Is Facebook Killing the Blog?

There was a time, I call them the good ol’ days, when this humble blog was the anchor of a small but interesting community. I took great pleasure in the contributions of the blogcomm, as Funkmaster G-Force dubbed it; there was a second, more interesting layer under my ramblings — conversations that could last months, novel ideas and clever rebuttals. Traditions grew, and along with them a lexicon that applied only here. Members of the blogcomm even coordinated travel plans in those comment threads.

Things change. Facebook, for better or worse, has become the de facto place for online communities. I started announcing my new episodes on Facebook, and for a while that actually grew the community. Then people started assuming they would hear about new episodes from Facebook. Then Facebook started not telling everyone who has said they want to know, unless I pay. And if I don’t have a picture associated with my episode, the notice Facebook grudgingly gives up is almost invisible in the ridiculous noise of the news feed.

And the best discussions, those that would last weeks, die out more quickly now; people leave comments in Facebook-space and those that don’t join the discussion right away are left out.

To be fair this blog has changed as well; I’m working a corporate job at a company that doesn’t appreciate blabbermouths, and so a big part of my life is off-limits. But those changes began long after the erosion of the Muddled Community was well under way.

Meanwhile, many of the community functions that my blog offered to the regulars were supplanted by Facebook’s promise of group communication. It was only natural that the blogcomm would move. But as far as I can tell, the blogcomm didn’t move. It died. Where there was a group, now there is a series of individual broadcasts, the efficiency of which is governed by Facebook’s arcane rules. Perhaps the blogcomm was reincarnated in a form I don’t recognize, but I miss hearing from nico, f-g-f, gizo, and the rest. This is ultimately on me; if I had kept things interesting enough here, folks would still be around. Unless those folks were relying on Facebook to tell them when I posted a new episode.

Times change. It’s quite possible that using this format for personal expression and community building is obsolete. The thing is, social media in general and Facebook in particular don’t seem to be doing a good job of replacing it. Facebook sure looked promising back in the day, but when they decided to make their money honestly (charging their users) in addition to the making it dishonestly (selling their users) the way they always had, the whole dynamic changed. Now you pay to be seen on Facebook, and everyone agrees that they will quit that dang platform and…

Find another social media service that hasn’t started asking them for money yet. But mostly people don’t do anything except complain. As far as I know (which isn’t very far), Google’s social platform is still evil-only in terms of how they make their money, but even they haven’t managed to create a meaningful exodus from Facebook.

Facebook has become a giant advertising platform that we all dance on. Long ago I thought to use them to build my audience. For free. Facebook doesn’t owe me anything; I wanted a one-way relationship where Facebook would expand my audience and I would give nothing in return. Now they want something in return, and I’m not willing to give it. I’m the asshole in this relationship. But maybe it’s time for a breakup.

Huh. I did not expect to reach that conclusion when I started typing this episode, but I can’t argue the logic. Maybe it’s time we broke up. Maybe it’s time I started rebuilding the blogcomm honestly.

2

Son of Spam

A week has passed since my last episode, for which I am profoundly sorry. Happily, young Ms. Shaw from the previous episode (I picture her as a college student with the unenviable job of combing through responses to emails that robots send out with her name attached) wrote a follow-up letter (well, a robot did, anyway) which inspired me to compose another response.

This time I actually sent it to the poor benighted young lady, to give her a little smile, a brief ray of sunshine as she toils in her corner of the sub-basement of a decaying building, her only sources of light her flickering computer screen and a feeble incandescent swinging naked from a wire, while water drips from a large pipe that runs horizontally through the middle of her “space”. The only thing that breaks up the monotony of her job are visits from her cigar-smoking, foul-mouthed ogre of a boss.

I’m pretty sure, if you read between the lines of the original message, that all that is in there. And more. But this isn’t about poor Katie, who really just needs to earn enough money to pay for her mother’s new kidney before she’s out of there for the bright lights of Hollywood. This is about me. Here’s what she will be reading when she comes in to the office tomorrow (at 6am, after the early shift at Dunkin Donuts, with just enough time to study for her Quantum Electrodynamics exam):

Dear Ms. Shaw,

Indeed I do remember your previous email. I get messages like this from time to time, but yours struck a particular chord with me. I think it was the phrase “professionally written in line with your site’s theme and voice.” An intriguing dialectic, that.

First, this thing you call “theme”. The theme of Muddled Ramblings and Half-Baked Ideas is much like Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster; while there may be a few crackpots who believe a theme exists, the more level-headed among us realize their ravings are just a cry for attention. We smile and nod and move on, trying not to encourage them, but we remain mildly worried what they might do if we too readily dismiss their silliness or roll our eyes once too often.

Second, your humorous use of “professional” and “my … voice” in the same sentence did indeed give me a little laugh. Trust me, Katie (may I call you Katie?) there’s nothing professional about MR&HBI. On a good day I might achieve “whimsical” or more often “snarky”, but professional is right out. The site’s been active for over ten years, is approaching a million words of content, yet “professional” remains a distant dream, my Xanadu, if you will; glimpsed in a fevered vision only to shatter on the jagged shore of reality.

My metaphors aren’t very tight, either.

Ironically, despite all that I have just said, cher Katie, you have already provided me with content for Muddled Ramblings and Half-Baked Ideas. You see, I was tickled enough by your first request that I devoted a small episode to it, including another, briefer hypothetical response that contains no references to opiate-addled Romantic poets. So I guess I owe you one.

Yours in Perpetuity,
Jerry Seeger

Note: for veracity I left in the improper semicolon.

2

I’m back!

Well, more or less. The months-long grind at work is over, culminating with a swift kick to the professional groin as I missed my deadline despite working every waking hour (after a while I enforced a five-hours-of-sleep rule) for a couple of months, and even before that at least ten hours a day, weekends included, since January.

My apologies to those I’ve snubbed in the last while, especially those passing birthday wishes my direction. What I had planned as a glorious celebration of my half-century on this planet turned out to be a really shitty day.

I’ve taken a little time off from work since then, to get my feet under me, to get my health habits restored, and to generally feel human again. I still dream about the project, and find myself lying in the early mornings going through the solutions to some of the pending tasks on a project that no longer exists. It was so very close to being so very very cool.

The last few days I’ve managed to get a little bit of creative juice flowing, and perhaps soon I’ll be ready to write that retrospective on the last fifty years. April 2th (rhymes with ‘tooth’) has come and gone, but still deserves some observation. In the meantime I’ve got The Monster Within, which by God I’m going to see in book form this year if I have to publish it myself.

Next week I might be ready for human interaction again, so those I’ve been ignoring should be hearing from me soon. Thanks for your patience!

Blog Week!

I’ve been bad about posting here lately, for a variety of reasons. It’s not that I haven’t been writing at all; I’ve got some things in the hopper waiting for finishing touches and I’ve got a few other things queued up in my head. So this week I’m taking a little slice out of my Nethack time (more on that later), perhaps making an exception in my weight-loss plan (more on that later, too), to bring out a bevy of fascinating bon mots to cheer your evenings, at the astounding rate of one episode per day!

I’ll be starting tonight, with a rant about Mrs. Fields’ cookies. You don’t have to thank me, it’s what I do.

1

Remember me?

You would think that damn near forty-eight hours on a train would lead to a burst of blogging activity. I would have thought so myself. But no, I spent the time reading instead. It was pleasant. Then I got back to town and while I had collected some interesting stories on the road, I just wasn’t inspired to write about them.

Perhaps someday I’ll tell you about Charlie, the deep, gravelly-voiced dark-black (Barry White after 10,000 packs) man shorter than me from Louisiana who sat next to me from Los Angeles to San Jose, who was once stabbed in the neck by a random asshole and probably would have killed said asshole if he hadn’t passed out from blood loss first. That’s the way he tells it anyway. At the trial the prosecutor asked Charlie, “what do you think we should do with this man?” “Give him to me,” Charlie said. According to him, that broke up the courtroom. Charlie was all about making sure his grandchildren didn’t get into the same shit he did. He was all right. But man, he liked to talk.

I took refuge from Charlie in the window car (Lounge car? Observation car?) that sat atop the train bar. From Santa Barbara well north a pair of guides in forest green uniforms spoke through a makeshift little PA system, telling us about the history of the places we rolled through. It was pretty cool, actually. Figs, rockets, railroad lore, and pretty scenery. Between lectures I read a novel by a guy who is not afraid to kill people you like. Maybe more on that later.

But I’ve been back now a couple of weeks and then some, and I haven’t even checked in on my favorite blogs. I’m in a twilight place, with an intimidating literary to-do list, and I’m pretty much frozen. I check Facebook more than I ever have before, clearly a sign of the apocalypse. I even retweeted something yesterday. (Spelling checker does not object to retweeted. I’m not sure how I feel about that.)

So, now I feel the need to reconnect. I’ll start with my favorite comics, then go and read the blog episodes I’ve missed, and leave comments that are far past stale.

And here at MR&HBI, I’ve got some ideas. Not new ideas, but ideas. We’ll see.

Quick Note to Blogspot Folks

Don’t know why it is, but when I try to post to your blogs using my OpenID, it doesn’t work. I’ve also failed with a couple other methods, and the remaining options are overly invasive. Tried two different blogs today (Dahveed, three times) without success.

Probably I’ll give in and use my fuckin’ Google credentials eventually, and hopefully that will work, but I’d really rather not. So, in the meantime, know that my silence is nothing personal.

1

An Email I Just Sent – Updated!

An email I just sent:

You guys left comment spam on my blog! Not the sort of behavior I expect from a hosting provider — probably against your own terms of service (which I suspect you don’t enforce). Ironically, since the topic of my blog episode was colocation, you could have left an honest message about your services, something like “we can beat the price of the company you endorsed.” (You can’t, though. Not even close.) Or maybe, “One thing your readers might want to consider is…” I would have welcomed that. All you had to do was be honest about who you were.

But you didn’t, so, stop it. If it happens again I shall shake my tiny fist in public, and have no negative impact on your business whatsoever because I’m just some obscure back-water blogger to whom exactly no one turns for colocation advice. But the next guy you annoy may not be.

Jerry Seeger
muddledramblings.com

So, yeah, I said I would shake my tiny fist if they did it again, and here I am tiny-fist-shaking anyway. I decided that by not giving the name of the hosting company I’m still within the spirit of the threat. (‘Threat’ used in the broadest sense of the word.)

UPDATE:

I find that when I complain to companies about their spamming practices, I get one of two responses. Either I’m ignored, or I get a request for more information. Then there’s these guys, who both took my tiny-fist-shaking seriously, and flattered me in the process. Here’s the message I got in return for my above rant, in its entirety except for contact info redacted at the request of Mr. Welbourn:

Jerry,

Thank you so much for bringing this to my attention. It was not I who “comment spammed” your blog but I suspect it was a company hired by me to provide search engine optimization services.

If possible, it would be greatly appreciated if you could forward me the comment. .

This is my first foray into the realm of SEO companies. In the past, I have been very hesitant to engage with these firms as they all claim to have some “secret sauce” and are reluctant to share their strategies and tactics. Unfortunately, while we are an extremely high quality colo provider in the Chicago area, we are somewhat of a well-kept secret amongst the Ubergeeks of the world and I really need to boost my web traffic. After some extensive research, follow up with several references and completing what I felt was substantial due-diligence, I entered into an agreement with a vendor who will remain nameless until I am able to get to the bottom of this.

Their services were described to me as a combination of on-site and off-site components. The on-site modifications were pretty simple text revisions to make the key words I am targeting more prevalent in the copy of our website. The off-site component, which is handled 100% by the vendor, consists of establishing external links to our website.

I assume this is where muddleramblings.com became involved.

If their off-site methodology includes “comment spamming” blogs then I imagine our relationship will be a short one. I spent an enormous amount of time with them explaining what we do, how we do it and how we would like to be represented. While I have not yet seen the content of the comment, since it annoyed you and prompted you to shake your fist, I am sure it must be obvious spam and the sort of thing I would not want to be associated with.

Any additional information you can provide would be helpful.

By the way, I spent some time reading some of the muddled ramblings. I like your style.

Regards,

Don Welbourn

Director of Sales / Account Relations
360 Technology Center Solutions

It’s interesting on a lot of levels. First, even people who try really hard to do the right thing have to trust the companies marketing their product. In his letter giving me permission to publish the above, Mr. Welbourn said he had clarified with his marketing company what was and was not acceptable. He also said that Munchies would make a great movie.

Pardon me while I pat myself on the back with my tiny fist — I helped a company maintain its ethics and microscopically reduced the amount of spam in the world. And hats off to Mr. Welbourn, for taking the issue so seriously. I like the way those guys conduct business. If you’re in the market for enterprise-level colocation services (and who isn’t?), maybe you should drop by 360tcs.com.