The Blog is Dead, Long Live Blogging

Paul Boutin wrote this piece, which was published in Wired. From the article

Thinking about launching your own blog? Here's some friendly advice: Don't. And if you've already got one, pull the plug.

Writing a weblog today isn't the bright idea it was four years ago. The blogosphere, once a freshwater oasis of folksy self-expression and clever thought, has been flooded by a tsunami of paid bilge. Cut-rate journalists and underground marketing campaigns now drown out the authentic voices of amateur wordsmiths. It's almost impossible to get noticed, except by hecklers. And why bother? The time it takes to craft sharp, witty blog prose is better spent expressing yourself on Flickr, Facebook, or Twitter.

If you quit now, you're in good company. Notorious chatterbox Jason Calacanis made millions from his Weblogs network. But he flat-out retired his own blog in July. "Blogging is simply too big, too impersonal, and lacks the intimacy that drew me to it," he wrote in his final post.

It seems that I've seen this before. People have been saying "Give up blogging, Podcasting is the future.", "You should do video via seesmic and giving up blogging.", and "twitter is the future blogging is done" for a while now. And at each point some people went and tried the new toy, some move exclusively, some do both, many come back to blogging. The questions is, why?
Jason's concern that blogging is impersonal is a unique issue. Jason is a web celebrity. It would be like Derek Jeter saying "Major League Baseball is more impersonal then Single A Baseball". It's not baseball that's changed, it's your status. Jason is a victim of his own success.
The problem with replacing blogging with Flickr, Facebook and Twitter is that none of them support the long style prose that a blogger wants to write. How would one write this essay on Twitter in 140 characters or less?
I know a picture is worth a 1000 words, but it can't communicate thoughts like there. Where I enjoy photography it can't replace writing articles, and it never will.
Finally there's no way articles can be replaced by unicorns, ninjas and the other wonders of facebook.
In many respects blogging is the successor to the independent newspapers of the past, just more accessible. It won't truly die until a medium is created to

    Posted: Oct 21, 2008

When Did We Give Away Our Free Time?

Mike Gunderloy over on Web Worker Daily posted an article with the following statement:

More than half of working Americans - 53 percent - have been interrupted by a work-related phone call or email while in the bathroom… Twenty-four percent have allowed a call or email to interrupt them while in the throes of passion, and 23 percent while on a date. That may be because most working Americans - 59 percent - never turn off their mobile device.

When I was growing up my father worked at Con Edison (the NYC power company) and worked shifts (if the city doesn't sleep, neither does the power grid), so there were stretches when we didn't see him, especially durning the school year when we was working the 4PM - Midnight shift. He often worked second jobs, to help make ends meet. But when he was home, he was home there was clear delineation of "family time" and "work time". It wasn't just him, we had neighbors who worked for the phone company, the post office, technology firms, banks, etc and where they might have worked long hours, their non work hours were spent at home either with family or "me time".
Somehow we've gotten to a point where we are "always working". Back, before I was self-employed, when this happened to me, I was under the impression it was because I was vital to the company. I felt I was the only one who could fix things. Here we are, in a company with thousands of employees, and I was the only one who could fix things. And if I wasn't available 24/7 to fix things, I'd lose my job, be homeless, and starve to death in an alley. What an odd combination of ego and low self-esteem.
I applied for a job recently at a firm that seemed interesting, the work looked good. It was something that I would've considered to get away from doing my own thing for a bit. Then came the fine print after the interview process:

  1. When taking vacation time, you needed additional permission to leave the city for a trip. If you were going over night, you were required to leave contact information where you were going.
  2. Over the weekend you were required to get the same permission to leave the city and had the same rules for overnight stays.
  3. During your off hours you had to be able to get to the office within 1 hour in case of emergency. There was no on call schedule, every employee had to have this level of commitment. I was given the impress this happened on a weekly basis.
  4. You were not allowed to accept any outside work while working there regardless whether there was a conflict of interest or not. I asked if I would be allowed to stock shelves at a grocery store to make extra money, he said that was not allowed.
  5. You were not allowed to talk to the press for any reason. The employee handbook specified that telling a reporter who you were voting for would be considered talking to the press.
  6. Blogging, Twitter, Commenting on Blogs, and taking part in social media was considered talking to the press so I'd have to shut down all those activities.

The interviewer seemed to act all this was normal at companies. A number of friends told me they would've taken the job. Before you ask this was not with the CIA, NSA or some secret government agency. It was with a development position with a company similar to Publisher's Clearinghouse, selling magazines.
At the end of the day It's not that we have blackberries and cell phones, it's bigger then that. As I said for me it was a combination of fear and ego, I suspect that sums up most folks as well.

American Life

    Posted: Oct 21, 2008

I Don't Understand the Hate

I really want to enjoy the political season. I believed when things started that this could have shown off the best of America. We had for the first time in a generation, an election where neither of the major party candidates held executive office, which I hoped would bring out a fresh view of our nation's issues and a national debate which would make us a stronger nation. I know this is a rather naive view but it was my hope.
So here's my first question, let's pretend that Sen. Obama is a Muslim for a second here (he's not, I know he's not, I said let's pretend). So what? I know the response "some Muslims are terrorists and we never can know about him". Well. did you know that Sen. McCain's people come from the Province of Ulster (in other words Northern Ireland)? Even though he's denounced Irish Republican Army, what would you expect him to do? I mean how can we really know where his loyalties lie. (Where I'm being tongue in cheek, the image of John McCain planting pipe bombs in Buckingham Palace while visiting the Queen is rather funny).
For balance sake, the other night I saw this beauty on twitter

How can we trust McCain to end the war in Iraq if he couldn't end the Vietnam War?

I really don't know where to begin with this, because it disgusted me. Have we really gotten to the point where we can use McCain's service for his country against him? This man almost gave his life for this nation, and he gets this? I'm sorry, if you agree with him or disagree with him I feel you have to respect his service.
Living in NYC, I rarely get to see political campaign ads at the Presidential level. I spent this past weekend visiting family in Florida and they were playing on the TV. Watching both sides take snipes at each other instead of saying what they stand for in ads we see reasons to hate the other candidate. Does this inspire the hate in voters or is this just pandering to the voter who hate?
A few months back I was looking forward to this race. I was actually excited because I saw (and still see) 2 service minded people who were trying to improve this country. Now, I'm actually disheartened.

American Politics

    Posted: Oct 20, 2008

Twitter and Plurk: two entirely different Girlfriends

I've just gotten back from a 2 week break from my normal hard core interweb access. I was away for a number of personal reasons, which I care not to get into today (it is however not a trip, I'm just using that as an example below). More of the issues with plurk vs. twitter differences are.

When I posted my first plurk, I noticed that I lost half my "score". Not a surprise, it had been 2 weeks without a plurk. Also, for some reason, you can only make plurks as "read" in 250 plurk bursts, so there's an intense cycle of Mark Read-> Reload -> Mark Read -> Reload -> Rinse -> Repeat which I've been doing off and on for the last hour. Not the most judicious use of my time. Plurk is my needy girlfriend. She's the one who punishes you when you return from a trip, no matter how important it was. She also won't really let you talk until you've heard everything that happened in her life, no matter how long you were gone. And she wants you to discuss it right away, no unpacking, no relaxing cup of tea.

When I first tweeted my return, I just hopped on twitter that I was back and huzzah! I was back. Folks returned my tweets and conversation was had. It was a grand old time, as they say. Basically twitter is my supportive girlfriend. She knows you're tired after the trip and makes it easy as possible. You catch up on your time, not hers. She knows the trip was important, she's glad your back. She's even made the cup of tea for you.

There are strengths to both platforms, don't get me wrong, and I suspect I'll be using both for a while but this just popped in my head so I figured I'd share.

Someone pointed out I didn't pimp the twitter and plurk links:

    Posted: Sep 19, 2008

Why Nibbler?

I get asked this question a lot. So I'll let you all in on the secret. The statute of limitations is well up so it's time to let the cat out of the bag, as it were. Let me tell you a story....
The story starts 100 years ago (well the mid to late 80's), when men were men and wrote code in ASM, no C#.NET, no perl, no Ruby. Rails is what TMRC used for trains not writing code. Pascal and BASIC were for children who couldn't handle knowing where things were in memory. It was Assembler or run the risk a lifetime of abuse.
So in those long gone days there was a young high school student and want to be programmer. We'll call him Sean since that was his name. Like many high school aged students playing video games was as important part of life. There was this game Castle Wolfenstein, which had devious copy protection. The manufacturers of the game intentionally damaged a portion of the disk, actually a half of a byte, also called a nybble (or nibble). Most disk copy programs would try and copy a byte at a time, so when it saw the damage it would skip the entire byte or better yet report an error and move on.
The young programmer, just for the purposes of backing up his game in case this disk became damaged, wrote a program which copied the disk a nibble at a time, instead of a byte at a time. He shared to program with friends, who shared it with their friends and much like a shampoo commercial many people began using this copy program. As a result of these deeds, people began calling him Nibbler.
Now, 100 years later, he still has the name, but many people don't remember why. They think it is related to Futurama, or some attempt to copulate. He has tried to shed himself of this name, yet when he walks down the streets of his home city people call to him "Hi Nibbler" so he has given up and accepted it.
And now you know.... and knowing is half the battle.

    Posted: Jun 23, 2008


I'm in Austin, TX the rest of this week and heading up the Houston for the weekend, for meetings at Dell. If you're local to that region and want to grab some dinner Thursday, let me know.

    Posted: Jun 11, 2008

Things I blame Scoble For

Inspired by twitter blaming @scobleizer for their stability problems I have decided to use him as a scapegoat for everything.

  • My Last Failed Relationship - As I got sucked into social media I didn't put the time I should into the relationship. Who's the person turning me onto new social media sites? Scoble!
  • Global Warming - Methane is a component of Global Warming and, let's face it, Scoble has gas issues.
  • Today's Crane Collapse in NYC - Scoble was recently in NYC, today a crane Collaped.... coincidence or a carefully crafted plan?

Play the game... what do you blame Scoble for?

    Posted: May 30, 2008

Hunting for a tech lead... Job Requirements below

Excuse the plug but the company I'm working with, which is a WPP company, is looking for a technical lead. The job description is below. If this is you please drop a line. THis is a NYC based position

Essential Responsibilities and Duties

  • Oversees the work of consultants and junior developers.
  • Performs system analysis and application development on mission critical systems.
  • Works with development manger to set priorities and timelines and to ensure that systems meet users’ requirements.
  • Provides mentoring to junior developers both formally and informally.
  • Implements general procedures, guidelines and protocols for the development of effective software solutions.
  • Analyze the efficiency of all computer systems and propose enhancements.
  • Track progress and status of all projects and report to the Development Manager.
  • Works with Development Manager to resolve user complaints.
  • Perform related duties and responsibilities as required.

Required Experience

  • At least 7 years of Software Development experience
  • 5+ years of C# development. C# should be solid back end development.
  • At least 3 years experience leading software development teams with 5+ members
  • Good XML experience.
  • Good SQL Server experience including writing stored procedures.
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills required
  • Some demonstrated Web Services experience a plus.
  • Experience working in a heterogeneous environment and interfacing with systems on a number of platforms (PostgreSQL, MYSQL, Linux, OSX) a plus.
  • Solid Data and Object modeling experience preferred.

Required Skills

  • C#
  • .NET
  • SQL Server
  • Stored Procedures
  • XML
  • Enterprise Environment
  • Middle Tier
    Posted: May 27, 2008

New Service Needed: A Web 2.0 Directory

I've been sitting here today reading tweets and posts from folks preparing for tomorrow's twit-out as they try to synchronize their twitter and friendfeed / jaiku / pounce / brightkite / other messaging platform lists and it's occurred to me that we've created nightmare when it comes to managing our social graphs, the process of re-adding all your friends / buddies / people you follow / etc is painful at best and impossible at worst. As I join new services I find myself bouncing into my favorite followers websites, friendfeed, etc to see if they have mentioned using whatever the new service is. To be honest a good part of the reason people don't leave twitter is they don't need to recreate their social graph elsewhere.
Some people felt that friendfeed would solve this problem (I know I did). Where friendfeed has helped aggregate the feeds of folks I follow, it hasn't made it any easier to cross pollinate folks. It often irks me that friendfeed doesn't query the APIs of the services I've subscribed to to find my followers and offer to subscribe me.
In many respects, where it's in a service's best interests to help you find your friends on that service, it's not at all in their best interests to help other services help you find your friends which might be part of the reason that this has gone on fixed so far.
Both XFN and FOAF have not lived up to their potential. Both ideas were setup to help document people's relationships and properly implemented they could work. The problem is that very few folks have embraced FOAF and XFN. Also, for the average user implementing either technology isn't as easy as we technologists and early adopters think it is (often a problem with technology).
So, how do we solve this? I think we need a service to serve as a directory (or web 2.0 style phone book) where you could look up folks by service. On the service you build a profile that will export as XFN and FOAF. The service would also help you find people you follow in new services.
A quick list of features as I see it is as follows:

  1. As mentioned above the ability to create a profile win with links to all of your services.
  2. Using the available APIs of the services as well manual data entry create a global friends lists / followers lists.
  3. Embrace both XFN and FOAF and make the data available in those formats.
  4. The ability to find your friends on other services (in other words you'd be able to find my flickr page by searching for my twitter username).
  5. Automagiclly notify you (via email or rss, perhaps) when interweb friends newly join services that you subscribe to.
  6. The ability to add friends it finds using the services' APIs.

Once this is all together I'd like to also see about pushing the web 2.0 services to accept a common XML format to add friends in bulk. I've got more of an application design in my head but don't have much time. I'd love to chat more with folks if someone's interested in working on it. If done right this shouldn't be an intensive application .
So, what do you think?

    Posted: May 21, 2008

Why I use Drupal

Several folks have been asking me as of late why I manage in Drupal and not Wordpress or another blogging platform. And instead of re-answering the same questions I decided it was time for another "inside baseball" post. This is not a feature for feature Drupal vs. Wordpress post. Nor does it consider wordpress 2.5 since I have never really evaluated it.Drupal is not a blogging platform, it is a content management system that has plugins that support blogs but is wide enough to support any other type of content, hence there are modules like activity stream which aren't as easy to code in other platforms. Wordpress is primarily a platform for building blogs, and at least to me, the plugins feel like afterthoughts and not part of the system.Also, as a developer I often use Drupal as the framework for web apps I develop for corporations as it's a rather robust environment to get things done in. Additionally, I rarely am in a position that I can't find a module to do at least a part of what I need to get done, even if I need to hack it a little bit afterwards. As I'm using Drupal often for business I know more of it's guts so I can apply the knowledge when working on hacking away on my site.
All that said... if you're the average person, Wordpress is a wonderful blogging tool used the world over. There's plenty of support out there for it, lots of plugs ins and an active developer community. I don't feel you'll be making a mistake going that way. Enjoy!

    Posted: May 18, 2008