[PP-main] Mainstream Realities

Walter Ludwick wludwick at mail.walmar.com
Thu Mar 9 19:27:20 CET 2000

I tuned into this discussion over at kuro5hin, followed it over to
advogato, and have just subbed to this listserv.  I see i've missed some
good stuff i'm trying to catch up on... but so far, i've been wondering
if there isn't some mainstream reality that needs to be taken into
account here.  This article of yesterday, from the publishing industry
perspective -
http://www.mediainfo.com/ephome/news/newshtm/stop/st030800.htm - kind of
confirmed it for me:  Weblogs have ARRIVED on the commercial radar.  The
enclosed link to this "weblog portal" site  -
http://www.eatonweb.com/portal/ - reveals a list of about 700 weblogs,
which list doens't include kuro5hin or advogato or any of the latest on
my hit parade.  Anyone that surfs the web regularly already has a few
favorite  weblogs, and anyone who thinks "gee, i oughta launch a weblog
of my own" can probably be expected to trip on over to Userland
(http://editthispage.com/) and start one any day now.  Getcher weblog up
and running - WITH your own fully-qualified subdomain - in 10 minutes. 
The MacDonald's drive-thru of weblog startups.  Go Dave! *

So what's my problem with all this?  Well, i just have this feeling that
the wave will pass, leaving hundreds of thousands of abandoned weblogs
in its wake;  the truth is that building a good weblog (with lots of
good syndication flowing in and out) is just too much trouble for most
people, and they'll eventually give up trying.  Still, they'll still
have the same itch we all share - which Rusty summed up nicely as follows:

>>Rather than having to
make an account on a dozen weblogs, and troll through them all for my
daily dose of news and commentary, I could stick to a site where the
people speak my language (both literally and figuratively!) and still
get content from far and wide. If the barrier to entry is low enough,
then sites could proliferate and maintain their smallish, loyal readers,
rather than bloating to slashdot-like proportions.<<

Amen!  This frustration is in fact the reason i am here.  I first tried
to build my own personal news-aggregation page at my.netscape.com, and
it sucked (i hear they have lots of good channels, but i can't seem to
find 'em).  At Slashdot (not my idea of a healthy community, but a good
home page if you configure it right), they had a good if highly
selective list of channels avail -- but i've had no response to my
e-mail from "CowboyNeal" (the channel man, i gather) about adding
Kuro5hin, and that was over a week ago.  MyUserland offers the widest
selection of channels, but i don't like the interface, and don't see how
to get what i want out of it.  If i can't even get any and all channels
i want, let alone some selectivity as to what specific *elements* of
each channel's content i want, and how it should present... The hell
with it.  So i've started playing w/ Zope and Squishdot, and am
attempting to roll my own.  Whether i prove able to mount this wave, or
instead wind up trashed in its wake, is anybody's guess at this point.

I guess my big question at this point is:  what about all those folks
out there who really don't want to bother building their own weblogs,
but have healthy appetite for news & views from a very ecclectic mix of
sources?  Can any of us realistically expect to offer that person a real
"home"?  Let's assume they want what so many seem to want:  one account
on a smallish site (NOT Netscape or even Userland) that will be their
home community, that would also feed them all the content they might
reasonably request.  Is this smallish weblog operator going to either
(a) give the user an interface to configure own ideal mix of content
(not just "slashdot" or "wired", but more granular) and presentation; 
or (b) is the webmaster going to have to do this manually -- endlessly!
-- for each user?  And, in either event, is PeerPress going to make this
easily deliverable by us spare-time weblog meisters?  How, if
Netscape/AOL (who invented RSS) can't even deliver?  Is this all in the
elegance of the spec that's being developed here (independent of both
the big fish and the standards bodies)?

I hope this line of questioning doesn't sound impertinent;  i'm a
latecomer to the discussion and way ill-informed, but i love what i've
heard so far. Just wanna be clear about what sort of trip i'm signing on for.


* PS:  To give credit where credit is due, i guess Dave Winer was one of
the earliest to clue into the weblog wave, and has been a prime mover in
the acceptance of those important backend specs (i.e. xml-rpc & rss);  i
just wish he'd assert his place a bit more, ah, *temperately* sometimes
(e.g. http://davenet.userland.com/2000/03/02/theTwowayweb -- where he
basically calls Tim Berners-Lee a sell-out, and himself the new keeper
of the original flame!)  \/\/

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