ebogjonson.com's internet tubes archive
August 21, 2007
i'm a african - dead prez machinima
i've been meaning to write you
I really have! It's just that there's been a lot going on.
Correct emailing practice does not exist. The true mood of the form is spontaneity, alacrity--the right time to reply to a message is right away. But do that and your life is gone. So you reject the spontaneous spirit of email; you hold off replying for hours, days, even weeks. By then the initiatory email has gone stale, and your reply is bound to be labored. You compensate for the offense with a needlessly elaborate message. You ask polite questions to which you pray there will never come an answer. Oh, but there will. [full item]
March 30, 2007
la bella mafia
Mike is also in Slate this week.
What's that Ice Cube lyric again?
A piece of cake it was just like a party
Cause in the county you know everybody
March 25, 2007
was that really a fire, after all?
"Say something about the method of composition itself: how everything one is thinking at a specific moment in time must at all costs be incorporated into the project then at hand." - Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project
Thus far I haven't met a single person who didn't say "OH SCHNAP" when I showed them the pictures of me having my hair cut with fire. I thought it was cute too, perhaps in a different way.
She's absolutely right, of course - I'm not looking to police anyone's reactions (except Mel Gibson's, Nikki Finke's and the commenters on the HuffPost), and snaps of someone getting their hair cut with a flame is definitely OH SCHNAP worthy no matter what color you are. In so much as my comment constituted a light, winking dig, it wasn't directed at anyone in particular, and certainly not at LA C, without whose pictures we wouldn't be having this conversation.
The difference in reaction that I was suggesting exists isn't located at the OH SCHNAP layer but in the sentence that follows it, which, in my case, was "is that dude's hot comb broken?" I don't think "hot comb" is an unreasonably, overly encoded reference, and I don't think its unfair to want to get "hot comb" built into the post at the level of amplifier, by which I mean at the level of the boingboing's of the world who shared LA C's photos with the world. One of the reasons that I love sites like boingboing is that they have a knack for succinctly pointing us towards the proverbial cool link of the moment, but, at the risk of overgeneralization, I find their process can be a little lazy when it comes to the identity stuff - posts not digging or directing enough, or presenting items "as is" to an audience that can be trusted to know an awful lot about everything except (surprise!) black life.
Ideally there would be an update post to the boingboing item that showed us the fire barber where Cory or whoever would write, "reader blah-blah says: there is a long history of use heat in black hair care..." but that's not going to happen is it? Besides the fact that the boingboing's pool of reader blah-blahs equipped to make these kinds of connections is tiny, that kind of update would suggest the possibility of racialized and socialized forms of knowledge, a circumstance that is pretty contra-aesthetic to the whole boingboing schtick, where the world of wonderful things belongs equally to all and there are no barriers to access except a lack of enthusiam or crippling DRM.
I guess I am basically pointing out a tiny obvious: that community is not my community. Oh, well.
Posted by ebogjonson at 11:25 AM | Permalink
March 10, 2007
let a thousand flowers bloom
I think I mentioned earlier that I am going to be building some websites for as-yet-unamed (doh! how long has that been on our to-do list?) collective of literary magazines. As part of that process I've been looking at open source content management systems like Plone, Drupal and Joomla, trying to decide which platform might work for my far-flung collection of peeps. (If anyone has had any experience with any of these tools feel free to let me know.)
Anyway, I bring this up because the pace at which enterprising ladies and gents are setting up their own a niche communitys (using one of the increasingly easy to install/use turn-key CMS's listed above) seems to increase with every passing week, the launches of entire (would-be) online communities now as easy as the launch of blogs or (reaching back in the crate) personal web pages.
(Pointless distinction alert: There are no any strictly-defined "personal webpages" left in the world that aren't in some way or another blogs.)
Take the Black Writers Network, which seems to be powered by Joomla. Heavily promoting the tschotske-making powers of Cafe Press, BWN seems interested in being a home away from home for the black self-publishing set. Still relatively ghost-towny, there doesn't seem to be much on it that didn't come out of the box with Joomla, meaning that once the admin (and there can easily be just one) has worked out the kinks of the install they can basically let the thing percolate in perpetuity, which, between low hosting costs and an admin gainfully employed, can be an actual long time.
It takes kind of a shit to handicap the prospects of completely harmless labors of love like BWN, but: the prospects for a site like BWN are hard to handicap these days. It costs so little to launch and maintain such sites that a dedicated admin willing to eat the hosting costs could maintain BWN indefinitely without quitting their day job. Ideally the point at which BWN requires full time attention is the point at which it (kind of) (maybe) (begins to suggest ways it) can support itself. (Someday.) That, of course, if the site can connect with enough of those self-publishy folks to last. Because sure: a thousand community-site flowers may now be able to bloom on any given, but mostly so that they can die and fertilize the next generation.
I want to write that people will set up Drupal communities the way they set up blogs, but, of course, that is bullshit. Besides the simple fact that the numbers don't work (it would be an online world full of corporations instead of users, each site "member" just another community), the peculiar temperament that makes you desperately want to host a party is not universally distributed among the species. (Forget about the skills.)
Posted by ebogjonson at 4:38 PM | Permalink
December 3, 2006
"The television screen has become the retina of the mind's eye. For that reason, I refuse to appear on television, except on television. O'Blivion is not the name I was born with. It's my television name. Soon, all of us will have special names, names designed to cause the cathode-ray tube to resonate."
Dr. Brian O'Blivion, from Videodrome
I've been thinking a lot about what to do with this blog, or, more accurately, how to do this blog. I'm not really getting the amount of value I feel like I should be getting from my current blogging habits, which, as currently constructed, mostly allow me to procrastinate from other stuff near endlessly without a commensurate uptick of posting on here. I also have a gut-level feeling that I want to do less essayistic posting about, say, how John McWhorter's entire politic stems from his having been beaten by a girl when he was four, and do more impressionistic/imagistic posting of lists, dreams, spreadsheets, snaps, rips, photoshop gags, and so on. To make matters worse, I'm going to Kenya for a month and I have been desperately trying to figure out how to document that in a non-trad yet nifty way. (Snaps? Uploaded video? GPS google mapping?)
All of which is to say, that while I'm drawn like a moth to certain kinds of android flames, I think that moving forward I'm only going to do certain kinds of blogging in the comment sections of other people's blogs. Doing so is attractive to me on a number of levels, first, of course, being the perverse, Videodrome-ness of the gesture - "for that reason, I refuse to blog, except in blogs!" - and, second, being the kind of slack doing so might cut for ebogjonson.com, hopefully allowing it drift/settle into some other configuration. That new class of "comment post" is going to be linked to from here, but will all come with some as-yet-to-be-determined and recurring formal device, and will also be cross-posed to a new MT category - ebog o'blivion - for the purposes of neat architecture and taxonomy.
The above rule, will, of course, be immediately broken. For one, there are going to be topics that no one has written about first, and there will also be things that won't fit into a comment or a photoshop gag. (That review of Ayiti: Cost of Life that I keep needing to write, for example.) Additionally, I intend to still link to stuff via the del.icio.us box on ebog home, or, maybe, I'll implement the reblog hack instead. (Either way, those of you reading this via feed should subscribe to the new feedburner feed to at very least make sure you get those del.icio.us links in your reader.)
And that's pretty much that. Let's see how it goes, shall we?
Posted by ebogjonson at 1:44 PM | Permalink
September 18, 2006
wired to the max
What's that old line about a dollar and a dream? We live in a media age where if you have a laptop, a camera and a crew of trusted, agile friends you can make some pretty funny shit pretty easily, as in this parody of The Wire below. Is there a black lonelygirl15 out there?
Posted by ebogjonson at 3:50 PM | Permalink
September 14, 2006
another black site bites the dust?
Saw this on Richard Prince's Journalisms:
"BlackCommentator.com Senior Editors Bruce Dixon, Margaret Kimberley ('Freedom Rider') and I have left BC to launch a new, bigger and better e-magazine, BlackAgendaReport.com (BAR), which is scheduled to make a big splash online in the last week of September," Glen Ford notified supporters of the Black Commentator Web site. "Our reasons for leaving BC involve irreconcilable differences with the site's other co-founder over the publication's operations and business model, especially the introduction of subscriptions and the blocking of non-subscribers' access to past issues. We believe this business model has diminished BC's usefulness and its ability to effectively reach the audience we all seek to influence and serve. We also think the model is financially unsustainable." Ford and co-founder Peter Gamble "have been friends and collaborators on various media projects for nearly 30 years," the site says.
The notice was saddening, first because it suggested that BlackCommentator might soon be no more, and second because I had always admired (from the outside, obviously) Gamble and Ford's long record of accomplishment, collaboration and (it seemed) friendship. I have no idea what went down on at BC but it would be sad to think that something as ephemeral as an "internet business model" came between two men who have worked so well together for 30 years. There will be a new model tomorrow and the day after. Nothing to lose a bud over, seriously.
BlackCommentator endorses a strain of black politics that isn't completely aligned with my own, but I still find them invaluable. It's amazing to think that while the black community numbers some 34-some odd million, while we constitute a discrete media market worth billions, no one besides BlackCommentator has ever thought to produce things like the BC Congressional Black Caucus Report Card. More amazing still to think that they couldn't find a way to monetize that kind of unique product offering, but then I know from experience that black sales people and agencies are actually even less interested in non-entertainment programming than their white counterparts are.
I wish both BC and the forthcoming BlackAgendaReport.com the best of luck. That said, I also want to offer some genuine, very basic and (I know) completely unsolicited advice to both sites:
1 - Get some kind of RSS feed - I was always baffled by the lack of feeds on BC. People want feeds. I know: tomorrow people will want something else. But it isn't a huge deal to identify and then provide for your audience's desires. BC and BAR don't exist to be technical innovators in the management and distribution of information, but that doesn't mean they should lag behind in providing near universally available widgets and doodads either.
2 - Build a reason for people to come to BAR and BC every day - I don't know what either site's ideal publishing schedule should be, but either you provide people with passive hooks into your site (see item #1) or you provide them with reasons to come back to it on a regular, preferably daily basis. There are plenty of low-cost ways to get people to come to BC or BAR on a daily basis. Blogs, headline aggregators, a daily updating comic, comment-enabled articles, community, all-of-the-above, none, whatever. Ignoring all those options and allowing your site to lie fallow for the time between weekly updates is a prescription for failure.
I understand that these solutions are either driven by the audience or by linking, both of which mean a shift in thinking for politically-motivated folks invested in the notion of providing unique, original content to an underserved audience. But unless you can afford to build the kind of shop that pushes out a number of wholly original, must-have items a day, these other strategies are what keeps you meaningfully connected to the audience you want to serve.
3 - Develop a real advertising strategy - I was always disheartened to go to BC and see the same, parallel universe ads on the site, like the button for Bob Avakian's autobiography. I can imagine that BC likely saw the lack of even google ads as some kind of proof of their integrity, but really, now: integrity isn't even going to cover your hosting costs. I don't know what Steve Gilliard's financial picture looks like, but his Alexa metrics seem to be comparable to BCs and he seems more fully engaged with the ad market and the current opportunities available for keeping himself in business.
I'd never suggest that joining some random advertising network will change anyone's life, but until a site is in the proverbial game its managers have no insight or data with which to even begin to imagine what might work for them. Maybe it's ads, maybe it's some kind of premium subscription + ads, maybe there is BAR t-shirt idea out there that is waiting to blow Cafe Press the fuck up. You'll never know until you engage and BC's ad strategy seems to be predicated on a politically motivated lack of engagement. Like I said, I understand the political sentiment, but it's a terrible ad strategy.
How about BC vs BlackAmericaWeb?
3.5 - also also - not that you asked, but ebogjonson.com has made, like, a dime a day off of its Google ads, which means that if you are reading this, you should feel very select and avant - that and very lonely. Having put them up mostly to play with Google's ad program and tools, I've been thinking about taking them down, but man! That dime sure is addictive!
4 - Get better designers, please - The internets are full of young, black, conscious pixel-pushers who will give BC or BAR a reasonably usable and good looking site at a politically motivated discount. Please find one at all costs.
Besides cooking up a hottish site, the other thing this designer will do is hopefully convince both sites that the current BC color palate should be abolished, not just from BC, but from every black website forever:
This palate is a basically red, black and green for black nationalists who are afraid of the internet. It says "black site" without saying "website." I really hate it.
5 - Put some pictures on black folks up on your site - I know this likely strikes some folks as a costly, superficial hassle, but even Bob Avakian would click on an interesting picture of Mao.
6 - Give people something to do besides read - This is an alternate take on item #2, but it bears repeating. "Things to do" can mean traditionally defined community activity, as in posting messages or feeding you news items. It can also mean watching video or listening to a podcast. It can be a less-direct programming experience like a weekly "direct action" item where you ask the audience to write letters. Whatever it is, it should feel relevant to the audience as understood/aspired to by BC and BAR's staff. You know these folks better than I do. What would they like to do besides read?
7 - "Hottish" is a meaningful web value just like "usability" - People have a hard time remembering that when BlackPlanet.com was launched, other folks involved in the black or urban web space were convinced it would fail. "Not hip hop enough," they said. "No celebrities." And (most damning for its subconscious racism), "black folks aren't interested in that white homepage building crap." None of the folks who made those arguments are in the business anymore, and not a one of their brands survived. In fact, six years later, instead of failing Blackplanet.com has become the most-blackenest black space in all creation, so gosh darn you-know-what that it has become shorthand for a host of social relations and habits that grown folks claim to be embarrassed by. This wasn't achieved by producing an experience that was 5-10 years out of date in comparison to mainstream sites looking to forge the same type of relationship to audiences. The thing was "hot" in ways that Hookt.com or UBO were not "hot."
And, not that you asked, but there is nothing out there in the 2006 space that is as hot as BP was in 1999. It would be super-disingenuous to hold out to BAR the possibility of being that site, largely because there is a sense in which doing so will (maybe) put them in opposition to their own politics. But I think it'd be invaluable for them to think about the question of how to be that site while remaining themselves, this even just playfully and theoretically. In management mumbo-jumbo this is known the Big, Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) thought experiment, also known as the Blow Nucca's Minds (BNM) experiment and the Next Level Shit (NLS) game: If the BlackAgendaReport set for itself the Big, Hairy Audacious Goal of Blowing Nuccas Minds using some kind of Next Level Shit, what would it do? What would that mean? What would it require from a staff, technology and culture standpoint?
Anyway, everybody's a critic, right? Like I said, I wish both sites well. The folks involved have provided an invaluable service over the years and it would be great to see them continue.
Posted by ebogjonson at 4:34 PM | Permalink
May 16, 2006
black commentator on net neutrality
I was mistaken when I said earlier that there was no black web media coverage of net neutrality. I should have checked The Black Commentator before I typed, since - lo and behold! - last week's issue included a thorough (and typically feisty) piece on the issue by BC editor Bruce Dixon:
America's black misleadership class, which is nearly indistinguishable from its black business class, has struck again. In a stunning coup, a mainline African American voting rights group has been enlisted on the side of AT&T and other telecom monopolies in their legislative push to privatize the Internet and roll back hundreds of agreements with local communities that force these monopolies to extend Internet and cable service to poor and rural communities around the country. [full story]
It's a good piece, well reported and effective in eviscerating a number of talking androids working for the telcos, and it follows up previous coverage by Dixon. I shouldn't be surprised by the article: my lapse in attention aside, BC has always been a great source of black political POV and I've always been a fan. The site provides exactly the sort of aggressive, independent, smart black media I naively kept trying to build in my various previous lives under corporate umbrellas. Which is to say it's precisely the kind of thing that can't be done when the people above you are white folks who understand "black" as being synonymous with "entertainment," or the people below you are mediocrities who couldn't hack it in other parts of the company and thus cling to the black division as a life-preserver / HR-run bantustand. (Sure, white companies do black media in order to reach back audiences, but it's also a great way for them to manage their own internal diversity problems by giving scads of disaffected, glass-ceiling prone negro employees something to do.)
But about BC: knowing a few things about the economics of this biz I have always been slightly afeared that one day I'd wake up and BC would be gone. Concerned that my slack, do-nothing worry in many ways reproduced the various apathetic horrors I have beheld, I just went and subscribed to the site and urge you to do the same. It's a painless buck a week and your kharmic debt to all the late-great black media you didn't previously support will be considered paid in full.
Posted by ebogjonson at 10:36 AM | Permalink