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Tuesday, June 03, 2003

Blogging Criticism

Habit 3 is begin with the end in mind. In blogging the habit suggests that we think about why are we blogging something - to entertain, to inform, to educate, to persuade or to personally benefit in some other way. I think most blogging falls in to the last category - people blog for personal benefit. This might be why there is so little blogging criticism from bloggers - why would you criticize something that you are benefitting from - i.e. don't bite the hand that feeds you. But in all fields of endeavor, criticism has an important place and blogging suffers from its lack of criticism.

Most of the constructive criticism of blogging comes from outside sources and it serves a useful purpose, despite the efforts by leading bloggers such as Doc, Dave Winer and Glenn Reynolds to flame into silence any criticism. It was therefore a little disheartening to see that John C Dvorak, a former blogging critic has become somewhat of a blogging-booster:

This is the point where blogging will become mainstream. Shortly thereafter, we will see blogging millionaires, as venture capitalists figure out ways to make money from the trend.

That seems pretty obvious. And the parallels between blogging and other things, that Mr Dvorak cites as interesting and obvious, seem to me to be boring and irrelevant. John has built a big emotional bank account with me through his years of journalism and I look forward to him returning to his usually interesting contrarian opinions in the future.

So that seems to leave Andrew Orlowski as the only active blogging critic. In his latest piece he observes:

The nutty blog hype, such as it is, has been inflated by a handful of weblog tools vendors and exhibitionists who desperately see this as their big moment. By promoting the humble blog as a social tool that heralds an "Emergent Democracy", or a fabulous network that can overthrow Big Brother, they're crowning themselves with the mantle of populist heroes.
But the populism isn't borne out by the statistics, which tell us that the number of webloggers remains extremely small. Pew Research recently pegged the number of blog readers as "statistically insignificant" and our own logs back up their findings.
But if faux populism worked well enough in the dotcom bubble, when the empowering potential of private capital ownership (stock options) and new technology cloaked a huge transfer of wealth to the rich, why shouldn't it work now?

Well, primarily because blogging is a solitary activity that requires the blogger to spend less time reading a book, taking the dog for the walk, meeting friends in the pub, seeing a movie, or reading to the kids. The reason that 99.93 per cent of the world doesn't blog, and never will, is because people make simple information choices in what they choose to ingest and produce, and most of this will be either personal and private, or truly social. Blog-evangelists can fulminate at the injustice of this all they like, but people are pretty smart and make fairly rational choices on the information they process.

Read the whole article before the leading blogging proponents convince you to flame Andrew into silence.