Recently, Burningbird, who’s been having some major stresses in her life and thus can be forgiven for being a bit cranky, had this to say about blogrolling and linkloving, and the whorespiders like Daypop and its ilk :
It’s about links and popularity and one upping each other, and posting and running around seeing who links to us and checking our ranks. How many of you check your popularity in the morning before you read your so-called ‘favorite’ weblogs? There’s no ethics or honor, friendship, pathos or beauty in the hypertext link; it just is. But we use it as a judgement of worth, and that’s the saddest thing I’ve seen since high school. And I quit high school.
After being a smartass :
I will not rest in my endless search for *more and MORE* recognition and pointless linkage, until I am Supreme Blog Overlord, and can direct the meaningless lives of all the little net people I stepped on in my egocentric rush to the top!
I actually started to think about it, again, and why I…well, if not disagree precisely, see things a little differently. Part of the reason it was on my mind this morning was that the night before, I’d made a post here, linking to the PBS show on blogging (starring OW™ and Anil Dash and others), with the sole comment being ‘Oh, f–k off.’ (There was also some goofy sh-t about Orson Welles eating your soul, but that’s not germane at the moment.)
I deleted that post almost immediately – there goes my blogging verité credibility – but my unthinking nasty response, seemingly at odds with what I believe about the no-impact socialization implicit in what we do with links, continues to disturb me a bit. I’m happy for Anil and Oliver, although I think they are two very different kinds of blogistanis, in many ways, which was perhaps the point, in part.
I’m not attempting to characterize either of them, here. I’m just following my somewhat muddled thoughts where they take me.
Where they take me first is on a bit of a tangent : there are those with ‘personal web sites’ or journals or blogs who pay little to no attention to what others are doing or saying. There are those too who whore themselves – who use links exclusively to curry favour, or elusive popularity, or the strangely compelling ghostly yardstick of blogly self-worth that is measured in hits. There are bloggers – a lot of them – who seem to do give recognition to others primarily – or exclusively – to increase their ‘juice,’ and spend most of their time trying to attract that sort of attention from others.
I mean, most of us do a bit of that sometimes, probably, and sit somewhere on the fence. But the true ‘look at me! look at me!’ folks – amusing and enjoyable as their antics may be – are the ones who spoil the game, because when some people start to think they can win a game that in its very nature is designed not to have winners, it starts to poison interaction. It’s just like Real Life™, ain’t it? Having a drink with a group of folks, one (or worse, two) of whom will not stop jumping up and down and pulling faces, or steering the conversation inexorably back to themselves – that just ain’t no fun, and it kills the joy of socializing.
I guess that it’s this kind of behaviour that set BB off. It’s this kind of behaviour that makes me want to withdraw from the whole game, too, sometimes. But I don’t. ‘Cause there will always be folks who are more into self-aggrandizement than conversation, and folks who are more into grandstanding than socializing, and you have to choose to get with ‘em, or ignore ‘em. Hell, get a few drinks into me, and I can be one of them myself. But one can choose to ignore the siren call, and the bleating of the self-nominated popularity contest participants, and get on with the hardcore relaxation, and the slow to and fro of languid conversation.
I think my kneejerk reaction to the PBS thing was somehow spawned both out of my utter contempt for the Old Media and my feelings about blogging and bloggers in general : that we’re people who are sure that we have something to say, whether or not anyone else thinks so too, and damnit, we’re going to say it, and self-promote so that as many people as possible are going to hear it. If that’s one of the core motivators for all of this for many people, it’s only natural, annoying as it may be sometimes, that there is going to be a subset that push the envelope, and cross the line into Human Brands. And I have always been resentful of people who are recognized for jumping up and down and shouting ‘look at me!’. I’m not accusing Oliver or Anil of doing this, I hasten to add. I’m just thinking this through, aloud.
Despite this, I do still think the blogosphere is a meritocracy. Merit is most assuredly not measured in hitcounts or rankings. It’s pretty clear that hitcounts and blogrankings are a factor of how good a self-promoter you are, how much juice your virtual neighbours have, and only in small part how much merit can be found in your actual creative output. There are bowel-looseningly good writers out there who get little to no traffic, and there are determinedly mediocre ones who are inundated in visitors. This, we all know. Life ain’t fair. But merit in this place (an old discussion about what kind of place it is comes to mind), one way or another, whether it’s quality of ideas or writing or simply the honest goodness of the person behind the words shining through, well, it seems to me that that’s recognized eventually, organically. Mostly.
Back to the issue of linking and blogrolling and Blogdexery, again taken from my comments on Shelley’s post of a few days ago, and written in part in response to this comment from Mike Golby, who said :
[...] Blogdex and [P]opdex and the other crap is lowest-common denominator stuff. If necessary, warn others not to be seduced by it but, jeez, don’t let it get to you. It’s just not worth it. It’s not what this is about.
I said, in semi-rant mode :
Sure it is. It’s *precisely* what it’s all about, Mike. Anyone who tells you otherwise is at best disengenuous and at worst a liar, or would be better off writing privately, or paying for therapy.
The *mistake* is to take it seriously and allow it to be anything but tangent to and very much secondary to your writing, and to the rest of your life. Unless it’s your *whole* life, in which case good f–king luck.
It’s like the old saw that madness is an in-joke of one. If one is writing one’s heart out and no one is paying any attention, blogging is probably not the best outlet for one’s creative urges or demonic possession or whatever is pushing one to create.
Bloggers are self-selected from the ordinary population to be attention-seekers, self-regarders, self-promoters, needy f–kers to a fault. To claim that the act of giving and receiving recognition for these avatars of ourselves we present online is ‘not what it’s about’ is rank silliness, I reckon. It’s human nature, pure and simple, and it’s something we do every day in our regular lives. This medium simply uses different mechanisms. Ones that reward and reinforce the kind of behaviour that Shelley bemoans in her post.
Shelley is quite probably an exception, and I love her dearly, so I’m perhaps biased, but I tend to believe that many a blogger annoyed with linkstroking and linkwhoring and the automated tools that have appeared to foster them is a blogger who feels they are being undernoticed and underpraised by those very mechanisms.
I should acknowledge that it’s entirely possible that I’m seeing this too much from my own perspective – that linking and being linked is *fun*, is a social activity, is not freighted with massive significance, and is certainly not massively important to my sense of self-worth, but is the coin of the realm, as it were – and erroneously believing that that perspective lies somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between utter linkwhores at the one end and those who totally ignore the existence of other bloggers at the other.
Although I do tend to think the bell curve is weighted more towards the former than the latter, for reasons I went on about above.
I don’t think of this as a zero-sum game, smart-assery aside. It’s an infinite game – a game in which one of the tenets of play is that the game should never end, and in which a goal of play is to keep everyone playing.
The more observant amongst you might notice that I’ve got, if not the longest, at least one of the longest blogrolls in
christendom blogaria. This is due to simple policy : if you link to me, I reciprocate, when I find that link. If you pull me off your blogroll, I don’t care. You linked to me at some point, and that hasn’t changed. If you publicly declare that I’m a lame goat-blowing sh-tweasel, I might pull you, but then again, I might not. It’s not a zero-sum game. There are no winners, and that’s the way it’s meant to be. It’s not political, it’s just common courtesy. When someone speaks to you, you acknowledge them. If they engage you, you have a conversation. If not, you make eye contact, nod, and move on.
In weblogging, the nods leave tracks, is all.
[Edit : I sense that this is a bit disjointed, but I don't have time to edit it right now, so I'll just leave it up, with apologies if I have been unclear.]
Now be nice, or Orson Welles will eat your soul!