A lot has been written (mostly not by me) about the relationship of weblogging and more serious (paid) journalism (1, 2, 3). If I think of it at all, I think of it as a complimentary one, with reporters doing research and webloggers providing additional information and corrections. This idea, that “weblogs keep the media honest” as the Washington Post put it, is not without flaws.
The fact is, weblogs aren’t the unalloyed force for truth that some have suggested they are. This has nothing to do with the weblog form itself, but rather with the attitudes of the authors. Simply put: being on the web doesn’t make you more honest by itself. Take the issue of hyperlinks. When I discuss an idea I agree or disagree with here, I link to it so that my readers can check it out. In theory, even if I misrepresent it, my readers can still see the original and discover my error. But does that work? Even linking to a post doesn’t guarantee fairness to the post if my audience is prepared to disregard contrary information.
For a good look at the promises—good and bad—of the semantic web, check out this article from 2009 (which, it should be pretty obvious, is a work of fiction) describing one path towards it. RDF is one of the central parts of the story, despite its relative obscurity today, which is one reason why I think the story is actually plausible. RDF is one of those ideas which, once you get a handle on it, seem so obvious that it almost seems less important, like XML. Once you’ve absorbed the idea, you forget how hard things were before. (via MediAgora) #
Mapping the blogosphere
There are now multiple projects working to glean the connections among weblogs (two of which were recently referenced by Doc Searls). Some background: Many weblogs contain lists of other weblogs that the author reads or otherwise recommends (these days, it’s common to have them on the main page; mine is on a separate page for historical reasons). These lists, commonly called “blogrolls”, give insights into the structure of the weblogging community, such as who is held in high esteem and what subgroups exist.
The most recent revision of my threading vocabulary (currently available as a draft) absorbs some earlier work I had made towards a language for describing weblogs in RDF. The property used to indicate that one weblog includes another in its blogroll is “recommends”, as in “(Doc Searls Weblog) recommends (JOHO the Blog)” (note: not actual RDF syntax).
Having a standard way to describe the fact that one weblog lists another in its blogroll is useful in that it allows crawlers to exchange information without human intervention. The fact that it’s done in RDF allows any RDF-compatible system to be aware of that fact. (They might not know what it means, but they can still know it.)
There are two other ways that weblogs can recommend each other. A blogroll entry applies to the weblog as a whole, but individual posts usually include links as well. Thus, one post in a weblog might refer to another weblog, or to a post in that weblog. These are still inter-site connections, but now their meaning is more diffuse. Presence in the blogroll indicates that the author thinks the site is worth reading; being referred to in a post simply indicates that the site or post is being referred to. (My thread vocabulary allows for some references to include more meaning, such as “I disagree with this” or “I’m just referring to it without discussing it”.)
Does any of this mean anything? Who can say? I fully expect my work here to be ignored in favor of proposals by those with actual working software, but I find it interesting enough to work on anyway. #
By popular demand (Hi, Sharon!), I present some notes about my experience at O2K2. I has some second thoughts about attending this year, actually. Since leaving Penn State, I’ve drifted away from the anime scene for a number of reasons (not being in a club, not having a fast enough connection to make following rec.arts.anime.misc painless). In fact, the last anime purchase I had made, as far as I can tell, was at last year’s Otakon.
(Wondering what I’m talking about? Among English-speaking fans, anime means “Japanese animation”. Otakon is the largest east-coast convention of anime fans, which has been held in Baltimore for the last four years. To clarify “largest”, I’ll note that the estimated attendance this year was 12,900 people.)
Despite my concerns, I had a good time. I got to see a lot of people from college and had a chance to see new things without a big up-front investment. (I also got to make some more purchases at discount prices.)
- The big discovery for me was Azumanga Daioh, a series based on a four-panel comic strip about the lives of a quirky bunch of schoolgirls and their teachers. It’s really difficult to give a sense of the show, but it has a nice meandering rhythm (inherited, presumably, from its origin as a comic strip) that allows the humor to come from the girls’ personalities. It has a quiet surrealism that I quite enjoy.
- Second to that is Magical Shopping District Abenobeshi, which similarly suffers from being difficult to describe. This is the latest insane, hyper-active comedy from Gainax and… words fail me. Two friends encounter a strange idol and are transported to one strange alternate world after another. I saw episodes 3 and 4, and the subtitles were so small as to be almost illegible, but it’s right up there with FLCL on my watch list. Each world that I saw was filled with clichés based on a theme, such as the sci-fi world where the main characters end up piloting an enormous giant, combining robot, or the martial-arts world where a Bruce Lee-like tracksuit gives you appropriate sound effects when you move.
- This year’s Mystery Anime Theatre was Attack of the Supermonsters or something like that. Again, it’s difficult to give a sense of it in words, at least in the short format I’m adopting here. Like some mythical beast, this “movie” (stitched together from three episodes of a television series) is an improbable combination of two styles. It’s a show where the dinosaurs (played unconvincingly by hand-puppets) burst free from their hiding places beneath to earth to destroy humanity (portrayed by poorly-drawn animated characters). Fortunately, humanity is defended by a four-person sentai team with a bunch of super-high-tech vehicles (portrayed by cheap scale models). On top of all that stupidity, the primary heroes are a brother and sister team who have the power to combine into a single being of allegedly superhuman capability—which somehow upgrades the hardware on their vehicle. It’s really, really bad, and the heckling team did a fantastic job on it.
- Less wonderful, although still worthwhile, was Mobile Suit Gundam 0093: Char’s Counterattack, the film which concludes the story begun in Mobile Suit Gundam and continued in far too many series to list here. While definitely worth seeing for Gundam fans, for me most of the cool stuff is overshadowed by one of the more senseless deaths at the end. I won’t go into details, so I’ll say that it really pissed me off. Not so much the death itself, but the lack of reaction from the movie itself.
- Next we have Ribon no Kishi, known in the U.S. as Princess Knight. It was the first shoujo (“girls”) anime and a creation of Tezuka Osamu, who pretty much created the anime industry. It’s age and Mr Tezuka’s unusual sense of humor give it a more cartoon-y feel than one normally expects from anime, but the story has a distinct Japanese stamp. In the second episode, for example, the young princess masquerading as a prince to avoid problems with the succession faces the King of Hell, who wants to swap her “boy’s soul” with his daughter’s, she being too girly to get into a good magical university. It’s old and hard to get ahold of, but worth seeing.
- I enjoy seeing the fan-created material, such as the music videos and parodies. Featured this year were a cleaned-up version of Evangelion: ReDeath and Hamstah Gangstaz, but the videos turned out to be a larger draw. The steady advance of consumer video-editing technology is allowing some really amazing stuff these days, including one video that inserted characters from different series into the same scene to create a cross-series love triangle. (Granted, it made no sense within the contexts of the original series, but it worked well enough on its own.) Apparently, there are a bunch of web sites that collect anime music videos these days, but as I don’t have a high-speed connection, I pretty much only see them at conventions these days.
- As with last year, I spent some time at the panels. There are quite a few regulars at these conventions who have endless stores of anecdotes about anime, Japanese history, old Saturday-morning cartoons, and so forth. It’s fun just to listen to them talk. (Take the story about the first WorldCon where they tried to show an anime film—straight, since there were no fansubs or official releases back them—and were told that anime was just a fad. Nowadays, Otakon’s admission is thrice that of WorldCon’s.) Also informative was the “What the hell was going on in Evangelion?” panel. (Not its actual name.)
I’m surely leaving out a ton of stuff, but this entry is getting long and the night is getting old. Perhaps more later. #