August 15, 2006

Nick Carr - "The Great Unread"

Nick Carr has a post "The Great Unread" examining some of the myths of blog evangelism, versus reality of bogosphere oligarchical structure:

A blog-peasant, one of the Great Unread, comes to the wall of the castle to offer a tribute to a royal, and the royal drops a couple of coins of attention into the peasant's little purse. The peasant is happy, and the royal's hold over his position in the castle is a little bit stronger.

I'm quoted for a comment I made on an earlier post by Kent Newsome about people's reasons for having a blog:

A handful of people responded to Newsome's post, among them the long-time blogger Seth Finkelstein. Finkelstein's tone was much darker. You sensed not only the resignation but also the bitterness that is always left behind when a fraud is revealed:

To be more personal here, I wrote because:

1) I was suckered into the idea that blogs were a way to "route around" media power, and to be HEARD.

2) I had delusions of influence.

3) The random-payoff of attention makes it seem far more effective than it actually is.

4) It's painful to admit that you've wasted so much time and effort and pretty much nobody is listening.

Blog evangelism is very cruel, as it preys on people's frustrated hopes and dreams.

My blog is read by a few dozen fans ... I've come close to shutting it down at times, and will finally reach the breaking-point eventually.

[And I meant every word of that!]

In Carr's comments, I mentioned a few other people's writing in a similar vein which I recommend:

Jon Garfunkel on The New Gatekeepers - "I will argue here that gatekeepers are inherently needed by the architecture of the blogosphere", and Promoting Women Bloggers.

Shelley Powers "some of my best friends are Z-listers", and good girls ask nicely

Dave Rogers on the "con" in "Markets Are Conversations"

I've made this point many times now, perhaps too often. But the hucksterism of blog evangelism still bothers me. While I treasure being complimented for my writing, it sadly just doesn't matter compared to the huge effect of the very tiny concentration of power which determines who gets past the gatekeepers.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in cyberblather | on August 15, 2006 11:58 PM (Infothought permalink)
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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Why do you Blog?

Perhaps to find the answer to that very question?

Like "Why am I alive?"

Some people Blog because they had a hunch they could give 'good blog' and build up an audience, and a few stars were right. Many are wrong.

Some blog because they knew they already had a large audience that would be happy to patronise their blog.

Some blog as a service to those few who are interested in other things the blogger has to offer, e.g. as a public relations or communications service.

Some blog for the pleasure it gives the blogger, e.g. as a vanity exercise, public confessional, peer group diary, exhibitionism outlet, etc.

If you don't know why you blog, and you've given up on the introspectional analysis, you might do some research on your audience, e.g. to see if they read your blog for the same reason?

If you see no reason to blog for your own benefit, then get to know your audience and ask yourself if you care to retain that audience. Conversely, ask your audience how much they value your continued blogging. One day there may be a mechanism that people could use to pledge a penny to you for your next blog entry... ;-)

One day it might pay to blog. Let's say you shut your blog down tomorrow, and next year everyone with an audience of over 50 is making at least $1 a blog entry. You might regret losing your audience.

Ok, I'm not saying it all comes down to money, I'm just using that as an example of one way in which your blog may have unforeseen future value. (I can suggest this to tease you for my own vicarious pleasure)

Why the heck DO you blog Seth??

Posted by: Crosbie Fitch at August 16, 2006 06:14 AM

Intreresting as always, Seth.

I'm curious about the way you seperate bloggers into two distinct groups: "Gatekeepers" and "Non-Gatekeepers".

I believe this is a false distinction. Every time you create a link to another blog, you are creating a doorway of sorts, between your blog and another blog. ie. you too are creating a gate.

Every blogger is a gatekeeper, whether he wants to admit it or not.

Or am I missing something?

Posted by: Hugh MacLeod at August 16, 2006 12:05 PM

You weren't kidding about not being a web designer were you? :D That index page scared me so much I thought we were back in the 90's. But, really, I mean that nicely. Really.

As for the why people blog- some do it because in real life they are surrounded by people who have no understanding of the subject the blogger is interested in. Yet, they can write a little post, publish it and hopefully find someone that "gets it".

Posted by: Lilo at August 16, 2006 12:08 PM

I'm going to go out on a limb with this but this line of thinking - gatekeepers and power follows along the "rich get richer" mentality. I for one am not an A list blogger. I am not even ready to commit to one targeted theme because my mind wanders into so many area.

I consider blogging to the platform where anyone, absolutely anyone has the ability to write their thoughts and ideas in a place that is accessible. I don't have delusions of grandeur on this - I only acknowledge the potential power each of us holds to reach well beyond our normal circle of friends simply writing in the form of a blog.

Breaking through the barrier in the blogging world is no different breaking through any type of social obstacle - actually it is easier. There are no discrimination except for the quality of the writing and the format. Not money, not prestige, not appearance, not even affluence matters in the blogging world. It is words, thoughts, connection, honesty and credibility that win readers, followers and cheerleaders.


Posted by: Tammy Ames at August 16, 2006 05:13 PM

Seth, please remember this one thing: if not for your blog I probably never would have heard of you. Nor would I have found your site. Nor would I have subscribed to your feed.

Your influence extends farther than you realize.

Posted by: Anita Campbell at August 16, 2006 08:49 PM

Anyone reading this who wants to be heard or paid for blogging should bribe CmdrTaco
"Also we'll be hiring another editor before the end of the summer."

Personally I blog for personal expression and pleasure - I believe my 5 or so blog entries have had one non bot/spam comment from an unknown (low) numbers of readers. Note I have not put the link in and I never do. And I am half suprised I had had even that one comment.

I limit my quest for power and influence to the job I have - it is plenty enough to stress over.

I saw a statistic (no ref) a while back that some large number of sites are less than 2 years old, and that a lot of older content is only available at (if then). So most blogs will probably be gone in 2 (or whatever the number is) years. I don't think this is a bad thing - evolution in action (ref A Clarke).

I remember when newsgroups were the rage, then IRC and homepages, then portals (dotbombs), now blogs. Vlogs and podcasts are now also probably getting a bit old hat for the a-liSterati.

The next "revolution" in communication - an open microphone? (cams have been done to death) - via a world listenable VOIP session? - might be the next big thing.

I don't care, I read Seth because he has a very different view and access to information from me on what is going on. Today my emailed news from gov owned news service ( was labelled spam - probably because it mentioned abortion ("..., medical terms,.."). This is the outside view I didn't have before I came here. It's to tap his expertise that I read him.

So who is Jay Rosen and why should I care what he says?

Tammy, I am glad for you and wish there were more like you in the world, unfortunately I have had my optimism rubbed out and filled with cynicism.

"Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again
Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss"
- The Who

Posted by: tqft at August 16, 2006 11:19 PM

A transparent — and liquid — market for the ad spaces on single-creator media solves the problem, as adbitrageurs will profit from identifying and helping to popularize undervalued blogs…

Posted by: Frank Ruscica at August 17, 2006 12:29 AM

Crosby: Isn't the comment at the top enough of an answer?

Hugh: You're missing the crucial element of QUANTITY. It's like saying
"I'm curious about the way you separate income into two distinct groups: "Haves" and "Have-Nots" ... Every taxpayer "has" something, whether he wants to admit it or not". The differences are literally orders of magnitude, factors of hundreds, thousands, millions. Comparing a billionaire with a just-scraping-by person, and trying to equivalence them as "have money" would be at best treacle, and at worst deceptive. That's precisely the hucksterism, the downright dishonest sleazy marketing playing on people's desires, which is being condemned.

Lilo: I prefer to think over my site as function over form :-). Note I'm not interested in why other people blog. I know enough of the answer not to want to know more.

Tammy: Sorry. "It's not what you know, it's who you know".

Anita: Thanks, but, unfortunately, my influence does not extend far enough.

tqft: That's funny (Slashdot). Jay Rosen is "Journalism Professor of Blogging".

Frank: No matter how you slice it, my tiny audience won't be an advertsing windfall.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at August 17, 2006 05:41 AM

I was way ahead of you on this, Seth :)

You and Carr make excellent points about how much rubbish has been pushed on the public here. I have always found Glenn Reynold's constant harping on the "power" of the "army of Davids" to be completely tasteless.

Call it a waste of time, but I have been tossing around an application aimed at solving some of this. Basically a web browser-like RSS reader that is focused on blogs.

Posted by: MikeT at August 17, 2006 02:46 PM


'Preciate both the post and the sentiment behind it. However, I don't think that we need to invent the "A-lister" bogeyman to have a convenient scapegoat.

The problem is limited attention, not top dogs who won't link outside their own little ecosystem.

My thoughts:
A-lister conspiracy theories and dreams of easy success

Have a great day.

Posted by: John Koetsier at August 17, 2006 06:11 PM

Blogosphere is just one big cluster F#$k !!

People love to create noise, the harder you yell the more attention you get. Thats the baby syndrome.

People crave attention and by that attribute alone, bloggers create such posts, where the echo chamber resonates as in a shit slinging match. if left alone to blog , they would not have much of an audience--the market is conversations is nice , the long tail is nice..but tell me has the newbiew blogger in Korea even heard of those concepts ? Nope- why s/he is only bother about creating a small little space for themselves. Most bloggers blog for themselves, its just a easy platform for self expression - scribble on the wall and draw stick figures. The kid in us is still at play ..but there are good kids and then they are bad kids !!

blogging for me is taking back my crayons !!

Posted by: /pd at August 17, 2006 07:32 PM

Well, no Seth, your original post gives an answer to the question "Why did you start blogging?" or "In what ways have you become disillusioned with blogging?"

I'm looking for the answer to the question "Even after you have become so disillusioned with your original ideas about blogging, why do you continue to blog?"

Do you know why you still blog? Is there a reason that yet remains undisillusioned?

Perhaps you don't know, but still hold out some hope that a reason will materialise?

Why climb Everest?

Or is it a case of "I've started, so I'll finish"?

PS I can't remember calling you Finklestein... ;-)

Posted by: Crosbie Fitch at August 29, 2006 11:22 AM

MikeT: I've never claimed to have said it first. Sadly, I know I won't say it last.

John: It's about oligarchy, not "conspiracy".

pd: Right, but after a while just making noise can turn into crying out to the world and nobody hearing you scream.

Crosbie: No, it's the answer in the present tense, and I think this is not understood. The idea is that the answer to "why continue" is *not* necessarily any warm-and-fuzzy "I'm happy with whatever I have" or "I love people", but the negative aspects of any behavior being done because of throwing bad after good, or being penny-wise and pound-foolish.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at August 29, 2006 12:15 PM