Humayun's Public Blog

Tuesday, October 8, 2002

Parry Hotter: How Blogs Destroyed the Value of Writing

I recently read an article on weblogs that concluded that only free writing would exist in the future. It seemed inspired by previous debates over free versus proprietary software.

Personally, I consider it unlikely that there will be a single answer. Like everything else in the world, some writing will continue to be given away, and some writing will continue to be paid for.

I disagreed with some of the points of the thesis, which I found so extreme that I felt compelled to write a satirical response.

Thursday, September 26, 2002


I'm noticing writers starting to post articles on their blogs, and I just had a related discussion with another writer. So, I wanted to ask: would people be interested in seeing an articles section?

The articles section could have different categories (e.g. short stories, romance), and each category would list all articles together, regardless of writer. That would allow people to easily find a specific kind of article.

The advantage is that it would be simple for people to locate, say, the most popular short stories in the romance category, no matter which writer had written each story.

This isn't going to happen soon, since we have other things to work on, but I wanted to gauge interest while the idea was fresh.

Wednesday, September 25, 2002

Radio Free Blogistan on Berkeley J-school weblog panel

[BlogHog] There's a thorough transcript, with commentary, on Radio Free Blogistan.

Thursday, September 19, 2002

Dog Parks and Human Behavior

If a complete stranger invites you to their home to play with their dog, what do you do?

a) Run away. Quickly.

b) Agree.

People act differently at dog parks. The implicit connection overcomes the usual social barriers, prompting strangers to talk freely.

The unspoken rules permit communication about all aspects of the dog, such as its name, age and detailed personal history, when similar communication about the humans would be considered strange or rude.

When the dog park was unexpectedly closed Tuesday evening, we didn't feel terribly uncomfortable selecting option (b). That in itself made us feel a bit odd.

Jackie had a great time, and we left the house with a bonus: peppers, tomatoes and bones.

Picture This

On the freeway, going 75. She's driving.

She says: "Look at the rainbows in the signs!"

Do you worry?

Wednesday, September 18, 2002


I find it intriguing how closely we are all connected, and how we constantly seek more ways to connect ourselves with others.

Even sharing a birthday creates some sort of connection, which is probably why people are fascinated by knowing people who share a birthday. It turns out that it takes a group of as little as 23 people for at least two of them have the same birthday.

Considering this, it's no surprise that two strangers often find that they have common interests, or have lived in the same state, which in turn creates multiple connections between them.

Friday, September 13, 2002

...the community owns itself

Truer words were never spoken. Clay Shirky, a major influence on Blogging Network, describes five key points for traditional broadcasters in Broadcast Institutions, Community Values:

  1. Audiences are built. Communities grow.
  2. Communities face a tradeoff between size and focus.
  3. Participation matters more than quality.
  4. You may own the software, but the community owns itself.
  5. The community will want to build. Help it, or at least let it.

Friday, August 23, 2002

Time and Money

Joanne Jacobs on bloggers balancing free and pay. Even a few free posts are enought to give readers a taste of a writer's work, as Amazon's "look inside" scheme demonstrates for books. The full blog, timely and comprehensive, is worth real money in its own right.

Of course, bloggers can also promote their other writing and books on Blogging Network. One advantage: they know the readers are willing to pay for quality writing.

Thursday, August 22, 2002

Arnold Kling Weighs In

Arnold Kling, whose groundbreaking posts helped inspire the Blogging Network business model, has weighed in with some things he'd like to see. My favorite line, naturally: "I like the business model."

Sign up without e-mail address: I assume this is to ensure privacy. However, we do need to be able to contact people in circumstances such as payment failure. Is there another option?

Payment options (e.g. single annual credit card payment): Absolutely!

Hit auditing: The system is designed to eliminate the benefit of inflating hit counts artificially, so hit auditing is less (or not) necessary. Each reader's behavior only changes the distribution of their own payment, so inflating hit counts only affects how their $2.99 is divided up. All ranking is done by the number of unique, authenticated readers, never by the number of hits.

Blog hosting elsewhere: We evaluated this possibility very carefully, and decided against it for a number of reasons. We're always open to discussion, so here's a summary:

  1. Security. A distributed authentication and payment system is more difficult to secure. Microsoft Passport is a case in point -- and doesn't even implement most of what we need for Blogging Network.
  2. Reader experience. For readers to pay, they need a next-generation experience. Making blogs easy to find and read -- using consistent, accessible features such as up-to-date browse, search and independent rankings -- is crucial, not optional. This kind of experience is difficult to achieve in a truly distributed system.

Bill Quick Gets It

I was thrilled to see this post and its followup yesterday. No long discussion needed; Bill took the idea and ran with it -- within minutes of signing in.

That's what makes the blosophere so powerful, and what will make this blogging network work: the amazing ability of people to work together towards a common goal.

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