Yesterday, Sara Mayhew tweeted at me some of her grand knowledge of blogging.
It’s the new meme, apparently. Beth Hendricks, Reap’s buddy, brought it up here on Thursday. Rich Sanderson, one of the Twitter harassers, posted it last night:
I don’t know which of the company Sara is keeping introduced her to the meme. I’m pretty sure she didn’t come up with it on her own. On her Facebook page, she talked about the idea at more length:
Bad blogging is when you need to quote huge blocks of text. It makes me believe you’re either a lazy or incompetent writer, when you can’t make a summary of someone else’s point.
It starts to become really lazy, like Almost Diamonds and Ophelia Benson’s blog, when it’s 90% blocks of quotes and they insert a sentence or two in between.
At that point, just link to the entire article you’re discussing. But I guess Zvan and Benson aren’t really generating content as much as just being the two old muppets in the balcony.
Later in a comment, she notes:
But guess what, Benson? I’m not a blogger. I actually produce content; graphic novels, online comics, and now a new children’s science education book by the publisher of the Manga Guide To science series. So go ahead and skip over the majority of There Are Four Lights’ content.
Apparently the irony that she posted four pictures of dresses with captions and four sentences about the company on the day she decided to lecture about “lazy blogging” was lost on her, as was the fact that she was taunting the co-author of Does God Hates Women?, Why Truth Matters, and The Dictionary of Fashionable Nonsense: A Guide for Edgy People–who is also a Free Inquiry columnist–for not being a content creator. But whatever.
While I’m digressing, I’ll just note that those two bits of quote are separated by an interesting exchange, included here for documentation’s sake.
Ophelia Benson: Yup, the two old muppets in the balcony; that’s us, Sara. Good writing!
Daniel Waddell: And here You are Ophie http://i.imgur.com/do2PUDL.jpg
Sara Mayhew: Go home, pineapple.
“Pineapple”, here, refers to Ophelia, whose Facebook profile picture is currently a pineapple. Sara is not telling, and did not tell, Waddell to leave or even knock off the fat- and age-shaming. Justin Vacula, on the other hand, thought the whole name-calling thing was just perfect.
Introducing the Brave Hero podcast with hosts Justin Vacula and Karla Porter…we’re just two young muppets in a balcony.
Episode one — “Go home, pineapple!” — will be aired Saturday (3/2/13) at 7:00PM EST. We would be honored if #bravehero Sara E Mayhew would call in.
Be a #bravehero and join the growing resistance movement today! Callers — no matter their viewpoints — are welcome and encouraged. Save the online atheist community, save the world.
Just in case you thought this sort of thing was anything but constant. But that’s enough digression.
First, on linking. I almost always link. Ophelia almost always links. Basically every experienced blogger almost always links. The exceptions are to sites that we don’t want to see any benefit at any point. Why? Because linking is valuable. Just ask this guy I’m linking to, who explained why the Associated Press was self-destructively silly to try to prevent bloggers from linking to their stories back in the day:
The AP should not be asking for payment for its content. The bloggers should be asking for payment for their links. That is where the value is in this economy.
Step away from that ‘comment’ link. I am not seriously suggesting that bloggers should demand or accept payment for links. Indeed, that would be quite unethical — very PayPerPosty: selling out and devaluing our credibility. That’s why we don’t do it. Our link ethic would not allow it.
Still, there is value in our links and the AP, if it understood this new economy would understand that it is a gift economy and links are presents that can be given or earned but not bought. But the AP is still operating in the content economy, which values control instead. That age has passed.
Jeff Jarvis was talking about money in this case, because he was talking about the business of journalism. The same holds true, however, for other forms of currency. In particular, bloggers receive value from having their work read (or watched or looked at, depending on the type of blogging). They can own all the content they want, but if no one interacts with it, they and their work are sitting off in a corner together alone. Even a blogger whose only goal is to get their own thoughts straightened out derives value from others reading those thoughts and giving feedback, though as the blogfather recently pointed out, that no longer has to happen in a comments section.
So links are good. For monetizing, for interaction, for attention, for Google search ranks–they’re good. But they’re only as good as people clicking on them.
The first time a group of readers came across a blog post with no title that consisted of only a link, some of them might follow the link out of curiosity. If all linking posts looked like that, the internet would screech to a halt. People have a very limited amount of time and attention. The amount of content competing for our attention is effectively infinite, and the vast majority is crap. (Crap. n.: Not to one’s liking.)
How do I promote something then? I have two options. I can gush and reason and command you to read it. That assumes that you’ll somehow accept my authority and do what I tell you. Or I can give you a sample (first time’s free) and hope that you’ll find yourself intrigued. You don’t have to trust me. You merely have to trust your own ability to know what you will and won’t like.
Thus, when I link you to Crommunist’s Black History month posts, or a weekly story, or some political action you can take to push our world in a direction we want it to go, I let the work I’m promoting speak for itself as much as possible. I’m the bow, not the target. That’s why these people tend to thank me when I do this. It gives them the traffic they need.
Thus end Internet 101 lesson one.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is fisking, a style of argumentation named after one of the poor fellows it was used upon. Again, to quote and link:
One of the primary aspects of fisking is the use of deconstruction in taking an argument apart and making a counterargument or rebuttal for each point. This can be done on a line-by-line basis, though it is often done for each paragraph or individual point made by a person in his or her initial statement. The Internet provides a perfect environment for this type of argument, since it allows a person to quote and repost the original statement, divided into sections, and then add commentary or rebuttal after each section.
Quoting not just extensively but completely is part of the point of fisking. Fisking is reserved for pieces that are wrong throughout. This is demonstrated by not leaving a single part of the original argument unaddressed, and this in turn is demonstrated by putting the entire argument there for anyone to catch you eliding part of it. It may well be considered a tool of arrogance, but it is anything but lazy.
On those occasions when I have fisked someone, such as Justin Vacula or Damion Reinhardt, they tend to stay fisked. They get a mumbled acknowledgement at best, completely ignored at worst. They don’t get an argument in response, because the thorough quoting demonstrates the thoroughness of the refutation.
So there we are, boys and girls, two quick lessons on how block quoting can add value on the internet. Tune in again soon for a history lesson on what a Gish Gallop really looks like, because that appears to be the next meme. That’s what happens, you see, when I do write at any length, at least according to Sara’s friends on Facebook.
I’ll just leave this here again.