On Blogging

by Jinryu

I just discovered a strange bug with the iPad version of WordPress– it’s happened to me a couple of times now, so it caught my attention. Oftentimes while I’m in class, I’ll start writing a blog about something during the break, which I might not have time to complete. I’ll write directly into the wordpress interface. I don’t know if I always hit “save draft” because I think WordPress periodically saves a revision, and I’m usually idle on my laptop long enough for that revision time to cycle and save a new version.

However, sometimes when I use the mobile WordPress app, and go to edit drafts, the draft of the post is just empty. The title is still there, the tags are still there, but the content is just a blank. I’ve been fooled a couple of times now into just trashing the empty post, although I just discovered that if I go back online through a normal web browser (not the iPad app) I can revert to a past revision with the whole of the post there. I just did that now, so the following post was saved from the scrap heap.

But for some reason, whereas auto-saved drafts appear fine when I load them up in a browser, they appear as empties when I load them up in the app. I’m not sure if the same thing happens in the Android app, as I don’t do that much blogging from my phone.



If any of you are following the Xanga news, you’ll know that things are going pretty sour over there. As someone who had those badges of “Xanga Life Premium” and “Xanga True” (or something like that), I have a pretty long history with them, almost from when they first started up.

I’m on the side of the fence that is somewhat angry at Xanga, because I’m one of the people who dished out money for Premium for life– and, to put it simply, I’m not dead yet. But my ability to post on Xanga has been revoked, unless I shell out more monies. The new model is “pay us money and give us your writing.” Errr. Fuck you?

Internet culture is something I just grew up with. My first experience with anything remotely internet related was back in high school at Royal West Academy, when I joined a school club for the RWA BBS (Royal West Academy Bulletin Board System). I think I’m a borderline Gen X / Gen Y person, but I mostly doubt that most Gen Y people have any recollection of dialing up to a BBS. The BBS was one among about 50 or so publicly accessible BBSes in the Greater Montreal area code (only 514 at the time). Every month or so, one of the biggest BBSes, “Juxtaposition” BBS, would publish an updated list of BBSes.

Because of those roots in text based online experiences, a lot of my way of looking at the world is very textually based. I tend to convert experiences into information that is very often textual in nature. Back then, internet interaction was far from as streamlined as it was today– MMORPGs didn’t exist. There were networked games, one of the most famous in my time being DukeNukem 3D. But I’m talking about an age where games were not floating all their information in cyberspace– things were still live and in person LAN parties that required hard cables.

Almost all of the games that did have larger multiuser bases that could allow you to play with remote users were hosted on the BBSes– they were turn based, and often, almost always completely text based.

Those beginnings in forums, email and gaming meant that a lot of my foundational experiences were heavily text based. It also made me develop a strong tendency to compartmentalise my information– to this day, I like having my internet experience separated into text, images, or video. If I want information, I want something as dry and efficient as a wikipedia page. If I want a video, I want something like a youtube app, but without the ads. If I want images, I want to be able to browse galleries, and just galleries.


Facebook recently revealed that it has some plans to introduce short, high quiality video ad spaces for advertising revenue. I do use facebook, almost exclusively as a part of the work I have to do. But on the whole? Facebook mostly annoys the shit out of me– because probably less than 5% of the actual bandwidth used is for information that I actually want. The rest is for interface mechanics and “features” that are trying to sell me oranges because they notice I’m looking for apples.

Granted, I’m probably not the typical internet user. In general, I guess you might say that most “free” services lose money on me, because I never click ads, and I’m almost never swayed by advertising. I buy what I need when I need it.


The big failing of Xanga is a lot like what I hate about Facebook. It’s adding on extra functions that I don’t use, and it’s cluttering things up. When they could have been working to improve features such as the reader, RSS/Atom feeds, and more customizability for controlling how your blog looked and behaved, instead what the Xanga team spent their effort on was kitchy shit to try and make quick money, or to copy features from other sites. Among it’s efforts,iit was trying to pretend that it could be a twitter like service, or something like a photo gallery.

Facebook did pull these sorts of things off– but it did so by pushing revision after revision until things were so conenient that people just jumped on, because they wanted a single interface under which to unite all aspects of their internet personas.

Xanga’s problem was that it was though it was something that it wasn’t. It’s a blogging site. It’s about the writing. WHen people think writing, they look to blogs– they don’t go to Facebook or to Twitter.  Actual content is the writing itself– furthermore, good content is stuff that you can’t necessarily summarise in a few lines.  It actually says someting– it actually makes you think.


Facebook status updates don’t normally count.


So Xanga’s problem was very much an identity crisis– living in fear of integrated content aggregation paradigms.   But it didn’t respond well.  The two solutions were to specialize, or to “If you can’t beat em, join em.”  IN the current scenario, Xanga didn’t do very much to further improve the blogging experience.  But they did try and adopt some features of expanded content, like video hosting and such.


The problem was that while it all seemed good in theory, the primordial genetic defect of Xanga was always lack of communication.

It didn’t do market studies or actually ask the community of bloggers what it wanted.  It’s as easy as taking a few surveys, right?  Instead, it went with the ideas of some of Xanga’s loudest voices– but volume doesn’t substitute for relevence.   So it made business decisions that, frankly, the majority of people wouldn’t agree with.



I think that the people who are sticking to Xanga are probably of a certain personality type– they really want to cling to this idea of a the community they’ve come to build.  It’s like an addiction.  What people need to understand is that a community isn’t about the medium– it’s about the people, and their thoughts.  Xanga doesn’t own the people or their thoughts, and never will, even with their attempts to charge money now.  The people are still going to be there, they will still think, they will still write, long after Xanga is gone.

So those who stick to Xanga are probably, in my guess, people who need a bit more confidence in the validity of their ideas and voices.  If you have something relevant to say, people will want to hear it.  While it is true that networking is a chore and if you want to build a large readership, it does take substantial work, what Xanga basically is is just a giant address book.  It just makes the connections in an easy way.  But you could do it yourself.  Many of already have, by jumping to wordpress.



Xanga’s fundraising goal thing to launch “Xanga 2.0” was kind of sketchy, if you ask me.  Suppose Xanga said that it needed 100% of dollars, but it only managed to get 80%.  They milk the campaign for all it’s worth, but that’s all they get.  THen suddenly, it looks like everything will fall apart– so someone, actually on the Xanga team, swoops in and pays off that last 20%.


Now, how much does it cost to actually do this server migration and upgrade?  Does it actually take 100%?  We’ll never actually know– because Xanga doesn’t communicate these things.

There were calls for information throughout the fundraising process, and even now, with Xanga 2.0’s full rollout being late and apparently buggy, the communication is extremely poor.


So imagine this– what if Xanga was really just asking for handouts?

Suppose you have a kickstarter where everyone only gets charged if the full 100% is collected.  Now you can kind of see why one of the actual Xanga peoples’ contribution is a bit of a conflict of interests here…

Suppose that person contributes 20% to trigger the kickstarter.  It’s easy to see why they would finish it– the choice is to generate 80% capital raising, or to generate 0%.  Why the hell not?  Because the money goes back to xanga anyway, the generous 20% donation isn’t so much a donation as it is a settlement for slightly less.

I call it a handout, because at the end of the day, Xanga isn’t really offering anything different to what it used to be offering, but they expected not only to raise free money, but also to charge ongoing subscriptions for the ability to write– which you could already do, and which you could still do on other sites (like WordPress) for free.

What if the campaign only raised 50%?  And then the Xanga team dumped the last 50%?  Well, again– raising 50% is still better than 0.  WHy the hell not– there’s nothing to lose, because all they’ve promised in return is some vague stuff about “Xanga 2.0” and “WordPress Integration.”  But there has never been any communicated detail about what that actually means, so it’s a pretty easy standard to set.  As far as Xanga goes in legal terms, it’s probably able to run with the fundraised cash tomorrow if it wanted to.


On the whole though, it does give them a good means of getting a bailout of virtually any amount, limited only by the suckerness of the community who lives in fear of losing their place in the community.

All those old xanga products that people paid for? All you life premiums like me who paid them money for premium services for life?  I’m not dead yet and you have the nerve to tell me that you want more money to do something which you already promised to do.  If you didn’t think it would work back then, you shouldn’t have promised it.


People think I might be being harsh here– but I value words very highly.  I hold people to them because I hold myself to them.  When you make an agreement, there is an element of trust that I’d like to think comes into play that separates us from the animals– we’re talking about agreements not just of convenience, but because of a sense of pride in what we do and who we are.  If your words and your actions don’t align, then you have nothing.


Yes, I used Xanga.  I used it a lot.  But I have no illusions about thinking that the people I met, read, and swapped words with were “Xanga.”  They are themselves.  Xanga was, at best, selling me convenience.


ANd using Xanga just became hella lot inconvenient.