Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Rambling Along

Time for another rambling post. I’ve been too one-topic-oriented in posts lately. I’m not the freakin’ Instapundit. Though I fear he does infect my thinking more than may be healthy at times. Heh. Indeed.(See?!!)

Did I mention it’s fall here? I did? Well forget it. We’re into winter now. The leaves are off the trees, snow is in the forecast, and as usual I have yet to pick up the kids' toys from the yard, let alone rake it. My wife even tried to bribe the 13 year old girl who watches our kids sometimes to rake the yard for some extra cash. You think I’d be ashamed, but I’m not. Builds character in the yunguns. I just get a back ache.

Besides it’s dark by the time I get home from work these days. So the only chance I get to rake is the weekend. We were out of town last weekend. And I have plans this weekend.

I’m also hoping to make it down to Keegan’s for trivia tomorrow night. Odds of me making both tomorrow night and Saturday? About 20 percent. But I figure by maximizing my plans I stand a better chance of making one or the other.

So Jo has given up on Blogger for the richer world of Typepad, eh? Well I’m stayin’ put. I will bend it to my will and show it who is the master and who is the servant here!! Besides I just learned how to do trackback pings on blogger, even though it officially doesn't support them (thanks Rick).

I do need my own unique blog template though. I’m tired of the blog looking pretty much the same way it did after I spent five minutes creating it. Anyone out there who is better at template design than me want to direct me to some decent resources? I’ve even tossed around the idea of paying someone to do it – because I have some basic wishes and all, but I am really not a natural at creating good looking interfaces. Functional? Yes. Attractive? No way. I can’t wrap presents nicely either. Perhaps related?

Apropos nothing, I have ripped Professor Bainbridge (good naturedly) a couple of times about his wine reviews. I still reserve the right to take future shots at him as I deem appropriate. He’s a big-shot as a blogger and a wine reviewer these days, and us little guys need to take our shots at the big guys from time to time. It’s the American way. But just so you know, his new wine blog is awesome. One of the best wine resources on the Web in my opinion.

Funny thing about wine on the WWW. Before the blogosphere, when the Web was young, all sorts of wine knowledgeable people rushed to get their stuff out there for free. No one knew how to make money off the Internet yet anyway, so the general model seemed to be “toss anything on the Web, and pretty soon the money will start rolling in for some reason we can’t explain.” Lots of terrific wine content, updated regularly, all over the place at that time.

Then we came upon the “I’m not getting rich" period where most people realized all that work they were putting into their web sites was not making them a dime. Some content dried up, and the updating started to truly suck.

Next we came to the days of commercialization, and professionalization. This was where every Tom, Dick, and Wine Spectator (Wine Spectator is one of the few professional wine publications to eventually figure the Web out though, to their credit) thought people would pay them around $50 a month to read their web site. And to add insult to injury, a lot of them were pretty amateurish and had weak content. It didn’t pan out. The remainders of this are still around here and there.

I think the blogosphere has started making the idea of good information being free fashionable again. It’s like the wonderful early phase of the Web, but without silly unrealistic expectations of getting rich. People who enjoy sharing knowledge about this stuff just share it for the fun of it. It might generate a little blogad revenue at the larger sites, but that’s not really the motivation. The motivation is that its fun to talk about things that you truly love.

Which is the element in play that scares the bejeebers out of the people used to charging people to buy the same sort of content. In the wine world and everywhere else. It’s not that they necessarily believe that the free content is as good as theirs. But they’re worried it might just be good enough. And they’re right to worry.

Outside of a few absolute word wasters in the old media (*cough* Nick Coleman *cough*), revenue models aside, I think most of the real journalists out there could do pretty well embracing the opportunities of the blogosphere. I seem to constantly discover people who are current or former journalists with truly terrific blogs. Wherever the blogosphere goes, those folks are going along with it, probably in the very top tier.

Which is just fine with me. Now and then an unconscious sense of competitiveness drives me to seek bigger traffic for its own sake. But I always catch myself before I head too far down that path. That’s not why I blog. I’m more of a small community guy. I can name almost every one of my blog’s regular readers. In most cases, they have blogs I read myself. It’s really an interesting experience in cyber community. Different than Free Republic, or Usenet, e-mail lists, or chat rooms. More free form, more personal, fewer rules, and in a way a lot more intimate.

One of the lessons I try to stick to is to just keep going, try what I feel like trying, but don’t feel pressure to be who I’m not when I write here. Which makes it really odd when I meet people who read my blog face to face. In some areas, those people know more about me than people I’ve known for years. From the quirky to the serious.

I’m really pretty guarded in person most times. Introverted even. So when I meet people who read this blog it can feel weird, because on one level we just met and on another they know me pretty well already. I remember trying to explain to Margaret from Our House that I grew heirloom tomatoes the first time we met. Her reply was something like, “I know, I read that.” Of course she did. I even posted pictures.

Has this rambled enough yet? Enough for now I suppose. Notice one topic that didn’t come up? It begins with a “P,” and ends with people shouting at each other and threatening civil war. Interesting and important as that all is, some of us (me being one) need to make a concerted effort to step back into the rest of our lives and let the “P” word take a back seat for a while. No promises I’m ready to go cold turkey or anything. Babysteps.

But when I have 3-5 things on that topic I want to blog about every night which cause my emotions to run from mild-simmer to full-boil, and no other topics I can think of that don’t start with the “P” word, something needs to be done.


Blogger PolicyGuy said...

Doug, how about combining your knowledge of wine with your interest in politics? Have you written anything about the strange world of laws governing the distribution of alcoholic beverages? I've written briefly about laws prohibiting direct-to-consumer shipments of wine for the Detroit News.

About a month ago I took a business trip to Texas, and someone give me a bottle of wine from the Texas Hill Country (Fall Creek Vineyards). I would like to get my hands on another bottle, it doesn't look like I can get any more, at least nothing shipped directly. It's probably too small of a winery to be of interest to distributors here.

7:54 AM  

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