Monthly Archives: September 2007

Questions For A Reader

A telephone cable against a clear blue skyJames Smythe has been doing surveys for his PhD, and I did one for him over the past week. The questions were fascinating, and forced me to take my stand on issues on blooking I hadn’t really thought about. It’s mostly written in the context of Online Fiction (all of it, not just Blog Fiction), and it took me roughly three days or so. Here it is, in all it’s opinionated glory:

James: What do you think that the internet has to offer fiction that traditional print doesn’t?
Eli: Interaction. Traditional print media is a one-way affair – authors write a story that readers lap up, and then if they want to discuss it they’ve to look for mediums: a book club, a friend in a cafe … The Internet, on the other hand, is structured like a conversation. Reader-reader and reader-author interaction is inherently part of the medium, especially if it’s in blog format. If it isn’t a blog, then … well. An email to the author is just a click away.

The other thing about the Internet which I believe opens up vistas to fiction is that it is hyperlinked. Links allow the reader easy access to a wealth of information: notes, pop-culture references, things that may or may not have connections to the narrative. This is obviously something you can’t do with traditional print (which is essentially front to back) … though on the downside it can be frightfully distractive. But that’s the Internet for you.

James: What do you think that the internet – or, online fiction, more specifically, in all of its forms – has to offer print fiction?
Eli: Can’t really think of anything. I can say what it offers to authors – instant feedback, a chance at exposure and a long shot to a book deal … but to print fiction?! Forgive me, but I can’t see beyond closer author-reader relationship that the Internet offers. Which is really good, by the way. Much better than a boring, unupdated website, designed by zombies in 1997.

James: Have you ever read anything in print that you wished you had been able to read online? And vice versa?
Eli: No for the first, yes for the second. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve wished for a piece of online fiction to hop off the monitor and into my hands. The chair in front of the computer isn’t a very comfortable place to read fiction – if I’m on the laptop I might hop off and use Wifi to read, on the sofa, but honestly it’s too much of a hassle. And my laptop gets very, very hot. I’ve to face it: books are so much better.

Blog Platform Respect

Do blog platforms affect the first impressions of our blooks?

Blooks come in many shapes and sizes. They are presented in different fonts, with different site designs, and on different blogging platforms. There are as different and as unconnected to each other as one novel is connected to another – there may be some inter textual references, but most of the time they are unique standalone works, beautiful and solitary in birth.


Above all they are websites. Like all websites, blooks are subjected to a 3 second window of opportunity where the user gets his first impressions, and then either moves on, or stays.

Here’s a simple question: have you ever judged a website in 3 seconds? A first impression that shaped what you thought of the site forever?

Yes, you have. If not consciously, then you did so unconsciously. You aren’t likely to read anything from a website with a shocking pink background. And if you do, you’d be cursing the designer every moment you’re there.

Let’s take it a step further:

Does the blog platform on which the blog was published affects your judgment of the overall quality of the blog? No? Yes? For a little while?

Interesting, isn’t it?

I’ve been about the blogosphere for quite awhile, and there are a few things about it that perplex me. This is one of them: why are Blogger blogs less respected than WordPress and Movable Type ones? It is an unexplained bias, and I find even myself judging the blog by what platform it is on. Blogger? Cheap. WordPress? Ahh! Some decency. Movable Type? Professional. Custom platform? Wow!

It might possibly be just me, but run a search for the keywords ‘I hate Blogger‘ and compare that to ‘I hate WordPress‘. The results for the former are in the hundreds; whereas legitimate thrashings of WordPress are confined to the first 6 results (as of today, that is).

There are a few reasons, I’m sure. The Internet community at large loves open sourced products, and will happily bless WordPress and defend it despite its faults. WordPress is the Apple of the Internet’s eye. Blogger is cheap, free, not as flexible or powerful, plus it is home to over a million blogs – most of them personal journals. Before Google took action Blogger was also littered with hundreds of splogs (spam blogs – you know, the ones filled with links to viagra sites … ).