Tag Archives: internet

Has TalkingPointsMemo.com Jumped The Shark, Or Am I Not Reading It Correctly?

When I first discovered Talking Points Memo (TPM), sometime around 2001, it was solely the political blog of Josh Marshall, and it looked like this:

TPM-screenshot-old

One blogger, one very narrow column with blog posts, an even narrower sidebar with some navigation, a call for donations, book recommendations, and a short list of links to other recommended sites.

That’s it, I loved it, and it would be one of my primary inspirations for becoming a blogger several years later, in 2004, at my now-defunct first blog Transcendental Floss. (No relation to any currently existing websites using that name.)

Now TPM is called TPM Media, it has a full staff of writers, two bureaus, in New York City and Washington, D.C. respectively, 13 sections of their website, and it looks like this:

TPM-screenshot-new

This transformation took place gradually over the past 10 years or so, and for the most part I enjoyed the growth, as it allowed for broader coverage of the political topics I was most interested in.

More recently, over the past few years, with the rise in popularity of political comedy TV shows — The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and Real Time with Bill Maher, etc. — along with the sad new reality that these were some of the only shows on television adequately sounding the alarm on the deplorable things our government and politicians do on a regular basis, TPM, like most other political blogs/websites, began posting clips from these shows.

This, too, was ok with me. I don’t have TV at home, and so having these clips cherry picked for me and handily available on a website I already visited on a regular basis was welcome.

Enter The Slice, the newest section, rolled out two weeks ago, and described thusly:

Think of it as TPM’s magazine—deeper takes, more crafted writing. The Slice gets to the thorny, human, gut level of a broader range of issues than TPM has tackled before. We’ll be exploring everything from money and sex to identity and pop culture, from politics and family to those harbingers of modern life you keep noticing but can’t quite parse out.

When I first read that, I didn’t have any immediate negative reaction to it.

Then, today, I saw this on the TPM home page:

TPM-screenshot-slice

I’ll give you a moment to spot the story from The Slice

Yeah, jarring isn’t it? It’s like one of those “which one doesn’t belong” activities for school children.

In the comments section for this Slice piece with the clickbait title What I Learned From Going to the Adult Film Oscars With the King of Porn, two TPM readers echoed my exact immediate thoughts:

Commenter # 1: Am I at the Huffington Post?

Commenter # 2: Or Salon?

I have a love-hate relationship with both The Huffington Post and Salon for this very reason. Both sites have excellent coverage of news and politics, and both offer this jarring mix of content, with articles of substance on important matters posted side-by-side with trivialities.

From just a brief scan of the two home pages just now, I found these annoyingly incongruent headlines:

Huffington Post

Hezbollah Launches Deadliest Attack On Israel Since ’06
The Common Cooking Mistake That Ruins Everything

Salon

White Virginia politician calls African American reporter “boy”
“Ghostbusters” reboot: Let’s weigh the pros and cons of the new cast

So, I was all ready to declare, as the title of my post suggests, that TPM, the self-described “premier digital native political news organization in the United States”, the 2007 winner of the prestigious George Polk award for Journalism, had jumped the shark, but…

…before I could write a word I imagined what Josh Marshall would likely say in response: “We’re not the problem. You are!”

And, arguably he’d be right.

You see, I don’t HAVE to see the content that I don’t want to see. If what I’m looking for is news and politics, then all I really have to do is change my browser bookmarks so that the TPM bookmark takes me to the Editor’s Blog, which aggregates the best news and politics posts from the various other sections. Likewise, at Huffington Post and Salon, I could go directly to their news and politics sections.

I happen to work with a team of web developers, and they have a saying that they use to guide them in developing user-focused software and websites, a saying that reminds them to factor into their work a variety of different user-types in order to make their products as user-friendly possible:

As a [user type], I need to [action], so that I can [goal].

In this case, it could easily be argued that, while the TPM home page does not work well for me [user type], the fact that I have the option to navigate directly [action] to the sections that I want to read [goal] would indicate that their design is still user-friendly by definition.

Now, excuse my while I go and edit my bookmarks.

Headline of the Day: Strange Definition of ‘Fun’

Kicking off this new Recurring Series with a headline from our local daily newspaper, here in Bellingham, Washington:

‘I thought you would think it was fun,’ Bellingham driver told cop after trying to run him over

Bellingham Herald

Adventures In Graph Innuendo

Listen, either I’m the biggest pervert in the world, or many, many minds should be blown by the fact that the following graph actually made it past the editors of Forbes.com and onto the interwebs, accompanying an article titled How Successful People Squash Stress.

stressgraph

How does this happen?!

How can anyone look at that graph and not see what I see, and I’m not even on the staff of a fairly prestigious publication, where people get paid good money to know stuff about the power of imagery, symbolism, and suggestiveness?

I mean, even with my rudimentary Photoshop skills, it was obvious to me that all I had to do was remove the erect penis in order for this to be a perfectly respectable visual aide for the article!

stressgraph2

The most unfortunate thing, of course, is that what Travis Bradberry writes in this piece is actually quite good and contains very helpful information that could increase the wellbeing of a lot of people.

Hopefully, it still will, once we’ve all stopped laughing.

Q: Are Blogs Dead? A: HELL NO!!!

bring-out-your-deadSo, there’s this article out in The New Republic, by Mark Tracy, titled Eulogy for the Blog.

And, I have to tell ya, it REALLY bugs me, and it bugs me on several levels.

First, unless it’s a thing to call a bit of writing a eulogy even though the subject of said writing isn’t actually dead, Marc Tracy utterly fails to make a credible argument for his declaration of death. (And, you know what? Even if it IS a thing, it sucks, it’s a shallow attention grabber.)

A telling comment (my emphasis added in bold):

This is the context in which the New York Times‘ decision, revealed this week, to review all of its blogs and shutter at least some of them (including the popular, at least among the sort of media wonks who are still reading this article, Media Decoder), ought to be understood.

You see, Tracy is clearly, himself, a media wonk, and so he bases his assertion that blogs are dead on observations of a handful of high-profile bloggers in elite publications like The New York Times. This reeks of ivory tower classism, it’s lazy journalism, and it’s an insult to the millions upon millions of bloggers all around the world who are alive and well and blogging away. (For instance, as of this writing, WordPress, the blogging platform that I use, claims nearly 65 million users. Declaring them dead…doesn’t that make Marc Tracy a mass murderer? Hahaha.)

More proof that his headline is nothing more than sensationalism, Tracy admits:

We will still have blogs, of course, if only because the word is flexible enough to encompass a very wide range of publishing platforms: Basically, anything that contains a scrollable stream of posts is a “blog.”

But, he follows this up with the most inane attempt to justify his conclusion anyway:

What we are losing is the personal blog and the themed blog.

WTF?! This guy has obviously spent ZERO time browsing even a small sample of the blogs out there, millions of which, actually, from my observation, mostly fall into those very two categories. The vast majority of blogs that I come across are either personal journals, musings on daily life events, or they are blogs that specialize in a single theme, from food to politics, arts to sports, celebrities to hobbies, and on and on and on. (Fish & Bicyles would be in a third category, fewer in numbers, but we’re out there: the general topics blog, about, as I like to say, whatever strikes a fancy at any given moment, on any given day.)

I initially thought I’d go with a zombie theme for this post, but you actually have to be dead first in order to become the undead.

And so, just to be sure, I checked the pulse of Fish & Bicycles, and I am happy to report that it is, absolutely, alive and kicking.

McSweeney’s: A Field Guide To Common Punctuation

McSweeneys-logoIt’s been over a year since I last posted something from one of my favorite sources of reading entertainment: McSweeney’s Internet Tendency.

As I mentioned last time, I regularly, literally, laugh out loud when I read the Internet Tendency‘s daily offerings, and one of today’s pieces really grabbed me because I was, am, and always will be and English major, even though I graduated back in 1988.

As a writer, I’ve always wrestled with punctuation, alternately loving and hating it, at times grateful for it, at other times desperate to break all its rules in the name of freedom.

Well, now I owe my deep thanks to Peter K. (I tried to find out who he is but came up with nothing) for his A Field Guide To Common Punctuation, published today at McSweeney’s, for though it doesn’t help me with my relationship to punctuation, it at least helps me laugh about it.

Here’s an excerpt, and I highly recommend reading the whole thing:

apostrophe

Rarely at ease in its true habitat, the Yellow-Winged Apostrophe (YWA) is known to “peace out” of its obligation to indicate possession or contraction. Many, weakened by stress, fall to the bottom of pages, assuming the vague shape of Bullshit Footnotes (BF). Completely harmless, the YWA is among the least hardy of punctuation and commonly dies before the full life cycle of a single draft.

colon

The Western Colon (WC), not to be confused with Two Bouncing Periods (TBP), attaches itself with rows of small, sharp teeth to lists. Originally from Western Canada, the WC has now established thriving colonies in all countries, having been inadvertently transported by way of cargo in large ships. Draws blood and gives headaches when overused. Known to flock alongside Overwrought Prose (OP).

Testing Tumblr

tumblr-iconWell, it’s pretty clear by now that this Tumblr thing isn’t going away anytime soon, so I’ve bitten the bullet and I’ve set up a mirror blog there.

WordPress.com makes it super easy, with their Publicize tool, which I’ve already been using, such that every time I post something here it’s automagically posted on Facebook and Twitter as well. Now, everything will also be posted to the new Tumblr account I created.

The only bummer about the process, I discovered that there was already a Tumblr blog called Fish & Bicycles, and so I had to name my tumblr fishandbicycles-bellingham.com. I don’t know which of us came first, because, maddeningly, I can’t seem to find any way to determine when fishandbicycles.tumblr.com was started. Oh well.

Honestly, I have no idea how to use Tumblr otherwise, and I don’t see myself doing much with it other than having it act as an additional venue for the blogging I do here.

One cool thing, though, this is what my archive page looks after having retroactively published some of my more recent posts there (be sure to click to enlarge!):

tumblr

Vine’s 6-Second Video Loops: The New 140-Character Tweet?

vine-logoWell, it’s been nearly a couple of weeks since Twitter launched Vine, its new microvideo sharing app, and the buzz has finally led me to check it out.

Examples of the buzz…headlines like this:

Why Vine will be as revolutionary as Twitter was

Why Vine’s Going to Grow Into Something Huge

In case you haven’t heard of Vine yet, it’s an app that lets users create 6-second long video clips on infinite loop and then share them on Vine, Twitter, and Facebook.

So, basically, the buzz is all about stuff like this:

https://twitter.com/markhoppus/status/298834778046754818

I know. Thrilling.

But seriously, I had the same reaction to Facebook status updates and Tweets when I first learned about them, so I shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss.

And besides, along with the mundane (MY NEW THERMOS!!!), there are cool “vines” to be found, like this one:

(By the way, you can pause a vine by clicking on it.)

One seriously HUGE feature missing from Vine is the ability to share videos posted by others. I can’t fathom why they didn’t roll the app out with functionality that allows you to select someone else’s vine from the app and then reblog it, share it to Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc. As of now, the only way I was able to include them here, in this post, was to search for vines in Twitter tweets and the post the tweets. It limits browsing vines in the app to simply viewing them, liking them, and commenting on them.

While some vines have already gone viral, these 6-second clips won’t realize their full viral potential until sharing is enhanced.

In the meantime, consider me intrigued.

I don’t see myself creating vines. Video is not my thing. But browsing and sharing my favorites here already shows signs of being a potentially fun new form of entertainment.