Monday, May 12, 2008

Dooce -- a new verb in the English language, explained on ABC Nightline (Heather Armstrong's mommy blog)


Tonight (Monday) ABC Nightline aired a report on Heather B. Armstrong, the “mommy blogger” well known for her Dooce site. The leading blog entry there tonight is “Nightline Segment.” I got in to the site OK, but it was slow; traffic is obviously heavy right now. It looks like “dooce” is also a trademark how. It shows up on USPTO.gov in a TESS search with a decorative trade dress that looks like a captcha.

It looks like she is scheduled to appear on ABC Good Morning America (Tuesday May 13?) so stay tuned. (Note: Didn't see her on May 13, maybe later.)

In fact, Heather invented a new verb, “to dooce”, which means to fire someone from a job for what he or she wrote and published on a personal website. Her account of that is here in “Collecting Unemployment” and I loved the line “The Company no longer had any use for me.” I believe she was a web designer. In fact, “dooce” is a category for the whole site. It looks like a Wordpress blog, although I am not sure. The word “dooce” is supposed to come from “dude” (yeah, like “Dude, where’s My Car?” with Ashton Kutcher) .

She is one of the relatively few people who has made a living off of a personal blog, and the site gives very clear directions as to how to buy ad space. It appears to the visitor that she runs the advertising herself. It appears that she does not accept comments on the blog (so you have to comment on your own blog).

She lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, and there are categories related to Mormonism and BYU. Also, poop! The Nightline report characterized her as an ex-Mormon. She sounded as though she has still great intellectual respect for the ideas of the religion (which is a religion more of works than grace, I think – and works are important!).

Toward the end of the spot. the show told the story of her firing (she had written about her boss’s using Botox, but never identified the person or company; an email tipped off the company, so this was not a problem that Michael Fertik ‘s “Reputation Defender” could have easily found.) She married six months after the firing and changed the focus of her blog to talking about marriage, family and kids.

Most of the report related the current effort to journal the psychological issues of being a parent and raising a family. She seems to have developed the blogosphere’s answer to Richard Strauss’s tone poem “Sinfonia Domestica.” The show told about a study that shows that parents actually endure a lot more psychological depression than do singletons. Her posts vary from satirical and humorous to serious conversations about post-partum depression.

Her father had a hissy fit when he found out about the blog, and she says her degree of self-censorship has more to do with protecting the family from going over the top over certain matters than about the sensitivities of advertisers, even the LDS Church.

Writing about family is controversial in the minds of many people, and sometimes leads to the use of pseudonymns. The issue came up (with respect to short stories in print) with the 1948 film “I Remember Mama”. Heather said on the show that 95% of her family life remains private and out of sight from the blog.

Heather has books in the works (probably with publishing contracts) based on the blog (maybe she has read Cameron Johnson’s “Call Your Own Shots”), and she says she is talking to film companies. I won’t mention studio names, but I have my favorites (mentioned elsewhere) and I hope her agents talk to them. (Like anyone else, she will have to honor the movie studios’ “third party rule” that protects proprietary creative content.) I will mention one name. I can just imagine Morgan Spurlock making a documentary about her story. I would love to write the script for the “dooce” part.

Here’s another idea. Have her host Saturday Night Live. Invite Jon Heder as a guest (I understand he comes from a Mormon background.) Let Shia and Ashton be in the SNL Digital Short about being dooced. (Shia plays the boss.) Let Andy Samberg direct the short. In fact, if not Morgan!, let Andy Samberg direct the feature!

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The ABC story is "Mommy Blogger's Irreverent Observations: Heather Armstrong's Popular, Controversial Blog Pokes Fun at Everyday Life," by Eileen Murphy and Mary Fulgniti, link here.

The Nightline segment tonight also covered the massive earthquake in SW China, and thieves stealing gasoline.

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