Free Markets, Free People
There are no economic stats being released today, hence the lack of a post about same. In fact, it’s a bit of a lame week for economic stats. Not much happening other than the standard weekly reports.
Meanwhile, here at QandO, I’ve implemented a new commenting system called Livefyre. I learned about it Saturday at BlogWorld Expo, and it has a lot of neat features, foremost of which is that it directly ties the blog comments to Facebook, Twitter, and, soon, Google Plus. It also allows you to sort the comments by date, post directly to your social media account, has a much more effective conversation threading model, and a host of other little improvements to the WordPress basic commenting functionality. Enjoy.
More horrific PHP programming of the maddeningly confusing WordPress theme system has produced the magical Google+ button to "+1" each individual post. If you’re a Google+ member, you should probably click that like a crack addicted monkey banging on the dispenser bar for his next fix.
It’s now 1:00am. I worked for 1.5 hours on the previous post, hit publish…and the only thing that got saved was…the title of the post. All that work gone.
But I’m a stubborn SOB. I spent some time searching for some offline blogging tools, only to discover that I already had Windows Live Writer 2011 installed on my netbook. And it’s great. Not perfect, but at least I now can write and save drafts locally, and I won’t lose an entire post to the vagaries of the online editor in WordPress. And it’s free!
It supports the blog theme, categories, tags, media uploads, and just about everything I use on a regular basis. It’s way better than the clunky blog publishing feature in Microsoft Word, and it doesn’t have all that extra word processing/desktop publishing stuff that Word has. It just has tools specifically relevant to writing and editing blog posts, plus comment moderating and administrative tools. And in addition to the WYSIWYG editor, it has an HTML editor and a preview screen built in. Apparently, there are also a number of plug-ins available for it that I’m now keen to investigate.
I’m not usually a big rah-rah guy for Microsoft software, but this Writer application really works.
I re-wrote the previous post in Writer, saved a local copy of it, then hit Publish, and it all worked as smooth as a baby’s behind. I heartily recommend Writer. it’s a pretty neat little application.
Now, I can go to bed.
And, yes, I wrote this post in Writer, too.
About once a year, I like to shake things up a bit, visually. The nice thing about WordPress is that such shake-ups to the template are relatively easy to do. Last year’s version began to strike me as too dark and outdated. So, I decided it was time for a change.
The theme this year is the Constitution, with the Preamble as the blog header photo. For colors, everything went completely grayscale and much lighter, except for the post titles and the drop caps, which now are a brighter blue and red, respectively. Site navigation was moved from the header to the top of the sidebar, which has not only switched sides, but has gotten a bit narrower, giving us some extra room in the content column.
Fonts are essentially the same, with Georgia as the header font and Verdana as the body font. With the wider content pane, I expanded the horizontal spacing of the body font making it a bit easier to read, without actually changing the font size. If you, as one commenter noted in a previous post, think it’s too akin to reading a children’s book, well, sorry. I think it makes the body text far more readable for a larger number of people.
If you really hate it, then just wait a while. It’ll change again.
No, I’m not ready to crown Barack Obama the Worst President Ever just yet, but consider this:
Yes, George W. Bush wrecked our economy, destroyed New Orleans, turned a budget surplus into massive deficits, ignored warnings of a major terrorist attack and used that mistake to lead us into two disastrous military quagmires…
But he also pushed relentlessly for conservative policies and delivered for his base with war, deregulation, tax cuts, environmental rollbacks, and an army of right-wing ideologues embedded in the federal government and judiciary. He failed to privatize Social Security, but not for lack of trying.
Barack Obama, on the other hand, inherited a mess rather than creating one. But not only has he failed to create jobs or restart the economy, he has paid only lip service to progressive policies and betrayed his base at almost every turn.
Hmmm … so what should he have done, Eli? I mean I’m with you on the “failed to create jobs or restart the economy”. No rocket scientist needed to figure that out. But obviously, unlike W, who took every supposed opportunity to give his base those things they love – like wars (how’s it going in Libya these days, sport?) – your Prez isn’t giving you guys what you want?
Appreciate the fact you actually seem to believe the right loves wrecked economies (because you know, that’s super pro-business) and terrorist attacks (because he ignored intel? Guess Obama is the only one who inherits messes, huh?), but what should your man be doing?
Instead of using the financial crisis or the current debt hysteria to push through a progressive agenda like Bush used 9/11 to push through a conservative one, he’s using them as an excuse to capitulate to Republican budget chickenhawks, and even to cut Social Security and Medicare.
Ah, he’s violating the “never let a good crisis go to waste” maxim, eh? Good lord, yes, we should have spent gobs more money on, well, only Sheriff Joe knows, and he should have insisted on the public option, no wait, single payer, and on “teh ghey” issue, well he’s just been horrible. Right?
And he had that pure liberal Democratic Congress for how long? Yeah, 2 years, and what came out of there? *Sigh*. What’s a liberal to do.
So which is worse? The president who serves his base and sets the country on fire, or the president who stiffs his base and fights fire with gasoline?
Mmmm … I’ll have to think about that a second. Nope, don’t need too – the last guy. It explains why “Miss me yet?” t-shirt sales are booming.
John Cole, however, is having a cow stating sarcastically:
Any good liberal in the year 2011 would be confused when choosing between Obama and Bush for the title of “Worst President Ever.”
He seems to think FDL is effin’ “clinical”.
It’s tough when the blinders finally come off, isn’t it? Unsurprisingly, they’re still firmly in place at Balloon Juice.
BTW, read the comments at FDL – they’re equally as entertaining as the article.
OK, I’m sitting in the bloggers lounge at RightOnLine in the Twin Cities. If the name tags waiting to be picked up are any indication, it is going to be very well attended. It’ll be interesting to see how different this is from CPAC.
I may attend some of the breakout sessions just to get a feel for what is being pushed by Republicans. Hopefully I’m going to hear a lot about fiscal issues, budget, debt, deficit and spending cuts.
Michele Bachman, Tim Pawlenty and Herman Cain will be speaking here. I’m going to try to live blog their speeches. I’m also trying an experiment with the iPad, using it as my primary means of blogging (a little downsizing).
So … let the games begin.
In another example of how little the NYT knows about blogging (but fervently wishes for the day they’d just go away and the Times could get back to the good old days of deciding what is news or just flat making it up), it reports today that blogs are on the “wane”. Check out this paragraph:
Like any aspiring filmmaker, Michael McDonald, a high school senior, used a blog to show off his videos. But discouraged by how few people bothered to visit, he instead started posting his clips on Facebook, where his friends were sure to see and comment on his editing skills.
“I don’t use my blog anymore,” said Mr. McDonald, who lives in San Francisco. “All the people I’m trying to reach are on Facebook.”
This is the lead for the story. It is clueless.
Some 17 year old who likes to make videos doesn’t use his blog to show them off anymore, but instead uses Facebook – and that sounds the death knell of blogs?
What this youngster wanted to do was show his vids off to a few (tens? hundreds?) friends at most. Facebook is a much better venue for that. In fact, it’s an even better venue than YouTube because your friends have to go to YouTube to find your vids vs. having them delivered to their Facebook page via your posting. It. Makes. Perfect. Sense.
But … it says more about the misapplication of blogging (for what the young man wanted to accomplish) than the demise of blogging.
Twitter – same thing. For some things it’s perfect. For others, a blog is perfect. Depends on what you want to do. Like say anything that takes more than 142 characters. Blogs, Twitter and Facebook are all networking tools that provide an application that helps accomplish what the user wants to accomplish.
The case the NYT is trying to make is blogs will die out as the younger demographic moves to different venues:
The Internet and American Life Project at the Pew Research Center found that from 2006 to 2009, blogging among children ages 12 to 17 fell by half; now 14 percent of children those ages who use the Internet have blogs. Among 18-to-33-year-olds, the project said in a report last year, blogging dropped two percentage points in 2010 from two years earlier.
Well here’s a news flash – I don’t read “children” or their blogs and they most likely don’t read mine. But note the next demo – 18-to-33 year olds – suffered a whole 2% decline from two years earlier.
As of Feb. 16th, 2011, according to Wikipedia, there were 156 million blogs in existence. A two percent drop in two years is simply statistically insignificant. And, blogs aren’t just for “social networking” as the Times would like you to believe. Nor do they require writing “lengthy posts” unless you want too.
Blogs went largely unchallenged until Facebook reshaped consumer behavior with its all-purpose hub for posting everything social. Twitter, which allows messages of no longer than 140 characters, also contributed to the upheaval.
No longer did Internet users need a blog to connect with the world. They could instead post quick updates to complain about the weather, link to articles that infuriated them, comment on news events, share photos or promote some cause — all the things a blog was intended to do.
Phenomenal – I never had to blog to “connect with the world”. Nor was any blog I was a part of “intended” for comments on the weather or to just share photos.
I hadn’t waited on blogs to “connect with the world” – that had been available for years via email, first through bulletin board systems, then through Usenet and Google Groups. Blogs are just another method of doing so and may someday be supplanted by something else. But on the wane because of Facebook and Twitter?
All I can say is if Twitter is now the first choice of someone who was once blogging, they were never a serious blogger to begin with. And, if Facebook is now the choice of a blogger, they’ve greatly narrowed their outreach to only those who subscribe to them. The fact that they’re on Facebook, even with an open page, doesn’t mean anyone is going to read them any more than when they had a blog.
Obviously things are going to change and evolve in the online media and social networking world, but as much as the NYT would love to declare the blog dead and gone, it’s not even close.
And a little note for the editors and publishers of the Times – when blogs have finally gone the way of the dodo bird, the NYT will most likely have predeceased them by a substantial amount of time. My guess is Hot Air has as many or more readers than the Times does. HuffPo just went for 300 plus million to AOL. Point me toward the last major newspaper that sold for that much.
Huffington Post was just sold to AOL for $315 million. Good stuff. An online media effort makes big bucks.
But David Carr throws out some interesting commentary about that and the online culture that does cause me to pause and think about it. The paragraphs that grabbed my attention were:
It will be interesting to see how the legions of unpaid bloggers at The Huffington Post react to the merger with AOL. Typing away for an upstart blog — founded by the lefty pundit Arianna Huffington and the technology executive Kenneth Lerer — would seem to be a little different from cranking copy for AOL, a large American media company with a market capitalization of $2.2 billion.
Perhaps content will remain bifurcated into professional and amateur streams, but as social networks eat away at media mindshare and the advertising base, I’m not so sure. If it happens, I’ll have no one but myself to blame. Last time I checked, I had written or shared over 11,000 items on Twitter. It’s a nice collection of short-form work, and I’ve been rewarded with lot of followers … and exactly no money. If and when the folks at Twitter cash out, some tiny fraction of that value will have been created by me.
He has a point. Maybe not the one he thinks he has, but there is a point to be made here. It’s one thing to labor away at a blog like QandO which is a personal decision and a labor of love. I don’t do it for money nor do I expect to earn a living doing it here. If someone were to come along and offer a pile of money for the place, I’d take it, but it would be money I and the other bloggers earned by developing the place and writing here.
But what about those sites which encourage community, give bloggers access and then use the demographics (which bloggers helped create) to actively sell advertising and raise revenue? And, like HuffPo, what if they sell?
Well, without out legal agreement that your participation is worth x amount in either area (advertising or a sale) you haven’t a leg to stand on. You agreed to whatever stipulations they had in place when you entered your first post, if there even were any.
So what happens now with HuffPo? The paid bloggers/journalists will most likely continue to be paid. But what about the bulk of bloggers/diarists/citizen journalists there? Will they continue to write?
I mean that’s a big change. Those that have helped build that sites reputation now know what their work built.
So will they be willing to continue on adding to its value without compensation? Or will they demand a piece of the pie or withhold their content?
And if they do withhold their content, will others be willing to step forward and take their place.
HuffPo also has the argument that all of the value isn’t to be found in the contributions of the bloggers/diarists/citizen journalists there. And that’s probably true – but HuffPo (and now AOL) can’t deny part of the value must be contributed to them.
The point of all of this is it changes, fairly dramatically, the thinking of many who participate online in a “free” capacity helping build a brand. HuffPo definitely has a brand.
You have to ask then, what are AOL’s expectations for non-paid bloggers? And, on the other side, are non-paid bloggers willing to continue working for nothing but adding value to AOL’s brand?
Interesting questions, interesting times. For whatever reason I keep hearing the “echo” of “union” floating around. Hopefully bloggers will avoid anything like that – a loose federation or association would serve as well, but I have to say, if bloggers are adding value to a site such that a 2 million dollar investment can grow to 315 million, they ought to have an understanding going in that they get a share in compensation for their contribution – or not. Their choice. But there should be a choice. And a smart entrepreneur is going to attract the brightest and best by providing one. And such a site or sites would keep the “feudal” sites from becoming more prevalent than they are today.
Well, thanks to a veterinary issue, the SOTU Liveblog, for the first time in years, is canceled for tonight.