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Tristan Louis's observations on the current state of blogging.
February 26, 2003 7:19 AM   Subscribe

With his own blog in place Tristan makes interesting observations on today's blogs. He's definitely got a point when it comes to the variety of information on most blogs... sometimes it seems I can visit 20 blogs and see the exact same source articles over and over again. An interesting read from tnl.net, as always.
posted by clevershark (18 comments total)

 
And... immediately after that he links the w3c standards articles, the Overture acquisitions, and the new Daypop stuff? Uh...
posted by RJ Reynolds at 7:47 AM on February 26, 2003


Banal. Who is this guy writing for?

"For starters, most bloggers do not update as often as I thought. Generally, people update once to twice a day but little more beyond that."

...or this...

"However, in the blog world, the emphasis is on link, add your opinion, move on. Few bloggers seem to be revisiting stories and adding more analysis as the story develops. This is a shame and if it remains as it currently is, weblogging will never replace journalism fully."

Like he's any different?

I mean, come on. In the first place, who ever said blogging was intended to "replace journalism," fully or otherwise? It's not my responsibility to do anything but note that which interests me. Let a paid journalist "revise stories and [add] more analysis."

Secondly, hate to drag out the ol' history lesson here, but a web log is precisely an annotated list of links. Not that it can't, or shouldn't be allowed to, evolve, but condemning a blog for being a mildly commented-upon list of links is like slating my dad for sharing 98% of his DNA with a chimpanzee.

Next.
posted by adamgreenfield at 8:06 AM on February 26, 2003


There's only a handful of blogs out there that seem like anything more than an online extension of a person saying "Hey, did you hear about .... ?" From that point of view, the repetition is just blogs doing their job: repeating information down a social (albiet also hyperlinked) network.

Now, if a blogger gets the ambition of journalism, he/she oughta reference a few different sources.

By the way, what do you call the blog-ish things that produce original content (which are largely the most interesting, imho)? A lot of them are journal-like (or consist of some more elevated but still personal narrative type writing), but when it's punditry or creative writing, is it still a blog?
posted by namespan at 8:13 AM on February 26, 2003


exactly. this has been my observation for months now. that which is linked on one blog will be found on another, then another. perhaps it stems from an idea that shared links will lead to a shared audience. if mefi links to it, and cory links to it, then john q. weblog might think that posting the same link will inherit some of that readership (maybe through a specific trackbacks or generally via blogdex).

it is as if the common links serve as bait. a universally posted newslink might pull in someone long enough to see your other posts about things not-so-common, a perhaps that new reader will come back for more. i know that we all link to think that we only post those things that we find interesting, that inspire us individually, but do we occasionally bend our standards to accommodate a sense of blog-community?
posted by grabbingsand at 8:13 AM on February 26, 2003


Please let us not enter into the whole power-law discussion again.
posted by adamgreenfield at 8:18 AM on February 26, 2003


Disclaimer: Hey, that's my site you're talking about :)

Actually, it's not the story themselves that I worry about but the sources. I think that there are some important stories and blogrolling is definitely good to see what the concensus is on "an important story" BUT what I worry about is that people do not go beyond a single source for their story.

What I'm trying to explain in my findings is that yes, blogs are good to indentify "the big story" but we (and I am as guilty of this as most) do not seem to do much to provide a fuller picture. I suspect that trackback, linkbacks, pingbacks are probably a good thing to provide the bigger picture. The question is, though, how can we go about giving a fuller picture? My blogroll has 15 blogs on it (mental note: implement blogrolling on the site). You'll find the usual suspects there (Winer, Dive into mark, Kottke, Ruby, Zeldman, etc...) and it gives me a good overview of what people are talking about. THAT is the FIRST step of journalism: indentifying the story.

But one must go beyond the first step. As a former journalism and still occasional freelance reporter, I remember that once you've identified the trend (or you assignment editor has), you have to go look at several sources and try to give a fuller picture. It's that part (the fuller picture one) that seems to be missing from a lot of blogs.

I don't really have an answer as to how we can accomplish this (I hope one will emerge from the debate that might ensue here) but it is still a distinction that will keep us from achieving parity with other media sources.

An example: We all jumped and annotated the acquisition of blogger by google a week ago. Yet, fuller roundups and analysis are coming out from the Times and Wired. Technically, a week and a half after the story came up, we should, as a community have exhausted and digested that info. Yet, Wired and the Times are providing new info. Why is that? Why is it that we can't get that full picture from a (or a group of) blog?

I know some of you are going to say "hey, you're not different" and you're right. I'm as guilty of it as anyone else but what I want to know is how, if possible, we can resolve this.

Funny aside: since I moved to Linux and redesigned the back-end, I can now see referers at a much quicker rate, which allows me to follow conversations about my site more quickly. Minutes after this story appeared, the monitors on my site showed heavy traffic from here and I went "uh-oh, what am I in trouble for now :) ?"
posted by TNLNYC at 8:24 AM on February 26, 2003


adam: who ever said blogging was intended to "replace journalism"

I'm referring to this Long Bet.
posted by TNLNYC at 8:28 AM on February 26, 2003


I still have to point out that blogs are not journalism. They're a lot closer in spirit and intent, most of 'em, to zines.

Journalism presupposes a separation of reportorial/editorial perception and a "story." For bloggers, if I may be so bold as to speak for such a wildly heterogenous community, we *are* the story.

No false separation, no distancing, no "standards and practices." For good and bad. It's apples and oranges, dude.
posted by adamgreenfield at 8:31 AM on February 26, 2003


Why is it that we can't get that full picture from a (or a group of) blog?

That's because the Times and Wired did these things called interviews. The output of blogs in the know with regard to Pyra and Google were neglible (right up to Evan Williams "taking down" his blog). Plenty of bloggers knew things, and they weren't (and aren't) going to share. So because the media attention was about blogs, blogs weren't coughing up the dirt. What blogs WILL do is explain what are good and bad media and blog interpretations of the story: if you read between the lines, you begin to understand Google's reasoning and some of the course of events in the Pyra sale. That's hard work however.

So I think this is a case of the problem being the story at hand. Yes, blogs will usually suss out a story first, in greater detail, and then the print media or non-blog internet media will cover it. This, being a story about blogs, forces what you might call an older media paradigm.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 8:36 AM on February 26, 2003


"how can we go about giving a fuller picture?"

Translated as: "How can people who have no aspirations towards journalism go about being more like journalists?"

"I don't really have an answer as to how we can accomplish this"

This problem is invented in your mind. Weblogs do not want or need to accomplish this. You are thinking of a news source. Weblogs are not news sources.
posted by y6y6y6 at 8:42 AM on February 26, 2003


(If you were going to use horrible phrases like media paradigm, that is.)

In any event: there is a whole vast world out there beyond boing boing and mefi and whats-his-pundit -- and there are readers of blogs who never venture into those territories. There's news and cultural reportage and interpretation out there but it's specific to non-general audience interest (check out blogs of interest to blacks and African-Americans -- you won't see the same links there). Blogs are becoming more and more microcontent-focussed or they are becoming mega-sources: if not, they are remaining smaller personality-driven sites.

If you're only interested in tech and internet news and that, well, you'll see 400 sites covering the same thing, with focus (traffic) going to those that cover it first, best, or most attractively. The morass of these type of blogs is because there's no overhead to this business: if blogs cost (much) money, they'd be closing doors all over the recession, and, like any other business, the big money spenders and makers would dominate.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 8:44 AM on February 26, 2003


it is as if the common links serve as bait. a universally posted newslink might pull in someone long enough to see your other posts about things not-so-common

I can only speak for myself, but I don't blog with an eye towards attracting an audience (or acting as a journalist for that matter). I'm always surprised when anybody hits my site, and I'm even more surprised when it seems that 1 or 2 of them keep coming back for a while.

I link to things that I think I'll want to find or think about again. It's just a convenient form of extended thoughts and bookmarks. I make it public because I know there are 1 or 2 people (my mother for instance) who will be interested and want to see what I've been up to, but that's about it.

So, often it doesn't matter if a story has appeared on 20 other sites because then, if I wanted to find it again I'd have to remember 1 of the 20 sites it appeared on. If I link it myself, then it's easier to search out.

There are some bloggers who seem to want to elevate it to the roll of journalism. Megnut and Dave Winer for instance seem to throw that kind of thing around. To assume or proceed with the idea that all bloggers think like that though won't get you very far towards understanding anything.
posted by willnot at 9:02 AM on February 26, 2003


Arrrggghhhh...the sheer banality of this post makes me want to claw at my face...make it stop!
posted by oissubke at 9:47 AM on February 26, 2003


that which is linked on one blog will be found on another, then another. perhaps it stems from an idea that shared links will lead to a shared audience.

No, it's how a brain works. We are talking about a distributed, self-organising, information architecture here aren't we?
posted by walrus at 9:55 AM on February 26, 2003


Any blog owner can make the decision to offer more original content at any given time. (And I don't think they need another "blog op-ed" to indicate for them why new content would be attractive.)

It just depends on how much time and energy one is willing to put into their project. Nobody blogs for a living. (Oh, I hope that's true. Please, please let's not hear otherwise...) New links and content are the basic resource of any good web log. But that takes a lot of time and energy to produce, sometimes luck.

The recurrence of links in the blog community is simply the result of bloggers opting for the second-best option for content, in hopes that they'll at least scoop the other sites out there: second hand links. And I really don't think that it's a problem. Recurrent links, when good enough, eventually become memes. And good memes can turn into something wonderful.
posted by Pinwheel at 10:18 AM on February 26, 2003


ba·nal·i·ty n. pl. ba·nal·i·ties
The condition or quality of being banal; triviality.
Something that is trite, obvious, or predictable; a commonplace.


yeah, that pretty much sums it up. movin' on...
posted by grabbingsand at 12:28 PM on February 26, 2003


I have yet to find a compelling reason to use my blog. I prefer to write in my K5 diary. If I have something I feel is worth sharing with others, I don't waste time saying it in my blog, which nobody would read. Instead, I drop tidbits here, where it's a free-for-all, or at Kuro5hin, where at least the community has to vote your story onto a section page. This thread wouldn't have made the cut. :-)

(Being able to rate comments is helpful for keeping the s/n ratio higher there than here, too.)
posted by tbc at 1:39 PM on February 26, 2003


By the way, what do you call the blog-ish things that produce original content (which are largely the most interesting, imho)? A lot of them are journal-like (or consist of some more elevated but still personal narrative type writing), but when it's punditry or creative writing, is it still a blog?


namespan, I think one would call it a site with good content. What else matters?
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 5:57 AM on February 27, 2003


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