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Friday, May 16, 2003

Good Critical Blogging Article

Doc points to and comments on this good, but critical article about blogging at the ETech Conference from Bill Thomson. Some excepts:

Reading the blog coverage may not tell us much about what actually happened, but it does reveal something of interest. Within the blogosphere, we can identify some that belong to a new intellectual elite - a small influential group of people, who have managed to turn their self-publication obsession into a power base. It will come as no surprise that many of them either organised or spoke at the conference (4).
Fortunately for them, in the hyperlinked world it is not necessary to airbrush dissenters out of the group photograph. You can simply wait for Google's PageRank to promote the ideas the A-list find acceptable and linkworthy to the top of the page, while the websites of apostates disappear below the fold and out of history. Who needs a memory hole when the world's favourite search engine does the job so effectively?
This isn't about not liking blogs. It's about not liking unaccountable concentrations of influence, about believing it is still true that 'the first duty of the press is to obtain the earliest and most correct intelligence of events of the time and instantly, by disclosing them, to make them the common property of the nation' (9) - and about noting that 'most correct' does not mean 'what the blog says'.

What is happening at ETCON, and elsewhere in the world of the bloggers, needs to be reported and commented on by those who haven't bought into the worldview. Sadly, this does not seem to be an acceptable activity.

I think Mr Thomson raises some good questions. I don't think there are any easy answers, but I think the smart blog reader will increasingly look at blogs and blogging with some of the same skepticism that we look at the media, the government and corporate America.

Doc of course pulls out his standard complaint when anybody complains of blogging have some sort of inequality:

I think Bill's off-base when he blames quotable people for being quotable (or linkable, or whatever), and for buying into Andrew's dismissive rantings about a conference he refused to attend.

I don't think Bill was blaming quotable people for being quotable. I think he was questioning the lack of checks and balances in the blogging world that most other institutions have. Yes I know that the checks and balances often fail, but they serve an important role.

I have no problem with bloggers benefitting from their efforts nor do I begrudge them from linking more often to other popular bloggers, but the denial of this reality is troublesome. Life is full of conflicts of interest, why should blogging be any different? The problem is that without acknowledging the conflicts, there is little chance of honestly and effectively dealing with them on both a private or a public level.