Sunday, May 29, 2005
Is the Blogosphere Turning Wimpy?
BlogPulse Trend Tracking of "harsh comments"
[EDITED VERSION: I have modified this a bit to clarify some points. I find it difficult to properly convey these concepts and feelings, since they're based on a lot of experiences and observations that others, especially new bloggers, may not relate to. I've changed phrases like "this sickens me" to "this troubles me", for example.]
I've got a hunch that the blogosphere is getting soft, weak, passive, and timid.
I think bloggers are less willing to speak their minds bluntly. Less likely to be aggressively opinionated.
It often seems to me that the blogosphere is being dumbed down. It's less combative. Less argumentative. Contains fewer heated debates. Fewer opposing viewpoints to the consensus opinions on various issues.
This troubles me.
Blogs were originally pioneered by outspoken, brazen, hard-edged individuals who were also geeks, techies, what some referred to as "computer nurds". Guys who sported pocket protectors. (I used to use a plastic pocket protector myself, with a slide rule and 6 pens sticking out of it. My dad did, too. He was a laser expert engineer at Caterpillar.) I mean this with all respect and fondness.
The Early Bloggers were often outcasts to some degree.
They understood HTML. They could build their own web sites, home pages, and blogs. They communicated with each other. They had their own little world that was sort of esoteric and mysterious, with special words and practices.
"Normal" people made fun of the computer science students.
"Cool" and "hip" people shunned the internet, programming, and "geeks". Grunge and rap music was acceptable. Electronic music and data compilers were considered to be mainly for the fringe element.
Some of these tech devotees and Early Bloggers were persecuted and mocked.
So they had to become tough minded, stubborn, devoted, ready to defend themselves against antagonists.
It's not quite the same anymore.
BlogPulse Trend Tool graph on "flaming"
Now conformists, conservative business people, and status quo-compliant individuals are getting into blogs.
Blogs are quickly becoming mainstream. This is not bad, but it does alter the overall tone and content of blogging in general.
Seth Godin got me going in this direction when he posted about how the general usefulness of the blogosphere declines as poorly written, irrelevant blogs accumulate within it. (I hope I'm doing justice in my paraphrase of his statement.)
And as the so-called "normal" people start reading and creating blogs, the blogosphere is starting to evolve into a more sedate, safe, easy-going realm.
Diplomacy, niceness, and politeness are beginning to replace strident expression of contrarian viewpoints.
I visit lots of business and marketing blogs and post comments at them. If someone says something that I disagree with, and I think a particular idea is detrimental or absurd, I sometimes challenge it.
I'm no perpetual lurker, slinking around silently in the blogospheric shadows. I post comments and email blog authors.
I may even point out contradictions, faulty logic, misrepresentations, or what I believe to be untruths.
Now the trend seems to be toward praising everybody, patting everybody on the back, kissing up to anyone who operates a blog or a business.
Some individuals within the new wave of bloggers seem to dread confrontation and conflict. I get the impression that they don't want to "offend" or "upset" or "criticize" anybody.
If I question why people are ecstatic about a certain book, or blog, or marketing strategy, it occasionally turns into a situation where I'm considered a trouble maker or an excessively critical person.
But I feel like I'm watching lemmings merrily follow each other into the ocean to drown in error or misplaced trust.
Luckily, I appreciate deconstructive, blunt criticism, as long as it's not vulgar or someone putting words in my mouth that I didn't say or imply.
Misinterpretation, jumping to conclusions, and inexact reading with distorted paraphrasing is very common.
Yet some of my greatest improvements in my blogs and my blogging practices are the result of someone being arrogantly abusive or unfairly judgmental toward me.
So...have you experienced a reluctance on the part of bloggers to closely examine certain aspects of a nearly universal meme...
...a viral concept that's spreading with little obstruction via blogs?
Have you ever encountered a blogger defending another blogger's ideas by saying "Mr. X is a friend of mine. I resent the fact that you are criticizing his ideas."
Have you ever detected a fundamental desire to pretend the blogosphere is a happy, peaceful utopia...where everyone loves and agrees with everyone else?
Am I correct in my assessment?
The graphs on "harsh comments" and "flaming", created with the Trend Tool over at Blog Pulse, seem to lend some support to my theory.
What do YOU think?
Express your honest reaction to what I'm trying awkwardly to describe here.
If you only visit and link to bloggers who are friends and allies, you may be sheltered from rebellion, iconoclasm, and controversies...
...thus, you may not really comprehend what it is I'm talking about.
But if you've "been around the block a few times", I'm fairly certain you can at least sympathize with some of my concerns, while maybe not agreeing with me completely.
My good friend Paul Woodhouse once stated that the reason some business bloggers want to make the blogosphere seem calm, united, and blissful is:
...they want to lure businesses and CEOs into starting blogs, so they can then charge these new bloggers fees for consulting work.
Believe it or not, I'm by no means the most cynical or skeptical business blogger in existence.
[signed] Steven Streight aka Vaspers the Grate
Posted by steven edward streight at 5/29/2005 06:45:00 AM