Saturday, May 22, 2004

Stuff You Might Want to Know

It’s time for me to try and tidy the bulging blog folder. Enjoy the thoughts and ideas of writers who are not me. I begin with a Q&A with Nick Denton (Gawker, Wonkette) in (May 20 2004):

Q. Why do so many people feel they need to have a blog? -

A. I don't think everyone needs to become a writer. We're going from a world where there were one million writers and nine million wannabe or frustrated writers - people who occasionally wrote "letters to the editor" or complaints to customer service departments. Now those nine million writers are publishing online. Most of the sites that they create are only going to be interesting to their friends and themselves. But new talent wins out, and talented writers are not going to have to go through the media organization mill to [get a chance to] express themselves after 20 years as a reporter when they finally get a picture and bylined column. It's almost impossible in print media for anyone who is young and feisty to express himself or herself. The only time, in traditional media, when you get to express yourself is when you're 60 and no longer have any opinions that speak to the person you once were. Blogs allow those types of writers to circumvent the usual journalistic training program. It allows them to have the voice they have when they're young, without having it knocked out of them.

From the June 2004 issue of Business 2.0, Greg Lindsay on Denton:

Denton learned from that debacle and embraced weblogs, which are the LEDs of the media firmament: They require almost no resources to run. His mini media empire, Gawker Media, has no offices, no proprietary technology, and no full-time employees, yet it can attract audiences big enough to generate ad revenue. Better still, the "content" is virtually free, since it consists of little more than snarky comments pointing to other sites (mostly newspapers and magazines) that do spend money or time creating content. It's so dumb, it works: Denton's blog model is leaner than a George Foreman turkey burger. And it's apparently already returning a modest profit -- with the potential to deliver substantially more within a few years.

From the Onion: Catholic Church Condemns Metrosexuality

In the seemingly endless Howell Raines article in the May 2004 issue of the Atlantic, there are a few paragraphs about Turner Catledge, who was appointed executive managing editor of the New York Times in 1951. This was my favourite:

In the face of staff opposition, Catledge insisted that a modern newspaper must have "a dual appeal," telling readers both what they need to know and what they would enjoy knowing. "First, it should be necessary to people who wanted to be well informed," he wrote. "It already was that. Second, it should be a paper people wanted to read, for pleasure as well as out of necessity." Too often, Catledge added, Times readers were forced to pick up the paper and say, "I'm going to read you, you son of a bitch, if it kills me!"

From a Guy Maddin interview in the Onion’s A/V Club (May 19, 2004):

I've been so lazy all my life. I used to literally lie on the couch, up until the age of 35, fearing that my bones were dissolving like sugar cubes, from disuse. So it feels good to finally stand on top of vanquished sloth, and actually impress some people as a hard worker.

Clive Thompson has written the first truly great article to appear in the Walrus about the economy of online games like EverQuest. Here is one of many great moments in the article:

Within months of Ultima Online's launch, in 1997, the game spiralled into a currency crisis. The developers woke up one morning to discover that the value of their gold currency was plummeting. Why? A handful of sneaky players had discovered a bug in the code that allowed them to artificially duplicate gold pieces (called "duping"). The economy had been hit by a counterfeiting ring. Inflation soared, and for weeks, players would log in each day to find their assets worth less and less.

Ultima programmers soon fixed the bug. But then they had a new problem: How do you drain all the excess gold out of the economy and bring prices back to normal? They hit upon the idea of creating a rare type of red hair dye and offering it for sale in small quantities. It had no real use, but, because it was rare, it became instantly popular and commanded an enormous price — which leached so much gold out of the system that inflation subsided. But the programmers had to meditate for hours on what possible side effects their "fix" might have

And, finally, George Packer in the May/June 2004 issue of Mother Jones, writing to let us know that blogs aren’t perfect tools of the politically minded:

The constellation of opinion called the blogosphere consists, like the stars themselves, partly of gases. This is what makes blogs addictive — that is, both pleasurable and destructive: They're so easy to consume, and so endlessly available. Their second-by-second proliferation means that far more is written than needs to be said about any one thing. To change metaphors for a moment (and to deepen the shame), I gorge myself on these hundreds of pieces of commentary like so much candy into a bloated — yet nervous, sugar-jangled — stupor. Those hours of out-of-body drift leave me with few, if any, tangible thoughts. Blog prose is written in headline form to imitate informal speech, with short emphatic sentences and frequent use of boldface and italics. The entries, sometimes updated hourly, are little spasms of assertion, usually too brief for an argument ever to stand a chance of developing layers of meaning or ramifying into qualification and complication. There's a constant sense that someone (almost always the blogger) is winning and someone else is losing. Everything that happens in the blogosphere — every point, rebuttal, gloat, jeer, or "fisk" (dismemberment of a piece of text with close analytical reading) — is a knockout punch. A curious thing about this rarefied world is that bloggers are almost unfailingly contemptuous toward everyone except one another. They are also nearly without exception men (this form of combat seems too naked for more than a very few women). I imagine them in neat blue shirts, the glow from the screen reflected in their glasses as they sit up at 3:48 a.m. triumphantly tapping out their third rejoinder to the WaPo's press commentary on Tim Russert's on-air recap of the Wisconsin primary