Ming the Mechanic:
Blogging or Logging

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 Blogging or Logging2008-02-22 16:36
9 comments
by Flemming Funch

Blogging is a bit too much like publishing. I mean, writing articles to be published.

Of course different people use the medium differently. Some people still just write about what their dog had for breakfast. But, with few exceptions, the blogs that are interesting to read consist more or less of articles that people write.

But that makes it less fun and useful to write. Writing an article is for me connected with deadlines and trying to match the expectations of the audience. Where I'd rather write a weblog for me, and then maybe share it with others as a second thought.

So, what happened to the idea of "log" or "logging"?

See, a log is really something more directed. One might keep a log if one is working on something. A record of one's progress, one's discoveries.

Like, a learning log, or a research log. One is working on finding something out, solving certain problems, arriving at certain goals. And one keeps a record, which charts the path, maybe for others to learn from too.

That's not how I use a weblog. I'd like it to be. But that would require a re-framing.

In that case one would set a theme or a goal. It is quite possible that the process would have an end, as one either reaches the goal, or one no longer is interested in the subject. So, one would open up new logs, keep them going as one is continuing exploring the subject matter, and one closes them when one is done.

That doesn't work so well with the way we currently use blogs. I'd expect a person to have preferrably one blog, which I can subscribe to in my blog aggregator. If they have several, it is a little annoying, and if they close them down and start new ones, it would be more annoying.

Regular blogs have categories or tags. Which of course can be used for particular threads. But typically one tries to subscribe to everything one person is blogging, and you might get a mix of postings on very different postings. Which is why most blog owners feel obliged to keep a certain uniform atmosphere in all the postings, as if it were a magazine, with a certain style and theme.

But, say I wanted to log several different of my interests and activities. Like me right now, I'm interested in photography, rollerskating, genealogy, Ruby on Rails programming, plus a whole bunch of other things I'd be more likely to write about on my blog. But, say I wanted to have a log of my experiences as a novice photographer. There are lots of blogs like that, where people share their photos, talk about their equipment, etc. Just like there are lots of blogs about genealogy, where people talk about their research, resources they find, etc. But if I mixed all of that together, it might not be fun for readers who aren't interested in those things, who just want to see me write about alternate dimensions or new civilizations or something. So, would I have a different blog for each? That would be quite feasible, if they were ongoing interests. Less so if they were more short lived. I don't think it is very comfortable to maintain several separate blogs, though.

From the user perspective, the author, the logger, me, I'd really want just one interface for an assortment of logging subjects. I wouldn't want to log into a different account for each one. Rather, one interface where I freely can add new subjects, and add log entries for any of them. Some of those subjects would be just for me, others I would choose to share, and maybe make public.

Of course, those logs that one chose to make public could be channeled into what appeared as different blogs for the rest of the world. But I wouldn't experience it like that. I'd just log stuff in my logging application.

And it would open the door to a different way of presenting or interacting with such logs. I mean, if each one logs the evolution certain subject, which maybe now is done, I'd like better ways of dealing with that sequence of events as a whole. It wouldn't just be an abandoned blog, but simply the log of a finished project.

People do put stuff like that on their blogs, but it might be hidden between lots of other things. A log of remodeling my garage is a perfectly valid and complete project. Doesn't have to either hide between posts about totally different things, or be a very short lived and abandoned blog.

If one keeps a log of actually going somewhere, trying to accomplish something, it also invites additional functionality to give the full picture. A project or a quest isn't just a series of equally important log entries. Some things will be more important than others. There will be key discoveries, reevaluation of priorities, ups and downs, a growing body of knowledge.

As one example, one might have a wiki-like area, functioning in parallel with the log, in which one puts the more permanent record of what one has learned or accomplished, the subject matter of the log. And maybe its versions would be synchronized with the log, so that one could see the evolution of the more permanent part. At the point of that particular log entry, how did the list of links look? How did it look the week after that?

It ties in with a project I'd like to do, but which I haven't carved out enough time for yet, which is to structure environments for particular purposes. Dynamic webpages that are structured so as to support what one is trying to do. A brainstorm takes a different structure and different tools than does a research project or the process of starting a new company. Each one involves some combination of logs, notes, permanent records, links, lists, outlines, ordering, sequencing, randomity, and more. If you don't use an environment that supports what you want to do, it doesn't work so well. A blog or a wiki or a forum do different things and inspire different kinds of behavior. The right constellation of interdependent tools can accomplish something more precise in a more appropriate manner.

This post here could be said to be a log entry in the project of building such things. But putting it right here doesn't help me much in keeping a record of my progress.


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9 comments

22 Feb 2008 @ 18:31 by Merlin Silk @76.168.217.251 : joomla
for something going into a similar direction I am just now evaluating the latest version of Joomla which was just released as 1.5 and that looks pretty good. But I still have to figure out how easy it is to create new modules and components for it to add functionality that is not there yet.
This community might be also a good place to get more momentum once your plans on what to do are more finalized.  



22 Feb 2008 @ 19:28 by dylan @203.97.107.62 : topics
To pick up on one point, that wide-ranging post topics might not be of interest to all readers, could tags (or categories) help? This post was filed under 'projects' so you've already done the work to indicate to the audience what they might be in for, and for the system to be able to differentiate it from your postings on dog food. Assuming you also have categories for alternate dimensions, photography etc it should be trivial enough for a CMS to deliver feeds based on those, then as a member of the audience I could pick and choose. For all I know you already have 23 different feeds that I could choose from right now, but I actually enjoy not knowing quite what you might post about, so I'm hoping that you don't find a solution that makes it harder to get all the posts regardless of topic.  


22 Feb 2008 @ 23:48 by ming : Tags
Some people would probably say that tags are a perfectly adequate answer to the problem. I can add a different tag or category for each interest I have, or each avenue of exploration. And people could subscribe to just some of the tags, and not others, if they aren't interested in those. Or there could be a simple interface for checking on or off the tags one wants to receive in the feed.

I guess it still bothers me that the main interface to a blog is the front page, which normally lists everything. Which makes me as the author feel overly obligated to make that somehow coherent and consistent, rather than simply focusing on whatever subject interests me at the time. I feel a somewhat different way of organizing it would be in order. And I should probably experiment with different ways of doing it, rather than just talking about it.  



22 Feb 2008 @ 23:50 by ming : Joomla
Merlin, I'm using Joomla 1.5 for a site also. I'm sort of split between it being very convenient with all the modules that are available, and it being a cumbersome way of doing it. I don't have a good sense yet of how easy it would be to make new modules. I haven't tried yet. I'm modified templates, but that's about it.  


23 Feb 2008 @ 00:22 by Merlin Silk @76.168.217.251 : Tags
Maybe the front page can morph into a table of content of all the available categories, from which to pick and choose to what to subscribe. Maybe you have a better idea of the percentage of people who actually open the browser and go to the blog in comparison to those who only get the articles from the feed. The only reason for me to go to the site is that comments don't work from within thunderbird which I use for rss reading. If that latter number is bigger, maybe much bigger, then there is no real need for a web site on which to read the articles. Maybe just a table of content with a discription - that might default to the first article. My two and a half cents.  


23 Feb 2008 @ 02:08 by Merlin Silk @76.168.217.251 : Joomla
here we just see another requirement for the new system - and threat must be splittable so that it can develop into different categories, but the again - like this one, keeping the subject line the same makes it readable - but then again, not subscribeble.
About Joomla - modules in 1.0 seem to be rather simple, but 1.5 changed that a lot. but from what I heard, it's rather powerful. There is a friend with a whole bunch of buddies who are building a whole new free digital universe with Joomla. They are actually the ones who told me about Joomla.  



25 Feb 2008 @ 10:56 by jazzolog : Can Blogging Ever Be Noble?
The term itself contains a tone of mockery. A log or diary has great literary tradition. Of course diaries may contain secrets, while logs don't mind becoming public. You build things out of logs.

Web-log barely is better, and abbreviated as blog is vulgar. Web and Net are not appealing terms for what goes on here. Cyberspace and blogosphere sound like terrible places to visit. Maybe geeks---there's another horrible name for someone---invented these words with a sort of cynical twist. Or perhaps journalists, fearful their paper domain would be destroyed, tried to sabotage this way of writing and communing from the start.

I had to be dragged onto the computer, but once here writing for me came alive. I couldn't even work a mouse at the start. I tell people I just needed to see my writing up in lights to get me interested. Of course the radio comedian Fred Allen commented, when television began to come in, that he'd never have a piece of furniture in his home that lit up.  



25 Feb 2008 @ 12:54 by ming : Blog
Blog is a dumb word, I don't know how we got stuck with that. Sounds like some swamp monster. Whereas, yes, a log in itself is a perfecly respectable thing to keep.

The format and the label will shape how one uses it, of course. What I'm rebelling a bit against here is that it seems to make me produce random un-connected blurbs. Some of which might stand alone as articles. But I'm missing the sense of connection and continuity that "log" or "diary" would imply. I don't know why the log idea gets lost just by adding a "b", but it almost seems like it.  



25 Feb 2008 @ 16:48 by Susmita Barua @139.55.43.146 : Blogging for Creative Activism
I had no way of reaching the vast majority of readers here, so I had to keep switching social networks...now coming back after some time. I've been using blogs for more than a year to post issues I deeply care about like "deep conscious Capitalism", but they are a poor medium to network or engage like minded. But they give me a quick platform to keep a log of my work and journey. I have made some connections but no real partnership through social networks like this yet. I am grateful for the continuous effort of Fleming and others to keep space like this open and accessible to outliers like myself. Peace  


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