Posts Tagged ‘Blogging’

Economics of blogs

October 25, 2007

Felix Salmon summarises an hour long talk of Tyler Cowen on the economics of blogging (and, the very enjoyable and extremely readable summary comes with strong recommendations from Cowen himself). There are also some very interesting tips in there. I especially liked this one a lot:

He also has a compelling analysis of the aspirational nature of blogs. Highbrow blogs often do better than lowbrow blogs, because readers like to think of themselves as being reasonably highbrow.

I’ll write a post and I’ll say “marginal rate of substitution”, which to an economist is straightforward, but even to a very smart social scientist who doesn’t know a lot of economics, they might not know exactly what this means. And certainly the common man won’t know. So when I write “marginal rate of substitution”, why don’t I put in a link to Wikipedia, or define it in parentheses? Won’t more people read the blog then? I think actually that more people actually will read the blog when you don’t define “marginal rate of substitution”. By not defining it you make your blog a smarter blog, it feels to the people who are reading it that they’re being aspirational, and that they’re learning more. It’s higher demand through exclusivity. If you link everything to Wikipedia, people think that blog isn’t so smart after all, it doesn’t feel that wonderful of a club to belong to.

May be I should start reducing the wiki links in my blogposts so that I can make this blog more aspirational and highbrow? 🙂 A must-read piece (and, I probably am going to watch Cowen’s talk too within the next couple of days). Have fun!

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HowTo: blog better

October 15, 2007

In the October 2007 issue of Blogger and Podcaster, Lorelle VanFossen gives seven tips to better blogging (though, I am not able to get the URL/permalink for the article):

  • Write good links;
  • Write descriptions for images, podcasts, flash, and video;
  • Use headings appropriately;
  • Break-up paragraphs;
  • Use block-quotes appropriately and correctly;
  • Dont abuse bold and italic type styles; and,
  • Stop writing inscrutable post titles.

I found that there is plenty of room for improvement of my blogging style (and, my standards seem to fall short of what VanFossen recommends except for tips 4, 5, and 6). The piece describes these bulleted points in greater detail, with examples. Take a look!

Blogging as a dissertation writing tool

October 7, 2007

Amardeep recommends blogging for writing English dissertations faster:

One new tool for fighting academic isolation that I would suggest might be to find a sense of community online, by blogging the dissertation. It might sound anti-intuitive; several humanities scholar-bloggers I respect have argued that blogging under one’s own name while still in grad school might do more harm than good. (The same folks have suggested you should watch out as junior faculty too! Oh well.) Perhaps graduate students interested in this track might get the benefit without the potential harm by blogging about their progress in the dissertation under a pseudonym?

One of the problems mentioned in the comments is claiming ownership of the idea:

There’s one problem with blogging a dissertation under a pseudonym: if you have a genuinely original idea, you can’t claim ownership of it were someone to, say, borrow a portion of it. As someone who is, roundaboutly, blogging his dissertation, I think it’s critical that I retain control of my ideas — the fact that I dominate the relevant Google searches is a comfort in this regard, inasmuch as anyone interested in learning more about potentially stolen ideas will quickly find their origin.

Of course, one way of overcoming this is to maintain a technical forum like iMechanica, where people can blog, but whose time stamps are reliable for making originality claims; it further has the advantage of giving wide publicity that Amardeep talks about too.

Blogging and newspapers

October 6, 2007

Mark Thoma is thinking of a business model wherein digital era newspapers can allow blogs to embed their content (with ads), and is wondering why it isn’t happening already:

Why don’t newspapers and magazines do this, but embed ads in the articles just as ads are embedded in TV programs? Suppose you see an Op-ed you want to post on your blog. Just as with YouTube or Google video, there could be a button at the bottom of each article to push to post the article to your blog. In the article, or beside the article in the sidebar, ads would appear (my preference would be to give up sidebar space for Google style ads that run beside the article). The agreement would be that you can run the articles freely so long as the ads are there.

This seems to have lots of advantages. Newspapers would increase their circulating substantially as their articles went out to all the blogs, and since the ads would accompany the articles their ad revenue ought to increase. People running blogs would have free access to content without worry about copyright, etc., allowing them to collect information from various publications and specialize in particular topics (e.g. economics). Newspapers would, essentially, be like TV stations of old and blogs would play the role of TVs (though with more specialization) and receive and show the content along with the embedded ads.

What am I missing about the economics that would make this infeasible?

Take a look!

Mukul Kesavan on blogging: Edition 2

October 3, 2007

First he said that they (and, by that he meant Indian men between 25 and 60) write only about Hindi movies, English books, foreign places travelled to and pseudo-secularism, and, offered some (rather forgettable) explanations too for their obsessions.

Next he faulted bloggers for their narcissism, obsessive fact checking, and derivative and self-indulgent writing.

Now, he is writing about the kind of blogging that is debauching writing:

A kind reader pointed out to me that the genre of blog writing I had described and criticized in last week’s column was best understood as bourgeois blogese, blogging devoted to opinion, random reflection and polemic. Typically, blogs of this sort consist of little editorials written by the blogger about the subjects that concern him with links to the writing that he likes or dislikes on those subjects.

It is this genre of blog that debauches writing. Here, the great strength of the form — the near-absolute freedom to say what you want — becomes a serious problem. Anonymity, instead of being a necessary invisibility cloak for the samizdat blogger, becomes, for our editorialist, a licence to ‘be himself’, which is always a bad idea because as a writer it’s one’s best self that’s attractive, not the self that rolls out of bed and begins to hold forth on the state of the world without brushing its teeth. In blogs that publish comments, anonymity turns into a ranter’s charter, where readers freed from all restraint and inhibition, turn threads into sewage.

Pretty soon the anonymity induced sewage is replaced by non-anonymous, “opinion-mongering”, “bourgeois” “monoculture” of blogs:

The successful bourgeois blog is the blog that assembles a large congregation of the like-minded. It’s a monoculture. Reading it regularly as an outsider is nearly impossible because it reads like a televangelist’s lecture: always with a message (the message could be anarchist, left wing, liberal, libertarian, conservative), with constant references to the enemy (the overarching state, lefties, America) and (this is the most unbearable part) endless self-promotion. The editorializing blogger is a walking advertisement for himself. Ironically, despite the drumbeat of derisive references to the MSM (the mainstream media), the self-promotion generally consists of references to articles published by the blogger in newspapers or (more rarely) books published on old-fashioned paper.

Of course, this time around, Kesavan does name names. After all that, of course the saviour is (no prizes for guessing correctly):

Fortunately, the company that has come to define both sharply defined search and targeted advertising, Google, has also pioneered the news aggregator site. Google News is, I think, the newspaper remade for the net. The aggregator site with special versions for different countries (like regional editions of a newspaper) is the meta-daily, which offers the reader the diversity of a newspaper (politics, sport, business, technology, the arts and entertainment) with the added bonus of dozens, even hundreds, of takes on the same piece of news. Its expansiveness is the perfect antidote to the claustrophobia induced by sustained blog-reading. The solipsism of the blogger is balanced by the mainstream media’s documentation of a world that a diversity of readers can share.

Probably, Kesavan is not aware that mainstream media could be equally fragmented; and, that newspapers (like Hindu, which is perceived to be left of centre–and, I was reliably told because N Ram happens to be a “bigtime leftie”, or, to take another extreme example, say, Samna) too are read by their own monoculture. Probably, also, Kesavan is not aware of the explosion of local dailies and how they cater to local public and report mostly local news (I remember Sevanti Ninen writing about a widow who advertised her cow in the local Hindi daily and got a few hundred rupees more than what she would otherwise have got). What is more surprising, Kesavan does not seem to have met people who read only sports, opinion, entertainment, or, even, letters to the editor column and nothing else in the newspapers — he seems to imply that since newspapers print all that, all the people who get them, are also reading all that! And, it is a real pity that Kesavan does not seem to be aware of blogs which are scholarly, with no axe to grind, and also report with a diversity that readers can share.

I do not know how many more articles on blog-bashing that Kesavan is planning to write. However, I think I have made my point. And, I promise the readers of this blog that this is my last rant on Kesavan’s views on blogging (lest he accuse me of living parasitically on his columns). To paraphrse Kesavan himself, reading his rants regularly as an outsider is nearly impossible because it reads like a televangelist’s lecture: always with a message (greatness of main stream media), with constant references to the enemy (blogs) and (this is the most unbearable part) endless self-promotion.

Blogs as descriptions of reality

October 1, 2007

“… think about blogs, how each one is actually trying to describe reality.”

“They are?”

“In theory.”

“Okay.”

“But when you look at blogs, where you’re most likely to find the real info is in the links. It’s contextual, and not only who the blog’s linked to, but who’s linked to the blog.”

She looked at him. “Thanks.” …

From William Gibson‘s Spook Country.

Mukul Kesavan on blogging

September 26, 2007

The average blog tends to be a person’s online journal, an archive of his writing and an inventory of his interests all rolled into one. Narcissism is built into the form. So is coyness. The blogger must do two things at once: cultivate his readers while being his interesting self. All writers have to do this in lesser or greater degree, but nowhere is the lag between writing, reception and response so small, and in no other medium is it so continuous. How to draw attention to your cleverness while being disinterestedly intelligent about matters of general interest becomes the daily challenge for the diligent blogger. It is an impossible tight-rope to walk for any length of time and it invariably ends in unstable combinations of knowingness and modesty or self-congratulation and discretion, whereupon an awful coyness is born.

If the weaknesses of blogging spring from individual self-love, its strengths are collective. Bloggers are the conscience of the internet and, increasingly, of the mainstream media. Any error of fact, however small, made by me on my cricket blog is snouted up in a matter of hours, if not sooner. Bloggers learn to get their facts right because their peers and their readers are so unforgiving. Newspaper columnists used to get away with much more than they do now because there’s an army of unpaid fact-checkers cruising online who see it as their life’s work to ‘fisk’ sloppy opinion or reportage.

Blogging at its best is intelligent conversation between the blogger and his readers. Collectively, blogging serves an important editorial purpose. But, on the whole, blogging produces derivative and self-indulgent writing. It’s ironic that ‘fisking’, the blogger’s verb for aggressive or hostile fact-checking, is named after Robert Fisk, Britain’s most distinguished foreign correspondent, who has lived in and reported from the Middle East for the past quarter of a century. His trenchant critique of Anglo-American foreign policy has made him a byword for bias amongst right-wing bloggers. That a great journalist who has survived danger and risked death to live in the region he reports from, whose reportage has made him the doyen of Middle-Eastern reporting, should become the blogosphere’s measure of unreliability, tells us something about the frictionless sterility of the blogger’s online world.

From the latest Telegraph piece of Mukul Kesavan; and, more interestingly, from the piece, I found that Kesavan does indeed blog about cricket; Cf. with Kesavan’s one of the earlier columns and the responses to it.

Feeling God-like at the microscope

September 25, 2007

My own affair with Nano began with my doctoral studies at the University of Cambridge in 1962. It was an awesome experience to look at atoms with the field-ion microscope and feel God-like in evaporating tungsten atoms at liquid nitrogen temperature. This microscope predates the Feynman lecture and not many may know that its invention is due to the collaboration between Erwin Mueller and Kanwar Bahadur, who were the first to see specimens with atomic resolution in 1956.

That is Nomad Metallurgist (alias Prof. S Ranganathan aka SR aka Rangu) talking about nanotechnology.

It is not just technology, metallurgy, and microscopes that are discussed in the blog. Here is another post on his visit to Syria which quotes from an article about Syria, for example:

In certain quarters, Syrian lingerie is famous. You may not think so, but the fact is that you may be wearing it and never know. There are Syrian exporters who employ people to cut the “Made in Syria” labels out of frilly knickers and lacy bras, and replace them with ones that say “Made in Italy” prior to exporting them. A friend of mine in Damascus does precisely this job. But what is the reason for Syria’s infiltration of so many of the world’s underwear cupboards? Why Syria, of all places?
A wander around the capital Damascus gives no clues at first. Syrian culture is relatively conservative and this is reflected in what people wear on the streets. But if you know what you’re looking for, you’ll gradually start to spot it: a window of lace-up basques here, a display of fishnets there, and over there—an eyeful of bras and boas that would put the Playboy Mansion to shame. A lot of local men have a taste for such things because they’re “like children,” posits the manager of the upper-end Charme lingerie store. “They get bored easily so a girl must have many outfits.” In fact, she needs up to 30 lingerie sets for her trousseau, says Malu Halasa, co-editor of the forthcoming book The Secret Life of Syrian Lingerie. That demand helps to explain the prolific production of underwear in Syria, and its manufacturing expertise. On the supply side, Damascus’ prime position on the Silk Road has flooded the city with silks and satins since time immemorial.

Certainly a blog for your bookmarks/feedcatchers. Take a look!

Hat Tip: Abi

Blogging as flexing the writing muscles!

September 24, 2007

I learned when you are running a professional blog that has to be updated every day (or five days a week), you just can’t be brilliant every day. You have days where you have no clue what to blog about or when you’re just not inspired, but still you have to post. I also learned that posts I think might be amazing may get no response while other posts that I didn’t think were that great generate lots of comments. I have found ways to produce content that don’t rely on me having to write full blown posts all the time. I do a lot of Q&As (like this), repost some of the more interesting comments and have easy features like Ypulse Quote (where I find a relevant and interesting quote) or From The Ypulse WTF files (a short post about something that just makes you scratch your head).

I think blogging is a great way to work your writing muscles and develop/strengthen your writing voice — it takes focus and discipline and it’s public so you get feedback on what you do.

From Seth’s blog.