November 10, 2003

Parallel Entry: Remember the Alamo?

Filed under: Uncategorized — tomemos @ 12:21 pm

Everyone knows that getting put on a listserv is the equivalent of infesting your inbox with headlice, and the English department listserv is no different. I’ve deleted scores of messages of several recognizable types: Upcoming Conference, Upcoming Lecture, Does Anyone Have This Library Book, Furniture for Sale, Political Opinion, and that staple of all mailing lists, Extended Argument Over What This Listserv Should Be Used For. (Actually, I didn’t delete the latter e-mails; they were too funny.)

Occasionally, though, something comes my way which is kind of relevant. A couple weeks ago, an Upcoming Conference e-mail appeared; I took the time to actually read it, for once, and saw that the conference concerned something I know a little about–to whit, blogging. They were looking for abstracts for papers to be read at the conference; they specified that non-academics and graduate students are welcome (presumably because the average English professor doesn’t know what a blog is). Well, this sounded like something I could do. I spent the week tinkering with an abstract (how the hell does one write an abstract? I had to ask), sent it in on Friday, and yesterday got an e-mail saying they accepted my paper and would I like to come present it at the conference in San Antonio in April.

When I read the e-mail, I honest-to-God let out a little squeal. I’ve been a student for a little more than a month, and I’ve already been asked to read at a conference! That’s like if I decided to convert to Catholicism and they offered me a spot as Bishop. Of course, that’s just my ego talking–in reality this isn’t as significant as I’d like to think, since this isn’t some hot-button, heavily-competitive academic topic; they even specified that grad students were welcome. It’d be more impressive if I was invited to read a paper on Conrad, say, since that’s a heftier and more populated field. Still and all, it is my first conference, and I am going to read a paper to an audience. Wow.

This means a lot of money to spend–registration plane tickets hotel–and a lot to do. I have some logistical things to work out to make sure I can go, I still have to come up with a title for my paper (how should I know?), and, further down the line, I have to write the damn thing. What I’m going to be writing about are small blogs, or as I call them, “localized” blogs: blogs which are primarily read by the blogger’s own friends. This blog is an example: almost all of the readers are people who I know personally, and many of the readers know each other. This means that whenever I post an entry, I have (or think I do) a good idea of what the other readers are going to think about it; the same is true when someone posts a comment. What I’m going to be looking at is: What happens when the private issues of friends are put in a public sphere? Many of you who have been reading blogs of this type are familiar with the kind of sticky questions and conflicts which can arise when the blogger posts an entry that some readers wishes he/she hadn’t, or when an entry that is “directed” at one reader is picked up by the others. I’m interested in looking at the kind of unique problems a localized blog causes, and the possible social purpose to those problems (e.g., perhaps blogs serve as a “safe” space in which social tensions can be aired with less guilt or awkwardness). Most of all, I’m looking at how the blog affects the friendships of its readers, and how those readers affect the blog.

Which brings me to: a plea for help. Many of you are bloggers (I use “blog” here to include LiveJournal, OpenDiary, etc.), and all of you, by definition, read at least one blog. Can any of you think of any examples, on your own blogs or on someone else’s, of entries and/or comments fitting the model I described above? If so, would you give me permission to use them in my paper? (If they’re yours, that is; if you point me towards a friend’s blog I’ll ask the friend for permission.) All names, usernames, identifying details, and so on will be changed, of course. Anything you can provide–especially permission–would be a huge help. If you have any links you think are relevant, please e-mail them to me. If you have any deleted entries that you think would help, you can e-mail those to me; again, I promise anonymity. Thanks for helping out with the quest for knowledge.



  1. Hurray for Tom! He’s the bestest and smartestest!

    How come all of your entries are “parallel entries?” I mean, I guess I see it, but I think the label is unnecessary.

    Comment by julie — November 10, 2003 @ 1:47 pm

  2. Here’s a self consciously analytic entry from Athena’s Mom Exposed:

    Go to town!

    Comment by AM — November 10, 2003 @ 2:24 pm

  3. Well, it’s a shame, because I would have wanted to be able to help you, but reading your description of the paper you’re writing, I don’t have the kind of blog you’re writing about. And really, there are only three of that kind that I read, and they’re ones that you read, too: yours, Karen’s, and Julie’s. Nearly all of my blog’s regular readers are people I’ve never met in person, and many are complete strangers. Few of them know each other, even among the ones I *do* know in real life. To be honest, the kind of blogging you’re writing about is kind of alien to me. And intriguing: I seriously don’t have the courage to put my emotions out there like that. This, of course, makes me all the more interested to see where the research takes you. Good luck with it, and congrats on being invited to present it.

    Comment by Sonia — November 10, 2003 @ 9:07 pm

  4. Sonia makes a good point–a lot of strong friendships through blogs are with people you’ve never met.

    You should definately check out and These are two amazing bloggers who’ve had some really interesting things happen to and because of their sites, and have LOTS of readers/friends. I’d send each an email and see where they can take you, they’re both cool women and I’m sure they’d have TONS to say.

    Comment by kindle — November 11, 2003 @ 9:18 am

  5. I also agree with Sonia that rarely do you find circles of blogs where the people all are good friends. But if you want to see people fighting online, look at They post/make fun of various stupid livejournal fights and flames. You may find that you won’t have a whole lot to write about the circle of friends blogging experience. You should really look into how strangers come through more than some friends ever will. (again, check out dooce and leslie harpold. Also the Penny-Arcade reader-mob phenomenon.)

    Comment by kindle — November 11, 2003 @ 9:23 am

  6. Well, I may have overstated my case a bit–I don’t necessarily mean blogs where ALL the readers know the blogger and all of them are good friends with each other; I just mean cases where a majority, or even a large section, of the readership know the blogger, and many of them know each other. You know me apart from my status as author of this blog, which changes the way you read the blog (since you have other memories and experiences of me that you bring to your reading); in turn, my knowing my audience personally could affect (hasn’t yet, but could) what I post.

    As for strangers “coming through” more than friends do–of course, strangers are able to make supportive (or insulting, for that matter) comments without consequences, because they know it will never come back to them personally. For example, if Julie was a big nationally-known blogger and she wrote, “I hate my asshole boyfriend,” I’m confident the great majority of her readers would post comments supporting her. But if she wrote the same thing on her current blog, which is read mostly by her friends, it would be a different matter–most of her readers know me, and they might even know the reasons for our (fictional) fight. Posting an opinion on her entry–or on my indignant counter-entry–one way or another would be allying yourself with one of us. In other words, the private matters of friends (our fight, your choice of who to support) would be put into a public sphere.

    Comment by Tom — November 11, 2003 @ 11:19 am

  7. Blog this, blog that – Tom, you’re nuts. But on this plus side, blog is super fun to say. Blog blog blog. Blog, even.

    Comment by Bret — November 11, 2003 @ 11:23 am

  8. at the risk of utter and total humiliation, i refer you to my big brothers website, “the best internet site on the internet” as the t-shirts say.
    to be honest most of us have a hard time discerning whats ironic & self-deprecating and whats sincere.
    but while not a blog, its read only by matts friends & acquaintances, and does kind of tell his life story via pics and top-10 lists and all that. well not so much a “story,” but when he tells you he watched a movie with julie and nell, the only people who would read that know that means his exgirlfriend and shih tzu.

    Comment by alex — November 11, 2003 @ 11:45 pm

  9. oh WAIT!

    i have a better example. my friend nicki’s in her first year of rabbinical school and her site has her blog-type emails, faqs, all kinds of information about her program etc but its quite specifically geared toward her friends and family.

    Comment by alex — November 11, 2003 @ 11:51 pm

  10. Just to clarify– I wasn’t necessarily saying that “local blogs” are more or less rare than any other kind, or that I like the 60-odd strangers who have my LJ on their friends list better than I like my RL friends, or any of that. I was mostly trying to convey my disappointment at not being able to help. The fanfic community in LJ is its own brand of sociological nightmare, and nearly all of the blogs I read are tied to that.

    There is one group of blogs that I sometimes read that might suit your needs, Tom, as they’re written by four friends and often reference each other. Since two of the four write for Television Without Pity, the blogs have some (perhaps much) readership outside the writers’ circle of friends, but it *is* a situation where one frequently gets four renditions of the same event. The blogs in question are Dancing Brave, Ultra Tart, Memoirs of an Evil Genius,
    and Mister Zero.

    Comment by Sonia — November 12, 2003 @ 1:50 pm

  11. Hey Tom,

    Similar to Alex’s suggestion, I’ve got something to suggest that’s bloggy without being a blog. Mentioned it before.

    It’s a sorta multimedia webcomic/magazines, etc. with multiple contributors (incl. me), but run by my friend Dave who also writes at least half the features. Not setup like a diary, but its still an on-going chronicle of a few people’s thoughts and experiences. Plus, it’s got the guestbook sorta thing like this one heah.

    Plus, even though he’d love everyone everywhere to read it, I know that right now, it’s frequented mostly by us, his scattered friends.

    Comment by Pat — November 12, 2003 @ 10:00 pm

  12. Haven’t had the time to sort out particular entries, but i’ve been meaning to go back and see how dumb i was two years ago. Anyway, i may get around to sending you an e-mail before too long, failing that, feel free to use anything you find. It’s public for some reason.

    Oddly enough, i’ve been waiting for this question to be asked because it was implied in Julie’s blog not long ago. Just goes to show… something, i dunno what. Prove what it shows!

    Bret: smock smock smock quark quark smock quark.


    Comment by Brian — November 13, 2003 @ 2:54 am

  13. Oh yeah, how could I forget:

    It’s another ‘not-quite-blog’, but it has not only
    a diasporic following, but also a community of “regulars” who use the ‘guest book’ feature to more chat about whatever rather than just weighing-in on the overheard quotes. And I think it’s one of those things where the people may or may not have known each other outside of the guestbook, but they know eachother now!

    Comment by Pat — November 13, 2003 @ 4:22 pm

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