Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Me Myself and My Blog

All the bellyaching over Dave Winer has eroded an ever deeper hole in well-worn channels of Winerbashing. But, step out of the arroyo, and more interesting implications and complications emerge.

For example: Dave's gesture unsettled not only a few thousand blogs, but a bunch of unquestioned assumptions about the mode, habits, residence, control, property rights, host and parasite obligations of blogs, bloggers, and coders. Many of these questions are still unadjudicated about general matters on the web, as Professor Lessig keeps reminding us, so why should we start from anger derivative of a host of assumptions about what Winer owes us, or we him, and what blogs are anyway?

Why not imaginatively interrogate some of the deeper folds inside the car crash choreographed by Winer? Who owns a blog? and what ever gave us the idea that blogs, the most ephemeral of writing modes, are supposed to be permanent, or even to enjoy the stability which is necessary for permanence to exist? We're talking about bubbles in a limitless amazon of code.

Why do we write venemously from the standard, tedious, bourgeois position of proprietary homesteaders? I might be wrong. I was under the impression this entire experiment -- at least before MS and AOL thought it was cool -- was supposed to expand how we, our texts, our persons and languages and extensions might become, interact, change, and otherwise autopoetically expand and revise and connect in an exploratory mode. What we have mostly accomplished instead has been to establish a space for egos to exercise their matchless but up to now sadly underappreciated skills in punditry.

Aaron Swartz registers this disappointment in his own suggestive way:

So what is the coolest, newest use of the Internet? Why it’s weblogs, of course, where people can clog up the Web with daily emissions of static documents written by one person. We’ve come a long, long way together, indeed.

If I were the God of Blogs, would I be tempted to open a few spigots in the sky?

As for who owns a blog, or the work of the blog, again, the prevailing notion has all but obliterated any discussion of other views. Iago, stimulated by comments by Jeneane Sessum, points to Seb Paquet asking who owns a weblog's content, where a lively discussion surrounds the argument of whether Invisible Adjunct has the "right" to make her work disappear. Iago frames it this way:

Seb Paquet questioned the blogger as a source of value and treated the blog itself as a separate object entirely, one deserving of respect and preservation, precisely because its development over time resulted in something that is not simply a product of a single blogger but of a network of relations in which the blog itself was an important actor with whom people had constructed meaningful and important relationships.

These considerations deserve some reflection. Instead, they mostly get slammed down by self-appointed Regents of the Blogosphere whose blistering authority is beyond reproof. It is this drive to closure - a sort of instant orgasmic finalization of every question the newness of blogging has raised - that has, I believe, helped reduce the interest and diversity of the mode to a normative state of middle class torpor. I swear. It's almost as bad as television.

So there. And that's why I am not entirely having fits over Dave Winer. We blather on about disruptive techologies, but when someone actually disrupts our precious bourgeois soapbox, Katie bar the door. Even RB is getting on Winer's case. What happened to "Break your company"?

Angry dispossessed bloggers have begun threatening Dave Winer with class action suits (see comments here). So Dave is on target, according to RB's admirable business plan:

"The second milestone in the Stage One process (and the really important one) is the shareholder lawsuit."

By this metric, Dave's just been sticking to the program. This morning's promise of relief might not win him new friends, but is sure to derail the Titanic Deck Chair Rearrangement Model. Just when we were getting somewhere.

10 Comments:

Blogger Dorothea said...

Ugh. I'm on both sides of this one. I want the IA blog to survive not out of any feeling of *ownership*, though I was a frequent commenter there, but because it's a fantastic primary AND secondary source for issues I find important. In that sense -- I'm a librarian trying to re-bind a good book, whether I wrote it or not.

But, sheesh, I can't help but feel IA's pain. If she'd actually written a book, she'd be stuck, no question. But a blog *is* potentially ephemeral, and who am I to enforce permanence on someone's work when said someone doesn't want it? I've got just enough Buddhist in me to find that repugnant.

I got in touch with IA by email and gently tried to figure out what the difficulty was. She doesn't especially want to talk about it. So, you know, I didn't push. It'll end up in the Wayback Machine (per her final post), and I can live with that.

Punditry -- guilty as charged. *shrug* Mostly because Winer has historically ticked me off on many and varied levels. I'm still wogboggled that anyone was *surprised* by the manner in which the x.weblogs.com shutdown was accomplished.

6/17/2004 12:11 PM  
Blogger Rogers said...

I can't find your e-mail address, Tom. When you get a chance, please visit your site (alternate address if the DNS doesn't resolve) and let me know if you spot any improprieties.

6/17/2004 11:15 PM  
Blogger Tom Matrullo said...

Dorothea - perhaps a far-off speculation, but I'm wondering if Dave wasn't sharing, in a rather nondiscursive way, a reawakened sense of his own mortality. A memento mori, as it were. Salutary for me to receive, virtually or otherwise, regardless.

6/18/2004 9:50 AM  
Blogger Tom Matrullo said...

Rogers, thanks for the hard and successful work. My only question is the one I posted, and you have already addressed, here. You really are quite amazing.

6/18/2004 9:54 AM  
Blogger Kombinat! said...

Ha! My soapbox wasn't precious nor bourgeois. It was a disposable soapbox. I was a disposable blogger. Dave Winer did not necesarrily stop my from blogging, he cleaned up my disposable voice. He helped me dispose of my disposable identity in blogosphere which itself is disposable but has forgotten 'bout it and it treats itself as an authority on strucktural persistence.

I am playfully creating a new disposable identity at Kombinat! weblog which I will playfully dispose of at some future time.

Thanks for posting to 'Break up your company' but i guess it's not there any more. O well!

Good to have you writing Tom. Thanks for playing along in this disposable stream of voices.

Kombinat! is all about disposing of voices.

6/18/2004 4:35 PM  
Blogger Gerry said...

It is definitely an opportunity to contemplate mortality and immortality. Since I blog under my own name at a domain with my name, from my first blog entry I was thinking of the commitment of a 'permalink', to agree to make what someone might have already linked to available as long as practical at a particular address. When I get a real blog someday, the tens of pages I have written manually can just stay there as I start a new series pointing to it.

And yet it is clear that it is the bloggers individual right to continue or discontinue the active life of the blogs that carry their identity (mask or not). Another question is about whether it is or isn't fair game to seperately archive all or some of a sites content, posts and/or comments. I'm happy to see that IA's site will be archived at least. A natural progression is for the community to support the costs associated with keeping the archives going, and ideally accessable through the original permalink URL without some fancy mapping or link update process. The archive of dead domains, or something like that.

A friend I know only from the network but I'm certain I will finally meet one day, Carl Vilbrandt, is concerned with representing and storing digital data that would be accessable for thousands of years. I'm more interested in the idea of making the data actively available through a network as a durable object. Fascinating stuff.

6/19/2004 5:53 AM  
Blogger Dorothea said...

Well, good land, Gerry, hon, c'mon over to library school. Preservation is fascinating stuff to you -- to us it's a daily and somewhat depressing reality.

6/19/2004 12:37 PM  
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