Ahhhh, Spring time is almost here in the northern hemisphere (though here in Phoenix we have already experienced 90 degrees F for more than a week). This is a favorite time of year in the Sonoran Desert, as those precious relatively small, but important amounts of December, January rain, cause a burst of color as cacti and desert wild flowers burst into a raging riot of colors, even if for just a few weeks.
We have desert landscaping at our home, not a lick of grass nor any time spent pushing a lawnmower, and last weekend, while tending the gardens (pulling weeds) metaphors began wafting through my mind…..
I found this weeding and flower tending a bit parallel, not the same, but enough, to the online garden of weblogs.
I think it was weeding and the frustration with unwanted spam in blogs. The first year we had tossed out flower seeds, a bunch of strange plants popped on the scene, actually filling the yard, and drained if one of them had leaves shaped much like a dandelion. We yanked out scads of these, leaving a few in one area to see what they emerged as.
Darned if they did not turn out to be a form (I think) of poppies, with delicate pink, white, and yellow flowers! Eventually we learned to identify the desired plants from the relentless weeds that never seem to go away (I found the best way to learn to identify weeds was to visit abandoned lots and see what was growing there).
So just like things that come into your weblog via comments and trackbacks, you need to hone your skills of identification, so you can discern what is legitimate and what are cockroach spam efforts to place URLs for viagra farms. And you may mistake mistakes, accidently pulling flowers that may look at first glance like weeds.
And you have choices in what do do with the weeds. You can live with them. You can manually pull them one at a time. You can apply some selective Round-Up, or more precisely the equivalent of Raid Blog Spray. Or you can get more severe with chemicals (e.g. shutting off comments and trackbacks all together, though for this dog, that is not social computing, it becomes vanity publishing).
But the other notion is that gardening is often not done in isolation. You have a partner, spouse, child laborer at home, you chat with the folks down at the hardware store or the local botanical garden. When I glance down my street, I can see at least 8, 10, other houses with similar, but different ways of presenting nature in their front yard. I talk to them, ask questions, get advice, send compliments.
The same, I wish/hope goes for blogging. You can of course sit there and just pump out stuff from your own pulpit, but to me, an equally important part of the blogging process is where you go to read, who your sources are, the comments and ideas you contribute in other gardens. That was the thought behind the section in our BlogShop on “Blog-Acting: Blogging is a Social Process”. This exploration led me down a garden path to Matthew G. Kirschenbaum’s brilliant piece on Comment Blogging documenting the blog world of François Lachance, who publishes no weblog himself, but exists in the comment space of other blogs. Now that is a new, different, and mind-altering way to grow flowers.
I will skip the gardenin metaphor now as I am getting dangerously close to fertilizer. You may have guessed that metaphors are big in this dog house, and you are right. They help relate unknown or complex concepts to something more familiar, and is the guiding thought behind the Maricopa Learning eXchange using a “package” metaphor rather than the arcane, un-worldy “learning object repository” or the building a fence metaphor for creating things out of so called learning objects, or the suitcase we chose for an old Hero’s Journey story wrtiting project.. heck, I now see my entire life is a metaphor.