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Archive for March, 2007

For those who question the value of blogging and other new Information Technologies, I recently read about and visited a blog written by a quadriplegic man who writes with a ‘mouthstick’ on a PDA (palm computer), as well as having his own podcasting show: ‘Life Kludger‘. David Wallace, now employed as an IT coordinator, was seriously injured in a car accident 25 years ago. Now, he writes about new technologies and ideas that can help people lead better lives.

Lately we’ve been talking a little about the pros and cons related to the Blogosphere as well as other social software. For someone who has had some experience firsthand with the stigmas often related to people with disabilities, I think this is a great example of technology actually giving ‘voice’ to a minority who often may be ignored or simply forgotten by so-called ‘normal’ society.

Using his own mechanical ingenuity, Mr. Wallace has invented new tools that could help others with similar conditions to his own, as well as dedicating a blog to the discovery of other helpful creations for people with one of many types of challenges and obstacles in their lives. Read his blog and find out what a ‘kludge’ is.

Can you think of any other obvious (or not-so-obvious) ways in which blogging helps people to live better lives?

Wheelchairs gave some physically disabled people their mobility back. Computers, the Internet, and blogging are giving some a ‘voice’ that more people can now hear.

Jesse S. Somer knows that all disabilities can’t be seen from the outside.

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How many of you want to change the world for the better? Stupid question…Well, besides reading blogs, I also love to read books (I’m sure most other bloggers are the same). Although my blog’s main focus is on the Blogosphere, we have to remember that the Blogosphere can encompass just about any subject. People write about just about everything. Or, they soon will be. One topic I’m sure you’ll all be interested in, is on how we can make the world a better place, one small step at a time. We are each only one person, but every action in our day leaves a ‘footprint’-both ecological and social, and so we can make a lot of difference when together our efforts have a cumulative effect. I bought a paper book recently (not very ecologically friendly I admit, but I love them) called ‘365 Ways to Change the World’ by Michael Norton. You have got to check it out.

I really think every human being should have a copy of this book. The basic concept is that there’s a page and an idea for every day of the year. Themes are Community and Neighbourhood, Culture and Creativity, Democracy and Human Rights, Discrimination, Employment and Enterprise, Environment, Globalisation and Consumerism, Health, International Development, Peace, Volunteering and Citizenship, and Young People.

For example, today’s (December 13) subject is ‘Hunger Banquet’. It starts out with the proclamation, ‘Our planet produces enough food to feed every woman, man, and child-and with some left over. There’s some topical information, a short story about a woman in Mozambique, some number facts (always effective for creating understanding), and most importantly-related links on the Internet (On this page: Act Fast: Oxfam America‘ and ‘Oxfam America.org‘.) This is a very interactive book; reading it while on the Internet brings about a whole new learning experience.

At the start of the book there’s a 20-question checklist for you to measure where you fall on a scale ranging from ‘eco-sinner’ to ‘socially-minded saint’. Here’s some sample questions: Do you regularly fill up your kettle with only as much water as you need? Do you regularly turn off the lights when you leave the room? Do you buy local and support local small businesses? Do you do things for others or for the community-volunteering at least 2 hours per week?

I’m sure there’s something you see others do that you don’t approve of. Tell me about something that you do to help the world. Better yet, tell me something that you’d like to improve on in your own life. There’s supposed to be a website related to the book at ‘365 Act‘, but when I checked it was down. Hmmm. Could it be a sign of the times? Man that sounds pessimistic…

Here are a couple of more positive quotes from the beginning of the book:

‘You must be the change you wish to see in the world.’ – Mahatma Gandhi

‘Citizens of the global village unite…You have nothing to lose but your universe.’ – Perminder Singh

‘There is certain liberation in understanding that we can’t do everything. This enables us to do something and to do it very well. – Archbishop Oscar Romero

Jesse S. Somer has a lot to do before he’s considered a ‘socially-minded saint’, but he’s on the road…A turtle with a flat tyre, but he’s on the road baby.

This is a part of the world that I would like my great-grandchildren to know well.

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From the last post about blogging and other social software, readers’ comments were both quite interesting and varying in perspective. We had someone saying that having email keeps them more in touch with people (more so than previous technologies like the telephone) who otherwise might be forgotten in the winds of time and a busy life. They also put forward the notion about the ease of forwarding a joke along to everyone they know, which caused them to ‘stay in touch’ easier (so much easier than calling everyone, getting in a sociable state of mind, and touching base/small talk before the joke gets told). Plus, imagine how boring the joke would become if you had to repeat it over and over again…

Then there was the reader who spoke about the new ways of communicating to anonymous people via blogging and its inherent commenting system, as well as text messages on the phone etc. However, they also wondered what might be lost in these new processes. They said that they now communicated with more people than ever using new technologies, and that the lines have blurred between ‘real’ and ‘virtual’ friends. However, what might be lost that was taken for granted in the ‘days of old’? Do more contacts mean weaker bonds between one another? I mean, we only have so much energy to share around right?

This is where the next reader came in. They emphatically expressed their belief in the ease in which people now communicate, but also pointed out the laziness that these newer ‘easy’ technologies are creating. Harking back to a time even before telephones, they spoke of stronger relationships with real people, as opposed to ones gained in the ‘virtual’ realm. Another great point was the fact that all this new communication could be causing a lot more misunderstanding than in the days of pure face-to-face contact. I know from experience that my emails are often misinterpreted-and I’ve gotten in some real trouble because of it!

Another interesting point or two was related to this issue of ease of communication. What of the children of the future? Will our offspring simply disregard others who have opposing views with a quick click on the delete button in their email?

Does the Internet cause different types of people in society to communicate and work together more, or is it making it easier to segregate and only relate to people in select groups that have similar interests as ourselves?

By Jesse S. Somer

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So you think you’ll write a blog eh? Currently Technorati tracks around 57 million of these online journals, and they can’t even find them all. However, after trawling the depths of the Blogging Ocean, a question has slowly arisen to the surface of my mind like a blue whale coming up for air after a lengthy connoisseur’s session of krill degustation. How long will you survive? On my travels it’s not unusual to find ancient blogs sitting, hulking bulks of metal skeleton rusting away in the salty seas of eternity. Why do people quit writing so easily? Or am I wrong? Was their battle to stay with their blog reminiscent of Hemingway’s ‘The Old Man and the Sea’, except in this instance, neither guts or stamina were enough to pull that giant fish in, ropes burning into the skin of your back, thoughts craving for the written page on screen.

This post was inspired by a comment recently received at another MiContent post, ‘Why comment on someone else’s blog?‘ Many of us find it hard, or even question the validity of, writing comments on another’s blog. Writing anything can be hard for so many reasons. Add in the fact that in the Blogosphere anyone and everyone can read what you’re saying, and couple that with the fact that no matter how passionate you are about a topic, once you’ve attained a readership, there’s true pressure to produce more content. I’ve seen blogs that have stuck it out on the high seas for 6 years or more, full steam ahead, with no hint of hesitation or loss of focus, and I’m sure for some (possibly a rare few) it’s not an issue. Blogging has become life, a source of inspiration, an outlet for creativity, and a medium for everyday interaction. These accomplished writers/bloggers would cry out in agony if anyone tried to take their source of lifeblood away.

What about the rest of us, the so-called average ‘normal’ citizens of the Earth (Sadly, I cannot put myself in this category, as for many reasons I’m just too insanely weird!)? Why does blogging take courage and staying power? The answer is simple, or at least it seems simple after my personal experience in the area. For years I wrote 2 article posts a week in a blog at M6.Net. This wasn’t much of an issue. These days I write at least several posts a week, and I have to tell you that the really popular bloggers are the same. There’s also a special class who (maybe though obsession, but possibly as a result of hardcore passion and dedication) must blog everyday. Some of these ‘Bionic Bloggers’ may be paid to do it (a genuine driver of impetus), but others do it because they have to.

No matter how passionate you are about your topic of dedication, you will find days where you need a breather. Writing for months and even years about fly fishing, or the human genome can take the natural flow out of the most avid practitioner, and what if no one is commenting or relating to you on the subject? I’m sure you’ve heard the saying. ‘I love you to death.’ That’s what many bloggers unwittingly do with their blogs, slowly and subtly becoming the killers themselves. So what’s the answer to this newfound dilemma for the Internet web journal writer of the 21st century? It’s guts and stamina, my friends, guts and stamina. Oh yeah, a hint of balance with the rest of your life won’t go astray either. One reason all those blogs died may have been somewhat related to the sudden realisation that all the other important passions and loves in life had been neglected too long. A myopic quest for a giant fish can leave behind a tired, lost, and worn-out soul.

Jesse S. Somer is on a quest for a different kind of fish…one that can fit in a kettle.

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Recently I sent out a survey to some popular bloggers. One that commented back to me was a woman from a small Latin-American country called Guyana. Have you heard of it? She calls herself Guyana-Gyal and her bio says she’s a writer and an artisan. So, what makes this a good blog?  It is quite good. It’s not the format, nothing fancy there, just a very basic template you get for free at Blogger. There’s no cool photos or videos on the front page…Well, what do you think it is that sets this blog apart from the hundreds or possibly thousands that I’ve visited on my research trails? It’s simple: The writing.

‘I gon tell you stories, true, true stories. Like me gran’pa and me nanee and cha cha used to do, and they ancestors too. Take half, leave half, cry or laff. Enjoy the gyaff, what you learn is up to you.’

This is the bit of tagline that she shares with the world and you can see that it’s flavoured with all kinds of Caribbean spices (It’s actually located in the North-Atlantic Ocean in between Venezuela and Suriname). Read some of her posts. They seem to be a mixture of daily reflection and an ongoing story-type of narrative (these are the parts that really ‘grab’ you). The style of writing gives insight into the type of English dialect that has evolved in a country mainly inhabited by people of African slave ancestry, as well as Hindu East Indian agricultural workers brought over by the British colonials long ago.

This is a country that has seen the ravages of AIDS, drug trafficking, political instability, as well as people smuggling. It’s not the best of places for a young woman to grow up, but the literacy rate is high and Guyana Gyal tells us how it is. Her stories are not all sad and they draw a strong mental picture of what daily life might be like if we were to have grown up there. November 28th’s post entitled ‘Spare the Rod’ based on corporal punishment in schools is a post inspired by a present-day Newspaper article that causes the author to slip back into a reminiscence about her own ‘bashings’ in school. It ends with some real wit…she’s definitely not a defeatist.

A post called ‘Sweat like a cow’ tells a funny little tale about a woman who tries to kill her husband by putting too much Epsom salts in his bath!

Beware, oh men, beware. Be careful. If your scratchety, naggy, vexy wife or gyal-friend offer to do something for you, take that offer with a pinch o’ salt…cooking salt, that is. Absolutely no other kind.’

Jesse S. Somer be sayin’ that dis blog be worth a penny or two more dan de price of a dang pawpaw.

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‘Hey Billy, You’re not going to believe this.’

‘What is it?’

‘I just started my new job at the software company right?

‘Yeah.’

‘Well, on the first day that I worked, I met this strange guy in the elevator.’

‘What was so strange about him?’

‘He was taking boxes out of his office. It pretty much looked like he was leaving for good. It turns out he got fired because he runs 15 blogs on the Internet.’

‘Are you serious? 15 blogs! Why would he need so many?’

‘He told me that he’s a bit of an eclectic. You know, he’s interested in all kinds of different things.’

‘So why didn’t he just write about them all on one blog like most people? And why did he get fired? Did he say something negative about the company?

‘I asked him these same questions. He said that he’s so into each of his hobbies and interests that he felt it was wrong to mix up all of the highly detailed information on only one blog. I mean, he sounded like he goes pretty in depth with his information. It’s not just general knowledge kind of stuff.’

‘Ok, give me an example.’

‘He’s into astronomy right? He talks about all these weird constellations I’ve never heard of, the size of telescopes, types of reflectors they have…’

‘Right, ok.’

‘Yeah, but it sounded like he was that way with everything: Photography, windsurfing, rock climbing, mountain bikes, abstract painting, black and white films, Neo-Paganism-whatever that is? He’s even got a blog about travel in Laos, and one about neuroscience!’

‘7, 9, 10’ All right that’s ten, what are the other five about? And, why did he get fired?’

‘Well, that’s the thing. He didn’t just get fired. He told me that his girlfriend of 8 years left him as well…because of the blogging!’

‘Hmmm. It must have been something to do with what he said on one of his blogs.’

‘He didn’t say anything on the blogs about the company.’

‘Well, why did they fire him?’

‘He told me, and these are his own words, ‘I hadn’t actually done any work for quite a long time.’’

‘What!?’

‘He said that he was so busy blogging that he pretty much stopped doing everything else. Now you see why things went down.’

‘Wow, he must be in really bad shape.’

‘Hmmm. Actually, he looked quite pleased with himself.’

‘What? Why?’

‘He told me that his blogs are getting quite renown in the Blogosphere.’

‘Blogoswhat!?’

‘Don’t worry about it. Anyway, let’s just say that because of a little paid advertising he’s put up around the place, he’s now making as much as his old job.’

‘No way.’

‘And, he hated the old job.’

‘Cool! What about the girlfriend? He must be pretty crushed about that.’

‘That’s where his latest blog comes into the picture. You’re not going to believe this. It’s a dating blog for blogging enthusiasts! Supposedly he’s now been dating some other ‘Super Bloggers’ like himself. He said the old girlfriend just didn’t understand the appeal of blogging.’

‘Crazy, man…Ummm, so that makes 11 blogs. What are the other four about?’

‘You had to ask. Well, there’s one completely devoted to Proboscis Monkeys, one on the melting of the polar ice caps…’

‘Gosh…what else?’

‘Oh yeah. There’s one all about ‘Making poverty history.’ The last one I’m sure you could guess.’

‘Hmmm. No, you got me on that one…’

‘It’s a blog all about blogging.’

By Jesse S. Somer

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If you’re reading this blog I expect that you’re a blog reader. That is of course taking into account that your car hasn’t crashed off of the Information Highway resulting in your sudden ‘turning up’ at this web address/homepage/address/home…and what a place to end up it is! Blogspoke: A writer/blogger who writes about writers/bloggers. So, here’s the big question: Have you ever commented on someone else’s blog? Why did you do it? (That’s two big questions…I snuck the other one in hoping you weren’t paying attention. That’s another big question: Are you really PAYING ATTENTION to what you’re reading right now? Are you only ‘half-reading’? Come on, put some effort in! It’s often hard for us humans to give full attention to anything that we’re doing isn’t it?

What makes you feel that sudden urge to make a comment on someone’s blog? Is it because you feel strongly about a topic? Is it because you really relate to what the blogger has written, and you feel the ‘need’ to let them know that you appreciate their thoughts? Is it because you want to take part in a conversation that is based around a topic that you feel passionate about, rather than the same old ‘small talk’ discussions around the water-cooler at work, or the pub afterwards? Could it be that you’re thinking of starting your own blog and you simply want to see what it feels like to have your own ‘voice’ up there on the computer screen, out there in the public domain?

It seems like I’ve gone from one big question to a multitude of more detailed specific ones. Oh well, I’ve seen some blogs that get hundreds of comments on each post; why does everybody suddenly feel the need to communicate with total strangers? Maybe we’re not strangers anymore? Maybe we never were? Maybe we’ve all been starving, even dying, to have our valuable individual opinions heard by someone, our peers, our society?

Have you got a few favourite bloggers that you read regularly? Have you ever commented on their sites? If you haven’t, how will they know you exist, and that you appreciate their efforts? How will they know that their blog is ‘needed’ by others? Not that it matters to all bloggers, but for me it’s good to know others are taking an interest. Are there other ways to let a blogger know that they are appreciated? I know some blogs ask for monetary contributions, that’s one way. What else? Come on and comment. Tell us why you comment.

Jesse S. Somer likes to comment on other people’s blogs to let them know that just about anyone in the world could be reading your words. It’s also fun to occasionally provoke someone by sharing a strongly felt opinion…but in a nice way of course, no need for insults in the Blogosphere. Is there?

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