[FoRK] Blogs, mailing lists, and hammer / screw

kelley kelley at inkworkswell.com
Thu Aug 21 16:59:15 PDT 2008

At 04:11 PM 8/21/2008, Tom Higgins wrote:
>On Wed, Aug 20, 2008 at 9:25 PM, Jeff Bone <jbone at place.org> wrote:
> >
> > Indeed, but what progress has been made since?
> >
> > Seems like we're stalled...
>Sure a lot of ink has been spread across the screen, but over the
>decades these debates have been pretty much reruns with occasional
>special guest stars popping in to do product placement.
>email lists vs usenet vs qwk vs cbbs or OWL vs RDF vs Dave Whiner vs
>everthing else not Dave Whinner   or Tags vs Catagories vs Folders vs
>Threads vs Filters.....yea ok so maybe the deal has been Post It Up
>and Let A Norse God Sort Em Out...or something to that end if you
>replace a Norse God with yourself and your vast array of prejudices
>and filters.  I have heard so many battle cries for the ONE TRUE WAY
>it got old in the late 80's.
>It may not be the most "pure" way of doing things but if you let folks
>post em as they want em and then cruft up the tools to filter that as
>you want to see it, that seems to work. The proof is in the streams,
>your soaking in them.
>Now do not get me wrong, I am as apt to follow a bright shinny meme
>down a years long rabbit hole too, but after a while you realize
>chasing that particular mirage may make you look
>busy/involved/hip(that is to say    fly) but in the end it signifies
>Ok its not all monkey, but the monkey I have seen work best are the
>ones that let the buyer beware more so than setting down the 10
>Which is to say, A fork blog would have this much searchable history?
>A forkipedia would have spurred on these levels of debates (such as
>they are)? Some one would possibly want to sit and categorize each
>point here in some grand codicil of fork lore?
>Email is an elder form of communication. Its text, the sort of grain
>of data that can be easily gone thru/ported/manipulated. Its non
>editable, well ok there have been moments but of a few and far far
>between nature..less so in intent than a blog comment  or wiki would
>have been.  Did I mention text being easily portable etc?
>Blogs are websites, are based on things, are of a thing. Fork is of a
>thing but that thing is vast and interconnectedly twisted. Wikis as
>well are websites of a thing and the thing is crafted, edited, revised
>and smoothed. These are not bad things for a thing that is to be
>crafted...fork is more like the horn billed nut cracker...how it got
>this way is a twisted tale of unplanned steps towards the now.
>kept the data.
>If I were writing a book, I would use a wiki format.
>If I were gathering thoughts on a few items I might use a blog
>If I were having a 12 year conversation (yes, its been that long) with
>a rotating cast of characters I would use a mailing list.
>But thats just me. I don't want to change the world, I'm not looking
>for new projects I'm just looking for a babysitter..to misquote
>.....(name the person misquoted)
>Now as to the old chestnut of Search Vs Categorization.. One is
>dynamic and one is static. So for those who like their data
>predictable and safe go for the grail of categorizing the universe.
>For those who fly by the seat of their pants work out better ways to
>search the universe.  I am sure if both methods are popular Google or
>its ilk will find a way to monetize it:)-
>-tom(hey no footnotes this time)higgins

did i ever tell you i'd babysit your kids in exchange for these righteous 
rants? no? well, i should have a long time ago. if i ever have the good 
fortune to live in portland, you have a standby babysitter ready for any 
evening you and the wife need some r and r.

i've been hanging around this list since 2000 and it's seriously the finest 
discussion list around -- in terms of that nice 
tech/politics/culture/chit-chat mix.

now... just gotta get me a job in portland. :)

anyway, i agree with you about the tool business. when i was training to be 
a social scientist, the big thing was the metaphor of the toolbox. you 
should have a nice toolbox full of tools. the skill wasn't in how well you 
used a tool. it was in whether you knew which one to pick for the job at 
hand. [1]

and i agree with your taxonomy. if i hadn't just put in a 14 hr day and got 
up at 3 a.m. for an early morning release, i might rant on about my 
experiences blogging on a relatively popular blog. i didn't have 10s of 
1000s of visitors. The standard 500 a day was enough for me to handle, and 
it was a lot of people considering I wrote about some pretty boring stuff, 

but there is nothing like the exchange you get at email lists. i'm too 
tired to detail the evidence for my inchoate assertions below, but for now, 
here are a few reasons why i think this is the case:

1. the old push v. pull. email pushes information at you. it sits there, in 
your folders, staring at you, any time you want to read it. (theoretically 
RSS feeds do the same, but...) [2]

2. you have to _join_ an email list. you commit yourself to being a member, 
as superficial as that is, it's a hurdle of sorts.

3. it is really easy, with an archive, to get a sense of the community 
because you can read old threads -- and they are threaded more or less 
(btw, i really hate gmail's threading system). you can read just one author.

one night, when i should have been doing something like getting out and 
playing pool, i sat down and read a ton of Rohit's posts about traveling. 
What'd he used to call himself? Travel Man? Plane Man? I got to know Rohit 
reading all those posts, and the occasional threads in response.

4. i'm convinced that the narrowness of a textarea field for posting 
comments also narrows the thoughts one types out. i know it affects me, a 
very spatially-oriented, visually-oriented person who is affected by the 
environment in which i type. (technically, you can change this as an end 
user. most people aren't so into the technology to know this or want to be 

5. if you look at traffic logs, most blog visits and comments occur at 
three points in the day: first thing after everyone gets to work (8:00 - 
9:30 spike); the afternoon spike, which lasts from about 12:00-2:00, when 
everyone's on lunch; the evening spike around 7:30 - 10:00.

the bulk of your readers and posters, therefore, are doing it during work.

i did a quick scan, and it's hard to say, but do we see the same thing in 
terms of posts to FoRK? probably. but my guess is that it's weighted more 
toward evening posts, than posting while at work. and i'll bet, if you made 
the inquiry more finely grained, you'd find the serious engagements almost 
all take place when people post in the evenings, away from work.

my point is that people who are sneaking time from work aren't the most 
engaged readers or posters. so if it's stuff that's thought-provoking or 
requires analysis, people don't bother. they post some aol one-liner: "that 
is so cool." "you are a god/dess." "you suck." whatever. it's not exactly 
scintillating, in terms of having a conversation.

and that's fine. if what you want is light chit chat and back and forth 
sparring. and there's plenty of room for that. (On the other hand, one of 
my favorite metaphors for Web 2.0ish stuff is: "Baking our own bread and 
circuses." So.)

6. you mentioned footnootes. when's the last time (aside from a post i made 
somewhere :), where anyone dropped footnotes in a comments section? i think 
there's a reason for that.

as an aside, i'm not convinced jeff's request that people get their own 
blog would solve the problem.

7. segue to: people who have their own blog now have their own sense that 
they need to spend time cultivating a readership. in which case, they have 
less and less time to seriously engage others' writing. you get caught up 
in the rankings and the numbers and watching traffic spikes on sitemeter 
and seeing if a big blog will link to your blog. you spend a lot less time 
contributing to community.

ok. my inchoate thoughts on that topic. i've got to eat and crash. it's 
been a long day.

apologies in advance for the typhos and gramma errs.


[1] speaking of tools. what tools do you always keep on hand? what do you 
constantly carry around -- aside from the leatherman?

[2] anyone remember that buzz? Push v. Pull? Web sites pulled you "out" to 
retrieve information and, supposedly, email pushed information at you.

More information about the FoRK mailing list