The Huffington Post: First Response

What will be the contributions of a large bunch of people, who could have blogged on their own if they wanted to, but were motivated to do so by the Arianna Huffington brand name?

I briefly checked out The Huffington Post today. I was never too impressed by the collective achievements of the celebrity intellectuals that Salon pulled together in its heyday. The experiment will expose a wider range of people to the potential of the internet.

John Cusack’s entry on Hunter S. Thompson is probably the most literate and engaging thing on the site. Playwright David Mamet has some existential fun with the nature of truth and authority in the blogosphere; I hope his future entries are less “cutesy.” Scientist and media expert Jay Winsten‘s comment on the Center for Disease Control’s overstatement of the effects of obesity on health also caught my eye.

A significant number of the other contributors are of the “My homework assignment was to post a blog entry… how does this work?” variety. See Al Eisele, a columnist whose blog entry reads like a column, and the co-blog of writer Brad Hall and actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who attempt a comedy routine. Including charter school activist Roger Lowenstein was a good idea, since his criticism of teacher unions and the left in general will deflect criticisms that Huffington is simply trying to create a liberal echo chamber, but somebody ought to tell him to break up his prose into browser-friendly chunks. On the other hand, comedian Ellen DeGeneres, who has written several humor books in a narrative, conversational writing style, seems right at home in the medium. She should really choose link text that is more cognitively or emotionally significant than the word “here,” but that’s a common characteristic in the writing of hypertext newbies.

Does that little graphic of the speaker really need to be Flash animation? Why wouldn’t a GIF suffice?

I do like the openness the site shows on its wire feed… while there’s no way for visitors to post comments to the blogs written by the contributors I’ve mentioned above, it is possible to comment on wire stories (which are excerpted on site) and on Huffington Post exclusives. The site invites leads and scoops, so it’s in direct competition with The Drudge Report, the retro design of which is getting less and less cool every day.

Well, the grades for graduating seniors are due today, so it’s back to the salt mines for me.

Update: Online reviews from AOL (“Blogs of the Rich and Famous“) and the LA Weekly (“Arianna’s Blog Blows“).

A Metafilter poster echoes Yeats: “And what rough beast, its hour come round at last / Slouches towards blogging to be born.

My goodness, that Metafliter post is full of good bits. The next comment says The Huffington Post is “like a Drudge Report, only happier and more famous.”

And check out the hilarious Guardian spoof.