Monday, September 17, 2012
WHAT'S A BLOG?
Recently I’ve run into people who are confused about blogs. They seem to fall into categories. Even now, people have only heard of blogs and never or seldom read one. They don’t distinguish among a blog, an email, or a website. It’s just print that mysteriously appears if you do something funny with a keyboard. So here are some basics:
a. Email is print that comes like a letter to your personal site.
b. A website is a formatted window where images and print appear. You have to go to it on purpose, using a “url” at a search engine. Usually it’s not stored on a personal computer, but on a much bigger hard drive somewhere else. That hard drive might be in a business computer or it might be in the “cloud” which is a huge regional warehouse/turbine complex. There might be changing content, but mostly it stays the same.
c. A blog is a website that is pre-formatted. Part of that website will “host” changing content, usually print but also images. The one I use is “blogspot” which belongs to Google.
d. A blog, at least at blogspot, can be controlled so that only certain people can look at it -- maybe only yourself. (Remember that the techies can always look at everything online and authorities -- theoretically with a warrant -- can look at anything.) It can be controlled so that certain people on a list can post new material. And it can be controlled as to comments: commenters might need to use a password or puzzle to defeat machines that automatically post advertising. Or the blogger can simply require every comment to be looked at individually, which is what I do.
Many people start a blog, get bored, ignore it and there it sits. So far I don’t know what the protocols are for removing an unused blog except that the blogger can remove parts or all at any time. But blogs are “cached” which means they never really go away and also people download to their home computers whatever they choose and may forward to others or archive. It’s remarkably difficult to get rid of blogs or even their traces on Google and other search engines.
Now my own blog. I post 1,000 words or more every day and sometimes throw on an image for fun or to make a point. The subject matter moves around among categories which are basically: regional, Blackfeet, Bob Scriver, religion, memoir, current events, reviews of books and movies, and a few more. Some are meant to be eventually compiled into books.
There is always tremendous pressure -- esp. now that the economy is in trouble -- to find a way to make money through the use of a computer. This is why I control my blog so tightly: it is NOT to make money. It’s for me to write and share what I write with interested parties in the various categories. The way to write well is to write a LOT. I am retired, choose to sit here and type all day, and enjoy hearing from my readers. To publish I use www.lulu.com/prairiemary, where -- I discover -- the books are almost immediately pirated to the Internet at large.
One little problem is that many people will NOT read a blog even though they know it exists and claim they admire the blogger. They say they don’t have time, but in some cases I know this is just an excuse. I suspect that they are afraid of finding out something they don’t want to know or are competitive and feel that if I blog, they ought to be doing the same thing at the same rate. But most frustratingly, people have no context, so they either treat the blog posts as if they were personally meant for them or they want to have a private, protected, intimate conversation with me which they assume will be different. The previous problems are often gender-linked to females.
But two problems seem to be gender-linked to males. One is the male in mid-life crisis who ought to be going for professional counseling, but thinks that because I talk about psych and religion, I might provide an equivalent without money or risk. The other is the relentless marketer, esp. of writing, who believes that a review on my blog entitles him to my life and devotion. His writing, he says, will lift my blog up to acclaim and income. After, of course, I’ve given him sufficient free advertising. This is an old pattern, often labeled “grandiose narcissism.” Some men are simply used to women doing their bidding.
I hasten to say that I have a little dance card of people for whom I will do the utmost I can, but that dance card is filled. And private.
Print (and images and sound) is an interesting phenomenon to contemplate and, like sex, it takes quite different forms in different circumstances. The Big Book, carefully traced out and illustrated in a Scriptorium by devoted monks is one thing. Printed repetitiously on a machine is another thing. The Xeroxed manuscript came and went quickly. (People skip over “Kinko publishing.”) And now communication has leapfrogged print by skipping to image and music. Essentially print for illiterates. Children of every nation speak it.
The shadow of past printing methods lingers behind even this post. The numinous mystery and gravitas of a Bible or Koran still persuades people that What Is Written either is or should be TRUE. The penumbra of Gutenburg still implies handbill politics. Kinko books are so personal, so unique. The hope of salvation lingers in them all, whether one considers that a perfume or a taint.
Most people cannot distinguish between printing and publishing. Publishing -- the selling of print -- as a business enterprise is invisible to most and, even to those who are involved, now is morphing so quickly that no one can get a firm grip on it. The Manhattan Mandarins are fading. Kids walk the sidewalks watching YouTube on two inch screens.
The most difficult aspect of publishing is its embeddedness in European class systems, the same ones that gave rise to capitalism and manufacturing, a firmly middle-class anchor point now diminishing. Books are both a luxury and a marker of virtue. Ask someone if they have read [fill in the blank] and you’ll see them bristle with the assumption that you have just unjustifiably inspected them. Reading best sellers is one kind of marker, reading obscure books praised by professors is another, and a writer who is actually PUBLISHED has the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. Can the Pulitzer Prize be far behind? Can going to heaven be any higher an achievement?
But blogs and websites are different. They can be anything. They are always more than you expect. They are like magazines more than books, and might be quite shocking. My own blogs -- which include family albums and genealogies, private conversations that need to be shared and recorded, archives for my eyes only, works in progress, and other things -- are not for sale. What a surprise!