October 06, 2003

Blogs vs. Bicycles

Still thinking about BloggerCon, I posted the following in the comments section of Oliver Willis' excellent entry Deflating The Blog Bubble:

The problem [with blogs-as-revolution] is that if the optimist says "This post will reach a million people", and the pessimist says "This post will reach ten people", and it ends up reaching a hundred people, the truth isn't in the middle. The pessimist was basically right, the optimist very wrong.

It's not bad to reach a hundred people. But it's not anywhere near a million people.

The optimist says the equivalent of "Give everyone a bicycle, and cars are dead, no more oil, all Middle-East geopolitics will change ..." And the pessimist points out "No, it doesn't work like that, only a very small part of the population wants to ride bikes or will deal with them". Then the reply is "But isn't our biking club great fun? I love biking. You love biking. Let's all go ride around on our bikes and enjoy ourselves".

Which is fine. But not anything near the original statement.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in cyberblather | on October 06, 2003 11:58 PM (Infothought permalink) | Followups
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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Seth, I love this post! Take a look here: http://home.planet.nl/~nhavd/clog/2003/10/06.htm#a883

Posted by: Niek Hockx at October 7, 2003 09:08 AM


Me too. (Loved the comment, loved Willis' posting.)

Maybe it's because I'm old(ish), but my hope with my 'zine was to have a "bicycle club"--a few hundred people who appreciated what I had to say and maybe benefited from it. (And I guessed that readership of my old commercially-published stuff in a subscription newsletter with 1,000 circulation was no more than a few hundred anyway.) As a result, I'm thrilled to have an apparent 1,400+ readership in 80+ countries: It's a much bigger (and much more diverse) "bicycle club" than I was hoping for. But it ain't no revolution--and, much as I love blogs in my own field, I'd bet that the fifth most frequently read draws low-hundreds unique, frequent readership. Can't prove that, and most bloggers don't have the tools to know one way or the other (I believe: You need something akin to WebTrends.)

Doesn't make the blogs useless or bad. Doesn't make them revolutionary either.

Posted by: Walt Crawford at October 7, 2003 11:23 AM

The numbers of people you reach isn't nearly as important as reaching the right people.

Posted by: Ernest Miller at October 7, 2003 01:48 PM

In the event that you care, you made an instant fan when I read your post at ow.

Posted by: victor at October 7, 2003 03:03 PM


If you're reading comments this late...

Would you object if I used your analogy, with credit, in my January 2004 "Crawford Files" in American Libraries? I'm considering several topics for that column, and one of them is a comment on library/librarian weblogging.

[If I use the analogy, I'd cite you and give the sethf.com address.]

Posted by: Walt Crawford at October 8, 2003 11:38 AM

Seth, I play both sides of the street, a personal blog and publication in mainstream media. The two are only distantly related activities. One I do to sharpen my writing skills, look for interesting stories and, I hope, provide an interesting read to the 50-100 visitors I get a day.

I would be delighted if that number went up over time. But I don't mistake personal blogs for actual influence at a mass level.

On the other hand, to take this blog as an example, you are regularly read by Walt Crawford and Karen Schnider who take what you write seriously. They, in turn, influence the discussion about filtering throughout the American Library World.

Do you need 11,250 Slashdotters who have zero influence on how filter purchase decisions are made? Not really. What a blog can do is provide a steady stream of hightly specialized information to people who either will act on it directly or influence those who do.

Posted by: Jay Currie at October 8, 2003 05:01 PM

I think it would depend on who you reached, not how many.

Posted by: bicycles at October 18, 2003 04:08 PM