Blogs In Convienient Book Form!

Monday, February 18th, 2008, 1:15 pm

After catching the first wave of the day and surfing my usual spots I came across a post by Matthew Yglesias who writes that a former New York Times "Web critic" has a book coming out called Ultimate Blogs–Masterworks From the World Wide Web. I won’t link to it because I can’t imagine it’s worth buying–wow, collecting blog posts in a book! Hope she got a seven-figure advance for that. Wouldn’t it have been easier for all concerned if she’d thrown up something on Blogspot with a bunch of links?

But I digress. The reason Yglesias’ post caught my eye was that the photo of the book cover he included. I reprint it here so you’ll better understand why I was so interested:

Boxer’s book is titled "Ultimate Blogs". The blog I write is called the "UltimateBetBlog". Not so close that I (or my overlords) can claim copyright infringement, but close enough to attract my attention. The name also caught my ear–I remembered that Boxer was involved in some kind of bloggy controversy a few years back, something she wrote about blogs in the Times irritated some people, but when I Googled her I found that the people she irritated included people like Glenn Reynolds and Roger L. Simon and, frankly, I’m not wading through their dreck to find out what happened. But I did come across this piece Boxer wrote that talked about all the dog and/or cat-themed sites on the web. She wrote the following;

Cats are O.K. living in tight places and never going out. They don’t mind if their owners spend every waking hour on the Internet.

Dogs would die if they had to wait for their owners to go off line. And who wants to post pictures of a dead animal? Serious bloggers, the kind who float to the top of Google regularly, just don’t have time or space for dogs.

But can that be the whole story? There’s a deeper answer to be had at, where users post pictures of their cats gazing at pictures of other cats already posted on the Infinite Cat site. You see an infinite regress: pictures of cats looking at pictures of cats looking at pictures of cats.

Remind you of anything? Those cats are like so many bloggers sitting at home staring into their computer screens and watching other bloggers blog other bloggers. Cats, who live indoors and love to prowl, are the soul of the blogosphere. Dogs would never blog.

Now, this is obviously stupid. Lots of bloggers have dogs. Lots of bloggers have lives beyond stabbing at the keyboard and gazing slack-jawed at their reflection on the screen. I’ll admit that Boxer’s stereotype pissed me off a bit more than it should because, well, I own a cat and I spend too much time in a tête-à-tête with my monitor. I think I’d be a bit more interested in hearing what the Times’ Web critic (whatever the hell that is, anyway) had to say if she was someone actually engaged with the internet. Boxer never started a blog, which should’ve been the first thing she did the day she got that gig.

I came across a review of Boxer’s book written by Emily Gould, a former editor at Gawker. Gould didn’t think much of the concept either:

Just the idea that there’s a book called Ultimate Blogs invites contempt. Has the intended audience spent the past few years trapped under something heavy, without even dial-up Internet access? In the introduction to this collection of “masterworks from the wild web,” we learn what a “blogroll” is, what “WTF” means, and that “bloggy writing” is “conversational and reckless, composed on the fly for anonymous intimates.” Can anyone with an active RSS reader—or someone who, unlike anthologist and former New York Times Web critic Sarah Boxer, has managed to maintain an active blog of her own—find something to like about this book?

But Gould goes on to say that the book does have some good stuff in it. She says that Boxer presents some good web writing for her readers and Boxer’s wide-eyed naïveté is at times amusing, even in 2008. Gould closes with an interesting observation, at least I found it so:

But the real utility of Ultimate Blogs might be as a relic of an odd, fleeting cultural moment when unfettered online self-expression was still new enough to seem worth documenting, but was actually old enough to be decadent.

In other words, blogging in and of itself used to be cool. It ain’t anymore. There are a hundred million blogs out there. There’s MySpace and Facebook and Twitter and new stuff I won’t find out about until my next Pittsburgh Bloggers get-together. There are so many blogs out there that attracting (and holding) an audience is extraordinarily difficult. Hell, just keeping up with poker blogs would consume your every waking moment. I still believe that a blog with lively and interesting writing will find an audience, but it’s a lot harder these days to grab a piece of a reader’s mindshare. That’s the free market and the Web for ya, and I won’t complain about it. Sift through the chaff and you’ll find more great stuff than you could possibly read/watch/experience. But knowing that I’m overlooking these great blogs and writers that I’m missing depresses me, too. Only so many hours in the day. Gotta get away from the computer from time to time, y’know.

Now that I feel fairly awful, let’s use some pique to perk myself up. I know I’m old-school and all, but when I hear people use the word "blog" as a synonym for "post", it drives me freaking crazy. It’s like my ear is chewing tinfoil, if such a wonderful thing were possible. I see this habit especially in folks who are late to blogging, saying things like "I wrote a blog last week about this guy I hunted for sport, and it turns out the cops found what was left of him under the…" To me, the site as a whole is a "blog". A specific entry is a "post". Or an "entry". Or a "thing", as in, "I wrote this thing about what I would do if I ever met Scarlett Johansson and now my old girlfriend wants the restraining order extended out to 500 yards…". I don’t even like using "blog" as a verb that much. The verb "to write" is, I think, versatile enough to handle this new format. Plus "blog" just sounds awful.

So let’s see…I’ve pontificated and preached, bitched and moaned, hurled petty insults and made grand, sweeping statements. I think that meets the minimum standards for your general blog post. Oh, I forgot the shameless self-promotion and desperate begging for attention! The UB Blog now has an RSS feed! It’s 2005 all over again!! We’re still fiddling with the feed and it’s a bit wonky with Bloglines, but if you’ve been DYING to subscribe to my writing over there, this is your Day of Salvation.

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One Response to “Blogs In Convienient Book Form!”

  1. Short-Stacked Shamus Says:

    Well said, Gene. Nice job grabbing some o’ my mindshare there.

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