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October 21, 2003
Blogs, Curves, and Grades
Rather than deciding whether to post in the comments of my original post, or Clay's rebuttal
, or Seb's follow-up
, I'll add yet another top-level node.
I didn't really see my original post as particularly "venomous
," nor did I name Clay specifically--but apparently the mere mention of "power laws" is now equivalent to invoking his name. ;)
In fact, my negativity surrounding the power law characterization hasn't been based in a rejection of its accuracy, or in any sense that the emergence of an "A-list" is a bad thing. It's a result of my frustration with the sense that on some level, people are equating large audience with quality or success. The language we choose is important in this regard. "A-list" vs "C-list" has strong metaphorical connotations, as does "head" vs "tail" of the curve. Intentional or not, they shape our perceptions and understanding of the data presented.
At any rate, I think we have a definitional problem. On the one hand, we want to describe "blogs" as part of a single phenomenon, and study them as such (plot them on curves, describe their "typical characteristics
", etc. On the other hand, we want to distinguish among different modes, defining the "broadcast blogs" as qualitatively as well as quantitatively different from the "diary blogs," etc.
The whole "A-list" idea is one that I'm fascinated by in this context, really. My anecdotal experience is that most people don't particularly want to be on that list. It comes back to the balance between public and private that's so central to the whole concept of blogging. The more public one becomes (through increased readership), the more pressures the author feels regarding his or her writing. Relative anonymity provides a greater (though not necessarily more accurate) sense of privacy and community.
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