which is then run without comment, except for the occasional letter to the editor in a subsequent week. Reviewers take pride in not being influenced by the opinions of others (in theory; in practice most recycle the publisher’s press release). But if print book reviewing is to survive it will have to figure out ways to engage a community in a more participatory product.
Swiss Miss called my attention to this excellent blog called “Strange Maps.” Many of the maps aren’t really strange, but almost all are interesting. Shown is Jack Kerouac’s map of a cross-country trip that served as fodder for On the Road.
Compare Kerouac’s map to this one, the Bellman’s ocean map from Lewis Carroll‘s “The Hunting of the Sanrk.”
Since getting back from the Yucatan I’ve been trying to catch up on my feeds. While I was gone a lot of SEO types were posting about nofollow again. The new twist is they’re trying all sorts of plugins and gadgets to selectively pass or bar following links from their blogs for PR.
People, this is getting really old. And really stupid. Just turn the damn thing off already.
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