Thursday, May 1, 2008

Blogging the Write Way: Advice from an Admitted Non-Blogger

At this point, I subscribe to Writer's Digest for two, distinct reasons: it's tax-deductible and Kevin Alexander.

Yes, I dig his wry, pithy humor and yes, him's a purty boy - but those two qualities go only so far (one more than the other - I'll let you decide which one wins-out). His column is consistent, whereas almost nothing else in this industry-standard periodical is anymore. This Writer's Life is consistently (and genuinely) funny (not that contrived, "I pity the fool" shit - p. 66) and even when he really has nothing to impart, I learn something from it. Most of all, I dig it because it's like having a discussion with a fellow writer - one whom I respect.

But I wanted to point-out something from this month's column (p. 20-21): the blogosphere. Note the lack of capitalization. While Kevin may not be a blogger, per se, he is a writer and we make the rules - particularly in the Blogosphere. In fact, that was one of his points in the article: we bloggers have no editors, research assistants and facts-checkers, or publishers with which to contend (well he does, but he's a sell-out, so that's his cross to bear [take that, Mr. Moneybags!]) and not everything needs to be blogged. However, my point is that the word is usually capitalized and I have always thought it pointless; what about "blogosphere" makes it a proper noun?

So, let's examine it: blogosphere refers to the blogs sector of the Web. There is an hierarchy to be observed in all Web terminology, which follows the proper syntax of coding and computing itself, and Blogosphere/blogosphere fits into this hierarchy at the penultimate level. The Internet should be downgraded too, while we're on the subject, and I'll tell you why:

In both cases, what began as proper nouns - referring to specific ideas - have become generalized areas or notions; the Internet was once a specific application/system of computing, but is now a function with a generalized suite of applications (browser, e-mail client, IM, etc.) and areas (forums, chatrooms, websites, etc.).

The Web is what you are reading now: you are reading a blog which is part of the Blogosphere; more specifically, if you are reading this article alone, you are reading a blog post on a blog from the blogosphere - which is actually just another webpage, which exists on just another website and fits into a specific category or classification (blogosphere) within the Web. The Internet has many other functions, including e-mail (no longer a proper noun), FTP (an acronym), Telnet (basically defunct, except for specific applications and archaic, "retro-", fun things for us nerds), and more; the Web and the Internet are not the same thing, though they are often used interchangeably.

In fact, the forced downgrading of Internet terms is actually a part of Cyberculture (which should be capitalized as a proper field of study and sociology). It came about partly from Cyberculture's anti-establishmentarianism, partly from the Cyberculture's inability to write properly (buncha loosers!), and partly because of all the acronymization (did I just coin that?); we don't bother to capitalize "brb" or "lol" either, even though it is actually improper form - acronyms are supposed to be capitalized (FTP, TTFN, STFU). At any rate, the downgrading of proper nouns is institutionalized within Cyberculture and should be maintained.

The Blogosphere, like the Web, are actually proper nouns that should be capitalized in white sheets and printed documents, but it is proper form for the digital medium to downgrade them in this fashion, even though they do not lose their grammatic significance; both are still proper nouns, and proper people should maintain their proper... nessosity. But we Netizens do things differently online and that's part of Cyberculture.

As to the second point, the Internet should be downgraded across the board, because it is no longer a proper noun: the Internet is not an application; it is a function - just like "word processing" or "printing." It is both a medium and a media - the method and the form. If we want to follow proper format, a post is a specific entry on a blog from the blogosphere and the Blogosphere is that sector of the Web which pertains to blogs. Technically, the blogosphere is still the Web and, just like "webpage" or "website," not a proper noun - however, the case could be made that it is a proper noun because it is a specific sector of the Web (in the same manner of a state, city, or street). If we want to be really proper, the capitalization depends on the manner in which it is used ("let's check the blogosphere," versus "I am part of the Blogosphere"), as well as the format (print vs. digital). But this is grammar.

All of these components exist within an hierarchy which follows a syntax analogous to programming languages and so should follow that syntax, but as terms, they should follow proper grammatical form - meaning their capitalization is dependent on both the form and the usage. "C++" is a programming language, and that is the proper form for a proper noun, but online, it is equally acceptable to use "c++." The unity lay within the dual context of the terms, as well as their analagous relationship to coding. While it is proper form to capitalize and indent certain code within pages and programs, this is a semantic often overlooked for various reasons. I sometimes overlook this on The Weirding because it's mine and I said so (but usually because I am in a rush), but the polished pages follow proper coding format because I want The Weirding to be accepted on that level and by professionals. So most all of it is in lowercase and specific routines are indented, while others are not (choose View in your browser -> View Source or Source Code to see it). Regardless, were I to present the code in written form - online or off- - it has to follow the proper, accepted coding format because that's how coding is written when it is presented. The usage of blogosphere/Blogosphere is analogous and should follow the same rules.

Consider this: is the URL for The Weirding website, which contains many blogs on the Web. Weird Ink is part of the writing blogosphere, and is an authority on writing and blogging within the Blogosphere.

Now, consider this:

I is a Nerd.

Anyway, it's the "internet" and the "blogosphere" from now on and that's that because Kevin and I are agreed and we have spoken.

© C Harris Lynn, 2008

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