This somewhat academic and very interesting piece from Clay Shirky [via Phil] on (in part) the eternal A-list debate is heavy with meaty bits just begging for a good gnawing.
Some bones I plan to worry at a little more, when I’m in a gnawing mood :
This, though, was the part that really interested me :
Meanwhile, the long tail of weblogs with few readers will become conversational. In a world where most bloggers get below average traffic, audience size can’t be the only metric for success. LiveJournal had this figured out years ago, by assuming that people would be writing for their friends, rather than some impersonal audience. Publishing an essay and having 3 random people read it is a recipe for disappointment, but publishing an account of your Saturday night and having your 3 closest friends read it feels like a conversation, especially if they follow up with their own accounts. LiveJournal has an edge on most other blogging platforms because it can keep far better track of friend and group relationships, but the rise of general blog tools like Trackback may enable this conversational mode for most blogs.
In between blogs-as-mainstream-media and blogs-as-dinner-conversation will be Blogging Classic, blogs published by one or a few people, for a moderately-sized audience, with whom the authors have a relatively engaged relationship. Because of the continuing growth of the weblog world, more blogs in the future will follow this pattern than today. However, these blogs will be in the minority for both traffic (dwarfed by the mainstream media blogs) and overall number of blogs (outnumbered by the conversational blogs.)
To a certain degree, although I’m inclined to want to push back against the tendency to put things into two or three simple slots – in Clay’s piece they’d be Broadcast Blogging, Conversational Blogging, and Blogging Classic – I think he’s nailed it to the door pretty well, here, as long as one acknowledges the continuities between the styles, and that some sites in each bucket will break the mold.
I think that one thing Clay misses in his description of the hockey stick head, the mythical A-list, the region of stardom, and the long, somewhat unsuccessful tail of conversationalists and classic link-and-a-haircut blogs, is the assumption that possessing ‘merit’ or ‘quality’ (Zen and the Art of, anyone?) automatically push a blog into the stardom stratum, through the processes he accurately describes. Many of those who have an online presence have no desire for ‘upward mobility’, I think, and are perfectly happy to continue what they do online with no sense that it is less worthy than anything else. Moreover, for every seeker after fame, there will be at least one who has no interest in assuming the pressures that hundreds (or thousands) of daily readers can bring. Of course, as I’ve rambled on about before, there are those who desire nothing less than fame and recognition, and cultivate it carefully, and measure it in links and hits.
This is, one assumes, why (like on this very page) many people (especially those new to the game, before they get jaded and throw up their hands in disgust and disavow ever looking at their traffic figures) add hit counters to their page – they are looking as much for feedback on their own sense of self-worth as anything else. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course. It comes part and parcel with the self-regarding Dark Side of the whole personal publishing world.
Anyway, I ramble, as usual. Although it may seem as if I’m arguing against some of Clay’s points, that’s not really the case. There’s a lot to chew on there, and I found it both illuminating and instructive, and thought I’d try and note down some of my reactions before the coffee wears off.
Me, I like me some conversation, but as moderate fame is thrust upon me, I find it not unpleasant. What do you reckon?