Ghost Sites of the Web

Web 1.0 history, forgotten web celebrities, old web sites, commentary, and news by Steve Baldwin. Published erratically since 1996.

April 07, 2008

Yes, Virginia, Blogging Can Actually Kill You

Yes, Virginia, Blogging Can Actually Kill YouAfter the sudden and unexplained recent deaths of two prominent Bloggers, The New York Times has revisited the "Can Blogging Kill You" issue, and the equivocal answer appears to be "yes" (the newspaper first raised the issue in January, after the much-publicized heart attack of GigaOm's Om Malik). The Times takes an unusual slant to the story in its follow-up, framing the new class of information worker as a post-industrial equivalent of uninsured, unhealthy piecework labor, in other words, as something we used to call a state of "Netslavery."

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January 07, 2008

Can Blogging Actually Kill You?

Can Blogging Actually Kill You?The New York Times has a short but interesting article triggered by the much-publicized heart attack of Om Malik, who runs the popular GigaOm Blog (note: I have been linked to by Om and consider him an online friend, although we've never actually spoken or even e-mailed each other).

As the article notes, being a successful Blogger means being a one-man (or woman), "twenty-four by seven content machine" in an environment wherein there is no fixed publishing deadline. Instead one is in a constant race with competitors (many of whom may be in different time zones) for link-worthy posts. Add the pressure to "monetize" one's pages and to publish frequently enough so that unforgiving Google (which counts newer pages as more significant than old ones) keeps you spidered every hour or so and you've got a prescription for a heart attack. I don't even need to mention how Blogging can reduce your intake of fresh air or Vitamin D through sunlight; the average American only spends 10 minutes outdoors and I'd imagine that the average Blogger only spends about a minute outdoors every two days.

One of my online buddies used to drink two gallons of diet cola each day as he created his online content, smoked a pile of cigarettes and continuously inhaled laser toner fumes. He's still alive after years of Blogging but another good friend, Steve Gilliard, died before he was 40. I can't say that Blogging killed Steve but it sure didn't help his health any. What I can say is that when you're Blogging in a conversational way, i.e. via the "comment" function or in a non-Blogging environment such as a Bulletin Board, your adrenaline levels spike and ebb violently during the day and night. Flame wars (which can be highly addictive) play havoc with your serotonin levels and sleep habits, which everybody knows is bad for you. Add to this the kind of substances (legal and perhaps non-legal) that you have to consume to stay "in the Blogging zone" (a zone slightly to the East of total Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and it's obvious that Blogging isn't just dangerous: it's a killer with the power to take out an entire generation.

I suppose one can make an argument, Freakonomics-style, that Blogging may have saved as many as it's killed. After all, when you're Blogging you're not likely crash your car into a pole or be run down by a bicycle messenger. But the same could be said for any activity that keeps you off the streets and roads.

I firmly believe that as we enter what techno-optimist Bill Gates calls "our second digital decade," we'll learn enough about the long term effects of our increased dependence on technology to scare us to death. The larger question is whether these revelations will be sufficient to cause many to rethink their total immersion in cyberspace and follow the course of Jennifer Ringley, who at the peak of her cyber-fame chucked it all and disappeared back into the analog world.

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August 14, 2007

Gartner Group: Blogging Craze Peaking Out

Gartner Group: Blogging Craze Peaking OutI saw this via the always valuable the Gartner Group predicts that the blogging craze will begin to taper off in the next year or so.

The story states that "the reason for the slowing in growth and the predicted leveling off is because most people who would ever use blogs already have, while others who may have been attracted to the growing trend initially have gotten bored and moved on," and quotes a Gartner analyst who notes that "a lot of people have been in and out of this thing. Everyone thinks they have something to say, until they're put on stage and asked to say it."

Let's tip a glass to celebrate the demise of Blogdom, and to the 200 million ex-Bloggers who've presumably found something more interesting to do with their lives. My advice: go make some news instead of simply linking to it.


July 24, 2007

This is Not a Frickin' Blog: It's a Site is DeadAren't you sick of being referred to as a "Blogger?" Well, you ought to be, especially if what you run is a site, not a Blog. What's the difference? Well, a "Blog" is usually nothing more than a narrow vertical column of content spat out by a backend system such as Blogger or TypePad, sorted in reverse chronological order. The bottom edge of this column is sawed off and auto-archived and the rest of the page area is reserved for a set of unmoving elements, either a "Blogroll" (list of other Blogs one likes) or Google Adsense code.

There are minor variants to this basic formula, but most Blogs are structurally identical, and I suppose that's why people like them: the structure is easy to understand, easy to update, and the software takes care of the archiving, which has always been the biggest pain in the ass in Web publishing.

OK, so that's a Blog. What the hell is a site? Well, a site is a collection of documents tucked into directories, ranging from a handful of HTML and graphic files to a titanic library. For example, this site has about 50 directories, and at least 1,000 pages, only some of which were produced by Blogger, the software used to generate this page). Sites might look like Blogs, but Blogs almost never look or act like sites, because of the sheer number of files and directories involved and the fact that you can do a lot more with a site than with a Blog.

Why the hell am I pursuing this distinction? Because it angers me that so many people, especially journalists, lump people who are publishing small jots of text which consist mainly of a hyperlink and a "check this out" imperative with people who actually publish articles, create sites, and otherwise behave like publishers, or at least Webmasters. In their eyes, we're "all Bloggers" just because we might happen to use Blogger or Typepad to automate some of our content production tasks. We're Webmasters, damn it, not Bloggers, and we share almost nothing in common with the Blogger mob. We know how to use FTP, install software on a server, can code HTML by hand, and resize and debabelize graphics without having to resort to Picasa.

Does this make us superior? No, but it makes us different enough to regard ourselves as a different species. Are we wiser? Probably, but only because we're a few yars closer to death than the paradigmatic Blogging teenager. We remember what it was like when you had to Fetch, FTP, recode and reload to make even the minutest change on a Web page. We know what happens when you ("gasp") mistakenly swap index.html in a subdirectory with index.html in your root directory. We're dinasoars, cranky old men, and someday we'll all gather in the New Media Old Age Home to trade FTP horror stories, boring the nurses with tales of NABPLPS and the old BBS days. We're insufferable, really, but please, unless you want a fistfight or at least a flame war, don't call us Bloggers. We're not, never have been, and never will be.

We're Webmasters, and while that and $2.00 will get you on the New York Subway, heed this warning from Disobey's own Morbus, who saw more clearly than anyone the devastation which Blogging would bring to the Web back in 2001, in a prophetic article entitled Why Blogger Empowers Mindless Nits. Among the ill effects which Blogger induced were a lamentable change in thinking that's still with us today.'s not about creating good content, its about creating ENOUGH content so that people will look at it, thinking you have something important to say. And with blog wars, blog voting, and "via trails", it's no longer about WHAT you have to say, but rather HOW MANY people are listening.

Morbus was right. In just six years, the Web has been taken over by "fur-assed" Blogging barbarians, the proud days of site authorship are over, and the future looks even darker, as Myspace and Facebook are populated by transient pieces of content which don't even deserve to be called "pages." Even our cherished term "web sites" has been compressed by all the collective Blogging bullshit into "websites."

There is no honor left in the realm.

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