Nautilus in the blogosphere

When I was a girl, my favourite books included King Arthur and his knights, Robin Hood and his merry men, the Trojan wars and Greek heroes, anything by Rosemary Sutcliffe, Geoffrey Trease or (no relation) Henry Treece. You get the picture: Coral Island, Prisoner of Zenda and, inevitably, Jules Verne, most particularly 20,000 Leagues under the Sea.  (Yes I am the woman who wrote in the front of her D Phil thesis "That which is far off and exceeding deep, who shall find it out?" But in my defence I was young at the time.)

All this is a bit of a preamble to re-introduce Dave Lull, whom I perceive as a Captain Nemo of the blogosphere, sailing through it in his Nautilus on a never-ending journey through the vastness of the Internet. Almost every night when I get home from work and begin on "my" bit of the Internet (Gmail, Bloglines and Petrona), I find a message or two from Dave, linking to an article he’s found that he thinks I might like.

I love reading these articles but I can’t post on them all without another 12 hours added to the day. (Frank Wilson on Books, Inq. posts on a lot of them far more promptly than I could.) So this post is by way of saying thank you to Dave, and to let you know about some of the articles he’s sent me that I particularly like. Some of them are or soon will be behind subscription walls, so if you want to read any where the link doesn’t work, drop me an email or a comment and I will send them to you.

In Goodbye, Blog: the friend of information but the enemy of thought, a Narnian called Alan Jacobs writes about his personal journey of discovery about blogging. The article is an articulate account of the best of blogging, and the worst of blogging. Message to me is that there is a great deal to be got out of it if you use it properly. For example, Mr Jacobs discusses only one type of blog, a diary style blog in which comments can peter out or degenerate into the insults of the couple of people who persevere the most. However, there are lots of other sorts of blogs, for example reading group blogs, or blogs with relatively small but dedicated readerships, that aren’t like that at all. Nevertheless, I think Mr Jacobs’ article is worth reading. (Like many Narnians, he’s quite an "in your face" Christian.)

Here’s a useful article from Jakob Neilson’s Alertbox called Web Usability: the top 10 design mistakes. The point is that "Blogs are often too internally focused and ignore key usability issues, making it hard for new readers to understand the site and trust the author." Weblogs’ main strengths are that they free the owner from "design", in that you just write a post, click and you’re done (wonderful!); postings rely on links, so the owner does not have to write long explanations ("short postings prevail"); and blogs are part of an ecosystem that serves as a positive feedback loop. The rest of the article provides some usability guidelines for your blog, ending with a list of useful links to similar articles. Again, one I highly recommend reading, though quite a bit of it comes with instinct I am sure.

I haven’t had a go yet, but "Use Searchles (it’s pronounced circles) to create a circle of your peers, and submit, tag, and share your favorite sites on the Web! Then explore your stuff, your friends’ stuff, or everyone’s stuff!"

A characteristically thoughtful post by Patrick Kurp of Anecdotal Evidence, called One Clear Stanza, about how blogging has caused him to find themes and linkages where they didn’t exist before. Includes a poem to prove the point.

And finally, in an LA Times piece "Don’t be so sure he’s the expert" , it seems that women are doing it again– doing themselves down, that is. A long time ago I read a book called "Strategies for women at work" which despite its title was very good. It addressed the issue of why men seem to get the promotion when they take the afternoon off to play golf with the boss while the woman co-worker stays in the office to ensure all the orders are filled. "Taking the values of the home into the marketplace" as the authors (female) of the book put it, I seem to recall. And when a woman is asked in an interview to name her weak points she does, with honesty, whereas a man will say he hasn’t got any, and be believed. Obviously there is a lot of crass generalisation in all of this, but a grain of truth also. So watch out: "By underestimating their ability to effectively use the Web, women may be limiting the extent of their online behavior, the ways in which they use the Internet and, ultimately, the career choices they make."

Once again, thanks to Dave for all these readable, literate and thought-provoking links.

Polygon 10 July

Polygon puzzle
Using the given letters no more than once, make as many words as possible of four or more letters, always including the central letter. Capitalised words, plurals, conjugated verbs (past tense etc), adverbs ending in LY, comparatives and superlatives are disallowed.

How you rate: 12 words, average; 16, good; 20, very good; 25, excellent.

Click here for rules and tips on how to play Polygon

Source: The Times

Answers in the comments.

Townie baking

I was just replying to some comments on a recent post, which made me want to share my weekend baking experience with you. Domesticity is definitely not my strong point any more than is beautification, but every now and again I feel I "ought" to cook, so I did the other night. I’ll draw a bit of a veil over the first course (though everyone very kindly said they liked it), as what I wanted to share with you is the pudding.

Living in a town with a tiny garden, and with the pressures of work, commute, etc, we don’t do anything in the way of vegetable cultivation. I know that many people cook and bake every week or even, I am told, every day ;-). Nonetheless, in our garden we have a cherry tree, for complicated reasons a cooking cherry tree rather than, as was intended, an eating cherry tree. For the two years of its life, this sweet little tree has been covered in little red and yellow fruit at this time of year. Last year, I learned that there is one particular day when the birds regard the cherries as ripe. On that day they all swoop down and strip the tree bare within an hour.

So this year, I forestalled them, and picked the cherries when they began to get ripe. I picked a saucepan full of these tiny objects. I spent about 45 minutes slicing each one with a knife and taking the stone out. Then I cooked them gently for about 5 minutes on a low light with a dash of sugar, tipped them into a pie dish and put some shortcrust pastry on top. While the girls and Malcolm  (and,OK, me) watched the last episode of Dr Who, the pie cooked. After the programme finished, we got the pie out of the oven and cut it into four small slices (it was a micro pie) and ate it — three of us with ice cream and one of us with extra sugar.

Naturally, it was the most delicious cherry pie anyone has ever eaten. We are all looking forward to next year, and it made me think about watching Twin Peaks again.