It only seems like I’m kicking Tumblr when it’s down, quite literally. But I’ve been planning to write about giving up Tumblr for some time. The microblog’s service outage, now going on for more than 17 hours as I write, is just the news hook. TechCrunch gets my headline of the week award, partly stated: “Tumblr Redefines The Concept Of ‘Back Shortly‘”. I’ll say. TechCrunch is a WordPress.com VIP; not Tumblr.
Internet polls are fun but rubbish. Formal surveys conducted by so-called experts aren’t much better. If you disagree, consider this: A poll I conducted for Betanews asking “How would you identify yourself as a computer user?” puts more than 25 percent of respondents as Linux PC users and less than 61 percent as Windows PC users. Do you believe that? I don’t. But I do believe, as early results indicated, that there are more Betanews readers identifying themselves as Linux PC users than Macheads. But more than one-quarter are Linux users? Perhaps in some alternative universe, but not this one.
Film critic and social media convert Roger Ebert made a stand. I’m with him. No more top-10 lists.
I’ve been planning to write this post since October 31st, the day after Roger wrote for the Wall Street Journal: “Why I Loathe Top 10 Film Lists“. I wanted to put some distance between my agreement and responses from top-10 whores like Business Insider and Huffington Post—the latter dignified Roger’s commentary with a lowly tweet from a Mother Jones blogger.
Welcome to my resurrection. I first started writing at joewilcox.com soon after registering the domain in December 1999. For years, I called the site “Chronicle of Technology, Culture and Stupidity.” In October 2009, I took joewilcox.com offline, briefly bringing it back for a few weeks in May 2010.
I pulled the site to diminish branding conflict with technology writing done at Betanews and to launch Oddly Together. I’ve since struggled to find the right tone for my writing, and I’ve long questioned whether shutting down joewilcox.com hurt my brand.
There’s a proposition on the California November ballot to legalize marijuana. Sarah Lacy must be smoking some already. Her TechCrunch post “Now that the Recession Officially Ended….Whatever Happened to that Other Shoe?” is so out of touch with reality—what else could it be?
I don’t share some bloggers’ enthusiasm for Associated Press’ new policy crediting them. On September 1st, the wire service issued advisory: “AP announces guidelines for credit and attribution,” which includes bloggers. AP shouldn’t credit bloggers because it opens way for lazy reporting and undermines the news organization’s reputation and credibility (well, outside the blogging community).
Apple’s social music discovery service isn’t even a week old and Fortune blogger Philip Elmer-DeWitt asks: “Can Ping be saved?” Oh yeah? One million signups in 48 hours is such a failure. There are thousands of CEOs or product line managers who would say: “Gimme that problem. I’ll suffer through the failure of gaining 1 million customers in just two days.”
Five days ago, I quietly turned on commenting two months after turning it off. Comments are temporarily back at my personal website. Perhaps this second stage of experimentation will lead to my making comments a permanent fixture or instead giving John Gruber the apology I promised should the commenting feature be permanently removed. I’m still wondering if John’s approach might be right.
Before my mid-June post “Be a Man, John Gruber,” his blog had no commenting system, while mine offered Disqus. I insisted that “his no-comments approach is out of place in an era when so many Websites or services provide discussion tools and encourage readers/viewers to use them.” There was much more to the reasoning. Read the post to get it all.
There goes the neighborhood. Big media is invading Tumblr. For weeks I had been meaning to blog about how old media might ruin Tumblr. I shouldn’t have waited. Monday’s New York Times story “Media Companies Try Getting Social With Tumblr” raises the topic without rightly razing it. How could Jenna Wortham’s story have been any different, since The Times is among the old media vanguard invading Tumblr. Jenna’s story positions the big media invasion as something good. I most certainly don’t agree, given Tumblr’s free-for-all embrace.
When I started my online-only news career at CNET (1999-2003), the metrics for success largely extended from print: Scoops (and for me, provocative analysis). Now, as Jeremy Peters writes for the New York Times (“In a World of Online News, Burnout Starts Younger”), the measure is pageviews—and scoops, too, for some news organizations. Journalists are burning out fast and young, and for easily discernable reasons. Too much is demanded of them (and for too little compensation).
Some people—heck, some organizations—have no sense of humor. Humorless perhaps best describes Associated Press, which apparently didn’t get Woot’s joke about owing money for a blog excerpt. TechCrunch’s MG Siegler put AP in its place today, that’s assuming there isn’t yet a nasty takedown-notice response coming.
Some quick background: About two years ago, AP decided that no one should excerpt its content without paying for it. The policy defies decades of journalist practices and fair-use laws. I could understand AP going after blocks of text, but no, it’s the little excerpts, too. Excerpt up to 50 words and AP expects you to pay $17.50; 100 bucks for 251 words or more. The approach is controversial, as it should be.
Today, I start an experiment here that will take the blog off track a bit, but which could better build readership. “What?” You ask. “Joe, don’t you have another experiment going with comments turned off?” Yes, and that one ends next week.
The experiment comes to answer a question: What is the best way to be the better blogger? I need to make money writing at a time when writing is becoming a commodity service. Increasingly, journalists like me are obsolete. The answer I seek may be to the wrong question; perhaps blogging isn’t the writing I or many people like me should pursue. But I try.