Sunday, June 2, 2019

Temporal Bandwidth

2019 feels like a lively time for blogging. In my working life, as I commented in response to Tobold's gloom-mongering, I deal every day with the by-products of blogs as they continue to provide a lead-in to both fame and fortune for all kinds of creatives. Just not for gamers.

The biggest phenomenon in British bookselling this year so far is the cookery book "Pinch of Nom", which broke all records to become the U.K.'s fastest-selling non-fiction book ever. The book's success burst out of the co-authors' eponymous blog, powered by an established fanbase, reportedly something like three-quarters of a million followers prior to publication.

There is, of course, a question over what people mean when they use the word "blog", something both the BBC journalist and Pinch of Nom's authors do, repeatedly, in the linked news item. These days - for years, really - it's been a term interchangeable with the hard-to-pronounce vlog. Sometimes it even elides with streaming.

Even if there's some nuance around the periphery, it's inarguable that numerous British publishing success stories over the last few years, from Reni Eddo-Lodge to Jack Monroe, all began as actual words-and-pictures blogs. Such is the enduring power of the written word that social media stars, less prone to put their thoughts, feelings and recipes into long form, still find it prudent to retro-fit a blog into their media portfolio once the publishing deal comes through.

It does sometimes seem surprising that people still like to read. And to write. But they do.

There are reasons. Reading is often faster and more efficient than watching or listening. It feels different, too. Most importantly, perhaps, it's a socially acceptable habit and one that most literate people can't help but acquire, at least to a degree.

Whether it's a habit that can survive the coming generations, who'll be the first for millennia to grow up with genuine alternatives to the written word, remains to be seen, although probably not by me. If reading does eventually fade to become nothing more than a quirk, an eccentricity and a collective memory, it's not going to happen in my lifetime.

The reason I started thinking about this, apart from being irked by Tobold, a far from unfamiliar experience, was the churn and roil I've noticed of late around my own Blog Roll, thanks to the invaluable Blogger widget that floats the most recent posts to the top. That and something Belghast said, namely

"I have not forgotten about Blaugust and will begin talking about this years running shortly over on the Discord"
Last year I added every new Blaugust blog to my roll. I also added a "Class of '18" link including everyone, old and new, which I unhelpfully labelled "The Crew".

It could have been worse. I was originally planning to use Thomas Pynchon's magnificent "The Whole Sick Crew" from "V", which was also how I used to refer to my extended friends network in the 1980s. I only changed it at the last minute when it occured to me that not everyone might get the reference and unfortunate inferences might be drawn.

When this year's event rolls around, which won't be long now, I will change the link to "Class of '18" and add a new one for this year. The 2018 list has eighty-eight names on it, more than thirty of which still post at least weekly and some of them a lot more often than that.

Depending on how many new starters we get this time around, I'm going to have to the usual debate with myself over whether or not to cull the herd. The aforementioned Blogger float means the old wood doesn't block the new saplings' light but there's a limit to how far down I want to let my tail hang. 

Fortunately, that limit is "the end of the last displayed blog post" and we're a long way from there. I may hit Blogger's own limit first, assuming it even has one.

Someone say something about a long tail?
It's true that some of the names at the foot of the list haven't posted in five years but you never know when one of them will judder back to life to shuffle around like a badly-reanimated corpse for a few posts before slumping back into silence. If that happens, I don't want to miss it.

Only last week one of my favorite blogs of all time, West Karana, inactive for far too long, suddenly leapt to the top of the stack. I was as excited to click the link as I have been to log in to any MMORPG for years but you'll notice there's no link to it here.

Sadly, all I found when I opened it up was a two word "Hello World" post (it literally said "Hello World") under a name I didn't recognize. A day or two later a pre-packaged advertorial for some baseball park somewhere or other appeared, leading to a desultory exchange of emails between myself and Wilhelm, in which we bemoaned the state of the world and the transience of all things.

I culled the link from my blog roll but left it in my Feedly. Worse was to come. The third post at the new West Karana (I read it so you don't have to: you can thank me later) was a borderline sex advert. Since then only silence.

Even so, I'd rather know than not know. It did at least prompt me to check Tipa's Twitter feed to confirm she's still alive and well. Which she is. Hi, Tipa!

The only people who still say the internet is forever must be people who don't use it much. It changes as fast as anything else. Whole sections go dark or stop working. Links die.

Ever thought of adding your artwork to OWW, Justine? Those abstracts would look amazing in my gallery.

This morning I was reading an excellent piece on Pitchfork that drew connections between Elastica's sophomore effort (as no-one who doesn't want a punch in the mouth ever would call it) "The Menace", and M.I.A. I learned a lot. For instance:
  • Elastica made a second album! I need to listen to it. It's free for members on Amazon Prime so there's no excuse not to, not for me nor for Tobold (him again). I'd be surprised if it was his kind of thing, to be honest.
  • I appear to have misunderstood who and what M.I.A. is. Careless! I should have payed more attention when YouTube recommended her work to me, as it has done, many times. YouTube recommends are generally reliable, although YT's Joan Jett obsession is worrying. I mean I like her and all but not every day of my life. It's not like it was Joan who wore my beret for two numbers back in 1976, after all.
  • I need to remember at all times that Elefant is a great record label
  • Also that Spain loves tweepop even more than I do. Although probably not more than I love Spain. (That's the country, not Spain, who I never really got on with.)
Those last two bullets illustrate the entire point and purpose of link love. Also of the World Wide Web, which we all call the Internet nowadays, although may be we shouldn't because it's confusing

From Pavement's last album to Justine Frischman's abstracts to Juniper Moon  in a matter of minutes and I never meant to go near any of them. Sunday morning with the supplements was never like this.

I'm old enough to remember when hyperlinks were the future. Now the cracks in the Web are showing as parts of the whole, ricketty edifice slip into the past. Even a major website like Pitchfork has dead links but then, when Google cheerfully shutters major projects like G+ and rumors abound that iTunes is about to follow it into the great forgetting, who can expect anything good to last?

None of which is going to stop me stuffing every post with pink links. And green ones. (The colors mean something, you know. I don't just make this stuff up. Well, I do, but...).

The popularity of blogging may wax and wane - mostly wane if we're talking about games - and one day there may be no-one left who can read the scattered posts that survive, but the one of the benefits of getting old is I don't have to worry about any of that. It'll see me out.

Now, if you'll excuse me. I think I'd better go back up my blog.

This post uses various images stolen from the ether. And doctored, some of them. All rights to respective owners. If that's you and you don't like it, let me know and I'll cut it out and leave a gaping hole, which will be kinda meta if you think about it...

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