I’ve been thinking this morning about blogging, again. I know many of you think I’m a complete blog addict and really into the whole technology of blogging, but this is not the case. I’m not quite a blogging Luddite, just as I’m not quite a Luddite in every other sense. Call me more of a hypocritical conscientious objector. I tend to embrace and grok technology while complaining loudly about how much it sucks. I get far more excited about the flaws in things than I do about how insanely great they are. This is just my perspective, and it’s variously been labeled, by myself and others, pessimistic, cynical, radical, grumpy, hypocritical and depressive. None of these really captures the full range of my feelings when it comes to technology. As I think I’ve tried to explain before, I’m mostly just disappointed with technology and the paradox that as good as it ever gets there’s always an order of magnitude more that could be done a hell of a lot better.
I’m not one to fall for the “one best way” argument, and even if I was it would be ridiculous to do so at this stage since blogging, as a technology, is still in its infancy (as well as being mostly infantile, but that’s a different argument entirely). Still, it’s surprising that so much can stay broken for so long. Some of the biggest names in blogging technology simply don’t work very well. I’ve complained loudly in the past about feature limitations and technical problems with Blogger. I talked about the astounding klugeyness and shitty attitude of WordPress. I’m not sure if I’ve even bothered to mention Technorati because that’s basically an insanely-popular service that only ever manages to accomplish 25% of what it claims to be accomplishing at any given moment. I wish I could believe we’re fumbling toward ecstasy here, but I’m really not sure. I think we might be fumbling toward and ever-increasing capacity for mindless fumbling.
Let’s try a metaphor, introduced by a simile. Let’s say that blogging is like working on your car. The perfect environment for this is easy to imagine for anyone who has had to change a brake caliper at 8°F in a snowstorm. What you need is a clean, well-lit, well-organized garage with good climate-control. You need a decent set of lifting equipment, so you can get at any part of the vehicle when you need to–not all the time, not when all you want to do is wax the finish (then maybe you need a stepladder), only when you need to get underneath and do some serious work. Off to the side, not too far away, you need a giant but really well-organized toolbox. Next to that you need a clean, sturdy workbench with a vise. And next to that, if you’re really going to wish for the moon, you need a bookshelf with the service manuals for your vehicle and accessories, and if you’re really lucky a computerized version of this linked to a nice online parts ordering system. If you’re a car enthusiast, this is what you have. You can go out and buy this. Hell, you can pay someone to install it for you if you’re in a hurry. What do we as blogging enthusiasts have? Let’s take a look:
Blogger. This is like trying to work on your car with just a really cheap flat-blade screwdriver. It works well if you limit your expectations and are prepared for it to break at any moment. But absolutely everyone has a cheap screwdriver and can use it.
WordPress. Take that beautiful, refrigerator-sized Snap-on Tools toolbox, dump it into a heap on your garage floor, and then run over it several dozen times with your monster truck. What you end up with is a nearly-unidentifiable mass of mostly-broken tools. You can probably still accomplish almost anything, but it will take you ten times as long because you’ll spend most of your time looking for tools, discovering they don’t work right, and then cutting and welding them to make them function.
Technorati. You go to work on your car and find that someone has borrowed all your manuals and half your tools, left grease on everything, and most likely stolen your car and replaced it with a real junker where half the screws are missing, and half (but only half) the remaining ones are metric. Also, each time you turn away and come back, 25% of the parts are missing and 33% are new.
What I don’t understand is how these three maintain their rock-star status. Why do people still talk to these guys at parties? Blogger I can sort of see, since they take an unlimited bar tab with them wherever they go. And presumably WordPress gets by on pure scammer charisma–geek girls want to be with him and geek guys want to be him (with apologies to Deano). And Technorati, maybe, is just the crazy old guy we feel sorry for.
Has anyone even attempted to put forth the ideal blogging environment? Even in one-paragraph metaphorical form as I did above? Are the concepts of clean work environment, well-organized but mostly put-away tools, access to the undercarriage only when needed, and excellent documentation really that hard to specify?