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Alan Jacobs


Goodbye, Blog

The friend of information but the enemy of thought.

About two years ago, my online life began to be centered on a computer application: not my word processing program, or my email program, but my rss news reader. rss (which apparently stands for Really Simple Syndication, though there is some debate about that) is a technology for capturing news headlines and summaries of stories, or their first few sentences, from websites. A site that offers these headlines is said to be providing news "feeds" to those who ask for them. The advantage of such syndication is that you can scan many headlines quickly, and open in your browser only the ones you really want to read.

Using NetNewsWire, I found I could get news from dozens of sources every day and thereby keep myself informed on pretty much everything I am interested in. For me the most exciting features of NetNewsWire were two: first, I could set the frequency with which I wanted to check my sites for new items, as often as every half-hour; and second, I could organize my sites in folders. Pretty soon I had a Technology folder, a Macintosh folder, a News folder, a Culture folder, a Literature folder, a Christianity folder, and so on.

Some of these sites were from what online writers call the msm (for "mainstream media"), but most of them were blogs, and with blogs you never know when someone is going to post—except for Glenn Reynolds, the InstaPundit, who posts all day every day. Normal people might write an entry three out of four days, and then go on a fortnight's hiatus; it gets tiresome to peek in at the website every day. NetNewsWire did the peeking for me, and let me know when it found something.

At first my interest was in news—whether about technology or politics or culture—but increasingly I became excited by the idea that the blogosphere could be a great venue for the exchange and development of ideas. One of the first blogs I got really attached to was called Invisible Adjunct. Now, alas, defunct, it was written by a woman who worked as an adjunct (that ...

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