October 21st, 2004

self, raster

(no subject)

I have to say: the blogosphere sucks.

Or rather, the blogosplosion, as I think I will now be calling it.

The digerati are cheering the blogosphere, hailing it as the falling of the final barrier to the open public medium that the Internet was supposed to be -- in much the same way that the creation of the Wiki is seen as the long-awaited achievement of the knowledge-network that the hypertexted Web was supposed to be.

But of course the digerati are cheering the blogosphere -- it's their personal domain.

As the theory goes, the blogosphere makes it so anyone at all can put their interests, views, and discoveries on their blog, some portion of the Internet masses (especially blog-readers) will see it, share it, spread it around. Each person can be their own broadcast tower, theoretically equal in visibility and reach potential to anyone else.

Except it's not quite like that (bandwidth and space limitations being only part of the antithesis). There is a subtle, unspoken but implicit "popular Darwinism" that occurs in this process. As it is the digerati that does much of the reading and spreading, it is the digerati that ends up doing the saying of what gets read and spread.

Certainly a few well-placed blogs have launched otherwise typical netizens into the ranks of the digerati -- Rob Malda, Philip Kaplan, Drew Curtis to name a few off the top of my head. And to some extent, they deserve some sort of recognition of being the first to come up with certain online concepts.

As a result, though, they also each help hold the keys to the gate of the blogosphere. And despite being independent, free-willed individuals, capable of making their own value judgements, a barrier to entry into the slipstream of the blogosphere manages to form among them. Despite being controlled in only limited amounts by individual people, only certain elements make it through this cultural elite.

Of course, not all of the "blogerati" are on the mountain because of their blogging pluck; some are there because they have always been there, in the digerati circles, which is doubly reflexive: being in the digerati means, by definition, that they will try to be on top of any new "hip" Net development; and by being digerati, they will get an boosted amount of attention when they do so.

Getting a story on Slashdot is considered by most to be a proud achievement. There is no logical reason why this is so, if the blogosphere is really a melting pot of equal potential (even if it is one based on a certain threshhold of coherence and legitimacy). But that is not the blogosphere: it is a mountain which those outside the digerati must climb repeatedly to hope to see the top, and one in which those among the digerati are the monks whose monasteries lie along its upper ridges.

But getting something posted to Slashdot isn't just an achievement of passing an arbitrary (and inconsistent) value or relevance judgement; it's a leap towards being able to inject something into the blogosphere. A link on one's homepage won't be nearly as likely to make it into the blogosphere as will a link on Fark, and a meme told at lunch with co-workers won't make it across the country as fast as the same meme on BoingBoing.

It would be wonderful if the blogosphere was truly an open community. The thought that there really could be an open exchange of information (casual or otherwise) that people could contribute to, and that information be assessed and categorized, and be available to those who were looking for it or had an interest in it, is one that brings forth feelings of true community, egalitarianism, and diversity. Instead, it is a sort of random quasi-natural selection, where some are in, and some are out, and there is no real reason to it.

You had a better chance to get read in 1997 by posting to Usenet than you did in 2002 posting to Slashdot.

(What other gripe do I have with the blogosphere? That's for another post.)