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Archive for May, 2007

If your blogging experience is anything like mine has been, you might also be saying to yourself, ‘How do I really get to meet other bloggers of like-mind who have similar interests? I have found it to be pretty hard searching for blog topics using keywords at Google. The answer to this challenge may come down to an age-old process practiced for millennia: networking. ‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,’ is what my parents always said when it came to business or finding employment. Now I’m learning that it’s the same in the Blogosphere.

I have come across many well-written blogs in my travels. However, quite a large percentage of them remain relatively hidden under the radar, unknown to most of humanity. When blogging, it’s such a great feeling to know that people are reading your thoughts and ideas. It’s even better when they leave comments hoping to start a dialogue. After participating in these ‘relationships’ it can be quite disheartening to have to go through ‘quiet’ periods with little (if any) interaction. So, how do we find people who write about similar topics? From my recent experiences I’d have to say that this desired networking is being done at blogging communities or blogrings, of which I’ve written about previously: ‘Xanga Blogrings: An attempt to find others like you.

Though I wrote about these communities a while back, I thought I’d still try and make it on my own. I’ve spent a lot of timing searching for bloggers to relate with, not to mention commenting at other blogs to try and start ‘blog friendships’. It’s been hard. Just like real life, you can’t make someone want to know you. There has to be a point of connection; a reason why you feel like sharing each other’s space. You have to feel like you’re on the same ‘wavelength’. Recently I had a chat with a friend who said that he’d recently joined a blogging community of sorts called Zaadz. I checked out his new site and then did some research on how these communities work. It’s pretty cool and I really think that this has to be one of the main ways in which bloggers are ‘meeting’ each other on the Internet.

At Zaadz, you have to create a profile of yourself. There are several categories including Interests, Heroes, Teachers, Books, Music, and Movies in which you fill out. Your answers automatically become hyper-links. Let’s say that I put one of my interests as being ‘meditation’. After the word ‘meditation’ has become a hyperlink, when I click on it, it will take me to a page of ‘Zaadsters’ photographs who all listed ‘meditation’ as an interest. There you go: It’s an automatic connection. You already know that you have at least one common interest with a whole group of people. Cool. There’s also an awesome photo facility on Zaadz. Check it out, and check out the Zaadz philosophy on their Home page as well as the ‘thinkarete.themanifesto’ written by the site’s CEO, both of which contain inspiring ideas that make this community look worthy.

Recently I was sent an email from someone asking me to join the blogging community at Blogmemes. A while back I joined a website called Mybloglog, but I’d completely forgotten about it. It seems (I assume) that this blogger found my profile there (which has a cool little picture of MiContent on it) when searching for keywords relating to their interests. All I had to do was click on the link in my email and I was part of the community. Unbeknownst to me, Mybloglog has thousands of blogging communities within its one site.

Today I went to my Mybloglog profile after doing a little searching around yesterday of bloggers that I was told had visited my blog, one of which had called themselves an ‘admirer’. Interesting. Today it seems that one of the bloggers I visited called BlogBloke has added me to his community at Techbloke. I don’t think I joined of my own volition. This could be a problem…shouldn’t I be the one to choose who I want to relate to? There’s also a means to ask others to be friends or contacts. If someone whose writing you like also likes your writing/content, they’ll agree to make a connection. I like this reciprocal approach.

This all seems pretty great but I have noticed that some people are part of hundreds of communities, let alone being friends with thousands of individual bloggers. This causes some suspicion on my behalf. What are the intentions of these ‘ultra-networkers’? It’s hard enough having a handful of friends in reality. I seriously doubt that anyone has time to consistently read thousands of blogs. Could this be a case of blog gold-digging or social-climbing? I’d like to communicate with a lot of people about subjects that interest me, but I don’t think I can relate to that many people. Then again, I can talk to just about any type of person when I ride the train.

Jesse S. Somer is going to go deeper into the Blogosphere by joining in blogging communities. Human beings are social creatures. Why did I ever think that my writing alone would create relationships?

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I’m usually quite an optimistic writer when it comes to the Internet, blogging, and information technologies. I’ve written over 180 articles on these subjects and it’s a rare occasion that I ever focus on the negative side of things. I guess I need to be an optimist; I really have faith that these new forms of human communication and collaboration are going to help our species evolve its collective social consciousness to a level where we are much more in tune with each other and the world around us. However, I guess because of the nature of the Universe, it being composed of equal parts positive and negative forces (as represented in the Chinese symbol ‘Yin Yang’), there had to be a time where my perspective shifted towards the other end of the spectrum. That time is now. I still love what I do and all that humanity has achieved, but lately I can’t help but focus on the many ways in which we have failed to reach a functioning level in terms of simplicity of design with these new technologies. Technology is meant to be simple and easy so that the masses can partake in its wonder and utilise its power. Somewhere along the way we seem to have lost our bearings. Let me tell you about my day today.

My last post was entitled, ‘I can’t find the kinds of blogs that I’d like to read. Help me!’ and it typifies how my interaction with computers and the Internet has been lately. In that post I talk about the terrible experience I had when I decided to search for blogs written about Kung Fu. That is only the beginning of the tale. This TED Talk by David Pogue that I just listened to about the simplicity (or lack thereof) of design in modern technology exemplifies my current mental state. He particularly likes to focus on the stupidity of many Microsoft creations like Windows and Word, but I’m going to take a much broader approach with my criticisms. For me, things don’t really relate to only one company or technology, although admittedly I do use a Mac (which if you have one, you will know that it can be hard to be a Mac user in a world full of Microsoft and Linux users) so it seems I unwittingly chose a hard road for myself. My issues stretch in all directions and are not prejudiced against anyone in particular. What I am feeling is a deep questioning in terms of the integrity and fallibility of human designers who are behind a lot of what has been produced for our society. There’s no doubt about it. We’ve got the brains – but are we using them?

Yesterday I went to my girlfriend’s university to use the Internet, as my office at home was extremely hot and I needed some cool air conditioning to get my brain functioning. The students in the computer labs wouldn’t shut up, but that’s another story completely. My thumb drive that I store much of my work on no longer works on nearly all of the computers in the library – only one row of very old ones, in an area that is quite noisy. My thumb drive does work in the computer labs however … Why is it so?

I just got a new RSS Reader for my Mac; I downloaded it free online. See my previous post ‘RSS Readers: Why don’t you have one? Are you crazy?’ Well, for some reason I keep trying to add blogs to this ‘Shrook’ Reader and it just won’t take them. The blog sites say that they have RSS feeds available and yet they either simply don’t work, or I get a message saying that it can’t read the XML.

A friend of mine sent me a link to a program called Workrave that tells you automatically when you should take a break from your computer so that you don’t get Repetitive Strain Injury in your wrists. He owns an Optometry Clinic with his wife (she’s the optometrist) and uses this program, but in the context of relieving strain on the eyes. Of course it won’t work on a Mac, only Windows and Linux. I tried getting a few Mac equivalents like ‘Type-Break-Mode’, but couldn’t easily find where I could download it. You know when you hit on a Google link with your desired key words and you get a page of html computer code? That happened repeatedly. Repeatedly …

My brother gave me a program called Irip, which is supposed to let you download your songs off of your Ipod onto your Itunes program in your computer (when Apple made the Ipod they only wanted songs to be able to travel one way, computer to MP3 player). It’s supposed to be easy. I must be an idiot because I can’t get it to work! Are you getting my drift here?

Then there’s the issue of content on the Internet. I found a list of blogs about blogging that supposedly originated from Technorati CEO David Sifry at a blog called ‘I’m Blogging This’. Most of these blogs only touch on blogging, and some of them have nothing to do with it at all. I looked up literary blogs (I like reading books and want to get a list of other bloggers with similar interests) to see if I’d have any more luck than with my Kung Fu blog search debacle. I found this really cool web page that lists heaps of literary blogs: ‘The Complete Review’s Links to Literary Weblogs‘. The funny thing is that my search engine didn’t provide this list. No way. The only reason that a comprehensive list like this one even exists is because some individual human beings put the effort in to compile it themselves. The search engine spiders don’t have one up on simple human endeavours. Prove me wrong people!

I love technology. It needs to be simple to use. The people who make it are thinking too much. It’s all too complex, varied, random, and disassociated from meaning. KISS: Keep It Simple Stupid.

Jesse S. Somer is not the brightest kid on the block. He needs the processes of ‘future’ technologies to be created with simpletons like him in mind.

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Supposedly there are over 55 million blogs in the world, and this number is growing exponentially everyday. One would assume that with this massive amount of online journals that just about every topic known to humanity would have someone writing about it. This does not seem to be the case, and there could be many reasons for it. Here are a few of my theories on the matter: Firstly, blogging might still be so young that there’s no way all topics could have been covered thus far. Secondly, it seems the bulk of bloggers out there are writing about the same things, namely politics. Thirdly, and most importantly (I believe), if there are blogs on the subjects I’m interested in, Google doesn’t seem to be able to give them to me.

Let me give you an example. I’m interested in kung fu. I’ve been studying Tai Chi and Kung Fu for over 12 years. As I’ve been writing about blogs I like and don’t like, I thought I’d take the next obvious step and start searching for blogs that relate to all of my specific personal interests. So, I typed ‘Kung fu blogs’ into my Google search engine expecting to see a comprehensive list of martial arts bloggers come up. If you’ve tried similar searches you will know the result of my experience: almost nothing showed up. Google said that it had found 1,780,000 links with the words ‘kung fu blogs’ used on the World Wide Web. However, I was lucky to find a couple of actual blogs – and they were nothing to write home about – very average indeed.

With so many links out there, why did I end up feeling so discouraged and unfulfilled? The answer is quite simple – at least it seems to be. People say the words ‘kung fu’ and ‘blog’ all the time on the Internet … but hardly ever together; and hardly in the context that I’m looking for. People call themselves the ‘Kung Fu Monkey’ and then have no actual affiliation with martial arts whatsoever. Others love kung fu movies and so they make websites filled with long lists of the films they’ve seen and loved.

The result for me is a quagmire of disassociated terms. It’s like I’m sitting next to a black hole in space and all the verbal conversations of the Universe are flying space garbage going past my ears, quickly being sucked into nothingness (as ‘nothingness’ is actually about how relevant any of their meanings are to me). Oh of course there are some terms that I know, but they are so jumbled up and arbitrary in their expression that they may as well be gibberish spoken in a foreign tongue.

There’s something wrong with Google (and I assume other search engines). It gives you the text words that you’ve searched for, but it often doesn’t find you the MEANING that you desire. There has to be a better way for me to get the exact content that I need right at the top of my search query lists. I mean if you go even further, who’s to say that if there actually was a long list of kung fu blogs to read through that I’d even find the types of writing I can relate to and enjoy/learn from?

If I’m a mature-aged academic looking to read about the health benefits of kung fu, I’m not going to feel grateful if I have to search through pages and pages of teenagers talking about how cool it is to be able to do a flying side kick. Conversely, if I’m a woman looking to learn self-defence, I’m not going to be too enthused by reading blogs from guys talking about how great they were at the last form competition or belt-ranking ceremony.

We need to be able to easily find the exact content and writing style relating to the context of the terms that we’re searching for. In this instance, I would like to have read blogs from intelligent kung fu practitioners about different ways to improve one’s skills and training. If I could read blogs from masters or teachers that’d be even better. Are people not writing about this one tiny topic (I’m guessing kung fu is quite insignificant in terms of popularity when compared to video games, information technologies, and politics), or am I simply unable to find these bloggers with the current technologies available to me? Either way, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth when I spend my valuable time searching for knowledge, only to end up feeling lost, when at the start of my Internet blogging quest I was curious, confident, and filled with excited anticipation.

Here’s an interesting thought. If you type ‘Kung Fu Blogs’ into Google after I make this post, there’s a good chance it will come up on the list of links (I did write the words ‘Kung Fu’ many times throughout this piece). If you were someone like me looking for ideas from teachers or masters, would you be satisfied with this link?

Jesse S. Somer is but a grasshopper in the world of kung fu. However, when it comes to his blogging experience, he knows exactly what he wants from the Blogosphere.

When searching for blogs I like, I often feel I’m only chasing after shadows of the ideas I hoped to find … and in the end, my hands come up empty.

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I’ve just hooked myself up with a new RSS Reader. If you don’t know what an RSS Reader is, you can read this article I wrote a long time ago that might give you some basic insight into what a ‘Rich site summary’ or ‘really simple syndication’ is: ‘RSS is a Life Raft, Saving Us from a Sea of Useless Information’.

I don’t think anyone really knows which of these definitions the ‘right’ one is, but they both seem to fit well. To put it ‘really simply’, RSS is having a desktop program that (once your sites are chosen) automatically brings you the latest writings from bloggers, News sites etc. via feeds … What’s a feed? It’s a stream of information coming from a chosen site that will hopefully ‘feed’ your mind and make you more knowledgeable, and a wise human being. Hmmm. Well, that’s debatable – as one can subscribe to feeds from just about any blog or website. For example, if I want to get the new Garfield comic delivered straight to my ‘mailbox’ (They are a lot like an email system, and some are even integrated/configured together with your normal personal email), every time one is published – Bang! It’s there. The question is whether or not Garfield will feed my hunger for wisdom … I think the greater probability lies in that he will feed his fat gut with lasagne, while my mind stagnates and rots in its own slimy green ooze.

In my previous city of residence I used to work at an Internet company who was working on an RSS Reader. Subsequently I got to use the beta version and got my head around how these virtual ‘machines’ work. It’s been awhile since I’ve had one, and as I use a Mac I thought I’d have a look online for a free, easily downloadable RSS that was Mac compatible. I can’t say I found many that fit these requirements and so when I finally came across Shrook I grabbed it. Shrook’s nothing special, but it does the job. I can read new blog entries and News articles from all of my favourite sites that have feeds enabled (it seems not everyone out there does – why?!). I can also see photos and even watch videos (although that function hasn’t seemed to work very well as of yet). The only issue for me is the format. It’s non-adjustable, and the amount of space devoted to the actual written text is only about a third of the screen. Has anyone else had this problem? How are you supposed to read long articles and look at big photos when your total reading area is the size of an infant’s shoebox?

It looks like RSS Readers bring in their feeds in two different ways. One type is where you can see the whole text of each article, while the other is where you are only shown a small sample of a couple lines giving – you a taste of things to come if you click to go further. This type seems more practical to me because if you’re subscribing to multiple sites, and each is publishing multiple pages of new stories or articles on a regular basis, it gives you a chance to sort through them quickly, deleting any topics or stories that don’t pique your interest. We’ve only got so much time to devote to the pursuit of information gathering now don’t we?

So I’m wondering, ‘what kind of RSS Readers do you other people use?’ Are you happy with how they work? Can you imagine a better way to get to all the interesting subject matter that you desire? If you’re a blogger and you don’t have RSS feeds available for your readers, why? Are you crazy? I can’t believe some of my favourite blogs like Gaping Void: ‘Cartoons drawn on the backs of business cards’ don’t have RSS subscriptions; unless they do and it’s just not obvious enough for those whose brains aren’t able to utilise extra-sensory deduction.

If you’ve never used an RSS Reader and you like surfing the Internet for blogs and articles that relate to your interests or take you closer to reaching enlightenment, go and try one out. I think most of the popular ones would be downloadable from the Internet. I know some people who use Mozilla Thunderbird. How does it work? Please get back to me and tell me how your experience goes and whether or not it has made your life better, or conversely, turned your brain into even more of a puddle of oozing green slime.

Once again I’m out on the surface of the river of knowledge, using my staff to judge the depths of wisdom, and keeping my eyes open for sharp rocky obstacles.

Jesse S. Somer is back on the RSS life raft, searching for islands of interesting people and topics of conversation.

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Recently, I stumbled upon ‘Post of the week’ as we all do on our blogging travels. That is, we stumble around endlessly searching for good writing. For that’s what this blogging journey is, isn’t it? We traverse through the ‘human mind ether’ searching for people’s words on the screen; people’s words that hopefully will connect with our own way of seeing the world. Where you go, you never know, and the kinds of people you’re relating to, you’ve really no idea – except for one tiny aspect of their personality which for some strange reason you believe you can relate to. I read some weird blogs on occasion, but I don’t judge them…It’s just so interesting to see how many different ways human beings interact with their mind-borne realities. ‘Post of the Week’ is a very new venture that intends to highlight great writing out in the Blogosphere by bloggers that otherwise mightn’t be getting much recognition.

So far there’s been three winners (one per week), and I was able to access two of the posts…that’s the thing with the Internet and technology – it doesn’t always work for us now does it? Still, it’s in its infancy…the blogosphere needs to be toilet-trained. Both posts I read were quite powerful forms of online writing. I can’t say that they’re the type of reading that I usually search out for, but they were enlightening nonetheless. At dervala.net the author wrote a post called ‘Against depression’ that gave some real insight into what having the disease of depression is like. There were some interesting links throughout the narrative, one of which went to a summary of a book about depression in Japan called, ‘Shutting out the Sun’ by Michael Zielenziger that caught my eye, as I’m quite interested in Japanese culture.

The other winning post I read came from the Overnight Editor, and was called ‘The 000-999 of London’. It’s a down and dirty social-realism genre/stream of consciousness look into a contemporary life that is led by chemicals/alcohol into multiple parallel universes of London. It’s interesting stuff.

I think this kind of site will grow a lot and be a really good place to find out about great blog writing, as its mission is to do just that. It’s making me realise that many more bloggers are indeed actually ‘real’ writers (But what is a real writer?), and that we could be on the cusp of a whole new way of interaction in our world. Through writing, we are meeting others, sharing opinions and ideas, and probably most importantly, inspiring each other’s creativity by expressing what we have to say in a style all our own, and by seeing the magic of how other people put words on their own ‘page’. The Blogosphere is an actual place (Not virtual!) where our collective social consciousness is being fed by each and every individual mind that chooses to participate in discussion.

Could the future ‘classic’ writers be the bloggers of today?

Jesse S. Somer wonders how many bloggers also aspire to be considered ‘writers’.

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Yesterday I had quite a new experience as a blogger and I’m wondering how I feel about it. Friends of mine wanted me to try out some new software on my blog, and they’d said it would be simple and easy. It wasn’t. You see, I may have a blog, but that doesn’t mean I know too much about technology – in particular computer programming, code, etc. I have a blog so I can write about my thoughts; I don’t want to have to spend too much time figuring out how things work – I just want to be able to spend my time (which I believe is quite valuable no matter who you are) doing the things I enjoy. My friends are computer programmer – types who just can’t seem to understand this distinction. They think that ‘serious bloggers’ should all have web-developing skills and that all it takes is a bit of curiosity to figure things out like pasting some Java code into your blog. Sorry. I disagree.

Bloggers want to write. They are passionate about what they write and because in modern society we often have busy lives, they like to blog any chance they can get – that is of course assuming they’ve got something new they feel they want to share with the world. I don’t know about other bloggers, but from my research and reading of hundreds or even thousands of blog posts since I started the MiContent Blog, I’ve made one simple discovery – or at least a hypothesis. Bloggers are normal people. Bloggers are mothers and fathers, business people, hobbyists, sports lovers, political enthusiasts; you name it, when it comes to bloggers, there’s room for every kind of person on the globe – and that is how it has evolved. A recent comment on this blog mentioned that no two bloggers are alike. How true, how true this is.

I think sometimes the people (the very small fraction of the one billion people currently on the Internet, or 55 million bloggers) who create information technologies often have a little trouble seeing outside the technological box that has become their place of existence. They use html and Java code so regularly that it has become a language for them, just like learning Japanese has been for me. However, I don’t make the assumption that anyone else wants to learn Japanese, and rightly so, for when I mention that I’ve been learning the language people are often greatly surprised or impressed. They know or imagine learning a second language as being extremely difficult. Science has even dictated that one needs to develop a certain part of the brain for language in order to speak in multiple tongues.

So why do software developers presume that the average everyday blogger wants anything to do with writing, copying, or pasting computer language code? For them it may seem simple and easy; they speak the language fluently. All it takes is a bit of ‘curiosity’ and reading/research/tweaking with things…but for me, and I presume for most bloggers who simply want to write – they don’t want to have anything to do with the codes behind the technology. What do you think? Do you think all people on the Internet should know how to use computer languages? I think it is definitely near-sighted and presumptuous to believe so. If we want to know this stuff, we’ll go study it at school. For now, we want to blog – and we want it to be a simple and easy process.

I’ve seen blogging grandmas out there. Do these tech-people really think Granny wants to have to learn anything even slightly complex or new just to write, put photos up, and communicate with the world? No way, and guess what? I don’t really want to either. Leave that to the tech-heads…us normal humans need things to be simple and easy. We’ve got enough on our plates in this modern, contemporary life as it is. Web developing and blogging are two totally different games. Hey, honestly I’m a little proud I even attempted to work with code…in the past whenever I saw the stuff I got itchy and nervous.

Jesse S. Somer says leave computer code for the developers. Bloggers just want to blog.

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Do we really need to hear the voices of every single human being? If everyone gets a blog, is that such a good thing? These are a couple questions that have come up in discussion in recent times on this blog, and I feel it’s about time we get to the bottom of it. If everybody’s spending their time writing a blog, will there be anyone left to read them? Why do you want to write or read blogs anyway? If you’re writing for readers or comments/interaction, will your writing become obsolete and lost in a sea of human voices crying out to be heard? What kind of voices are we going to hear?

Going deeper, how many people do you meet that you don’t really relate to, or even get along with? The answer is ‘a lot’! Why do you think most people only have a small group of human beings they call their closest friends, all others automatically thrown into categories like housemates, colleagues, team mates, acquaintances, and associates? We don’t like all people. Well, it’s not that we don’t like all people – but we don’t understand or comprehend many of the behaviours that others exhibit. As soon as someone else shows a certain trait that grates against our belief system, we decide that we’d rather not spend as much time being around them. So, what about blogging? Does this mean the Internet is going to become an endless quagmire of people we don’t relate to getting clicked on and visited when we do Google searches on any specific topic?

Everyone’s a writer now. Great! Smell my sarcasm. How many books are already at the bookstore? Do we really need more writers spilling their guts into the pot of human communication? When you go to a bookstore how often do you walk around looking at authors you’ve never heard of, or writers who write about subjects you’ve no interest in at all? All the time, and sometimes you walk out of that shop with nothing. You’ve found nothing worth reading…in a bookstore! So what happens when we get every brain on the planet trying to tell us a story? Chaos! Can you imagine looking for blogs about motorcycles for instance? How many freaking blogs are you going to have to go through to get the type of blog you like to read? By the time you get there, you’ve got no energy left to read…that is of course if you ever get there.

You wanted to know about old German motorcycle engine cylinders, all you found were pictures of scantily-clad women on Harley Davidson choppers with photos of mean-looking tattoo beast-men staring at you through your monitor, daring you to come near their bike or woman. It all sounds like a pain in the buttocks to me. I thought blogging would give a voice to the minorities and individuals of the world. It sounds like if they ever did finally get a blog, no one would be able to find it for the forest of ‘Average Joe’ blogs pervading the Blogosphere. I don’t want to have to read about people’s everyday lives…you might?

In the days before writing, most wisdom was passed down orally by elders who had lived long lives, and because they were sensible they held high positions in the tribe. Younger people didn’t bother speaking much, especially at important ceremonies – they wouldn’t know what to say anyway! Those were stories worth hearing. How many stories expressed by people we don’t really relate with and who don’t really have much knowledge about anything are we going to have to wade through to get through to the worthy information? Sounds like a world with too many bloggers, too many writers, too many voices and not enough readers or time to relate with anyone.

Just as a dog isn’t allowed to crap in the park, humans shouldn’t be allowed to talk bullshit in the Blogosphere.

Jesse S. Somer isn’t jive talkin’. He’s tellin’ it the way it is.

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