.

 

'Log Frenzy (Abstract)

Gentle suggestions.

It's not a contest.

Why is So Much of the Web So Bad?

Many people who create personal Web sites believe that by becoming famous, they will become less lonely.

Home Pages, Weblogs, Journals, Diaries

Narrative is the original knowledge interface: myth, story, folk wisdom.

Rhetoric was the original discipline for narrative user-interface development.

Some humans prefer good stories to more "interface."

Ideas for Link-focused Weblogs

Weblogs are regularly updated Web sites featuring links to other sites, usually with commentary for each link. Examples are Jorn Barger's Robot Wisdom and Dave Winer's Scripting News. as well as a large pile of Pitas and such sites as GeeGaw and DavidChess.


Ftrain Administrative Note

Polite weblogs and sites link to a whole Ftrain article, which shows respect for the author's work. Impolite weblogs and sites link only to the images on Ftrain, without crediting the site, which "steals" the context. People click, view the image, and click "back" to keep reading the original site. Sum value for Ftrain? Zero.

For a long time, Weblogs and some businesses continually linked to this image, without providing a link to the associated article or to Ftrain proper. While this lack of attribution was not illegal or even bad, it was certainly impolite, maybe even parasitic, and somewhat plagiaristic.

One day, the author simply changed that image to this one.

To recap: before... after.

Suddenly, several thousand people clicked on words like "funny paperclip" and "cool graphic" and "isn't this perfect" to see a new, surprise picture which conveys a different message than they might have expected. Since the authors of those pages which linked didn't credit Ftrain, they were probably seen as responsible for the image themselves. Not my problem.

Within days, almost all of the uncredited links were gone!


For a long time, Weblogs and some businesses continually linked to this image, without providing a link to the associated article or to Ftrain proper. While this lack of attribution was not illegal or even bad, it was certainly impolite, maybe even parasitic, and somewhat plagiaristic.

One day, the author simply changed that image to this one.

To recap: before... after.

Suddenly, several thousand people clicked on words like "funny paperclip" and "cool graphic" and "isn't this perfect" to see a new, surprise picture which conveys a different message than they might have expected. Since the authors of those pages which linked didn't credit Ftrain, they were probably seen as responsible for the image themselves. Not my problem.

Within days, almost all of the uncredited links were gone!


The Weblog is a new form in the world of arts and letters. How could the Weblog "form" be expanded in regards to narrative, not technology, to become exciting and valuable over time?

Forms (Proposed)

  1. DiaLog. Create two fictional characters, and have them post their links and commentary on alternate days. Build a dialog between them. Explore their differences. Build their characters. Have them argue.
  2. OppoLog. Whenever you post a link to a position, post a link to a counterposition. Argue both sides. Be belligerent.
  3. ResoLog. Similar to OppoLog -- but seek resolution between disparate opinions, rather than reinforcing the argument.
  4. RootLog. For each link, post an accompanying link to the root concept, or to a topic in a given context. If you post some news about the GNP, identify an economics link that explains the concept thoroughly. If you write about nanotechnology, find a link about molecular interactions. Genetics is part of biology, part of natural science, which is in turn a structure of knowledge which can be criticized through the study of epistemology on one side and cognition on the other. An alternative approach to the RootLog might be to use a "critical layer" to criticize the text of your links. You might use rhetoric to find the rhetorical constructs and structures inside your linked texts and identify bias, or you might use sociobiological theory to show how different news can be interpreted from an strict, E.O. Wilson evolutionary perspective. Find the root of different forms of knowledge and knowledge construction. Form opinions. Draw connections between different disciplines.
  5. MeroLog. Identify the intellectual components of a given topic. Economics contains macroeconomics and microeconomics, game theory, and relates to politics. Paint has pigment. Genetics contains DNA, Mendelian heredity, microbiology, cancer, and so forth.
  6. TextLog. Break up a public-domain text into component parts and post a new, brief section each day, with related web links and discussion. The Bible, the works of David Hume or Darwin, and the novels of Thomas Hardy are all available free of charge, and could be well used this way.
  7. ConnectLog. Similar to RootLog. Find connections between different ideas and things. Every day, connect your new links to your old ones. Name the different cognitive links and explain your thinking process.
  8. QueryLog. Ask people to fill in the blanks for you. (This one's been done by www.dmoz.org and Slashdot, relentlessly, but maybe you can figure out a way to direct it so that people get involved at a higher level.)
  9. MemeSmear. Track an idea - like the Elian Gonzales problem or MP3 issues. Show how the language around the issue evolves and changes from one idea to another. Develop a cogent system of the evolution and transformation of concepts in our cultural framework. Obtain Ph.D. in same. Write book. Become a legend.
  10. NarraLog. A weblog with "current" entries which are also organized by topic. Build longer "narratives" over time. (Like Ftrain tries to be, but hopefully you'll do better.)
  11. CharaLog. Create a character and browse in their guise. Make up children for them, or parents. Have them tell their life story over time, and define their Web selves. Keep it funny. Confuse others. Be nasty.
  12. OxyLog/ParaLog. Use the classic "links + commentary" form, but log items not found on the Internet.
  13. ForeLog. Post links to stories about current issues. Identify what you think the outcome of the stories will be. Back up your ideas.
  14. OppoLog. Whenever you post a link to a position, post a link to a counterposition. Argue both sides. Be belligerent.
  15. ResoLog. Similar to OppoLog -- but seek resolution between disparate opinions, rather than reinforcing the argument.
  16. RootLog. For each link, post an accompanying link to the root concept, or to a topic in a given context. If you post some news about the GNP, identify an economics link that explains the concept thoroughly. If you write about nanotechnology, find a link about molecular interactions. Genetics is part of biology, part of natural science, which is in turn a structure of knowledge which can be criticized through the study of epistemology on one side and cognition on the other. An alternative approach to the RootLog might be to use a "critical layer" to criticize the text of your links. You might use rhetoric to find the rhetorical constructs and structures inside your linked texts and identify bias, or you might use sociobiological theory to show how different news can be interpreted from an strict, E.O. Wilson evolutionary perspective. Find the root of different forms of knowledge and knowledge construction. Form opinions. Draw connections between different disciplines.
  17. MeroLog. Identify the intellectual components of a given topic. Economics contains macroeconomics and microeconomics, game theory, and relates to politics. Paint has pigment. Genetics contains DNA, Mendelian heredity, microbiology, cancer, and so forth.
  18. TextLog. Break up a public-domain text into component parts and post a new, brief section each day, with related web links and discussion. The Bible, the works of David Hume or Darwin, and the novels of Thomas Hardy are all available free of charge, and could be well used this way.
  19. ConnectLog. Similar to RootLog. Find connections between different ideas and things. Every day, connect your new links to your old ones. Name the different cognitive links and explain your thinking process.
  20. QueryLog. Ask people to fill in the blanks for you. (This one's been done by www.dmoz.org and Slashdot, relentlessly, but maybe you can figure out a way to direct it so that people get involved at a higher level.)
  21. MemeSmear. Track an idea - like the Elian Gonzales problem or MP3 issues. Show how the language around the issue evolves and changes from one idea to another. Develop a cogent system of the evolution and transformation of concepts in our cultural framework. Obtain Ph.D. in same. Write book. Become a legend.
  22. NarraLog. A weblog with "current" entries which are also organized by topic. Build longer "narratives" over time. (Like Ftrain tries to be, but hopefully you'll do better.)
  23. CharaLog. Create a character and browse in their guise. Make up children for them, or parents. Have them tell their life story over time, and define their Web selves. Keep it funny. Confuse others. Be nasty.
  24. OxyLog/ParaLog. Use the classic "links + commentary" form, but log items not found on the Internet.
  25. ForeLog. Post links to stories about current issues. Identify what you think the outcome of the stories will be. Back up your ideas.

  1. LifeLog. Log things offline. Log your children, books, asphalt, trees, bugs. Describe them using beautiful language. Get off the computer. (ParaLog.)
  2. RaceLog. Regularly document links related to racial prejudice, whether black or white or other. Alternatively: RapeLog, PovertyLog. Form opinions and take risks. Foster dialog. (ResoLog.)
  3. TheoLog. Athiests vs. Christians. Argue both sides. (Oppolog.)
  4. PoliLog. Create four characters: a Republican, a Democrat, a Libertarian, and an Anarchist. Have them post and argue among themselves. Get inside of their heads. (Oppolog.)
  5. CritiLog. Link to critical texts - film reviews, books reviews, etc. Provide historical critical contexts for the thinking in those texts - Aristotle, I.A. Richards, Terry Eagleton, Samuel Johnson, etc - and challenge their accuracy and bias. (RootLog.) There's an astoudingly well-developed example of this sort of thing in economics at FAIR with their Economic Reporting Review, where Dean Baker breaks down economics reporting for accuracy and bias.
  6. ArtSciLog. For every cultural activity, find a corresponding scientific way to interpret it. Art -> The Science of Light; Music -> The Science of Sound. Also the inverse: SciArtLog, where you identify or create aesthetic possibilities for each technology you log. (MeroLog.)
  7. CorpLog. Remark on the activities of corporations. Show the social and political precedents for their actions, and identify consequences. (RootLog, Forelog.)
  8. ClassicsLog. Over 10 years, read a large group of the classics on Project Gutenberg and document what read with commentary and research links, as well as traditional bibliography. Once a year, abstract your knowledge into a 20-page text. (TextLog.)
  9. FuryLog. Create a very angry man or woman and have them write extensively about their opinions. Vent relentlessly. Infuriate your readers. (CharaLog).
  10. RhetoLog. Identify the rhetorical constructs beneath the links you post. If you link to a news article, examine the writer's biases and use of language. Point out fallacies. Define a system of thinking. (RootLog.)
  11. LogLog. Document individual bowel movements. Describe the processes of the body and the effects of foods. (OxyLog.)
  12. RaceLog. Regularly document links related to racial prejudice, whether black or white or other. Alternatively: RapeLog, PovertyLog. Form opinions and take risks. Foster dialog. (ResoLog.)
  13. TheoLog. Athiests vs. Christians. Argue both sides. (Oppolog.)
  14. PoliLog. Create four characters: a Republican, a Democrat, a Libertarian, and an Anarchist. Have them post and argue among themselves. Get inside of their heads. (Oppolog.)
  15. CritiLog. Link to critical texts - film reviews, books reviews, etc. Provide historical critical contexts for the thinking in those texts - Aristotle, I.A. Richards, Terry Eagleton, Samuel Johnson, etc - and challenge their accuracy and bias. (RootLog.) There's an astoudingly well-developed example of this sort of thing in economics at FAIR with their Economic Reporting Review, where Dean Baker breaks down economics reporting for accuracy and bias.
  16. ArtSciLog. For every cultural activity, find a corresponding scientific way to interpret it. Art -> The Science of Light; Music -> The Science of Sound. Also the inverse: SciArtLog, where you identify or create aesthetic possibilities for each technology you log. (MeroLog.)
  17. CorpLog. Remark on the activities of corporations. Show the social and political precedents for their actions, and identify consequences. (RootLog, Forelog.)
  18. ClassicsLog. Over 10 years, read a large group of the classics on Project Gutenberg and document what read with commentary and research links, as well as traditional bibliography. Once a year, abstract your knowledge into a 20-page text. (TextLog.)
  19. FuryLog. Create a very angry man or woman and have them write extensively about their opinions. Vent relentlessly. Infuriate your readers. (CharaLog).
  20. RhetoLog. Identify the rhetorical constructs beneath the links you post. If you link to a news article, examine the writer's biases and use of language. Point out fallacies. Define a system of thinking. (RootLog.)
  21. LogLog. Document individual bowel movements. Describe the processes of the body and the effects of foods. (OxyLog.)

I am responsible for some of the Web badness. I will now take the Great Big Pretentious Creative Web Thinker's pledge:

I, PAUL FORD, as a person who creates content for the Web, Promise to take the long view, And to stop worrying about the most recent technologies, Or the latest fad ideas, But will look instead for context where I can, And I will write about that. Where I can, I will show, not tell.

I will not aspire to punditry or panel-discussion-sitting, But will aspire to simple understanding, And will often admit my ignorance, even if in front of a crowd, And my narrowmindedness.

(Jump on one leg for 1 minute and choose a spirit animal to guide you for the rest of your life.)

I will not aspire to punditry or panel-discussion-sitting, But will aspire to simple understanding, And will often admit my ignorance, even if in front of a crowd, And my narrowmindedness.

(Jump on one leg for 1 minute and choose a spirit animal to guide you for the rest of your life.)


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About the author: I've been running this website from 1997. For a living I write stories and essays, program computers, edit things, and help people launch online publications. (LinkedIn). I wrote a novel. I was an editor at Harper's Magazine for five years; then I was a Contributing Editor; now I am a free agent. I was also on NPR's All Things Considered for a while. I still write for The Morning News, and some other places.

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