If not wisdom, then humor 🙂
Did I get a decent answer? Judge for yourself. It was, understandably a question with many dimensions and having no easy answer whatsoever. That’s why I asked it. What I found fascinating however, was that some gave it a shot anyway. And if there is to be any solution or set of solutions, open discussion will be a major part of it.
There is a small work flow issue with Yahoo! Answers. Unanswered questions that linger do not get the visibility they might require and as such, do not get the number of answer attempts as new question submissions do.
The online world owes a great deal of debt to America’s Funniest Home Videos don’t it?
Some are going to look at this graphic and see a suggestion that the blogosphere is a “pyramid scheme”. On the other side of the fence, this particular post is bound to upset certain myth pushers. When I see it, I can’t help but think it upholds both Shirky’s Power Laws, Weblogs, and Inequality, Chris Anderson’s The Long Tail and well almost every list on Technorati (just replace “authority” with “influence”).
I’ve made the point before that what linkage helps bestow a blog (linkage alone isn’t enough) isn’t authority (no one has authority on the web), but “attention influence”. The thing to note is the importance of the number of links is relative to the community of interest. If you work within a small niche, then having just two or three inbound links by fellows participating in your niche will go a long way to have voice there. As Jeff Jarvis says, small is the new big. He’s right.
Dave Rogers puts it like like this:
It’s a competitive world, and the blogosphere is no different. Some people have little stomach for competition. I’m ambivalent about it myself. If I have to play, I play to win. I’m not playing this game. If you want to have a large audience and be influential, you have act like a jackass sometimes to get attention, much like a certain high attention-earning weblogger whose initials begin with the same letter that jackass starts with. There’s no shortage of that going on. You have to kiss up and piss down. You’d think that it would help if you’re intelligent and write well, but there are quite a few high attention-earners who exhibit neither of those qualities. A gift for the good snark or sly put-down helps. Or maybe you can make scribbles, or wear a skirt (that only helps if you’re a male). It helps if you have A-list patrons who’ll transmit trust and authority to you. It also helps if you flog the popular memes, and endorse the ideas and metaphors of the A-list. Taking off your clothes has helped some. You can be a contrarian, but you’ll get a ration of shit from the conventional authorities who will call you names and invite you to sit down and shut up, so come to that party with a thick skin.
In short, you’ll pretty much have to sell your soul. But, if you work really hard at all that, and are more than a little bit lucky, you’ll have your audience, your influence and your authority. Maybe you’ll have your dignity, but that seems like an optional commodity these days. I guess the thinking is that you earn that back once you make the mainstream media circuit.
Now, some of the earliest bloggers didn’t have to sell their souls. They earned their trust and authority when there was relatively little competition, and some of them sound as though they don’t like the game much anymore either. But you already know the problem with the rat race – only the rats win.
Welcome to the world.
Where I differ with Dave is that I believe that by being true to your niche, your community of interest, by being real, you stand a far more likely chance to reach out and connect with others. But this is a difference in opinion over tactics, not need.
Finding the old Wayne’s World trailer on YouTube was sublime.
Don’t you think the story line – new medium enables amature to reach many, the amature gets lured by money and power the big corps offer, disillusion follows, and wisdom (well that’s one of the endings) results – timely?
It both marked the end of the 80s metal subculture I grew up in, and foretold the rise in participatory media.
New York Times reviewer Janet Maslin thought the idea of “Wayne and Garth’s late-night, public-access television show, the one they do from the sofa in Wayne’s basement, is so good that a wily television executive (Rob Lowe) will scheme to exploit their commercial potential” strained the movie’s credibility.
Heh. No foresight that one.
We’re going to try and encourage something new in our community when we feature a blog on Philly Future – to encourage the community to link to, comment on, and post about it. This is an attempt at expanding the conversation online and further opening up the web to new voices.
Details are here.
If anyone in the web outside of Philly would like to participate, all it takes is tagging your post.
Our latest featured blog is Welcome to Phillyville.
Getting the Technorati tag active: phillyfeaturedblog.
The Internet put the music industry and many of its listeners at odds thanks to the popularity of services like Napster and Grokster. Now the industry is squaring off against a surprising new opponent: musicians.
In the last few months, trade groups representing music publishers have used the threat of copyright lawsuits to shut down guitar tablature sites, where users exchange tips on how to play songs like “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” “Highway to Hell” and thousands of others.
The battle shares many similarities with the war between Napster and the music recording industry, but this time it involves free sites like Olga.net, GuitarTabs.com and MyGuitarTabs.com and even discussion boards on the Google Groups service like alt.guitar.tab and rec.music.makers.guitar.tablature, where amateur musicians trade “tabs” — music notation especially for guitar — for songs they have figured out or have copied from music books.
On the other side are music publishers like Sony/ATV, which holds the rights to the songs of John Mayer, and EMI, which publishes Christina Aguilera’s music.
Speaking as a guitarist, Olga.net and services like it have helped inspire me to learn new songs when the urge arises and inspiration hits. Countless songs. I’ve forgotten far more then I can play (that’s not saying much with my little memory or lack of talent).
Speaking as a social media groupie, Olga.net and services like it, represent the ultimate in what online community can aspire too. Olga.net was started way back in 1992. 1992! You want to see the Long Tail of the Web at work? Well dive in you would find tabs posted on the most non-mainstream of artists you could think of. Why do folks contribute so much of their time and effort transcribing these songs so that others may learn them?
Love. The free exchange of knowledge – driven by love of subject matter and the desire to share. As purest an expression of that human need as any else online.
And the bastards are moving to take it down for a little additional profit.
Watch this video. Bush really lets it slip.
We took resources away from the Afghanistan effort, an effort that every American across the country supported, that would have resulted in Osama’s head on a stick, to pursue a theory in transforming the Middle East. A theory!
The evil bastards that attacked us on 9/11 go on, taunting, threatening, while our leadership used the resources of this country to pursue an adventure in nation building. To the tune of thousands dead, and our enemies still roaming this good Earth.
As a friend told me, “We found a potential child molesting murderer Thailand. If we could do that, finding Osama should be as easy as finding mouse ears in Disneyland.”
Well, yeah. You would think so right?
The War on Terror has now gone on longer then WWII.
Here we are. We look weaker, shakier, and more threatening, in the eyes of the world. A world that, many forget, stood with us after 9/11 (re-watch those photos).
I’m a natural optimist and believe that people can do anything they set their minds to. It’s part of my make up. But the world grows crazier by the day. No voices calling for peace. No leaders with a vision to get us there.
More at Think Progress.
Update: Removed my disclaimer. I think most on the Left agree with this opinion, and that more than a few folks on the Right are waking up. Take a look at Memeorandum.
Sorry about the rant.
There are those that want to believe that in life, skill and good works are all it should take. That if you are the most kick ass guitarist in the world, that playing in your bedroom should be enough to alert the world to your talent.
Well we know the world doesn’t work that way. We wish it weren’t so, but it’s just the way it is. But that doesn’t stop some from perpetuating a belief that the web is different. That the web is “flat”. That every link is worth the same as the next. You get a taste of this whenever someone says that good content alone is the way to web super-stardom. If you are a great writer, and know your subject matter, that’s all that counts, they say.
A basic understanding Google’s PageRank algorithm lays this fallacy bare: “Google looks at more than the sheer volume of votes, or links a page receives; it also analyzes the page that casts the vote. Votes cast by pages that are themselves “important” weigh more heavily and help to make other pages “important.”. All links are not equal according to Google.
Worst, and kinda ironic, you hear these sets of belief by some who profess to believe in the the mathematics of The Long Tail of the web. That really makes me do a double take, because a key tenet of it is that those in “head” have more attention giving influence then those in the “tail”. That attention flows in certain directions that can be be observed as behaving along a power law.
Clay Shirky nailed this a long time ago in a piece that was once oft quoted, yet you never see his essay mentioned by these folks since.. well it hurts. If you believe that the web changes human nature for the better in any shape fashion or form, Shirky’s piece can shake you a bit. Hugh MacLeod summarized it as Shirky’s Law: Equality. Fairness. Opportunity. Pick Two”.
That’s the web. That’s everyday human existence for that matter. It’s always a struggle amongst the three.
But do not despair – the Long Tail suggests power laws, on the web, are actually okay and present opportunities. The web, instead of representing one channel of attention, is a mass of niches. That there is no A-List, but multiple A-Lists. That’s something Jeff Jarvis is fond of saying. Working a niche begins to make sense since attention – the real currency of the web – has zero shelving space needs and services exist which make it easy for those seeking out their passions and concerns, no matter how out of the *current* mainstream. Chris Anderson, author of “The Long Tail” put it like this: “The Long Tail is a powerlaw that isn’t cruelly cut off by bottlenecks in distribution such as limited shelf space and available channels.”.
Our attention isn’t an inexhaustible resource. We have only so much to give. So we naturally seek filters for it since so much in our world demands to have it. One of those ways is by trusting the word of mouth of friends, family, co-workers, and those we perceive as experts.
Dave Rogers ran some searches and shed some light on Seth Finkelstein, and his chosen niche subject, censorship, of which he is an expert in research, and how much influence he’s been assigned by Doc Searls. If you are a follower of Doc Searls, you would know little of Seth Finkelstein’s knowledge and work in researching censorship.
I would like to see a search on the word “censorship” and an account of how many times Seth and Doc get inbound links for it. And by whom. Because if the community that concerns itself with censorship, links to Seth as an expert on the subject more often then Doc, the Long Tail theory, that power laws are okay on the web – is true. That Seth is the A-Lister in *that* community. I believe this to be the case, but am too lazy to do the work. Anyone up for the challenge? Update: See further down this post for more.
In either case, I really wish folks that sling the bullshit that the web is “flat” would stop. Especially by those that trumpet The Long Tail theory. Sure no one is stopping anyone from writing anything. That’s not the point. The point is that it’s a fallacy to believe that being an expert in your space and writing good content *alone* is enough to be seen or heard on the web.
Following are some opinions from fellow realists:
Seth Finkelstein: Bogospheric Calvinism, or Unread != Unworthy:
Frankly, I don’t know how to reform society, even the bogosphere, to make it more egalitarian. And my own activism efforts have ended pretty badly overall for me. But (not singling out any individual person here, but making a general statement) the standard A-list reactions of denying the mathematics and attacking the critics, are not a solution.
Dave Rogers: What Can’t Be Fixed:
The point is, some amount of the attention and trust resources of the blogosphere at large are distributed arbitrarily or randomly, whimsically even, through the reading and linking habits of high attention-earning bloggers.
It’s not equal, it’s not flat, and it’s not fair. In other words, it’s just like the world at large, and technology does not change that. Whether I like it or not, my product consumption habits support companies that perhaps don’t treat their employees the way we believe they ought to be treated. Short of taking a vow of asceticism, or investing significant amounts of time in investigating the origins of all the competing products I might have use for, I can’t change that.
Whether Doc likes it or not, his reading and linking habits help to distribute the attention and trust resources of the blogosphere at large in an unequal and unfair way, and short of investing significant amounts of time into finding, reading and evaluating somehow, the relative merits of unknown bloggers, he can’t change that.
Doesn’t make either of us bad persons, just people existing in an imperfect and unfair world.
Shelley Powers: Eat the Red Couch:
I could respond in depth, like Iï¿½ve responded elsewhere this week, hopefully with something learned sounding and impressive but then I thought: why waste my time? Why not just have some fun, and say whatever the hell I want and weï¿½ll all have a giggle, which is probably a lot better use of our time anyway.
And finally, last word to Kent Newsome, who kicked off this latest discussion about the A-List: Of Shel and Chip and Seth and Nick:
I’m not so much interested in having the blogosphere operate differently as I am in calling bullshit when people try to say it operates differently than it actually does.
What gets my dander up is when someone like Mike (and Shel for that matter) who got to the top of the hill, in part, due to relationships with the Scobles and Winers of the world, tries to say the blogosphere is an equal opportunity place.
It ain’t. Life ain’t either. It’s OK that they ain’t, as long as you don’t try to pretend they are.
Update: Seth replies in my comments (paraphrasing, read the whole thing):
The problem is that THE POWER LAW APPLIES PER-TOPIC!
Repeat: THE POWER LAW APPLIES PER-TOPIC!
The logical fallacy runs like this:
Hype: The web is flat.
Refute: No, the web is exponentially distributed in terms of attention.
Fallacious Rebuttal: That exponential distribution of attention is a first approximation of overall attention. But even though the first approximation refutes the first evangelism sales-pitch, I’m going to try to pretend that the first approximation shouldn’t be taken to be meaningful because of the very fact that it is a first approximation, and the full structure is more complicated. By saying attention is finely divided, I’m going to imply to you that the exponential distribution law of attention is inapplicable, because that may be able to delude you into believing you can get some attention when the fact is the exact same law of exponential distribution applies. I’ll repeat endlessly that there’s niches, and hope you won’t notice that I’m implying those niches are *flat*, which is the same sales-pitch which worked on you before.
So, to apply this to myself, I *KNOW* I’m in a niche. I’ve never had realistic ambitions for more. But it’s the same issue *within* that niche. My problem is specially the gatekeepers within that niche, and for reasons well-explored elsewhere, quite a few of them are very clear I’m disfavored to pass through the gates (Slashdot being the more infamous example of this, as well as, later, Berkman). And blogging doesn’t help, arguably it hurts in several ways (depressing, wastes time and energy, makes more detractors than supporters, etc).
You don’t need to do any experiment. IT’S BEEN DONE! 🙁
Paraphrasing my reply:
Yeah, I wouldn’t buy that any one particular niche is “flat” either. That would be more bullshit.
What a terrific post Seth. It justifies Dave Rogers when he talks about human nature and technology.
When you get into a niche, into a real conversation/argument, it gets down to personalities and relationships – who is willing to reciprocate, listen, and give credit to whom.
…So, here goes a net-centric argument. The “web routes around damage argument”. I don’t believe the web does on its own. It requires humans to make it so. The web is made of people as I am fond of saying.
Slashdot was one route to do this back in 2003. Today there is Digg, Newsvine, del.ico.us, Yahoo MyWeb, and other services where your work could have been shared – right past the gatekeepers of your niche’s community.
I think tools like these are at their best when used to spread word of items the mainstream – and the gatekeepers of the smallest niche are what I would call the ‘mainstream’ in this case – misses – or actively wants to suppress.
Then there are other blogs of course.
I don’t have time to spread word of Philly Future, and know jack shit about marketing. Our service suffers because of it. I know – I KNOW – that we will be overtaken by a competitor, if I don’t find a way to make up for the lack of effort on these counts. Not only that, but our story will be forgotten.
You never hear about Philly Future and ‘hyperlocal’ blogging do you? Yet I started the site back in December 1999!
I partially blame myself, as I know you do on this score. What it comes down to this requiring a precious resource and skill that few have.
Time and marketing.
Time to interact with your niche’s community. Be present. Be visible. Be vocal. I know you’re already doing this. But you don’t usually write content not only to satisfy needs, but become a linkable resources (lists, howtos, etc). Even if you recognize most of these pieces are trash, worthless the moment it is posted, they encourage discussion and linkage. Wasn’t it your guest poster’s Google list that got all that attention a few months back?
And marketing, because, on the web, the most successful, are marketers or those with marketing resources. On the web there is a whole lot of noise. You need some skill here, to be heard over the din, in even the smallest niche. Hence the demand for SEO expertise.
I need to follow my own advice. But I need time, knowledge, and resources.
Just checked: Seth is a top five search result in Google for “censorware”. But that is a sub-niche of censorship. Doubtful many use that search term. Where does he land for “censorship”?