#169: Do Web Logs Lower the Bar?

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #169, on the subject of Do Web Logs Lower the Bar?.

I noticed something.


I don’t know whether any of you noticed it, and there is an aspect to it that causes me to hope you did not, to suspect some of you did, and to think that I ought not be calling it to the attention of the rest.  But it is worth recognizing, I suppose, even if it is at my own expense to some degree.

What I noticed was that some of the web log posts I publish are not up the the same standard I would expect of my web pages.

Certainly it is the case that some of the web log subjects are what might be called transient.  I was quite surprised to see in my stats recently that someone visited the page that covered the 2015 election results for New Jersey.  I’m thinking it must have been a mistake.  Yet at the time it was important information, even if in another year it won’t even tell you who is in the Assembly, because we’ll have had another election.

It is also the case that being an eclectic sort of web log it is going to have pages that do not appeal to everyone–indeed, probably there are no pages that appeal to everyone.  I recently lost one of my Patreon supporters, and that saddens me, but he was the only person contributing as a time travel fan, and was not contributing enough to pay for one DVD per year; I’m sure he is disappointed that I haven’t done more time travel pages, but there has not been that much available to me and the budget has been particularly tight.  With pages about law, politics, music, Bible, games, logic problems, and other miscellany, there will certainly be pages that any particular reader would not read.  Yet that has always been true of the web site, and although the web log is not quite as conveniently divided into sections it does have navigation aids to help people find what they want.

What I mean, though, is that I don’t seem to apply the same standard to web log pages as I would to web pages.

I suppose that’s to be expected.  As I think about it, I recognize that I put a lot more time and thought into articles I am writing for e-zines and web sites that are not my own.  I expect more of myself, hold myself to a higher standard, when I am writing such pieces.  For one thing, I can’t go back and edit them later–which on my own site I will only do for obvious errors, never for content.  For another, something of mine published by someone else should represent the best that I can offer, both for my own reputation and for that of the publisher.  If you’re reading my work at RPGNet, or the Christian Gamers Guild, or The Learning Fountain, or any of the many other sites for which I’ve written over the decades, you might not know any more about me than what you find there.

It’s also the case that, frankly, anyone can set up his own web site, fairly cheaply and easily, write his own articles, and publish them for the world to ignore.  There is a limited number of opportunities for someone to write for someone else’s site, and to be asked to do so, or permitted to do so, is something of a recognition above the ordinary.

Of course, there are even fewer opportunities to write for print, and fewer now than there once were.  Not that you can’t publish your own printed books and comics and magazines, but that those that exist are selective in what they will print, and so the bar is higher.

The web log system makes it quicker and easier to write and publish something.  I suspect that there are many bloggers out there who open the software, start typing what they want to say, and hit publish, as if it were an e-mail.  I maintain a higher standard than that–all of my web log posts are composed offline, and with the only exceptions being the “breaking news” sort (like the aforementioned election results page) they all get held at least overnight, usually several days, reread and edited and tweaked until I am happy with them.  (As I write this, there are two web log posts awaiting publication which have been pending for two days, and I will review this one several times over the time that they go to press.)  But even so, the standard of what I will publish as a web log post is considerably lower than that which I will publish as a web page.

In that sense, the web log becomes more like diary, something in which you compose your thoughts and then ignore them–except that this diary is open to the world.  I think–I hope–all bloggers put more thought and care into their web log posts than they do into forum conversations and Tweets and Facebook posts.  However, while I have read some web log posts that were excellent, I have also read a few that caused me to wonder whether the author was thinking.  I try to keep some standard here, but I admit that sometimes I wonder whether I posted something because I thought it was worth posting or because I wanted to keep the blog living and active.

In any case, if you read something here and wonder why I bothered to post it, perhaps now you have a better idea of that.

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2 thoughts on “#169: Do Web Logs Lower the Bar?”

  1. Mark, I so much agree with you. I don’t know if I was the one who went on recently to read the results of the NJ 2015 elections, but I am indeed interested by your views on US local election system. In particular the gerrymandering of electoral district. I can’t remember where I saw a link to an article about some southern state where the gerrymandering was so obvious – the shape of the new was incredibly convoluted to include all the black (democrat) voters in the same district that some state supreme court had an outraged laugh – but still could not invalidate the vote…

    Anyway, too sad a Patreon supporter left you. I am sure you would have the success you deserve if you managed to gather all your writings about time travel (updated!) in this place. :)

    Now regarding the lower standard of blogs, I fully agree with you. I absolutely love your sentence : “anyone can set up his own web site, fairly cheaply and easily, write his own articles, and publish them for the world TO IGNORE” (my emphasis) XD.

    We both knew the time when articles about RPG were submitted to an (the first?) online magazine such as PTGPTB.org. The difference was that submission were proofread, edited, notes were sent, changes were made, all that before publication (if). Now anybody wakes up with an idea and types it on his blog, like he would type is 5-minutes-thought-over reflections on his facebook page, or tweeter feed.

    Those type of bloggers do not event profit from the interactive possibilities of a blog (i.e. the possibility to comment). I remember a post about the map of cities in Middle Earth RP game, where the comments pointed to the author that both his point where absolutely wrong. Do you think he updated or rewrote his post…? nuh-uh, he went on to something else.

    This is what lowers the bar : the way the writers themselves consider their blog content. I guess they believe nobody will have the guts to read the archive – only the present and future entries…. and maybe they are right :/

    I’d like to point out that, despite your efforts, some of your entries could also be bettered. ;) #132 – which we have finished to translate, btw – is improved by adding section titles in the text – you’ll discover those in the French version :)anyone can set up his own web site, fairly cheaply and easily, write his own articles, and publish them for the world to ignore

    So, a long comment which could be summarized by “I agree with you” and “things were better before” ;)

    1. First, thank you for your comments and encouragement, Regis. For anyone who does not know, Regis is one of the chief people at the French edition of Places to Go, People to Be, which is itself one of the oldest and most respected RPG e-zines. The English (technically Australian) version hosted my three-part series on Law and Enforcement in Imaginary Realms years ago, and later my three-part series Theory 101 explaining role playing game theory; those plus quite a few other articles of mine have since been republished in French.

      And I am pleased and flattered that my piece on writing and running horror has been included. You should provide the URL–my French is still terribly limited, but I’m sure there are people who would be interested in reading it.

      I think the most interesting issue right now in the design of voting districts has been raised in Texas (see http://www.mjyoung.net/law/electionlaw.html for details). We say “one person one vote”, but in Texas one side wants to count only persons eligible to vote, and the other side wants to include everyone who is in the district even if present illegally. The sides are covered in that page, as I recall.

      Indeed, I do remember wrestling with Steve Darlington over the text of that Law series. He was so good at it that I asked him to edit my first novel as well, which he also did very well despite it being a massive undertaking for a very little money. On the other hand, the first piece of mine anyone published, Gary Gygax had suggested to a bunch of us that Gaming Outpost was looking for articles from game authors/designers, so I wrote Morality and Consequences: Overlooked Gaming Essentials, sent it to them asking if it was something they might be interested in publishing, and next I knew they had it posted. I wasn’t unhappy about that, but I was a bit surprised, and a lot of places didn’t put much editorial effort into my contributions over the years–which was all the more reason for me to do so.

      I’m not going to attempt to navigate the site, but anyone who reads French will find some excellent articles about role playing games (some of mine included) at http://ptgptb.free.fr/. I’m about 2/3 of the way down the list of authors as Mark J. Young, but I see a lot of respectable names on the list including (in alphabetical order by first names?) Chris Pramas, Christopher Kubasik, Clinton Nixon, Eero Tuovinen, Emily Dresner-Thornber, Erick Wujcik, Ernest Mueller, Greg Costikyan, Greg Stolz, James Wallis, Jason L. Blair, John Kim, John Tynes, John Wick, Johnn Four, Jolly Blackburn, Ken St. Andre, Kenneth Hite, Lou Prosperi, Michael Stackpole, Mike Holmes, Mike Pohjola, Monte Cook, Paul Czege, Pete Darby, Robin Laws, Ron Edwards, S. John Ross, Steve Dempsey, Vincent Baker, and don’t I wish I could read French because that’s a fabulous list right there.

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