Monday, April 04, 2005

Adding links

Boyd e-mails to ask if I've finished blogging for the night.

No, I'm adding links one at a time (I republish the index and the site itself after each.)

I am using the time (while republishing index and site -- four to five minutes) to read some of the e-mails to the site.

Why do them one at a time? Isn't it faster to add them all at once?

Yes, it is. And I did that until the February links were added. However, in January, when I was helping Third Estate Sunday Review for the first time, they were so thrilled with their template (deservedly so). A friend had designed it for them.

As I remember it, individual stories had posted and they were posting their editorial (check with them, because this is my memory, and it was an all nighter, and it was awhile back) which went up fine. Then they did their links. And the whole blog crashed.

The template was totaled. I have no idea why. They looked at it, I looked at. No idea.

So after a half hour (possibly longer), they decided to use a Blogger template. They have a nice template now but the only thing it has in common with their old template is the fact that it is green.

It may have had nothing to do with the links, but since then, I've added one link at a time so that if there are problems with the template, I know which one to remove right away.

A few notes on what's up and what's going up.

If a site added in this round, a blog, has a site counter/site meter, that is noted by "(site counter)." For those wondering, Betty's blog has no site counter and will not have any counter.
Why do sites have counters?

I would imagine for some people, it's a curiousity factor. They're curious as to how many people are reading their writing, or looking at their art work or whatever. Another reason is a belief (probably more true than false) that you're not "taken seriously" without one.

Taken seriously by whom?


The community we've built is apparently out of luck and the hard work of members. What we've done isn't the usual thing that happens. What apparently usually happens is someone starts blogging and maybe they have some readers and maybe they don't.

And maybe they get some e-mails and maybe they don't.

(I have 859 e-mails that are unread right now -- those are from today. And I have been reading in spots today when I had time including for a full hour this morning.)

But apparently the outside eyes, the ones who would "take seriously," need a counter.

That's not, "So let me announce that we're putting up a counter!"

We're not. We never will. Google may have some sort of tracking on this site (I have no idea), but I will not add any tracking device to this site. It goes against everything the community believes in and everything I believe in.

We don't have readers here, we have members. And there's no need for me to track you.

Members like Kara, Jim, Elaine and Susan were among our first five members. (The fifth hasn't dropped out of the community and e-mails regularly but prefers to be unnamed.) That happened on the second day of this site.

I can't judge what other sites do because apparently it's a slow building process to build readers.
Since we are members, and very vocal ones, we seem to have sidestepped that.

But we are concerned with privacy issues here in terms of the Patriot Act, in terms of spying and there's no way I would ever attempt to put a site meter/counter/tracker even if I thought the community would let me get away with it.

I'm morally opposed to those.

A few weeks back, there was this notion that "ethics" in the blog world should be addressed. I find it suprising that the "ethics" issue never has to do with counters. Again, I'm not slamming anyone for having a counter. Apparently attempting to have readers require things that we were able to sidestep here. I have great respect for Ron of Why Are We Back in Iraq and his site has a counter.

But while agreeing that it's every site's choice, I am surprised by the silence on that topic whenever anyone wants to start bemoaning "ethics!"

Some counters may just record a "hit" or a "visit." No information on the visitor, just that there was a visitor. Maybe that's fine. But I do know that people's IP address can be recorded. I do know that they can know where you go after their site. And I'm just wondering how when you're a blog wanting readers, it's okay to do that without posting what is being tracked?

I'm not trying to slam anyone, I'm just saying that when information is being gathered, people have a right to know that and they have a right to know what sort of information is being gathered. And in all the ethics blathering that pops up every now and then, it really surprises me that the topic of tracking never comes up.

I subscribe to the New York Times. They have my name, my address (they deliver the paper) and my credit card number. From time to time, I'm asked if I'd like to participate in a survey.
If I choose to, I'm aware of what information I'm giving to the Times. (And can stop a survey at any point if I'm uncomfortable with the information being requested.)

That's how it works in the print world. (And many papers and magazines sell their subscription list.) (My phone number is unlisted and I could name one magazine that sells subscribers information because they were the only ones that had the number after my last move when I received a caller attempting to sell me something, someone who knew my name.)

Who knows how it works online at the New York Times. I have no idea.

And I wonder who does? And I wonder why, when it's hand wringing time for "ethics," it's never time to discuss tracking.

When we raised this issue in December here, a number of you e-mailed that you would no longer click on links as a result. That's your choice. I do think it's sad that you're forced to make that choice. We don't track. I have no way of knowing who you are, where you go after you visit here or where you came from, your ISP address, your physical location, etc. And I have no interest in knowing anything other than what you choose to share.

If the blog world has been set up so that people trying to find an audience of readers have to resort to trackers they normally would refuse, that's really sad. It's understandable because there's a huge tendency to ignore new bloggers.

Eddie forwarded an e-mail to Third Estate Sunday Review and noted that it could be shared with me. He's a Common Ills community member but he didn't mention The Common Ills in his e-mail. He merely asked why, with all of a certain sites' talk of opening up their blog report, they hadn't. He got a nasty little f-you e-mailed back to him.

Maybe that's indicative of the attitudes of some of the people compiling these blog reports?

I have no idea. And I'll publicly apologize to Eddie because when he ragged on the site, I had said that not everyone there did a poor job and singled out one person as an example of someone who did good work and then noted that X also seemed to really care judging by e-mails that X had sent to various members who'd forwarded them here. X was one the who attacked Eddie in the e-mail.

I'm sorry, Eddie. Maybe X was having a bad day? Maybe I'm a bad judge of character? Or maybe I was just wrong (which I frequently am).

Those of you who have build this community, thank you. But really, you don't need to subject yourself to being trashed or to being lied to (Elaine and Maria feel they were flat out lied to -- having read the e-mails they both received, I'd agree they were).

We're not a blog. We're a community. We're not readers. We're members.

This community needs no promotion, it's grown amazingly well. Peer to peer has helped, the people members have gotten to link to us have helped, any number of things have helped. And that's been your doing so pat yourselves on the back because what we've created apparently isn't the norm.

But do yourselves a favor and quit knocking yourselves out. It's not worth it. Too many of you are getting upset.

And I want you to think about that feeling when you see that someone has a site counter/tracker/meter . . . Instead of condemning someone who has a tracker of some sort, think about how you've felt if you've attempted to persuade someone to link here, mention this community or whatever.

On my end, there's no point to it. We've got a huge community that e-mails and e-mails and e-mails some more. I've passed scoops to members with blogs (Rebecca for instance). If this was about getting "attention," I wouldn't have done that.

This community is about issues and attempting to increase the dialogue. It was started on my end because I didn't know what else to do after the November elections. The dialogue had been too simplistic, my opinion, and this was a way to raise some issues and to address some things that weren't being addressed. The hope was always that it would be a seedling that would plant something in a few people's heads and they'd take that somewhere else.

The reality is that the members have planted as many (possibly more) seeds than I have. But that's all this was about, that's all this should be about.

The e-mail in the last three days has been filled with hurt as various members attempted to win the community "attention." We don't need it. We exist and we did it without "their" stamp of approval.

The fact that we didn't kiss ass to do it means we don't have to worry about kissing ass.

We can take on any subject or any topic and not worry that ____ might not cover us in a blog report or ____ might not give us a "shout out."

It's independence and that matters more than "respectability."

There are a number of bloggers who e-mail this site. In the early days, it was angry rants about how dare I say that (whatever "that" was) about Simon Rosenberg. Anytime we addressed the topic of Simon Rosenberg (either me or another member) there would be nasty e-mails saying that this site would never be taken seriously, or that they'd never link to us, or that they'd do whatever. (And there are some tricks that people have tried. That's put in for those tricksters who think I'm unaware.) Sometimes a ranter would decide to play good cop/bad cop all by himself. (And note, these were all male bloggers who ranted and raved "how dare you.") "Access" was promised if I'd only drop the Simon thing.

I wasn't tempted then and I'm not tempted now. (And there "access" is limited to the blog world no matter what they tell themselves. Some of the biggest laughs came when I read their e-mails to friends who have more "access" than they will ever have.)

If those who attempted to bully or alternated that we promises of "this can happen if you'll do ___" want to whore themselves out, that's their business. As a member of this community, I have all the "access" I need. Outside the internet, I have more "access" than I can handle.

We're not a tool for anyone. We're independent.

If I'm mentioning someone I know in anyway, I note that. (If a member highlights someone I know, I don't mention that.) And I will probably be plugging a friend's book in the next few months. I was at a bookstore last night and going through the non-fiction section when I saw ___'s last book and realized he was almost done with his new one. We will plug Jane Fonda's book here. (It comes out tomorrow.) We'll plug Monster-in-Law here.

If I plug anyone I know on any level, I do note that. And any member who wants to plug someone they know (or themselves) is more than welcome to.

But the e-mails I received in the early days certainly explain how difficult it is for independent voices to be recognized and I am not condemning anyone for having a site meter if they see it as a way to get "recognition." They are doing their best to make their voice heard. And that's not easy if they're independent voices (even if the fit the stereotype of a blogger: white, male).

But starting with this round, when we link, if we're aware of a site meter of any kind, we will note that on our link list. (I'm referring to permalinks that we have on the left.)

I'll also note that there is a parenthetical on one site advising you that it is not a site that's work environment safe. If you go there, it's on you.

I'll close by noting Maria who was especially upset in an e-mail today. I think it would be more productive to assume that we're persona non grata for a great many and stop trying.

And if that bothers someone, think about Rebecca's site. It's not linked all over. And she's had two big scoops. She knew what Adam Nagourney didn't because I told her what he missed in his write up of the DNC chair vote. That was a scoop. Most sites were echoing "conventional wisdom" as was Nagourney. At Rebecca's site you knew what went down.

Or take Unfiltered. I passed the DNC story over to her because I didn't want to risk "outing" a personal friend. With Unfiltered, I passed on my part (and I wasn't the only one passing on to her) for the same reason. All these people claiming "access" and did you read what was going on regarding Unfiltered anywhere else? No, you didn't. Which tells you either that "access" isn't all they think it is or that it comes with a price.

The Times wrote a valentine to Blinky over at The Evening News today. Blinky's not doing well.
The dream plan for Evening News looks like it's being delayed. So the Times was fed a story of how everyone's so thrilled with Blinky. They aren't. (The Times did note that third rated CBS has lost more viewers since Blinky took over.) I don't know which of the "access" players will write that story. (If my friend at CBS says "put it out there," I will as a personal favor.)

But the access that bullies who e-mailed early on felt they had, they didn't have. They may have had promises dangled in front of them but the fact that they pushed Simon Rosenberg as a sure thing even when it was obvious that the Rosenberg campaign was in desperate damage control tells you something about the power of "access."

We don't need "access." We have all that we need. And Maria doesn't need to attempt to get us linked or covered. It's appreciated because she's very busy and she wouldn't try to get us linked were it not for the fact that this community means so much to her. But she and others, judging by their e-mails, are making themselves upset. There's no point in that.

We can take on the Times, we can take on the DLC, we can take on anyone we want. We don't have to march behind anyone or do talking points because we're independent.

A number of you are very angry because you feel a week or so ago a radio show raided us, you blogged at their site and brought up an issue until they addressed it. When they finally did address it, they refused to give credit. Considering the people involved, I am surprised. I'm also surprised that when community member Rachel attempted to address the lack of crediting, one of the hosts acknowledged on air that she was correct about the need to credit but still didn't credit.

But people are going to do what they're going to do. That has to do with them, not us. And they didn't built our community and they can't destroy it. They can continue to ignore it and probably will. That's their right and their choice.

But don't take it so seriously. Don't give them your power. And don't work yourself up over that or anyone else to the point that you're making self depressed, sad or sick. It's truly not worth it. All it does is give them your power (and make me feel bad when I read your e-mails because you're so passionate about this and to me it truly doesn't matter).

Let me repeat that we created this community without them. We didn't need them then and we don't need them now. So try to remember that. And remember your frustration over the silence (or rudeness) that greeted your attempt when you come across a smaller blog that's trying so hard to get noticed. I am morally opposed to tracking devices but I do understand why good people might put them up. The hope is that if they hit the magic number (whatever that is), they'll have to be "recognized" by the people who've refused to recognize them.

If you don't want to visit a site that tracks, don't visit it. But don't condemn someone who's tracking without considering the frustration that you felt.

(I'm tempted to note the people who have been kind enough to recognize the community. I feel like it's okay to cite BuzzFlash because we did when they posted Dallas's review of the NCR CDs. BuzzFlash recognized us before that and has since. They are not the only ones who have. Certainly those, like BuzzFlash, who did recognize us helped this community build. So let's say thank you for those sites who did make a point to recognize us and help get the word out. Were this post not so-self referential already, I'd mention the other people and sites. And were it not for Maria and all the other e-mails coming in on this subject I wouldn't have addressed it. I have tried to respond to each member who e-mailed on this topic and that's resulted in very few posts yesterday and today. So hopefully addressing it here means we can move on to other topics in the e-mails.)

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