In what seems to be a regular occurrence among A-listers now, Jeff Jarvis, A-list member, in response to a Blogebrity post that questions sucking up to it attempts to deny it exists. Ya know – trying and deny its existence is like trying to deny mathematical reality and human nature.
First, lets get clear on the definition of the blog “A-list” – it is merely a way to label the current batch of most linked bloggers and a way of recognizing their influence – that’s all.
Jeff was almost right when he said: “It’s not about lists. It’s about links.” – but the links are votes that can be culled into a list – or lists. Technorati maintains what is probably the most popular implementation of this list at their site. Another popular implementation of this list can be found at Blogebrity – which has gone so far to divide the list up into an A-list, B-list, and C-list. It may have been done in jest at Blogebrity – but it pretty much exposes bare among the millions of blogs out there who have the most influence – the most meme producing potential – out here.
These lists only matter to those attempting to draw attention (which equates to linkage) to their works/writing/projects. If you aren’t trying to draw attention to in one shape or form – you’re a personal blogger who writes about his or her family for example – or your an artist who could give a fuck what others think – then this list matters little to you and talk of it probably bugs you.
But if you *are* attempting to draw support and attention – this list becomes very important.
Shoot, I once asked for Jeff for a link, but quickly withdrew the request – because – well… I felt wrong asking for a link.
Silly me – I know. But that was a while ago. Recently I asked directly to be included in the Blogebrity list. Yep. I have lost shame. I recognize the value in it. Not to be famous – but to drive attention to work I consider important. Work that requires attention to get momentum.
A-listers typically consider it bad form to directly ask for a link, but Nick and I have had a few great conversations via IM, whether I get a link or not, I still appreciate the communication.
The A-list isn’t an organized group. It isn’t a cabal that conspires in the middle of the night to draw linkage. To think so is pretty ridiculous considering in many cases this list is composed of sites that represent opposite extremes.
It is just a natural occurrence. Human nature. In this case users vote with their links – links they may have (probably have) been found from an influential (heavily linked to blogger) in the first place.
The seminal piece on this behavior remains Clay Shirky’s “Power Laws, Weblogs, and Inequality“. It’s a must read. It’s funny when A-listers deny the A-list – they don’t link to – or mention – this piece.
Some would argue that the A-list, even if it exists, doesn’t matter. That thousands of D-list links can exceed the value in attention-driving a single A-list link can deliver. Indeed, I think this is true. However, the time it takes to be heard among so many can take much, much longer then what one related A-list link can do in a few hours. The difference can be astronomical and can’t be underestimated.
Some would say that bloggers who need traffic should look elsewhere for attention – their local newspapers for example. I agree 100%. Bloggers seeking attention from bloggers can be fruitless – a good habit of those in the A-list is to use primary sources – mainstream media â€” even as they deride it. Look at how often Jeff Jarvis is on the TV. If he thought it had no value â€” he wouldn’t be there.
Some would argue that if something is worthy of attention, well then the A-list will link to it in the first place. I don’t think those who have this influence necessarily have magical powers to discern that.
If a tree falls in a forest and no one hears it – does it make a sound? If a post is blogged and no one links to it – does it get read?
Some would argue that the existence of the A-list is a ‘problem’ to be solved. I don’t think so. That’s like trying to solve human nature. There will always be those in any sphere more influential then others.
Some say they need their feet held to the fire – that A-listers have some kind of responsibility to the rest of the web. That they should attempt to give voice to those that may not have one.
That’s a big question. I think the answer is we ALL have responsibility – but damned if I expect others to do what I won’t. I will vote with my links.
No – the A-list isn’t a “problem” to be solved. It’s something that if stands in the way of getting a message out – needs to be routed around.
Links that can be given can be taken away (very rare – but still doable). Links that can be given can be given to others. The A-list is changeable, and has changed over time. Take a look at this funny parody of the A-list posted a while back. Today that list would be different. Not by much. But still different. Shoot, we could nuke our blogrolls.
There’s a larger web outside of blogs. And there are webs of blogs (MySpace, LiveJournal, Xanga) that are not engaged (take a look at Sifri’s latest “State of the Blogosphere” report). Simply making direct contact with the mainstream media can make a huge difference. Tools like del.icio.us and Digg, and sites like Philly Future are emerging all the time to give avenues of expression for folks to share what *they* feel is important to a wide audience. Regardless of what the influencers may say. When these tools get bogged down in false hierarchies – new tools will come along to subvert them as well. It is the way of things.
It’s just technology enabling new expressions of human nature. Not changing it.
And so is engaging, complaining, arguing, conversing, working with, and yes – fighting – those who have influence. Nick wonders what it means to play the A-list game – well there ya go. This is it. And ya know what – those things I’m never going to stop.
Neither should you. No matter what the influencers might say.