Tuesday, July 29, 2008

kavips always makes me think...

... and that may or may not be a good thing, depending on the day or the issue.

The latest edition of Outside the Perimeter: Fragments delves into the question of whether the Delaware blogosphere is becoming more fragmented and less cohesive than before. kavips is difficult to excerpt, because s/he develops complex arguments that defy short quotations, so go read it for yourself.

Then come back and read on.

kavips stimulates me to two responses:

1) The blogosphere is a self-organizing network that is inherently non-linear and chaotic. Translation: a bunch of people with too much time on their hands, an inflated sense that the world needs to hear their opinions, and vastly different interests have a common medium for inflicting themselves of willing victims. I suspect that cohesion (such as the DE blogosphere experienced long-term over windpower and short-term over eminent domain) is the exception rather than the rule. Too much of the rest of the time our interests don't coalesce, because (thankfully) there's nobody directing the band. I tend to look at such occasional disappearance of fragmentation as a valuable rarity; I don't expect more.

2) I think we still over-value our own importance. If you take the five political blogs in Delaware with the highest daily traffic, I suspect (and I have some preliminary research to back up the suspicion) that you would find fewer than 1,000 absolutely unique visitors reading those blogs. Some of those visitors--maybe Mascitti or Selander--are in a position to take something they read to a broader audience; most aren't. Those thousand people (not all of whom will be from Delaware, by the way), are a wide spectrum in themselves, with widely different political and social views. Some read for entertainment, others love to stir the pot. The actual activists and doers among them are a small percentage.

Until we find a way to increase blog readership in Delaware to a daily average of, say, 5-10,000 visitors, we will not see any form of consistency emerge. And that form of consistency will emerge as a market-driven product. Those blogs producing the kinds of material that people want to read will gain high readership. Without a band leader or (thank God) a fairness doctrine for blogs, it could not happen any other way.

How do we increase that readership? Tricky question. Pretty much only some form of advertising or marketing will do so (hence the proposed radio spots over at DL). Free media is going to be tough, because neither the Snooze Journal or the State Rag really wants to give a plug to its competition. Why read the Snooze when you already know what it will report about state politics two days earlier if you read the blogs?

And increasing readership will bring its own changes, not all of them comfortable to this small community, where everybody pretty much knows (and knows how to insult) everybody else, from sock-puppets to trolls. The very edgy feel that we all enjoy--including the inside jokes and the freedom from censorship of offensive humor--is probably going to disappear as success fills the pages with members of the Women's Temperance League.

It's a complicated question, for which I neither have an answer nor a good closing line for this post.


a most peculiar nature said...

“I think we still over-value our own importance.”

IMHO, that is the understatement of the century. It seems to me that the only people who read blogs are other bloggers. And the occasional troll.

With some very marked and important exceptions, I see the Delaware blogosphere as consisting of quite a bit of mutual masturbation. Not that that is a bad thing, just not very productive.

To understand that observation, you have to understand my own background in biker and personal freedom issues. There is a small but powerful nationwide network of people who actually do something..that take to the pen or the phone, whichever is their preference, that do the hard research, that stick their neck out. We have what are called “CTA’s” or “Calls to Action” where the issue is laid out, the steps to be taken outlined, and from whatever action is taken others learn and grow. It was a difficult road for me. I finally understood.

The Rachel Hoffman case is an example. You posted on it, as did I. My friend RC is closer to the issue geographically, but he went as far as to give his personal e-mail so that any informant who would possibly have information could reliably relay it to him: No Questions Asked. RC is one of those activists that doesn’t give a good damn about anything but truth and justice.

The motives in the blogosphere are not as necessarily clear.

There should have been a flurry of letters nationwide to the Tallahassee Police Department on this matter. This is an issue where it doesn’t matter whether you are R or D or L or I. It just matters.

Instead, we are asked to vote on the hottest blogger in Delaware is.

Don’t get me wrong...not putting anybody down. There is much entertainment to be found, and I often succumb to the ease of a snarky post. Sometimes the urge just overcomes me.

But in the end, my own goal would be for people to actually get up off their ass. How to do it is unclear. I don’t want to make money.

I just want something to be done about something.

Anonymous said...

One of the pleasures of writing what I do, is to see how you will respond.

Once again, the response was worth it. Thanks.

Steven H. Newton said...

Your stuff actually takes thinking about to respond in any meaningful fashion. So I often don't respond (or should I say, I respond less often) as much as I would like.

But I do always read and enjoy.

Hube said...

I agree w/Shirley. But I for one don't over-value my own importance. I am quite cognizant of how inconsequential I am in the whole scheme of things.

I like to blog for one main reason: I love to write. Period. For me there is something magical about the printed word. This is why I cover many different topics at Colossus -- I'll write about anything that interests me.

That said, the advantage of the DE blogosphere is the small size of the state. It's relatively easy to coordinate things and even meet in person if you wish.