Friday, October 10, 2008

Watching the blogs scroll by

If you want to get an idea of how many blogs there are in the world, I recommend watching the list of fresh posts on Google's Blogger.

Whether you have an account on Blogger or not, you can access Blogger's Dashboard. There, to the left of the sign-in boxes, under the Blogger logo, is a scroll-by of blogs that have just been updated, e.g., "Blogs Updated at 10:45 PM." Each title appears for less than a second (on my older laptop, the titles post as a scrolling list instead of individual titles flashing on and off). If you don't sign in, the list never stops rolling by. Titles appear in English, Spanish, Arabic, Japanese, etc. If you tire of the list, or a title piques your curiosity, you can click on the title/link and go right to the freshly minted posting.

What's amazing it that not every blog that has been updated in the world makes a half-second appearance there. I tested this by dating a post on my cooking blog ahead by two minutes. Then I signed out and went back to Dashboard to watch for its title, but it never appeared.

After I waited for my blog update to appear, between 2:56 and 2:59 p.m. last Thursday, I lingered and watched the following titles scroll by (there were many more, but these were all that were memorable, or that I could write down quickly enough):

Dee Dee Myers Photo

Anal Sphincter Cramping

Hazel Gordy

Newman S Own Charity

Citizens Against Government Waste

Jim Lehrer

Dude on the Run

Debate Analysis

How to spot a Gucci fake

Gay white men naked

Papa Was a Rolling Stone

Strategic Tanker Mission

Roger Junior

Gay Prisoner Penpals


I find the scroll-by mesmerizing. Since I discovered this feature, I often pause at Dashboard and wait awhile before I sign in. At its best, each title represents a human being expressing themselves (whether through essays, poems, minute accounts of their quotidian lives, photographs, drawings, etc.). I say this even though some of the titles are yucky (in five minutes of watching last week, there was more than one Lolita-themed blog) and some are obviously commercials for business offerings.

It's almost equal to a world population clock--which seems to imply that there are seven births per second (I got this figure by refreshing the page several times while using a stopwatch!). There may be more blog postings birthed per second than there are human beings being born since Blogger isn't the only blog host in the world. I appreciate the newness of the postings noted at "Blogs Updated at..."; it's almost like we're there just after the moment of their birth.

10 minutes later—
I wrote the above and showed it to my spouse before I posted it, since I wanted to get his take on the blogosphere. He went to Dashboard and rather than watch the blog titles roll by, he started clicking on the titles. At 11 p.m. on a Thursday (which is when I'm actually writing Friday morning's post), he noticed that a lot of blog titles started to scroll by with women's names: Mari's Blog, Lawanda's Blog, Cathy's Blog, etc. He clicked on one and it led him to "" He clicked another and it also led him to "" Both times the page showed women supposedly from our local area in Maryland (though some of them looked like LA porn stars so I'm not sure they were really Baltimore or Silver Spring gals). Not only had the robot figured out how to benefit from the Dashboard scroll-by, it also figured out immediately where we live.

So, Dashboard is a lot like the world. Creative, intelligent voices mix in with the commercial and crass. There is integrity and exploitation, the inspired and the mundane. But unlike the physical world, the Dashboard scroll-by (and also Blogger's "Next Blog" feature) lets me peer into what is being thought in those physical spaces without my having to even knock on the door.

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