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And she blogged happily ever after ..

6 Jun

I need a break


After 6 weeks of ‘skinny dipping’ in the realms of the blogosphere, I have definitely metamorphosed from being a highly reluctant blogger, to a relatively comfortable one. I’ll admit that, initially blogging scared the living daylights out of me but I later realized its potential to be fun as well as addictive. Here was a space, where I was absolutely free to express my views about my “silly” choice of books. I wasn’t being judged. Being a chick lit lover in the blogosphere was acceptable and didn’t translate into being “weird.”I could pretty much say anything and everything and still be politically correct.

The most pertinent issues, that I felt during this entire process were being honest, regular and being able to hold the interest of the reader. Coming up with new aspects within the purview of my niche was challenging at times. But then what’s a life without challenges.

When I got started blogging I was very worried about things like whether I’d be able to blog weekly, if I’d know what to write in my blogs and whether I’d learn all the technicalities involved. I had to find a way to eliminate the steep learning curve. A website that helped me to find the best ways to get going is bloggingtrouble.com. This website has hundreds of articles to guide you through the initial stages of getting your blog set up.

There are lots of areas I’d like to explore further about blogging. One being different blog sites and services available for amateur bloggers like me. Not to say that I didn’t enjoy using Word Press. But now that I’ve been initiated and the the blogging bug has bitten me, I’d like to see how the other sites like Blogger.com and WordPress.org, are different and whether blogging on them would be easier or more interesting. I am particularly interested in Blogger.com. Since this service is run by Google, the Google search engine favors the blogs, giving them a higher ranking.

Moreover , I would definitely like to become a “blogger”, I know being a professional blogger, is not as easy as it sounds but its something I’ll strive to achieve. I would love sit at home in my pyjamas all day, read and talk about the books I love. Sounds like a dream. Coming back to reality, I would be quite content, with posting regularly and having a reader base that extended beyond my mother and my best friends. So if anyone out there wants to know, yes! I plan to continue blogging. I realized today that the process had already started. A friend gave me a book and instead of reading it, all I could think of, was blogging about it. That to me that spells “blogger”. An unsuccessful one but a blogger nevertheless.

As a farewell note I’d like to apologize that the blog couldn’t cover more reviews and be more comprehensive.The excuse that I have to offer is that life has gotten in the way of my usually voracious reading. Instead of cruising along on the elliptical, where I used to get most of my reading done, I am bogged down with assignments, submissions and the like. So instead of curling up with books at night, I am submerged in research and writing. And truthfully, I’m so tired from the insane meeting of deadlines that I’m passing out at a laughable time anyway. Usually, I’ll fall asleep reading about “The Public sphere and participatory culture” or “Creative Commons” I kid you not.

So – to my only reader somewhere in cyber space -This is not good bye, but just me saying “I need a break” I will blog again, once I can escape reading something other than journals and textbooks.

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Because Sharing is Caring – The musings of a copy leftist

2 Jun

Until few weeks ago I saw no connection between Mickey Mouse , Piracy, The Public domain and the Birthday song. They had absolutely nothing in common. I know better now. COPYRIGHT is the word that connects these seemingly random things. It’s something I had always heard, but never really thought about. In the last few days, reading up on the issue and understanding the many arguments associated with it, I have developed some very strong opinions on the issue.

Without hesitation I am willing to admit the worst. I am a copy leftist. I’m a hippie at heart and honestly believe that everything good in life should be free and shareable. Be it music, books, pictures or good wine. Not that I particularly support piracy, but I feel everyone should have access to art, literature and all other types of work. “Copyright” is the symbol of corporate repression of our times as it prevents the free flow of information.

Copyleft is a general method for making a program (or other work) free, and requires all modified and extended versions of the program to be free as well. The people in the Gnu project believe that the simplest way to make stuff free is to put it in the public domain, so that likeminded people can work on it together. Cohesion I believe is the cornerstone not only for good art, literature and ideas but also good soft ware. This video further highlights the importance artists and thinkers working together.

This video very perfectly plugs into the next part of my discussion. Laurence Lessig the co founder of creative commons and net theorist says, he wanted to create some sort of foundation to push the public domain. So he created Creative Commons, a non-profit organization whose motto is, “share, remix, reuse – legally”. It allows individuals the right to apply for a protective license for their work, depending on the levels of usage they want to permit for other users. As Lessig describes, it aim is to give the individual “a control on creativity and innovation” and ability to “build-upon” the work of others in a legal way.

I tend to think like Lessig. After all aren’t we all inadvertently copying something or someone all the time? The clothes we wear, the opinions we have, the ideas we come up with are all directly or indirectly copied. There’s always someone who’s ‘been there, done that’ before. Are we all then, not liable for lawsuits?

If all copyright laws applied for ‘stretchable’ periods like they mostly do, soon pretty much everything would have a copy right. No one in the world would be able to write, sing, sell, produce or paint anything because there’s sure to be someone, somewhere in the world who has a copy right for it.

Thomas Jefferson architect of American copyright argued that ideas should remain free in the public domain, rather than bound in legal legislation. Only expression of such ideas in artistic works should be copy written that too for a short period of time.

Because Creative commons licenses so perfectly fits in with an almost kindergartener’s approach towards sharing everything, I decided to get one.

Attribution
This I feel, is the most open of all the copy right licenses. To me it’s like getting to share my work and yet get the credit for it. It’s not a bad deal actually. If someone wants to distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon my work, even commercially I wouldn’t really mind. After all copying IS the best form of FLATTERY. On top of that if I’m given the credit, I don’t see any harm in it.

However not every one might share my ‘sharing is caring’ views. There are at the end of the day, very idealistic connects. There are some real world flaws to Creative Commons that must be kept in mind. While I do not have any monetary expectations from my blog, there are others who do and might view creative commons as a hindrance.

Dmytri Kleiner in his article Copyfarleft and Copyjustright points out that “property” more so “intellectual property” as in this case, is the enemy of freedom. Though an artist might just want to make a living, others like record labels, publishing houses may want to follow thus going against the ideas of a free society.

Armin Medosch said in his article The Construction of the Network Common. the ideas of commons might be flawed in the sense “commons” originally referred to a resource that belonged to the village community as a whole, invariably all community commons fall trap to the “Tragedy of the Commons.” The tragedy-use of resources by those acting in their own interest is said to automatically lead to their destruction. This can hold true of creative commons as well.

Lastly, I feel there are people like me out there, who are not aware, what creative commons licenses mean and thus end up violating them unknowingly. A vast majority of people simply do not care. Creative Commans will work only is if people are made aware about it.

Hello Internet, It’s me ‘the blogger’ …Any comments?

30 May

Writing a blog is like talking to God. One can keep talking but one can never be sure if anyone is listening. I assumed, like any novice, that the number of comments my blog got would be a measure of its popularity. By that measure my net popularity is at -1. The only comment on my blog is from my roommate, who I think commented because I whined all day about writing this post. To be perfectly honest before the sympathy comment, I was quiet upset. Perhaps I anticipated my blog to reach the pinnacles of glory. However this week’s reading suggested that I should have a ‘Nihilistic’ attitude towards my blog.

My opinion about Web Theorist Greet Lovink’s beliefs are somewhat mixed. I agree with his view that

“Most bloggers would admit that it is not their aim to foster public debate. If you disagree with a fellow blogger, it is even unwise to write a comment. Instead, it is much safer to post the remark on your own blog. “I blogged you”. The chance that someone will respond to it is almost zero. Herein is the limit of blogging.”

Lovink’s believes today’s bloggers are personal and view others as guests rather than users. He points out that many bloggers turn off the comments option on their blogs as they are not concerned with popularity. Though I agree with the point about people not commenting, as I found out through my futile attempts to find a comment threads longer than two comments, it’s not always true and I for one wouldn’t want it to be.

However I wouldn’t quite agree with some comments in his article “Zero Comments: Blogging and Critical Internet Culture” which reiterates that blogging is inherently ridiculous because when everyone has right to speak, everyone feels they have the right to being heard and when everyone in general thinks they have a right to be heard, you end up in a situation where no one in particular is listened to. This causes nihilism. He believes this new form of Nihilism evokes a “yawn” rather than “Terror”.

I would definitely appreciate some online popularity and have trouble viewing myself as Nihilistic. On this front, I concur with Dannah boyd’s argument that social network blogs are sites that allow publics to gather. At the same time, by serving as a space where speech takes place, they are also publics themselves and in no way private. I totally agree. Blogs cannot in any way be “private”. However the blogosphere is a far cry from Hebermas ideal public sphere where people can get together and freely discuss and identify societal problems, and through that discussion influence political action.

Greet Lovink believes that blogs “creates community of likeminded people. Debates happen within homogenous web clouds”. The blog post by celbitchy Sex and the City got 86 comments. Thus this can be related to Chris Anderson’s “theory of long tail”. By focusing on a niche audience that likes sex and city, the blog gained immense popularity.

Since most bloggers in my niche chick lit have similar tastes they rarely disagree and foster little debate. The comments generated by the book review of ‘Are you there vodka-it’s me’ exemplifies this ‘homogenous’ thinking.

That is why when I stumbled upon this post on Trashonista, a very reputed and mature chick lit blog, I was a little taken aback. I feel strongly about Netiquette and agree with views of Netiquette by Virginia Shea where she says “Help keep flame wars under control”

Comments like “Eric r u like weird or something”, “I agree Eric is a weirdo” are positively offensive and totally uncalled for. Basically I feel “Erich” has been attacked for having slightly different views and being the only boy in the comment thread. This supports Greet Lovink’s argument that only likeminded individuals comment on blogs and others who are even slightly different are not welcomed. It is also critical to note that the book being discussed in this post is primarily a teen book.

According to caféaspira almost one in four children between the ages of 11 and 19 are the victim of cyber bullying. I’d think there’s much sense in the saying ‘Do unto others as you’d have others do unto you’

Personally I am personify, the typical blogger that Greet Lovink talks about, who go through blogs and never comment. However I’d like to clarify that I love the commenting culture. I would like to be more into it. I feel it makes a blog personal. When and if my blog get a second comment, which doesn’t seem likely, I intend to welcome it with open arms. However, much as I would love to foster a debate and act as host to the public sphere, I would delete and monitor any offensive or derogatory comments. Cyber bullying of the kind that happened with Eric puts me off.

Design dilemma -Judging a blog by its cover

19 May

They say we mustn’t judge a book by its cover. On that count I am guilty, as charged. As the name of my blog suggests, book covers, packaging, peripherals and visual effect mean a lot to me. I feel the design of a blog greatly affects the way people perceive its content. Non verbal content and design shows the personality and style of creator, distinguishing it from other blogs. It also reinforces the “niche” of the blog.

The day I started my blog I knew how I wanted it to look. I wanted it to emulate the strange comfort of (you know what I’m going to say) a “shiny pink book”. I wanted my readers to know that I appreciate the sanctity of the genre I blog about, and because imitation is the biggest form of flattery, I decided the design should look like a Chick lit book, as I wanted it to really “belong” to its niche.

While designing the look, I wanted my blog to say “I am a chick lit fan and though I am girly and fun, I also read and I’m intelligent.” Some would say that, such a combination is rare to get. There wasn’t a “the perfect chick lit” template out there, so I struggled for a while, tinkered and played with as many templates as possible till I found just “the one”( Beuno), just like the heroines of my favorite books find just “the one”(perfect match) for themselves. Though, the moment wasn’t defined by the ringing of bells or playing of violins, I knew that this was the theme I wanted. It was perfect for my niche. Light pink polka saying “I am girly” and a bold black title, saying “I also read”. All I needed was a customized header. I chose pink books and I was done. I feel customized headers make the blog unique and personal. This is critical especially on Word press blogs as everyone chooses from a limited set of templates. There’s only that much that much that a Chick lit lover with little knowledge of code can do.

Though I wanted my blog to be girly, I didn’t want it to be distasteful. The last thing I wanted was that my web page to look like a 13 year old’s myspace page from 2001. (Link courtesy Undiscovered Muse) or like this.

Though my blog is not conventionally minimalistic, I feel it has a “clean” feel to it. While designing my blog I looked at another chick lit blog “Chick lit teens “.

This one has a relatively strong, bright background and a girly header but the design is balanced by having the text in a plain white box. Mine I feel is similar, and though I have used a light feminine dotted background and a bold bright header, both of these concur with the genre of my blog. The text is simple and stands out. The clean white box makes it seem almost “serious” and “professional”.

Dissecting the status of “cool” on the internet, Alan Lui says that web design borrows from a modernist aesthetic with clear lines and a simplistic design. There seems to be a prevalence of adopting modernist lines and minimalist style in order to endorse and prioritize the efficiency and usability of information. My blog follows this. In contrast my blog’s alter ego, (picture above) has an overpovering background and strong text, which makes it seem amateurish.

This movement on the internet towards a “clean” minimalistic look is best understood in reference to a paper written by Dannah Boyd where she talks about viewing American class divisions through Face book and MySpace. Because of the design and themes Myspace was seen as gaudy, immature, and “so middle school.” The “clean” look of Face book, made it more mature and MySpace “so lame.” What hegemonic teens (face book users) call gaudy can also be labeled as “glitzy” or “bling” or “fly” by subaltern teens. (MySpace users) The look and feel of MySpace resonates far better with subaltern communities than it does with the upwardly mobile hegemonic teens.

According to Dannah Americans perceive the “modern” look of Face book as akin to West Elm while the flashier look of MySpace to Las Vegas imagery that attracts millions every year.

Alan Lui also talks about ‘cool’ anti design, as well as the presence of old school, amateur dirt style design on the web. It states that Anti-Design embraced the ephemerality of Pop consumerism, and the language of the mass media. Whereas the Modernist palette was generally muted with a prevalence of blacks, whites, and greys, Anti-Design explored the rich potential of colour. Where Modernism admired the integrity of material properties, Anti-Design embraced ornament and decoration.

Pink and black polka dot background is reminiscent of the 1950s which makes it ‘retro’ and ‘pop’ like. The customized header also has a bright, bold feel to it. Perhaps my design has ‘Anti design’ leanings.

Talking like technicalities like widgets and networking, though I haven’t really fiddled with this aspect of my blog yet, since my skill set doesn’t equips me to, I do have some very primary stuff, like an RSS feed and an archives listing all posts, as well as tag clouds. However I do promise to keep fiddling with that aspect till it achieves a ‘techno savvy’ feel.

My Chick- niche (Niche blogging)

11 May

I am not a serious book lover. I’m just a lowly Chick lit lover. But hey!!! Chick lit lovers out there do not despair. There’s hope for us yet. There are hundreds ..no millions of book blogs but comparatively only a few cater exclusively to Chick lit. The publishing industry (like most other entertainment industries) follows the 80/20 rule & likes to get 80% or a bulk of their profits from the popular fast selling products. However recently with the ‘blogging’ and ‘net culture’ taking hold Chris Anderson’s “theory of long tail” has started making sense.
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The theory of the Long Tail is that our culture and economy is increasingly shifting away from a focus on a relatively small number of “hits” (mainstream products and markets) at the head of the demand curve and toward a huge number of niches in the tail.

“As the costs of production and distribution fall, especially online, there is now less need to lump products and consumers into one-size-fits-all containers.” Niche blogging in this era of ‘long tail’ allows writers of ‘weird’ topics to sell. Out of the box thinkers and the proverbial ‘ugly ducklings’ can now get their place in the sun. Niche blogging is certainly on the rise as scattered individual purchases add up to a surprisingly large market, especially at online booksellers. According to the New yorker Amazon.com for example sells, about a quarter of all book sales come from outside the site’s top-one-hundred-thousand best-sellers.

My niche is Chick lit- Chick books, chick films chick views ect ……… in fact all the trashy, juicy, mushy Chick literature available. I’ve always had a problem in sourcing enough books and choosing the right ones. Here’s where niche blogging- the “long tail” of the net provides a solution to both problems. Because of the internet these books with relatively limited appeal no longer need to occupy shelf space in a ‘brick and mortar store’. Instead Amazon and other niche websites can sell them to their target audience at virtually no cost.
The long tail consisting almost completely of niche blogs offers the added advantage of Recommendations. These can be far more powerful than traditional advertising, especially for niche products aimed at narrow markets.
With more weirdoes like me taking to blogging the Chick lit niche has become rather well established. More people (men and boys included) are writing about books they have read & books they would like to read. These recommendations and reviews further solidify the niche. There has also been a move on behalf of online book retailers to support and sponsors the relatively popular Chick lit blogs.
As I started to write this blog I went through a lot of chick literature blogs for direction. I wanted to understand what a chick lit blog looks like, their presentation styles etc. Just like the genre most blogs are bubbly, fun and very girly. I fell in love with some of the blogs and the ones that inspire me in terms of style and structure are:

1) TRASHIONISTA

The blog created by Elle Symonds is extremely popular though it has a wide range & talks about other books as well but covers largely Chick lit. Its extensive coverage includes book news, reviews, interviews and……..well simply views. It targets young readers in the age group if 18 – 30 and probably that’s why the advertising on the blog is extensive, with ads for all things girly like shoes, bags, clothes and beauty products. The design style is minimal yet classically feminine with it’s bright pink and black color combination. The blog borders on descriptive and narrative rather than being opinion based. Elle writes frequently, almost every day at about the same time. However there aren’t many comments. The blog is represented on Face book as well as Twitter which accounts for its vast audience. There are lots of links to related niche products and also links to niches within the niche. It’s an exhaustive site. Pictures and images abound.
I especially liked the blog because of the regular and frequent postings and the fact that most of the new books get featured almost as soon as they are launched in the market. Overall the blog has a frothy feel and at times the long descriptions are winding and reveal more than entice.

2) Chick literate

Chick literate is a beautifully laid out blog. It’s neat, uncluttered and not ‘very busy’ and has a high readability. It’s based on a purple theme created by Lisa Sabin: Ewebscapes. It reviews only Chick lit and is a highly focused blog making it truly effective.. There are no advertisements on the blog and the design features cute heart cartoon ratings which are reaaaa…..lly cute. Lisa blogs about once a week and the blogs are typically short….1 paragraph length. What makes the blog different is that she gives a highly personalized opinion about each book but does not narrate the story. The opinions are catchy, to the point and make you feel as though you know the writer. I’d rather emulate her than anyone else. The blog comes across as honest, candid, warm and cozy and you’ll love the cartoon ratings. There’s a lot to do on the blog like contests and quizzes.

For some other interesting chick lit blogs click here

Chasing the devil (Anatomy of a post)

4 May

My expectations from Lauren’ Weisberger’s Chasing Harry Winston were quite simple. After all what can one expect from a book that has a giant green stiletto on the front cover.

If you need to kill a boring Saturday afternoon and positively don’t want to read something with underlying socio economic issues or intelligent plots, this could be the book for you. It’s just pure and simple entertainment.To say that the author fails miserably would be an unfair assessment. The book’s writing style does sustain your interest for about an hour after which the cloyingly sweet, fluffy, clichéd style could get to you.

Chasing Harry Winston is third in her triad of New York centric Chick lit books, targeting young women in the age group of 18-30. Like others in its genre it focuses on female bonding and narrates the story of three New York based women in their late twenties trying to make sense of love and life. Familiar! Isn’t it?

Adriana is beautiful daughter of a Brazilin business tycoon and a famous supermodel. She believes that there’re too many eligible bachelors in New York to settle down but is constantly reminded by her mother that she won’t always have her pick of men and her looks will eventually fade. Emmy was within striking distance to the ring and the baby she desperately wanted when her boyfriend of five years left her for his 23 year old personal trainer. Leigh is the one fairly interesting and believable female character in the book. A neurotic young star in the publishing business she is living her dream with her dream man in her dream house.

Knocking back raspberry mojitos one night, the three friends make a pact to change one thing in their lives by the end of the YEAR. Adriana vows to find a ‘steady squeeze’ and remain monogamous, while Emmy will take a ‘Tour de Whore’ sleeping with as many men as she can while travelling the world. Leigh watches quietly, making no promises. Jesse is, overall, the most believable and well written character, a reclusive writer who stars to get under Leigh’s skin. The story of Otis is a great addition.

The book clearly lacks substance about real issues women deal with. In the beginning of the book each character is an original epitome of women’s worst characteristics. The book focuses more on women doing things to constantly validate themselves. Adriana is narcissistic, and needs constant validation from men. Emmy displays an abnormal amount of obsessive behaviour to the lengths of stalking her ex boyfriend. Only towards the end does it provide a some what realistic look at what it means to be a self-sufficient woman embracing the opportunity to grow older and more mature.

In Chasing Harry Winston, Weisberger dumps the format she adopted for her first two novels. In some ways, this is good, and gives Weisberger the chance to branch out a bit. The characters are surprisingly more unique than those in Weinberger’s other two books; with the exception of the perfect boyfriend. I definitely found myself relating to Leigh a bit. However, the author doesn’t seem to be able to create anything new- The plot seems hackneyed and reminds one of Candace Bushnell’s Sex and the City.

Granted it’s not a life changing book but I think the title, cover, and storyline adequately give that away. It’s an easy and entertaining read. The book does make one laugh out loud at times.

The characters and their predicaments are humorous if taken light-heartedly. It has some great saucy lines though at times the fluffy fun bits do get lost in the blobby mess of narrative Nonetheless what the book lacks in story and plot it more than makes up in Lauren Weisberger’s beautiful narrative. Her writing is descriptive and sensory and involves the reader in every page, the only thing lacking in her writing style is continuity. Weisberger said in an interview “this is first time I am writing about three people instead of one” This lack of experience shows. The story lurches off in random directions. The constantly moving narrative can be very confusing at times but as a whole the writing style is different and refreshing.

If you’ve read her other two books The Devil wears Prada and “Everyone Worth knowing” this one can’t hold a candle to either and is totally avoidable. But if you haven’t then it’s a perfect book to curl up by the fire with. Its chick lit! What else would you really expect?