I am not ready to discuss Thadea and the Golden Elite yet. I will
some time soon. I want to instead talk about site fighting in general.
What is good about site fighting and web site competitions? The stock answer used to be friendship and
fun. I think the answer is nmore or less right. Site fighting provides a small amount of attention for the little
personal web site owner, but more importantly it puts that owner in touch with a diverse bunch of people he or
she might not otherwise meet. It is the opposite of today's insular social networking sites where you stay inside
a like minded circle of friends.
I also think one can use web site comeptitions to encourage craft in web sites. This doesn't always make for
the best sites, but most people who site fight do take pride in their sites. Here is an example of
a site that fights at Webleagues. She used to fight for Haldis but switched teams. Her site is well cared for and visually lush. It may
not be to everyone's taste and yes you can fight an openly displayed MSN Group. Html coding for MSN takes special patience because MSNGroups
does not let you use style sheets. I know Angelika worked hard on her group.
I know site fighting is not always a meritocracy. I also have tasted of the evils of vote exchange both as myself and Thadea. I want
to talk about that at a different time in another piece.
I guess I need to deal with more Communications 117 readings. My problem is that I lack those five socialization courses that nearly
all of Howard's students have had. This makes me not know any of the language of journalism which like any field must have its
Well here are the readings:
What is Narrative Anyway? by Chip Scanlon. Note: this was
my second dead link in two weeks. Fortunately, Scroogle came to my rescue. Boy does Howard put together sloppy course pages.
All the News That's Fit to Blog by
The Newspaper of the Future Timothy O'Brien
Well, Cooper believes that blogs are basicly the big competition for newspapers. I think I'm going to disagree since so many newspapers and
other real news sources are on the net. CNN, MSNBC, the wire services, the New York Time and AJC, all leave blogs in the dust, and if I'm
wrong, I'll be very surprised.
I liked the Newspaper of the Future article, but then again I agree with it. I think online news sources whip blogs rear ends. Most blogs
just like the interactive gee-gaws at most news sites are just some informed person blowing hot air. Informed people can blow hot air. Look
at me on my blog if you want proof.
That said, something about the Lawrence news operation gave me pause. True, they have government documents online and some of what they do
is quite newsworthy, but when does giving the people what they want turn from journalism to entertainment. After all seeing your little leaguer
son or daughter on an electronic baseball card, may give the web site hits and sell advertising revenue and make parents, friends, and junior him or herself
quite happy, but it's not really news. Similarly college students washing their dirty linen in public with online diaries are a lot of fun
to read, but is that real news? That said, I think people want to be entertained or television and movies would not be successful. Television (that is not news)
and movies, however are not news.
This brings me to the last reading, by Chip Sanclon, in which he presents a hodgepodge of definitions of narrative. Basilcly, Chip and some of
the authors he quotes feel that narrative is important to presenting the news. Narrative is a type of story telling that links together events that occur
in time or a similar sequence and gives them meaning as a coherent whole. This is fairly sophisticated story telling. It is possible to tell a
story with almost no narrative. I see this all the time on MSNGroups. Stop by any "Hello" or "sign-in thread" What story do these one
word plus a sig-file posts tell? "I am here. I have not forgotten to show up today."
Another example of story without narrative is a stock market report or sports scores. Everyone knows the story so you don't have to use narrative
to tell everyone about a basketball game or a day of trading. The numbers, stats, and graph tell the story of the day's events. I think that narrative
works for large magazine and Week in Review pieces. People who read articles like those want the story behind the story and it is most likely a story that
they do not know. Other people could care less about nonfiction stories. Perhaps long magazine articles are an acquired taste.
I think news is as much about information as narrative and maybe a bit more about information with a bit of explanation thrown in. Hurricane Katrina was
one big storm, but only the facts told us how big and the facts about the levvy in the Lower Ninth Ward told us something of why it collapsed. All the
story telling in the world does not make news without the facts and information, and even the story behind the story in a long magazine piece
is also about conveying information.
I'd like to answer Howard's key questions for this week: What kinds of news forms have emerged in the digital environment?
How do they shift mass journalism's relationship to its audience? How can you "tell a story" in digital media?
The digital environment is mercilessly friendly to interactive gee-gaws. Sorry, that is what I call them because most of the time, they don't interest me
in the slightest. I read the news for the facts and also for the story behind the story. I want to read what expert reporters, editors, and others with knowledge have to
say. If I wanted to hear the general public I'd hang out in the break room. There are also nice extras like those little league baseball cards. The New York Times even
had e-cards. I liked that.
The one site where I do make use of the gee-gaws to some extent is Failed Messiah. There the gee-gaws, in this
case a comment mechanism produce a story without narrative. Shmarya posts an article. His friends and detractors come by and argue about it. Their arguments are
inciteful. Sometimes Shamarya joins t hem. Sometimes there is even real news in the arguments. They also mean that Shamarya is not afraid of the official views from
Orthodox Judaism and lets them on his site which makes it less biased. Altnhough, I am not a big fan of gee-gaws, I think they have their place.
The gee-gaws are supposed to convince the audience is supposed to feel like they own the news site. To a smaller extent the ability to email the authors and editors and the ability
to make rapid corrections also fuels this fantasy. Sorry, I build web sites and I know what I own and what I don't. Failed Messiah is Shamarya's site. Being able to comment there
does not give me a feeling of ownership. Neither does writing to Shamarya. I'm glad he's out thee providing information on charedi and Orthodox Judaism and pointing me
to more information, but I'm a recipient of his knowledge, not a prosumer. When I write my own pieces, I sometimes link back to other Jblogs. They have yet to link to
my tales out of schul.
You tell a story in digital media primarily through print with a few illustrations thrown in. The reason for this is bandwidth. Not everyone has a broadband connection. Text reaches
more people with more connections more easily. Text prints out (Yes, your design should be printer friendly). As for gee-gaws, if you have a bunch of regulars at your web site and your
story is controversial and the regulars like to duke it out and sometimes even duke it out with you, put on the gee-gaws, but I still think these are secondary. Most of us out there realy
can't contribute to the news. It's a nice fantasy though.
As for narrative. It works well for some pieces and not others. Sports, business, and weather are stoies we all know. We just need the news to fill in the facts. Facts and information
are the backbone of news. Narrative is nice, but it is not essential except in the magazine section.
It looks like I am going to indeed going to go to MySpace to recruit for ZOID. I am not sure
how I feel about this except it is going to be a long slow slog as I set up a site and learn what capabilities I have or lack. I don't want to say much more about this,
but I should have done this a long time ago, so too should a lot of other site fighters. This is going to mean some changes for ZOID. I hope I don't end up
stretched too thin.
On Friday afternoon, during my lunch break, I created Urit. As
happens when you create a character for a role play (Yes, this is mainly teens but if you role play modern genre characters, this is
what you get.) I fell in love with her and went through a long eight hour wait for her acceptance.
Now playing her won't be half as fun as creating her, but that is beside the point. Pictall High, where Urit, is a student has rules against
"Mary Sue and Gary Lou" characters. Mary Sue is teenage role playing for perfect characters. Mary Sues are usually beautiful, smart,
wealthy, talented and trouble free. The problem is that many high school kids who role play want to write strong, beautiful, capable, athletic, smart
characters. Well, there is no reason they should not write such characts, and it is possible to put such characters together without having them be
What role players need to shoot for is called a sympathetic character. A sympathetic character is one about whom an audience can care, and
an audience can care about beautiful, successful, stong characters. Famous authors have crafted exactly such characters. Let's start with
Lily Barton in Edith Wharton's House of Mirth. Lily is beautiful and has an outsize sense of ethics and a determination not to compromise her
virtue. Lily's problem is that she can't seem to get along on less money and her finances are a mess. She slips down the financial greasey pole,
nearly compromises herself once and eventually ends up killing herself.
A very different and equally sympathetic beautiful character is Ayn Rand's, Dagny Taggart. Dagny is tall, blond, gorgeous, wealthy. She also
has a degree in engineering and is the chief operating officer for Taggart Continental. "From Ocean to Ocean Forever." Keeping a
railroad running when everyone wants a piece of business people and the intellectuals treat them like dirt and the government is less
than sympathetic is a monumental task. Dagny succeeds only by dint of very hard work and creative thinking. Working her tail off redeems
Dagny Taggart from being a Mary Sue.
Both Ayn Rand and Edith Wharton offer clues for making strong, smart, and beautiful but sympathetic characters. Here is their trick in
one word: challenges. As strong and beautiful as any character is, she has something missing, something she needs. Lily Barton needed to find financial security
while retaining her virtue and living among her own upper class. This by the way was an impossible task. Dagny Taggart needed to keep the railroads running,
also nearly an impossible task.
If you create strong, beautiful, and/or smart characters give them a challenge. Carla Gustavus, "the girl from grand rapids"
is beautiful, smart, atheltic, and she has made one horrible mistake. After having two drinks she got behind the wheel and headed down
an icey road killing a woman and a baby. The judge sentenced Carla who was seventeen at the time as a juvenile and first time offender. She
is now a student at Bonner State University where a band of vigilantes and sympathetic allies among the students is trying to make her
life so miserable she leaves campus. Persecution makes Carla sympathetic. Her beauty and talent also make her both likeable and poignant.
Of course not all sympathetic characters have to be beauties. Urit
is NOT stunningly attractive, but she is not only sharp, she is academically engaged and she is also fantasticly strong. She has
not let two rotten years of middle school and a history of peer rejection
force her anger inward or acquired bad habits such as smoking or self injury. The question with Urit is whether she can set her anger
aside long enough to make a reasonable social success and a stunning academic one. The other question is whether a nerd like Urit
can survive in a culture that values social life over academics. Urit is sympathetic because she is hard working and smart and has some
adult interests. Her worst enemy is of course herself, but that is true for so many of us, that too makes Urit sympathetic.
Writing sympathetic characters is not hard. Just think strength and challenge and yes, whether your character succeeds with his/her
challenge should always remain an open question when you just begin playing them on a role play.