Sunday, September 16, 2007

Asheville Bloggers Q&A

The Mountain Xpress recently asked local bloggers a series of questions for their upcoming local bloggers article. Here are their questions and my answers:

Q. How useful do you find the city and county government sites for information?

I find the newly revamped City of Asheville website to be very useful. It is simple, elegant and easy to use. It contains a wealth of information that is well-organized. And they now have archived video of council meetings; so, I can easily review portions of meetings without waiting for reruns on TV or getting clarification second-hand.

However, I would like to have access to committee meeting cancellation notices. Right now you have to sign up for an email distribution list, which is clumsy, inefficient and exclusive.

The county website needs work. It looks and feels old. Still, it is a valuable resource especially for meeting agendas and background documentation.

Q. How has technology changed the playing field when it comes to local news and covering local government (esp. YouTube and podcasts)?

Technology has made an enormous change in the circulation of news and information. I can announce an event or meeting on a mailing list, research the issues from local or worldwide sources, get feedback from others in the community who are knowledgeable, experienced or just opinionated, send questions or concerns to participants in advance, attend the meeting armed with notes compiled from emails, bloggers, and online media sources, film or photograph the event, place the pictures or film on the web when I get home (YouTube or BubbleShare), and then distribute notes, links, pictures and film to the community through emails, my blog or other blogs for their reaction. In this way, you can end up with a fairly full public record of activities all distributed before bedtime.

This is highly effective in keeping the community involved in and informed about hot issues while they're still hot. And the web helps keep important issues alive by providing documentation that persists beyond the immediate moment.

Q. What effects have blogs had on local government?

Blogs are not just disembodied web diaries. Blogs are maintained by people. Often, people who are more or less involved in local activities and political groups and have a stake in political and community outcomes. If local government is interested in what their constituents are thinking, doing and saying then they need to be listening to the bloggers. Often it is the bloggers and web-connected who are the touchstone for distributed and networked observation, research, and analysis and who have their fingers on the pulse of the community and make their outputs generally available in a common cyberspace.

Q. As a blogger who frequently covers local issues, what are the challenges you face?

I sometimes have too many things I could or should be doing and not enough time. In this case, another advantage of the web-connected community is that we can each cover material that others cannot and then report back in a reciprocal fashion. In this way, we unintentionally build up a considerable, transitory and developing body of knowledge that has a persisting substance we can reference, examine and appreciate over time.

Q. What do you gain from blogging?

What I get from blogging is the satisfaction of knowing that I always have a dependable and consistent means of self-expression. It's like having my own personal newspaper. I can take my knowledge, experiences and analysis and compose opinion pieces of whatever length is required and publish my product to the world on my own schedule.

Q. What do others gain?

I don't know what others gain from my blogging. I don't maintain a weblog for the gain of others. I have eliminated interactivity and it is simply an unmolested record of my thought.

First of all, although most weblogs allow comments, mine does not. It's the one place in cyberspace where I don't have to listen to the noise and cross-talk. Mine is not "the people's blog;" it is my blog and I don't like comments on my blog. I don't allow comments on my weblog because I don't have to. They are usually tedious, spurious or fallacious criticisms that have to be monitored, countered, and sometimes deleted for vulgar insults or personal attacks. I don't have time for it. I manage three newsgroups myself and participate in many online forums and mailing lists and I get my fill of stupid comments there. My weblog is the one place where I can express my opinion without having to field inane, anonymous drive-by comments from boobs who think they know something. Short answer: I don't have the time for it. Keep your comments to yourself. Start your own blog.

Secondly, I don't keep counters or any other statistics either. I am gloriously oblivious to how many hits my weblog has or where visitors came from. Don't know, don't care. If you like what's on my weblog, read it. If not, go away.

Also, I do not keep a blogroll; that is, links to other favorite weblogs.

I've been blogging for over seven years and I used to have a blog that had every possible feature that a blog could have. I have decided now to choose minimalism as my theme. It works for me.

Q. How does A'ville's small size affect your blog's personality?

There is no aspect of my possible audience that influences my blog's personality. I base my blog's personality on the image I choose to display. However, the size and character of Asheville does influence the content of my weblog. I sometimes comment on or cover activities that take place here and that is certainly a factor in the composition of my blog.

Q. Why keep at it?

I keep blogging because it keeps my thinking and writing skills sharp. I love language and the drama of human affairs and blogging helps me express my appreciation of both.

Q. What surprises have you encountered?

I'm surprised any time I learn that someone has read my blog.

Q. What do you consider the central theme to your blog?

The general theme of my weblog is me. My thoughts, my interests, my whimsy. It contains commentary or announcements that are meaningful to me and that I consider worthy of publishing. Quite often that content is political in nature. So, the central theme, I guess, is my political thought; particularly, libertarian political thought. (P.S. That is not capital-L Libertarian.)

Q. What sort of traffic do you get?

I don't know. I don't keep web traffic statistics.


"Digital citizenship: E-gov reshapes civic life" by David Forbes, Mountain Xpress, September 19, 2007.

"Blog wild: Local bloggers stir the virtual pot" by Brian Postelle, Mountain Xpress, September 19, 2007.