August 20, 2006

Bogospheric Calvinism, or Unread != Unworthy

I've been attempting to keep my head down, trying to make myself a relatively small target in the aftermath discussion, since I'm an ant among elephants. Additionally, one of the problems with blog evangelism is that since A-list status is proof of God's grace on Earth, I mean, merit, non-A-list status is therefore proof of unworthiness. So whatever I wrote next had better be damn good, otherwise it would just go to show I could not meet the high standards of posting about the hot conference/UnParty, and who was there. Fortunately, in response to one gatekeeper's protest, Dave Rogers provided some evidence:

If you use Google to search for the term "censorship" on Doc Searls weblog, you get about 109 hits. [...] Now, if you search for the term "Finkelstein" on Doc's weblog, it appears only twice on February 12th and 18th 2006, rebutting the charges of "gatekeeping."

Not all of those links where Doc mentioned censorship dealt with "net censorship" per se. But one gets the impression that censorship is an issue Doc is concerned about, and opposed to, yet he never happened to stumble across a blog post by Seth Finkelstein he felt worth pointing to. [...]

It's not that Doc is actively conspiring to keep Seth Finkelstein in obscurity, he's not and nobody is making that claim. It's just that Seth's relative obscurity, in relation to his authority on what is perhaps a niche, although important, topic is due to the fact that high attention-earners have not had occasion to use their attention-directing authority to point to Seth's efforts.

Now, I suppose someone can blame Seth for that, but that's not the point. The point is that it is a myth that if you write well about a topic that people care about, you will receive attention, you will have the opportunity to be influential by virtue of your authority on the topic. That's simply not the case. While I won't go so far as to say it's a patronage system, it's not far removed from that when people advocate that lesser attention-earners link to high attention-earners in order to receive reciprocal linkage.

Or as, in a different post, Kent Newsome put it:

I'm not so much interested in having the blogosphere operate differently as I am in calling bullshit when people try to say it operates differently than it actually does.

From another angle, as Shelley Powers noted the irony:

So, here's a brain teaser: what sentences can you derive from the following words: Shel Israel, blog evangelist, naked conversationist, tells Nick Carr to sit down shut up.

I should back up for a moment and note that in my original comment, I was assuming an oligarchy, and talking about why one might continue banging your head against the wall. The answer wasn't necessarily the shiny happy "to connect with people", but perhaps the reverse, more like why people stay in a bad relationship.

So I wasn't on a grand quest for links. Rather, I was being a part of examining the driving frauds behind blog evangelism. I could enumerate fallacies, but that doesn't seem to do any good.

Anyway, Doc Searls wanted to know:

What more can I do going forward than what I've always done, which is try to link to as many people as I can who have interesting things to say?

Frankly, I don't know how to reform society, even the bogosphere, to make it more egalitarian. And my own activism efforts have ended pretty badly overall for me. But (not singling out any individual person here, but making a general statement) the standard A-list reactions of denying the mathematics and attacking the critics, are not a solution.

Update: Read all of Dave Rogers follow-up

People like Seth write with authority about important issues and they thought the blogosphere would help them find their voice and reach an audience that would allow them to be influential. Well, it doesn't work that way and it never did.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in cyberblather | on August 20, 2006 11:28 AM (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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Seth if Nick Carr had any point with his innocent fraud theory then these A-listers (web2.0 cheerleaders whatever) can do nothing but deny the unflatness of the blogosphere. Each and every argument only strengthens the original view. And by the way it looks pretty strong to me now :)

Posted by: Balazs Szemes at August 20, 2006 04:27 PM

I can tell you that you got at least one new subscriber as I added you to my list of reads because of all this. According to Bloglines, you have about 3x the subscribers of my 5 1/2 year old blog. I don't know whether that makes either of us an "a-lister," but I would think that it does mean that there are both people who care what we have to say. Keep up the good work.

Posted by: Michael Pate at August 21, 2006 09:30 AM


most A-listers have an agenda for blogging--be it turning blogging into journalism, or into business, or something else. Consider the source of the hype about the blogosphere, and you will find what the hypester is really trying to promote.

Posted by: tish grier at August 21, 2006 05:26 PM