"the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time..." -- Kerouac

Monday, October 31, 2005

Blogs and the Forum

There are two ways that blogs could enhance public debate:
-- they could broaden it to include other subjects not on the mainstream radar screen.
-- they could deepen the existing debate, with more vivid language, improved research and fresh insight on the small menu of topics under consideration.

Very few blogs, it seems to me, do the former. Yes, metafilter and plastic occasionally push forward an interesting new topic.
But the blogs we're seeing this week try only to do the latter. Why is that? And does it "work"?

Blogs that drive the debate, maybe

The New York Times, on this week's assignment. Let's check some of these blogs.

It's a fair bet that, given a political scandal of a certain scale, the usual blogs - DailyKos, AmericaBlog, Instapundit and Wonkette - will draw traffic and links. Make it a media scandal, like Dan Rather's "60 Minutes" fiasco or Jayson Blair's fabrications at The New York Times, and other sites might bubble to the top: Romenesko or perhaps Gawker for a snideways view of things. And why not? As in any other medium, branding matters, and these sites have proven their mettle in scandals past.
But the blogosphere is expanding at a rate of 70,000 sites a day, according to Technorati, the blog search portal, which now tracks activity on more than 20 million blogs in real time - and the right bit of news can always catapult new sites into the limelight.
Ariana Huffington's relentless drubbing of Judith Miller, the New York Times reporter, drove the relatively new high into Technorati's rankings. Her site's popularity continued right through Friday's indictment of I. Lewis Libby, the White House staff member accused of making false statements during an investigation into the leak of a Central Intelligence Agency operative's name. At day's end, roughly 20 new links per hour were being made to
"I would say that's a pretty significant blogometric pressure," said David L. Sifry, the chief executive of Technorati.
The White House leak scandal has put some other sites on the map even though they lack Ms. Huffington's name recognition. Steven C. Clemons, a fellow at the New America Foundation, drew a fair amount of cross-linking to his blog, the Washington Note (, with reliable coverage throughout the affair. So too did the group blog FireDogLake (, which drew nearly 200 comments in just 90 minutes after a post about the news conference held by the special prosecutor in the leak case, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Friday afternoon. And with some original reporting on the affair last week, the JustOneMinute blog, run by Tom Maguire (, was identified by Technorati as an "aggregation point" for chatter on the topic.
"This is kind of like a look into the global subconscious," Mr. Sifry said, "when you can expose what people are looking for."
Alas, competition for attention on the

Saturday, October 29, 2005

back to work!!!!!!!

This is what we have scheduled:
Nov. 3. The public debate. This is certainly the most notorious role played by blogs: shaping public issues and shifting certain stories and ideas onto the mainstream radar screen. Are blogs actually transforming society by making it more "open source?"

Just for starters: Jump on salon -- use the day pass, it's easy -- and read the Daou report, which shows you both Lib and con blogs, which is important for our work this week. Read Daou -- and obviously the recommended blogs -- every day fro now untuil class day.
Then, also, jump on Slate's blog feature and look down at the scrollable menu that let's you read previous "Today's blogs." Read a bunch of those. It'll give you a nice feel.

Lastly, I think the "open source" aspect of all this is important, so this might be one of the weeks we really look at the "wiki" pheonomenon.

So refresh your understanding of the most famous wiki.

And then check out this attempt to turn the wiki method loose on a big problem.

Lasty, keep reading here every day. I'm sort of back with a vengeance. Also, if you need face time this week, early mornings will be good for me. Like, what time does Tisane open? I could go there most mornings.

Thursday, October 27, 2005


Your final papers should be around 10 to 20 pages. I tend to be more interested in thought than research. Mind you, I'm mot interested in unsupported thought. Back up what you say with evidence. But huge, heavily footnoted research projects are probably not necessary. There are, on the other hand, a lot of opportunities to do orginal research by interviewing the key players.

Those of you you have been rocking out on your homework blogs and in class should not worry much about the papers, except as a way to bump from high pass to distinction.
Those of you who have been lagging a bit might want to use a home run paper to get yourself back in the game.

Do you need help with topics? I'm available. I plan to re-immerse in course-related stuff over the weekend, so email me or post comments to this blog.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Office Time?

I'll be in Milla Riggio's office tomorrow, second floor of the English building. I'm meeting one of you at 11. I could be there for any one else, either before or after, but I gotta get out of there by 1.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

man, i'm tired

So I went and ate dinner at the bar of the corner pug, and now i'm taking down the notes and leaving up this very germane thing I mentioned.

Oh! One of the Three Bull guys now leaves comments on my Courant blog. I feel so validated!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

some help

Our friend Bill Heald recommends Hullaballoo. "Hullabaloo is amazing sometimes. Intelligent, well written, etc. Great stuff."
And Uggabugga. "Often extremely clever in the use of charts and visual aides. Kickass."
And Mike Daisey. "Find me a more fun, diverse, personal blog than this. Very special, in my view."

aldon rocks

he may not get brett's humor, but he's awesome.
check him out in the comment thread.

coffee lady

i think our favorite coffee lady might come to class, but she does not drive.
any of her fans want to volunteer to pick her up? email me or comment.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

while i was sleeping....

True, I went away for my birthday. True, I got away from blogs for a couple of days and didn't bring my laptop to the Cape. True, when I got back, my high-speed was down and has not yet come back up.
I have, however, an ugly feeling that that is what is happening. You had better develop some good theories about writing style in the blogosphere. And some examples.
Share some of your favorite blog writers. Or really bad ones if you can use them to make a point about literary style.
And come on, Rhetoric Veterans! How are words chosen here, and with what goal?????

Friday, October 14, 2005

New reading

You guys rocked last night!
At least, I thought you did.

OK, this is the week we really focus on words, on rhetoric, on writing style. Does the blogosphere have its own writing aesthetic? Is that aesthetic seeping in and possibly corrupting (or animating!) other writing? What kinds of tropes and literary tendencies are you picking up. Who are the stylistic innovators? What kinds of freedom takes hold of a writer who doesn't really have to worry about readers?

Go back and read some of the web-writing you've liked. If there are other writers you've stumbled across who merit our attention, let me know, in your blogs or in an email.

And read these:
big rep as a strong writer

buncha crazy innovators...what they up to?

interesting interplay of text and photo

not sure WHO this is

clearly attempting literature

let's go back and read her again more closely ... maybe she'll come to class

ok, this is weird

Thursday, October 13, 2005


If you go over to my blogroll and click on MeMo Delendus Est, you will see the beta version of my new blog.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005


A little worried about Sam. He's not in a good place these days.

Monday, October 10, 2005

A more personal CT blogger

I know some of you prefer the bloggers who write from the gut. So here's one.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

oh wait

perhaps it is linkable.

poifect timing

Sunday's NY Times Connecticut section (usually not linkable, alas) has a big story on CT blogs, just in time for our class.
It mentions this one which speaks a little bit less to politics and more to actual "place," an issue raised by Brett, among others.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Guest blogger

This blogging dude will visit our class this week.
And others too, perhaps.

A sense of where you are

That was actually the title of a Bill Bradley book about basketball.

This week we'll look at what blogs do (and do not do) to create, deepen and enrich our "sense of place." The blogosphere stretches from here to Tibet, and that indeed is part of its thrillingness.
But we also (may) crave more understanding of where we live, especially in a time when people dart from work to bedroom communities and don't always drink very deeply from the quintessence of their environs. OK, that was a stupid phrase, but I just created my first ever Itunes account, and I'm kind of wacked out from that process. I mean, why didn't I just set up a crack accountwhile I was at it? Do I wanna listen to Jay-Z or Joni Mitchell?

Here are some questions to ponder:
Do CT blogs present a different reality (or set of alternative truths) from what you get in the mainstream media? In your daily coursing through life?
To CT have any kind of "voice"that differs from what you might find in, say, Beaumont, TX?
What's missing? What AREN'T the CT blogs doing that they could be? (This is the biggest question.)

Here are a few must-reads, but share any others you find. Brownie points to those of you who find fascinating CT blogs.

Here's a robotically refreshing state blog catch-all. Poke around in it.

I try to make sure we read alternatives to my own perspective, which this is.

Don't just read this, the best and most far-ranging political blog, but also check out his links.

I stumbled on this person, and wonder if there is more of this kind of thing.

I think we all agreed this was the best blog title.

There are several blogs that are just about one town. This was one, and I was kind of amused by its long goodbye, but dig back and see what they were trying to do.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

filthy lucre : from the Paid Content website

Exclusive: Weblogs Inc Being Bought Out By America Online: [by Rafat Ali] As usual, you read it here first: Weblogs Inc, the blog media company founded by Jason Calacanis (pictured at We Media conference today) and Brian Alvey, is being bought by America Online, has learned from multiple sources. The deal is done and should be announced this week...(Updated: it might be announced tomorrow AM now.) Among the other companies Weblogs Inc talked to included the usual suspects: News Corp, Yahoo and MSN... This is a very quick exit: the company was founded about two years ago, and took some money from Mark Cuban a year down the line. For Calacanis, this is his second company being sold in a space of about two years...his original company Rising Tide Studios was first sold to Wicks Business Information, which in itself was bought out by Dow Jones. The company's blogs have had an exponential trajectory, with sites like Engadget, Autoblog, BloggingBaby, and others. In total, the company has about 130 bloggers, with about 15 full time employees, from what I know. AOL intends to keep the company/blogs separate from its site, much in the vein of what is happening with other blog and Web 2.0 companies being bought. But this is perhaps the first pure content-related company being bought out in the blog/ Web 2.0 space...or at least of this scale. For AOL, this is head first into the blog media revolution, so to speak Calacanis, who was at the We Media conference today where I was, refused comment; I did spot him with an AOL tote bag. Staci adds: How much will Weblogs Inc. cost AOL? One estimate I heard today was roughly $20 million as an earn-out -- to get it all, Weblogs Inc. would have to meet certain goals. But I've also heard talk of Flickr-like numbers, which would make it closer to $30-35 million range. Certainly to Weblogs' execs advantage to have people thinking towards the higher end. Weblogs Inc. revenues are running at $1 million-plus annually from Google AdSense alone, according to numbers jubilantly released by Calacanis on his own blog; during a panel last week he said the company was bringing in $2 million a year. With that in mind, either of those numbers would be a generous multiple.Not sure if the acquisition includes the proprietary software used to run it all. Blogsmith LLC was announced in August with Gordon Gould as CEO and Razor magazine as the first outside client but the url redirects to the Weblogs Inc. front page. (Update: an astute reader notes that Razor shuttered last month.) Related: Our coverage of Weblogs Inc. over the last two years: -- Weblogs Inc: The of Trade Blogs? -- Dis*Content: A New Weblog Media Project In the Works -- Enhanced Silicon: Venture Reporter Bought Out -- Weblogs Inc Hires Editor in Chief and VP Marketing -- Weblogs Inc. Makes Cameo Appearance At Google Analyst Day -- The Business of Blogging -- Weblogs Inc. Starts Global Expansion With Engadget Chinese [by rafat] [Oct. 5, 05] AOL Comments (8) TrackBack (7)

Putting his finger on a meme

Without realizing it, I have started to believe this.

Notes for Tonight

these are mainly for me to flash up on the screen, when i get lost, which, as we know, is often.

1. The lecter principle: we cover (or obsess about) what we see, hence the intrest of bloggers (and all other content creators) in their immediate "Worlds". This is why blogs can and do become self-referential. and why hopics like St. Judy and the NY Times pay-to-read policy became objects of obsession.

2. La Wonkette: My issues: creation of a persona and corporate maintenance of a code
How many of you found this? -- play clip from fox.

But, as entertaining as it may be, what goes on here stretches the bounds of what blogging means to me, and it looks so much like a professional (if loud and crazy) job. First of all, there's a big-time performance persona being shown here, not a blogging voice. Also, there's so much volume of stuff here it has to be done by a staff. And there doesn't seem to be any real and obvious encouragement of interaction. What there is plenty of is ads, across the top and elsewhere

3. Who is Roger Ailes? .
Joe: His own short brackets of comment have improved from the frequently schoolboy stupid talk in the early days. But you gotta love that he picked his format and stuck with it. Wonder who he was (and is) really writing for?As a pop-culture Luddite, I really don't know who 'the other' Roger Ailes is (no lie); is his blog voice lots different than his other voice?

P.S. Brett was not fooled

I loved Ailes catching this one:

His Glorious Career
Little Mickey Kaus is fascinated by the fact that Hillary Clinton failed the District of Columbia bar examination. No doubt Senator Clinton's legal career isn't as long and hugely successful as some, but she can take consolation in the fact that she became a United States Senator and popular best-selling author rather than a talentless hack who recycles the reporting of others in a tedious weblog.

3. Wolcott. your thoughts?

First, you see his name in huge capital letters, "JAMES WOLCOTT" (next to a caricature). Next, below his name, your eyes immediately are drawn down and to the right where you see "About James Wolcott" and "Write to Wolcott" (these are in white letters against a red background...for added visibility). So far that's three. Next, your eyes find there way back to the left side of the blog where, yet again, you see "James Wolcott is a Vanity Fair Contributing Editor". Finally, as your eyes begin to scroll down towards the actual entry you see "JAMESWOLCOTT.COM" sandwiched in between "October 2004" and "December 2004". Finally, just in case you thought this post was by an anonymous author, it states the title of the blog and "POSTED BY JAMES WOLCOTT" to dismiss such a heinous thought.
Ok, so that's a grand total of six times you see his name before you even begin to read the actual entry! Wait. Shit...I forgot about the little white poodle. To the right of the page you see "BY JAMES WOLCOTT" in big red letters underneath the words "HIT PARADE". In this advertisement displaying the front cover of his book, yet again, his name is clearly visible: JAMES WOLCOTT. Ok, so that's a total of eight times! That's a lot...and when I say "a lot" what I really mean is a bit excessive.

And if that is what I am looking for, why am I searching the blogisphere? Honestly, I became extremely bored with Wolcott's blog, if you can even call it that, because instead of using it as an opportunity to branch out and speak out without the constraints a publication places on you, he is using it as endless column space.

In the case of Wolcott, he clearly does not admire brevity (helping to out forth a know-it-all image), but manages to attract readers in other ways. Specifically, he understands (like no other blogger that I’ve seen) how important a title can be to attracting a reader. Examples of his titles include:Once More into the Chicken CoopPigeon PoopMe Tarzan, You HagelThe Squawk at the Chicken HawkAbacus of Death

I was reassured to find that JW doesn’t suffer from the same lack of vision that his colleagues over at HuffPo tend to fall victim to… He’s not just some lame old Journalist blogging, while wishing he weren’t. How do I know? He also writes about less-than-consequential crap.

4. three of you seemed to be making a similar point, esp. as regards Ailes. Or maybe Eric (in the third of three) is saying something different. We'll ask him.
a. Fact, fiction, opinion, conjecture, whole truth and nothing but - or part truth, part fabrication... doesn't really seem to matter in the blogosphere. I find this particularly true with the megablog sites. Boingboing, DailyKos, Plastic, Metafilter - one thing they all do is make reference to something and set up links to its explanations. I refer to this as a sort of 'short-hand noveling.' How easy to make a point and then POINT (click the mouse) to an explanation in someone else's words, for which you claim nothing other than mere association, not individual creation thereof.

b. I find their blogs to require a great deal of background reading before being able to interpret their own remarks. In fact, in the case of Ailes and Sullivan (who take this to an extreme) the supplementary reading often outweighs anything these guys have to say. Ailes will write a 3-sentence blog that requires paragraphs of material to be read before one can understand exactly what he is saying.

c. Speaking of pop culture, what can you say about making an obscure pop culture reference, and then hyperlinking to its explanation? (I already did it in this post, and back in my first post, too). Isn’t this sort of like having the cliff-notes to a conversation? Or hyperlinked editions of James Joyce?

5. what you thought about the not-so-pros:

a. over at Last Hurrah (smart Dem blog), this person has a pretty good grasp of the issues and a clear, unambiguous voice. He also talks to his fellow bloggers, "did you know...did you know?" This straight-to-the-point style is married well with a concise approach to make a strong impression right out of the gate.

b. They seem more real, and somehow less staged than these pro blogs. Probably because these nameless, faceless bloggers have nothing to lose and everything to gain, while well-known columnists have reputations to uphold and standards to maintain, thus they can't truly let their hair down and blurt- too many people would take notice.

c. Whisky Bar is a little boring for me: too much of the "I" game. First-person writing poses a credibility problem. I start to wonder, "Who is this guy, and why do I care about what he thinks?" It's semantics, really, as the same info can easily be conveyed in the third-person -- it's just more work to write.I think the Who Is This? question is a biggy. Whether its the intentionally misleading two-step done by ailes or the fact that Billmon tells us nothing about him and Even tells us not much more, I think bloggers are kind of Pynchonesque, kind of anti-Wolcott.

6. An interesting meta-thought. Blogging is a chaotic medium where one never has to do any reporting. A blogger, in essence, does little or no research and therefore might be playing air guitar with the truth. love that phrase Of course, this makes for an interesting relationship with the truth - does this make blogs irresponsible next to journalism - notwithstanding how fantastically fast and funny some of them can be?

7. Nora Nora Nora
Nora Ephron makes a good point about the NYT's charging to read its op-ed pieces. It takes the paper out of the realm of blog-searching. It will surely change it's policies.

what a poster said:

Why didn't Ms. Ephron say what she really thinks about blogs?(1) They're way too loud.(2) It's just a bunch of hoodlums scrawling jungle writing.(3) It isn't even writing, just banging on the keys.(4) All the blogs sound the same.But don't worry, Arianna and Nora and Dick Clark and Fabian and Frankie Avalon will make it all all right.
Posted by: Glenn

This is clearly the story Calcanis was teasing in Nora's piece

8. i got kind of obsessed with Eve

9. . can we talk about how the various blogs use postings and emails?
Alterman kind of makes them a show.

10. random comments (2) from my friend bill heald

JW: Even in his blog I think he is a stylish, elegant writer. He is a really comfortable communicator, and very funny and knowledgeable about many things. Even though his postings are typically short, they are little chunks of art. You get his point, and a snapshot of his personality.
i really like how Kyrie's personality really shines through, too. I don't think this is necessarily specific to these guys, I think blogs really have the tone of a personal note which imparts a sense of intimacy.
Jesus, what is IN this coffee??

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Outside help

One of the unintentional lessons I have taught myself has to do with this blog itself, which I had envisioned strictly as a tool for staying in touch with students in the class, kind of a 24/7 meta-blackboard.
I didn't think anyone else would even know about it, but, indeed, the blogosphere is full of eyes that find you, whether you want to be found or not.
So anyway, here is somebody with some further suggested reading for this week. Said reading is optional. This guy even knows what YOU are thinking.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

What I Expect

The question of expectations (and, therefore, grades) has been posed to me.
Those of you seeking grades better than "pass" should understand that the single biggest component of a seminar, to me, is class discussion. What you add to class, how you teach one another, is very important to me.
The second biggest component of your grade is homework. And I consider homework to be the reading and then posting about your reading. If, for example, you do not post comments this week in which you react specifically to Wolcott, Ailes, MeMo, Sullivan and the other blogs I mentioned, you have not, in my opinion, done the homework. I'm not looking for thousands of words, but I am looking for an indication that you have read and thought about this material. I also enjoy very much your general thoughts and your outside reading, but specific comments on the assigned blogs are my way way of knowing we're all pulling the oars together.
The final paper is the least important consideration.

More to think about

With Wolcott, you should definitely dig back to his earlier stuff, because I think he's gotten a little lazy about posting, of late, and that in itself may be discussion-worthy. With all of these pros, ask yourself if their pre-existing "skill sets" give them any specific advantages or blind spots when they turn to blogging. Here's a Kos alumnus who often writes like a pro, even though, as far as I can tell, he's mainly a blogger. How is he different?

Advanced meme work. The thought unit Bush is drinking again started in a tabloid, but it's all over the blogs now. Are they adding value to it? Sharpening it? Mutating it?

Saturday, October 01, 2005

This week's work

We're going to focus on what happens when the pros, the people who are variously. "credentialed"by the preexisting media, try their hands at blogging. As I suggested,
James Wolcott is a good place to start, and so is Roger Ailes.
Eric Alterman was a little less well-established before he blogged, but he definitely had a career, as did Andrew Sullivan. Kyrie OÇonnor, who does MeMo (see my blogroll) was not famous, but a long-time working journalist (made much more famous partly as a result of blogging). Read her too. I'm going to ask you to go BACK to the Huffington Post, partly because it's full of credentialed people trying to blog. And there's this slightly puzzled refelction by a celebrity-turned-blogger.

Another thing I'm going to ask you to do is to read the work of more typical bloggers, often covering the same subjects. You can pick some of your own favorites, but try a smart Dem blog and this gay conservative less famous than Sullivan.
And then there's Wonkette, who's the best example of an overnight sensation.

As an index, I'm going to ask you to look, all week long, at how the blogosphere, including these blogs and others, treats the story of de-imprisoned Judith Miller. Almost all the blogs here, with the possible exceptions of Eve and MemMo, will look at this story; and it's a very elastic, protean meme in the sense that there is no real conventional wisdom about it as of this writing, except for the idea that we are not being told the whole story. The Huffington Post, at the moment, has a manic interest in it, especially Ariana. Watch it develop and flesh out over the next few days. If you're really ambitious, watch Sunday morning news shows and read the papers and note how conventional media are or are not reflective of or pushed along by the blogs. Look at how the blogs talk to one another.