Tag Archives: weird meat

play nice or shut up, please.

I struggle to remember, but I don’t think I’d ever written a comment before this blog. It’s kind of shocking, considering how much content I read online. I guess I’m more of a comment reader than a comment writer. But since my blog got its very first comment I feel like I’m finally in the game! Like customers in a restaurant, I think comments attract more comments. And my mother would never sit in a restaurant with no customers… Is this analogy working?

Web guru Tim O’Reilly describes the blogosphere as an online “conversational watering hole”. Robert Scoble, who used to blog for Microsoft, says “cross-site conversations” are a key element to popular blogs (Lovink, p. 4). Two-way communication is clearly an important aspect, whether or not it’s in the form of comments.

Geert Lovink says that blogs “are characterized by a culture of desired affiliation” (p. 2). You can definitely see that in the realm of food blogging. The comments on one my favourite cooking sites, Smitten Kitchen, are relentlessly positive. There’s an atmosphere of sharing and general pleasantness. Maybe it’s the subject of delicious food that quells nastiness. Whatever it is, I’ve never seen a negative comment on the site. Of course, rude or inappropriate comments might just be deleted by the blogger. As Lovink points out, freedom of discussion on blogs is limited (p. 21). There’s always someone in control, who can allow or disallow comments. That’s one reason people often post responses on their own blogs instead of commenting (Lovink, p. 21). Referencing the work of Florian Cramer, Lovink says:

“The original posting of the blog owner is not equal to the answer of the respondents… Users are guests” (p. 20).

And being a good guest means remembering your “netiquette”. According to Wikipedia- I wasn’t just being lazy, I thought Wiki’s description would reveal the general consensus- basic netiquette means avoiding flamewars and spam (Wikipedia). All too often basic etiquette seems to go right out the window when people start commenting, whether it’s on YouTube or on news sites. During the recent violence in Thailand I was reading news about it on CNN.com. I found the comments as upsetting as the article I read. They were rife with hostility, insults, and extreme assertions. A painful few displayed open-mindedness and attempts at understanding both sides.

Unlike articles about politics and religion, food blogs are far less likely to create controversy. ‘Weird food’ blogs can be slightly more prone to flamewars, since there are huge cultural differences about what’s acceptable as food. Posts or comments can be culturally insensitive. Heated arguments can break out about the ethics of eating meat, which is what happened on the blog Weird Meat. It usually gets about 10 comments per post, but the postDog Meat got an astounding 220 comments. Debate and sharing perspectives seems like a good thing, but there were clear examples of bad netiquette, like suggestions that dog-eaters should “burn in hell”. Lovink says that blogs “create communities of like-minded people” (p. 21). In this case, not so much. Here’s a sample of the flamewar (these comments were both written anonymously):

There are some, like Claire E. Write, who believe “the essence of a blog is not the interactivity of the medium” (Lovink, p. 28). Flamewars aside, I disagree. A blog may not be defined by interactivity, but I think it’s what’s created the massive blogosphere. Without the communicative aspect, blogs would be stuck at the personal homepage stage. I also think that being able to instantly respond to or communicate with the writer is what often makes blogs more appealing than print media. Not only are you imparted the writer’s views and experiences, but you can join in on that conversation, potentially (emphasis on potentially) enriching the public sphere. Which is why I allow comments on my blog. I’m not the authority on weird food. I’m only sharing what I discover, and I’m happy to learn from visitors as well. Plus, it’s nice to know that my blog gets more than split-second and accidental views.

And as long as my blog is newborn and lost somewhere in the long tail, I think I’ll handle the comments as they come.

Sources:

Geert Lovink (2007) ‘Blogging, the Nihilist Impluse’, pp. 1-38 in Zero Comments: Blogging and Critical Internet Culture, London: Routledge.

Tim O’Reilly (2005) ‘What Is Web 2.0’

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it’s quite a small pond

It’s clear that a lot of people want to “analyse the market” or “gage online trends” before deciding what to blog about. Well, those bloggers want one thing: MONEY.

I think some of the best blogs are started just because. On a whim. And I decided to blog about food because that’s what I like to read about (besides celebrity garbage). But there are already SO many amazing food blogs out there. So many it would be a full time job to keep up with them all. Now imagine how many mediocre or BAD food blogs there must be out there.

After deciding on food I definitely needed to somehow find a much smaller niche within this huge niche of the food blog. Then inspiration struck (Thanks, SBS. I knew all my TV watching would come in handy one day).

But before starting my “weird food” blog, I should check out the neighbourhood. See what I’m up against. And maybe find a blog to idolise, since I’m not familiar with territory. A quick search reveals that there are lots of posts and articles about weird food, but very few dedicated blogs. I knew the niche was small.  Further research reveals just how small.

Teeny tiny.

According to Google Trends (link) “weird food” is a very untrendy search term. Isn’t anyone else out there curious about the same things as me? Despite the research results, I do not despair. On the Internet there’s an audience or market for (almost) everything. That’s the beauty of the internet. Online space is not limited, it’s infinite1! There’s room for every subject, however obscure, boring, or downright creepy. My blog would definitely fit into what’s called “The Long Tail”. The theory of the Long Tail is all about demand. On a graph of product demand, the most popular products are “the Short Head of hits”, and less popular products create the Long Tail (Anderson) . According to media guy, Chris Anderson, producers used to be more focused on the Short Head and products that were as broadly popular as possible. Today more attention’s shifted to the Long Tail, and the Internet’s definitely played a major role in that. Imagine: before the Internet, every dog bootie enthusiast might have thought they were the only one in the world. Now with the Internet, they can find each other, and share their passion. Isn’t that a nice thought?

Back to the point: Since I’m not trying to gather followers a la Ashton Kutcher, I’m perfectly fine with appealing to only a narrow segment (hopefully that segment is at least one person wide).

Searching for blogs in my niche turns up only a handful of results. A couple of them get zero comments and are pretty sad. Will I find a weird-food blog to idolise or is this the fate of all weird-food blogs?

Thank god I found a couple blogs that weren’t too bad:

Weird Meat

Weird Meat is a food and travel blog written by a young American guy named Michael. The blog documents his experiences trying foods from different cultures, foods that according to mainstream Western culture would be considered “weird”. Like spider in Cambodia. Rooster testicles in Taiwan. Definitely Fear Factor territory, so not exactly the same focus as my blog. I will not be tasting any animal organs for the sake of this blog.

Despite turning my stomach, Weird Meat is definitely a readable blog. The writing is good- personable and humorous. Posts aren’t too long and wordy, and there are lots of pictures. Pictures are really essential for good food blogs: if you can’t taste or smell it, you should at least be able to see it. I also like the fact that the blog design is really clear and simple, making it easy for new visitors to navigate. How many people actually visit the site and who they are, I can’t tell. But every post seems to get at least a few comments, ranging from 2 to 220 (a big debate exploded about eating dog meat).

Deep End Dining

First off, Deep End Dining seems more commercial than Weird Meat (which seems like a hobby blog). There isn’t any clear advertising, but they sell a huge range of merchandise with their logo on it. And for some strange reason the right column randomly features a link to Aquasana under the heading ‘Water Filters’, just above the post archives. Am I missing something here? Or is that just a weird method of advertising? The right column features a message encouraging visitors to use their site for advertising.

This blog is about dining out on strange and exotic fare, mostly around Los Angeles. I guess because it’s based in Los Angeles the food is definitely a lot less “weird” than on Weird Meat. Again it’s hard to know what kind of following the blog has, although posts typically get about 10 comments. But while the blog doesn’t appear hugely popular, it must be doing something right, because it’s apparently been mentioned before in the mainstream media, and the most recent post is about the main contributor appearing on Top Chef! The blog definitely has some sway. But I’m actually sort of bothered by the layout. The text column is so wide that I find it hard to read. The posts can be quite lengthy, and I think the width of the text column makes it feel even more so. I’ve realised written content definitely has to be kept scannable and manageable. Which is ironic considering the ridiculous length of this post…

Source:

Chris Anderson, ‘The Long Tail, in a nutshell’, http://thelongtail.com/about.html.

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