Monday, January 6, 2014

Decade

T his, THIS, is what it feels like to celebrate a 10th blogiversary. And how it feels to read an entry on a ten-year-old--hang on a second...feeling overexcited...now catching my breath...blog. And how it feels to leave a comment on a ten-year-old blog (c'mon, people, when was the last time?). Also a glimpse of how well (or poorly?!) Movable Type has aged.

Well?

Seems like I should be able to come up with somethinganything important sounding, some epideictic gloss on all that blogging has been and all that it will be, on how blogging has died and come back and died again and come back so many times since about 2006 that it's hard to keep track of whether it is alive or dead right now. Let me guess: alive. Proof enough that blogs, until deleted or lost in upgrades and platform roulette or suspended in an ambiguous cryogenic limbo, are their own dead-living monuments.

Exactly ten years ago I was applying to PhD programs. Owned a house on Missouri 9 Highway in Kansas City. Coached Ph.'s 7th grade basketball teams (Stampede Green and Stampede Blue). Taught as a part-time lecturer. Now am going up for tenure. Own a house in Ypsilanti. And I wear an old Stampede Blue winter hat when I jog the neighborhood in sub-50F weather. Turning over from a 9-ending to a big-0 birthday, myself, in a few months, blog.

I know the entries aren't evenly spread across these ten years (nor are they likely to be for the next 10 years, although I promise a much bigger celebration in 2024), but thank goodness EWM marked off and has therefore helped me remember what happened, and happened, and happened. Just ten years in, I'm thinking, whatever else this is, it's memory.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Can't Miss

P osting a blogday commemorative at a quarter of ten on the last day of winter break and after a particularly slow blogyear feels like the felicitations equivalent of realizing on the way home from work that it's your kid's ninth birthday and stopping by Circle K to pick up--surprise!--as gifts a small cherry slush and a Slim Jim. Nevertheless. Earth Wide Moth is nine, and that still matters around here. "Here" meaning the blog. May the blogpace quicken--or at the very least stay its measured speed--over the months to come.

Pinata before the BOOM!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Eight

A nother blogday. Now eight.

I'm tempted to write something reminiscent and festive, but if I do I will be late to DTW. Should've left five minutes ago!

To celebrate, there were pumpkin chocolate chip muffins last night.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

What Earth Wide Moth Wants

T oday the blog is seven.

Imagine the pinata is half-filled with not exactly the sweetest litotes-flavored candies.

Monday, September 27, 2010

In Other Words, Hello

I read with great interest last week's announcement from Ben and Mena Trott, co-founders of Six Apart, Ltd., that they had merged their shop with VideoEgg. After the dust settles, the new entity will be known as "SAY Media, a modern media company." Anil Dash's "SAY, Goodbye to Six Apart," for example, sheds light on his part in this transition. I haven't looked too deeply into what motivates SAY Media; give it a week, right? It's difficult to really know such things, anyway. Commenters responding to the smattering of Six Apart's end-times disclosures suggest SAY Media is interested foremost in monetizing blog traffic by way of advertising. My first thought: best of luck.

My next thought is, Earth Wide Calamity!, this blog runs on Movable Type, one of Six Apart's first blogging systems. If Six Apart disappears, will Movable Type also vanish into thin air? Early, findable answers are exactly what you would expect them to be: no, no, of course not. Movable Type and Typepad are making the transition right along with the Trotts. Nevertheless, there is a bit of anxious buzz floating around that SAY Media is concerned with easing the Typepad subscribers through the transition, but they don't appear to be especially forthright with promises about Movable Type. The word on Movable Type is, in effect, "mum." In fact, the SAY Media blog's latest entry has as its title, "We Love Bloggers, We Love Typepad, We Want to Hear From You,"--a hand-patting "it will be okay" from Matt Sanchez, the new company's CEO, who, curiously enough, has not himself responded to the comments.

For my own part in this anticipating of the worst, I'll just hang around, waiting and seeing, until there is more definitive cause for concern (e.g., if this entry does not publish because SAY Media has corrupted my MT installation). Another way, as with much change-anxious worrying, rehearse a dozen times with a succession of deep breaths, "nothing happens."

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Manic Monfri

M ost notable about EWM's sixth year (2009, plus a few days) is that never in a month did I write more than ten entries. I don't know whether this is more a comment on the blog or a comment on the year or a comment on their irreconcilability, their mismatch. Whatever the causes, there was less, less than any year before considering every other annual cycle consisted of 10+ monthly entries. 2009: Tweets a-bunch, blogs abyss.

Indeed, today marks another blogday, and since I haven't missed announcing any previous blogday, I feel an obligation to mention the historic occasion (everything, after all, is more impactful if "historic"). Cake? No. We will celebrate at home later with leftover cod chowder (simple, delicious, i.e., better than expected), cheddar biscuits, and if somebody else feels like baking them, brownies. Today also happens to be a Monfri to top all Monfries: the first day of the first week of the new semester at EMU and, for me, the last day of the first week of the new semester at EMU. Frenzied, manic. Monfri, the average of Monday and Friday, their median, or Wednesday, depending on how you mark it in your day planner. Monfri, the grue moon of academe. No telling whether today is also EWM's Monfri, the critical moment mid-distant between its initiation and its termination. No telling.

I'm teaching ENGL328 this semester, again unpicking the triple squareknot at the intersection of writing, style, and technology. Introducing myself in the first class this morning, I mentioned that I'm looking forward to re-establishing a regular reading and writing schedule this winter (perhaps it sounded like "irregular" as I said it). It's not that I neglected to read and write in the fall, exactly. But I wouldn't describe those four months as acceptably disciplined or scheduled. Not up to my standards, anyway. And I gather, hints and clues, that it's typical in first years of new appointments to experience an irregular stride, an arrhythmia attributable to figuring things out, getting bearings, settling.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Vervous Blogging

I have been preoccupied lately with wrapping my head around the question of "professional ethos" concerning graduate students who blog (e.g., me). Questions: Does the blogging graduate student assume risks that the non-blogging graduate student avoids? Are there greater risks or rewards in either choice? What, then, are the payoffs? And are they immediate and tangible, delayed and abstract?

The puzzler has been, "Why should a professional ethos for blogging graduate students be any different than it is for non-blogging graduate students?" This is a puzzler because every response I can come up with demands qualification: whether A.) it's no different or B.) it's the blog.

Take the first response: "It's not all that different." Professional ethos is, after all, performed. It is performed in the more long-lasting snapshot of the CV and in the fleeting here-now moments when we, say, utter something in a class we are teaching or taking (any venue, really, where we have a chance to say something insightful and smart or irrevocable and humiliating). Professional ethos for graduate students leaks into all of these activities; it is performed at nearly every turn. Graduate students who perform their professional ethos well in all its aspects will not be harmed by blogging; graduate students who perform their professional ethos egregiously (which is almost to say unethically or unawares in this regard) may find that blogging makes the quality all the more conspicuous, that it makes ethical recklessness, to say nothing of the lessons learned from mistakes, somewhat more transparent and lasting. Already I can see that this tentative response is beginning to buckle under the possibility that a blog may serve as a record of the messy lessons where professional decorum gets tested (see Tribble). Then again, that's what I'm trying to get at: testing professional decorum, whether blogger or not, bears consequences, and how we anticipate those consequences and work through them when we've messed up seems thickly entangled with the very idea of professional ethos, whatever the stage of the game.

At least that much is settled.

To reiterate and to put it more plainly, many aspects of professional ethos (as performance) pertain to blogging graduate students and to non-blogging graduate students alike. And yet, as a blogging graduate student (as one, that is, who has blogged through a near-complete program of study), my own practices rather tip my hand (a Euchre reference, not Go Fish) and give away my clear preference. Keeping mind that many aspects of professional ethos are shared by bloggers and non-bloggers, what about blogging makes it different? How does blogging add dimension to what it is we are trying to do while we are in graduate school? I'm not all that keen on the fast switch to personal, anecdotal experience as evidence, but maybe I can frame this as a series of professional-ethical convictions or principles (as performed ethics) that have loosely guided Earth Wide Moth since its first entry, just a few months before I moved from Kansas City to Syracuse in 2004.

1. An ethics of experimentation. Participating in the RSA panel last May on the ethics of amateuring greatly pushed my thinking in this area (I even read Booth's For The Love of It on Jenny's recommendation). The blog understood as an experimental space does not always need to explain itself in terms of "professional efficiency" or productivity drive. This does not make it unprofessional. Instead it (re)establishes the necessary and delicate orchestration of "for pay" and "for love": professional and amateur. Experimentation, like inquiry, favors the side of wonderment, mystery, and intrigue, the side of "I do not know, but I can't resist the delight in finding out, the delight in toying around with possibilities, with unknowns." Now, this commitment to experimentation does not always come off well. Often, it fails or rather is about failure, interruption, digression. Yet, in a blog, it plays out in the midst of others and in such a way that it lays a skein of re-discoverable pathways for the future. Re: professional ethos, this principle seems to underscore the vitality in networked experimentation.

2. A second principle involves an ethics of engagement, stale commonplace though it risks seeming. This is, rather, a point about the outward blog ethos as one that conveys investment, conviction, and panache for a professional trajectory, in a disciplinary orientation, in a research specialization, in a body of work: I am going to make my living doing this, and, thus, I am going to put my greatest possible effort into it. So: in the blog (as a collection) and in specific entries, I have sought all along to be genuinely engaged. It has not always worked this way, and this principle, perhaps like all principles, grows weaker as I describe it in more idealistic terms. Nevertheless, where professional ethos is concerned, blogging affords graduate students a venue for engagement appropriate (arguably) to the rhythms of graduate education.

3. An ethics of lifework harmony. When I started blogging, I was a professional, but I wasn't a graduate student. Thus, when I became a graduate student, I didn't experience any remarkable change in how I thought about myself as a professional or as a professional-in-becoming. Sure, I was leaving behind a livable salary, a private office, home ownership, and certain daytime schedule constraints to become a "student." But I had already trampled on the faux-dyad of work and home or personal and professional for seven years, and I find in blogging (granting that this is a privilege) a healthy and rewarding breach in the hemispheric division that would separate life from work.

More to come...

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Older

M y dear friend, Blog, is celebrating a birthday today, marking the start of a sixth year.

You probably aren't sure what sort of present is appropriate for a blog. I wasn't sure myself, but after I thought about it for awhile, I decided it would be nice enough to ante up for another year's worth of hosting. A pinch of money: much easier to give than the gift of time (which is what Blog really needs if it is to avoid rotting in the year to come).

Monday, November 3, 2008

Pull the Plug?

A couple of months ago, D., Is., and I were out strolling around the streets of Syracuse, along Colvin Ave., in fact, huffing up the big hill.

"I think it's time to cut the blog loose and set it out to sea, put an end to it," I said.

I went on to explain why I was thinking this way, although today I can't recall what were the reasons so clear to me at the time (realizing recently that "chicken" won as the Big Word of the Month at EWM in September was a sobering reminder of the conversation). This is just to say that merciful blogicide has crossed my mind. It's not like the blogosphere of 2008 has half the pulse it did for me 2005 or 2006.

Wired's Paul Boutin pressed a similar point today, suggesting in an article titled "Twitter, Flickr, Facebook Make Blogs Look So 2004" that blogs are out of fashion, succumbing to some of the latest online developments:

Writing a weblog today isn't the bright idea it was four years ago. The blogosphere, once a freshwater oasis of folksy self-expression and clever thought, has been flooded by a tsunami of paid bilge. Cut-rate journalists and underground marketing campaigns now drown out the authentic voices of amateur wordsmiths. It's almost impossible to get noticed, except by hecklers. And why bother? The time it takes to craft sharp, witty blog prose is better spent expressing yourself on Flickr, Facebook, or Twitter.

There's some obvious polemic framing at play here, some baiting, some stick-poking, as if to imply, "Yo, bloggers, still at it?" To which I say, "Maybe." And, "For now."

Broutin concludes with an emphasis on "brevity." Brevity wins the current web moment: one-liners in Twitter and Facebook have doomed blogging. Thoughtful, focused, carefully developed entries no more. Maybe brevity does reign. I'd have to ask my Facebook chums to find out since readership here has...helloo? helloo?...see?, it doesn't matter what I write in this space.

Even if some kind of brevity-drive is to blame (credit?) for the uneven tanking of the blogosphere, that can't be the solitary cause. Broutin's analysis tries to diagnose the problem in one fell swoop at the scale of the whole thing: the global. And it's limited for that very reason. I'd much prefer to think of it in terms of "scalable circulations," the shifting rhythms that intensify and weaken, fluctuating on- and off-line for anyone for whom writing is a regular thing. Those are where the causes lie, idiosyncratic though they must be, no? At the very least, much of the theorizing about ecologies and networks has taught us by now that the large scale diagnosis is too reckless to square with that peculiar set of conditions bearing on any one of our heres and nows.

Posted by at 10:30 PM | to On Weblogs

Friday, August 15, 2008

MT 4.2

I just bussed in all of the upgrade files for Movable Type 4.2, so I had to hustle together an entry to see whether it lives up to the hoopla, especially the faster page-creation times, which had become downright arthritic with the latest releases (e.g., 4.x).

So far, I can offer the following (exclamation-style, so as to keep with the mood of 4.2's release):

I still haven't read any of the release materials closely enough to figure out the difference between MT 4.2 and MT Pro. For now, my justification is not only a case of the late-summer lazies, but also a principled objection to the "Pro" designation, which, for my purposes, would be better if it were "Am" or, on the best of days, "Pro-Am."

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Four

T his blog is four years old.

On blogdays past, I haven't done anything special for E.W.M., other than post an entry and cough up another $60 for a year's worth of hosting at icdsoft. But this year, because the blog is starting to mature (notice the many refinements in what takes shape here), I have a small gift for the blog: its own tagline. A tagline is time-based tag cloud. Follow the link, then move the slider to the left and right to see all 48 clouds. My guess is that between the piñata and the tagline, E.W.M. is delivering enough frivolity today that passers-by will never want to leave.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Best Of, Vol. 4

T omorrow will mark four year's worth of blogging1. The latest one-year cycle generated 204 entries, five more than I posted the year before (the exams-encumbered season of 2006). From the most recent round, here are the best entries, as judged by a distinguished panel of loyal E.W.M. readers and enthusiasts2.

Best Titles

  1. Shar-Pei of May
  2. Michshapen
  3. Heeling Arts
  4. Picktaneous Bracketbustion
  5. Cliff Stitched the Lip

Profound Sentiments

  1. Walking the Walk
  2. Long Jump
  3. #0033BD
  4. At Seven Mos.
  5. Y.

Funniest E.W.M Comic

  1. Hearing, Jack-o
  2. Kibble Debacle

World-Changing Ideas

  1. Databasic Writing
  2. Did Bitzer Draw?
  3. Writers House
  4. How Far Can We Drift?
  5. Chreod: Alignment of Set-ups

1 The official and certified blogday of Earth Wide Moth is January 4, but because the first-ever entry is date-stamped January 6, the latter date is the observed blogday.
2 Due to a sharp drop-off in reader loyalty during the 2007 blogging cycle, Best Of Vol. 4 entries were selected more or less randomly, according to the whimsy of, well, me.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Coming Soon: Best of, Vol. 4

Best of Earth Wide Moth Volume 4

Monday, December 3, 2007

When For The Second Consecutive Day

Frontrunning Frequenter II

U nexpected potential here for a prolonged and increasingly hilarious series. Who really looks at site statistics every day, anyway?

Sunday, December 2, 2007

When You Are Your Blog's Most

Frontrunning Frequenter

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Blog Restoration

A s far as I can tell, I have patched up the templates following the blog meltdown the other day. You didn't notice? Oh. Most of the index template disappeared. I couldn't find a backup. Because of this I didn't post for a couple of days.

With this version, I have tried to clean up the CSS, and I got rid of most of the table elements. Never needed them in the first place, but they were, at the time, a quick-and-easy way around building a three-column layout with CSS. I tried that several months ago, but didn't have time to get deep into the CSS and so let tables do the super-structuring. Now I have just one table element in the templates--a simple table used in the header for the archives because I was having trouble getting the subtitle to align.

This is it for now. Notice I have dropped most of the knick-knacks from the front page. It'd gotten too busy, too jam-packed up front. I've kept all of the pieces, put them elsewhere, accessible from the horizontal menu. I have a few other issues to fix, but they can wait.

I found it surprisingly easy to set up all of the templates so they now draw from files on the server rather than from the database. This makes them easier to back-up and easier to edit in batches. I should have done this many moons ago but I have a million good reasons for delaying it. I didn't need any more motivation than half of a template file up and vanishing (I know, I deleted it, but I didn't catch myself in the act, which deserves worry unto itself).

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Spill, Aisle 4.0

E xpecting it to take no more than 30 or 40 minutes, I attempted to upgrade to Movable Type 4.0 early last evening. With all of the hubbub about the new release, I thought there was a chance the process would go somewhat more smoothly than it did. I backed everything up and FTPed over the new files. But when I attempted to initiate the upgrade, I kept getting 500 Server Errors. Icdsoft customer service is usually very helpful, but this time they pointed me right back to Six Apart.

Eventually, I decided to delete the entire installation--go with a new installation, that is, rather than an upgrade. After deleting everything, I installed the new version. It worked well this time. The trouble was with the previous installation was drawing on a junk heap of plugins I acquired along the way--"the way" being more three years of slapdash accumulations.

I'm using MT4 now, but I'm ambivalent about the changes. The dashboard is different. Is it better? I don't know yet. I'm not sure I like the extended entry input area appearing under a tab, and I haven't figured out how to customize it. My first impression is that the improvements are cosmetic and/or negligible.

Greater frustration for me comes from having to reinstall all of the plugins I have been gathering over time and finding that--sadly--some of them do not work. The templates I use have tags that are unrecognized in MT 4: MTRelatedEntries, MTIfTrackbackAllowed, and MTLoopValue among them. I used related entries to associate entries based on keywords, especially in my notes blog. MTLoop relies on a new syntax I haven't figured out yet, and there's no telling when I'll have time to plod through the operators to revise the code I had been using. Oh, and MTBlogroll is defunct. No real loss here. I can--and have--easily switched to a manual blogroll, and it's not as though the list fluctuates all that greatly like it once did. But all of these changes mean picking over the templates I've pieced together over the years and dumping the unrecognized tags or, at the very least, enclosing them in MTIgnore as a temporary fix. Yeah, it feels like cleaning up a spill--the new fandangled installation that brought not only a slick dashboard but also a cascade of glitches in the templates backing the entire operation.

Added: The upgrade is growing on me. MTIfTrackbackAllowed is now some variation of MTEntryIfAllowPings or MTIfAllowPings. MTRelatedEntries appears to have been dropped. No big deal, I suppose. But MTLoops has left me puzzling over this snippet:

<MTIfNonEmpty tag="EntryKeywords">del.icio.us: <MTGlueContainer><MTLoop value="[MTEntryKeywords]" delimiter=" ">
<a href="http://del.icio.us/dmueller/<$MTLoopvalue$>"><$MTLoopvalue$></a><MTGlue>, </MTGlue></MTLoop></MTGlueContainer><br></MTIfNonEmpty>

The idea here is that an entry with keywords assigned will, when published, show those keywords as a list of links to my del.icio.us account. I can't sort through the family of tags that I need to correct this. I suspect it involves MTVar, but I can't be sure (nor can I get it to work). So I've signed up for the forums and will wait for my forum ID to activate so I can post this puzzle and get it solved.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Mark All As Read

F or the past several months I've been using Google Reader to aggregate the loose pieces of the day into a readable list. I was a fairly dedicated Bloglines user before that. Both systems seem to skip certain feeds occasionally. That said, I'm not quite prepared to pass around any glowing recommendations for Google Reader. It's especially lacking in its handling of del.icio.us feeds. For that reason alone, I've considered switching back to Bloglines. I also like Bloglines' Keep New check-box better than Google's Add Star option, but before I go too far with a critique of Google, I should experiment a bit more with the settings. To be fair, I haven't spent all that much time checking out the full range of options and settings.

I have, however, noticed that I am more and more frequently taking small delight in clicking "Mark all as Read."

As a reader, I'm generally true to what's collected in association with the blogroll. I mean that if it's listed in the blogroll, I'm less likely to use the Mark All method to dump it. But I still have a fair number of feeds (±70) beyond the blogroll whose churnings are beginning to seem like grist from the mill. Exceedingly mealy. ("If you love something, let it go; if it turns up a second time in your feed reader...") I'd probably do myself a big favor to clean house and begin agg-ain, eh? Just a thought. And I offer it because I'm sensing a change in the rhythms of reading whatever aggregates, whatever the tired old net drags in, day after day. Could be that I'll switch back to Bloglines and part with many of the feed beyond the blogroll. Could be that I'll stick with Google and still drop some of the hangers-on and clutter. Whatever can be said of it, I probably shouldn't be taking so much pleasure in releasing 100+ unread entries to the ether with a single click most days, as if clearing my feed-reader is the same as clearing my mind.

Posted by at 10:55 PM | to On Weblogs

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Trouble Shot

E ven if the following fixes are only useful to one or two people, posting them to the blog makes them differently available for searching and bookmarking. Since I installed MT3.34, I ran across a couple of small snags. Nothing too off-putting, really. Just bumps along the up-gradual way.

First, the new tagging features in MT3.3+ are, as I've said before, really slick. But I was having trouble with the interface that allows me to merge tags. Say I have two tags I want to merge, like "method" and "methods." Okay? I click on one or the other and I the tag becomes editable. After I apply changes, I can select "Rename," in which case it will summon the database to see if the new tag already exists. If it does exist, a java popup asks whether I want to proceed with the merge. If the revised tag doesn't exist, it goes ahead and applies the change. The other option, "cancel," does just that. Simple, eh?

Only, when I first attempted this process from Firefox, my browser of choice, of course, the tag-revising process works the first time. Fiddling with subsequent tags doesn't work. The java popup wouldn't appear. So I thought, it's java. I reinstalled the java add-on. No change. Must be one of the browser extensions interfering, right (Greasemonkey? Notefish?)? I disabled all of them. And one by one, closing and re-opening the browser between each try, I re-enabled each one. Nothing. After a couple of days of thinking that it didn't matter that much (I could always use another browser for the process), I tried switching to the default theme. And that did the trick. The theme I was using (Azerty II) seemed to be conflicting with the java routine. I don't have a technical explanation, but it's fixed. So that's that.

The other snag was really more of a limited feature. I was using the MTkeywords2tags script to convert, that's right, keywords to tags. But rather than running the script on an entire installation, I only wanted to run it on my exam notes blog. Being somewhat of a perl dunce, I went ahead and emailed the author of the script. And he was nice enough to get back to me with this solution.

In the .cgi file, replace

my $iter = MT::Entry->load_iter;

with

my $iter = MT::Entry->load_iter({ blog_id => [5,8] });

The numbers in the square brackets match with the blog IDs to be converted. There. Two troubles, both of them troubleshot.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Up- or Down- A Grade is a Slope

I t was upgrade weekend for the blog, meaning I had my eyes turned under the hood and my fingers in the blog code Friday into Saturday (today, all reading, responding, and figuring grades).

I was running MT3.2, growing every day more envious of those who were putting to use the tagging features built into 3.3+. The upgrade was a cinch. Just FTPed the files into place and logged in. The config file didn't need any changes. Well, it didn't require any changes, that is, until I also converted the database from MySQL4 to MySQL5. For that, I had to add a DBSocket line to the config file. I had not a clue about it at the time, but the support folks at icdsoft.com are remarkably good.

That's a hearty new cumulus tagcloud over at the left. There's a lot to be said for MT's tagging features built into the latest versions. Now I can merge tags across the entire weblog, sort by tags (for editing or adding new companion tags), and grade the tags with a max="x" setting. That's the statement I use to come up with ten levels for the tag cloud. And I've set the CSS to display:none for the bottom five (#6-10). That way only the top five levels show up, and the cloud isn't the size of Lake Michigan.

I also had to downgrade the search template that came along with MT3.4 (maybe 3.3, too). By default, the new search template for MT works with the wonky style sheets that came with 3.2+. I'm still using a frame-sy template from all the way back to 2.65, but I like it. Rather than upgrade the style sheet, I retro-graded the template. Matters very little in the end, I suppose. But I really like the way the new MT processes the tag families (The Confluent's), listing entries for a particular tag and also listing the other tags attached to each respective entry.

For anyone pilfering the internets for pieces of stray code, here's how I've done my tagcloud (in Movable Type 3.4)

Create a module named "cloud." Copy what's here into it. Depending on your main style sheet, your sidetitle div might be different.:

<div class="sidetitle">Tagcloud</div>
<div id="cloud">
<MTTags>
<a href="<$MTTagSearchLink$>" class="tag<$MTTagRank max="10"$>"><$MTTagName$></a>
</MTTags>
</div>

<!--Optional tag count in parentheses-->
<!-- (<$MTTagCount$>)-->

Into the main template:

<$MTInclude module="cloud"$>

And into the main style sheet:
I should note that this is still very much a work-in-progress. It should give you a general sense of what I've done.

/*#########Tag Cloud########*/

#cloud
{font-family: verdana, arial, sans-serif;
padding-top: 1px;
line-height:80%;
text-align:center;
padding-bottom:8px;
border-bottom: 4px solid #E7E6E6;
}

#cloud a {text-decoration:none;
padding:0px;}

#cloud A { text-decoration: none; }
#cloud A:link { text-decoration: none; }
#cloud A:visited { text-decoration: none; }
#cloud A:active { color: #FFCC66; }
#cloud A:hover { color: #FFCC66; }

a.tag10{
font-size:6px;
display:none;
color: #E7E8EB;
font-weight:700;
}

/*display:none designates which of the levels of tags (corresponding to the max="10" statement in the module) will actually show up in the cloud.*/

a.tag9{
font-size:7px;
display:none;
color: #E7E8EB;
font-weight:900;
}

a.tag8{
font-size:8px;
display:none;
color: #E7E8EB;
font-weight:700;
}

a.tag7{
font-size:9px;
display:none;
color: #E7E8EB;
font-weight:900;
}

a.tag6{
font-size:9px;
display:none;
color: #E7E8EB;
font-weight:700;
}
a.tag5 {
font-size:10px;
color: #C0C5D3;
font-weight:500;
}

a.tag4 {
font-size:11px;
color: #C0C5D3;
font-weight:700;
}

a.tag3 {
font-size:13px;
color: #647094;
font-weight:900;
}

a.tag2 {
font-size:15px;
color: #081B55;
font-weight:600;
}

a.tag1 {
font-size:17px;
color: #081B55;
font-weight:700;
}
/*The font-weights here still need fine-tuning.*/

That's it. To settle on a range of hex codes, I used color blender. With the new version of Movable Type, all of what's shown here is supported without any plugins. I mention this because I spent a frustrated half-hour messing around with Cloudnine before I realized it was obsolete and another frustrated half-hour wondering why the tags weren't showing up before I realized I had some other ineffective old tagging plugin still hanging around in my installation.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Blog Orbit No. 3

T oday marks three years of more or less regular blogging. I know it doesn't sound like a long time in ordinary human years, but in blog years it's something close to 108. Yipes. Feels like eons.

In year one, there were 221 entries. In year two, 271. And this year, year three, a record low 199 entries, a disappointing sum which must include an asterisk to account for qualifying exams and the 100 notes entries posted to this blog's exam-focused counterpart. Whether or not there's much fanfare (are those trumpets?), I'm celebrating three years, which, it turns out, is just barely older than average among the Technorati 100, by sharing a few picks from the most recent cycle:

Sentiments:

  1. Is.
  2. Yo.

Ideas:

  1. The Networked Image
  2. Indexical Thinking
  3. Ground-Truthing
  4. Katamari Walking
  5. Re Collection

Titles:

  1. Genu Muchwobbly
  2. Beaguiled
  3. Bob Barkerization of Mutts
  4. Coach: Blinky's In Foul Trouble
  5. Amuellierated

Here's to growing neither weary nor bored in the blog-year to come.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Custom Fields

I spent enough time on this earlier today that I figured an entry was due. Most of the support forums were a disappointment, too, so let this serve as a reference for desperate souls like me who are hunting around for clues about how to integrate the Movable Type Custom Fields plugin in their weblogs. What follows will probably only be of interest to MT users. It's not entirely self-serving, though. I think we'll soon be using custom entries for CCC Online, and I wasn't having any luck getting it to work here until now.

The first problem I encountered was that the plugin was old. I had MTCustomFields 1.12 on the system rather than the updated v. 1.2. It's a fast upgrade; takes just a minute or two to get everything in place.

Here's what I wanted to do:  Basically, I wanted another field on the input screen that would allow me to designate Technorati tags for selected entries. I am already using the Keywords field for del.icio.us tagging. But I don't want anything to show up with entries where I'm not using any tags at all.  To accomplish this, I have to have the following plugins in my MT installation: MTLoop, MTGlue, and MTCustomFields.  And I'm running MT 3.2.

With these plugins, I concocted a sequence of tags that would link directly to my del.icio.us account.  With the following code, I can enter a string of tags in the Keywords field, separated by spaces, and get a list of links to the corresponding tags in del.icio.us.  The catch is that after posting the entry, I have to post the page to del.icio.us and copy/paste the same tags into the keywords field in del.icio.us.  That way the links on my weblog match up with the tags in del.icio.us.  Here's an example.  We're using the same system for CCC Online. And here is the code from the index template that makes all of this happen.  If you want the tags to show up in other templates (individual, monthly, category, etc.), just copy/paste this code there as well:

<MTIfNonEmpty tag="EntryKeywords">Tags: <MTGlueContainer><MTLoop values="[MTEntryKeywords]" delimiter=" ">
<a href="http://del.icio.us/dmueller/<$MTLoopValue$>"><$MTLoopValue$></a><MTGlue>, </MTGlue></MTLoop></MTGlueContainer><br></MTIfNonEmpty>

The MTIfNonEmpty enclosure tells MT to ignore everything here if I haven't entered any tags in the Keyword field.  No permanent elements will show up the individual entry. Everything depends upon there being tags.  No tags, no mess.

But I was after something else.  The del.icio.us tagging is a good fit for the way I use it, particularly when marking notes that I want to integrate with the other tagged items I drop into del.icio.us. How could I add a second layer of tags, a layer that would tie directly into Technorati? For this, I needed another entry field.  So I installed MTCustomFields. Everything was fine. The expanded interface is intuitive. I was able to add "Technorati" as an extra field. Still, I couldn't find many examples of the code to use in the index template. There were several examples of wonky, dysfunctional code. I was only able to learn the basic code for the enclosure and the field specification. It looks like this:

<MTEntryData>
<MTEntryDataTechnorati>
</MTEntryData>

It was a start.  But I still wanted to integrate it into the scheme I was using for del.icio.us which allows me to enter a string of tags and lets the MT engine do the rest.  I'm not a die-hard Technorati tagger, but it would be nice to have the flexibility of simply keying in a tag or two (teaching-carnival or Academy2.0) for certain entries.  For others entries, it's fine that they publish untagged (or untagged by anything beyond my only semidescript category labels).  By whisking together the two chunks of code from above, I was able to get something to work:

<MTEntryData><MTIfNonEmpty tag="EntryDataTechnorati">Technorati tags: <MTGlueContainer><MTLoop values="[MTEntryDataTechnorati]" delimiter=" "><a href="http://technorati.com/tag/<$MTLoopValue$>" rel="tag"><$MTLoopValue$></a><MTGlue>, </MTGlue></MTLoop></MTGlueContainer></MTIfNonEmpty></MTEntryData>

Note that "Technorati" matches with the name I used when I set up the extra field using MTCustomField.  What's peculiar is that the first tag reference doesn't use "MT" whereas the second tag reference does.  But it works (and with a bricoleur-shrug, I don't mind why right now). If I enter a list of tags in the Technorati field, they turn up at the bottom of the entry with live links. The entry interface looks like this:

Useful to someone else, maybe.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Seriousness1, Seriousness2, Seriousness3...

R ecovery of other seriousnesses, from Jeff Rice's "Serious Bloggers" in today's Inside Higher Ed:

Lost in this seriousness are a number of quite amazing things blogging has provided writers: ability to create discourse in widely accessed, public venues, ease of online publishing, ability to write daily to a networked space, ability to archive one's writing, ability to interlink writing spaces, ability to respond to other writers quickly, etc.

With the time you saved on this short entry, you should go read the whole thing.

Friday, January 6, 2006

Celebrate Good Times

A s of today, the blog is another year older. This makes two years of more or less connective, digitally habituated compositing. The 493rd entry, here before you.

That I don't have any grand celebratory declarations to offer suggests, I suppose, that I'm not ready to call it quits quite yet.  Blogging, whatever can be said about it (again and again) has been immensely useful for practicing writing in an out-there kind of way (sure, take "out-there" to mean anything you want it to mean).  But enough rationalizing already.  Here's to another assortment of entries--some irrelevant-boring, some notesy-academic and even some with pictures.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Wall Street Journal, A6

K evin Delaney's article, "Big Mother Is Watching: Tailing Teens on the Web," ran today on the front page of the Wall Street Journal.  It reports on teenagers, families and weblogs--the blurring of public/private mixed up in self-publishing for the variously scaled publics of the web.  Sure, the article's premise brushes with the criminalization of teenagers and the stepped-up police-parentals when adolescents take to blogspace (surveillance, spying, etc.), but it balances out in that blogs are never assigned the total burden of responsibility for teenage underlife.  Probably won't register even faint trace on the public intellectual-o-meter, but I'm quoted in the article (one-plus inches, fourth column).  And the best part: rather than shaking my fist and cursing the danged kids with their wily wiredness, I had something optimistic to add.

Missed it? You can still get a copy at the newsstand tomorrow for $1.50 (weekend edition).

Added: Full text of the article available here.

Posted by at 10:40 PM | to On Weblogs

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Why blog?

E arlier this afternoon, I stepped up front for a brief talk about why I blog (framed as "Blogging as a Graduate Student").  The session was part of SU's featured Gateway Focus on Teaching Luncheon Series; the broader theme for the event: "Technology to Support Student Motivation." I decided that it makes sense to share a few small details about the talk, including my list of five motives/motifs on grad student blogging.  It's testimonial for the most part, and perhaps it's well-worn terrain for you who have been keeping a weblog, but it's also useful for me to flesh out my talking notes and to write through some of the fuzz, the un- or under-answered questions, and the relative merits--from my perspective--of keeping a weblog throughout a graduate program of study.  I should also be clear that these are conversation starters and supple categories for organizing such conversations rather than some rigid and deterministic boxes.

Here are the five motives/motifs I used to ground the talk:

1.  Personal knowledge management: I need a customized information ecology.  The weblog is but one piece among a coordinated effort to take command of infoglut.
2.  Network immersion/emersion:  Blogging enables surprising social connections--collegial and familial, differently distributed in space and time.  Worldview: connectivism.
3.  Writing habit: Whatever else blogging is, it's writing.  And it involves a particular rhythm/cadence and a small pieces way of writing, rough-edged as such pieces may be.
4.  Research opportunitiesTechnorati's latest State of the Blogosphere report (10/17) tells us that between 700,000 and 1.3 million entries are posted each day.  There are 70,000 new weblogs each day, and many of them are self-regulating (with a few assigned, a few sp&mblogs, etc.).  Research possibilities? Mm, a couple.
5.  Technology learning:  I knew a little bit of HTML before I started a blog, and I could size images, but my own aptitude for technology has sprung up from a willingness to experiment with this weblog.  Among the things I've learned or looked into because of blogging: CSS, aggregation, XML, template futzing and alternative uses for blogware (this list could go longer, of course).  Much of what I understand about technology is due to blogging (well, yes, and the intro to computers course I took as an undergraduate).

There's a lot more to each of these points, and I want to come back to elaborate and explain (another day, perhaps an entry to each).  What else can we do with a list like this?  What good is it?  Well, plenty of people are hearing about blogging for the first time.  I wouldn't define myself as an early adopter, but I think it's easy for early adopters to continue to cycle new technologies into practice without periodically relaying recent digital happenings. This is potentially complicated (whether technophiles ought to repeat themselves once in a while, retrace trails of activation for the benefit of others), but I'm keeping it simple by saying almost-confidently that yes, it's important to revisit, repeat, and echo such things.  The counter-stance makes some sense too: a milder axiom that those who say they want on board with technologies must not dally.

Finally, back to my other question, what else can we do with a list like this one?  We could flip it around to see what happens.  Play it backwards. Ooh...looks like I forgot to mention that a sixth motive/motif is pleasure, enjoyment and fun. Blaspheme and outlandishness, I know (and damned if I shouldn't be doing something more serious right now), but let's see how it looks:

5. gninrael ygolonhceT: Forget technology. Luddites not ludics. It's all just too exasperating. Plus, who cares?  Isn't Dr. Phil on?
4. seitinutroppo hcraeseR: Museumification, paper-based research authorized only.  Blogs are trivial time-wasters.
3. tibah gnitirW: Event-modeled, constrained comp.  Caffeine-assisted activity spikes, panic, deadline anxiety.
2. noisreme\noisremmi krowteN: Isolation and insularity.  Hermitage.  Disconnectionism.  Strict individuality and closedness.
1. tnemeganam egdelwonk lanosreP:  Knowledge mayhem, chaoforgetfulness and debilitating noetic loss.  Where are my notes?   

No, this isn't the only thing we can do with such a list. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

CCC Online as Teleidoscope

I nside Higher Ed is running Collin's piece today about CCC Online called "Mirror, Mirror on the Web."  The column puts a beam on CCC Online and introduces a few of the features of the site, but beyond that--and more importantly, I'd say--it makes explicit some of the ways blog-based thinking influenced the creation of the site.  As the article makes plain, the three of us working on the project are active bloggers;  I think it's safe to say that the practice of blogging made the current iteration of CCC Online conceivable. 

Clearly, CCC Online is not merely your paper copy of the journal.

CCC Online is in many ways still a mirror site, but it's a mirror that can be manipulated in a variety of ways, offering our colleagues different perspectives on the journal's content, perspectives that are impossible to duplicate in print. We've worked to make the site as productive as possible, integrating more efficient management of the journal's content with opportunities for exploration and invention.

Our aim since the earliest conversations about the site was to imagine CCC Online as more than a mirror or, at the very least, as a system of variable mirrorings: What can the online version of the journal do that the print variety cannot?

I don't have much more to say about it right now.  Read Collin's article.  Click around CCC Online and continue to let us know what you think, what you'd like to see. Link to it. Volunteer for writing abstracts (we're approaching 51.1...the end of abstracts and the start of abstract-writing). 

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Restyling

E verything I know about CSS I learned from experimenting with Movable Type. And you may or may not care that I've never upgraded.  EWM is vintage MT 2.65.  I've installed new versions of MT for other folks (another install just a few days ago, in fact), but I've never gotten around to upgrading my own weblog.  Could be the lag reflects my felt knowledge that the new version would come with a slightly different set of class and id tags.  No hurry to bother with it.

In the early months of this weblog, I doctored the style sheet in TopStyle Lite--the mediocreware that comes with something else I have on my system (Dreamweaver 4? Old but good enough, and my software budget...paltry).  But shortly after getting hooked on Firefox, I came upon Edit CSS, a browser plugin that reveals the style sheet of any site (yeah, I can probably access the CSS of your site, lift and modify bits of code and put them to my own uses).  Because MT keeps all of its CSS definitions in a single style sheet, it's quite easy to tweak.  The changes, using Edit CSS automatically reflect on the page as it appears in the browser window.  It's a live what-if enactment.  To save changes, copy and paste the modified CSS definitions into the template and do a quick rebuild. (Honestly, I don't know whether everyone already knows this).  The code in my style sheet is unorthodox--a mish-mash of what-ifs, both kept and unkempt, a stash of aberrant and idle lines (among the pieces doing the work).

I installed a Wordpress weblog just to mess around with it, try it out.  But I found that the style sheets were split up.  No good.  Like five hair products and five combs. I want a single style sheet that cascades through the site.  Lazy that way.  Seemed like a lot of work to do a redesign in multiple style sheets, especially when the class and id tags are unfamiliar.

So what's with all this blog talk?  Well, someone asked me about design, and I've been dropping in a few plugins, floating the blog on some new .pl scripts.  Among the latest plugins: MTDropcap, MTKeywords, MTLoop, MTGlue and MTRandomLine.  Unsurprisingly, MTDropcap is doing the work of dropping the caps that begin each entry.  Into the main index template:

<MTDropCap>
<MTDropCapFormat>
<span class="drop"><$MTDropCapLetter$></span>
</MTDropCapFormat>
<$MTEntryBody$>
</MTDropCap>

Into the style sheet:

/*dropcap*/
.drop {
float: left;
padding: 0px 5px 5px 3px;
font-size: 62px;
line-height: 51px;
font-weight: none;
color:#444B60;
font-family: georgia, times;
}

MTRandomline refs a template file with a list of quotations--the ones you'll find at the bottom of this main page and also at the foot of each page in the individual entry archive.  Randomline regenerates only when a page is rebuilt, but because I have comments showing here, a different (or the same, it's random) quotation will cycle in with each new comment.  I'm going to wait a while before rolling out the keywords, loop, glue combination.  More on that another time. Why randomline rather than php?  Some of the php stuff I've tried busies the server with extraneous processes (this is probably myth, but I had trouble with too many processes invoking when I was running a random image script some time ago).

Here's the tagging for RandomLine. 

<table class="headfoot" align="center">
<tr> <td class="headfoot" align="center">
<$MTRandomLine module="quotations"$></td></tr></table>

Easy.  Presumably, it can pull anything, so it would be possible to have a Randomline module that invokes images, text or some combination.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Business Blogs

B logging for small businesses was the topic of a talk I attended last evening at Turning Stone near Verona, NY.  I was invited by A., joined her and M. at a table near the middle.  The yellow table--yellow name tags, too.  Part of a Society for Technical Communication. Yvonne Divita, self-employed print-on-demand publisher and women's marketing guru, gave the talk: "Blogging: Is it a verb or a noun? Yes!"  The event was well attended, maybe fifty people or so. 

The basic premise of the talk was that blogging would be useful for small businesses.  The small-business owner should consider the possibilities of a weblog as a replacement for a static web site that generates relatively few visits because few people link to it.  Sub-pitch:  turn the blogosphere's interest-clustering into for-profit marketing.  Although the other incentives were brought up, the ruse was heavy on giving page rank a boost more than on opening up a different kind of relationship with customers and other business owners.

The audience included more than a few people who knew relatively little about blogs if they'd ever heard of them before, and so DiVita's approach--elementarizing the blogosphere--was on the mark for most.  This wasn't an academic talk by any means, and because it was a sales pitch on blogging--blogging lite for the few of us who already blog, who already understand RSS, who already get the implications of outward/inward link-gestures--the event, overall, was purposeful for a few other reasons:  it absolutely confirmed J.'s brief mention that folks in our field (knowing of writing/technology/rhetoric) could be more involved in consulting.  We need to circulate these important ideas, people!  It also got me thinking: I'm not, but if I was a small-business owner, what would I need to know about blogging?

On one level, I'd characterize DiVita's pitch as a sales event for Six Apart, Movable Type, and especially TypePad--the platform she uses to host her weblog, Lip-Sticking.  Divita's assistant--the laptop navigator (clicking through the browser history because the internet connection was failing)--referred over and over to the "Six Apart kids," interjected anecdotes about Mena and Ben Trott, and did much less to celebrate any other platform:  Drupal, Wordpress, Blogger.

Early in the talk, DiVita described weblogs as "thin" web sites. I would have liked to hear more about her contention that weblogs, in their thin-ness (a quality of their on-going-ness? their stretch?), are distinct from web sites.  I suppose the qualities of weblogs she was accounting for are their currency, flexibility and fluidity.  The regular self-publishing of business-related content into the weblog would make it more vital (and likely to circulate) than the otherwise static structure of what she called a "web site."  Static::dynamic: the ratio in question, I guess. And yet, as most bloggers and web developers know, the move to dynamic content comes with some trade-off.  I also wanted to hear more about what leads to blog fizzle: (-1-) infrequent entries, (-2-) lack of linking, (-3-) neglect--by not reading and commenting--of the small world you are seeking to activate.  Kickers, then: Don't expect it to work if you can't commit to two entries per week for eternity and don't expect it to work if you don't actively engage in the network not only by writing entries, but also by reading and commenting generously in the cluster you aspire to fashion.  Oh, and: Do you really want un-moderated comments from customers on your site?  I can think of a few companies I wish! had open comment spaces:  Blockbuster, United Airlines, for two.

Instead of sounding critical or unfair--going on and on airing the presumption that I know more about it than was covered last night, I should say that it was simply a nice event for a group of folks who hadn't ever heard of blogging.  Divita was generally descriptive of what a blog can do for a business, and she had plenty of examples in hand to reinforce her primary aim. 

Critical aside: I don't have a copy of the dinner card with the accurate names of what they served, but it was, um, unusual.  Something like a pancake stuffed chicken breast covered with apple cinnamon glaze.  Or was the apple-y taste in the stuffing?  Sides: Maple-flavored rice and mixed vegetables.  Never had anything quite like it--a collision of breakfast and dinner. "Compliments of the chef, formerly of IHOP...." For dessert: strawberry-sauce-covered biscuit with whipped cream.  And a small coffee that kept me awake until 2:45 a.m.

Posted by at 10:26 AM | to On Weblogs

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Primp My Blog

I came close to switching to Wordpress.  Then I came close to upgrading to MT 3.latest.  Finally, I decided just to work with what I had.  So I tuned the style sheets, lifted a bit of java from cgbvb (indebted!), and roughly finished the annual blog do-over.  A few rough spots remain, but I'm generally satisfied. I wanted something just a bit tidier. The most significant change for me is the three-column style--a switch I'd been considering for quite some time.  After too many failures managing the re-design exclusively through CSS (which I've only ever learned by tinkering; you'll see pure hack-job if you have a look at it), I went ahead and dropped the MT tags into a simple table.  I know it's an acknowledgment of limited skills, but instead I'll attribute it to ambivalence in case there are any HTML purists lurking.

I paused from flipping channels this weekend to look at MTV's "Pimp My Ride."  If you don't know the program, well, each episode basically features a full-scale vehicle overhaul.  A high-end body shop in California takes a well-worn jalopy and juices it into a set of wheels with more kick, more bass, more glimmer.  So I was thinking it'd be nifty is somebody would come along and offer to spruce up my blog (re-design it for 800x600 viewing, if nothing else).  But no such thing happened.

Next up, more attention to colors (why reddish?), considering deleting out some of the crap still lingering in the side columns, and weeding out the idle blogs from the blogroll. 

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Blogs, Emergence

H ere's the audio file of my pitch in Albany yesterday.  It's just under twenty minutes (5.8MB).  The more I think about it, the more I think I got a few things wrong.  Well, maybe not horribly, embarrassingly wrong, but not quite right, either.  There's a zany, complementary slideshow, but in my first try I wasn't having any luck converting it for web viewing, and so I gave up in favor of other, more pressing work. I've got a lot of that piled up--pressing,  pressing work.  Late April: ugh.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Blogospheric Equilibration

O kay, so they're probably not connected, but they are two notable blips in my morning glance at the blogosphere.

Penn State professor Stuart Selber announces he will disconnect his blog.

The Council of WPA launches a fresh (er...idle for one month, but hey) site.  With RSS.

What's a WPA?  This, from the FAQ:

What does the WPA acronym stand for?
WPA stand for Writing Program Administration and in some contexts "Writing Program Administrator." Learn more on the About page.

Monday, April 11, 2005

1, 2, 3, 4,

M ost importantly, this is entry No. 301 at Earth Wide Moth.  Fifteen months, six days.  Three or four memorable entries and three or four forgettable ones.  The rest, writing.

On the subject of writing, I'm 3700 words committed to the 611 project, a draft of which is due to be shared on Thursday--opened to full-on blazing scrutiny.  Words: not to be confused with images.  But I have about five pages worth of visualizations to sprinkle in here and there. Should I be worried that I haven't yet said much about the specific method? Nah.  I'm going for the recipe-card paragraph close to the end; a list of steps, each of which must not exceed five words.  Plus, who wants to read a bunch of formulae: "To arrive at the standard deviation, take the square root of the number of...."  Yuck-oh.  I'd rather capture a .mov of me futzing around with a calculator and a spreadsheet and Flash until it was just right.

Too-much too-fast writing puts me in the spirit of photo-taking.  This afternoon, when it occurred to me that I might blog something or other today, I went and got the camera, looked out the window for a long time.  Nothing stirring (except the neighbor kid who spent two minutes waving a plastic saber at gnat-swarms, but his folks wouldn't appreciate me digitalizing him into blog-famy).  So I put the whole thing off.  Later (by which I mean 'just now') I zoned through an online content management meeting (the unveiling of a centralized content repository) for little more than an hour, because I'm picking up some online work with my old u. for the summer months.  From the meeting (which included a conference call): "Metadata? It's like a wrapper that surrounds content items."  Or rapper.  Or rapport. 

#301#

Wednesday, February 9, 2005

Tweening

T his morning, I thought I'd have time for three blog entries.  I told myself that today would be the day I posted thrice.  Hmph.  Never written thrice before.  I'm having a bit of "dogfish in the dissection pan" with hyper-consciousness about post-literacy, studying the network, tweening the EWM-style blogging I know and love with more academicky smelting--dutifully dumping into whatever contrivance, as assigned.  Of course it is my own sense of what happens that flattens all of this out, rolls over it again and again.  Scalpel, glassine envelope....

A thought-splice:  I signed up for thefacebook.com this semester.  Built a profile, uploaded an image, listed a set of tags to cross-reference me with the thousands of others--mostly undergrads--who dig the same stuff I dig. I did it because I wanted to start the semester in WRT205 with some talk about social connection, self-identified tags, and mediated connections all as buildup into McLuhan, Barabasi, and writing critical research.  I was clear with students that they didn't have to keep profiles; turned out all but one or two of them already kept extensive listings in thefacebook.  They knew more about it than I did.  They were already doing creative computing, in one sense, making themselves into data, encoding other (small) worlds with discriminating presences.  It was fun; and I told them, shortly after I built a profile, that even though I didn't have any facebook friends, none of them should feel any obligation to list me.  But two did anyway.  In this space, I am, categorically, friends with my students. I've kept it perfectly centripetal, never listing anyone else as a friend of mine, but just standing still, checking things out, welcoming pulses. 

In the past two weeks, I've been listed by three students from last semester's WRT105.  I get emails, "such and such has listed you as a friend."  When I click on the link from the email, I'm transported to a site where I can confirm the friendship, and I have in each case, although other options (reject, deny, wait a minute?) are available to me also.  I've also joined the "I Hate WRT105" group.  It's the only group I belong to, and I really should do something about that since I teach the course and I'm doing doctoral work in the program responsible for devising the curriculum.  And, what'd'ya know, I happened across the profile of a familiar student or two in there.  Thought, heh, what're you doing in here?  Same to you.  Hate, the acerbic cousin of critical (the mask of doing).

Thought-splice: Miles and Yuille's Creative Computing manifesto sets out to define "how we use computers in teaching and learning for creative industries" in IT contexts.  They offer a thoughtful list, but it leaves me feeling ambivalent about the think treatment of some of the grander concepts included. Perhaps that's how it's designed to work; its gross under-development invokes a busy array of associations.  Seems more like a move to stimulate rather than define.  Even in its simplicity, the list teases out a few useful distinctions about with-ness rather than working "on the network," and about "learning by doing."  Indeed, "these literacies are learnt by doing." Which literacies aren't?

We could describe literacy not as a monolithic term but as a cloud of sometimes contradictory nexus points among different positions.  Literacy can be seen as not a skill but a process of situating and resituating in social spaces (Wysocki 367).

Jill Walker's talk at Brown and, just as much, the comments following her account push me to consider the reversal of network and representation (composed, in writing or otherwise).  I don't know how to put this, but maybe Walker's title will help me find a grip.  Rather than writing in the network, it's rather more--in my thinking--like writing the network. The network is written, I mean.  It materializes in language (oftentimes language that is not written, but otherly, I suppose, oral, imagistic...dunno about all of this, though).  Cripes, I'm slogging....  I'm trying to say that the sociality of the network is an enticement/motivation to writing (for people who've never had a care for Composition, I mean). Beyond the academy, lots of folks are compelled to write because of the sociality of the network, and this seems like an interesting turnabout of motivation, one that ought to interest teachers of writing.

Cross-posted to 711.

Posted by at 10:24 PM | to On Weblogs

Monday, February 7, 2005

Volatility

C onfess to being plumb wore out right now.  Lots of things seem to be are going awry, which is an expected feeling around the fourth week of a demanding semester.  And yes, one self-monitor cautions me to buck up, chill out, keep it steady, and another self-monitor--Disrupter--takes a more rancorous tenor, blares like a high-and-whiny siren.  And another....

Instead of pining over a lackluster day and a stack of work among other stressors, I suppose I ought to wrap this back into broader issues (from classes, of course) about network literacy and identity.  I think my only point for now is that finding a rhythm is just one tender, deceptive sliver of living the interconnection; rhythm-finding is obscured by ease, yes?  When the process/system (of blogging, since, what the heck, that's under the micro-scope) is least visible, it is susceptible to disruption. Writing is easy, not easy. What I'm trying to work through is the extent to which the bumps are explicit or the extent to which the strain of doctoral study makes its way into a space frequented by colleagues whom I see every day at work.  And so I suppose this gives an opening to theorizing the network as wrought with dynamics I still don't understand, new and unpredictable avenues for being placed into various statements.  The schizo-network (made possible by meeting twice or doubly), as a consequence of competing, overlapping and near-simultaneous representations, is vulnerable and, perhaps no matter how widely distributed, somewhat degraded.  Yeah, that's what I wanted to say.  It knows woe; it interpolates absence, it senses strain, recovers quietly.

The unbinding can become so overpowering that it colonizes subjectivities and tears them apart; with no guarantee of either a stable past or a connected future, it is impossible to believe in the unity of a single, stable subject--the subject of our previous discussions of literacy. (Wysocki and Johnson-Eilola 365)

Monday, January 31, 2005

Retromediation and Novelty

C ross-posted to Network(ed) Rhetorics.

Frankly, as I read "Remediation, Genre, and Motivation: Key Concepts for Teaching with Weblogs," by Brooks, Nichols and Priebe, all of NDSU, I wondered about the consequences of framing weblogs as remediations of older forms--the journal, the notebook and the filter.  What results from a setup of weblogs that calibrates their potential in terms of paper-based corollaries?  It's difficult to know exactly how this was framed beyond the evidence we find in the article (the framework, the research narrative, the questionnaire, the data-sets, the conclusion) and in the related links (the weblogs themselves, a syllabus, a reading list, adjacent assignments) so I'm reluctant to respond to the essay with firmly resolved skepticism, especially considering that it reflects some of the earliest uses of blogs to teach writing. Yet through this limited lens, I have doubts about why we need to liken blogs to paper counterparts.  What's gained?  Is it a way to legitimate composition pedagogy adventurously (inventively, imaginatively!) straying from long-recognized forms, forms often occupying the lion's share of weight in the event-oriented syllabus or program-wide curricular design?  Is it a way to call up, for students, a sense of the familiar?  Although it is, perhaps to a lesser degree than resonates in this article, necessary at times to present students with a grounding in the familiar, when Brooks et. al. tell us, "we wanted to balance the novelty of the activity with a grounding in familiar literate practices," my initial thought is that a high stakes flattening/deadening/adequation is inevitably brought about.  And this, I think, must bear on motivation, if only subtly, tacitly.

What do I suggest instead?  Well, it depends on the broader aims of the course. For collective course blogs, I'm less and less inclined to model exemplary entries for the whole class, and rather than talking about what blogs enable by connecting them to the written forms they (more or less) resemble, I prefer to introduce blogs to students in terms of their impact on how we think (sure, paper variations impact thought, too), develop and write with/about ideas and so on (more to this, but I'll let it rest here).

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Li-li-logging

V an Dijck suggests that we might think of a weblog as a journal or diary nouveau--the result of digital media and the internet blending to enable linked writing spaces.  I like the genealogy she traces: the long (papery) tradition of daily record-keeping from the confessional, lock-n-keyed entries of a teenager to the "communal means of expressing and remembering"  we find in the nautical records of S. Pole explorers.  And yet I'm uneasy with the correlation between blogs and diaries, perhaps because "that's just journaling, right?" often comes with a sneer meant to infantilize/trivialize the medium of weblogs (or perhaps that's just my own sensitivity to such suggestions, which I have, at times, thought to be pejorative, aimed at demeaning that which bloggers claim to find so meaningful).

I don't want to go blog-wild with this entry, but I do want to register one half-formed idea: the label genre, while it might be appropriate for the "varied and heterogeneous" category of diaries, seems to work less well when applied to blogs.  Half formed...perhaps less...that idea. Genre, as I think of it, imposes a kind of hard edge to the scope of what's being defined.  And, because blog, as Mortensen and Walker point out, can be understood as an action (verb), I like to think of blogs as considerably more varied and blog as infused with doing/performance more than any genre (genera/kind) designation affords.  So that's all: differentiating blogs by genre always makes me pause, as it did in Van Dijck's article.  As well, on the correlations of weblog types to "link-logging" and "life-logging," I find the clusters to overlap, rather than to function discretely.  (I'd have to review again whether Van Dijck is explicit about this point, too).  I only mean to say that weblogs consisting primarily of entries reporting on links and weblogs consisting primarily of entries reporting on life rarely deny the encroachment or interference of the other.  As guiding definitions, they quickly deteriorate or blur, I think. For such rules (and rule-minded blogs), there are as many exceptions, and exceptionality is--for me--one of the more fascinating dimensions of the blogosphere.

I want to put this entry to rest, but before I do so, here are two more gems from Mortensen and Walker's article (which is, I think, full of simple, glowing bits).  First, they say, "I think better when I write" (269).  I really like what this says, mostly for what it does to remind me about my own habits of reading, writing and thinking.  I think I think better when I write, too, and it's been especially engaging to write in a blogspace where various folks can read into my writing to whatever extent their own interests compel them.  Second, they note that blogs have a discrete topoi: memory and meta-reflection (270)--another interesting piece I'd like to return to, explore, etc.

Cross-posted to Network(ed) Rhetorics.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Coded

I 'm mucking around all morning with MT RSS tags.  I was using a chunk of javascript to pull in delicious bookmarks before, but I wanted a bit more flexibility. Figured MT RSS would deliver. So I read around the net--mostly old entries from the 2.+ days--and came up with a few plugins I thought would do the trick: MT RSS and MT List.  Quasi-teaching-aims motivating me; been plugging away at a syllabus, rest of the pre-term drill. It's a course in critical research; we're going to aggregate like mad.

Now the plugins are running fine.  Together, they pull the feeds through a db cache on my server so as not to drain the site of origin site with each visit to EWM. But I can't figure out how to grab the date tag from the XML.  The dates are nested in Dublin Core tags.  I can't figure out how to tell the plugin to draw the date into the entry you see here (lower right). So I'm stuck.  Gonna quit before I overheat (or make this brand new nagging cold/s.throat worse).  Here's the code, culprit in bold, just for the helluvit:

 <MTList name="feeds">
http://del.icio.us/rss/dmueller
http://www.earthwidemoth.com/mt/index.xml
http://dwlt.net/tapestry/ripleys.rdf
</MTList>
<MTListLoop name="feeds">
<MTRSSFeed>
<div class="sidetitle"><a href="<$MTRSSFeedLink$>" target="blank"><$MTRSSFeedTitle$></a></div>
<div class="squish" align="center">Reassembled <lastBuildDate><$MTDate format="%B %d, %Y %I:%M %p"$></lastBuildDate><br/></div>
<ul><MTRSSFeedItems lastn="7">
<li><$MTRSSFeedItemElement name="date"$>: <a href="<$MTRSSFeedItemLink$>" target="blank"><MTFirstNWords n="4"><$MTRSSFeedItemTitle$></MTFirstNWords></a>: <MTFirstNWords n="7"...><MTRSSFeedItemDescription></MTFirstNWords></li>
</MTRSSFeedItems></ul>
</MTRSSFeed>
</MTListLoop></div>

Monday, December 20, 2004

Categoricons

U sed up the past short while playing around with category-associated icons.  Why? Quit with all the hard questions already!

Truthfully, it's a mixture of deeply compelling forces:  1.  avoiding the last bit of shine on my project final.  2.  avoiding the small stack of gradable student work left to be read, thought through, etc. 3. avoiding making lunch for a PS2-marathoning Ph. who has the day off because it's too cold outside. 3b. it's too cold inside to move around much. 4. beats the heck out of putting the rest of the dressings and ornamentation on the x-mas tree, especially since fortune has it that we're motoring over to Detroit City later this week.  5. I'm just in the mood for icons. 6. I've been thinking for some time about the potentials of using category tags to designate author IDs, with a sense that collaboratively authored entries could be represented through the category function, which allows for cross-listing (whereas the single login, solitary author access route does not--as easily).  So as I prepare to use blogs in WRT205 in the spring, I'd like to think about giving students the option of co-authoring entries (maybe even plotting the course so that co-entries are compulsory a few times).  Yah, there's more to it, but it needs more thought, and frankly I'm just not up to it right now.  And yah, I still have to choose readings and so on.  And I didn't even say anything about what that has to do with icons.

So although I'm not overwhelmed by the mind-blowing effects of the categoricons (do say, you like 'em?)--or even sure they impact the design of the blog in any useful way, I'll likely continue to mess around with them some more.  In between getting the rest of my serious, important work done, of course.  Hear the lunch whistle blowin'....

Fear and Trembling

I awoke this morning to an encouraging message about the latest new blog on the block.  Fellow CCRer Jen Wingard launched Fear and Trembling (in Academe) over the weekend.  Already, entry no. 2 is a riff on Texas, which is sure to rustle up some Lone Star snarl.  For me, it's a must-add to the blogroll--smart, thoughtful writing and a great way to give interested attention to stuff going on with others in the grad program. 

Added: Recent entries are brief not because my brain is mush but rather because I'm typing with mittens on. Yeah, mittens. It's -7 F this AM. We have heat, I think, and the furnace is working its blower off, but seven below feels pretty cold right now. Enjoy Texas, Jen.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

When One Column Is Short and the Other Column Is Long

B ecause recent entries have been shrinking, sapped by nothing other than personal deficits in time, energy and attention span, and because I've managed to steal five minutes here and there for the minutiae of blog-tweaking this semester--a visitor hitmap, Geobytes IP locater, a Flickr thing, and now a feedlist (java-generated from RSS Digest) from my del.icio.us account--the right column exceeded the left column, forcing me to change the threshold of recent entries from nine to twelve so the centered bits from the right column wouldn't be floating freely at the bottom of the screen.  Probably it's time to convert to a three-column design, eh?  Or I could reverse that shrinking trend.

On another break from project writing, I recently dropped a robots exclusion file in the main blog directory to curb bot-traffic hunting through extraneous stuff I keep on the server. It corrected the visits by 200 on the first day, so the stats are slightly more indicative of actual site traffic, for whatever that might be worth.  Also, I'm trying out a rotate.php file to ease into some understanding of what PHP scripts make possible.  For now, it's just a simple image randomization cue, which pulls from jpegs in a designated sub-directory (on refresh, the pic of the Quad will flip between two dif't images...important stuff, really).  Over break I hope to have more time to play around with PHP controls for other aims and purposes.  But I only know enough to get frustrated, and I've got plenty of other stuff to do, like reintroducing myself to family.

Wednesday, November 3, 2004

Progressiveteachers.org

P romo.:  Fresh blog: progressiveteachers.org.  I might have had a small part in its making, but I won't be so self-indulgent as to explain all the particulars here (especially because I have worries that the style sheet is all screwy for some...er, many browsers.).  Just wanted you to know about it. I've been told it will begin filling up with entries later tonight or tomorrow.

Progressiveteachers.org says this about the project, purpose(s), all of which, for the most part, extend the efforts and initiatives of the C's progressive caucuses:

We are a coalition of individuals, interest groups, and caucuses who feel that language, writing, and literacy are inseparable from issues of social justice and public policy.

Subscribe to the XML feed, pop in and contribute a comment, log it to your blogroll, suggest a link...anything that'll give lift to the PT-blog, including a quick acknowledgement at your own high-traffic site.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Proselytize

G ood news arrived via email this morning from a long-time compadre, Mike J., who's freshly on board with a well known political action group for the next two months.  He just switched coasts in July, too, moving from San Fran to NYC.  And now, as I understand it, he's off to Milwaukee where he'll be mobilized to one of a series of swing-states to move the populus.  

It gets better: he set up a blog for the endeavor: ...And You Will Know Me By The Trail. For me, it was a no-brainer to add to my blogroll; Mike and I were at the same U. in the early 90's, so I wanted to sneak in a plug. As well, I am interested in suggesting his emerging blog project as a bookmark/fave site for folks who are teaching election-centered courses this fall.  An on-the-trail voice from hotly contested states might connect in some way or another.  

Posted by at 10:15 PM | to On Weblogs

Friday, July 9, 2004

Network Captives

I admire Jeff R. and Will R., read their blogs like clockwork; their exchange(s) over the last 24 hours have been worth following, if you haven't been keeping up.  I'm here giving nods to the naming contentions as we slide between the print paradigm and electracy's futures.  In that slide, some folks pack heavy, others pack light.  I suppose there's a way of taking up the rift that contends, as Jeff often reminds me, the new media/digital turn doesn't need the lingo of literacy (or even the name).  As necessary and tricky as it is to re-vocabularize rhetorical agilities in a digital age, I wonder what--if anything substantial--is at stake.  It is, of course, about more than the terminology; it's about what we do and what what we do does.  Jeff's assessment of the high stakes are fair, clear:

In composition, I don't think we are anywhere near tackling this issue because it will undermine and reconfigure many of the truths we have accepted and hold so dearly. If we are to recognize that literacy no longer exists, what will become of composition studies which bases its identity on the ways writing empowers individuals to be productive members of society (see Brandt, Rose)? What will happen to topic sentences and Writing Centers, professional writing, or the first year textbook? Serious damage.

I can imagine this angle--in retrospect--shedding light on the grand transformation from orality to literacy.  Switch in and out a few indications of oral traditions giving way to Guttenberg's giant, and, perhaps from some perspectives, you have "serious damage" or at least wreckage, abandoned traditions, even widespread human cognitive re-patterning.  Forgive me for jabbing in the dark here (since I'm not well studied on Ong, for one), but one must preclude the other.  True?  Why must electracy unravel literacy as literacy unraveled orality?  Is it because electracy is meanwhile enfolding a textualism of all, braiding realities and programs and tunes..."I don't know why she swallowed the fly, perhaps she'll...."  Maybe I haven't read closely enough; maybe effacement is inherent in these revolutions.

[Long hesitation...reading list has grown by twenty or so titles (Ulmer, Graff)...having Friday fun...blog decorum...where's that coming from?]

I set out to make notes on Will's mention of collaboration.  My first thought is, Yes!, we are on collaborative ground with weblogs and wikis.  Open texts, and so on, just as Jeff sets them up as places where "writers and readers tap into, alter, appropriate, confiscate, download, share, etc."  But then I keep thinking these few thoughts about what I haven't seen blogs do:  1. Blog entries are rarely revised.  2.  Blog entries are rarely written collaboratively, perhaps because most blogware doesn't configure easily for partnering or group authorship.

The tapping and commenting and fisking--linked, interested, etc.--seem more prevalent than the sort of sharing and appropriating, which is to suggest that blogging as spontaneous media doesn't prefer to wait.  Entries are often buried in a matter of days, comments with them, and the temporality machine rolls, calendars overturn.  I get the feeling that blogs play the moment, invite the rush; whereas collaborative efforts can be slow and laborious, blogs thrive on freshness, vigor, never expiring. 

This is a jumble of (unfair, perhaps) assumptions.  I've been thinking lately about the expenses of collaboration, the problem of over-collaboration, of turning always to meetings about meetings, of everyone (including the ambivalent and disenchanted) having a say and of feeling like that just takes toooo loooong for some matters.  In part, I'm feeling jaded by the call for collaboration because I'm seeing it done in a way that turns to wheel-spinning, indecisiveness, and gross, endless shifts of leadership and agency to the (idle, vacationing, phone-message ignoring) network.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

He crammed his mouth with fry and munched and droned.

A round Bloomsday, I picked up on a couple of interesting James Joyce projects: Finnegans Wake and Ulysses.  Okay, so it's nothing revolutionary.  Wait a second...maybe it is.  See, both projects are making use of blogs to cycle the e-paginations of the respective novels.  The sites run RSS feeds and disburse one page each day.  I'm not sold on the slow-release scheme for each book, but I am pleased to see the way these blogs are bending the print paradigm into an alternative textual system--complete with searchability, feeds, archiving, and free access. 

The Ulysses project appears to be the better automated of the two at this stage.  If you check the link, you'll see the entire novel is available in chunks and it's cycling through on an engine of sorts, chugging through several hundred pages, one by one over the next two years, automatically.  The Finnegan's Wake project isn't entirely online yet, so there'll be no reading ahead for now.  But FW has comments enabled, so it would be conceivable to watch discussions unfolding out of each page, not that I have any idea what those discussions might undertake. No nubo no!

So while it might not seem groundbreaking at first (nor am I sure this kind of thing hasn't been done before), I want to watch how it goes.  I think it connects in interesting ways with much of the list-talk about subscription gouging and digital models for journal distribution (subscriptions, archiving, access, etc.), news and entries about feeds overhauling the browser approach to reading the web, and transformations of biblio-traditionalisms into what's rapidly unfolding in front of us.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Wish in One Forum, Blog in the Other

T he mighty-meta tug-o-war on techrhet last week whipped up quite a storm.  It's lain quiet again, for now, pending reloads and recalculations I suppose.  I didn't jump in because I was busy in N.M.; it was all I could do to keep up with reading the threads, and as much as it stimulated in my own thinking about why blogs enable something different than I've seen before, I kept cool, not knowing the antagonizers and button-pushers from the from the trumpsters or the trumpeters from the analogs or the analogues from the bots--no disrespect intended.  Single-channel lists: wash cycle hot bleach and mixed colors swirling. 

I started blogging because the lists often fall dead silent or explode in a frenzy of over-action cum clog.  It's not an either-or dilemma between lists and blogs, of course, and I still lurk on a few lists in an attempt to keep up with what all the brilliant, well-established folks, the makers of list culture have to say.  A blog, however, is a different kind of home.  Plus, I wanted to give it a try, write more often--whatever I wanted, in a space where I could tap into what others were saying and where they could tap into what I was saying.  Tap!

I sipped a few beers last night--going away beers--with a blogger and two non-blogging academic folks.  Four of us.  We talked a lot about the futures of blogs as legitimate scholarship, tech-enabled publishing alternatives, the connections enabled in spite of distance and time and (even more monumental) disciplinary partitions.  Although I won't go to great lengths to parade statistically-based or empirically sound proofs of the value (rounded to the nearest decibels) of blogs in composition, I will give a nod to these inferences (as in, take what you will):

Well, I tried.  That's all I have to say about weblogs for now.  I was noticing--disturbing as it is--that my "On Weblogs, On" category was crusting and falling behind the other categories.  So I needed to carry on about blogs. 

My infrequent posting are explained by a new pile of work at work.  Since my official letter of resignation didn't get circulated far and wide, it's taken word of mouth to spread the news that I'm leaving the U. in less than a month.  With that, I'm in on a whole docket of meetings--including another pair of search committees tomorrow.  Mission:  replace myself.  Tackboard: Sell the house that hasn't sold, scrap through online stuff, scratch that itch to see F 9/11 [link via IA] this weekend, plunk out notes on Glenn's Aspasia, mow the front grass.  Well, yeah, and see which forum gets full fastest.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

In the place where you are

W hen Six Apart released MT3.0 (Beta-Developer) and a new pricing structure early last week, I started out with an uneasy feeling. Lots of froth and fray bubbled out from the announcement; some among the MT faithful cried out Betrayal!, some swiftly dumped MT...hooks to beefmeat.

Parts of what Clay Shirky wrote at Many2Many yesterday got me thinking about content management systems as social organizers, more specifically weblogging systems, as a kind of cybersocial fabric, a "community enabler" as he puts it.  He argues that social software built on a free now, pay later upgrade scale dupes the community by imparting a class system and, basically, the branches or divergences in the system are inimical to the sense of community shared among users.  It makes sense that "changes to the [social software] tool trigger anxiety." Many anxious variations have turned up in these six days (apart) from the announcement. FWIW, I have a less easy time making sense of the move to separate the rational users and emotional hooks. And I grant that I have, in the use of a handful of MT plugins, benefited from the fruits of an MT developer community that might shift, fade, vanish in the months ahead (toward other platforms or more recent versions).

The comments following Shirky's post are worth a read, too.  Perhaps it's because I've never fully realized membership in a community of MT users that I don't see my laggard attachment to the older, freer version of MT as a social rip-departure from the upscale 3.0 users.  I'll be able to read their blogs; they'll be able to read mine.  Presumably, I will be able to leave them trackbacks; they will be able to link to me.  In fairness, I really don't want to use Shirky's post daftly. However, as a blogger, I never saw myself as a member of an MT community more than, say, a member of a blogging community among people I admire and read regularly (mostly) in my field(s) of interest.  The self-defined blogroll trumps the CMS community, I think, and it's much more directed, much more real to me, having a greater effect by far on how I conceive of blogging as purposeful.  These are the people whose weblogs I keep up with.  So, Shirky's entry set me to thinking about a few other issues that have stirred in these six days--other material I want to dig my 2.65 anchor (temporarily, perhaps) against.

First, my blogroll, which has remained relatively stable lately, includes a array of platforms:

Mister BS - Blog-city; Clancy Ratliff and Charlie Lowe - Drupal; Dennis Jerz - Wordpress JWeblog; Will Richardson - Manila; Dr. B - Blogger; Ken Smith - pMachine; Marie Freeman - TypePad; John Lovas - Manila; Rich Rice - Who knows?; Amy Propen - Blog*Spot; Jeff Rice - Greymatter

These are most of the non-MT bloggers I keep up with (although aggregation isn't possible with a few of them, so I visit less frequently, attributable to business, absentmindedness).  Without gushing burning bloglove, their regular entries, getting to know people by their work, their ideas, their weblogs--that's the sense of community membership I identify with.  And...important and, here...I appreciate that they work from different platforms.  I'd feel uneasy if all of them used Movable Type or Drupal or Wordpress. Changes to platforms (upon which or through which our conversations unfold, our connections manifest) are less significant to me socially than their persistence as available, present, and connected bloggers.  In other words, it would matter less if John Lovas, for example, switched to Blogger or Manila than if he gave up blogging altogether--literally checking out of the "membership in a community."  

Second, software choices present ideological window dressing, perhaps more, perhaps less.  Hanna from join-the-dots makes this point squarely in her announcement of the switch from MT to Wordpress.  For folks committed to GNU GPU licensing, true open source, as I understand it, the point is crucial.  Honestly, I'm not sufficiently well versed in property law to give a responsible run-down of the differences between CC, GNU GPU (which applies to software source more than IP?) and all the gradations. Suffice it to say that I've always struggled to live out ideological fancies with lasting vigor--I have worn Nikes, munched on KFC, even thrown away perfectly recyclable materials in the trash.  So, without preferring to be an ethical slob or a hypocrite, I'll continue with MT 2.65, no matter how that reflects an ideological layer.  I on-ramped to blogging with a recommendation to use MT.  It was free.  I'm content with it.  I don't have time to tinker with Drupal or Wordpress.  MT will continue to meet my needs for writing here and teaching and so on.  Bunker the social and ideological gales along the way.

Third, I haven't observed any features in other blogging systems that vastly expand the potential of EWM to do what I mean for it to do. Maybe my mood would change if I got hit with 1000 spam comments, but that hasn't happened yet.  Drupal is the only system whose look, feel and usability appeal to me--for the wiki functions than the threaded comment functions. On that note, Drupal and Wordpress users have been out in full glory, converting the MT-disgruntled, inviting the dejected into the warm and gregarious open source alternatives.  Distracting us from smashed idols and empty dreams.  Please forgive the evangelical language. I'm just having a bit of fun.

This is less of a defense of sticking with an earlier version of MT or riding out the ripples of Six Apart's mustard-on-the-shirt announcement last week than it is an attempt to make sense (for me or for you) of why I'm doing what I'm doing.  Maybe, in the next six months, the competing platforms will feature collaborative entry authoring (co-authorship or tri-authorship functionality...for comments, too) and other stuff, such as [insert wishlist here].  In the meantime, I'm going to idle, wait it out and blog contentedly in this MT space, crossing my fingers that my delicate sense of community won't be obliterated.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Skip the Part About

O n this Monday, I'm having a crinkled attitude--that hard plastic crunchiness, stiff like the lid from a fountain soda cup I picked out of the ditch before mowing the dandelions this evening.  No delimiters indented: Other, Root Beer, Diet. The skies are scheduled for rain tomorrow. Buckets. Oh please!

I was at the office at a raw hour this morning--and all day after that.  In my chair at the office before 8:00 a.m.: raw.  Had to turn out three player of the week nominations for the U.'s baseball and softball programs.  Email them to the conference.  By the end of the day, I learned that none of them was selected.  One twitch of invisible work-product.  One harmless twitch.  And one in my eye.

The men's soccer program held their annual banquet late in the afternoon yesterday.  Since the news about heading to Syracuse broke, there've been a lot of "missyous" floating around.  E. gifted a signed game ball to me at the banquet yesterday, said a kind few words about how we've known each other since we showed up at the U. twelve years ago--a futboler from D.C. and a basketballer from Michigan.  Abundant good fortunes have lit the course.  So when E. floated the panegyric, everyone almost cried. A braid of joy and sadness, I suppose. 

I've been directing information about sports at the U. for the last seven years.  Directing information is akin to "representing."  It stems from the powerful potential of  fashioning knowledge, of controlling its distribution.  It's rhetorical--inventive, moving, extant by conditional delivery. 

[R.E.M. Out of Time in the earphones, strumming.]

Other than the ditch-mow (a near-road precariousness and slant making it my job) I made chili for supper.  It's my week again.  Every other friggin' week.  Sunday groceries and a week of meals.  D. and I have been carrying on this way for a few years; at times it's a gross and unwholesome contest in culinary underachievement, both of us smiling at a sort of demented relief in shorting our turn.  Raisin bread and applesauce?  For dinner?  Anything's possible in hopes that the other will cave, concede the system, order pizza.  Ph.'s survived this long.  Hell, he's even gained nine pounds since January, I guess.  Who knows wherefrom.  When it's my week, I usually throw together a chili, stew or soup.  Something that'll carry forward for a few days.  Mid-week cooking: I'm a lazy reheater. 

Short list I didn't complete: 1. Start C's proposal on weblogs and audience; 2. Finish reading and responding to 18 project drafts from intro-humanities; 3. Blog on Connors' "Modes of Discourse."  Short list I did complete: 1. Heard back about a NY realtor lead; 2. Read and responded to six project drafts from intro-humanities; 3. Read Connors' "Modes of Discourse." 

I'm still brushing the about graf I hope to tape up over there one day soon.  Here's what I have so far:

Earth Wide Moth is the weblog of dmueller. [He's this and that.  He wrote up a 100 things list some time ago.]  We should think of this weblog as a playground astir with a confusing, noisy simultaneity of excitement.  We should think of it as digital-dust tracks toward a morphing autobiographical sketch-portrait.  Earth Wide Moth houses a fair amount of dabbling, testing, and rough extrapolation on academia, technology, new media, rhetoric, writing programs, distance ed, critical geography, info-flow, and teaching.

I can't think of what else to say. But the comment lines are open.  What should the about section include?  To what extent should it stick out as business-card standard?  Maybe I should skip the part about.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

My So-Called Teacherly Space

E mily Nussbaum's story in today's NYT magazine, "My So-Called Blog," sizes up the social significance of blogs for teenagers. Reactions have already posted here and here; I agree with craniac at Kariosnews that the article has a few good bits. One of those bits, in my reading of the story, involves the allure of cheaply controlling an extrabodily image of oneself, one's space, even devising ideological signposts to create a meaning-filled site.

At heart, an online journal is like a hyperflexible adolescent body -- but better, because in real life, it takes money and physical effort to add a piercing, or to switch from zip-jacketed mod to Abercrombie prepster. A LiveJournal or Blurty offers a creative outlet with a hundred moving parts. And unlike a real journal, with a blog, your friends are all around, invisible voyeurs -- at least until they chime in with a comment.

Since my teenage years have passed and I have no need for new piercings (although a haircut would be nice, maybe later today), this aspect of Nussbaum's feature has me thinking about the implications of inexpensive control and image management in teaching. I have been working on a blog for a class I'm teaching this semester, the second in our FY composition sequence, so notions of switching up, of designing an "outlet with a hundred moving parts" resonate the utility of blogs in higher ed. This is especially true for many institutions where room assignments change from semester to semester or where adjunct faculty share plain offices with one phone line, if they have any office space at all. The class blog--with its dialogic nature, design and content--extends the course beyond the sanitized, often neutral meeting place of the classroom by enabling it with a sustainable, personalized ideological decor. What's more, the decor is, by and large, participatory--shaped by all members of the class. Through design and use, the blog can affect the identity crises that encroach on our work-space and status in higher ed, esp. in cases where work-space and status are, at times, unfair, ill-conceived and subject to gross fluctuation. It doesn't fully absolve these issues, but, as it did for the subjects in Nussbaum's story, blogging can provide relief. Cheaply.

Wednesday, January 7, 2004

One Blog, Two Blog

[Thinking about the trackback feature.]

Got the second blog working. It was, as the interface told me, a permissions error. Once I reset the permissions to the second blog's folder, it all came together swimmingly. The other blog will be used this spring for a freshman course on technology and writing centered on Neil Postman's Technopoly. His doomsday-ish tome will send us on our ever-digitized way.

The course is described as a research writing course. I've taught it a time or two; even developed an online format for accelerated delivery in just eight weeks. So I'm comfortable with the pace and workload. Just eleven students have enrolled so far, and the new semester starts happening Monday.

I'm having lunch today with my friend and colleague Andy who does a fine job keeping rhetorica.net in masterful form. He promised (well, er, suggested) a brief MT tutorial. Maybe he knows how I can craft a new CSS for this blog. After all, this design is dreadful. We're jetting along on content, kid.

Oh, and about content. I still don't have a deliberate schema. The category feature imposes a kind of coherence to this space, and I already feel a deep, quiet wariness that I'm chasing abstraction and glossing conceptual at the expense of attracting any passing readers.

I'm still working out the features, scratching my head about how to do this and that. The time stamp on yesterday's post was off, for example. Like this witchy-cold weather we're having in the heartland, it'll get better.

Posted by at 8:24 AM | to On Weblogs