Realities Created, Maintained and Destroyed, WHILE-U-WAIT!

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Views from the Bloggingsphere

I really had no idea what blogging was all about when I started this endeavor a few days ago.

A friend of mine, my best friend actually, a fellow by the name of Steve Barnes, wanted me to help him set up a blog.

Steve is a writer.

I don't mean an aspiring writer, or a part time writer, he is in that elite class of writers who make their entire living by working at their craft. (And he makes a very good living).

Steve has twenty novels published, two of which have made the NY Times Best Seller List, as well as several screen plays. Amanda Plummer picked up an Emmy for her work with one of Steve's Outer Limits scripts, "A Stich In Time".

Steve is amazing at developing characters. If you read his books you become totally engaged with the people he is writing about. (You can read a bit about Steve's thoughts on Characterization here).

I suspect that he can do this because he engages with people the same way. He loves to connect with people and find out what makes them uniquely who they are. He has more empathy than any other three people I know.

So when he started hearing about blogging, he decided that it might be an interesting way to reach out to people, make some connections, especially people who are interested in writing themselves.

So one day a couple of weeks ago Steve gives me a call and asks me to build a blog into his website.

Why would he ask someone who knows nothing about blogging for help on a project like this? Well, I build and maintain his web sites, so perhaps it was a natural assumption that I would know about setting up a blog.

The truth is I was woefully ignorant of everything about blogging. (though I was not going to tell Steve that, I like to keep him thinking that I am an expert on everything). I had read a few entries from a couple of blogs and that was it.

So I did what I usually do in cases like this, I went for the full immersion learning.

I armed myself with a pound of organic Tanzania Peaberry coffee, a good supply of Red Bush tea, and sat myself down in front of the computer, typed "Blog" into Google and hit my Enter key.

One of the first things I found was a useful article from Wired. This lead to other things to read, I spent a whole day reading everything I could find on the art and science of blogging. When I thought I had enough basic information, I grabbed my specially modified, heavily armored, Mark One Mozilla Firefox browser and took the plunge:

Into the Bloggingsphere

I began reading blogs. Every one I could find. I quickly came to realize that this was a whole other dimension of the Internet. It sort of felt like I had gone out the back door of "The Leaky cauldron" and found myself in Diagon Alley, only much weirder.

There was, at least for me, a somewhat voyeuristic feel to it. Sort of like when you go to one of those websites that have a web cam in a room, and you can watch somebody going about their life. Only in this case it is not a web cam into the room, it is a web cam into someone's mind, which is much more intimate than a camera in the living room, and sometimes a lot more spooky.

It, for me at least, has the feel of being someplace just a little different, like wandering into an ethnic quarter of a big city. It is like going to China Town in San Francisco and wandering out of the tourist strip. You know that you are still in the same city, but you also have the feeling that you are in a completely alien place. I started to think of it as a sort of alternate reality, and I named it in my mind as the "Bloggingsphere".

"They come not from the Spaces we know, but from the angles between them, what the Necronomican calls The Bloggingsphere"

One of my first discoveries was that Sturgeon's law held true in the Bloggingsphere. There are a lot of completely uninteresting, poorly written blogs out there.

I also discovered that there are some sad, pathetic blogs.

Some of the most heart wrenching are the blogs of teenage girls talking about their anorexia and bulimia, especially the blogs that give advice on how to avoid parental notice of one's eating disorder.

Bloggers seem to be quite young on average, teens and twenties are what I keep seeing in profiles, and it seems that a whole lot more women and girls are blogging than men and boys.

And, if you take the time to look, you can fine some real gems, blogs worth coming back to.

My favorite so far is DisOrganization, which has a nice mix of content, and is both engaging and well written. I found myself "cheering" this women on in my mind as she wrote about her life and her career as a writer.

A close second is Ecce Mulier, this blog is much more "poetic" than the first one I mentioned. Psychically, reading this blog is a lot like walking out of an air conditioned office building in Dar Es Salaam and being hit with the 85% humidity and 90 degree temperature, smelling the heavy, sweet breeze coming up from the Indian ocean. It can catch you off balance, but it can wake you up.

Then there are the "commentary" blogs, millions of them it seems. Most are fairly boring but there are a couple of note.

First is the Cool Blue Blog, which is actually run by an acquaintance and "internet friend". It is one of the only "Right Wing" blogs I can stomach reading, because regardless of the flaws in his politics (according to me) he can and does think.

Another is small flightless bird, which is fun because it gives a Canadian perspective. Most people in the US, as far as I can tell, are oblivious to the fact that there is a whole country just north of us, and that what we do often has an effect on them. The guy who writes this blog is often witty and it is worth a look.

I ran across a category that both surprised and delighted me, Muslim Women writers.

There are a couple of blogs that stand out for me in this category.

WriteousSister has some interesting writing on it, and is well worth a look.

and lastly we have AnthroGal's World, she has, at least for me, been an interesting person to read. I find what she has to say hopeful. She is not filling the stereotype of a "Muslim woman", which is refreshing.

The Next Big Step

Now, after all that research I was ready experiment. I had taken a look at all the blogging services I could find, and had decided that Blogger would be my best choice for building a blog. It is free, and you can, if you have some skills with HTML (and I do) customize it to your heart's content. Blogger is less intrusive than any of the other free services I checked out.

So I sat down and thought about what I would like to say to the world at large. What parts of myself would I be willing to expose to public scrutiny and what about my life and thought might be of interest.

I tend to be a very private person. I do a fair amount of work on the 'net, such as moderating eGroups,. I have built a persona for doing this, and whenever I need to do something with one of these groups I just slip into character and play my role.

So I decided that my experimental blog would be a sort of vacation, that I would talk about what I am personally interested in and the parts of my life that most people don't get to see.

Some of my Silat students (the teenagers) had been telling me that I should have a blog where I could put my thoughts about martial arts and the other things I talk about in class, so that is what I decided to do.

So The Traceless Warrior was born.

Surprisingly, people started reading the thing, and were seemingly enjoying what they read. While I thought that I would keep this blog going for a couple of weeks until I had learned everything I could from doing it, I now find that I am enjoying this. I suspect that I will keep it up as long as there are people who are interested in what I have to say.

And Steve's blog? (You remember Steve, this is a story about Steve and the blog he wanted).

Well I built it for him. He had a rudimentary blog that he had started at (shudder) AOL so I transferred his messages to his new home at Blogger, and he is up and running.

You should give him a visit at Dar Kush.

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