Comments written on other sites from April 2005

Sheer Class #5 on Flickr - Photo Sharing!

While the cyclists in your other ‘Sheer Class’ shots annoy me - as a cyclist I hate cyclists who jump lights and cycle on pavements - this one doesn’t. Cyclists are under no obligation to use cycle lanes, according to the highway code, and some lanes can make life more dangerous if you’re already confident.

Here, for example, you’d have to stop for pedestrians on the pavement or jump down the kerb onto the road, while there’s plenty of space to cycle on the road from the start.

On 1 April 2005. Permalink

Sheer Class #5 on Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Fair enough - yes, you’re right, it is daft to spend money on lanes like this that aren’t good for anyone (except legitimising the cyclists who would cycle on the pavement anyway). And, as you say, lanes like this may just be wasting space if cyclists avoid them along with pedestrians.

Although that does lead me on to… Pedestrians walking in cycle lanes always amaze me - they so often seem surprised when a cyclist comes along. Even if the path is painted bright green. To the extent that I wonder if there’s something psychologically appealing about green, that makes people want to walk on it. The paths in London Fields, or Churchwell Path in Hackney, spring to mind.

When I’m cycling, pedestrians are nearly as annoying as bad cyclists. Although I was surprised that, on the whole, car drivers are better than I was expecting.

On 1 April 2005. Permalink

Apophenia: in defense of BoingBoing (or why i’m not a journalist)

Obviously, I can’t speak for any of the people who posted comments on my piece, some of whom hold pretty pointless arguments (“Why can’t Cory/Xeni post more things that I like, and less of the stuff I don’t?”).

But I think you’re confusing matters by saying people look at Boing Boing and/or other weblogs as journalism. The weblogs vs journalism thing has been argued over far more than it deserves - almost no weblogs claim to be journalism, and almost none are journalism. “Journalism” implies topical news and/or research/investigation, which makes up a tiny proportion of weblogs. So I’m not sure there are many people who “expect blogs to be journalism” (and anyone who does is going to be permanently disappointed).

My point was that as a weblog becomes popular it may edge closer towards “publishing” - when the weblog is read by a huge number of people, mostly strangers. It may not be fair or expected by the writers, but I do feel this changes the nature of the weblog and, in turn, some of the responsibilities involved.

Some people might never need to worry about these responsibilities - if a weblog detailing someone’s nightly dreams becomes inexplicably popular there’s little responsibility for accuracy required.

But if, like *some* of the posts on Boing Boing, the posts are factual (and particularly if they’re of a campaigning nature, asking readers to take some action) there seems to be more of a responsibility to make the posts accurate.

It may seem unfair that an external force like the number of readers affects how someone should write, but that doesn’t make it less true.

On 6 April 2005. Permalink

Defenestrated - The nature of blogging was irrepressible…

Sorry to be picky, but… I think your explanation of my point more accurately defines points that one or two commenters on my post are making, but not what I’m trying to say.

As far as I know, Boing Boing doesn’t claim to be journalism, and I wouldn’t say it is. My point is that simply by being popular it edges closer towards “publishing” (which is different from “journalism”) which entails certain responsibilities for accuracy.

On 8 April 2005. Permalink

Apophenia: in defense of BoingBoing (or why i’m not a journalist)

Zephoria: “Is it solely having an audience that turns it into a publication? Why does the audience have the right to affect your blogging? Why are their responsibilities?”

I see weblogs existing on a very rough continuum. At one end there are people writing weblogs read by a handful of close friends and family - a more regular equivalent of annual round-robin letters sent out to friends. These are small scale and their activity could be described as being closer to “conversation” rather than “publishing” (although I suspect many newbie bloggers actually see it as more like publishing because that’s the closest old-media analogy).

At the other end of the continuum are, perhaps, corporate weblogs or weblogs from professional publications (eg, newspapers). Although these might have more conversational aspects than old-media (eg, trackbacks), they’re closer to publishing than a weblog for a few friends.

If a weblog simply gains readers, to the extent the weblogger is talking to thousands of people daily, I’d say that comes closer to the publishing end of the spectrum, whether the weblogger likes it or not. If you’re talking to huge numbers of people, almost entirely strangers, what you say has a much greater impact than if you were talking to some friends. This is a greater responsibility.

I understand that people might disagree with me when I think this responsibility calls for more checking of facts - maybe people should still feel free to post off-the-cuff half-truths no matter how many people they’re communicating with. But if they do so I feel they’re neglecting responsibilities (even if they haven’t asked for those responsibilities).

On 8 April 2005. Permalink

Apophenia: in defense of BoingBoing (or why i’m not a journalist)

Jordan: “I think you’re splitting hairs there, Phil; your argument seeems based on the same notion of “journalism as truth” as before.”

No, I don’t think it is. Journalism involves a behaviour - research, investigation, reporting of events. Publishing is the act of distributing some “content” (for want of a better word) to some people.

Someone can publish words, and be responsible for those words, without ever having been involved in journalism.

(Although, I admit, I’m using quite a narrow and idealised definition of journalism - much of “journalism” these days seems to involve nothing more than re-writing press releases…).

On 8 April 2005. Permalink

Apophenia: in defense of BoingBoing (or why i’m not a journalist)

Zephoria - Sometimes Boing Boing points. Sometimes the posters write original material to make some point. Sure, BBers can point to things all they want - there are no facts to check in that action. But when they write original material, particularly if they’re encouraging people to, say, kick up a fuss about a particular topic, I think they have a responsibility to have made sure they know what they’re talking about. Sometimes they only think they do and it has to be corrected later.

Yes, I am talking about an idealistic version of journalism. But just because journalism doesn’t always live up to those ideals, it doesn’t mean they should be cast aside. No, I don’t trust everything I read in the papers, but in a good paper I’ll trust that most of the facts have a basis in truth. I don’t trust Boing Boing (to stick with the same example).

And, once more, I’m *not* trying to say webloggers are journalists. I’m simply saying that when they’re communicating with huge numbers of people they have a responsibility for being sure of what they’re saying, particularly if they’re trying to persuade those people to take a particular action.

Of course plenty of weblogs, like print publications, are going to be biased and inaccurate, and always will be. I think the reason that Boing Boing has sprung to mind as my example in all this is that it would (rightly) be among the first to point the finger at old media publications who tell lies. Let he is without sin, and all that.

On 9 April 2005. Permalink

Plasticbag.org: A few words while I switch the designs around…

Very nice, congrats!

Personal niggles… Like some others I find the blue highlighting a bit obtrusive. My eye jumps to the blue all the time, which is a shame particularly at the top of the page where the first things I read are “Tom Coates”, “RSS feed” and “Site Archives”.

Second, the graphical “plasticbag.org” doesn’t work for me - aside from not being wild about the font, it jars with the rest of the clean design for me. Looks too fussy. But I may get used to it and, it’s your site after all, so it should look good for you, not me :)

Third, my own impending clean re-design is going to take a lot of work to make it not seem like a lame copy of yours!

On 21 April 2005. Permalink

Squid overlords on Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Will you put in a good word for us when they decide to let you live?

On 21 April 2005. Permalink

Sea Horse Cornice on Flickr - Photo Sharing!

We also call them sea horses here in the UK. I’ve often wondered why there are sea horses on that building…

On 24 April 2005. Permalink