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Essential Blogging 147

Posted by timothy
from the just-add-eggs dept.
Alexander Moskalyuk reviews below the new O'Reilly title Essential Blogging, which he points out is available not only for purchase through conventional purchase, but also with O'Reilly's Safari Online subscription, where it's available for a mere 1 point. Read on for his take on how useful Essential Blogging really is.
Essential Blogging
author Benjamin Trott, Mena G. Trott, Shelley Powers, J. Scott Johnson, Rael Dornfest, Cory Doctorow
pages 264
publisher O'Reilly
rating 3/10
reviewer Alexander Moskalyuk
ISBN 0596003889
summary Introduction to running Weblogs on the Internet

Blog, Blog, Blog.

Recent media infatuation with the blogging effect seems to be overwhelming. It seems that newspaper journalists have just discovered the ability to post and comment messages on the Internet, while most of the computer aficionados and heavy Internet users just shrug their shoulders when told about personal Web journals that link to other articles on the Web.

Blogging Essentials is mostly a generic guide to setting up and running your own Weblog using the software available out there. It doesn't require as much technical knowledge and Unix experience as Running Weblogs with Slash, and doesn't have a nice preface by CmdrTaco, but for a person who is determined to keep a daily journal available on the Internet, it would provide helpful reading material.

What's reviewed

Blogger, Radio Userland and MovableType are the primary products discussed in the book. Each of these packages has two chapters dedicated to it, one for beginners' introduction and one for description of advanced features. The main difference between these three products is in their hosting capabilities - Blogger wants you to keep the journal entries on its Web site and provides Web interface, Radio UserLand keeps the posts on its own server as well, while providing desktop interface, while MovableType assumes the user has a Web server on which to install the blogging software. Both Blogger and Radio UserLand allow for self-hosting, which is also covered in introductory chapters.

Another chapter is dedicated to server-based Blosxom, and in the review of desktop clients such blog utilities as BlogScript, BlogApp, BlogBuddy, W.Bloggar and Slug are covered.

What's good and what's bad

While the depth of covered material is surprisingly large for such a narrow topic, a lot of book pages are spent on displaying screenshots of the blogging software, and showing other people's blogs. The only thought that never left my mind while reading this book was "Who would buy it?" Why would you need 264 pages to explain you how to set up your own journal and run it? People who find satisfaction in running their own customized versions of online journals already know most of the material, and those who don't would probably opt in for easier Web-based interface like LiveJournal.

The book seems to be just a quick walk-through of the manuals, and if you consider that all of the reviewed products have pretty good help and FAQ sections, the need for such book decreases even more. I can hardly name anyone to whom I would recommend this book.

Table of contents can be viewed on publisher's Web site.


You can purchase Essential Blogging from bn.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.

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Essential Blogging

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  • by Ratface (21117) on Tuesday September 10, 2002 @10:45AM (#4228056) Homepage Journal
    Isn't "Essential Blogging" an oxymoron? ;-)

    • Who would buy it? (Score:3, Informative)

      by daoist (604285)

      > "Who would buy it?" Why would you need 264 pages to explain you how to set up your own journal and run it?

      An organization that is looking at the different Blog options. They will use it for self-promotion/feel good stuff, and show how every day they do something that brings them closer to their goals, or looks good in the public eye.

      xan

      jonathon

    • Sure, just like "Internet Security", but that one sells quite a few books, too. That's the whole object in publishing computer books, if the title looks like an oxymoron, someone will buy it because they don't know how to do it. Eg "Website Engineering", "Project Management", "Software Quality".
    • by gaudior (113467) on Tuesday September 10, 2002 @05:52PM (#4232069) Homepage
      Does oxymoron mean self-absorbed, navel-gazing, egoism? ;-)

      Some may think this is flamebait, but blogging, and even keeping a private journal is an incredibly self-centered activity. It's no wonder there are so many people on anti-depressants. They spend all their time writing their thoughts down, and re-reading them.


      It seems to be a generational thing. I don't know anyone in my peer group who journals, but a lot of 20 somethings and high school kids seem to do it. They are also the ones who whinge the most about their life. If you spent less time describing your sad life, and more time working to make it better, you might find you actually don't have anything to whine about.

      It is true that earlier generations were noted for their diaries. We know a great deal about history as the result of the private writings of Pepys, Jonson, Addams, Jefferson, and many others. There are some fundamental differences between the diaries of Samuel Pepys, and the blogging of most 20 year-olds with a cable modem and a web-cam.

      • Pepys was very well read. He was highly educated in literature, philosophy, and history.
      • He spent very little time writing about his life, but about the lives of those around him, the relationships, politics, and events that shaped his life.


      By contrast, most bloggers have a limited education, especially in the classics, history, rhetoric, and philosophy. They may be quite smart, but rarely have they been educated. Students in High School and college these days are more likely to be trained, to be good workers in the modern economy.

      This has become more of a rant than I originally intended. I simply dislike the Blog culture, navel-gazing raised to a spectator sport.

      Flame Away, I can take it.

      • Actually journal writing is a reflectionj of the literacy of the society.

        Consider how that reflects on you and your peers at your leisure.

        For every Samuel Pepys I promise there were thousands of journals of his era that were awful

        You have to slay a lot of dragons to get a princess.

      • While it's true a lot of the blogging out there is just whining, I don't see that as the end all and be all of it. I see the keeping of these online journals and such the 20 something generations version of pyschatry - which face it, really is just talking about your problems to hear them all out loud - and in the end it gives you a better idea how to deal with the because you were able to recognize and identify them. It's a form of self-therapy. And yes, I know, psychatry is far more than that, I'm just speaking in generalisms here.
  • Why? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Lechter (205925) on Tuesday September 10, 2002 @10:48AM (#4228090)
    Yes, but does the book tell you why anyone out there would want to read a blog about your life? Or what to do with your life to make people interested in reading about it? (Short of getting your own personal stalker of course)
    • Re:Why? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Winterblink (575267)
      Some people have family that like to read their blogs. Some people even have FRIENDS that like to read their blogs.
    • Re:Why? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Powercntrl (458442)
      Yes, but does the book tell you why anyone out there would want to read a blog about your life?

      I agree. While I love Slashdot and Slashdot is essentially a blog, it's the new information and insightful comments that keep me coming back. Okay, I'll admit it, I've also got a morbid curiosity for reading -1 as well.

      The critical mass of community Slashdot has - its main interesting feature, would be something difficult to recreate just by putting a blog online and hoping for the best. I'm sure there are some people that really get a kick out of finding out somebody on the Internet just got a new cat and his car is getting repainted, but that just isn't the level of intellectual stimulation that draws me to a web page.
    • Re:Why? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by commonchaos (309500)
      Short of getting your own personal stalker of course

      I was really bored one day and tried to see how much information I could get from a random weblog... it was frightening, not because of the information that I got, I got next to nothing. But becuase of the mind numbing nature of the weblog. My random subject was a teenage girl obsessed with boys, and booze. I'll tell you, you could write a program to make a random post for this girl. Her posts were basicly the same.

      Point it, if you dont post addresses, or phone numbers, and stick to first names. Its pretty hard to get information based on the journal alone.
    • And you come to Slashdot to ask why anyone would want to read this kind of stuff?
    • Do you ever write poetry, or just random thoughts? Ever keep a journal? Does anyone besides you find it interesting? Does it really matter that 99.9% of the world doesn't care what I write on my blog? Have you ever noticed that 99.9% of the internet is boring anyways? Have I asked enough rhetorical questions?

      I keep a blog. I probably get about 3 hits a week, but I don't care. It's there for me, like a journal, to record random thoughts. If someone stumbles onto it, reads it, and likes it, well then good for them. If not, I don't much care. I don't keep a journal for anyone's benefit but my own, and I'm sure most people who "blog" feel the same.

  • From Ebay item description, circa 2004:

    "Hey, remember blogging? You know, before it was so overblown by the media that you stabbed your eardrums with an icepick just to keep all of the buzzwords out of your brain? Now you can own a worthless remind of those turbulent times...this book!

    86 cents, seller pays shipping."
    • Re:Ebay - 2004 ad (Score:3, Insightful)

      by reallocate (142797)
      Isn't the self-publishing the essential point of the web? Or does the geek community think "users" should stay in their place?

      Let people write. No one's forcing you to click on that link.
  • Interesting (Score:3, Interesting)

    by superdan2k (135614) on Tuesday September 10, 2002 @10:57AM (#4228163) Homepage Journal
    I'm surprised there's no mention of LiveJournal [livejournal.com]. I got bit by the blogging bug back in May or so, and have found LJ to be a good place to keep up with everything [livejournal.com]. I keep in touch with friends and keep a running record of my life.

    Yesterday, I was discussing Alzheimer's with my co-worker, Bob, who runs bland-o-rama.com [bland-o-rama.com]...we, like any techs, fear the loss of memory and our abilities. The factoid about nuns being highly resistant to Alzheimer's came up, and the running theory is b/c they are journaliing on a daily basis. Exercise for the memory system, I guess.

    Personally, though, I'm just doing it because it's interesting to look back and see where I've been...and hopefully get a good idea of where I'm going. Plus I get to watch my friends that use LJ do the same thing.
    • Nuns aren't resistant to Alzheimer's *some* nuns get it less than other nuns. There was a really long longitudinal study of two nunneries which had different missions. The ones from the nunnery which did a lot of work in the community, who remained active, had few incidences of Alzheimer's than those that mostly sat around a prayed. I'm over-simplifying but that was the jist of it.
  • by bpfinn (557273) on Tuesday September 10, 2002 @10:57AM (#4228164)
    • Essential Trolling
    • Essential Flaming
    • Essentials of (First) Posting
    • HOWTO Look Busy
  • by mwber (235552) on Tuesday September 10, 2002 @10:57AM (#4228169)
    It seems like it'd be really helpful for a lot of the people that regularly blog to have a pretty non-technical introduction to it, but I'm not sure those same people would know anything about O'Reilly or read Slashdot.
  • by reaper20 (23396) on Tuesday September 10, 2002 @10:58AM (#4228178) Homepage
    Mozilla users, check out Mozblog [mozdev.org]. It's a nifty XUL app that integrates into Mozilla. You can drag and drop links, post, and publish all from the little window without even having to visit blogger.com.
    • I was checking it out to, but I wonder since it supports ftp, why does it have to go through blogger.com at all? Why doesn't mozblog just upload the posts itself and store them locally.

      I've been using the poorly named blog [tripod.com] for places where I have ftp access only.

    • Mozblog is a cool app. It's only problem is that it doesn't work. I've tried various versions of it, including the 0.6a version posted on Mike Lee's weblog (he's the main developer of mozblog). The UI works fine but the results of posting are not always what they should be. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. I suspect the problem is not Mike Lee's code but the SOAP API provided by blogger. Considering their other technical problems, I'd be surprised if that worked reliably.

      You can find 0.6 here: http://www.exitspace.net/mike/blog/archives/2002_0 8_01_mikelee_archive.html#80732377 (hope /. doesn't mess that up). This version is much better than the 0.5 version still on mozdev. There doesn't appear to be much activity on mozdev. The list of bugs essentially hasn't changed in bugs and the mailinglists are only used sparingly. Probably Mike Lee is busy doing other stuff.

      Anyway, I hope he keeps up the good work. Once finished, mozblog will joing my small pool of favorite mozilla extensions.
    • http://www.livejournal.com/download/?platform=Mozi lla
  • Methinks... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Schnapple (262314) <tomkidd AT viatexas DOT com> on Tuesday September 10, 2002 @11:01AM (#4228194) Homepage
    ...that this book will wind up in that bin at every bookstore right next to AOL For Dummies, How to run OS/2, and Netscape 4.0 Complete.

    Tell me this - does it have chapters on how to propagate your page with pictures of your cat? Or how to flash your tits so that they point to your wishlist?

  • Gratuitous Plug (Score:3, Informative)

    by parliboy (233658) <parliboy@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday September 10, 2002 @11:02AM (#4228203) Homepage
    Personally, I'll just wind up using Coranto [gweilo.org] when the time comes. I've used so it (and its predecessor NewsPro) for so many different sites over the years, that it just seems the natural course of things. It's flat-text, but since it's just my diary, who cares?
  • by randomErr (172078) <ervin.kosch@gmai ... m minus math_god> on Tuesday September 10, 2002 @11:04AM (#4228227) Homepage Journal
    Essential Computing Stuff

    Chapter 1: Turn the damn thing on
    Chapter 2: Read what is on screen. It will ussually tell you what to do
    Chapter 3: It your computer, turn it off if you don't like what it does
    Chapter 4: Trouble Shooting: Shoot anything that moves

    Look, if your blogging you euther know what your doing or your going to contract with someone who does.

    This seems more like a FAQ on SlashCode [slashcode.com] or a give away item at shows then an actual book.
  • I'd be much more interested in a novel that charted the historical and cultural development of the blog. I've never been too sucked in, but there is definitely a distinct and unique culture that has developed in the blogging scene. When someone [johnwb.com] is running for government office on a blogging platform, it says something. What, I'm not sure, but something.

    Of course, it is easy to ridicule and mock the blogging scene, but an indepth look at it could be both honest about the shortcomings and faults, as well as the many lessons blogging has taught us. Google bombing [slashdot.org] anyone? And has anyone been more on the forefront of accessibility pages than blogs?

    Maybe someone's already done this for some sort of masters thesis; if so, point out the links, I'd like to see some serious scholarship on the issue.
  • by Geeyzus (99967) <mark_madej@yahoo. c o m> on Tuesday September 10, 2002 @11:09AM (#4228264)
    Other Slashdot book reviews on the horizon:
    • Windows for Dummies
    • Yahoo Messenger Unleashed
    • Hop On Pop
    Mark
  • O-Reilly Safari (Score:3, Informative)

    by stienman (51024) <adavis@u[ ]ics.com ['bas' in gap]> on Tuesday September 10, 2002 @11:09AM (#4228265) Homepage Journal
    I hadn't heard of the safari before. Looks like you subscribe to a number of points per month, then you can swap out books up to your point level once every month. If you get the $10/mo you get 5 points, which is five 1 point books per month. To purchase those books you'd pay about $150, so this subscription sounds good for those who only need a particular reference for a few months at a time, as well for those books that have little or no future reference value. It also allows for the fact that too many technologies change, evolve and disappear within 15 months.

    Still, I like collecting books. I wonder if they'd give a discount on the sale of previously subscribed titles. Reading a book on the computer isn't as nice as holding it in one's hands, either, but overall it's as good a deal as leasing a car - obviously not for everyone - good for many.

    -Adam
    • Re:O-Reilly Safari (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      That's correct. For $10 per month you get monthly access to roughly 5 titles (very few books are priced at 2 points, there are also a few books in half-point range).

      Safari sets the swap date, which is the date when you can check all your old books in, and choose the new ones. The swap date is 45 days from your original subscription day and then it's every 30 days. On those days you get 5 points to spend - you can either keep the current books, keep some of them, and choose some new ones, or choose 5 new titles for next month.

      The pricing and library are attractive to those who have time on their hands and want to learn new technologies. If you're unemployed, or a student on vacation, or just have some free time, for $10 and a month's worth of time you can get five books on any skill you'd like to learn, Networking, Perl, MCSE, etc.

      For reference value and for people who are generally busy and have no time to spend hours reading it's probably cheaper to buy the paper version of the book.
  • by hillct (230132) on Tuesday September 10, 2002 @11:13AM (#4228298) Homepage Journal
    One of the first paragraphs of this review is perhaps the most telling:
    Recent media infatuation with the blogging effect seems to be overwhelming. It seems that newspaper journalists have just discovered the ability to post and comment messages on the Internet, while most of the computer aficionados and heavy Internet users just shrug their shoulders when told about personal Web journals that link to other articles on the Web.
    When considering the value of Blogging, you must see it for what it is. It's the natural extension of the 'Links Page' that every personal website has and were so prevelent even in the early days of the web in 1994 and 1995, that pages of personal bookmarks, outnumbered pages of actual meaningful content. That having been said, there are two distinct types of blogs. Those which simply act to point out a linked source of content the author finds to be of interest, and those which offer some sort of online punditry. Both types are of value in their own right, but blog readers will most likely favor one or the other type. Personally, I maintain a blogger based page for the simple purpose of having a portable bookmarking mechanism for my owwn convenience, since the demize of most of those .com ventures that sought to ptovide such a service supported by advertising.

    With repect to this book, I would have to agree with the reviewer. Who would buy it? If you are familier with blogging, then you know what you need to know. If you are not, then you're more likely to buy a book entitled 'Websites for Beginners' or something. This book seems to be searching for a market where there most likely is none.

    --CTH
    • Who would buy it? Someone who wants to know which is the best tool to use. Too bad the review didn't tell us much about that.

      Blogging is about writing, it isn't about computing. Tools like Blogger, Radio and Moveable Type allow more people to use their computer and the web without needing to learn how to write code.

      Most of the posts are full of ridicule about people who write blogs. The irony of that coming from Slashdot is more than sweet.
  • is how they order the page so that the latest post is on the top of the page. So if you haven't been there for a while, you start reading from the bottom, scroll down, scroll down because the person wrote a lot, and then you have to scroll back up! More annoying is if the dates are sorted in reverse, but each blog that were written in a day are sorted normally according to time. scroll down, scroll down, scroll back up. Annoying. I don't think blogging sites have a feature to sort dates in the right order. Do like DNA Lounge [dnalounge.com] and do it right.
  • The only blogs I've found useful over the long term are from good journalist and some professors. By definition a journalist is a professional writer. they'll have decent style and cut the trivia. I like college professor blogs where they accumulate their research results.
  • Once upon a time people would buy diaries - books of blank paper, in which to pour out their thoughts, woes, tributes to their cats, bad goth poetry (is there any other?) etc. They'd then put the diaries under the mattress or in a drawer, and probably forget about it after a few weeks.
    But now in this brave new world, people get blogs or livejournals, and witter pointlessly about things that nobody gives a fuck about but them. Tributes to their cat, goth poetry, brainless gibberish.

    It's a horrible waste of technology...!

  • isn't the point of blogging (assuming you're into it, which i am not) to express yourself and discover how to get people interested in your opinions (basically talk about sex and talk shit about people, afaik). essentially it's the path, not the destination.

    would you buy a book "how to keep a journal"? this seems like it could be summarized in a one page list of "hints and tips"

    • your sig doesn't work on my box, Win XP with cygwin perl 5.8.0

      is it me or you?

      d:\>perl -e"\$_=q#: 13_2: 12/'{>: 8_4) (_4: 6/2'-2; 3;-2'\2: 5/7\_/\7: 12m m::#;
      s#:#\n#g;s#(\D)(\d+)#\$1x\$2#ge;print
      Can' t modify single ref constructor in scalar assignment at -e line 1, near "q#:
      13_2: 12/'{>: 8_4) (_4: 6/2'-2; 3;-2'\2: 5/7\_/\7: 12m m::#;"
      • true enough, i tried it in my win2k dos prompt with perl 5.6.1 and it gave me the same thing. must be the way dos handles the input... it thinks i'm trying to access \$_ instead of $_... i'll see what i can do
        • ah, works if you s#\\\$#\$#g; on the source (only 3 occurences), i.e.:

          perl -e"$_=q#: 13_2: 12/'{>: 8_4) (_4: 6/2'-2; 3;-2'\2: 5/7\_/\7: 12m m::#;s#:#\n#g;s#(\D)(\d+)#$1x$2#ge;print"

          apparently, the dos shell doesn't replace "$variables" like bash does... just when you though cross-platform sigging was easy! :P

  • by clickety6 (141178) on Tuesday September 10, 2002 @11:39AM (#4228522)
    ...kept a diary and how you had to sneak into her bedroom and search through the drawers to find it. And remember how she freaked out when she caught you and your mates reading about what she'd like to do behind the bike sheds with Bobby Jones.

    Nowadays she'd be publishing it all over the web and anybody can read it.

    Sure takes the fun out of life!
  • Here is the correct link for Radio UserLand [userland.com].
  • Bad review... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by reallocate (142797) on Tuesday September 10, 2002 @12:09PM (#4228806)
    ...that tells us that the author doesn't think much of blogging to begin with, that the book has too many pictures for his tastes, and that he can't fathom why anyone would want to use the three highlighted tools in the first place.

    How about installing and using the tools, per the book, and telling us how if the instructions work?

    And, why the gratuitous plug for the Slash book? And why the implied slur of anyone who wants a blog but doesn't need, want, or have time to wade through Slash? He might as well have said "Why would anyone not smart enough to understand Perl code even pretend their smart enough to use these tools?"

    Next time, I'd like to learn about the book, not the author. This "review" is just another example of geek bias and elitism.
  • Get a webserver and the Python code on my site (see my homepage). It doesn't let the reader leave any comments, but that's the way it should be.

    +1 (Shameless self-promotion)
  • ... because there are plenty of free hints/tips for writing 'effective' weblogs.

    Write the Living Web [alistapart.com] by Mark Bernstein
    How to Write a Better Weblog [alistapart.com] by Dennis A. Mahoney
    How to be Soopafamous [alistapart.com] by W.K. Lang
    A Case for Web Storytelling [alistapart.com] by Curt Cloninger

    Those links are just for a quick scan at Alistapart [alistapart.com]. I'm sure a little more work and you could build up a huge directory of 'good weblogging' links (or just read Zeldman [zeldman.com]).

    As for the blogging systems themselves, can the people who buy this book not deal with README files? I've used Blogger and MT in my weblogging time and both have had excellent online documentation or readme files respectively.

    This seems to me like a book for people who really don't want to try to learn anything for themselves, and need it all presented for them. There is so much more to be gained by finding out stuff fo yourself [google.com].

    --Jon
    • Why is reading a book having "it all presented to them" but reading a README file is "finding out" for yourself?

      README files typically present installation and usage instructions. Also typically, they're written for a peer audience, i.e., other software developers. And even more typically, they're written by people who can't write.

      What I'd expect from this O'Reilly book is a balanced comparison of the tools being examined, a review of their individual strengths and weaknesses, any outside knowledge and experience the author can bring, and an assessment of the usability and support I'm likely to receive if I choose on the pacakges (and that includes the usefulness of the readme files.)

      I'd also expect a decent review to tell me if the book got anywhere close to answering those questions. This review failed, because it is a thinly disguised rant against blogging.

  • ...are going to have a lot to wade through when they study the information age. Remembering my undergraduate days of wading through letters of the 16/17th century landed gentry, how the hell is anyone going to cope with the embarassment of riches that we are leaving behind?
    • They're not, anymore than you are likely to sift through the reams of data that have been produced on DOS-formatted floppies, DAT tapes, reel-to-reels, punch cards, or paper spools.

      Those letters you mention were written on a relatively durable medium (old paper) which does not require a special machine for decoding. This is not true of hard drives, optical storage, etc. Even modern paper is bad, unless it's acid-free.

      And don't expect Google's "wayback" machines to be around 100 years from now. Companies disappear. Technology changes.

      If you want your words to survive for 300 years, I suggest you print them out on acid-free paper and staple the hardcopy to the back of a large and very tasteful painting. Or chisel them into a big rock.

      BTW, an excellent book on the durability of information -- and the astounding benefits of transparency -- is "The Clock of the Long Now".

  • Always averting "Something" for dummies books, I had to consider this title as I passed it on the clearance shelf; "Plastic Surgery for Dummies"
  • I do a blog helper application called QBoard, qboard.org which is a free version of the tagboards bloggers have been using for a while. I see A LOT of blogs that sign up for our little free product and I can say with certainty that 90% of them are complete and total crap that bring me back to the days of the "frame-craze" or the crazy colors with blinking text and animated images with background sounds (if I wanted your website to make noise I would lick my finger and drag it across my screen) .. I am waiting for the blog frenzy to die a little death and move to where it belongs, sites like livejournal etc.. Once journalist get over themselves and people realize that nobody really cares what their cd collection is like, the better. Well, in my opinion... but then I am a programmer and am so bored with blog-girls with webcams showing their tits and little boys who think they are pretty and design sites for only IE and Mozilla/Netscape be damned because they use some product that can't comply for us linux users. bahh
  • Go to NPR's Public Interest website [wamu.org] to listen live or to the archive in couple hour (they provide ram, wmv, and mp3 streams.)

    Here's the description of today's show:
    For years, Web loggers, or "bloggers," have used the Internet to express their viewpoint or document their lives. A Tech Tuesday look at how blogging has influenced the national debate since September 11th.


    Rebecca Blood, editor of We've Got Blog: How Weblogs Are Changing Our Culture [amazon.com] and author of The Weblog Handbook: Practical Advice on Creating and Maintaining Your Blog [amazon.com] (both from Perseus Books)

    David Gallagher, freelance journalist specializing in Internet and technology news

    John Foley, Executive Editor, InformationWeek

    Eric Olsen, editor of BlogCritics.org; and editor of Blog Nation, an upcoming book that will compile the very best blogs from the aftermath of September 11th
  • by gnat (1960) on Tuesday September 10, 2002 @01:24PM (#4229668)
    Hi, I'm Nathan Torkington, the editor of Essential Blogging [oreilly.com]. 3/10. Wow, that stings :-) I'm not sure it's entirely justified, though.

    The numeric rating really seems disproportionate, as the reviewer did have some good things to say:

    • "for a person who is determined to keep a daily journal available on the Internet, it would provide helpful reading material"
    • "the depth of covered material is surprisingly large for such a narrow topic"
    The reviewer appears to think that people are either hackers, or will use LiveJournal (a system we didn't cover in depth in book). I take issue with that.

    The primary audience for Essential Blogging is someone who is new to blogging. If you already use a blogging system like Movable Type, you'll learn something from the book (Ben and Mena, the authors of Movable Type, wrote a lot of new material for their chapters), but you are not the primary audience. We even say this in the preface, and the back cover pretty clearly states what's inside: "Essential Blogging helps you select the right blogging software for your needs and shows you how to get your blog up and running."

    Someone new to blogging can read Chapter 1 to learn about the different aspects of a blogging system; the pros and cons of self-hosting vs hosted, desktop vs server; and ultimately decide which web journal system to use. Then they can read the chapters specific to their chosen system to get started, and return when they're ready to customize the appearance of their blog.

    While working on the book, I kept my Dad in mind. He's technical, not stupid, and if he wanted to start a blog, what I want him to know about? The audience also explains the screenshots--if you're new to blogging, you don't to know what to expect nor what the possibilities are. Although it's hard for the reviewer to imagine there are people who haven't been hacking web sites and writing their own blogging systems since 1996, such people do exist.

    But even people who already blog and are entrenched in a particular blogging system should check out the others. I'm a Movable Type user myself, but it was a real eye-opener to use Radio Userland for a while. The whole approach to software and blogging is different in Radio Userland, and it makes you look at your own setup in a new light. I'm not saying you need to buy Essential Blogging to do this, but such comparisons are a benefit of having multiple systems presented side-by-side in the one book.

    About the only thing I agree with the reviewer wholeheartedly on is that it's a shame we don't cover LiveJournal more. When the book was being developed, I didn't see the geek interest in LiveJournal that I see now. Perhaps in the second edition we'll have chapters on LiveJournal.

    So to conclude, I sure hope the old saying that there's no such thing as bad publicity is true. I hope the next book gets a real review (more than six paragraphs) by someone who reads the preface :-).

    --Nat
    (blogs on O'Reilly Network [oreillynet.com] and use.perl [perl.org], as well as several Movable Type installations for family, and a Blossom blog for work)

  • Here [userland.com]. .com, not .org.
  • I refuse to even look at this book. I was a big fan of MovableType since I began blogging. I even donated in their highest category. Then I ran into problems and Ben and Mena were too busy writing this book to help me out. So I switched and am now a satisfied and happy pMachine user.

    Blogging rocks though!
    • Purpleman51: We have already apologized to you via email for not responding to your original email in the timely matter your expected. The lack of response was an oversight on our part -- one that is regrettable but not common. However, we've been finished with our two chapters for months so the book had nothing to do with support. Please stop assuming you know how we spend our time and consider that sometimes people just make mistakes occasionally.
  • by acroyear (5882) <jws-slashdot@javaclientcookbook.net> on Tuesday September 10, 2002 @01:35PM (#4229776) Homepage Journal
    One option, since its one of those books you only need for a little while to select and set up your software, would be to "rent" the book online for a month from Safari [oreilly.com] at O'Reilly's website, then either unsubscribe from Safari or switch to a more interesting book later.
  • Well, the review is probably fair, but that doesn't mean the book won't be popular or useful. I'm actually predicting that this book will be one of Oreilly's top sellers this year, Slashdot review be damned! Actually, I'm one of the blogger holdouts, and might actually appreciate a chapter or two on movable type. The problem with technical publishing is that these books can be irrelevant fairly soon, and it's hard to predict what will be the next big thing.

    I haven't read the book, so I'm speculating wildly here. Actually, I would have liked some firsthand accounts of how famous bloggers managed their website, both from a technical and a literary point of view. What subjects tend to be good for blogs? How to publicize? How does a weblog compare to CMS, in terms of advantages and disadvantages? Maybe some might regard this as padding, but I think the sociological aspects of blogging are just as interesting as the technical aspects.

    Robert Nagle, Idiotprogrammer
    Texas Technical Writer, Trainer & Linux Aficionado

    • > Actually, I would have liked some firsthand accounts of how famous bloggers managed their website, both from a technical and a literary point of view

      Well, uh, due to the nature of blogs, wouldn't you (I would) assume that this information might be actually contained in the blogs themselves?

      I mean if I wanted to know how to setup a blog (I don't) wouldn't I just go to the first couple of entries in a famous one?
  • OK, we all hate the weekly status meeting where everyone in the department is called together to one location at an inconvenient time to listen to other people say what they've been working on. However, every once in a while someone else has an answer to something you've been working on, or vice versa. Not often enough to make the meetings seem worthwhile, but it does happen.

    How about instead of the meeting each developer keeps a blog about what they're working on and problems they're having, update it at least once a week, and encourage/require other developers to read the blogs to get an idea of what other people are up to & see if they can answer a nagging question.

    You can read them when it's convenient to you, as opposed to the meeting which is convenient to the manager.

    I see this a good use for blogs, and this book could be good for the blog-naive developer/manager.
  • I think most of you are getting a little lost. See, you're making the mistake of labelling online journals as weblogs. While there is definitely some overlapping, journals and weblogs are not one and the same.

    Like most of you have observed, online journals are mostly products of self absorbed teens whining about their lives (of course, not all of them are like that - LittleYellowDifferent [littleyell...ferent.com] is technically a blog but verges into journal territory lots, with a bunch of hilarious anecdotes from the author's life). Blogs, on the other hand, are the natural extention of links pages. They offer links to interesting or funny webpages and adding often hilarious commentary on the pages. Of course there are a ton of inane, cookie-cutter blogs, but there are a whole bunch of amazing and hilarious blogs out there too.

    Examples of some awesome blogs are Davezilla [davezilla.com], the null device [null.org], and Kottke.org [kottke.org].

    Oh, and here's my rule of thumb for finding great blogs: If, in your quest, you find yourself at Livejournal or Blogspot, run as far as you can in the opposite direction, because you're not going to find the next Davezilla on there.

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