Blogging tools I’d like to see

On Friday afternoon, I lay down for a brief nap shortly after reading a post about blog linking and commenting etiquette at Simply Wait. I dreamed that I was blogging a response to it. It was kind of a self-reflexive dream, because the basic point of my post was that, while blog links are important to me, I’m really more concerned about linking to my dreams. And I included three quotes from recent dreams, each with a hyperlink back to the dream.

This point seemed so reasonable that I woke up fully intending to write the post for real. It was only when I sat down at my writing table that I remembered that my dream world was not, in fact, accessible via the Internet.

It kind of seems like it should be, though. It’s the original virtual reality, after all, millions of years older than the Internet. I can’t believe that I still have to wait until after I wake up to blog my dreams — that’s, like, totally Amish! After all, we can blog from pretty much anywhere else; Anousheh Ansari even intends to blog from space, according to the BBC.

I have lots of ideas of ways to improve blogging and online social networking that seem pretty obvious to me, though for some reason no one has implemented them yet as far as know. For example, it’s great that there are outfits like Technorati and BlogPulse to let us know who’s linking to our blogs, but it would also be helpful if someone could tell us when someone removes a link. As things stand now, a blogger might retain a reciprocal link to another blog for months before noticing that the linking was no longer actually reciprocated. With instant de-linking notification, you would be able to respond immediately, either with retaliatory de-linking or with abject pleading for the restoration of the link.

Taking that idea one step further, social networking sites such as MySpace, Facebook, and Zaadz could include a “former friends” category, complete with big, black Xs through each photo. That would make things much more interesting, don’t you think? A columnist in a college newspaper I was reading recently talked about her angst whenever she discovers that the number of her friends has just dwindled — say, from 156 to 155 — and she goes down through the list and can’t figure out who’s missing. It must be terrible to lose track of one’s friends like that.

Blog ranking systems are in serious need of overhaul, as well. There ought to be some way of recognizing not only traffic and inbound links, but quantity and quality of output, as well. Why should popularity be the sole measure of worth? Some of the A-list blogs I’ve looked at could almost be composed by a robot, so brief and formulaic are their posts. I favor a ranking system that would factor in such things as the over-all diversity of topics; the average reading level required to comprehend posts; the number of regular readers who are not themselves bloggers, as indicated by commenters who don’t supply blog urls; the proportion of posts containing information not otherwise available on the Internet (with the exception of information about the blogger’s cat or cats); and the ability of the blogger to maintain a regular blogging habit despite a paucity of readers, comments or links. That sounds eminently programmable, don’t you think? Whether it will ever be implemented, though, I don’t know. I’m probably dreaming.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

22 Comments


  1. Positively Amish, eh? I laughed out loud. Direct links to a blogger’s dreams… looking forward to a day when the boundaries between the internet and the subconscious blur and gradually disappear.

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  2. I don’t know which tool I find more appealing: the hyperlink to dreams or the instant delinking notification.

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  3. I’m loving the “former friends” pix with huge Xs through their faces. Ouch!

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  4. The hyperlink to dreams reminds me of a dream of mine about taking my camera to bed with me and taking lots of snapshots of my dreams to bring back with me into the ‘real’ world. Now wouldn’t that be cool? Interesting post.

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  5. Also had a Great Big *snork* at the Positively Amish bit. Am secretly relieved I’m not the only one who dreams about blogging. Now if I could only post those pics I caught in Slumberland…

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  6. This all sounds a bit vindictive. Woe to the blogger with a poor grasp of html or a busy life.

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  7. I am not sure if it is technically possible to hyperlink to your dreams. Nevertheless, there is an old hog confinement lot north of town that was converted to a storage facility for old hallucinations. They claim on their website that they have some kind of retrieval system that I imagine could be rigged up in some way that would allow linking. Dreams would need to be stored somewhere in a similar manner so that a process could be used to link to them.

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  8. In the blog community of my dreams, I am the recluse. All code changes are done telepathically, and blogger lets me put photos anywhere I want them on the page. Corresponding links would imply each other, if one disappeared, so would the other. There would be no need for site meter or counters of any sort because recluses don’t need that information. Input is human, output divine.

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  9. Larry – Actually, since I very uncharacteristically wrote this post just before bed, I can tell you that the boundary between internet and subconscious was exceedingly thin. I fell asleep within five minutes after hitting “publish”!

    patry – I’m sure this barely scratches the surface of desirable blogging apps, though, if we really put our minds to it. I figure I’m doing my part for Web 2.0 by at least putting these ideas out there.

    Lorianne – Yeah, but remember, the “ouch” would be self-inflicted in many cases. They de-friend you, they get Xed! (And yes, “friend” and “de-friend” are now verbs, according to the college newspaper I referenced.)

    Kerstin – Hi, thanks for visiting! I’m trying to remember: was it H. G. Well’s The Time Machine where the protagonist wakes up clutching some memento from his dream? Or maybe something by Borges…

    Lori – I guess we tend to dream about whatever we do to excess, as an Amish acquaintance recently reminded me in reference to picking blueberries. What do those who do everything in moderation have to dream about, I wonder?

    Zhoen – “Woe” is such a fun word. I’m strongly in favor of bringing it back into everyday speech. Like, woe, dude!

    Fred – I’d like to see pictures of that ex-hog plant. Have you blogged it yet? Or maybe its picture made it onto this site?

    I think one reason that dream-linking seemed so logical in my dream was that I’m used to using remote hosts like Flickr and Photobucket to store my images — and of course my blog itself is stored on a a machine 3,000 miles away.

    robin andrea – I hate to break it to you, but in the blog community of the so-called real world, you’ve become something of a recluse, too. But we love you for it!

    Of course, I’m one to talk. I haven’t kept site statistics since I moved to WordPress in April. Actually, site stats represent another possible source of meaningful ranking data. Instead of counting number of page views or unique visits, my hypothetical Better Ranking System would look at the average length of a visit, and the variety of posts that attract hits from search engines. Sites that draw small numbers of visitors to almost every post would be ranked higher than those that attract huge numbers to a very few popular posts.

    Blogs should come outfitted not with hit counters but with actual counters, like diners, where the regulars could mingle and drink coffee with visitors from out of town.

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  10. This one was received with applause too. I think reading Bonta aloud is establishing itself as a family tradition, as reading the Borowitz Report aloud used to be.

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  11. In the midst of an article on Derrida’s tears, whatever, this made me laugh with those ‘hoots.’ My favourites: hyperlinking back to dreams – it’s only so much time before we can get our dreaming brains wired to the internet for sure; the reciprocity issue, oh, that’s a big one, tit for tat, X’s, linking and de-linking; and the “bility of the blogger to maintain a regular blogging habit despite a paucity of readers, comments or links,” which has me shaking with buried laughter here, I know that one so well. Recently I’ve been looking at the TOS of various blog sites: Blogger, Xanga, Livejournal, Gather, TypePad an interesting and scary exercise. Which got me thinking – you’ve obviously given blog etiquette some thought, you could probably create and run quite a blog site yourself. It’d be interesting to see what your T(erms) O(f) S(ervice) would be. I mean, how hard can we laugh (in contrast to Derrida, whose Memoirs of the Blind is making me weep).

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  12. Dale – It’s good to know that Via Negativa is so family-friendly. (Maybe I should incorporate that into the byline somehow?)

    Brenda – Glad this made you laugh. Providing relief from Derrida is — along with family-friendly entertainment — something to strive for, I think. And your comment makes me think that “Terms of Service” would be a great title for something, I’m not quite sure what. As for actual blogger TOS, I’d probably start with:

    All Blogitude users agree to write only on subjects about which they know nothing. Real or even apparent expertise will be grounds for the termination of a user’s account…

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  13. “I’m trying to remember: was it H. G. Well’s The Time Machine where the protagonist wakes up clutching some memento from his dream?”

    Actually, I heard a similar story in person, back when I was hanging out with Neo-Pagans. I’m sure the idea’s shown up in myth once or twice, and it certainly has in modern fiction.

    And yeah, Gibson’s cyberspace is a direct steal from the traditions of the “astral plane”. This becomes more obvious with _Count_Zero_ and later books. (Vernor Vinge did it earlier and better in _True_Names_)

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  14. What??! You don’t want to know about my cats?!

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  15. David – Thanks for putting that in perspective. I’ve only read one Gibson novel, Neuromancer. Interesting if not especially enjoyable.

    SB – Of course we want to know about your cats! All I’;m saying is that blogging about things that don’t force one to get out of one’s chair shouldn’t win one extra points. I realize that for a disabled person, there may not be too many options. But there’s still book reviews, record reviews, etc. I do feel we bloggers ought to providing new content of lasting value, from time to time at least. (Obviously, you do that with your poems, among other things.)

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  16. Whoot! Not knowing that which we speak of, a sort of blindness (Daddy Derrida approves), with ethical tears (he says tears are ethical) that obscure or alternatively reveal the truth… already I like your TOS, Mr. Via Negativa.

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  17. “Blogs should come outfitted not with hit counters but with actual counters, like diners…”

    You just tossed that one off in a comment on comments, Dave, but the idea deserves development. Yet more blurring of the net/life boundaries…

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  18. Dave, hear-hear to all of that. Especially the option to link to dreams. A lot of my dreams are now blog posts that I’m sure I’ve actually done (but didn’t) when I wake up, and all sorts of techy stuff I’m sure really took place. I wonder if there should be a survey of bloggers dreams and how they relate to blogging?
    About de-linking: sometimes I remove a link, not out of de-friendliness but because someone hasn’t been posting for a long time, or they’re mainly blogging about things I’m not really interested in. You’re right though, there should be some system to tell people why one is de-linking or being de-linked.

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  19. Heh. Had to come back to tell you that I thought about this several times yesterday afternoon. And about how to quash that instinct makes me want to cry, “Why do you hate me now?!” whenever I’m un-linked.

    Also, I think the phrase “woe betide” is due for a comeback. Such a nice ring to it: “Woe betide those who would seek to de-friend me!”

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  20. Natalie – Glad to hear I’m not actually any more nuts than you are. That’s reassuring!

    As for de-linking, in my case it has no relationship to whether or not the blog in question links back to VN. But if they stop blogging for more than a few months, they’re gone. I usually retain the Bloglines subscription so if they resume blogging, I can restore the link. I think reciprocal linking is dumb. But then again, I don’t really care if people like me or not. I suppose that’s obvious.

    Karen – That last phrase does have a nice ring to it!

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  21. Vincent walked into the beeing wilderness with their tv, found the fan, impaled it to about liitle height, plopped generally on the shore and turned on Nickelodeon, where the histerically Odd watchers were on. Shola and the medieval hanging grabbed a spring each, filming them over their shoulders.

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