May 10, 2005

It's Like Dean Martin Impersonating a Priest

SO THE HUFFINGTON POST had its big launch on Monday! With a promised cast of hundreds of celebrities, writers and other folks ready and waiting to dive into the blogosphere, plus a whole host of coverage from the mainstream media, commentator Arianna Huffington's giant group blog was set to make a huge splash. And in this, it succeeded. Unfortunately, the splash was the blogging equivalent of doing a bellyflop in front of ALL the popular kids at the pool.

I mean, it's not good when the major story about your blog's launch comes from the L.A. Weekly, and it's the blogging equivalent of a zeppelin raid on London. Nikki Finke, who wrote the Weekly's story, wrote that Ms Huffington's "blog is such a bomb that it's the box-office equivalent of Gigli, Ishtar and Heaven's Gate rolled into one." This is one of the kinder things which Ms Finke wrote in her article.

I suppose my own thoughts, for what they're worth, is that I find The Huffington Post a bit disquieting. You know, kind of like how watching Dean Martin impersonate a priest is a bit disquieting, or kind of like how watching an old episode of Dragnet can sometimes be a bit disquieting. ("You think you're pretty cool and far out, don't you, son?")

I mean, that's the vibe I get from the thing. It is authentic only in its inauthenticity. It is trying to be cool and with it, and it's trying to reach out to the young people, and it ain't working. Where are the comments? Where's the search feature? Sure, I can comment on news stories, but I don't care about that -- I want the ability to comment on the blog posts. What the hell? And there are no trackbacks either -- not that they work anyway, but you know, what gives?

I mean, for God's sake, The Huffington Post has a User Agreement. I dunno, maybe big blogs and corporate-level endeavors really need these things, but Gad. By the by, dig the fourth article -- which may remind some of another Article Four -- as it is representative of the Agreement as a whole:

4. (a) Unless expressly permitted, you may not copy, reproduce, distribute, publish, enter into a database, display, perform, modify, create derivative works, transmit, or in any way exploit any part of this Service, except as permitted under the last sentence of this Section 4(a) and except that you may make one print copy that is limited to occasional articles of personal interest only. Without limiting the generality of the foregoing (but subject to the last sentence of this Section 4(a)), you may not distribute any part of this Service over any network, including, without limitation, a local area network, nor sell or offer it for sale. In addition, these files may not be used to construct any kind of database. Just as THP from time to time excerpts materials from other sources in order to support the various commentaries and writings contained herein, we respect the right of others to make "fair use" of the materials contained on THP; accordingly, you may from time to time excerpt and use materials set forth on this site, provided, that you must give the original author credit and such use must be for a non-commercial purpose only and not, for example, for re-sale.

Well, just for that, I'm going to print out TWO copies of the User Agreement! Look! My hand is OVER the printer's power button! HA! HA! HAHAHAHA! Well, I would print them out, except the copyblock of capital letters in Article Six is hurting my eyes. The goggles! They do nothing!

But anyway. All of these things could be forgiven if The Huffington Post didn't have two major flaws. Simply put, the thing's not particularly funny and it's not as interesting as it could be. There's no utility in the damn thing. I mean, I got a chuckle out of one post; the rest either weren't intended to be funny or were, but failed at it. As for the interesting part -- THP is thus far covering a lot of stuff that I can get somewhere else. That's all well and good, but one thing I like to do is read the debates which real people have about various issues, and I can't really do that on THP like I can elsewhere.

So -- at the end of the day, I see things like this: THP wasn't a bad idea, but could have been done better. That said, it needs to improve quickly, unless its backers want it to end up like Tina Brown's last talk show.

(UPDATE, 1:19 A.M.: Make that very quickly. Lileks just said he wasn't impressed).

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at May 10, 2005 01:10 AM | TrackBack

I just got into blogging and I absolutely love it, so thanks, I keep track of this blog as well as 5 others so far.

Posted by: Bruce Parker at May 23, 2005 06:35 PM