Category Archives: Blogging

On the Edge of Oblivion

A friend sent me an email.

Rob, I’m really surprised that you have nothing to say about the apparent demise of On the Edge. There hasn’t been new post there since August 27.

Really? This I have to see.

After some examination, it does appear that On the Edge, once one of the Times Union’s most popular blogs, is dead. Positively, absolutely, undeniably and reliably dead. Most sincerely dead, even.

The busy blog went into a skid when Kristi Gustafson left in in 2014. Her successor tried like hell, but couldn’t quite capture the tart mix of style and opinion the readers loved — and others loved to hate.

What made On the Edge a real sh*tshow was the comment section, which provided a Greek chorus for Gustafson’s high-handed pronouncements. When she left, the mob fled.

This is a great example of the ephemeral nature of blogs, and testament to how one person’s unique voice can capture an audience.

Like the loss of Metroland, it’s a loss to the local media landscape. I didn’t like On the Edge — and why would I, because as a man, I certainly wasn’t the target demo — but you’ve got to admit, it was really good at what it did.

Pigture This

Inspiration can come from many places. A book, a beautiful landscape, a moving experience… mine came from Chuck Miller. Let me explain.

You may know him. Among other things, Chuck is the Times Union’s most prolific blogger, a trivia whiz and a really good photographer. At lunch a few months ago, I whined that I felt I was in a creative doldrums, particularly in regard to my photography.

“Here’s what you do,” he said. “Pick a picture you like and get it printed and framed — then enter it in the Altamont fair in August.” This was good advice. I’ve been a photographer for forty years, but most of my work is hidden away in boxes or hard drives. Maybe setting a goal, even one as simple as getting one photo entered in the fair competition, was just what I needed.

I chose one of my favorite pictures, some pigs I saw at Peter’s Dairy Farm in Castleton. I was there to shoot Carmine Sprio milking a cow for his cooking show, Carmine’s Table, and happened to have my $20 plastic Holga 120 with me. Those pigs are long gone — as is the cooking show — but the photo remains.

pigs

Anyway, I woke up this morning and saw Chuck’s blog post about how his Altamont Fair photo entries did — and nearly fell out of my chair when I saw that he posted a picture of my pig photo hanging at the fair with a blue ribbon under it.

How about that.

What Chuck did for me was a small thing that made a big difference, but that’s the kind of guy he is, somebody who does small things that make a big difference. We could all learn something from the example he sets, not just on how to be a better photographer but about being a better person.

Frankenstein’s Monster

Are newspapers and other online publications discovering that they hate comments? Might be.

The latest to abandon comments is The Week, which issued a long explanation of their policy change. It included this passage:

There was a time — not so long ago! — when the comments sections of news and opinion sites were not only the best place to host these conversations, they were the only place. That is no longer the case. Too often, the comments sections of news sites are hijacked by a small group of pseudonymous commenters who replace smart, thoughtful dialogue with vitriolic personal insults and rote exchanges of partisan acrimony.

Yeah, no kidding.

Quite coincidentally, on the same day I spotted this blog comment exchange in the Capital Region’s foremost purveyor of reader comments, the Times Union:

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

 

That’s really telling: even Mike Huber, the guy who created the paper’s blog section and commenting community, now pines for the days when readers had to send a letter. Bravo, indeed.

Eat the Bird

Turkey -- not body parts.
Turkey — not body parts.

Working in the dark of night, the black plastic bags, the cooler — whenever I brine a turkey it reminds me of something out of Dexter. I hope none of my Thanksgiving guests are reading this.

Anyhow, it would not be Thanksgiving if I didn’t post a link to my recipe for sweet potato crunch. People remember two things about Albany Eye: the wiseass commentary and the sweet potato crunch recipe I first shared in 2006.

It’s getting sort of like NPR’s tradition of running Susan Stamberg’s horrible relish recipe with one important difference: the sweet potato crunch is something people will actually love to eat. Stamberg is fond of saying “It sounds terrible but tastes terrific.” Susan, let’s be honest: most people hate it.

Take my word for it, this will be one of the most popular things on the table — but I’ll share one tip about the recipe that I wrote when I first shared it:

Cook’s note: DO NOT DARE used canned sweet potatoes; you’re making dinner for your loved ones, not the inmates down at Coxsackie.

Maybe they could punish unruly prisoners by giving them nothing but the Susan Stamberg relish? Nah… that would be cruel and unusual.

Don’t Call Me Blogger

Look, I’ve been doing this for a long time.

There’s something about being called “blogger” that rubs me the wrong way. Maybe it’s the face people make when they say it — or that they put it in quotes, as seen in the previous sentence. In polite society, the title blogger seems to fall somewhere between panhandler and pornographer, so it’s time for a change.

From now on, my title here on the blog is Social Media Strategist and Interactive Audience Manager. I think that befits my years of experience in doing this and better describes my role here at Keyboard Krumbs.

Maybe I can’t give myself a raise, but who needs money when you have a fancy title?

So, You Want to Rent a Cat?

Here’s something that turned up in my inbox:

I saw your post online about renting one of your cats?  Is this actually a reality.  My roommates and I would love to rent a cat for the spring.  If the offer is no longer on the table do you have any idea where we could get a cat for 2 months but then give it back.

It’s been four years since I wrote a tongue-in-cheek post about renting my cats out as rodent control contractors, yet I still get occasional comments and emails from people who are interested in the make-believe service.

It’s hard to tell if people are just pulling my leg. Seriously, I don’t know how much stupider I could have made the blog post. For example: “Maeve can be baited to make her more attractive to mice by rubbing cheese or peanut butter on her head. Rodents find these scents irresistible and will walk right into her clutches.”

I find that people sometimes don’t know when I’m kidding. Do you ever get that dead eyed stare at a meeting when you say something you think is funny and it doesn’t seem to register? It could just be people don’t have a sense of humor. Or they think you’re an idiot. Or maybe a little of both.

It’s hard not to think that there may have been something to the cat rental concept. Maybe if I were just a bit more ambitious I could have been the cat rental king, providing a service the public needs, making a nice living and putting some cats to work doing something useful.

Attack of the Food Bloggers

Bloggers get no love. Consider this headline from the Times Union:

Ex-blogger Arrested on Child Porn Charges

I like how they give blogger equal billing with child porn. “Child porn? That figures! Filthy blogger!”

So, when somebody treats local bloggers special, believe me, it’s a pretty big deal — like this week when Price Chopper invited a bunch of local food bloggers to the opening of their new Market Bistro store in Latham.

Price Chopper has smart PR people, so they know that if you schmooze a bunch of bloggers and feed them you’ll get results — like seven blog posts the next day. There may be more out there; these are just the ones I found in a two-minute search:

Tablehopping
The Angel Forever
Albany Eats
All Over Albany
Eat Local
Jon in Albany
CR Foodies

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s terrific that blogs are considered an important part of a media campaign — and it does seem to work. Now, if I can only get myself invited somewhere they have free food. I promise to write a blog post about it.

Poll Position

Quicky web polls are everywhere these days — particularly on blogs. You know the ones I’m talking about, and I’m sure you’ve taken them. They ask some topical question and seem to have no actionable purpose.

So why all the polls? Because it’s cheap, mindless content? Writers have run out of things to say? It gives the appearance of being interactive with your audience? All of the above?

I think it may be because somebody read that they’re popular with readers; since I have no research to back that up, I offer you this quicky online poll:

 

Channel Hopping

It sucks being sick, but it’s really wonderful to sit around and do absolutely nothing and not feel the least bit guilty about it. And the perfect tool for doing nothing is your TV.

Cruising through the channel guide I found something intriguing: Dog With a Blog. Ha! This I have to see! I love dogs — and well, blogs, hey, that’s something that interests me, so how could I not watch Dog With a Blog?

It was the typical Disney channel kid sitcom, except with a talking dog. A dog who has has a blog. According to Wikipedia, “The children learn of Stan’s talking ability in the first episode and agree to keep it a secret from their parents, fearing that if the world finds out that Stan can talk, he will be taken away and experimented on.” That’s sinister.

So, basically, this is Alf, except with a dog — and a first cousin to the famous Mr. Ed, of course, which was begat by Francis the Talking Mule. One could also argue that it’s loosely related to My Mother the Car, I suppose.

Dog was predictably bad, but that doesn’t stop it from being one of the most popular Disney Channel programs, and a regular fixture among the top 25 shows on cable. Kids have absolutely no taste.

By the way, Disney hosts a page that’s supposed to be the dog’s actual blog, but it’s terrible, even worse than most of what passes for blogging. If my dogs wrote a blog, it would at least be interesting.

Anyway, enough of this talk about bad TV. If I’m not mistaken, there’s a Doomsday Preppers marathon starting soon, so I gotta go.