The blogosphere as high school, part XVII

by Mathew on March 30, 2008 · 21 comments

My friend Mark Evans has a post about the lack of original thought in the blogosphere — or at least the pressures that tend to keep original thought from appearing — and as the closest thing to what MG Siegler calls a “bitchmeme” this weekend, it has grabbed a bunch of links. Dave Winer sees this as a sign that the end is near, and says he’s heading for the hills (we should all be so lucky), and lots of others have chimed in that Ed Bott was right and Techmeme is an “echo chamber” with no value whatsoever.

I know the “conversation” metaphor has kind of been beaten to death, and I apologize in advance for trotting it out again, but I think it’s the best one we have. To some, the clusters of “me-too” posts are a sign that there is no value in Techmeme.com — to which I would respond that value is where you find it. Yes, there are a lot of people posting things that just repeat what someone else said. But at the same time, there are also new bloggers coming along all the time who do add value.

In that sense, Techmeme (and the blogosphere in general) is a lot like a party or a crowd gathered at a bar. Some times there are people who are either boring, or have nothing of real value to say, or who are drunk and disorderly, or curmudgeons who sit off in a corner muttering to themselves and shouting from time to time. Does that mean you leave the party? Maybe. But you could be missing out on some great conversations, or meeting some interesting people.

Guys like Dave talk about how it’s all the insiders and the rest are hangers-on, and all that reminds me of is kids in high school, complaining about how they’re not in this or that clique, or how so-and-so always hangs out with the jocks or the geeks instead of them. The blogosphere is the closest thing I can think of to a meritocracy, and I would argue that for the most part Techmeme is as well — yes, there are cliques, but if you write a good post, it can hit the top and get links just like anyone else’s can. No one cares whether you’re tall or thin or pretty or athletic.

As I’ve mentioned before, in the clusters of me-too posts and bitchmemes and so on at Techmeme, I have found great bloggers like Frederic from The Last Podcast, MG Siegler from ParisLemon (and now of VentureBeat), Steven Hodson of Winextra.com, Jason Kaneshiro of Webomatica and others. Did I have to do some digging through useless echo-chamber posts? Yes. But that’s what some conversations are like. I’m not ready to give up on the whole party, that’s for sure.

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  • http://www.webomatica.com/wordpress/ webomatica

    One of the things that attracted me to blogging is how anybody can set up a blog and have their voice heard. Ultimately I feel the audience is what decides whether what that blogger has to say is worthwhile. If a blogger writes for a year and gets like zero traffic, odds are they'll throw in the towel.

    “Original thought” is just one criteria for considering a blog worthy. I think there is room for as many blogs as there are individuals. Competition for attention is largely in the minds of certain bloggers and certainly one aspect of the blogosphere I'm uninterested in.

    Thanks for that WP update plug in info BTW!

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    I agree, Jason. And you're welcome :-)

    On Sun, Mar 30, 2008 at 9:14 PM, Disqus

  • http://anzman.blogspot.com charlieanzman

    Sounds like Dave is 'stuck in the past' which is really sad considering what he's contributed to the technology. The FACT is, that in some ways, this chapter is repeating the past. Gates talked about empowerment in the 70's. Blogs are sharing are empowering 'regular people' in a big way, in part, thanks to some of Winer's contributions. You just need to get past the noise and it doesn't take a rocket IQ to do it. I'd rather see trash occasionally on the aggregators that fightmemes on weekend. That's trash but I can get past that too.

  • http://anzman.blogspot.com charlieanzman

    CORRECTION:

    OK, I ordered new glasses. (too much blogging?) Should have read 'blogs and sharing' and 'aggregators than'. Then again, you can edit on FriendFeed. Ohould have probably gone there :)

  • http://www.scripting.com/ dave

    I predict you'll be very lucky, esp tonight!

    I just pointed to this piece from mine, it's the only outbound pointer, so you should be the TOP ITEM ON TECHMEME very shortly Mat.

    I know how much you covet this. Consider this a gift from me to you for all you've done for the tech blogosphere.

  • http://www.scripting.com/ dave

    Oh don't be so depressed Charlie! We're just having some fun tonight.

  • http://lastpodcast.net Frederic

    Fully agree Mathew (and thanks for the compliments!) – ultimately, pure me-too blogging doesn't lead to anything, but to get a techmeme headline, somebody needs to cite your posts. The Techmeme ecosystem can only work as long as people link to and cite each other.

    Hopefully, they add value to the discussion in their posts

    But I think it's important to remember that sometimes bloggers also just write for their own audience – it might seem like me-too blogging if you only look at it from the Techmeme perspective, but to the blogger it is simply informing their own audience about something they think is interesting.

  • http://chartreuse.wordpress.com chartreuse

    the cream will rise to the top used to be a bullshit phrase. it's not as much anymore.

    you can get into this blogging game and not know a soul. if you are good and compelling you will get heard.

    the fact that a lot of stuff is noise is all the better. it makes those who really have something to say standout.

  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    Bah, humbug.

    IF YOU'RE NOT ON THE A-LIST, YOU DON'T GET HEARD!

    And then you get a bunch of A-listers and A-list-wannabees whiners attacking you.

    The proof is the simple problem of claiming that worthiness just happens to manifest almost exclusively in well-off white men (aka Where Are The Women)

  • http://www.paradox1x.org Karl

    And low and behold it your're on Techmeme Mathew.

    Also proving Seth's (and many other's points) about A-list existence, its influence and how it works.

    Unfortunately, Dave and Seth and a whole host of people are right in their criticizing of the blogosphere – there is a real meeting of the minds taking place whether the parties realize it or not.

    Also unfortunately, I think I can relate to Dave's feelings. Because it happens in any space on the web.

    Early adopters utilize a sparsely populated space, people sing its praises, the great unwashed come (people just like me, in this case, I was an early adopter – for Usenet – I was one the great unwashed), then business follows, then blamo. Early adopters go somewhere else. Rinse, repeat.

    Shirky talked about this cycle in “A Group is its Own Worst Enemy”. For once, I'd wish the A-listers stuck around and worked on the issues that present themselves when communities grow large and inclusive.

    But as I said elsewhere, I'm pissing in the wind.

    All this has happened before and it will happen again.

  • http://www.samjackson.org/college Sam Jackson

    It's true that it has some great meritocratic elements, but there's still a big hurdle in that WHO says something can sometimes matter so, so much more than WHAT was said. Thus, brilliant insights from a nobody have to be all the more marvelous to break through the noise…

    …which frustrates me all the time, given my small, small niche.

  • http://www.copyblogger.com Brian Clark

    Why can't you guys be more accurate and call it the “tech blogosphere” instead of assuming you're the totality of all blogging? It's (Tech)meme, right?

    There's plenty of interesting things going on in the real world as it pertains to blogging. That's why I rarely pay attention to the “tech blogosphere.”

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    Sorry, Brian — a fair point. Little bit of tunnel vision there, I
    guess. What happens when you get tunnel vision in an echo chamber?
    :-)

  • http://technical-writing.dionysius.com/ athloi

    The blogosphere could be like high school. It could be both a meritocracy, and have that meritocracy be skewed by social factors, like who knows whom and all that jazz. There are some advantages to this, because it's hard to objectively rank quality.

  • http://www.scripting.com/ dave

    Hi Seth, are you on Twitter?

    It's a reshuffling of the deck. Get your ass over there and tell your tale.

    I really liked your piece about Wikipedia, btw, and sent it around to all the people who follow me on Twitter.

    Also, it seems like the Guardian is kind of A-listish. Is it not??

    Keep on truckin dude!!

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  • dave jorensson

    so much derivative junk out there. so much me-too-ism. it would be refreshing to see more original reporting and thinking. instead, we get drivel like this nearly all the time

  • http://www.sunglassesuk.com/celebrity_sunglasses.asp Celebrity Sunglasses

    Nice topic.. Thanks for posting this..
    For me… Blogs are sharing your thoughts with regular people in a big way…
    A simple way of learning…

  • http://www.club-penguin.org/ Club Penguin Cheats

    Ultimately I feel the audience is what decides whether what that blogger has to say is worthwhile. If a blogger writes for a year and gets like zero traffic, odds are they'll throw in the towel.

  • http://www.club-penguin.org/ Club Penguin Cheats

    Ultimately I feel the audience is what decides whether what that blogger has to say is worthwhile. If a blogger writes for a year and gets like zero traffic, odds are they'll throw in the towel.

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