Five posts/articles this morning caught my eye and they all rotate around one theme - what else - the explosion of blogging.
1- Seth Godin's post about "Blogs make everyone louder -
My question, which I have no answer for, is what happens when the volume goes up to 11? When there is just too much noise? Does it all get filtered? Who filters?
A new blog every six seconds, they say. Is there a new blog reader every six seconds as well? It continues to get interesting.
2- Read these articles together as they are almost a dialog - Jack Shafer's column in Slate, "If I Had a Blog, I'd write more columns like this one" (since it is a longish article scroll down), in which he refutes Bill Powers' dismissal of the impact of blogging which Powers generally positive article in the National Journal foresees. Read both.
3 - J.D Lasica's article about "The Cost of Ethics: Influence Peddling in the Blogosphere" in the Annenberg Online Journalism Review. Looking at swag, free products, and fees in the blogging world.
4. Elizabeth Spiers, "We Have Seen the Enemy and It Is Us: Journalism and blogging. Blogging and mainstream media. The lines have never been blurrier. Or bloggier." Elizabeth was the founding editor of Gawker and has some great comments on a Popular Mechanics story about blogging and fact-checking on a book about 9/11. She quotes Jim Meigs, Editor of Popular Mechanics;
"I don't see this giant divide between blogs and mainstream journalism," says Meigs. "It's kind of survival of the fittest." Meigs believes that if bloggers conduct themselves in a way that their readers and critics know that they're going to be fair and acknowledge both sides of the argument, they have just as much credibility as mainstream media institutions.
She talks to Lockhart Steele of the great blog Curbed, "You can speak your mind and write with fewer limitations," says Steele. "The upside is the sense of unintentional honesty that pervades the medium. The downside: typos."
And what story about blogging and journalism would be complete without a quote from Jeff Jarvis,
"We have to get past this idea of there being two sides to this," says Jarvis. "It's not that. It's about citizens asking questions of power and wanting answers."
"We're all journalists," he adds, basing the definition of "journalist" more on the act of reporting than the possession of a press credential. For Jarvis, reporting is, by definition, journalism. He does, however, distinguish between reportage and the opinion commentary for which blogs are most well-known. "If you have an opinion and you have the chance to speak it, then that's punditry."
5- Jeff Jarvis's interchange with Bill Keller of the NY Times . Credit to Jarvis for putting it up in its entirety. My favorite part is -
"Dear Mr. Jarvis,
Thank you for your open letter. I admire the initiative you have shown in appointing yourself the representative of tens of thousands of bloggers in what you call "the citizens media." (btw, why "citizens"? Isn't that a little insensitive to stateless bloggers, or bloggers bearing only green cards? "People's media" strikes me as more inclusive, and it has a pedigree. Just a thought.) I applaud your entrepreneurial spirit. When I was in high school, several classmates and I were assigned to represent Peru at a Model United Nations conference in Berkeley. One member of our delegation, who shared your gift for bold opportunism, proposed that when the gathering broke into committees to draft resolutions on the issues of the day each of us should walk to the head of our meeting room. Then we should casually take charge of organizing the selection of a committee chairman. Naturally, chutzpah was rewarded. We were all selected chairmen of our respective committees. Peru took over the United Nations. Well, it was only the MODEL United Nations, not a mighty engine of discourse like the blogosphere, but you take my point."
100 blogs (at least) have started so far during this post and I wonder if the authors have given a thought to this rush to rules, to self-regulation as if blogs are a new form of communication in and of themselves. I think the journalistic ethics question for blogs is somehow a false question. It's a self-hyping question in a quest to be taken seriously very fast. It feels related to the job inflation in new media in the 90s that helped create a wave of schadenfreude after the bubble burst. I also find it interesting that the same people who extol citizen journalism and the idea of folksonomy are now acting like the people who decry the lack of standards. It is a quest to somehow be something different and new rather than another iteration of what happened when platen presses were invented in the 1850s giving rise to modern newspapers or when brownie cameras caused the first photographic craze. Why can't it all be part of an ongoing progress that in fits and starts opens up the tools for expression to more and more people and improves the methods of our communicating in general. There go another 12 blogs..but what are these blogs?
Part of the problem for me is the very definition of what a blog is. It's sort of an intentional muddle. You can't put them all in a basket. Magazines running on blogging engines with multiple authors and editors, daily journals, some with comments some without , with feeds or without, podcasts, audioblogs, moblogs - what we have is the fantastic voices of people experimenting with technology. The question is how will it evolve and continue.
When I created the site for my friend Ron Suskind and his book "The Price of Loyalty" I used MoveableType. In fact the site runs on eight blogs tied together. I did this because MT is one hell of a content management system as About.com will attest. I did it because I needed a site that Ron's assistant could update with new documents from Secretary O'Neill and other items,I needed timestamps, I almost needed comments and RSS as well. I'm not a programmer, the budget was small, and at the time MT was free and even now it is reasonable. Soon after I launched the site Anil Dash wrote a post talking about how the site was a blog. I wrote a comment on his post that it wasn't a blog and that there should be a difference between blogging and blogging software. Anil wrote back and said that he didn't make that distinction that it was a blog. He is a great blogger and a great salesman but I disagree.
I think it is important to promote blogging too but I think some of the debates that take the form that blogging is some kind of new form of communication are somewhat self-serving, ego driven, and spurious. (Perhaps my niche is to be like one of those old muppets who sit in the upper rows of the theater and comment. Ah - ebooks - hmm. We did that at Voyager in '92. )
I love blogs and I love blogging - both the act and the software. I've wanted to blog for years like Romenesko but just never got around to it. I'm glad I am now but I don't think I'm doing anything fundamentally different that when Romenesko was coding by hand, or in fact anything that different from people who would print chapbooks and broadsheets. Things are different in some ways but in other they are not. (I wrote about some things that are different two weeks ago in a post.)
I read blogs. Not only do I read the blogs I mention here but I read political blogs like Talking Points Memo, Daily Kos, Juan Cole, TomPaine (you can see my leanings but that should be obvious if you look at my recent projects). I also read; cooking blogs, parenting blogs, hobby blogs, cycling blogs, Manolo blog, magazine style blogs like The Morning News, Gawker, BoingBoing, Curbed, blogs on just about anything and blogs with very different models and purposes during the course of the day. I'm aware that there are vast subject areas and voices that I don't read but one thing they all have in common is that they are filled with smart opinionated writing and link to things I find interesting. The links people provide give me insight as to their thinking. I suppose that if I thought about it I would want engadget to be run on a set of rules more consistent with a technical magazine's site but if I felt that it wasn't I would find another site. Basically what I'm saying is that I expect no more from my blogs than what I expect from op-ed columns. I suppose to be fair it is "punditry" to quote Jeff Jarvis. From news sites running on blogging engines I expect more. But the idea that blog media needs to be any more responsible and unbiased than the rest of our media (think of Jon Stewart's appearance on Crossfire) is silly. We aren't reinventing anything we are opening it up to many, the same way that Low Power Radio may. If you are blogging as a journalist - be a journalist. If you are blogging to get your opinions out there DO IT and have fun - be a pundit . Big Media will also use these tools and we will all coexist. Perhaps I'm just tired of hearing Jeff Jarvis talk on NPR and challenge the Times. Perhaps I am dooming myself to never working for Advance Online. But whose fault is it that blogging is a blurry term. As Seth Godin writes "blogs make everyone louder" and in the shouting there is confusion. I'm actually working at a large Internet company right now and find that few of the people there are actually reading them. they say "I haven't gotten into the whole blog thing." There is no thing. These are people who should be reading sites, certainly industry news like Susan Mernit and Paid Content and I think the reason they aren't is
this blur of definition and I worry that is setting up a bit of a bubble on The Tulip Craze. I don't want Michael Wolff to be right.
A friend of mine who is an avid blogger and Flickr contributor also happens to be related to the inventor of one of the systems that libraries use to categorize books. He is a big tagger but also thinks that the cacophony of folksonomy will eventually tire people out and they will lose interest. It will slow down then. I think to some extent he is right but I also hope that the tremendous amount of great creative expression continues after the craze is over.