Posts Tagged ‘Blogging’

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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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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The MiContent Blog amongst many topics is a blog about blogging, and blogging often involves writing about one’s life. I’ve recently come to a realisation that I’ve been writing a lot about blogs, but I haven’t blogged much about my life or about writing, which is one of my main loves in life. In blogging about blogs, I also need to touch on these ultimately important subjects, as they are the main reasons that I, and most other bloggers (I presume) are writing. When I ‘Blog the Blue Sky of the Blogosphere’ I not only focus on blogs but on the blue skies, the life that is led beneath them, and the power and beauty that thoughts turned into written words can relate to others about life’s experiences.

Today I went for a bike ride. I live in the suburbs of a fairly sizeable Earth city and as of yet hadn’t found much nature to connect with (something I need for inspiration). Today I kept riding and riding. Earlier on I had gone to write and nothing would come out. I felt stuffed up, airless, a bit like a puddle of stagnant water with mosquito larvae swimming around (the larvae were my thousands of thoughts trying to break free of the slime and sludge).

Today was different. I found a river. I sat down next to it and because of what I witnessed, was forced to write…I also wrote again on the journey home. This is the poem that flowed through my synaptic gaps down into my hands and then out of the pen:

River’s Edge, Realising the Dancing Light

If I were a painter, I’d paint the scene before me now.

A brown river sits reflecting the world, but only for a moment.

The wind blows; small waves ripple; the Sun burns down.

Thus begins the dance of light that no artist may emulate.


Sparkles, stars, flick in and out of existence. Sometimes only a few,

Other moments, huge groups, galaxy-sized, flicker and float in waves

The river has come to life. From a few stray stars in pitch night

To an infinite array, so packed with numbers, fiery swirls form

As the sparks join together to become one.


They dance, unseen forces pushing and pulling to create wave rhythms

A storm of insects or birds imitate this natural pattern

Flashing in and out of existence faster than you’d like, but

That’s why it’s so beautiful.


The lights have separated again.

I can see a billion in the distance, and they’ve come to join these few.

The duck swims by, kookaburra calls, parakeet partners swoop downwards

Willy Wagtails pop from branch to branch on trees that have heard

This song that has been sung as long as they’ve remembered the Sun


Like a school of fish slowly floating by, the lights make their presence

Known. The blue sky hasn’t changed the river’s muddy colour.

Tiny vibrations on the water’s surface play the rhythm

That beat a drum whose life could only come from a power Unknown.


Tears of happiness flow understanding in streams and creeks

Upstream, underground, unseen, but oh-so-necessary for a beginning to come.

I don’t want to leave; we should remember that we’ve come.


Back out on the road, I cross the freeway and I realise

How many times I’ve driven by without knowing what beauty

Lay hidden beside. I see graffiti-a Star of David with a

Swastika inside, I’m back to the human realm. The pigeon just misses my head

As we fly in the same direction. The frightened colours of sacred birds are still

With me as I head back to the suburbs.


On the bicycle path more parakeets fly by my head, a girl talks on a

Mobile phone. Some people say hello and some don’t, and then I realise

I’m not the first to have witnessed this spectacle. There was another

Sign as I left the park behind: Wurundjeri Baluk-The traditional

Owners of the land welcomed me. No doubt many took time

To watch the Dancing Light


By Jesse S. Somer

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To comment or not to comment on a blog, what is its purpose? Well, lately I’ve found myself sitting on the sidelines, reading very funny forum-like dialogue between people who are simply commenting on posts from a blogger. I’ve been ‘hanging out’ at one of my favourite blog sites (‘Dilbert Blog‘) and it seems that the people who read this blog by Scott Adams are as weird as the man himself! Just looking back at the last three posts’ comments pages I was astounded to see upwards of 250 individual responses to this one person’s ‘text on a page’, some of which were as lengthy as the original post (Comments pages now seem to be a place for us to post ourselves!).

Ok, I have been talking a bit about the ‘Dilbertblog’ lately, but that’s not what I’m focussing on here. What’s remarkable is the fact that a small community is forming solely around one person’s ideas in their blog (many of the names commenting after each post are the same). After looking at several of the newest posts I noticed that chronologically, comments are like blog posts themselves, being displayed from newest to oldest. This I find a little disconcerting, as each comment is usually related to the one before it, so if you want to get the whole gist of a situation, really you have to go to the bottom of the list and work your way back up to the top (Unfortunately I haven’t done this, so I’ve learnt the strange art of discerning a topic of conversation by going backwards in time…) J

Check out these fairly recent Dilbert Blog comments.

This was supposedly one of the only times that Scott Adams blogged on a Sunday (normally he takes a well-earned break), and so he decided to try and write something fairly serious, as opposed to his normal humorous content. The main idea was, ‘Media never gives me the context I want.’, and he drew upon many different ideas and topics ranging from the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust, to nuclear power vs. fossil fuels in Iran, to the treatment of Jews in there…You should see how many opinions, ideas, and facts sprouted up from his loyal, and some obviously newly-inspired readers! Little mini-conversations come out between people who’ve read other’s responses and who greatly disagree or agree with each other.

The comments are not all positive of course. A lot of what Adams blogs about is contentious (one of the reasons he’s become so popular!?-take a note), as was found in this Dilbert Blog comments page from an older post that has produced a recurring theme based around whether or not freewill exists. People seem very passionate about this subject, and it showed that when the writer took on a difficult topic, every Tom, Dick, and Harry wanted to get their word in, whether it was emerging from intellectual discourse, fundamentalist religion, or the usual lowest-common-denominator slinging of abuse. These nearly 400 comments caused Adams to write several more posts about the subject, like this Dilbert Blog article which again received 350 responses. The readers thus took on an interactive role in what was to be produced in the blog. It was really great to hear all of the different and widely varied perspectives on a subject (even though some are more than a little bit on the comical side-some purposeful in intent, others unaware of their own ridiculousness). Get commenting people!

Jesse S. Somer believes that if we all write from our heart about what’s important to us, and others relate through comments, trackbacks, and emails; intelligence, wisdom, creativity, and even love will be transferred throughout the world like never before.

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There are over 50 million blogs in the world, and this is only the beginning of the ‘Communicative revolution’. I got thinking recently about Blogrolls (those lists of links to other people’s blogs often found in a side column next to people’s journals). I was thinking about how if you took a look at my Blogroll, you’d get a little snapshot at what kind of person I am, by seeing what topics and styles of blog writing that I like to read. I decided to do a little experiment.

I went to Technorati’s (those people who try to track all the blogs in the world-sounds like a challenge doesn’t it?) Popular blog section (‘Top 100 Blogs’)  and I thought I’d pick a few random blogs out to see what, if anything, I could discover about their creators. I don’t want to come across as a typical brown-nose who wants to be noticed by the so-called ‘a-listers’, therefore improving my global ranking (something I’ve read is quite common, but not necessarily altruistic in intention that people do to get noticed). Not many people know about me now, but I hope to connect with others through honest and focussed content that people can relate to.

So, I took it upon myself to have a look at a couple blogs further down the list, still popular, but not ‘Superbloggers’…There are two ways in which Technorati rank the popularity of blogs, one is by how many other blogs have linked to the blog in question, and the other is by how many others have named that blog in their ‘Favourites’ section.

First randomly chosen Human blog: Xia Xue, ranked 97 in the world (with 5,063 links from 3,437 blogs). Ok, not a good choice…How does some ex-magazine columnist girl from Singapore get over 10,000 visits a day when she just talks about herself and the fashion products she’s been paid to try? She’s either sexy and all the guys like her, or she’s got some genuine connection to many young women out there in the Blogosphere…You’ve got me!? Her Blogroll is quite short compared to many I’ve seen, and it looks to be mainly filled with links to her close friends.

Second randomly chosen Human blog: Buzz Machine, ranked 122 in the world (with 10,229 links from 3,059 blogs). This is a blog written by a Professor Jeff Jarvis who heads a graduate program in Interactive Journalism. Ok, if anyone knows about blogging it would be this guy. He’s got a very long list of archived posts on a wide range of subjects, mainly dealing with News and media. However, I could be wrong about this whole Blogroll thing, because he only has one link (I’ve seen other blogs with a hundred or more!) and it’s to his son’s blog at Wire Catcher. Is this strange, or a deliberate choice to prove something about his blog’s identity? His son has a longer Blogroll, generally linking to technological blogs (a very popular subject in the Blogosphere, could it be because computer geeks-I say this word in the nicest of ways-make up a huge majority of bloggers as they are already always sitting in front of their computers?)

The final randomly chosen blog was: Flagrant Disregard, ranked 120 on the planet with (6,287 links from 3,108 blogs). This is an interesting one. It’s a blog by a guy who mainly talks about and takes photos of his family. Why is it so popular? After reading a few posts I can see why. He’s an honest guy who’s talking about his life, and life is weird and fun if viewed from the right perspective. With the last few posts entitled, ‘The best deal in Lego’, ‘Does homework suck?’, and ‘Cell phones and customer service: it doesn’t have to be this difficult’, you can catch my drift about the general life topics that are attracting readers’ attention. Now, time to see his Blogroll. The only link list he has is called, ‘People who I actually know in Real Life actually weird enough to have blogs’, and it’s a short list.

Where does all this leave me? Are Blogrolls as important as I once believed? It seems that many popular bloggers don’t partake in this form of link exchange/favourites list. This experiment has somewhat dubiously shifted into why blogs are popular, without producing much of a Blogroll theory or hypothesis. Looking at this tiny subsection of popular bloggers, it’s not who you read that tells us who you are; it’s what you say…You are what you write! Right?!

Jesse S. Somer is a man with a new blog and a relatively short Blogroll. He’s hoping to read and write so that the words and links on the page represent him. Isn’t that the name of the game?

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As you probably already know there are thousands of sites on the Internet that tell you how to create a good blog, but how many of them tell you how to find connections and form relationships with other bloggers out in the Blogosphere? Have you ever written a blog only to sit waiting for someone to visit and comment, and they never came?

I checked out the popular blog-hosting site WordPress’s ‘Introduction to Blogging‘ page. They gave this short list on ‘Hints for writing a great blog’. I elaborated on what they had to say.

Ok. Some may feel that this is all common sense but you’d be surprised at what kind of content many of the blogs out there are trying to pass off as being worthwhile. What we write is who we are so if we want to put the best foot forward these ideas could help you to relate to others better.

  1. ‘Post regularly, but don’t post if you have nothing worth posting about.’

This is important. Posting regularly shows visiting readers and bloggers that you are someone who is going to stick around. It’s no fun reading something cool on someone’s blog and then going back again and again only to find that they’ve seemingly been imprisoned on charges of laziness.

However, your content is a reflection of your identity so make sure you’re only writing when you’ve really got some relevant facts, opinions, and ideas to share with the community. If your blog is about science, telling people about your new car is going to tell real science buffs that you’re not focused enough on the topic at hand.

  1. Stick with only a few specific genres to talk about.’

This relates to what I was saying above. Bloggers are attempting to find and communicate with others of like mind. If you’re all over the place writing stream-of-consciousness text about your whole life, the only people who will care will be you and a few stream-of-consciousness-loving weirdos (I’m sure there’s some!).

No seriously, stick to the content that you’ve professed to be your area of expertise or interest. This is how ‘blogrings’ (groups of people interested in similar content) are created. Everyone who loves classical guitar and who blogs about it are getting together, commenting on each other’s ideas, sending each other links to cool sites etc. Don’t be left out because you gave a detailed analysis on your guitar blog about how you brushed your dog’s teeth focussing mainly on the gums and tongue!

  1. Don’t put ‘subscribe’ and ‘vote me’ links all over the front page until you have people that like your blog enough to ignore them (they’re usually just in the way).’

Integrity means being authentic, so too much advertising or literally asking others to come and see you is kind of like asking kids to be your friends back at primary (elementary) school. It’s not cool. Let your words be what attracts others. If what you’re writing is honest and interesting, bloggers will find you.

  1. Use a clean and simple theme if at all possible.

Don’t write huge taglines or ubiquitous-sounding phrases like, ‘A day in the life of me.’ If we all did that, by the year 3,000 there would be whole lot of blogs and nothing to show that we are individuals. Use your imagination but keep it simple and to the point. Using local slang terminology can and will confuse readers. People mightn’t necessarily be able to tell you’ve got a fried chicken blog if your tagline is, ‘Crispy, sticky cluck-clucks.’ Then again, who knows?

  1. Enjoy, blog for fun, comment on other peoples’ blogs (as they normally visit back).

These are imperatives. Enjoy yourself and relate to others. If you’re not having fun you won’t stick with it when times are tough. If you’re not commenting, linking-to (trackbacks, pingbacks), and visiting/reading other’s blogs-how will we know you exist? The best way to meet other people who love making hats is to search for blogs about hat making and connect. You can even often send personal emails to the blogger.

It’s common sense isn’t it? If common sense were more common, what then would we be lacking?

Jesse S. Somer is about to partake on a mission to relate to as many bloggers as possible. How many will he connect with?

This kid is a future Fishing Blogger.

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It is the year 2050. Everyone (all 12 billion of us) on our planet Earth have a voice that can be heard. Everyone has a blog. No, I’m not a science-fiction writer, and I’m not a prophet of things to come. I’m one single, simple human being, and you are hearing my prediction because you are reading this blog. This is the way of the future. Long gone are the days where individual’s opinions are lost amidst society’s one-to-many communication structure and the cacophony of silence created by those who wish to be heard above all others. The Internet and blogs specifically, to those who have partaken in this new culture may seem like old News, like an everyday normality. It is not. To most of humanity, blogs are babies without names, infants that have yet to learn how to speak or walk. Most are still unborn. This is the beginning of something very beautiful.

To quickly look at the human species, as if we had the ability to watch it evolving over its total time of existence, we can see that communication between people has gone through many stages. In the days of hunter and gatherer societies, tribes got together and any and every person had the right to speak their mind about a subject. Of course the elders who had more experience had more authority to speak on certain topics, but that was simply the way people learnt and shared knowledge.

Eventually (a long time later), the written word became a way for people to speak their opinions as well as prove and disprove facts and theories. People started to write books. What a phenomenon this was! We are still reading texts that are centuries old and getting inspired by these words from thinkers, some of whom mightn’t have even been able to share their ideas in the older word-of-mouth tradition (Fear of public speaking? Many writers aren’t the most extroverted…) Time marched onwards, people multiplied like rabbits with an endless supply of carrots. From villages, we moved to towns, then to cities, and now to mega-cities with up to 30 million of us living in close proximity.

Oh, we haven’t lost our voices as a collective. You can look at political and social revolutions throughout recent history where people of like mind have risen up and deposed their oppressors. It was once illegal for an African American to ride at the front of a bus in the U.S.A., just as it was once against the law for an Indian to pick up the salt that came from his or her own country. On the other hand as there are so many of us now, individual voices have long been suppressed simply because there hasn’t been a medium that we could use to connect with each other. We don’t want to connect with everyone, but it can sure feel lonely sometimes if you are surrounded by people who don’t seem to think like you, or who are interested in different aspects of life.

So this is where the blog comes into the picture. What a strange word this ‘blog’. I now wonder if ‘book’ was once considered a weird sounding term when it first came into general circulation. For those who have been reading and writing blogs for years (not even a blink in the eye of humanity’s lifetime) blogs are easily explainable, easily understood, and sit in their rightful place amongst the world. For the rest of us they are something strange, unknown, and even confusing in their concept. This is where the idea for ‘Blogspoke’ came from. Here is a blog for bloggers to share their thoughts about blogging, as well as a place for novices like myself to come and find out about what blogs can do for them.

The truth is blogs are giving individuals a voice that can be heard by other single minds. This has so many positive connotations that it is hard to comprehend or imagine the future outcomes of such a shift in our social communication process. Think about it: A planet with over 10 billion minds where all individuals have the ability to share an opinion, share knowledge, or connect with others of similar interests. Even if you can’t write, you can be heard through audio on a podcasting blog!

There are always many sides to looking at a subject, and I’ve already read from some bloggers who have grievances about how blogging is proceeding in its present structure. This is good. This is how we are going to discover the best way to do things as blogging gets bigger and used more and more by the masses. It is growing at an incredible rate let me tell you. ‘About 175,000 new weblogs are created each day, which means that on average, there are more than 2 blogs created each second of each day.’ (January 2004 to July 2006, Technorati). For me, the question arises from my sceptical side (It always sticks its head in!) on the issue of simply having so many voices to hear. How will we disseminate the ‘good’ from the ‘bad’ (Zen Buddhists don’t believe in duality, but go with me here) when it comes to all of this information? How will we get to hear/read what we need out there in the growing sea of words and ideas?

That’s what I hope this blog will help us to do: Be a place where we can come and share our opinions, facts, and comments on what we like and don’t like about this ‘blogosphere’ as it rapidly evolves. You have a voice like you’ve never had one before, it’s about time you told people what you think. If you don’t have a blog yet (as there are currently around 50 million this probably means you), I’d like to hear from you on why you are thinking of creating one and what you think it could do for you. What issues and challenges have you found or do you imagine might be involved in the process?

I thought this little recipe for ‘Blog’ I discovered at a blog post written by Chip Scanlan at Poynter might taste good. What do you think? Are there any herbs or spices that you think need to be added?

By Jesse S. Somer

Jesse S. Somer is blogging about blogs. He couldn’t have done it 20 years ago. As Bob Dylan sang, ‘The times they are a-changin’.

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