The Problems With Blogs

I guess you could say that it is kind of ironic that my first post is about the problems with blogs, however I will enumerate some of the things that let me lead with this headline.

As an overview:

  1. Privacy issues
  2. Lack of viewer categorisation
  3. Tagging and search functionality

Let us start with the first things first:

On blogs

I do find writing cathartic and there is always the chance that I may say something interesting or insightful. Setting up WordPress was a relatively easy thing to do, although there are a few features which I will need to scurry around and find. My requirements for a blog are relatively different to the normal things that you get with a bog-standard install, which will be listed below.

A quick couple of edits to the CSS file works quite nicely.

WordPress also allows a nice RSS feature so that you don’t have to constantly hit the refresh button (F5 for all you windows people out there) every five minutes to see whether I have posted something new.

Privacy issues

I am a relatively private person, who, with all due modesty, believes that what I write about is not that interesting to the majority of the web users out there. Sure there is always the hope that sometime, somewhere people will enjoy what I say, but that is not what I am aiming for.

Blogs are like going to the Speakers’ Corner and everybody shouting out their comments to the speaker 1 whether or not it has anything to do with the topic.

However, this is not my issue with privacy as such.  Blogs are like Speakers’ Corners on every corner of every street all spewing forth their particular version of what they perceive to be the truth. Admittedly, you can ignore blogs and not bother to visit them, however the shear volume of text that is produced impacts the signal to noise ratio 2. Which makes it hard to find good information about topics of interest.

Once again, this is not my issue with privacy as such, although we are getting closer to it. In an attempt to reduce the noise ratio of this blog – I would dearly like to not have the page visible to anybody at any time.  I have marked all posts private so that you need to register to actually see any of the content3.  Dearly I would like to accept or decline individuals before sending out the welcome email.  There are plugins around that will let me do this perhaps – when I have some more ‘mystical free time 4‘.

Privacy comes down to being a good citizen (perhaps more aptly ‘netizen’ – bleargh) not clogging up the series of tubes and making sure that the correct people that need or want access to information should be allowed, whilst the other ‘anonymous’ trouble makers get to stay safely away.

As a side rant (which is a perfect example of what not to do on a blog)

Why do people write the stuff that they do – I have seen people rant about all sorts of things – my current irk is the posts on religious topics – specifically why religion is such a bad idea.

Rule #1 – if you write it on a blog – people will read it.

It seems obvious to me. I have no thoughts on religion that I wish to post upon in this forum, simply because when you write, you never know who is going to read it. Whether you are for or against religion, no matter how cogent and compelling your argument may be. You never know which influencer of your life (be it work, social or otherwise) will read the post and fundamentally disagree with the tone of the post.

Rule #2 – you never know when the caching monsters will appear

Pages last a lot longer than you would expect – all the big search engines do it – even if you delete a post – it may stay there for quite a while.

Lack of viewer categorisation

I have already touched upon the fact that not everybody may be interested in what I write (some people will read everything – voyeurs and stalkers I presume), on a more macro level, there are some posts which I have a high chance of knowing will not be of interest.

As an example – probably only the family members (assuming of course they can get this interwebby thing worked out) will be interested to know that I went and saw the octogenarian great aunt Mavis after her hip replacement operation5 and she is doing fine.

This goes for other groups of people – work, friends, acquaintances etc. Of course I would still allow people to view the other posts (people may be intrigued by the health of the aging great aunt Mavis) – but the default would be a particular grouping.

Tagging and search functionality

At the moment I am not using any tags – apart from uncategorized (sic) – however when you browse categories from within WordPress – you may choose one, and only one tag to browse. If a post is catagorised as ‘database’ and ‘MySQL’ you may chose one or t’other, but not both. I would like to be able to click on a category, then drill down to any sub-categories that may be available. This is the faceted search part that I would like. The search engine is good enough and I am not that prolific a writer to need any more.

The list

Of things that I would want from a blogging platform (which can probably be solved with a couple of plugins)

  • Better user management
  • User categorisation
  • Faceted search (especially on tags)
  • Complete privacy controls
  • Footnote control67

That should be about it – would love to say that I will cross the items off the list as I go along – but the chances of that are minimal to none.

All things being equal

WordPress is a very nice blogging engine and generally a pleasure to use.

Then again I need to add reCAPTCHA to it8 which I will do in the fullness of time.9 As a side note for those with more ‘mystical free time’ than myself I would recommend looking into the Project Gutenberg Distributed Proofreader site to see whether you can help. You can help by correcting and confirming OCR text for old books – I did this for a while in my last stint in London. But I digress…

Footnotes:

  1. Analogies for an argument must be chosen carefully as they are far too easy to abuse and are not always fit for purpose. In this example, writing a blog is far removed from the Speakers’ Corner as the anonymity of a blog means that the comment thread generally degenerates into off-topic posts about and rants about all and sundry. In society there is pressure to conform and not look like a ‘frigtard’ in front of everybody so people perform somewhat more sociably. From my brief research (read as random Google searches) the average number of posts it takes to go from insightful to frigtard is around 3 – ignoring the ‘first post’ comments of course.
  2. In no way am I suggesting that I am increasing the signal side of the ratio here.
  3. This doesn’t seem to work – nobody apart from myself can see the posts – kind of useless really!
  4. Yes, I know – all I have at the moment is free time – it is just a case of getting round to it.
  5. No, there is no great aunt Mavis that I am aware of – and if there is, then I haven’t seen her and as far as I can tell her original hip is still in good working order.
  6. Not that I have mentioned this – however I like footnotes and I would like to have them auto-number themselves with anchor links to the footnote (maybe even a pop-up) and then a link back to the part of the page you were on. Note: I could use an <abbr /> tag, however it doesn’t allow the formatting that I require and is not immediately obvious. Currently evaluating some plugin options Evalutaion over.
  7. Who would have thought that it would be a simple thing to install footnotes – I am currently using FD Footnotes which does almost everything – apart from the pop up box.
  8. This is a nice CAPTCHA form which also helps to convert scanned books into e-books for the world to read, including the American Library of Congress and also back issues of the New York Times.
  9. Looks like the mystical free time is now!

Like my footnotes?
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They can be added easily to your WordPress installation


5 Responses to “The Problems With Blogs”

  • James B Says:

    Hell just froze over!

  • admin Says:

    Yes indeed, not quite the iTunes for windows release, nevertheless.

  • James B Says:

    I think it’s bigger than iTunes!

    Could you send me your new email address?

  • Moebius Says:

    So I suspect that you concerns with “privacy” are also the reason one is not able to find any means of contacting you, other than leaving comments in month/year old blog posts ;).[1]

    [1] – Not that I’m implying that is a bad thing.

  • admin Says:

    oooh – for the truly curious – I can be contacted @ contact@synapticloop.com – it should be splattered around the place somewhere…

    Unfortunately, I am running this blog on godaddy[1. and yes I was part of the mass wordpress hack] and would in future move to slicehost where I get to control everything.

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