Minh’s Notes

Human-readable chicken scratch

Minh Nguyễn
January 3rd, 2005
Planet Xavier


Surveying the populace

Today I started my five-day (or more) campaign to confirm everyone’s placement on Planet Xavier at school. So all day today I’ve been up and down the halls, asking random people if they have “a blog, LiveJournal, or Xanga,” and asking whether they’d like to be syndicated.

I’ve received my fair share of blank stares, but I’ve also discovered many more bloggers. So far, 55% (35 of 64) of those already listed are okay with being syndicated.

Read on for my account, and quite a bit of insight…


So I was ready with my big, tabloid-sized (11×17″) checklist – all that data needed a big spreadsheet. And I was continually proving Justin wrong – my plan meet with widespread approval (so far, of course): of the 26 people I asked last night and today, all 26 confirmed their placement. Only one person expressed hesitation – Justin, of course. Several people (like Matt) did a little “cha-ching!”-type motion and happily approved.

To understand why so many people approved of my plan, you need to look at the demographics. It’s true that the majority of blogs I listed are LiveJournals and Xangas, which generally tend to be publicly private diaries (with apologies to Danny for stealing his blog title). But the kind of blogger who posts personal stuff and cares about anonymity and privacy doesn’t give out their name, school, etc.

After all, I found all these blogs through Google and the Friends lists at LiveJournal and Xanga. I’m sure there are bloggers out there who meet my criteria for syndication, but don’t want the publicity that comes with it. However, these people wouldn’t make it possible for me to find their blogs anyhow.

Blank stares

A recent study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project has raised a lot of attention by the mainstream media. In essence, it says that although many Americans maintain blogs, and many have heard of blogs, a disappointingly low number of Americans actually know what they are.

7% of the 120 million U.S. adults who use the internet say they have created a blog or web-based diary. That represents more than 8 million people.

At the same time, for all the excitement about blogs and the media coverage of them, blogs have not yet become recognized by a majority of internet users. Only 38% of all internet users know what a blog is. The rest are not sure what the term “blog” means.

(Read the whole study…)

In addition to asking people to confirm their placement on Planet Xavier, I also asked random people around school if they have “a blog, LiveJournal, or Xanga.” Though that process gained me seven new blogs to list, the majority of people I asked still went “huh?” That was the response of about 30% of the people I asked.

Though I do have a habit of speaking too softly and slurring my words too much, it’s not because they didn’t hear me; they just didn’t know what this whole jumble of words ending in “Xanga” actually meant.

Oh… a blog

The rest of the people I asked were of course able to tell me whether they had it or not. About 5% of the total people I asked today told me that they did indeed have a blog. (That figure doesn’t include the many people whose blogs I’ve already listed.)

What made my job today much easier was that people quickly came up with ways to answer me. Some reasoned correctly that “if you don’t know what a ‘blog’ is, you probably don’t have one.” Fair enough.

Others played on Matt Weber’s popularity, and that of his LiveJournal. “Oh, you mean the thing that Matt has?” Yup.

Also of interest: Mr. Hoar has the distinction of being the only current St. X teacher to have a blog, though it hasn’t been updated since this summer. He says he’ll update it again soon. We’ll see.

There’s now a bounty for more teacher blogs: you get a free mention at Planet Xavier for your contributions. :^P I plan to syndicate all St. X people at Planet Xavier; just not students, after all.

Just can’t stand blogs!

I talked to a few people (Travis Hearn and Nick Shoemaker, namely) who utterly despise blogs. Just a bunch of people posting random poetry and quizzes. Obviously they haven’t seen my blog yet. (Remember? I quoted Shakespeare. Yeah.)

I too despise those diaries desguised as blogs: you know, the ones that tell you what their cat ate for lunch last Friday and everything since. Blech… they think these “blogs” are merely extensions to their hard drives.

I think Clint Gibler will recognize the allusion. :^)

Unfortunately, Travis’ and Nick’ observations are largely correct. I dub it the LiveJournal/Xanga Complex. And it looks like this guy caught it. (He’s been maintaining a rather good blog over at Blogspot.) Sometimes, the lure of being “in” overtakes any sense of logic.

Before I get back on-topic: whatever LiveJournal et al. calls “community” really isn’t. Community is when these bloggers actually respond to one another, instead of merely dropping their buddies’ usernames into a Friends list. That’s why I’m building Planet Xavier: so people can actually start communicating with one another for once.

Minh’s Axiom № 1: There can be no community when one’s friends and acquaintences are reduced to a username.

Don’t get me started about ICQ.

Coming attractions

I plan to continue this blog-searching campaign until Friday at the earliest. Expect to see more blogs added to the Subscriptions list at Planet Xavier. I also plan to solicit people’s photos, so I can add them to the page. If you have a photo, drawing, or caricature of your face, please send it to me; your posts will look better that way.

Also, I’m working on a few major modifications to the underlying Planet software. The first should finally get the Xanga feeds working, so I can start syndicating them again. (About a third of the blogs I’ve found are on Xanga. Delisting them is a major setback.)

The second should shrink embedded photos to reasonable sizes, and the third will chop long entries down to a reasonable length. These changes will mean less scrolling on your part, so you can skip the boring stuff that you don’t want to read.

Finally, the Planet developers are working on some great new features, including entry exclusion, which will allow you to include a comment like <-- #exclude Planet Xavier --> at the top of your post, and that individual post will get excluded from Planet Xavier. Planet Mozilla already has this, and it’d be perfect for those semi-private entries that you want to keep semi-private.

They’re also working on modifying Planet so it shows you only new entries, and hides all those entries you’ve already seen. Stay tuned for more.


  1. Yesterday, Six Apart LLC purchased Danga Interactive. Chances are, that last sentence meant nothing to you. Hopefully this won’t similarly fly right over your head.

  2. Ayer, Six Apart compra Danga Interactive. Lo más posible es que esa frase no te dijo nunca. Pues espero que este sea más obvio.

  3. Within the next month, I plan to roll out a new feature for pX: the exclude command. I’ve provided some details to whet your appetite.

  4. I’ve upgraded pX again. Plus: The exclusion mechanism finally works now!

  5. As it currently stands, students from the Class of 2005 make up about 44% of the Planet Xavier population. I’ve been asked many times about what I’m planning to do this summer, since the outgoing seniors have ceased to be students at