Writing != Typing

· Weblog Concepts

It occurred to me today that the way I write by hand is very different from the way I do it with a keyboard. I’m not just talking about the mechanics here, although that plays in to it. I’m lefthanded. Writing longhand seems to bring out a kind of writing that feels different from what I type. There’s a time element as well: learned cursive at one age, typing at a later age.
Maybe typing engages both halves of my brain? It would be hard to write script, a single text, with both hands. The man-machine (“cybernetic”) interface has been around a long time. The piano and its predecessors were already little musical-instrument generator/computer type devices, with their pads and notes all lined up in a row. The people who came up with QWERTY made some effort (tales vary) to spread the key letters around, so that typing would engage both hands, some say to slow the user down.
But the fascination these days with implants and chips, whether for therapeutic purposes or to pioneer cyborgian lifeforms, misses the point that the man-machine interface has been around for a long time. This is not just being written by me (“I do not know which one of us wrote this.”). The computer, the browser, Dave Winer’s user interface, the publishing infrastructure—they are all playing a part to cultivate a certain kind of writing from, different from what I write by hand in my private notebook here by my speaker. I once said, or wish I had, that e-mail is telepathy version 1.0. The blogosphere makes/helps us say things that might not otherwise be said, out loud, in public, with comments.

On Blog Interoperability

· Weblog Concepts

When they started discussing this experiment on the Well, my first post to the topic there was about the interoperability of these blogs with other formats. As someone with a painful proliferation of blogs ranging from a personal diary at LiveJournal to a number of topical blogs running on Blogger and some experiements based on MovableType, I’m more interested in aggregation and x-pollination than in furthering the balkanization of the blogosphere.
This post in the Fragment makes some of the same points and hails MovableType’s new TrackBack feature as a good model, a step toward enabling the further weaving together of blog content, lest we end up with a series of disconnected cells.

Blog Books Pro or Con?

· Weblog Concepts

I was talking to Bill Pollock, the “maverick” publisher of No Starch Press yesterday over lunch in Potrero Hill, pitching him a few titles that some of my author clients would like to write and idly mentioning a few of my own book ideas. When we got to discussing blog books, he said (as many others have) that he doesn’t see the need for such a book. Now, Bill runs on passion. If he cares about something, he’ll publish on it and more than likely have success with it, but if he’s not into something, then he may accept that it might be a good idea, but he’s not going to go out on a limb about.
He did mention that he’s seen many book proposals on blogs or blogging lately (and I think that’s probably true of a lot of computer-book and technology publishers). For me, this is kind of frustrating. Typically you bring an idea to publishers and they’ve never heard of it, don’t see anyone else publishing on it, don’t get it and don’t see why there needs to be a book. Six months later the reason for rejecting the proposal is the opposite: Too many publishers are doing books like this, the areas is overpublished, we’ve got our own book in the works, etc.
Now, to be fair, my ideas are only semi-baked. I’m not that interested in doing a technical how to or survey (like the O’Reilly Blogging Essentials title) and I’m only somewhat interested in doing a think piece like the Perseus book. Having done a lot of content-management consulting, for startups and Fortune 500 companies, I do feel that the blogging phenomenon represents a mid-level streamlined CMS solution just sitting there. I’m not totally bought into the Knowledge Log concept, but just bridging the gap between lame custom-built forms-driven content admin pages and six or seven figure enterprise systems such as Documentum or Interwoven Teamsite looks like a business opportunity to me.
Then there’s the noncommercial side of things. Blogs seem to have inherited all the oomph of the pre-commerce web. And blogging touches on so many other issues these days—it’s almost like a surrogate for the Internet itself, circa 1995.
Then, on the purely pragmatic side of things, I can easily imagine a good 250-300 page book just on MovableType (or, for that matter, on Radio Userland). Maybe that book is already in the works. If I don’t write it, maybe I’ll review it.
This random screed brought to you after perusing my News page and coming across this:

A couple of weeks ago I said I don’t understand books about weblogs. Double-click. How do you write about a book about the Web if it isn’t on the Web? All you can do is write a very short review, unless you want to try to explain what the book is saying. Well, writing for weblogs doesn’t work that way. I say what I have to say and link to the source so you can read for yourself exactly what they’re saying, not my paraphrasing of it. It’s lame for a book about weblogs to not be on the Web. If all I can do is link to a page where you can buy the book, well, okay, I’ll do that once or twice, but if it’s on the Web, and indexed by search engines, it can come up over and over. So I think the BlogRoots folks did the right thing. Their book will be studied, examined, probed, questioned and vetted by the weblog community, as they release chapters on a regular basis over the coming weeks. Will their book sell? We’ll find out when it’s published. I’ll buy a copy to support the idea of books being dual-published on the Web and in print. It’s a good idea, in general, but it’s essential for books about the Web. [Scripting News]