Saturday, December 20, 2008

How the Web Works Like "Telephone"

You know, it is really fascinating to watch what the Web does to memes.

There is currently going around the Anglican blogworld a game of "tag", with the following self-explanatory rules:

1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Post the rules on your blog.
3. Write six random things about yourself.
4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them.
5. Let each person know they've been tagged and leave a comment on their blog.
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

Now I've been "tagged" by BabyBlue, so I have to follow the rules. But first, being the curmudgeon that I am, I can't resist tracing the history of this phenomenon, and drawing a lesson or two from it.

As best as I can tell from the Anglican blogs that I follow on a regular basis, the "tag" game was introduced to our immediate world (that is, those of us who follow each other's blogs, and link to them) on December 19 by Matthew, over at the Billy Ockham website. (He tagged Perpetua of Carthage the same day, who promptly tagged Baby Blue, who tagged me today.)

Matthew, it turns out was tagged by his sister, who blogs at Ream O Rama; she in turn had been tagged by Miss Janey, who had been tagged by Sayra Adams, who blogs as the Hat Diva, who appears to have been tagged on December 9. However, the trail goes cold there, as the Hat Diva did not follow Rule No. 1, and failed to post a link to the person who tagged her.

Now because I follow a lot of Anglican blogs, I noticed this blog post by Bishop Alan Wilson, which appeared on December 8, and I remembered it when I saw Matthew tag Perpetua. So when I got tagged, I went back to it, and found that Bishop Alan cites the source of the whole game, which turns out to be a blog called The Scholastic Scribe, subtitled "Notes from Beyond the Underbelly of High School Journalism".

This is a blog run by Melissa B., a high school journalism teacher who signs herself as "Mrs. Scribe". On October 18---two months ago, mind you---she put up this post: This Bling's For You! In it, she describes an award she has devised called "the Superior Scribbler Award", which looks like this:


Mrs. Scribe gives this background as to how she developed the prize. Her father one day pointed out that she was a natural to become a journalist, telling her:

"Well, math's not your strong suit. You spend all your time in your room, scribbling. You might as well make something out of it!"

Truer words were never spoken; at least not to This Little Scribe. And guess what? Fate, as it were, Had Its Awkward Way With Her.

The Little Scribe went thru the High School Journalism Program. If it weren't for Julia Jeffress, High School Newspaper Adviser Extraordinaire, we don't know what would have become of this greenhorn. She scribbled her way thru high school, right into the lap of the Missouri School of Journalism--the "Harvard," if you will, of Ink-Stained Wretches Everywhere.

But She Didn't Stop There. The Little Scribe scribbled her way into an internship with a New York Magazine; she scribbled her way onto not one, but the staffs of 2--count 'em!--Major Metropolitan Daily Newspapers. But she didn't stop there.

The Little Scribe worked in politics, & did a little bit of that Lobbying Janx, the Stuff That DC Folks Do, which earns enough money, but doesn't seem to Sit Right with The Public. She worked as a SAHM, a school & church & Girl Scouts volunteer, & pitched in with the neighborhood advisory group.

Then, she landed The Hardest--and The Best--job of all, besides the one that involved raising Ella Numera Una & Ella Numera Dos up to Legal Age, as prosperous, educated, productive young adults--We Hope! She became a High School Journalism Teacher.

Before long, The Little Scribe had scribbled her way into the Blogosphere. Where She Remains Today. Doing a little bit of this, a tiny bit of that. And a Whole Lotta Scribbling.

We've been participating in this Jacked Up Blogging Janx for 6 months now. This is our 200th Post. To Commemorate, Celebrate, & Generally Share the Bloggy Love, we've Created an Award. Yes, The Superior Scribbler Award is a Scholastic Scribe Original! We'd like to pass it along to 5 Extremely Deserving Scribblers. And we hope they pass it along, in turn. "Etcetera, Etcetera, Etcetera," as Yul Brynner would say...
This is not exactly how Bishop Alan chose to see it, when he was presented with the award. Being an Englishman, and a learned one to boot, he remembered the famous anecdote about Edward Gibbon, the author of that multi-volume classic that almost no one has read all the way through, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. When he presented his second volume, fresh off the press, to his patron, the Duke of Gloucester, Gibbon was met with this response:

Another damned thick, square book! Always scribble, scribble! Eh, Mr. Gibbon?
So, to Bishop Alan, the award commemorates the industry of those who write meaty stuff like The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. And that was just one respect in which the Web managed to change Mrs. Scribe's award.

For as you see from following the links above, backward from the Billy Ockham site, and from him forward to Perpetua and BabyBlue, the "Superior Scribbler Award" has become detached from the meme altogether!

And being, as I say, the resident curmudgeon in this corner of the blogworld, I am loathe to let such deterioration continue unnoticed. So as of this post, let the Superior Scribbler Award be restored, and retroactively awarded to Matthew, Perpetua and BabyBlue. (Matthew may, if he wishes, carry it back further than that to the blogs that led to his being tagged; I am just not that familiar with them.)

And let us, please, from this post on take note of the original rules as posted by Mrs. Scribe, which again were transformed a bit in this game of "telephone" which is the World-Wide Web:
Of course, as with every Bloggy Award, there are A Few Rules. They are, forthwith:

  • Each Superior Scribbler must in turn pass The Award on to 5 most-deserving Bloggy Friends.
  • Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author & the name of the blog from whom he/she has received The Award.
  • Each Superior Scribbler must display The Award on his/her blog, and link to This Post, which explains The Award.
  • Each Blogger who wins The Superior Scribbler Award must visit this post and add his/her name to the Mr. Linky List. That way, we'll be able to keep up-to-date on everyone who receives This Prestigious Honor!
  • Each Superior Scribbler must post these rules on his/her blog.
Ah, you will say, but what about presenting the award to six other worthy bloggers, and not just five? What about commenting on each of their blogs? And what about posting six random things about your own self? (For as you will see, by comparing the original rules with the rules quoted at the beginning, these are some of the ways in which the game of Telephone changed the meme.)

While the originalist in me wants to respect the rules that Mrs. Scribe devised, the blogger in me at the same time is telling me to respect the processes of the World-Wide Web, by which memes can always be improved for the better. So for that reason, I will accept those additions to the rules---after all, as long as you agree that more is better, then six is better than five. However, that acceptance comes on the condition that awardees also follow Mrs. Scribe's rules about displaying the award, linking to the post that describes it, and signing up on her Linky List so that she can appreciate how far her meme has traveled in the blogosphere.

So the (Web-)revised rules are these:

1. Link to the person who tagged you, and link to the original post on the Award.
2. Post the rules on your blog, and post a picture of the award, using the source code of the link.
3. Write six random things about yourself.
4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them.
5. Let each person know they've been tagged and leave a comment on their blog.
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up, and sign the Linky List on the original post.

Now for the six random things:

1. I love a good sacrifice in chess, and for that reason I love to replay the games of Adolf Anderssen, especially the Immortal Game.

2. I have never owned a television, so I am useless as a partner in Trivial Pursuit.

3. In nearly fifty years of driving (knock on wood), I have been stopped and ticketed only once---for speeding, in a hurry to get to my swearing-in ceremony for the bar. (Of course, I was also once arrested on suspicion of bank robbery.)

4. Like BabyBlue, I spent a significant number of years in Hawaii---though it was after I graduated from Law School, so I never went to Punahou (as a student, at any rate), and no, I never met Barack Obama. But while I was there, I did manage to sue all five justices of the Hawaii Supreme Court, over their mismanagement of appointments of Trustees to the Bishop Estate---you can read the full, sad story in this book.

5. Perhaps the most famous (notorious?) person I have ever met was General Anastasio Somoza DeBayle. I met him in Nicaragua, on behalf of a client, just after the devastating earthquake in Managua in December 1972.

6. I attend the same Episcopal Church I grew up in, where I joined the choir as a boy soprano at age 5. It's had seven rectors since then. I was baptized, confirmed and married there, and I expect to be buried there. (KJS and her minions are just a blip on the radar screen, as far as I am concerned; I take the long view. Besides, we don't send New York any money; by arrangement with the diocese, we contribute to a missionary hospital in Uganda instead.)

OK, there's six things. Now, the six bloggers upon whom I choose to bestow the Superior Scribbler Award are:

1. David Trimble, Still on Patrol (he has scribbled an entire novel, which is well worth your reading.)

2. LP at Anglican Musings (maybe it will get him back to blogging again---we sorely need his insights, as well as his lighter-hearted playfulness!)

3. Father Dan Martins (whose sermons are a mighty fine read, and whose blog scribblings are always both enlightened and enlightening)

4. Sister Mary Martha, whose posts I never miss---it's like Dr. Laura for Catholics (and for us Anglicans, too!)

5. Father Tobias Haller, priest, poet and pilgrim, who writes one of the best blogs I know in a Godward direction

6. And, just to get this out among a different circle, my sixth award will be to Dan Porter, with whom I share an abiding interest in the interplay between science and religion.

Go for it, folks! You've earned it!

[UPDATE 12/22/2008: It turns out that variations of the "tag" meme have been making their way around the Web for some time, and that Mrs. Scribe simply invented a variation of it, with her own "award." See, for earlier examples of the meme, this post and this post. And Captain Yips reports that he was first tagged over a year ago----but since he didn't respond at the time, the Anglican blog world in this part of the multiverse didn't find out about it until Matt's sister tagged him, as noted above.

[So to those I have tagged, I now say: it's up to you how much further you carry it. The game does seem to have a subliminal purpose, which is to link blogs in unexpected ways, thus leading to readers finding you who might not have otherwise. (See the comment from Storyteller above.) But I warn you: playing the game backwards---chasing each tagged link back as far as you can---may be addictive. You're on your own with that.]


  1. I love this post! It 'resonates' on many levels. I'm a 'happily retired' teacher who found my way into the Blogsophere about 15 months ago after scribbling daily in personal journals for many decades ... something I continue to this day. However, in addition I scribble on 4 blogs currently and never quite know when another will emerge. As I read your post, I'm reminded that I received this award from Mama Zen quite a while back (without any rules but with a link), accepted it in a Haiku one Friday and promised to pass it on later. Alas, I fear in my overly busy state I may have failed to do so. For that I feel chagrin and I intend to rectify that oversight ASAP. Thank you for the 'history lesson' and the reminder.
    Hugs and blessings,