Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Blogs: the New Ham Radio?

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quiet evening at homme Posted by Hello


Blogs: the New Ham Radio?


Junk Blogs: "Blogging Just To Blog"

Like junk mail, junk television, junk food, junk music, and plain junk (worthless, broken garbage), there are also what can be called "junk blogs."

Junk blogs are blogs where someone with nothing to say takes forever to finish saying it.

In other words, junk blogs are (often self-proclaimed) "random, inessential chatter about frivolous aspects and trivial events of my mundane life."

People who have nothing to say, but Just Like To Talk.

They're "blogging just to blog."

Like maybe they have nothing better to do, but have plenty of idle time on their hands.

Or perhaps they have troubling thoughts--that they ward off by engaging in any kind of nervous activity, especially unbridled, ill-considered "self-expression."

(But an empty self yields empty expression that is irrelevant and not helpful to others.)

I've never understood this concept. Friends who phone you "just to talk"--very annoying. I prefer email to all other forms of communication, even personal presence conversation.

However, there is indeed a Joy of Self-Expression and Communication.

The positive side of this reminds me of amateur, or ham, radio.

Ham radio, you know, where a guy has a shortwave radio setup in the basement, and talks to other ham radio operators. This can be an exciting, fulfilling, and beneficial activity.

Ham radio is a very interesting culture of its own, a special society of dedicated folks who tend to be very kind-hearted, intelligent, and quick to help in any way they can. Plus, it's very technically oriented.

If you have a keen interest in blogging, ham radio, electronic music, computers, gardening, book collecting, or whatever your hobby, profession, or recreational activity may be, there is surely no harm in talking about it.

In fact, others may stand to benefit greatly from your expertise...and be delightfully inspired by your enthusiasm.


Unfair Attack in TIME Magazine
on Blogs and Ham Radio


Time Magazine, in the December 31, 2004 issue, ran an article by Lev Grossman, in which he attacked blogs by comparing them to ham radio. Ham (amateur, non-commercial) radio enthusiasts reacted quite harshly to this MSM (Main Stream Media) person's bad-mouthing them.

Lev Grossman's quote: "Before this year [2004], blogs were a curiosity, a cult phenomenon, a faintly embarrassing hobby on the order of ham radio and stamp collecting."

My opinion is that blogging, ham radio operating, and stamp collecting involve some degree of thinking and human communication, and in the case of stamp collecting, artistic sensibility and foreign culture appreciation.

Which potentially make all three of them vastly superior (in my opinion) to obsessive gambling, violent movies, pornography, and other unseemly or dubious activities as hobbies.

Blogging and ham radio have been helpful in the 2005 Indonesian/Asian Tsunami disaster and other emergencies.

In "The Most Popular Topic in the Blogosphere" article in The Wayward Weblog of Matt Warren, software design engineer at Microsoft, C# compiler team, Matt states that he's tired of blogs that blog about blogging and RSS.

The post contains a user-generated comment: "It's just the old Ham Radio Effect...all they [ham radio enthusiasts] talk about is ham radio."

I don't know much about ham radio. So I decided to learn a little about it.


What Ham Radio Operators Do

According to eHam.Net's "What Hams Do" page, ham radio operators engage in the following:

1. Talking with other ham radio operator friends locally.

2. DX -- which means Distant Communicating, having the equipment and licensing to communicate with ham radio operators all over the world.

3. Emergency and disaster communications.

4. Technical experimentation.

5. Contact contests (held on weekends).

6. Communicate with astronauts.

7. Digital ham radio communication over the internet.


The "Glog": Grandfather of the Blog

In fact, ham radio gave us one of the precursors to blogs. It was called the "glog" or "cyborg-log". In the wikipedia definition of weblogs, it is stated that "in the early 1980s ham radio had logs, called "glogs", which were personal diaries made using wearable computers."

Here's how Wikipedia defines the "glog":

"A CyborgLog (often abbreviated to 'glog) is a first-person recording of an activity, in which the person doing the recording is a participant in the activity. Examples of cyborglogs include recordings made by assistive technologies such as a visual memory prosthetic, or a seeing aid that links to remote computational or human elements. Although cyborglogs have a 30 year history dating back to wearable computers in the 1970s, modern technologies like cameraphones make it much easier to create cyborglogs in everyday life." [excerpt from more lengthy definition]


Broadband Over Electrical Power Lines

As an somewhat OT (Off Topic) sidenote, I stumbled upon a reference to a threat to ham radio: Broadband Power Line (BPL). I wrote about internet connections coming through electrical powerlines about a year ago in Geek.Com.

At Mr. Barrett.com, in the post "Ham Radio and BPL" of March 10, 2004, broadband over [electrical] power lines is described as being heavily promoted by the FCC, while it actually may render useless ham radio, Voice of America, FEMA communications, and air traffic control transmissions.


So...Are Blogs the New [Frivolous Variety] Ham Radio?

Well, I've had a little glimpse into some beneficial, non-frivolous activities of ham [amateur, non-commercial] radio. I've seen how some Main Stream Media people attack blogs and ham radio and stamp collecting.

And I've seen how "frivolous" variety ham radio may exist, but charitable and emergency ham radio does a lot of good for this world.

Remember CB radios, the walkie-talkies of truckers?

Operators used code names, which they called "handles" and they developed an esoteric, insider language that was trendy for a while.

This was back in the 1970s, while much of rock music rapidly lost its innovation and creativity, as reflected in the fact that FM radio stations played songs like "Free Bird", "More Than a Feeling", and "Cold as Ice" fifteen million times a day. Local bands began to shunned in favor of mass market artists.

At any rate, communications technology, it seems to me, goes through distinct and rather predictable phases.

Technically-inclined innovators develop a new form of communication. It's an underground phenomenon for a while. Since the operation of these new tools requires specialized knowledge and skills, when the general public becomes aware of those who have this training, the public often teases or even mocks this"inside group" of specialists.

But if and when the new technology becomes simpler, more affordable, and more accessible to the mainstream, it may also become trendy. People want to jump on the bandwagon, because "everybody's doing it."

Eventually, the trend peaks, and the public loses interest in the activity in favor of some new trend.

Then the activity reverts back to the specialists and hardcore, deeply committed devotees again, or takes its place in the common experience of everyday life.

Some are, in greater or less degree, supplanted by better technologies, e.g. pony express vs. air mail, or telegraph vs. telephone.

We'll have to wait to see if email supplants postal mail as far as letters are concerned.

People who like to "Talk Just To Hear Themselves Talk" will clutter and clog every new form of communication for a while.

Then, at some point, they'll abandon it and go off jabbering through some newer communication tool.

But, then again, they probably aren't hurting anyone or anything by jabbering on and on.

So let's appreciate the good things that are accomplished by bloggers, CB, and ham radio operators. Let's dig around and discover the ways they have helped in emergencies, disasters, and other human suffering.

KB6NU

For more information about ham radio, and for a terrific example of a good, well designed blog, visit the KB6NU's Ham Radio Blog at:

http://blurty.com/~kb6nu

Dan ("KB6NU")responded to my email discussion list announcement (see how techie he is? he's all over the technological map, what a guy!) about my Blog Pro Survey.

He promptly and kindly (what did I tell you about how kind ham radio operators tend to be?) completed my survey, and now I plan to include his ham radio blog in my book tentatively entitled: "Secrets of the Blogging Pros."

To learn more about the book and the survey, visit:

http://www.blogpros.blogspot.com

Dan also runs a cool online bookstore called Quality Technical Books, for "QEs, EEs, and Amateur Radio Operators" at:

http://www.qtb.com

Be sure to check out both of Dan's sites today.

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