No There There

Here’s another time I think Dave Winer got it just right: “[T]here is no ‘the’ blogging community. So many people think they grok the wholeness of it, but are only looking at a small part.” We see this in big-media representations of blogging (over-simplified to “cats and politics” or “teenagers and dweebs”), but also in the recurrent effort to define blogging; most characterizations and definitions end up excluding [atypical, hence especially interesting] examples in order to establish an authorized, conventional set of data.

I would probably say that “the blogging community” exists, but is so thin an entity that once you nget past “sometime in the past year I’ve posted an entry in a weblog” there isn’t much “common” held by the community. It’s like “the community of English-speakers” — vast, and utterly diverse.

Generalizations about Blogaria fall into the same trap that besets moaning about A-lists and power laws. Sure — columnists and pundits can gaze bemusedly at the head and tail of the curve, at Glenn Reynolds and Josh Marshall, at “My Three Kitties” and “What I Had For Breakfast.” Yes, the closer one is to the “power” of the power law, the more you resemble the big media, the more familiar the star trip, the less interactivity possible. But Blogaria has a longer, thicker, more varied and intellectually richer tail than print and broadcast publishing. The elbow of the power law provides the sweet spot for online communication, and bloggers hit that elbow in so many different ways that they wind up defeating the noblest and best efforts to define, to characterize “the blogging community.”

(By the way, in this weird world I almost didn’t post this, in order to avoid the possible conclusion that I’m currying favor with Dave Winer by concurring with him twice in recent memory. After deliberating for a few seconds about how absurd the situation is, I went ahead because I thought the point was worth making. Often enough when I disagree with Dave (and that’s often enough, by all means), I doubt that there’s much to be gained by calling attention to the fact — and I can rest assured that plenty of other people have already ignited their flame-throwers. So, Dave, if the fact that I’m agreeing with you again inclines you to think more favorably about me, be sure to remember a topic on which we’ve argued, and factor that in.)

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