Tuesday, March 08, 2005


In typical "how-do-they-get-it-so-incomplete" fashion, the MSM, in this case, the LAT (which I don't hate as much as some people, it's still what I mean when I say "The Times") takes a half-educated look at blogging by focusing on Six Apart's Movable Type blogging platform:

Together they developed a software tool for designing and organizing weblogs called Movable Type. Market statistics are rare in the informal blogosphere, which is estimated to include 8 million blogs. But considering that it's hard to find many weblogs, save for the most rudimentary, that don't run on Movable Type, it's not a stretch to say the product is probably the world's leading blogging tool.

It allows bloggers to generate pages, archive their postings by subject or category and distribute content in other Web-friendly formats. Six Apart says that Movable Type and TypePad, its paid Web hosting service, have at least 1 million registered users between them (though it doesn't break down the numbers further). Google Inc.'s Blogger weblog publishing program and BlogSpot hosting service are competitors, but they are largely free and aimed mostly at novices.

We here at Phoblog love that with Blogger we have one less site-related bill to pay. And, at exactly what point does someone cease being a "novice" blogger. I never thought I was an expert - until I was contacted by a writer working on a blogging book and several other parties seeking insight on starting blogs and attracting readers. But hey, you know, like, whatever.

I do agree with writer Michael Hiltzik on the folly of trying to pin down the 'sphere's true identity:

During last year's presidential campaign, it seemed to burst into broad public consciousness; partisan bloggers' noisy role in some of the more contentious episodes of the election started people talking about whether blogging is good, bad or indifferent for society.

My own take is that the question is irrelevant. Blogs are tools for self-expression, no better or worse than the thought that goes into them. Some are indispensable, others vacuous; some brilliant, others infantile; some left, others right; some have things to say to the entire world, others seem to speak exclusively to their owners' navels. I couldn't say which way the balance tips in any of those categories, but I suspect that it's the same balance one will find among American newspapers, movies and the inventory at Barnes & Noble.
Well, I agree with everything but that last conclusion. I don't think there's a BN big enough for all of the 'sphere's many corners.

One blogger, linked from my other blog's sister site, blogging.la, captures the same, scrappy, hey-we're not chopped-liver reaction I had to the summary dismissal of the Blogger platform.

While Phoblog runs off Blogger, my other creative outlet, Metroblogging San Francisco, uses Movable Type. So which is better?

I don't know.

It comes down to which you're more comfortable with. I started with Blogger, I know how to use it, it does everything I need it to do - and probably some things I don't even use it for yet. MT has more bells & whistles, so I'm told, but I haven't found anything on their platform that is so must-have that I'd move Phoblog over. MT can categorize by subjects? You can index things? That's great, I guess. But you can also just google search if you want to know all the times I've mentioned "Jim Hahn" or "George Bush sucks" on this site. It's likely more accurate too, since I would no doubt suffer from enough laziness to index incorrectly or not at all.

And, as mentioned by blogger Tony Pierce, I too would rather have a Google-backed product. Those guys seem pretty good at what they do, and as they chomp up more 3d party add-on providers, etc, Blogger just gets newer and cooler stuff anyway.

The final blow to MT's street cred, however, comes in the article's closing quotation from consultant Barak Berkowitz - former Apple and Walt Disny Go Network (is that still around?) guy who helped with the decision by financial backers to invest in MT:

"The future of blogging is not about bloggers who want audiences of thousands," Berkowitz says. "The majority will be those communicating with four others or so." He may be right: The key to making an invention useful is to turn it from a technology into a tool.

Say what?

The hell I'm writing this thing to reach four people. Sure, maybe that's all I get, but at night, I dream of Josh Marshall levels of readership. Again, Tony Pierce sums it up well: to communicate with four others, use email - another free and presumably novice form of tech-ed out communication.

The key to making an invention useful IS to turn it into a tool. Which many have done - from MT to Blogger to others. MT's just a brand, though, they aren't Google-like in their invention, as far as I know. They're part of a group of pioneers, not THE pioneer.

Vanity projects want four readers. Tech-centered bloggers might care more for MT's nuances. Content-driven bloggers, like Phoblog, care that our platforms publish when we tell them too. That's pretty much it. It's a creative tension I feel when working on the SF Metro blog - is blogging a substantive entity, or merely a language, a procedure by which information is disseminated. I'd argue the latter. This article, goes with option A and manages to get even that much wrong.

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