Sunday, July 31, 2005

explaining blogs to friends and family

Explaining blogs to friends and family may NOT be as easy as you think.

You think it's easy? Or should be?

Have you ever tried to help a non-geeky, blog-disabled person understand what a blog is?

Has an impatient, skeptical, proudly non-progressive family member asked you, repeatedly, without paying any attention whatsover to your reply, "What is a blog?"?

Has a friend caught you casually using the word "blog", caught you flippantly mentioning the fact that you have a blog...

...and did this friend suddenly interrupt you, demanding a proper definition of the word?

"What is a blog?" they ask, often with a concerned look on their face... they know they should know what a blog is, but they really don't get it.

How Do You Explain "Blog"?

If no one has ever asked you to define or describe what a blog is, maybe you should approach a friend or family member, start blabbering about blog this and blogging that and blogger so and so and the blogosphere...

...and thereby cause them to stop you in mid-paragraph, and ask you to explain "blog".

See what happens.

See if they follow what you're saying.

What I Generally Do

I usually take the safe route and say:

"Oh, a blog is just a digital journal, an online diary, that's easy to add new content to, and you can use them for anything.

It's easy for readers of a blog to add their comments to it.

It's very similar to writing an email message, except instead of sending the message to an inbox, you send it to your little web site, called a blog.

I use blogs to present my ideas on web usability and other computer topics."

Most of the time, people still have no idea of what I'm talking about.

Maybe I'm just not great at one-on-one conversations with physically present individuals.

Perhaps I'm also not used to seeing who it is I'm communicating with, and not comfortable with them looking at me as I interact with them. I probably perform better online than in real life.

Or maybe they just have to visit a blog to truly get a grip on what it is.

They need to read a blog, click-select posts from the Recent Posts links, search the archives, and post a few really get the hang of it.

Better yet, if someone really wants to understand blogs, they should jump right in and start one.

Interesting Question
a Lady Asked Me Tonight

Tonight, at a little get together of some new friends, the hostess asked me what a blog is.

I explained to the best of my unedited verbal ability.

Then she asked, "But how do people find blogs to read?"


She thinks blogs are lurking somewhere in the murky fringes of the internet.

I said:

"When you do a search engine search on a keyword or phrase, some of the web sites that appear on the results list could be blogs.

You won't know if it's a blog until you follow a link and visit the site. [I didn't go into the fact that if the URL contains "blogspot", "typepad", etc. it's a blog.]

If you do visit a blog, and like it, you can also consider visiting the blogs listed in a blogroll, a list of other blogs that runs down a column of a blog.

So you learn of other blogs by checking the blogs listed on the blog you're currently visiting."

I'm not thrilled with my off-the-cuff explanations of blogs and comment posting.

Comparisons with email is a good start, but people usually act all baffled quickly. Maybe they have a mental block to learning new and potentially completely irrelevant, unnecessary information.

Or maybe I'm not good at thinking on my feet and delivering instant mini-lectures.

But as much as I blog about blogs, you'd think I'd be really good at face to face, spur of the moment explanations.

Of course, here, in my blog, I don't have to explain what a blog is very often. You already know.

How do you explain blogs to people?

Post a comment or email me, and let me know.


[signed] Steven Streight aka Vaspers the Grate

Saturday, July 30, 2005

female vs male bloggers

Female vs. Male Bloggers.

Not how they "naturally" differ by "genetics" or "instinctual orientation".

Rather: how they have been conditioned by social pressures and peer conformity enforcement, overt and subtle, to behave in recognizable and functional patterns for an evenflow of communication and subsequent action.

How women bloggers differ from "their male counterparts".


counter = to respond aggressively to a foe's act of aggression, to speak out against, to engage in verbal or physical combat with.

part = to separate ("part the Red Sea"), move things away from each other, divide, abandon or leave ("part with something or someone"), put distance between two items, make a demarcation zone ("part the hair"), a scripted speech or action ("actor's part in the play"), a divisible section, segment, less than the whole, a piece ("my favorite part of the story", "I paid my part of the luncheon bill, and left a tip for all of us").

Here we already face a monolithic obstacle: the language of contrary forces, conflictual context, militant stances firmly planted on slippery slopes slanting in opposite directions, but leading to the same inevitability.

For a male, is the female the "opposite" (antagonistic, enemy, foreign, alien) sex?

Or is she the "complimentary, congruent" sex?

And why the word "sex" when gender is more clinically correct?

"My better half" is a cry for help, the unmoderated consciousness halving, thirdenizing, fourthifying itself in an auto-massacre that can only escape description by pretending to be exactly what it actually is.

Boy vs. girl in synthesis and analysis, not "boy vs. girl" in conflict or opposition.

Not even setting one set of observed behaviors "against" the other.

The female behaviors will not be compared to the male behaviors but will each be seen as separate information sets that are not commenting, as investigative concept units, on each other.

Not: boy bloggers do this, BUT girl bloggers do that.

Rather: boy bloggers do this usually, AND here's also what girl bloggers do usually.

Not rules: "gentleman bloggers follow these rules, and lady bloggers have this set of rules to obey".

Rather: "blogger guys tend to ________________" and "blogger gals tend to ____________".

Not: "that's a feminine blogging style" and "this is a masculine post writing technique".

Rather: "most lady bloggers seem to write in ____________ tone" and "most gentleman bloggers tend to write in ____________ tone".

Not: "this blog post is too girly sounding" or "that blog design is very ruggedly masculine".

Rather: "this blog post is very nuturing in a maternal manner" or "that blog design is reminiscent of a stereotypical quality designated 'manliness' as based on prevalent cultural expectations of current privileged Western upper economic scale social hegemony".

Not: "\\as a boy/\as a girl/\//blogger---you must do this".

But: "\\as a boy/\as a girl/\//blogger---your audience might expect you to do this".

Anyone may feel free to contribute their experiences to this discussion.

Fresh insights, accumulated observations, and random hunches are welcome.

I'm going to keep this Female vs. Male topic going, with multiple, though not necessarily sequential, posts on the topic.

Female vs. Male online shopping.

Female vs. Male online combat.

Female vs. Male web design.

Female vs. Male blog topics.

Female vs. Male forum interaction.

Female vs. Male blog RSS feed provision.

Female vs. Male use of photos and art in blogs.

Female vs. Male tendency to ban or blacklist.

Female vs. Male attendance at blog conferences.

Female vs. Male online writing styles.

...and etc.

Think about dude vs. missy blogs.

Do lady bloggers act more sensitive about language used in comments?

Do lady bloggers have less tolerance toward rebels and contrarian opinions?

Do lady bloggers have more patience toward expressed emotional problems?

Do gentlemen bloggers have longer and more text oriented posts?

Do gentlemen bloggers mention family less than lady bloggers?

Do gentlemen bloggers tend to attack flamers more harshly than sister bloggers?

Stay tuned to the Vaspers the Grate family of blogs.

You shan't regret it. I primrose.

[signed] Steven Streight aka Contemplative Garden Hoe, the Web Usability Gardener.


Friday, July 29, 2005

Female vs Male Conversations

Female vs. Male Conversations is the topic of the book Talking 9 to 5, by Deborah Tannen, Ph.D.

She examines how women and men typically differ, in most cases most of the time, in how they speak.

My biggest question about blogging is how women differ from men, in writing style, blog design, blog content, blogrolls, ad placement, post topics, number and quality of reader comments, use of RSS feeds, idiosyncratic nomenclature (as in "Say It!", "Step Up to the Mike", or "Blabber into Megaphone" for the more conventional "Post a Comment"), and other aspects.

How is a female blog unlike a male blog?

Do women engage in blogocombat, online debate, digital warfare as much, and as aggressively as men?

Do lady bloggers circulate in cliques, linking to each other (clinking), posting about each other, commenting on each other's blogs, and banding together to swarm an offensive male or even another female who is targeted as anomaly, aberration, abnormality?

Let's examine all these issues...slowly, ponderously, reflectively.

I shut up now and let a lady socio-linguist speak.

Talking from 9 to 5 (1994, William Morrow)
by Deborah Tannen, Ph.D.


Conversational rituals common among women involve each saving face for the other....I save your face and you save mine.

Put another way, many of the conversational rituals common among women are designed to make others feel comfortable, and this often involves the speaker taking a one-down role herself...this is usually a ritual the other person is exepected to match. (p. 146)


Most girls' groups penalize a girl who stands out or calls attention to herself in an obvious way. (p. 148)


In fact, the very act of standing up in front of a group talking about ideas is something that was unthinkable for women not so long ago. (p. 149)


Once a woman (or man) does make public presentations, she (or he) is open to challenge or even attack. Many women have been told they cave in too quickly rather than stand their ground. (p. 149)


I once noticed the different public-speaking styles of two presenters at a meeting--a man and a woman.

Both were excellent speakers, but he filled the room with his expansive presence, whereas she brought the room in close.

He told stories as if he were in church preaching to a crowd; she told them as if she were sitting in her living room with friends....She did not tell jokes, as he did, but she was humorous.

Whereas he remained straight-faced after saying something funny, she laughed along with her audience. (p. 150)


Okay. Now--what's your opinion about the difference between female and male conversations?

What do men always seem to talk about in closed male circles? On the golf course, during hunting and fishing trips, at ball games, on the job in the construction crew, in cop cars chasing criminals, in their dens and gentleman night clubs?

What do women seem to talk about when they get together?

Can you tell you're in a female blog without even knowing the name, and gender, of the blogger? Are there tell-tale signs that say "lady blogger"?

I ask every blogger and blogologist these questions, and have not received much in the way of solid information or anecdotal evidence.

So, what do you think about all this?

Post a comment or email me. Thanks.


Writing. Healing. Blogging.

Writing. Healing. Blogging.

* [My remarks in dark red.] *

By the circuitous route of a writer's writing about a writer's writing about writing and healing, we enter the tidal wavelets of blogging, and reading vs. revealing.

An auspicious omen for a colossus of content, the likes and hates of which the world has oversown.


Review: Writing as a Way of Healing

Posted by Alpha

on July 27, 2005 11:52 PM

Writing as a Way of Healing : How Telling Our Stories Transforms Our Lives
Louise DeSalvo
Book from Beacon Press
Release date: 17 March, 2000

Earlier this week I commented on a simple book about controlling stress in a review by Floris Vermeir at Book of Calm.

I was a little harsh in my comment that books like these and Chicken Soup for the Soul did not really help anything. They were merely a salve for tragedy, unhappiness and horror. I had, after all, gotten a copy after a heart attack from a sweet and well-meaning acquaintance.

[STREIGHT: Harsh comments? They make, prod, force the world to go 'round.]


When I was first sick it was strongly suggested that I write out my pain and worries and even begin some stories again or a non-fiction account and overview of a heart attack. That was eleven years ago and I wish I had begun the first day I could lift a pencil. It was good advice. I didn't take it.

[STREIGHT: But "writing" doesn't "out" anything but text itself.

The memoir, journal, love note, speeding ticket, letter of resignation, blog, every instance of text is simply text texting itself.

Nothing but text leaks out of text. From text comes more text. From pain comes comfort that turns again into pain. But out of text comes text and nothing more nor less.

If emotions could find an outlet in text, others would be feeling other's feelings, and inflicting their own on them also, to the eventual ruin of introspective grandeur and writerly machinations.

I generally feel much worse after expressing an emotion in written form and publishing it to my blog. Par of that worsening, that explicit non-catharsis, is signaled in a reluctance to consider what might be the least desired outcome of having written and displayed it for all the world to see.

The writing of the emotion, via a literal or symbolic tincture, fails to dilute it, de-invest it of energy, or transform it. It leaves a mark, and inscription, but that's all. It then returns to normal inner imposition.

Suffering, in effect is not diminished nor satisfied in some way by writing. It simply enjoys a new embodiment, a doubled existence: in flesh, in text.]


The subject of this book [Writing as a Way of Healing] subtitled, "How Telling Our Stories Transforms Our Lives" is writing stories, histories, journals (maybe even blogs) in order to deal with the things in life that are almost impossible to deal with.

[STREIGHT: What the "(maybe even in blogs)" fails to recognize is its culpability in all this stammering and hesitation, as though afraid to get too near the blog, it has such an awful sounding name and hideous reputation.]

The author, Louise DeSalvo, acts as mother hen and teacher to people who need catharsis for all manner of molestation, injury, abuse, disease and injury; Louise DeSalvo does it well enough to change my mind on this book.

[STREIGHT: What "acts as mother hen" signals is a bow to the old findings of patriarchal analytics: female as egg that comes first in her life, thus "which came first, the chicken or the egg?" is now--"which came egged, the chicken or the first?" The gender-centric trick of muffled reference.]

It has the value of therapy, rather than the self-help pap of many such attempts--the stuff of gifts when you visit the newly injured or hurt.

[STREIGHT: But can any "self help" really be "pap", and must it always smear the blurry vision of that which attempts to seize it?]

On the other hand, there is the art of literature, and the fact that merely because some artists are also exorcising demons does not mean that exorcising demons makes you an artist.

[STREIGHT: It certainly does make you an artist. It has to. It is the source of all art. Happy, smooth-sailing, unpersecuted, socially acceptable, run-of-the-mill, status quo quiet people do not make art of value. Value is squeezed from that (mediocrity, opposition) which it (art) confronts and combats.

Without suffering, the person fails to intrigue. Without the adversarial, art cannot exist. Art is forced out of hiding by the cataclysmic insult or injury to the evenflow consciousness, jolted by tragedy, pain, grief, and loss.

Suffering contains the seeds of art. Art cannot even pretend to pre-exist the pain. The tragedy teaches the art to speak its own name until it memorizes itself into actuality.]

DeSalvo writes, for example... "I've learned how, for example, Virginia Woolf, Djuna Barnes,, and Henry Miller wrote their way out of suicidal or homicidal episodes. How they transformed their traumatic past into works of art..."

Well, maybe.

[STREIGHT: There is no rational "maybeing" about it. Events morph into art. It is so.]

Or maybe they had traumatic pasts that became art, written by people who always had been forced to write by their muse.

[STREIGHT: Here the "always...forced to" signals the fact that indeed the suffering, which does the "forcing" pre-dates the "muse" who is non-compliant with such delusions as the pre-existence of art in a vacuum, art detached from suffering, art "waiting" for suffering to come along and launch it into the space of canvas or book or blog.]

I do not negate the therapeutic aspect of writing.

[STREIGHT: Here is assumed the ability to do that which is postponed, marginalized as "suspended action" that is kept in reserve, a promise of deferred provision. "My writing, here, could do some serious negating, could even topple the towering therapeusis of writing itself, could ascend into the heavens of inscription and shake the king from his throne, but I hold it back, block it, stop it from proceeding." Is that so?]

DeSalvo presents a strong and supportively worded plan for people in emotional and physical need to face their pasts, their painful presents, and their often uncertain futures.

I spent many years working in a mental hospital (now "Psychiatric Center"), and ran successful group sessions based on multi-media ways for long-term psychotic and institutionalized people to face some real demons and delusions and to work toward more self-reliance.

Sure. This kind of plan works. The author merely forgets sometimes that F. Scot Fitzgerald and William Faulkner were artists with demons and tragedies. The tragedies did not make them artists.

[STREIGHT: Again I state: by all means you are mistaken. The tragedies did make them what they were, and without the persecution, pain, perplexity the art could not exist, the drive for materialistic vanities would dominate, the immaterial aesthetic realm would remain unknown, untouched, and unwanted.]

Jackson Pollock was an alcoholic and a great painter but the painter came first.

[STREIGHT: But this is writing, this is text saying that "the painter came first". What does the paint say? What does the alcoholism say? Perhaps the "first" and "second" categorization is useless in the long run, over the long haul. Perhaps Pollock was a great alcoholic and an okay painter? What gives us the right to privilege the painterliness over all the other qualities and inequities?

Where does this "artist first, then a drunk" or "writer first, then a suffering and tragic figure" come from? From writing "in itself", does it not? Writing is trying to say that it, and its cohort art, come first.

Why is it important to rank the qualities in a sequential order? Does writing by its very nature need to sequence everything, as letters and punctuation follow a described and circumscribed order? Is this ordering its "other" that generates it, that spews forth writing in the form of textual inscription?]

Henry Miller had an upsetting love affair for his times. But the Tropic series of novels were still works of art and merely given impetus by the unhappiness of his love life.

[STREIGHT: "were still works of art", in spite of upset? What is trying to be meant here?]

My first story was of my first unhappy love affair, and a Kerouac-like trip out of the South to the big city of New York. It was cathartic for a college freshman. It was not great art.

Virginia Woolf did, indeed, use books like To The Lighthouse to exorcise childhood insecurity and molestation, but hers were books of substance -- those that we call "art".

[STREIGHT: Defining art as that which has "substance" is itself a rather insubstantial, inconsequential definition. An artless book has no substance, no content? We know beforehand that this is not the case, not at all. So the demarcation of art has been missed.]

I do, actually, suggest this book as a possibility for someone who needs the push to open their heart and mind and deal with seemingly insurmountable problems.

But I also warn them that Ms. DeSalvo dwells on the therapy and the tragedies a bit too much.

[STREIGHT: Here is outstretched arm of phallocentrism, the male alarm bell, the professorial displeasure with the art-creator who knows her own experience better than he, the male, the partriarch who, in maleness, from a supposedly, infered loftier and dominant-masculine vantage point, attempts to utter a decree that must be revered and obeyed.]

There is a limit to the repetitive mention of Holocaust stories, childhood rape (a 5 year old!), writing by the bedside of dying children and mothers. When it is Isabel Allende it is art and catharsis.

[STREIGHT: There is also, due solely to my hereby declaring it, my calling it into being, a "limit" to the repetitive phallocentric patriarchal scolding of femininity and its unimaginable aims. Also a "limit" to asserting that the artist "came first" as though incubating in the person, and unleashed, hatched by deprivation, agony, ruin, frustration, disease, death, the expectation of dying or unfulfillable craving.]

When it is another example of the horrors that life throws in our faces it can become too much for the reader.

Sadly, DeSalvo seems totally non-visual.

For my wife and I, the image is as or more powerful than the word, but words are still the stuff of therapy; pictures come in dreams.

For DeSalvo there is an anecdote that "...In 1997 I attended an exhibit called 'Art that Heals: The Image as Medicine in Ethiopia'. (There is) "... an Ethiopian healing scroll, an iconic drawing of geometric shapes and five sets of eyes and written prayers..."

She ignores the images and speaks again only of words.

[STREIGHT: Perhaps she does so because the images speak for themselves.]

It is obvious that the healing power of pictures, icons, photos, and drawings has been lost on her.

[STREIGHT: Obvious to whom? Or is she focusing on the healing power of writing, and leaving to others that other topic of discussion? How will we determine what is truly the case? By what standards can we evaluate it?]

For a time Carl Jung's Memories, Reflections and Dreams was a favorite but each reading dredged up so many dreams, or such power, that I finally stopped re-reading it.

That is the power of both the word and of pictures and icons.

Is writing good for the soul?

Absolutely. Better than chicken soup.

Today after beginning this post I read by Dr Pat; I realized that there is a real life reason for a program to help people write out their losses and horrors.

He lost a friend without being able to say "good bye". But since he is an avid reader and a writer, he wrote out his hurt in a Blogcritics post.

He confronted his feelings with words and that is what DeSalvo -- depressing as she can be -- outlines.

His post made me feel that this book of suggestions and support for writing about traumas is far more valid than I first thought.

My final thought, which is not mentioned in the book, is the recent growth of blogs.

I speak not of the corporate news blogs or blogcritics, which is more like a magazine, but of the personal blogs by the millions where people write out their hearts for small audiences and no pay.

It shows the need of people to communicate feelings and document their lives.

[STREIGHT: Ah, but which "came first", if there is indeed a "coming first", an arrival hierarchy, that, similar to any -archy, must be enforced and imposed. Which? The feelings or the felt need to document something, anything, even the feelings?]



This is the short-shrifted edge of blogospheric configurations: super-endoscopic helicoptering, a flashlit chainsaw-juggling of methodological uncertainties.

First, at issue, at first blush, what issues forth, in a prioritized encounter with this text, is that the male-o-centricity at risk is rushed.

Gender gendarmes police the structure to absorb what is no longer prone to be unknown. To inspect this root is equivalent to bringing about the unhinging of the dilemma, dimensions of which raise a raftered rash of early suspicions.

Leap into: chicken or egg came first?

Of course, we say "the chicken came first and laid the egg that it hatched from after it disboarded its time travel vehicle."

The chicken entered the picture we are forming in our mind now, laid an egg, entered the time travel module, and was henceforth hatched out of the egg it has always already laid, or mislaid among the debris of its forgetful furniture.

An adequate image of the auto-formative self, composed of it knows not what, making it self-alienating as it exits its own womb of itself: woman.

Umbilically unreal, it plods along.

Wounded. Injured. Forever sealed as "sufferer".

From henceforth springeth art, literature, mathematics, ritual, social myth, the illusion of a fugue-like need for government and pre-dunked cookies.

Then this.

This assertion that the entity is "writer" prior to suffering, then acts or writes as "suffering writer".

Yet with no suffering, there would never be any writing, speaking, thinking.

It is attack that triggers us and the uc system.

The unconsciousness, itself seeking enlightenment, unbeknownst to consciousness flux, steps out into the broad daylight savings time of semiotic mystery.

[signed] Steven Streight aka Vaspers the Grate

Phish vs. Real PayPal email

Phish vs. Real PayPal email

PC Magazine has a nice article entitled "Real PayPal Email!"

In this article, Larry Seltzer explains briefly what made him think the PayPal email message in his inbox *might_possibly_be* a real, genuine message from PayPal, and not a phish.

Phishing is a pretending to be genuine, but actually is a fake to trick you. Using simulated reality to "phish/fish" for gullible people. The bait is the seeming authenticity, trying to sound and look official.

Phish emails come to my inbox from PayPal, eBay, Amazon, various banks, but with none do I actually have an account.

Signs of Seeming Authenticity

Here are 3 things that made the email seem authentic:

(1) message is plain text, and not HTML

(2) message refers to his real credit card number and lists its last 4 digits

(3) no links to click on or paste into his browser, but rather instructions for him to visit the PayPal web site and login to his account.

[[[-- The PayPal Email Message --]]]


Subject: Credit Card Expiration Approaching

credit card expiration date
update instructions

"To update your credit card expiration date:

1. login to your PayPal account

2. go to Profile subtab

3. click on the "Credit Cards" link in the Financial Information column

4. choose the radio button next to the credit card you'd like to update and click "Edit"

5. enter your credit card verification number

6. enter the new credit card expiration date

7. click "Save"

Thank you for using PayPal!

The PayPal Team

Never give your passoword to anyone, including PayPal employees.

Protect yourself against fraudulent websites by opening a new web browser (e.g., Internet Explorer or Netscape) and typing in the PayPal URL every time you log into your account.

slightly certain

slightly certain

There's a certain burden with telling the truth
Especially if others are listening
There's a certain hurting with being the sleuth
uncovering what you're missing

I guess I'm just one of the chosen few
appointed to document
So I hope most of it gets through
so you don't have to question it

I could say that
I'm sorry that I judged you
I'm sorry that I tried to rely
on my own two eyes

But that won't be necessary
cuz the rope we both need to climb
leads to a place that's much too high
at least right now...

[frp, "Slightly Certain" by ROUTE 3,
Slightly Certain CD (1998),
lyrics: Jared Adams]

I'm slightly certain we will overcome, triumph, reign.



You are electro-telepathic.

Right now.

My thou'ght is now--right now--part of your inner self, yhour consciousness. You even note ice that curtain wirds are mass spelled, prolly dee lib erately.


my thou*ght mer*ged w/ yhours.


Mist Spelunking

endo-therapeusis startles the old high wheats and whey

rye though I am, I'm wiley enough wriggle out of it


Yore thot merged with thine and mine.

Lore that is sublime.

Merged with yourn and mine.

A long horn in the side,

with vistas that collide.


You know who I a'm:

your harangue-a-tang.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Vaspers the...what?

A catastrophic strophe: this is not a love song.

This is not a blogospheric blunderbuss that pretends all is fine and dandy.

This is not a buried television to be viewed by those with heads plaintively planted in the sand.

This is not a pluperfect pool for Narcissus to gaze into morbidly, while his lover Echo spends her remaining moments vanishing into phonological repetitions.

This is not a helioscope with radiant pleasantries streaming through audience-drilled holes.

Paradice Beach needs a blog

My brother, a beer, and a Paradice Beach "White Trash Party"

Paradice Beach web site needs to be a blog.

This web site is owned by a friend of my brother. I want to help her switch to a blog, because conventional static web sites are a very bad idea for what she's trying to do.

Check out the web site. The only way to interact with it is a "guestbook", but the entries are moderated, with delayed posting. I assume this is to prevent spammers.

I'm not harshing Brenda.

My brother tells me she works hard at "tweaking" the site.

I feel sorry for her. She's wasting vast amounts of time and effort, with slight results. The current site is little more than a photo gallery.

Paradice Beach web site needs, on the home page, a tagline, site owner's name, contact info, and a clear menu of navigation. Placing text on top of photographic images is not a good idea, and the text is hard to read. It would be better to put captions under the main photos, and put nav text in a separate sector.

This site is a perfect example of how blogs are infinitely superior to static web sites.

A blog is easily and quickly updated with fresh content.

A blog enables readers to interact via comments.

A web site "guestbook" is inferior to blog comments. Blog comments can be context-specific, and a vital part of a conversation.

Whereas a "guestbook" just sits there, accumulating remarks, but the guests are disconnected from each other, cannot chat with each other like they can at a blog.

By using a blog, Brenda could provide her Paradice Beach fans with RSS feeds, email update subscriptions, an email message form, a sidebar with peripheral information, a photo gallery, audio, podcasts, video, art submissions, categorized and easily searchable archives, and better search engine results, especially with Google.

No offense, Brenda.

But I have to be blunt, direct, and swift in my analysis and recommendations. I don't have time to be delicately diplomatic, to beat around the bush and gently lead up to my main points.

I am a web usability analyst first, a blogologist second.

Lately I've put far more emphasis on blogs, because they have vastly more potential, especially for individuals and little sub-culture groups, than conventional web sites.

The blog is ideally suited for such things as the Paradice Beach organization and the events they sponsor.

Brenda, dear friend, it's high time you got hip to blogging. I can help. Email me soon. Thanks.

[signed] Steven Streight aka Contemplative Garden Hoe

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Cool "I Blog" stamp available

A nifty "I blog" stamp is apparently available from Stamps dot com.

Thanks to Evan Williams, Evhead blog, inventor of Blogger and Odeo.

How do you like that?

The snail mail you stick in an envelope and send by land, or other physical dimensions of Old Reality, can now proudly bear the image that shouts "Blog Boy~!" or "Blog Girl~!" to everyone en route and at its destination.

I strongly urge all my readers to check out Evhead every day. His posts are usually one sentence or two, with links to further information. Maybe I should do more of that. Is there a self-help group or book for Verbose Windbags?

Evan actually did not provide a link to Stamps dot com, but I saw the URL on the stamp and visited the site. Hmmmm....

Seems this thing Evan invented, the Push Button Publishing 3 steps to success is really catching on all over the place. The fantastic Jot Spot free wiki creation site does it. And so does this Stamps dot com site.

3 Easy Steps rocks. If your services can be reduced to 3 easy steps for users, do it. Intuitively, it seems that 3 steps are about the limit for hurried web users. A commonly expressed rule of thumb for web usage is that users (ideally, whenever feasible) must be able to drill down to desired information in 3 clicks or less.

Odeo Podcasting uses:

Listen. Sync. Create.

Stamps dot com uses:

Click. Print. Mail.

Doesn't that look easy?

I had to laugh when I saw, on an otherwise pretty good site, the copy for a headline:

"Free $80 Offer"

Assumedly the work of a junior copywriter, no offense to whoever wrote it. Not everything I write is gold. Some of it is rusty iron rotting metallically in the slime of sentence slop.

This is a contradiction.

A better way to say it is:

"Free Offer--an $80 Value"


"Free Limited Time Offer--SAVE $80"

Anyway, here's some wording from their "Learn More" page:


What is is a service that allows you to print official United States Postal Service postage directly from your PC and printer. No special hardware is needed. Once your mail or package is ready to go, simply hand it to your mail carrier. It’s that easy!

How does work?

Think of it as a bank account for postage. The postage that you print will automatically be deducted from your account. You incur no surcharge on postage

What can I do with

Print stamps. Print shipping labels. Print directly on envelopes to create professional looking mail. Add insurance to protect your valuable items. Use free Delivery Confirmation™ on your Priority Mail®. Keep track of postage spent with client codes and easy reporting. You can do it all.

How does the No-Risk Trial work?

New customers are eligible for our 4 Week No-Risk Trial. Simply cancel before the trial period ends and you will not be charged. If you like the service, do nothing and your account continues automatically.

What do I get for trying the service?

Your account automatically starts with $5 free postage and a free Supplies Kit ($5 Value).

After your trial period, you will receive additional postage coupons ($20 Value), plus a free digital scale ($50 Value) – a total value worth $80!


[signed] Steven Streight aka Vaspers the Grate aka The Contemplative Garden Hoe

- = +

Bizarre Blog Experimentation

Who has the nerve to conduct bizarre blog experimentation?

Hello? Anyone home?

Okay, I know you're probably thinking: "You do".

But do you say that just because that's what you think I want to hear?


Do you know what that word means?

Well, a sycophant (rhymes with "elephant") is a servile flatterer, a toady, or "toadeater". A toadeater is a "quack doctor's assistant who pretends to eat a toad to show the efficacy of bogus medicines".

Aren't you glad to know two new words, sycophant and toady?

Now, let's say you're sincere, you really believe I can perform totally astonishing deconstructions of the blog, as for example: Jejune Jumpers.

You're right. I can do it. I will do it. Again.

The Blogger dashboard controls say that I can have up to 999 posts on the main index page of a blog.

What if I went ahead and posted 999 posts of nothing but digital art work? And the art work was created with certain filters and geometric configurations that produced pulsating illusions of cross scrolling motion, explosive reverberations that made you dizzy and disoriented in a pleasant, but counter-productive manner?

Again, how long could a digital artwork be? Instead of 999 posts, what if I posted one digital image that was, say 6 inches wide and 4,000 inches long? So you scrolled forever to see the whole thing?

Don't laugh derisively or shrug your shoulders dismissively.

I seriously wish to attempt some radically unusual blogs that completely rip free from all normalized expectations. Just to see what happens.

You know me. I'm not a people pleaser, nor an approval seeker (though when it comes to web sites, I do care greatly about usability and user satisfaction). But I don't care who might or might not be interested in such blog-mangling productions. It's enough for me that I care about these oddities.

Why? What's the point? Who would waste time doing this, and what is the goal or benefit?

Sorry. That's not for you to know at this time. My secret.

When I complete any of these, and other, more extreme creations, I'll tell you about them, and give you the URLs here at this blog.

Stay tuned.

If all goes well, it's going to get weirder than your wildest dreams.

[signed] Steven Streight aka Vaspers the Grate

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Boy Scout site is much improved

I just want to thank all my W.D. Boyce Council-BSA web development committee colleagues for the fantastic job of improving the web site.

The sprawling thing actually downloads like lightning, on a dial-up internet connection. Even faster than my own sites.

We've worked long and hard, as volunteers and paid staff, to bring this about. While the old site had its good points and was not horrible, this design and content revamp is remarkable.

NOTE: This site re-design is not finished.

And we have to please a lot of conflicting department heads, all of whom want full information on upcoming and current events on the main page. We're going to just have a sentence or two, with links to more.

Obvious improvements to make include:

* separate the articles on the main page with horizontal rules

* larger fonts for article heads

* differentiation of "click here for more information" and "read more" links, with better wording for the link text

* discard the Site Map altogether

* better visitor orientation on the main page

...and so forth.

But compared to the previous design, this is more modern looking, and easier to navigate. It's a rich and complex site, with lots of input and conflicting goals. But the teamwork and persistent efforts are paying off splendidly.

My wife and I, along with former staffer Sarah Johnson, conducted user observation testing, and detailed analysis.

All of which is documented at the Usability Interface web site, if anyone is interested. From how the user testing was pre-test the kind of snacks and instructions provided by the test administrators.

Everything you need to know about conducting valid web user observation tests is there, and all my original creation pre-test, test, and post-test forms are also available as RTF documents.

Just email me and you can have them all...FREE.

steven [dot] streight [at] gmail [dot] com

Forms you cannot find anywhere else, as far as I know. And believe me, I hunted hard.

Feel Free to CRITIQUE...

Once we make some more critical enhancements, we'll run another User Observation Test. That's the only way to know for sure that typical users can do what they want to do at the site.

To all my geek buddies out there:

Visit the Boyce site. If you see more work that could be done, let me know.

I'm going to do a lot more, along with some others, on the copy itself, heads, subheads, bullets, numbered lists, shorter text, etc.

We meet once a month, tonight in fact at 6 PM, to discuss what needs to be done.

We never stop, we shan't stop, tweaking and enhancing it.

[signed] Steven Streight aka Vaspers the former 2nd Class Boy Scout, Troop 31


Super Fast Internet 2 and Student TV

Here it is: super fast Internet 2, and Student Television.

I'm on the Internet 2 discussion list.

This update I received today is so spectacular, I wanted to display excerpts of the message to my fan base.

Soon, and very soon (as the gospel hymn goes), EVERYTHING will be internetized.

You will do everything, from regulating your refrigerator to watching television, on your computer via internet tech services.

The internet will embrace the entire human universe, and reach to the stars themselves, via the interplanetary internet.

Two things to watch, my fellow geek heads:

* Internet 2

* Interplanetary Internet

I want to have one of the first blogs hosted by Mars satellites and viewable in space stations and shuttles.

Astro-blogging is coming.

But back to this message reproduced below.

Students are becoming their own television programmers.

Read in wild amazement...

The MSM hegemony is almost completely exhausted and all burnt up.

We are enjoying the Victory!


Massachusetts Institute Of Technology Joins The OPEN Student Television Network

MIT to Provide IP Television to Students, Staff and Faculty

CAMBRIDGE, MA - July 26, 2005 - The Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced that it has joined the OPEN Student Television Network (OSTN).

By joining OSTN, students, staff and faculty at MIT will be able to securely access student television shows developed by peer institutions such as University of Southern California, Syracuse University, Ohio State University, Indiana University, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and broadcast television programming from content providers such as NBC Universal, FOX and Starz! Encore on their laptops and PCs.

The Open Student Television Network (OSTN) is a hosted IP Television service that offers student-produced broadcast programming over Abilene - Internet2's nationwide high-speed backbone network which provides end-users speeds 100-1000 times faster than the average household broadband connection to laptops and desktop PCs.

The network reaches over three million users, 206 research and educational institutions, and 34 state education networks.

OSTN has also negotiated bulk discounts from major television content providers such as NBC Universal, FOX, and Starz Encore Group for secure delivery of their programming over campuses' commercial Internet connections to the desktop using conditional access and digital rights management and Institutions participating in OSTN opt-in and pay a la carte for the programming on the OSTN IP Television service.

The Open Student Television Network Channel is a national initiative of student television stations working together to build a digital channel of student television shows. On the OSTN Channel, students are not only creating content but they are also making the important programming decisions that appeal to their peer viewing audience.


The OSTN Channel gives voice to students by connecting schools' TV stations through video content sharing and digital delivery of student-produced video content to the PC and TV.

"The CampusEAI Consortium's OPEN Student Television Network represents an exciting and unique opportunity for MIT to provide original programming over advanced networks to its community," said Vijay Kumar, Assistant Provost and Director of Academic Computing, Information Services & Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

"MIT Cable's participation in the OPEN Student Television Network will furnish MIT students an exceptional opportunity to have their work seen at over 70 universities. OSTN creates possibilities for student collaboration on a scale unimaginable only several years ago," said Randy Winchester, Team Leader for MIT Cable Television at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "I am anticipating that OSTN will encourage many new students to get involved with video production, and may very well kindle a renaissance in student video production."

"One of Internet2's primary missions is to provide a platform for collaboration and innovation among the research and education community", said Jill Arnold, director of member and partner relations for Internet2. "The OPEN Student Television Network is an example of a leading initiative that enables this kind of idea sharing and content distribution across higher education - providing students and faculty greater access to multimedia learning materials and information."


For more information on the Open Student Television Network

send an e-mail to

information [at] ostn [dot] tv.

To apply for membership in the Open Student Television Network,


About MIT

The mission of MIT is to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the 21st century.

About CampusEAI Consortium

Led by over 100 primary, secondary, and post-secondary education institutions in Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, and the United States, CampusEAI Consortium is a Cleveland-based, non-profit organization dedicated to facilitating the development and exchange of community-source software and digital content.

For more information, visit

About Internet2

Internet2 is a consortium being led by 206 universities working in partnership with industry and government to develop and deploy advanced network applications and technologies, accelerating the creation of tomorrow\'s Internet.

Internet2 is recreating the partnership among academia, industry and government that fostered today's Internet in its infancy initiative."

"Everyone here is really excited to have MIT join OSTN and look forward to collaborating on many levels with such a respectable university, especially in the HD area." says Shane Walker, Vice President of OSTN Studios. "The bulk discount agreements, which OSTN has negotiated with the television content providers, will help MIT to decrease the costs of providing IP television to the student, staff and faculty community."

For more information, visit


I2-NEWS archives are available at:

[signed] Steven Streight aka Vaspers the Grate

Today's wild youth think...

Today's Wild Youth think:

1. Tiny Tim is the midget on Seinfeld.

2. Dolly Pardon's boobs have always been size XXXXXXXXX Large.

3. Sex Pistols must be some kind of bullet proof condoms.

4. Cassette is used in: "why? cassette so, that's why"--a phrase parents say a lot.

5. A "lid" is something that covers a container.

6. Carson is a guy with a blog, an MTV veejay--not a dead talk show host.

7. Ramones is an Italian restaurant in Soho.

8. Mainlining is an internet service.

A little dose of humor, to obey a fan's command to "lighten up" and suck up to my demanding audience.

Inspired by Carrie's friend Michele.

See photo, an image I really like.

Guys, she's...well, you know: hot.

Now go read her even-more-funny post:

"The Mindset List"

I don't know if Michele likes my blog or my personality, but this photo represents what I like to think of as the typical reader and fan of Vaspers the Grate.

I think my fans look like this. Just dreaming I guess.

[signed] Steven Streight aka Vaspers the Grate


Monday, July 25, 2005

Blogs are not a fad

Blogs are not a fad.

The blog began in 1992, Tim Berners-Lee's "What's New" page.

That was 13 years ago people.

The ignorant, sensationalistic, corrupt forces of the MSM are trying to distort everything once again.

Now we're hearing that "blogging has peaked."

We're having "the blog fad is dead" shoved down our throats.

The mainstream media sees tech developments as "fads" and "crazes".

They have to Harry frigging Potterize everything that comes along.

It has to be a "frenzy" or an "explosion" or a "fever"....else it does not hit their antiquated biased radar screen.

Even burned out bloggers are saying "blogs are dead".

No, but their blogging days are over because they can't hack it anymore.

Abandoned blogs? That has been going on for many years. Not news.

Bloggers are worried and asking "has the trend reached its limit?"

"Are we now in the downward spiral of diminishing interest?"

"Is it too late to start a blog?"

"Will my blog get lost in the blogosphere, overwhelmed by all the popular blogs that already exist?"

It reminds me of disgruntled guys who say all the good ones are already taken, meaning why date, since all the good pretty women are already married.

Ever since the Beatles, REM, Madonna, and R. Kelly stormed the music industry, what's the point of starting a band?

The Bible is still the best selling book of all time, so why bother to write a novel?

All this whining and whimpering is hilarious.

Or would be if it wasn't so brain dead.

[signed] Steven Streight aka Vaspers the Grate

Dead Business Blogs: the debate continues

I promised a comment poster that I would answer his objections to my "Business blogs are dead" post via a new, separate post.

Business blogs, and I mean mainly "business consultant blogs" and "marketing pundit blogs", are dying. Can't everybody smell the rotten stench emanating from them?

Business bloggers are burning out. Running out of things to say. Running out of butts to kiss. Running out of products to review. Running out of values to promote.

Running around to blog conferences and rallies, yet still having little to report. "The wine and shrimp were fantastic. Joe danced with an ugly hooker and a gay guy. Pete vomited on my laptop."

Once you've read my original post on the topic, you can then read this.

First, his comment (numbers added for reference purposes).

Posted comment to "Business blogs are dead".

(1) I am sure that this posting was deliberately provocative, but I cannot but help "rise to the bait", and challenge you on a couple of points.

(2) Firstly business blogs almost by their nature are likely to be "boring" to a large section of the community that is not interested in the often "specialist" subject matter.

(3) I would add that this is true of 99% of all Blogs whether business oriented or not.

(4) The inclusion of images is contextual, my own site being concerned with steel, would benefit little from the inclusion of images.

(5) Furthermore images are fine if they add anything to the discussion, but when used as window dressing, they are a waste of bandwidth.

(6) As for "setting an example" for the non-blogging business, I fail to see that as a role they should be expected to undertake, nor do I think they have any duty to be "connected to the core values of blogging", whatever that means.

Who sets these values anyway?

(7) Why would you think it inappropriate to use their blogs for commercial purposes? They are business blogs and concerned with business, surely commercial concerns are therefore entirely relevant if not even a primary function.

(8) It's also risky for a small business blog to be provocative or combative, alienating your customer or potential customer base is not commercially that clever.

(9) Many of your other points are highly relevant to blogging, but apply more to a specific section of the business blogging world, i.e. those who's blogs are about business blogging.

(10) There does seem to be within some of their postings masses of comment and trackback spam.

(11) Furthermore I agree with the cliquey nature of the "top tier" business spammers who constantly link to each other in a clear attempt to maintain the existing hierarchy.

(12) An interesting post, and I will certainly pop back to read more of your missives.

Now, my response.

(1) Almost all my posts are "provocative."

Welcome to Vaspers the Grate, not Vaspers the Oatmeal Cuddly Perfumed Warm-and-Fuzzy Tolerance Wimp.

(2) Business blogs are by nature boring?

You mean business people can't figure out how to make their industry exciting?

This is why we say a blog core value is Passion. This is why we've formulate core values for blogging.

If a business seems boring, all it needs is a talented, provocative writer like me to jazz it up, truthful but enthusiastic. Charles Tremendous Jones said that if you're not enthusiastic about something, you just need to learn more about it.

Every industry contains astonishing anecdotes, facts, history, characters, pioneers, processes, etc.

(3) 99% of all blogs are boring?

Sir, you exaggerate with hubris hyperbole. It's closer to 98% and you know it. Ha!

(4) Your steel industry blog doesn't need no stinking images?

Sir, I think the images we've all seen on television of molten steel being poured dangerously into those molds are exciting and colorfully brilliant.

Every industry has tremendously fascinating images that could be used. You need a guy or gal with an artistic eye. Hire my friend Carrie Snell to take photos at your foundry. She'll get the job done.

Images enhance text. Images keep blogs and books and magazines from being boring. Sir, your remedy for boredom is staring you right in the face.

(5) Images as window dressing?

Andy Warhol started his artistic promotional life (he was also a musician, I had some of his electronic music on Touch cassettes) as a window dresser for Saks Fifth Avenue, I think, or Lord & Taylors.

I met Andy Warhol at Rockefeller Center NYC around 1985, and gave him a music recording of my electronic band Camouflage Danse, at an INXS gold record award party. I flirted with actress Kelly McCullough (film "Witness") who was mad at her boyfriend.


I don't care about bandwidth. I don't have to pay for bandwidth. Don't worry about bandwidth. Internet2 is here. Put into your blog whatever it needs to successfully accomplish your goals. Direct mail campaigns use a lot of ink, paper, and postage. So what?

(6) We don't need to set an example for others? bloggers don't have to set an example of good blogging practices for non- or pre- bloggers?

Your blog, web site, business cards, office, automobile, receptionist, yellow page ad, everything is a reflection of your quality standards and business practices.

Who sets the core values of blogging?

I do, that's who. I'm a scholar of the blogocentric art and science.

And the pioneer bloggers who invented and continue to perfect the medium. When I first started blogging, I heard the Universal Blog Mantra: authenticity, transparency, passion. I added six more values.

The blogosphere is self-correcting and self-policing, like corporations are supposed to be.

It's good for bloggers to come to a consensus evaluation of what values should drive blogging. Blogs lend themselves to being candid, conversational, honest, sincere.

Look at industries that refuse to police themselves. Can you say "government intervention", "redtape", "congressional oversight", "federal regulation"?

(7) When I said "commercial purposes" I mean the stupid vending machine blogs, hyping merchandise, services, consultation, ebooks, etc. Blogs that are screaming "buy this" and "sign up for this". Ugly and repulsive. Your blog is nothing like them.

I offer many consulting services, web usability testing and analysis, web content writing, etc. but how often do you see me mention this? Never. Why? Because my blog and its contents are my advertising.

"A blog without ads is a powerful, persuasive ad for its author."

(8) Combative is risky?

Okay. I'll give you this one. You win.

But, for me, I have to be combative, since I'm attacked all the time, and I love debate.

Most books dealing with online marketing will tell you: some controversy, conflict, and contention is good for generating curiosity and reading pleasure.

Combativeness? It does depend on many considerations. You are correct to point this out. It's just that most business, marketing, and PR blogs are so wimpy and cliquey, kissing butt while the industry goes down the toilet.

(9) Right again. You win another point. My, you're going strong now.

(10) Right. Massive amounts of comment and trackback spam in a business blog equals a business that is negligent, stupid, or lazy. Not to be trusted. Idiots. It's easy to prevent and eliminate spam.

(11) Cliquey nature of top tier business bloggers?

Sir, this comment leads me to think you've been hanging around Paul Woodhouse, the Tinbasher, my blogocombat comrade. Say "clinking". Go ahead, say it. Aha. Now you're on the right path. "Clinking" = clique linking. One of my 30 or more neologisms invented for the bloatosphere.

(12) Thanks. You're a gentleman. I value your presence here and your future complaints and critiques.

You criticize my post ruthlessly, relentlessly, but you're smart enough to see that this blog is full of great ideas for business and personal blogs.

I never take concept debates personally, so feel free to flame on anytime you wish. I love it. Keeps us all, me, you, and other readers, on our toes.


[signed] Steven Streight aka Vaspers the Grate

+ = -

Hardcore Blogger's To Do List

Hardcore Bloggers have their hands full, there's a lot on their plates, and they eat it with their fingers, sloppily, but quickly and efficiently.

For example, you should see the stacks of books, piles of printouts, towers of CDs, and reams of rancid paper notebooks that swarm my computer workstation in my office right now.

By my computer monitor are:

* a little porcelain boy angel praying (I assume he's praying for my blog to hurry up and become interesting to more than 5 and 1/2 people)

* a tiny double-headed doofus toy figure (or "fugue"?)

* a roll of Scotch tape (for taping ignored notes to my monitor)

* twenty five colored and black ink pens and permanent markers

* fifty thousand scraps of paper with URLs and quotes scribbled incomprehensively on them

* a book about Kenneth Patchen, the beatnik back-spasm poet

* an empty Kahlua Cappaccino Shake bottle

* my list of 73 top bloggers for my book Secrets of the Blogging Pros

* a vial of patchouli oil

* an antique watering can with seed packets in it

* what looks like one of my fingers, but is prolly a French fry or pencil stub

* a photo of Jacques Derrida, my hero

* a photo of Andrea, my wife.

Now, friends, I shall reveal what I consider a decent Do It list for hardcore bloggers.

Hardcore Blogger's To Do List

1. Check Gmail inbox email messages, and reply to all.

2. Check Gmail inbox blog comment notifications, and reply to all comments posted at my blogs.

3. Read other good blogs from my blogroll list.

4. Determine if these blogs are saying something smart or stupid that I should post about on my blog.

5. Post intelligent, provoking, or funny comments at other blogs on blogroll.

6. Read books on webonomics, marketing, HTML, CSS, web usability, web design, depth psychology, metaphysics, deconstruction.

7. Search for quotes from these books that might make a good blog post topic.

8. Check my secret online notifications and alerts for good blog post topics.

9. Ponder my blog posts and think of what I haven't written about but should.

10. Create artwork for future blog posts, to have on reserve.

11. Write new blog posts, accompanied by hypertext links and artwork.

12. Ponder sidebar for new badges and functions that I consider necessary.

13. Check blog stats on Blog Patrol site (seen first at Dvorak Uncensored).

14. Hope that someone benefits from my posts, or has a well-deserved nervous breakdown, due to not understanding my sarcasm, satire, or surrealism, thus taking certain tongue-in-cheek statements far too seriously and paranoically.

Now...what is your version of a "hardcore blogger's to do list"?

Post a comment or email me.

[signed] Steven Streight aka Vaspers the Grate


Sunday, July 24, 2005

Kevin Smokler: our guide to contemporary literature

Attention Readers: it's soft fluffy perfumed teddy bear time. Time to "lighten up" a bit.

I just finished viewing an interview with book critic Kevin Smokler on CSPAN BookNotes program. I really liked what he was saying and I regret not taking notes. I wonder if a transcript is available online?

Now and then, I like to pop in a little non-blogocombat content here. Mostly, this tangential, peripheral material deals with books.

Okay then. Check out the blog of Kevin Smokler:

I posted a comment at it. About how I like Proust, Derrida, Blanchot, Kafka, Will Self, Dale Peck, etc. And I promised him I'd post something. So here it is.

I was going to post an excerpt from his essay on Oprah's Book Club, but the AlterNet site had a scary warning not to reproduce anything, so I freaked out like a sissy and skipped it. I'll link to it instead. Be sure to read it. It's "nice".

Here's a quick peek at his accomplishments, from his site (for clickable links to all the articles and reviews, go to his site):


Professional Biography

Kevin Smokler is one the nation's leading thinkers on the future of contemporary literature, publishing and the arts at large.

He's the editor of the anthology Bookmark Now: Writing in Unreaderly Times (Basic Books, June 2005), featuring this generation's most intriguing young authors on the state and future of literature in the media-saturated 21st century.

His essays and critiques have appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle, The Baltimore Sun, The Believer, Ready Made and on National Public Radio.

As a speaker, Kevin has lectured nationwide on the future of reading and publishing, the literary life and the roll of technology in the arts at venues like Book Expo America, The Commonwealth Club of California, the South by Southwest Interactive Festival (where he sits on the advisory board) and Litquake, where he serves on the executive committee.

Kevin has also guest lectured on the future of book marketing at Mills College, Johns Hopkins University and Stanford University. In April of 2005, he delivered the keynote address at the New Face of Publishing Workshop at Humber College in Toronto, Canada.

As a private consultant his clients include Time Warner Book Group, Harper Collins, iUniverse, Mental Floss magazine and the Idea Festival. He's also the founder of the Virtual Book Tour.

Kevin Smokler has a B.A. in Writing Seminars from Johns Hopkins University and a Master’s Degree in American Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. He lives in San Francisco and is represented by Jud Laghi of International Creative Management.


Bookmark Now: Writing in Unreaderly Times (Basic Books, June 1, 2005).


# Contributing short articles to Issues 11 and 12 of Readymade (April 2004-Present).

# Analysis: 2004 Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame Inductees"
(Pop Transit, March 30, 2004)

# Tool: The Ace Heavy-Duty Glue Gun
(The Believer, October 2004)

# "In the Whale's Throat or How I Spent a Single Afternoon at Book Expo America and Lived to Tell About It."
(Inkblots Magazine, Summer 2003)

# "Counting Flags"
(, July 4, 2002)

# The Lessons of Oprah's Book Club
(AlterNet, April 8, 2002)

# "An Open Letter to Stephen Ambrose"
(AlterNet, January 22, 2002)

# "The Wandering Warrior", an Interview with Nicholson Baker on his book Double Fold
(AlterNet, May 15, 2001)

Book Criticism

* "Good Grief" by Lolly Winston
(SF Station, June 2004)

* "Havana World Series" by Jose Latour
(San Francicso Chronicle, February 29, 2004)

* "The Arborgast Case" by Thomas Hettche
(San Francicso Chronicle, December 21, 2003)

* "Tiger in a Trance" by Max Lundington
(San Francicso Chronicle, September 7, 2003)

* "The Wandering Hill" by Larry McMurtry
(San Francisco Chronicle, July 6, 2003)

* "Red Ant House" by Ann Cummins
(East Bay Express, April 30, 2003)

* "Officer Friendly and other stories" by Lewis Robinson
(San Francisco Chronicle, March 23, 2003)

* "The Last Good Chance" by Tom Barbash
(San Francisco Chronicle, February 2, 2003)

* "The Little Friend" by Donna Tartt
(SF Station, October 2002)

* "Letters to a Young Novelist" by Mario Vargas Llosa
(East Bay Express, June 26, 2002)

* "The Lovely Bones" by Alice Sebold
(SF Station, June 2002)

* "Sin Killer" by Larry McMurtry
(San Francisco Chronicle, May 26, 2002)

* "Ernie's Ark" by Monica Wood
(San Francisco Chronicle, May 19, 2002)

* "Small Wonders" by Barbara Kingsolver
(SF Station, April 2002)

* "Rapture" by Susan Minot
(San Francisco Chronicle, January 27, 2002)

* "The Ambidextrist" by Peter
(San Francisco Chronicle, January 20, 2002)

* "Lit Life" by Kurt Wenzel
(San Francisco Chronicle, July 29, 2001)

* "Up In The Air" by Walter Kirn
(San Francisco Chronicle, July 16, 2001)

Film Reviews

* Reviews at SF Station (2004-Present)

* Reviews at (2002-2003)

Is blogging an extreme sport?

Yes, blogging is an extreme sport.

You'd better face the facts now.

Don't roll your eyes and think I'm exaggerating.

Cause of Death: Blog-related

Blogging can be very dangerous, even in America.

Some bloggers are killed because they blog.

Murder of bloggers occurs mainly, but not only, in nations ruled by religious fundamentalism, Communism, and dictatorships.

This is why I'm aggressive in my blogging. I'm grateful that I have the freedom to speak boldly and truthfully.

Blogging Dangers

Here are just some of the potential hazards of blogging:

1. murder, imprisonment, and violence

2. fired from job

3. divorce

4. alienate friends and family

5. other bloggers attack ("flame") you on your blog

6. other bloggers publish posts against you on their blogs

7. spouse feels neglected

8. details about your children attracts perverts, predators, kidnappers

9. voicing controversial opinions gets you banned from web sites, blogs, forums, traffic exchanges, discussion lists, other online communities or services

10. too many private details attracts identity theft criminals

Are You a Gentle, Mellow, Soft Blogger?

Even if you are a mild, nice, happy blogger, the time is bound to come when someone posts a negative, filthy, abusive comment on your blog.

Nearly every blogger, at some time or other, has to deal with comment spam, trackback spam, and other forms of cyber vandalism and digital thuggery.

You cannot prevent negative events from happening in relation to your blog.

You cannot stop other bloggers from saying bad, false, or crazy things about you on their blogs.

Sometimes offering advice to another blogger can make them hate you, blacklist you, and spread rumors about you.

Blogging: Not for Cowards or Pampered Babies

Welcome to the rough and tumble world of blogging.

It's not all roses and pillows and smiles.

It can get pretty rugged and tough.

Some reports mention bloggers having mental breakdowns and severe depression due to negative aspects of blogging, or just plain old burn out.

Be sure to have other hobbies, interests, activities.

Get outside as much as you can.

Endure the heat waves and freezing temperatures.



Be Yourself and Transcend Your Ego.

I'm cheering you on, friend!

[signed] Steven Streight aka Vaspers the Grate

How to Blog Friends and Influence People

not blacklisted from that cartoon blog

blacklisted from gaping void

My final comment...

My final comment on The Red Couch blog, a blog that is allegedly about writing a book on business blogging.

The blog is by Microsoft blogger Robert Scoble and marketing consultant Shel Israel.

This blog is supposed to be telling corporations why they need blogs and how to blog.

I think this blog should set an example. It doesn't.

They leave comment and trackback spam and abusive comments on it. This is a terrible violation of the core values of blogging, ethics, etiquette, and user friendliness.

I have no wish to cause ill will between myself and Robert and Shel, or Microsoft. I like them. But what is going on with this lack of professionalism?

I've emailed them and posted hints and pleas at the site, regarding this spam problem. I've given up. They obviously don't care.

I have spent much time and effort trying to help them write and market their book. I was able to convince them to not call it "Blog or Die". I have given them a lot of free marketing advice and have received prompt replies to my questions in emails to them both.

I'd like to think that all three of us, and Microsoft, have benefited from our exchanges.

But this lack of diligence in preventing and deleting spam is not right. It's wrong.

I would be playing favorites if I let this pass, without remarking.

I present this post with great sadness, perplexity, and misgivings about their true intentions.

Here is my final comment over there, preceded by their most recent post, under which I posted my comment.



July 23, 2005

Who Blogged in a Crisis

We are now into the stretch--three chapters and 10,000-15,000 words to the end of Naked Conversations.

We've loved writing this book and we'll miss it when it's completed.

We are now writing a chapter called "Blogging in a Crisis."


But we are looking for your help.

Please tell us who you know of who has used a blog to reduce the intensity of a crisis or has blogged to successfully avoid having one.

We're also interested in hearing about companies that got hurt by not blogging.

Please keep those cards and letters coming in.

Membership-supported Naked Conversations depends opon readers like you for support.


I've lost my patience with this site.

How can you think you can write a book on blogs when you can't even delete comment spam?

This is a poor example of a "business blog".

I no longer have any confidence in this project.

Posted by: steven streight aka vaspers the grate | July 23, 2005 10:38 PM


Lesson learned: be reserved in your praise, hesitant in helping others, and gentlemanly in your severing of ties.


Saturday, July 23, 2005

13.3 million blogs

Sifry's Alerts

July 14, 2005

Scaling, performance, and plain old bug fixing

David Sifry
Founder & CEO, Technorati


Technorati is now tracking over 13.3 Million blogs, and 1.3 billion links. We are seeing over 900,000 posts per day on average, which means we're adding about 10 posts per second.

We’re also seeing about 80,000 new weblogs created each day. That’s more weblogs created each day than there were total when I started the service in November 2002.

And our search traffic has increased by over 40% month on month for each of the last 4 months.

The day of the london bombings we saw over 1.2 Million posts, and had an additional 30% increase in traffic as people turned to weblogs, moblogs, and other citizen’s media for instant updates on events in London, survivor accounts, and sharing of deep feelings on the tragedy.


And some businesses still adopt a cowardly "wait and see" attitude.

And some continue to ask "when will blogs be mainstream?"

Blogs are the biggest communications revolution since the printing press, and many analysts are saying it goes far beyond even that Gutenberg innovation.

Blogs: the first global, universal publishing system in history.

Not everyone can own a printing press, radio tower, or television station.

But anyone who can type, read, access an internet connected computer, and get on the web can have a blog.

Be happy.

We're the winners. Bloggers are taking over the media, especially since the tragic London bombings. Citizen Journalism is skyrocketing now.

The future is here. Welcome to it.

[signed] Steven Streight aka Vaspers the Grate


Comment Spam and Idiot Bloggers

Comment spam and idiot bloggers are a perfect match, they deserve each other.

What is comment spam?

How can it be spotted?

Why is it dangerous and detrimental to web users?


Comment spam, in a nutshell, is blog comment that is:

(1) irrelevant, insincere, inept

(2) sometimes pretending to be On Topic ("Nice site. I read almost the whole post. Will return to read more.")

(3) providing and promoting URLs of dubious, immoral, or dangerous web sites

(4) opportunistically taking advantage of the comment forum to trick blog readers into visiting sites that are deceptive, unethical, and may attach spyware, Trojans, worms, or viruses to your computer and your organization's network

(5) using the comment forum to post URLs to boost the search engine link popularity rankings of a dubious or detrimental site

(6) making your blog look lazy, amateur, or even working with the spammers to harm or deceive unsophisticated users, especially those new to the internet

How To Detect Comment Spam

I can spot and delete all comment spam at my blogs, which is exceedingly rare, very quickly and easily, thanks to Blogger and Gmail.

The instant a comment is posted, Blogger wisely enables me to receive an email that arrives in my inbox, as though the blog comment was an actual email message. Then, when I open that notification message, there's a link at the bottom that takes me directly to the exact post the comment was published on. Zap! It's deleted.

If you have a "Recent Comments" section in your sidebar, the task is even simpler.

Detecting and deleting comment spam is not difficult or time-consuming in most cases.

But if it is, then you need to use more sophisticated devices, like site registration, comment moderation with delayed posting, or captchas.

Here's a business blog's "Recent Comments" sidebar section.

Anyone can easily see which comments are legitimate and which are spam, simply by the "name" of the commenter. This is not rocket science.


Recent Comments

* steven streight aka vaspers the grate on Corporate Blog Tip #6 (add comments)

* zhang heng on Corporate Blog Tip #6 (add comments)

* steven streight aka vaspers the grate on Chapter 11-Doing it Right

* steven streight aka vaspers the grate on Chapter 11-Doing it Right

* russian brides and russian women on Corporate Blog Tip #6 (add comments)

* shel Israel on Chapter 11-Doing it Right

* steven streight aka vaspers the grate on Chapter 11-Doing it Right

* offshore pills on Russell says taking down posts doesn't work

* shel Israel on Chapter 11-Doing it Right

* steven streight aka vaspers the grate on Chapter 11-Doing it Right


Golly. I wonder which comments are spam?

Maybe those left by "offshore pills", "russian brides and russian women", and "zhang heng"?

Notice that on blogs that post material on "Comments" or "Comment Spam", it is often those posts that get hit with comment spam. Some sort of retaliation or mockery by the spammers.

Only a flaming idiot will let comment or trackback spam sit in their blog.

It looks stupid and it endangers both individual web users and the networks they may be connected to.

Wise up, bloggers.

The "Spam Friendly, User Hostile" list of idiot blogs may be coming soon.

I've reached the boiling point on this issue.

Look out lazy freaking blogger wankers, who demonstrate total lack of concern for users.

[signed] Steven Streight aka Vaspers the Grate