Friday, September 16, 2005

All The BlogWorld's A Stage

This blog world can be interesting. The few of you that regularly read this site -- and I do mean the few -- are aware of the metablog that the Chair made the occasional contribution to in its salad days. It seems that the concept of the metablog was not so well received by some of the denizens of the Ottawa blog This is B: friend of mice
community once it recently became public knowledge. Apparently, the “blog about a blog” seems to have violated some unwritten code in the blogosphere that one needs to show unwavering reverence for those blogging their thoughts online. I can appreciate this point of view. I suppose if we treat the blog world as one would treat an open mic night at your local music club, perhaps irreverence doesn’t show the due respect bloggers are looking for when “getting out there” with some of their deepest confessions and personal musings.

The site followed by the metablog is somewhat unique, and maybe it reflects why it was chosen for this little cyber experiment. From our perspective, the Fifth Muse writes in a frank and often-poignant manner about personal matters. She pulls few punches in her editorials about people that cross her path and expresses her passion in a cogent manner – something I have rarely found in the blog world. Yes, who knows whether we were getting anything close to what this person truly is, but the content of her postings were compelling nonetheless. Some subjects resonated with many of us, other subjects less so. And so we used this as a springboard for our own creativity in the same public space. In so doing, we created the “blog about the blog”, mimicking a discussion group of a daily soap opera.

Some of the creepy Big Brother themes were deliberate – the web cams, the bus timetable references, satellite maps of the city – and were part of the broader social commentary the metablog was making about anonymous voyeurs and exhibitionists in the modern cyber world. Obviously, many of the readers did not understand this context, and instead got spooked about the creepy and subversive nature of the metablog.

What I think really bothered some of the local blogger elite was that we were hiding behind a layer of anonymity. It made it somehow creepier and unfair. I suppose if we were anonymously doing such commentary about a blog who’s contributor was not remaining anonymous, then that point may have some merit. In the broader domain, Ottawa has something akin to such poison penmanship and its called Frank Magazine, where anonymous insiders rat out their very public colleagues and bosses.

But therein lies the difference.

First off, never did the metablog contributors “out” any details about the Muse that she did not already publish in her blog. Sure, we might have speculated about aspects of her life she didn’t write about, but in all those instances, it was merely that – speculation. Any astute reader would recognize it as such. And even if there were coincidental small world connections that got us closer to her, we were cautious in keeping such matters outside of our public commentary.
I'm too good looking to catch mice
We were actually very concerned about the protection of her anonymity --- particularly since we found that some of the content she was going public with could be considered slanderous and that those whom she was writing about could likely easily identify her. Many of the individuals for whom Muse had disparaging remarks could easily be identified in a small town such as Ottawa. In fact, I was quite surprised that given her connections and close friendships with some of the best known bloggers in the community, that no one had offered some counsel to her on some of her more controversial postings. Maybe she ignored such advice, but when the metablog raised this issue, she did some immediate revisions to her postings, which I believe was wise.

As for us remaining anonymous, I think that was perfectly fair, since we were commenting about an anonymous person. For those bloggers who personally know the Muse, it was probably hard for them to understand this context. They do not view the Muse as an anonymous person. And so, we would hear comments like, “they don’t even know her, how can they write that stuff”? Of course, we don’t know her. And I’m told television wrestling isn’t real either. What was really disappointing about the anonymity issue was the deliberate attempts we encountered to uncloak the anonymity of the Muse, members of the metablog, as well as individuals anonymously referred to in the Muse’s blog. Some of these attempts were by noted Ottawa bloggers, no less.

Some may argue, “fine do what you want, but what’s with drawing all this extra attention to yourselves?” Was there a need to share this with the rest of the blog world? Well, the irony, of course, is that none of the metabloggers posted to Muse’s site. Muse was anonymously contacted through the metablog members. She pointed out its existence to the rest of the blog world. We took that as a sign that she was reasonably fine with what we had constructed, and wanted to share this interesting diversion to the blog phenomena. Obviously, there were comments she did not agree with, but I believe she understood what we were doing, and moreover, that it should be treated as something interesting but benign. And there is no doubt that her content has multiplied since acquiring knowledge of the metablog.

The metabloggers have been referred to as “self-indulgent busybodies” by other noted Ottawa bloggers. I suppose that’s true. I think if one reads the blog, the members are highly self-aware, albeit somewhat irreverent, about that dubious honour. But who isn’t self-indulgent in the blogosphere? The thing is, once you’ve decided that your diary needs to be read by the rest of the world, you must accept how the rest of the world will react. Sure, you can turn off your comments, and insulate yourself to the known few that will stand by you, no matter what you put out there. But you are still out there. If you didn’t want to be out there, you shouldn’t be so public.


At 9/16/2005, Blogger Corrie said...

I think of blogging as playing a big game. Games have rules. Rules are not often made up by the players, as they want, as they go along, and as they see fit, to meet their own needs. Unless they are self-indulgent children, perhaps (there's that word again).

Game rules are made up by society, by the people who invented the game, by the people who've played it through the years, by professional associations who police games that have gone professional, and even by governments that create laws surrounding some big games.
There's a game called "publishing." It's a big game. There are serious laws surrounding it, prescribing the proper rules to which one must adhere when playing it.

There also exist "norms" to which many publishers and commentators may adhere, if they choose. An example is pornography. It's legal to publish some forms of it. But you don't see it everywhere. Walk into a magazine shop, and the porn is often hidden on the top shelf, away from young kids' eyes. That's not because of a law, just because of a societal expectation.

One form of publishing is blogging. Looking at all the various types of publications out there, you see these same kinds of rules being followed, over and over.
"Be nice all the time" isn't one of the rules. "Never comment except as the publisher would like" is also not one of the rules. "Ignore all published errors and do nothing but compliment" is defineitly not a rule.
Publishing is actually a rough game, as anyone who has any sort of real experience with it can attest. Some people find this out the hard way.
I guess if you're not enjoying the game, you shouldn't play. But for goodness sake, don't go trying to change the rules to suit yourself. It won't work.
One of the more ironic parts to this story is that the muse has always insisted she wants to learn, to grow, to find out why things aren't working in her personal sphere. She has asked, countless times, publicly, on her published blog, questions like: "why can't I find...?" Or "will I ever be able to get...?" Or words to that effect, in all sorts of different contexts.
Why has she asked, if she didn't want serious answers? Why publish questions and pose moral dilemmas, if all you want is sugary pap in response?

At 9/16/2005, Blogger The Chair said...

Well, I'm not sure whether the Muse was looking for sugary pap, and most of the dissent about the metablog have come from others, but I agree with your observation of rules of publishing. I now wonder whether there is a class of bloggers that feel they are not publishing when they blog and so feel that the "social nicety" rules are what should be at play.

At 9/16/2005, Blogger Corrie said...

We may disagree upon what the Muse will or will not allow as acceptable comment upon her publications, BUT, clearly, we both agree on the nice kittie pictures. They seem de rigueur in blogland these days, and no one's going to catch you on the out, obviously! Nice work, but I had no idea you were so much a cat-lover, Mr. Chair. Especially considering the way in which so many cats tend to sharpen their claws on legs like yours...
Oh, nice spam-blocking, too.

At 9/16/2005, Blogger The Chair said...

Luckily, "B" (the said kitty in photos) is de-clawed so his leg scratching is pretty much a pointless exercise. He still does it though, which looks pretty dumb. But then again, I guess a lot of us can look dumb from time to time when all we are acting on are instincts.

At 9/16/2005, Blogger 4th Dwarf said...

Seeing what the reaction to us has been, I'm feeling now like I should have been able to predict it.

In hindsight, of course, people wouldn't get that all the "fieldwork" talk was kidding around. They don't know us.

I suppose I had this foolish hope that people would see enough of our personalities from the things we write that they'd see that behind the joking and the commentary we have good will. (Not counting Corrie and her other angry incarnations.)

We've been criticized for maintaining anonymity, but having made it incredibly easy for 5M and her friends to identify me, getting accused of harassment after showing up at a club I've been going to since it opened wasn't exactly a reward.

As much as they found our attention on 5M disturbing, I never understood why Lana and Minty were upset to the point of stopping blogging. I don't think we ever mentioned Place and Thyme.

I said some things like "I think Minty is sad" and the girls teased me about having a crush on her. But I didn't think it would bother her. I even had the wacky idea that Minty would like my little homage in the 6 Muses cartoon where I made her the muse of fabric creations.

At 9/17/2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you, Dwarf, for identifying what I suspected all along, that there is ill will in this Corrie/Siren person. How unfortunate for all of us.

At 9/17/2005, Blogger 4th Dwarf said...

I wouldn't say she has ill will towards 5M or any of the rest of us. Just that she's too wrapped up in her own things to really pay attention to what we are saying and thinking.

At 9/17/2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, I certainly think that she has a chip on her shoulder.

At 9/17/2005, Blogger Conch Shell said...

Wow, well put Chair. What a great summation and argument.

At 9/17/2005, Blogger The Chair said...

I'm going to close off comments on this thread but would like to add that speculation about any blogger's intentioned or uninitentioned ill-will is not so easily deciphered in this virtual space. Just like we only know Muse through what she writes, that is all she knows about us. I believe all of the regular contributors to the metablog site were well-intentioned, but that is probably because I personally know them. Without that subtext, we only have the printed words to look at. Obviously, in some instances, some were better at conveying that than others, and each one of us, at various times might have come off as less than well-intentioned.


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