The SCMP reveals that more than one in four Hong Kongers blog...
Two million bloggers in Hong Kong will be able to use copyrighted creative content legally and free on their personal blog or webpage when an online content database is launched by the creative industry later this year.
That count includes George Adams. It pays to at least try and think about these things before putting finger to keyboard.
An old, poor, sick, and lonely man lives in Stanley area of Hong Kong.
It is nighttime. But his house is dark. He has switched off the lights. For he is afraid that the black limousine parked on the street across his house is full of triads, who are more than willing to beat the crap out of him.
Little does he know that black Mercedes Benz and rough looking Chinese men are omnipresent in Hong Kong. Poor Georgie! Should he suffer and keep awake throughout the night just cuz he is paranoid?
Oh God! If you exist and are out there somewhere, please do help dear Georgie.
PS: And since people claim I am Nude King, well, Ciao!
Zer is nothing like a bit of blogger baiting.
Und, zer is nothing like missing your medicashion!
MR is never going to be a paying venture but donations help us to cover our costs. More importantly, donations help to solve a serious economic problem. Efficiency says that goods with zero marginal cost should have a zero price but without prices not only is the incentive to produce diminished but so is information about what to produce. (See Coase's 1946 classic, The Marginal Cost Controversy, JSTOR). Donations allow prices to be set at MC while at the same time providing a (noisy) signal about where true economic value lies. In particular, Tyler and I know that we can appropriate more of our marginal product from professional work than we can from blogging yet it is conceivable that our marginal product is higher in blogging. Thus, to decide how much to invest in this venture we markup donations to get an estimate of our social value and we put positive weight on social welfare in our utility function.
If that's gone over your head, it translates as "give money to bloggers". Perhaps this inspires you and you've got left over change after donating to MR? My Amazon wish list is ever-growing and there's only 17 shopping days to Christmas*.
* It should be noted the idea of "shopping days to Christmas" is completely irrelevant in the online world. Also, don't let my Jewishness put you off buying Christmas gifts for me. It's hard to be a Jew on Christmas.
Slowly but surely blogging is morphing: while plenty of solo sites exist, more and more sites are adopting a group blog model. ESWN is appealing for like minded people, Jim has been joined by Paul and Shank and Asymmetrical Information has taken on a third blogger to name three recent examples. For some time I've been fortunate to have Dave as a faithful contributor to these pages, not to mention the various contrubutions of guest bloggers during my breaks.
There are several factors that drive this trend. Firstly as sites evolve and develop followings, those readers rightly expect and demand output to keep them coming back. However bloggers have day jobs, families and lives outside of the cyberworld (believe it or not). Just as mainstream media products are the collective efforts of many contributors, some blogs will imitate their erstwhile rivals. Spreading the blogging load allows sites to evolve into a more continuous stream of output and hopefully thus (hopefully) make them more useful and so draw more visitors.
To that end I have a question and a request. The question is simple: would you like to see this site evolve in such a way, with a roster of 3 or 4 regular contributors? A diversity of views around this blog's major themes of China and Asia (with occassional diversions and tangents) can only be, in my opinion, a good thing. But I owe it to you, the reader, a chance to comment. The alternative is to carry on as now, while acknowledging there will be times where output may drop to zero for stretches of time.
The request is also a simple one. Would you be interested in joining the SW team? The requirements are simple: be able to type coherently in English, have an interest and opinion on the themes of this blog and be able to make regular contributions. If you've never blogged before, you need not worry - the software is simple enough for even me to use. If you already have a blog, I would ask that if you make the committment to becoming a contributor that you take that committment seriously. I am not looking for cross-posters. For example Dave posts daily on his site, with its different theme of Hong Kong and Asian history, while making regular posts on this site of more contemporary nature. If I am going to give you the keys to this car I need to feel confident that you will drive it responsibly, and that you will drive it regularly! The rewards are a regular and diverse readership, vibrant comments and a chance to make your voice heard as part of the democraticisation (or atomisation) of opinion.
If you are interested, have a comment on moving to a group blog or other feedback, leave a comment or send an email to simon-[at]-simonworld-[dot]-mu-[dot]-nu
Personally, I think blogs work best when they are primarily the work of one person. I read blogs which are written by people who seem to know what they are talking about, and cover interesting (to me) areas ... as soon as you move to a 'group blog' the focus and style gets less clear, and often I find it is less interesting.
One of the strengths of blogs is that anyone can setup their own - why have 2 people co-blogging when they can each have their own blog? If they're both writing interesting stuff, I'll subscribe to both of them.
As for frequency of posting: As more people subscribe to your feed, this become less relevant. People will be notified when you put up a post - whether it's an hour, a day or a week after your previous one.
So long as the additions' posts measure up to the quality set by Dave and yourself, I wouldn't object to the extra content. But if they're just going to offer tabloid humor and snark, you should send them my way (AP could always use more sensationalism and snark).
The idea would be any new co-authors would be someone I would want to read myself. I'm not looking for clones.
Bingfeng- I don't pretend to do what ESWN does, and don't pretend I even could. I sometimes disagree with ESWN and he with me. I would say our two sites occupy different niches. I wouldn't ask to be a guest blogger on ESWN and I doubt he would want to be here - while I have great respect for that site, it's not what this one is about.
Dave - I've thought about that. The problem is one of time. People don't have all day to surf the web and read sites and while it's not so hard to go from site to site, it's certainly easier if the posts are in one place rather than spread across several sites. Point taken about feeds, but they still represent only 10-15% of readers to this site at the moment.
Chris - we all need tabloid - it's what made Rupert Murdoch rich.
I think the greatest advantage of a group blog is consistency. If one author goes on vacation, or has a real busy week, the blog is less likely to suffer. It boils down to diversifying your portfolio, especially when one person can't be expert in every subject the blog seeks to deal with. I'm not a Japan-guy, for example, so I'm glad we have monocrat at EAW to pick up the slack on Japan posts.
The danger, of course, is turning into something like NRO's The Corner, which has become nearly unreadable.
First off, Simon, thank you for your kind words. It's been a pleasure co-blogging on your site.
I would encourage all those talented would be-bloggers to come out of the 'lurking' phase and join the adventure. It's great fun, if you have many opinions about Asia, China and Hong Kong you can get a good deal off your chest instead of grating on your co-workers or loved ones.:) As Simon mentioned, it is indeed easy to use his system, really no prior experience with blogging or html is required... you'll just need to pass the Simon M litmus test of creditable (and humorous) acidity!
The best collaborative blog (if you could call it that) is the Tech Central Station. It is more a series of columns, rather than a blog...but that is why I think it works.
What I find refreshing with some collaborative blogs are that one person takes over for a period of time...rather than mixing in different writing styles on the fly. That is...Simon does the bulk of the work...then Dave fills in when Simon is away. That works and is accepted, I think, by most readers.
I'd love to be more active on my blog...but as anyone has seen by the month of October...it was a brutal month for REAL work. Someone's gotta pay the bills.
I think it's a great idea, and I like Spirit fingers' suggestion. Sometimes another voice can be different, but really complementary, enriching the whole site. I read "coming anarchy" and "Chicago Boyz" often, and really enjoy the interplay of people who aren't clones of each other, yet still operate in the same intellectual universe.
I wish I could find a couple of co-bloggers myself. I've gotten tired, overworked, and bored with it, but don't want to quit. Anybody who thinks they're too lightweight for Simon's place, but would still like to put up a short piece or two, give me a call.
As part of the China Blog List project, John asked me to list my top 10 China blogs. It wasn't easy narrowing it down to ten, but 10 I did. Check out the list at China Blog List's Recommended page, and then come back here to tell me why I'm wrong and what I left out.
On a related note, I got the following email today:
Chinese users of the latest version of the popular Firefox  extension CustomizeGoogle  are happy. A new feature  modifies the Google Cache urls so that they are no longer blocked by the Chinese firewall.
Thanks John. Looks like slight progress but nothing earth-shattering. That said it looks like it could be leveraged into a more useful tool, if someone created a similar extension that auto-creates the proxy each time?
Here at Wikablog, you can, in just a couple of minutes, create a page about your blog or someone else's with a few words saying what it's about. Then other people can add to it. And you can add links to other similar blogs, and talk about the blog's history, and recount the tale of the great Himalayan Blog Controversy of 2002, and whatever else you like. Soon enough, any blog can have a detailed page on here, telling us all everything we could ever need to know about it short of bothering to read it. If you still can't imagine how valuable this service is, slap yourself.
It's a great idea and has the potential to bring order to the chaos that is the blogosphere. I've already setup a page for Simon World, which you are free to go and add to and edit. Just like the China Blog List, these directories and Wikis benefit bloggers and readers immensely. Singaporean Cowboy Caleb has a much edited and soon to be deleted Wikipedia page. Now you can set up a page on a Wiki solely dedicated to blogs. And you needn't be the blogger. Readers can setup pages on their favourite (or most disliked, I suppose) blogs.
Go check out Wikablog and edit or start a page today. (OK Tim, where's my cheque?)
China's policy of occupation and oppression has resulted in no more or less than the destruction of Tibet's national independence, culture and religion, environment, and the universal human rights of its people. China has broken international laws and routinely violates its own constitution by inflicting this destruction, yet time and again goes without punishment.
As I've said before, I'm sceptical of the blogosphere's claims to perform journalism. "Cyber-Journalist" sounds less Stalinist than "Citizen-Journalist", but then both sound like something Wiley Coyote would say. Perhaps blogging reminds me too much of three old ladies playing bridge. Or, that I knew the most about anything when I had a security clearance, and I'm glad not to have it anymore. There's just no joy in knowing everything. I just like to see everyone talking, not just the suits.
Everything you wanted to know about blogging but were afraid to ask
Or what they don't teach you at Havard Blogging School
There are plenty of good guides to blogging and I was going to add my $0.02 to the pile. It's the thing to do once your blog reaches a certain age, and I figure turning oneturning two is about the right time. However I'm going to break with blogosphere tradition of jumping on the bandwagon and instead present a collection of various appropriate links at the end of this post. What I am going to share with you is all the things they don't tell you about in blogging school.
1. If you want to start blogging and have huge amounts of traffic instantly I can recommend one of three things: be an established journalist/opinion maker; be Glenn Reynold's brother; or porn. Otherwise face facts: you've got an awfully big hill to climb.
2. Never get your brother to guest blog for you. Trust me.
3. Before you start, read other blogs and get a feel for what they are like. Then completely forget everything you've read and seen so you can establish a new and distinct voice that will get noticed. This also helps a common problem: a really sucky first post. Trust me.
4. Prepare for the reality that the rest of the world may not share your high opinion of yourself and your site.
5. You know that movie where the guy built a baseball field and waited for some dead folks to turn up and play ball? Blogging's like that. Prepare to slog at putting up brilliantly crafted, accurate and to-the-point insights that will proceed to make no difference to anything at all.
6. Blogs live for two things: readers and links (not in order). There is no blogger alive who does not religiously follow Trackbacks - if you don't have trackbacks (that's especially for you Blogger folks) then use Kevin's manual Trackback pinger. Link liberally and eventually someone might notice you. You can even said emails to bloggers telling them about your new site or post. Try and keep it relevant, but unless they are a mega-blogger most will read the email. Here's a handy hint: do NOT title the email "Cheap Viagra".
7. The big bloggers (in terms of readership, not size. I'm sure at least some of them are thin) are big for a reason. They fill a niche, they have interesting opinions, they've been doing it for a long time. Whatever it is, you need to realise that overnight success can take years to create.
8. Buy a lottery ticket. Sometimes luck plays a chance. If a big blogger stumbles across your site and your brilliant entry catches their eye, you could have it made. If the post that catches their eye is a blow-by-blow description of your trip to the corner store, prepare to keep dwelling in oblivion.
9. Join the Bear's Ecosystem and learn about Technorati. They are good ways of learning your place. If you're new, try sending an example of your work to the New Blog Showcase. Send entries to the various Carnivals and link-fests that float around. You'll often get a flow of traffic and some might even like your site enough to come back.
10. Bloggers aren't just lonely nerds typing furiously to no avail. They are people. You can even meet some of them. Just ask. Many turn out to actually be nice people. Plenty of nerds too, if that's your thing.
11. Once you've made it, it's important to give something back. For example, you should liberally link to and recall this blog and this post, which gave you your start and set you on the path to greatness.
12. If you think this blogging caper is a path to fame and fortune, give up now.
13. It's not fair. It never was and never will be. Deal with it.
14. There are some good ways to attract attention to yourself and your blog. These can be broken down into the following:
a) talk about your sexual experiences a lot. This works far better for women than men.
b) have something interesting and new to say. This works far better for those that understand the basics of English grammar.
c) quirky slice-of-life types who are actually quirky. This works far better for those that are interesting people in real life.
d) humour sites. This works far better for those that are funny.
e) niche sites. There may well be a strong readership for those interested in mountain goats. It helps if you talk about stuff you know about.
f) be an iconoclast. If you are controversial you are likely to generate debate and people will come back for another look. The important thing is to be coherent and have a rational body of thought rather than a series of random pronouncements.
15. Learn to spell or how to use a spell-checker.
16. Most blogs have comments, at least until they hit the big time. Respond or get involved in any comments you get. It's rude not to reply to conversations. Most blogs will get few comments on each post, while others will get many. If you want comments, start talking about your sex life a lot. Leave comments at other blogs. It reminds people how witty or smart you are and sometimes it will lead to visits to your own site. It's important to note that many of the comments you get will be spam. These don't count as real comments and it's not worth replying to them, unless you have an unhealthy obsession with online casinos, get-rich-quick schemes and cheap drugs.
17. You will get trolls. Some ban them; others alter their posts; still others leave their idiotic comments for all to see. It's a fact of life. Another fact of life involves birds and bees. You will also get spam. If you are going to put your email address on your website so people can contact you, spell it out; split it across two lines; include NO SPAM in the address; or anything else that is obvious to a human but not a spambot. Spam is like the French: it is moderately annoying but ignorable in small doses and a huge pain in the backside in big doses.
18. Following 14 (f), the iconoclast can generate good traffic by either policing a mega-blogger or big media (papers, TV, etc.) Be prepared for heated debate and keep plugging away, but if you've found something genuine you'll end up getting the whole blogosphere beating a path to your door. Or not. It helps if you ignore others who argue against you or come up with valid points. It helps even more if you indulge in extreme language and opinions.
19. Do something original. Come up with posts on the good news in Iraq like Arthur Chrenkoff and before you know if you'll be a mega-blogger and published in the Wall St Journal.
20. Follow this handy rule-of-thumb: start a blog using Blogger. If you are still at it after 3 months, get off Blogger immediately. It is not as daunting as you think and there are plenty of hosting companies offering cheap plans and differing software packages like Movable Type or Wordpress. Make the move.
21. The golden rule of computing always applies: back-up. If you are drafting a post, do it in Notepad or in an email that can get saved as a draft. Cut and paste it at the end into your blogging software. Sometimes the software crashes and takes your valuable post with it, and trust me, you won't feel like writing it again. This also lets you do something essential: proof-read. Consider a post like an email: if it's trivial a quick skim might be OK, but if it's a manifesto on all that's wrong with the world you'll want to take care with it. If the world's going to ignore you, you may as well it's ignoring something that makes sense.
22. The great thing about blogging is plagiarising is encouraged. That's why so many academics blog. The only trick is plagiarising needs to be accompanied by links back to the original...because links are the lifeblood of a blogger. So go ahead and steal.
23. Learn blogging etiquette. Blogging is like golf: you can cheat but you need to be polite about it.
24. If you're thinking of blogging from work, read this first.
25. It's your site so you can do whatever the hell you like.
26. Like all esoteric fields, blogging has plenty of terminology. I've used a lot of it here in this post. Trackbacks, pings, permalinks, blogrolls: know what they mean and how they work. Alternatively enjoy having your Mum being your only daily reader.
27. Time in the blogosphere is frighteningly fast. By the time you link something, it has already been done. There's nothing you can say that hasn't already been said, probably better and funnier too. The one time you do hit across a link or idea that hasn't been linked elsewhere, someone else will find it and get all the kudos. It's not fair. Deal with it.
28. The one time you put up a joke post or idea, it will immediately get massive attention and be taken seriously by far too many people. This is called the Overblog phenomena. One blogger's joke is another's insult.
29. Forget what your schoolteachers told you. Form matters more than substance. If your blog is a hideous pink colour the best content in the world won't get people coming back. Invest effort in your design, or get a pro to do it for you. People respond a lot better to good designs. The key is simple: if you think you right good stuff, keep the design simple. If you write cr@p, then use as many distractions as you can.
30. Just like in life, extremism beats moderation and emotion beats logic. If you want reasoned discourse prepare to dwell in oblivion. If you want invective and ill-considered responses, watch the hits come in.
31. A good way to publicise your blog is tell people about it. A good rule here is to ask yourself if you'd be embarrassed if that person could read what you write. If not, tell them about it. Just once, though. No need to turn into a stalker.
32. Many bloggers adopt an alias or nom de plume. There are many reasons why this can be a good or bad decision. Just try and choose a good alias. The blogosphere already has several Tom Paines. As far as I know it doesn't yet have a King Kong.
33. You will visit your own site a lot. Sitting in front of it constantly hitting the refresh key does not count as genuine hits on your site.
34. Checking your sitemeter every hour will not increase the number of visitors to your site.
35. Learn to insult creatively.
36. Logic and reason are for the weak. Knee-jerk and off-the-cuff reactions are for the blogger.
37. Blogs are the perfect diversion. They send you on more tangents than a calculus class. Just remember that when reading blogs time seems to go much faster than normal.
38. There is no great diversion than your own blog. You will spend hours getting the coding right, the format right, the content right, fixing links, trying to get readers, reading other blogs. You don't get paid for it. In fact blogging is the one game where the more successful you are the more it costs you (e.g. in bandwidth charges). It really is a sucker's game.
39. Blog is an ugly word but we're stuck with it.
40. If you crave hits then try this simple technique: think about important upcoming or potential events, and write a blog entry with an appropriate title. That way the search engines like Google will give your entry prominent billing when people start searching for that information. For example: if you title a post "John Kerry's love child", should it turn out he has one (and I'm not saying he does, it's just an example) then Google will deliver you more hits than a crack addict in a crack-house.
41. Just like real writing, sometimes bloggers are hit with blog block. There are three ways to deal with this. Firstly, talk about your blog block. Everyone else has, you may as well tell everyone why your creativity sucks so badly too. Secondly, just post nothing. Sure you'll lose the 3 readers you had, but it's best not to make them sick by posting crap. Thirdly, fight your way through it by posting crap. This could involve recycling old stuff you wrote in a desperate "best of" kind of thing or just keep linking to others until you get inspired again and can write stuff on your own.
42. The stupidest, most off-the-cuff posts tend to get the most comments.
43. A good way to get people to visit your site is to visit theirs. Blog owners check their referrer logs religiously and when they see a new URL in the logs, they go check it.
44. You will encounter plenty of ignorance in this blogging caper. Much of it will come from other blogs. However even more of it will come from your friends and family. Blogging is like renovating: you find it endlessly fascinating, but no-one else gives a sh!t. They are unlikely to have even heard of blogs. It is your job to talk their ears off about it. Bamboozle them, tell them how great it is, print business cards with the URL on it. They all think your mad already.
45. Once you've started a blog, encourage others to do the same. The purpose is two-fold: it will get you links from these newly established blogs AND if you're going to be rabbiting on about blogging to all and sundry, you may as well have other people to talk to once your friends and family disown you.
46. You need to face reality: p0rn works. If it's a meteoric rise you're after, starting including images and/or stories about that age-old vote winner: sex. It helps if you have a new angle (so to speak), for example sex and politics (the Wonkette/Washingtonienne route).
47. A good way to get traffic and links is to have a major life event such as a birth or marriage. Of course this will mean you get traffic just when you ease off posting because real life has intervened. That's the thing about blogging - it's got a solid sense of irony.
48. If you're looking for material, a nice long list doesn't hurt. Especially if you include lots of gratuitous links to others. Many people do "101 things about me" lists and provide a link to them. The toughest part about this is most people don't have even 11 interesting things to say about themselves, let alone 101.
49. So sometimes list need padding to make it to a nice round number.
50. Ignore all the conflicting advice you get, including this.
Now go and enjoy, because if you're not enjoying it then why the hell are you going to bother?
Listed here is a selection of some of the better hints and tips on blogging from around the blogosphere. If there's one thing bloggers like to talk about it's themselves, so this is by no means a comprehensive list. But like many things in the blogosphere the same points tend to get repeated ad naseum so this should cover most of the basics:
Dave Pollard looks at overcoming the Power Law and the keys to becoming a break-out blog. He also has 5 tips for improving your blog and another 5 to draw traffic. You can check his Table of Contents for a complete list of postings on blogging.
Absolutely! If you're going to let someone have it, do it with style. Or, as Don Imus said in one of stand-up routines in the '70s, Swear with Flair. If I could do it half as well as Emperor Misha I'd be ha-a-a-ppy! :)
Have only recently discovered your site, and enjoy it very much. However, I'm so glad I was too naive to consider any of these things when I started my own blog earlier this year; had they crossed my mind, I never would have started.
I suppose there should be a whole other word for bloggers like me, who are really nothing more than diarists, or journal-ists (not the newsy sort), and nothing more. Would serve to make me feel less pompous than calling myself a 'blogger' and what I do 'blogging'.
You should have written this last year when I forst started blogging - don't think Iwould have ever started. But I guess because I didn't know "the rules" it was easy to play the game. Thanks for the info, I'll make sure to pass this on to newbies.
The Mad Dater
"Because there's a Bastard in all of us"
what a great post! It's bookmarked and getting a thorough reading. I just started blogging about a month ago and still unsure where I want to go with mine. I've been frustrated with the inability to do trackback pings with blogger - now I have an option.
I've been blogging for a year in China and Hong Kong and don't know from a trackback, much less a ping. I post few links, run no pics and have no comment access or counter.
It's about as primitive as one can get. My one rule is to write as well as I can about what ever it is and let the words do the work. I don't compete, I don't argue with other bloggers, just go it alone and hope that someone enjoys it.
As such I've had nice strokes from strangers as far away as Hungary, England and Antarctica as well as the usual suspects in friends and family.
I kind of like it that way.
One thing about blogging that you forgot is that to be a true blogger you have to have a cat. If you don't beleive it just check out the O'Reilly book on Essential Blogging http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0596003889/qid=1094243841/sr=8-1/ref=pd_ka_1/002-3212561-1919258?v=glance&s=books&n=507846
"Blog" is not even recognised by the standard spell checkers built in within blog software. About it being an ugly word, what the heck, I chose my blogosphere nickname as an anagram. Nothing beats "Gob - The Gobbing Blogger from the Bog". Pinnacle of ugly phonetics!
Some of the bigger names in blogging have been able to turn the venture into a money spinner or full-time job: Andrew Sullivan, Glenn Reynolds, Jason Kottke to name a few. But that's nothing compared to BlogChina. From the SCMP:
The company that launched China's leading blog portal plans to list on the technology stock-heavy Nasdaq exchange by the second half of next year and hopes to achieve a market capitalisation of more than US$1 billion, company officials said yesterday.
...the dominant mainland weblog portal [had] more than two million bloggers as at the end of May. With business expanding rapidly, [BlogChina founder Fang Xingdong] expected this number to reach 10 million by the end of this year.
BlogChina, established in June last year, has gone from just one employee to 210 staff. "We are adding 50 employees a month at the moment," Mr Fang said. The company was started with US$500 million [Ed. - I assume that's a typo...at least I hope it is!] in seed capital from Softbank Asia Infrastructure Fund and will receive a second round of funding of US$10 million this month from a group of six venture capital firms based in China and the United States.
Revenues have grown from about 400,000 yuan a month to more than two million yuan last month. BlogChina.com boasts a list of high-profile advertisers such as Dell, HP and IBM. Advertising and wireless charges form its primary revenue streams. The company is introducing a pilot virtual payment system this month in which bloggers can charge for their content and pay a share of their earnings to BlogChina.
China leading the world, again. Although can a company turning over 2 million yuan (about US$240,000) a month really be worth US$1 billion? There's one founder and a bunch of venture capitalists hoping so.
This morning I was responding to a post on a South Dakota, USA blog, when I saw my comment didn't turn up right away.
The blog's owner later emailed me. He said that posts with hyperlinks have to be approved by hand, because of all the comment spam from poker sites -- more than a hundred a day! Unethical businessmen make comments on blogs that are nothing more than ads for their online casinos.
One reason the casinos do this it to increase their position in search engines. Most people click on the #1 search engine link, so being the top spot in Google or Yahoo for gambling searches can add up to hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars in revenue. Plus many of these sites will also try to install spyware, causing millions in lost productivity and computer repairs.
So far webmasters have been defensive -- creating "blacklists" that ban certain posters and approving some comments by hand. It is time for bloggers to be aggressive.
My solution is to link to reputable results for these searches on my blog. I chose to hyperlink to articles on Wikipedia, which is a community-based encyclopedia. But you can also reference Encarta, the Encylopaedia Britannica, New York Times articles on the subject -- anything!
I have long ago solved the comments issue by using a first time commenter email confirm - I don't have to do anything and all non confirmed comments get removed afrer five days.
My big problem is trackback spam. I use filters but it still gets through. I tried checking the page for the link but of course movable type/Typepad being a published system rather than databazse driven, the page does not exist until after the trackback is sent so it fails the test.
I am thinking of just removing trackback because I am struggling to come up with a solution for it.
The solution for trackbacks is what I have for comments: close them after (say) 15 days. It's easy for comments but doesn't appear possible (in MT, at least) for trackbacks. That would make life far more manageable.
A guest post by Kelvin, because Simon hasn't stopped the party yet. :P
The Communist Party of China is an incredible entity: one moment it'd look like a bumbling buffoon, the next moment it's whipping the butt of its political opposition. Of course, the people of Hong Kong already well know how good the CCP is at making its opponents look like jerks. Now the folks in Taiwan get a glimpse of the CCP's dexterity. Consider, for example, how A-Bian and the DPP gets totally creamed by the CCP and KMT on the issue of the mainland's guided missiles:
In the press release from the President's Office, President Chen Shui-bian wishes Lien Chan a successful trip, and reminds Lien does not have authorization from the government, and cannot legally sign any agreement with the mainland related to national sovereignty or government authorities. Chen also anticipates meeting with Lien after his return to Taiwan.
Hu Jintao and Lien Chan agreed to work toward resuming talks, avoiding a military confrontation, and strengthening trade and investment relations. But Joseph Wu [Minister for the Mainland Affairs Council] points out that these are empty promises, and says that Lien's visit can be said to be the “five nots”: not making mainland China recognize the truth in the existence of the “Republic of China,” not making mainland China correctly understand the value of democracy and freedom in Taiwan, not making mainland China reduce its belligerence toward Taiwan and lowering its missile threat, not giving Taiwan the freedom to participate internationally with dignity, and not making mainland China correctly understand the extreme displeasure of the people of Taiwan against the Anti-Secession Law and non-peaceful methods.
Media in Taiwan are reporting that during Lien Chan's meeting with Hu Jintao, the issue of a cross-strait “peace agreement” came up. Hu actively proposed that if both sides returned to the foundations of the “Understanding of 1992,” eliminate belligerence, and both sides sign a peace agreement, then the mainland “can naturally remove the missiles.” The KMT side, however, understanding that they do not have government authorization, did not approach or reply to the offer.
CCP: look great by showing magnanimity, especially after the Anti-Secession Law.
KMT: look great by showing willingness to work with others, gain brownie points by being able to claim that the DPP are getting in the way of progress.
DPP: look bad by seeming like obstructionist ideologues who wouldn't let partisan bickering go in favour of the people's well-being.
CPC: Look good to one China types and bad to Taiwanese independence types.
KMT: Look good to one China types and bad to Taiwanese independence types.
DPP: Look bad to one China types and good to Taiwanese independence types.
Which is really not a major change from the status quo. The only major change is that the KMT is now holding hands with the CPC, realizing that the CPC is better equipped to realize the KMT's original vision: that of a unified, authoritarian China.
Which the DPP doesn't like. Again, not a major change.
Yah when you read the polls posted on ESWN, they're still split on partisan lines, but there's hints that independents are, at the very least, curious, and DPP supporters aren't totally dismissing the Lien visit. But this is just the first step: if you look at HK you really get the sense of what the CCP is trying to accomplish, and that is to slowly delegitimize its opponents. Pan-democrats expected big gains in the last LegCo election (gains that will overcome their inherent institutional disadvantage), but came up short. Likewise, this thing puts the brakes on pan-green momentum after the Anti-Secession Act. Remember that there were plenty of ROC flags (representing pan-blues) flying at that Taipei rally too: I doubt those faces will be as willing to play softball with A-Bian anymore.
I agree that this has been quite a coup for the KMT, and that the DPP have come out of it looking petty. However, I really don't buy into this "Chen Shui Bian is looking increasingly isolated" idea ... from an international (or mainland Chinese) perspective, that may be true; but from an internal Taiwanese politics perspective it's not.
Consider this equivalent situation: internationally GWB has looked increasingly isolated over his support for the war in Iraq. And yet he got reelected as a result of that war. (Replace GWB with John Howard, or Tony Blair in a week, and the statement is the same).
It'll be interesting to see how the KMT handle the relationship with the CCP in the future. A delicate relationship, if ever i've seen one!
Yah I can see your point about A-Bian not being isolated. But as I've said, this is a long-run thing. And the Iraq analogy is quite good, because if there is anything that the Lien visit accomplished, it's to rally the base on both sides.
Simon's itching to return and clamp down on our vibrant and sexually confident guest blogging movement (J/K), so before he gets here, I thought it'd be appropriate to bring a fascinating analysis of the whole anti-Japanese protest movement and the domestic political ramifications for the People's Republic:
CHONG: THE CONTROLS OF POWER BEHIND THE ANTI-JAPANESE PROTESTS
SATURDAY, 30 APRIL, LAST UPDATED 05:05
Ming Pao: Iam Chong is an assistant teaching fellow at the Department of Cultural studies at Lingnan University.
Anti-Japanese protest demonstrations have returned to quiet, as authorities again use heavy language to discourage citizens from going onto the streets. Sporatic arrests have also begun in major cities throughout the country. Some say this is to avoid the upcoming May Fourth anniversary, as well as the sensitive months of May and June.
When the demonstrations were red-hot, some people in Hong Kong were still discussing whether they were self-organized or planned by the authorities. It appears that such discussion is no longer necessary. From the perspective of the authorities, they first generously tolerated, and even assisted, the demonstrations, and then followed with social control. The political powers of the country no longer embarrassed themselves in front of the world's media, like in 1989, when their spectacular methods turned them into oppressors. Hu [Jintao] and Wen [Jiabao] today, as well as local governments, maintained a superficially open attitude, as well as the magnanimity of a great nation.
In this series of protests, not only have the authorities grown smarter, but the public has changed as well, demonstrating a new political relationship: let me use an anecdote to elaborate.
A friend in Beijing told me that there was a pop music awards ceremony at the Great Hall of the People. Singers from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the mainland gathered, as well as throngs of fans. A passionate group of fans near the Great Hall unfurled a banner toward the [Tiananmen] Square to support some singer. Some were even distributing pamphlets. Public security immediately confiscated the pamphlets and dispersed the fans, dampening spirits. Another group of “smarter” fans wearing identical uniforms unfurled a banner as well, but faced against the square and toward the Great Hall at a 45 degree angle. Public security did not intervene at all, and things ended happily.
Many self-motivated individuals have worked with the authorities long enough to know their bottom line, and have a firm grasp on how to find the possibility, time and space for group activities. They also are self-restraint in the extent of their words. The authorities have also learned that the key to controlling society is to not casually show their ugly side and use violence to intimidate.
Demonstrators threw bottles at Japanese restaurants and legations. Public security gently used dissuading words, and the crowds replied, “ we are not contesting the government!” Shanghai public security announced “walking advance paths” to direct the protesting crowds. As the tone of the authorities tightened, the Internet became quiet over the past few days. For example, anti-Japanese messages have disappeared from the front page of “Blog in China” for some time, probably the result of self-restraint and self-examination by the people.
Will this year's May Fourth be like that of sixteen years ago? I am not optimistic that the people will rally forth: today's China can no longer be understood by the idea of two contesting elements of “society” and “the regime,” and the political powers no longer rely on “unitary systems” to directly control society. New power networks are developing in Chinese politics, and minor transgressions and resistance are swirling and struggling in these networks. Apparently passionate anti-Japanese protests appear to be only a minor test of the hidden and secure power networks, and cannot be said to be confrontation and subversion.
Xu Dunxing, former Chinese ambassador to Japan, says that when then vice-Premier Deng Xiaoping went to Tokyo to attend the exchange of authorizations for the Sino-Japanese Treaty of Peace and Friendship on 23 October 1978, he responded to a Japanese reporter's question as follows: “We call the ‘Senkaku Islands’ the Diaoyu Islands, and we have different names and different viewpoints on these islands,” “We believe that the wise course of action is for both countries' governments to avoid this problem. Putting it aside is not crucial, and there is no problem to wait for ten years,” “The next generation will be smarter than us, and will eventually find a mutually acceptable way to resolve this problem in the future.”
In some ways, I agree with Deng that the future generations will be better at this, but that generation is at least eighteen years late.
BEIJING, (AFP) - Around 27,000 jurors will report for duty in China next week, state media said, as the country introduces jury trials in an attempt to reform a system widely criticised for its lack of independence.
Under the current system, judges are the sole arbiters in court cases but they have been widely criticised by the public for lack of independence from the government and the Communist Party.
The legal system is also riddled with corruption.
While China already has jurors, they are largely hand-picked by a court or approved by court officials after they received recommendations from local authorities.
Lack of jury trials is an issue that has historical causes: trial by judge has been the historical norm in China for millennia. A related legal phenomenon unique to China is the petition system. But while such a system has obviously served China sufficiently for millennia, it is apparent that they are not adequate in keeping up with social and technological changes in the past century. Attempts at legal reform are therefore at least a bit encouraging.
On the other hand, in a move that probably preserves stability, but at the expense of the rule of law, the NPC Standing Committee has given its rubber stamp approval of the two-year interpretation of the HKSAR CE term length.
Before the whole China-Japan textbook controversy, the biggest news in China was the Anti-Secession Law and the subsequent KMT visit to the mainland. Today marks the next chapter in that story, as KMT chairman Lien Chan flies across the Strait and returns to a mainland China that he had not been in for over fifty years. As I've blogged about before, the last visit was quite the PR success for the Kuomintang, and even A-Bian has been forced to go along with it.
State media reported on Monday that Chinese police have detained a netizen attempting to launch an anti-Japanese protest on May Day.
This is the strongest sign to date that China is trying to avoid a re-enactment of this month's violent anti-Japanese protests. Chinese people believe that Japan is whitewashing its history of invasion through authorizing revised textbooks, leading them to the streets in anger.
The Yangtze Evening News reports that the arrested 20-year-old male has the Internet alias YMAKELOVE [ed.: *snicker*], and had been encouraging people on a popular chat room to follow after the protesters in Beijing and Shanghai. The thousands of protesters in the two cities had thrown rocks and bottles at Japanese legations.
The newspaper also reports that he threatened to detonate car bombs at the protests, to create a stronger effect.
This man had encouraged protests in the chat room on the evenings of 19 and 20 April. Police then traced him to an Internet cafe, and arrested him in the morning of 21 April.
Police says that he left school last year for poor academic performance, and accuse him of “fabricating and broadcasting false terror messages.”
After capturing this man on Thursday, Chinese Public Security vowed to severely discipline anyone participating in unauthorized protests.
Previous, protests occurred in many major Chinese cities, lowering Sino-Japanese relations to their lowest point in decades. The Communist Party has launched an advertising campaign to encourage citizens not to hate Japanese people.
How would you feel if you were promised something when you were very young and later realized that those promised goods may never arrive?
I teach at a prestigious economics and finance school in Shanghai, China. My students, freshmen and sophomores, have started to realize that the happiness that they were promised as a youth may never arrive.
Chinese culture is known for its focus on education. Students are told that if they study hard they will get high marks, high marks will mean getting into a good university, a good university will result in a good job, and a good job will mean a happy life.
One student in a recent class proclaimed loudly during a discussion that she was not happy. Her classmates, with their facial expressions, agreed with her proclamation. When will the happiness arrive that we were promised when we were young?
University students are often placed into their major on their first day of college. This means no liberal studies during the first year or so to try and "find themselves" and what path they should take in life. Further, Chinese schools discourage the switching of majors by their students. What is a second year accounting major to do when they realize their passions are elsewhere?
The China Daily recently reported that "... 10 out of every 100,000 Chinese college students once attempted suicide...." and earlier reported that "Among some 2,500 middle school students surveyed in Shanghai, 24 percent contemplated killing themselves."
This issue of happiness is something that needs to be addressed immediately in the Chinese education system.
I've never been to Asia and so can't comment on what it's like there, but it seems like I've met quite a few Chinese nationals here in the US who studied computer programming because their parents forced them to, and now have jobs they hate. Not just the company they work for (there are plenty of crummy places to work), but the actual tasks involved. I've never met a Western engineer who feels this way (though I'm sure they must exist).
I personally love programming, but I don't see how one could do the work if they *didn't* love it. Sitting in front of a computer for hours and hours, day after day, solving one problem after another is not something most people can tolerate.
I'd hate to start my Simon World appearance with a post against another guest, but open discussion of the issues never hurt anyone, and I've always been known to be something of an @$$. Plus, I'm mostly duplicating what a mainstream newspaper is Hong Kong is saying, so it's not like these are fringe concepts. I hope Enzo isn't offended. ;)
As Enzo mentioned previously, Japanese PM Koizumi has once again issued a statement of apology on Japan's historical aggression. How the PRC government will respond is still not certain, but a Ming Pao article reflects on the sentiments of many Chinese people on the sincerity and forthrightness of Japan's words:
According to the original Japanese transcript provided to Ming Pao via the Japanese consulate, Koizumi used such terms as "deep introspection" (痛切なる反省) and "heartfelt apology" (心からのお詫び), but the English translation used such terms as "deep remorse" and "heartfelt apology" [see note below], which was used by most non-Japanese media, creating confusion. When asked by reporters on whether Koizumi did in fact apologize, PRC Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing said that "it depends on how you translate it."
Note: Babelfish translated 心からのお詫び to "apology from heart", but "heartfelt apology" translated back into Chinese is 衷心道歉, which is somewhat stronger. Notably, 心からのお詫び is passive, but 衷心道歉 is active.
Some knowledged Japanese in Hong Kong point out that when Japanese people wish to express remorse, they can use "owabi" (お詫び) or "shazai" (謝罪). "Owabi" is a lighter form of apology, while "shazai" is considerably stronger. Some experts point out that although Japan has "apologized" for war on multiple occasions, they have continued to avoid using "shazai".
A lot of people would probably see such distinctions as nit-picking and trite, but a lot of people in China and Korea are hoping to see Japan feel apologetic (by whatever definitions they are using), not just to utter the words. I think that the PRC government has done much damage in not clarifying on exactly what Japan has said and done over the past sixty years on this issue. I also think that a lot of the protest tactics and extremist sentiments in the mainland are conducive to solving anything, and are downright revolting. But I don't think it's all state-sponsored anger. This is particularly true in Hong Kong: no one has yet given a good explanation to me how PRC censorship has made Hong Kong also so angry at Japan too. Indeed, "a lighter form of apology" seem hardly appropriate for the heinous atrocities that Japan committed in 1937-45.
"Notably, 心からのお詫び is passive, but 衷心道歉 is active."
Well, it's nominalized, but it's not passive. The reason apology was made a noun was that Koizumi was saying that that feeling should always be etched or ingrained (気持ちを常に刻む). Also, translating 痛切 as "heartfelt" is a little off, but that's because it's more like "acute" or "unsparing."
The idea that it could be translated as not being an apology is odd. It's true that, as in a lot of cases, the Chinese-derived compound is more formal than the native Japanese wording; but, you know, in a strange way, you could argue that that makes it less heartfelt-sounding and more like a rote formulation.
I really don't want to get into the nitty-gritty as to exactly how much did Japan apologize for this time. I'm just reflecting the popular sentiments in China right now.
I recall someone said that Japan is saying 'We're sorry that this happened to you' but not 'We're sorry that WE did this to you'. Now I don't think this apology is as insincere as that first example, but I'm getting a bit annoyed at counting how many apologies Japan has made since 19xx. I don't think 'an apology is an apology is an apology'. And whatever apology Koizumi makes always seems to get cancelled out by yet another visit to a certain revisionist Shinto shrine.
Almost a month ago Kevin Drum pointed to a study on blog behavior and the self-reinforcing nature of bloggers and their links (the full study is "Divided They Blog"). In the extended entry is a chart that demonstrates the links between 40 of the top left and right wing blogs (20 from each side). The diagrams show very little interaction between the two sides. It's no surprise that those with similar partisan viewpoints should link to like-minded others more often - also called incestuous amplification. What is surprising is the lack of any significant linkage between the two sides at all. When it comes to political blogging there is plenty of preaching to the converted but little real debate.
It means is blogging, rather than being different or better, is merely a reflection of the partisanship common in politics. Instead of a chance for real debates over ideas it is far more common to find invective, insults and ridicule. That's a shame because it leaves much of the potential of the blogosphere wasted. Here is a vast, diverse collection of expertise and opinion that rewards insularity and punishes outreach. It is easy to see why.
Blogs live for two things: traffic and links. The bigger blogs derive significant revenues from their advertising, thus making it even more important to increase visitors. The easiest way to do that is to latch onto bigger bloggers with similar politics and views. With so many blogs all clambering for attention "the squeaky wheels get the grease". The more extreme and partisan the greater chance bigger blogs will link and more readers will be exposed to that site. And once it starts working the system re-enforces itself - what worked once will work over and over again. The audience dictates the message and at least in these early days of blogging those most likely to read blogs are the politically active. These readers already have views and are most comfortable with sites that reflect them. Should readers go to sites with who's views they disagree and dare post comments, they are quickly shouted down, although it should be noted often those who post comments at "opposing" sites are asking for trouble.
In short, extremes outweigh moderation. Partisanship outweighs consensus. Shouting outweighs debate. And all that extremism and partisanship and shouting achieves virtually nothing.
I think the conversation is civil because we are like minded individuals interested in a freer and better world. Our ideas or outlooks may differ, but in the end we are working towards the same goals - greater knowledge and the sharing of ideas. We aren't discussing silly conspiracy theories but serious issues that have many different angles that must be addressed.
I am always looking for new ideas and different perspects, and will not cling to my own to the death. If there is a better view than my own, I want to hear it and incorporate it. I have a feeling we all hold this view, hence the healthy debate.
It's not hard to hold a civilised debate. It involves some simple skills and two basic rules. Firstly treat each person with respect; secondly follow Bill's advice and keep an open mind. That's the way of rationality and reason. It involves listening and thinking. It involves adapting and questioning. It involves learning and research. It is not easy. But things worth having rarely are.
We need more links across the divide. But the blogosphere will be a much greater place if we can bridge the chasm. Is the blogosphere ready for sites dedicated to open debate without ad hominem attacks, with moderate or multiple viewpoints, where people follow the rules of listening, respect and having an open mind?
I'm wondering whether the Blue-Red schism is really more a manifestation of intellectual apathy on the part of the populace and less indicative of the ideological differences.
2. Dean Esmay disagreed with some of Kevin Drum's assertions but notes:
I believe that, with rare exception, most of us who have been at the blogging game for more than a year or two simply don't like cross-blog pissing matches, and in a year like 2004, back-and-forth link volleys between Bush and Kerry supporters was almost guaranteed to be nasty. Some people enjoy that sort of nastiness but I don't happen to be one of them and I know I'm not unique in that respect.
It was a very trying and difficult year  and I must admit that during the period from the Democratic convention until election day, I don't think I enjoyed blogging much at all. I hope we never have an election year like that again.
Which proves my point that there has been no room for middle ground. Perhaps it was a reflection of the passions felt in the broader American polity leading up to the election. But shouldn't blogging aspire to being more than that?
1. Dean doubts blogs "get powerful by being 'yes men' to each other".
2. I've missed that bloggers link opponents and explain why they are wrong.
3. Dean would like me to point out successful blogs based on this premise.
I'll start out by making an important point: all generalisations are wrong. Put another way, there are exceptions to every rule.
Sortapundit has a study of Instapundit's linkage patterns which highlights my point. Now it's impossible to ever read anywhere near as many blogs as one would like, and Dean is right that Glenn Reynolds does sometimes link to both sides of debates and those who disagree with him. But Sortapundit's study demonstrates this feedback loop perfectly: the same blogs cross referring and linking. It's not a matter of "yes men"; it's a matter of like-minded people re-enforcing each other's views. Look at the list of those linked by Glenn: most if not all of those blogs have similar opinions and views. There's your example, Dean.
Plenty of people talk about the "long tail". While I have no proof, I suspect that to a large extent this echo chamber effect is a natural consequence of many blog readers also being bloggers. The blogger will read from their blogroll and that roll will rightly contain those "big" blogs with whom the blogger prefers. It is a human tendancy that we prefer like minded people...just think of your friends. You may differ, perhaps even over politics, but you will share many of the same values and ideas. It's a core element of friendship. Blog linkage can be thought of the same. Just in mainstream media, the big blogs largely lead the daily blog agenda, and smaller blogs take that lead and link to similar pieces. That's how the echo chamber effect flows.
That's not to say bloggers don't ever link to those with differing views. Dean is right that bloggers love to link and discuss why they are wrong. This current exchange is a perfect example of that. But in the main, at least for the blogs I follow, this kind of exchange is rare. It's the exception. In my reading I find the same posts being referred to with similar comments/thoughts by similar bloggers. If it's to link to an "opposing" blogger, it more often than not consists of ad hominem attacks rather than reasoned discource.
Coming back to Sortapundit's piece. The top ranks of blogging tend to be stable. Big bloggers are big for a reason. I haven't done the numbers but certainly in the almost 2 years I've followed blogs the main ones have not changed a gerat deal. The only new "big blogs" are either journalists joining the medium or those that are more extreme than existing big bloggers.
I find this comment by Dean interesting: It is true that in the final few months of the election I was probably linking a lot less lefty blogs. Why? I couldn't bear the nastiness. The concentrated hatred spewed at and about Bush nauseated me. Even then, I still occasionally linked Kerry supporters like Kevin Drum and Andrew Sullivan. Perhaps the 2004 election was a particularly polarised time in the blogosphere, just as it was in the USA. But that statement by Dean is backing what I am saying. The "nastiness" is not as prevelant at the moment but it's still there. (As an aside it's interesting that comment implies Dean is "right" even though his previous paragraph argues against that).
Scott Kirwin asks the same above referenced study be redone in a non-election year. I'm all for that. I suspect the results would not differ significantly. I'd dearly love to have more time to provide more and better examples as proof of my thesis. Until I get that time I'll leave it to each reader to decide if my original premise - that more extreme bloggers get more readers and links and real debate is rare - is correct based on their own reading.
I don't deny civil debates occur in the blogosphere. We're in the middle of one now. But they are the exceptions, not the rule. That's the shame of it.
I'm not so sure it's so clear-cut as that. I think bloggers reach a penetration and saturation point-their blogs even out and the linkification is what it would ever be. I think bloggers find a comfort level and a comfort audience and generally that's where they stay after a year or two into blogging.
Or maybe I'm just being lazy and need to get off my ass and go link to more people.
Honestly the more I looked at that study the sillier it got. How they defined "left" and "right" was extremely arbitrary. They put at least one Kerry supporter in the "right" camp, just for example.
I continue to find the so-called "amplification" or "echo chamber" effect people talk about to be terribly exaggerated. Cross-blog debates happen all the time, including between left and right. I can't think of a week going by without seeing at least one.
The discussions the four of us have had is truly one of the highlights of my blogging.
I had seen the study you referred to and had found it quite intersting. I do have a few thoughts on why our discourse is civil, even in disagreement:
1) All of the four, in one way or another built some mutual relationships via email as a result of their blog. I find that email discourse is usually more polite than blogging comments, though it doesn't have to be.
2) We have not discussed religion, which often can bring out the worst in people. (Please note that I don't think that if we chose religion as a topic that we would be uncivil.)
3) We all share, I believe, a desire for democratic values to be supported. We have a common framework to analyze events.
4) We are not talking about domestic politics, which seems to me can be far more filled with passion than International Relations. Though the lead up to the Iraq War surely tests this thesis.
I hope that we have many more good dialogues and that we find more likeminded bloggers to debate with.
Thanks for your efforts and thoughts on all of our blogs.
Give us examples of this. I for one only write about issues that I am passionate and or knowledgeable about; I don't write for links. If I wanted links, I would host porn.
Bloggers blog for a variety of reasons, not just for traffic. I've been writing long before Al Gore invented the Internet, and blogs are just another way to keep me from pestering the Wife with my stupid ideas.
Your theory may sound good to you, but I remain unconvinced that it is true. You need much more proof to back it up.
I took a moment to read the study you refer to, and many problems with it leapt to mind.
I believe that what the study shows us best is the divide amongst voters before the 2004 election here in the states.
Most blogs took sides during that election - which could explain the polarization shown by those cool diagrams.
I also believe that the participants were skewed by their own bias towards considering only a single dimension of the political spectrum: Liberal vs. Conservative. In the election of 2004 you would tend to get strong opinions one way or another; after all, very few people believed that any 3rd party had a chance.
What I believe would be more intellectually useful would be the same analysis today (non-election year) with more dimensions to the political spectrum.
For example, Dean Esmay supports Bush (Conservative position) but also supports gay marriage (Liberal position). I support gun ownership (conservative position) but believe that health care is a public good along the lines of fire and police protection (liberal position).
In short I believe that the study is flawed and needs to be redone using a better methodology. In the meantime I do not believe that it gives you the proof that you need to support your claims.
I'm also not so impressed by the study Kevin Drum mentioned over a month ago. In fact, the phenomenon of trackbacks or links from one "side" of the blogosphere to the other is an extremely simplistic view of what it means to "debate." For instance, it's possible that a right-side blogger could comment on a story about social security reform without citing what a left-side blogger thought about it. Instead, he/she might cite several mainstream news sources.
By the same token, a left-blogger like Kevin Drum can post about gay marriage without linking to what a right-side blogger thought about it.
Someone who is arguing (debating) for gay marriage would likely cite sources that they wanted to use to shore up their position. The only possible reason they could have for linking to someone they disagree with was to say "this is what I'm opposed to."
In a real world debate, with teams and a topic and all that, you don't necessarily always reference what your opponent says. You have your own sources to back up what you say.
A more relevant comparison, I might think, is how many times bloggers link to the same media sources. I think you'd find that bloggers are actually referencing a lot of the same material.
Even ignoring all the issues that other commenters have raised with the study, I don't believe it supports any sort of "echo chamber" theory. Reynolds, Sullivan, and Hewitt all disagree with each other on lots of very substantive issues. Dean and Malkin disagree on almost everything. No one knows what Wretchard thinks on anything outside of foreign policy, but everyone links to him on that issue.
The point is that whatever leads to this partitioned graph, it isn't that bloggers don't link to those who disagree with them.
Furthermore, I invoke Occam's razor. If you are going to appeal to the structure of the blogosphere in order to explain the schism in the blogsophere, then you need a second explanation for the exactly corresponding schism in general society. It is simpler to suppose that the same mechanism is at work both in the blogosphere and in general society.
One quick thought: links are not the only evidence of discourse. There are cases where people will refuse to link to sources/groups/etc that they find particularly objectionable (and sometimes, in 'it's all free' blogdom, that includes paid/registration sites). Another missing component of this is that the "internal" discussions of each side are often engaged with (though usually in opposition to) the arguments of the other side.
As I've noted elsewhere real dialogue, the kind that produces changed minds, is a slow process, one which is not, in many ways, well represented by knee-jerk blogging, and which is not at all aided by our "consistency at all costs" gotcha political/media/pundit culture. As you've noted before, I'm in favor of "pragmatic inconsistency" and I'm also a great supporter of people, particularly leaders, who will change their minds, and their policies, in the face of strong evidence.
Singapore and Hong Kong are well known rivals. Usually Hong Kong has the upper hand. But when it comes to blogging Hong Kong is, let's be honest, woefully behind Singapore. Singapore blogs have bigger readerships, are more diverse and more interesting.
Update at 18:03 1st April
I had my own thoughts before posting this question but didn't mention as I wanted to see what others thought. There are some great comments.
Mr Brown and I have been conversing by email and he has agreed to my posting the results.
Mr Brown's first email:
Intriguing thought, your post.
Miyagi, Cowboy Caleb and I were just talking about it over dinner last
night. [Ed. - what a great dinner that would have been!]
Could it be the fact that Singapore is the orphan child of British Colonialism?
Also I think we seem to buzz more because there is no real place for Singaporeans to speak their minds. Blogs offer anonymity and a chance to vent, rant and articulate thoughts that may get you in trouble offline. This is not to say that we live oppressed lives here. Most of us are quite happy and the perceived lack of freedoms is often over-stated in foreign publications. blogs and media. It's not that pathetic as it seems.
We could use more freedom offline but for now, blogs (and even, ahem, podcasts) are pushing the boundaries of tolerance, freedom of expression, and wit. Hopefully, this will spill over to the offline world too.
There seems to be more expats running English-speaking Hongkong blogs, I have noticed. Are there local language blogs booming there? I don't read Chinese blogs, so I am not sure.
I think it also helps that in a very informal way, the core blogging Singapore community sees its role as encouraging the rest of the Singapore blogging community to grow. Sexyblogger was, in part, an attempt to raise the profile of the many Singapore blogs we have. Let a thousand flowers bloom, I say. While not a formal grassroots effort, there are many Singapore bloggers passionate about blogging, and that helps too.
If Singaporeans get used to speaking their minds online, then maybe, just maybe, they will also start asking for their rightful space offline too. Then it will be grand to have played a small part in making that happen.
My dashed off reply:
I had suspected many of the points you (and others) have made. HK is not as English-centric; I can't read Chinese but from what I know there are some but not many of those blogs in HK. Nevertheless the lack of a solid English language audience is certainly a factor. But then why are most Singapore blogs more personal and local compared to those in Hong Kongers? Could it be for the political speech reasons you allude to?
Mr Brown's even quicker reply:
That is an interesting point you make about the local and personal nature of Singapore posts. I suspect that we as a people have been so used to being careful about political talk that it spills over to our personal talk as well. So blogs offer that space of expressing both the political and personal.
But the truth is, much is changing, and our new leaders are trying to open up, It's an eternal tension that our leaders have to deal with. How much is too much freedom? I think this generation and my children's will see many changes. The Internet has opened too many doors and economic opportunities for the Government to ignore. The change towards greater openness is inevitable. The only question is that of rate of change.
I agree that language plays a part. I am sure there are many kick-ass Chinese blogs in Hongkong. Just that Miyagi and I, being of the infamous ACS school (our Chinese very lousy), don't read those.
And so let me expound a little more on my own views and please feel free to contribute more.
1. The language factor is key. Hong Kong is dominated by Cantonese speakers with English quickly being relegated to the third language after Mandarin. Much to the elite's chagrin English proficiency is decling in Hong Kong. Thus those that feel most comfortable in writing in English are expats or "international Chinese". The downside to this is my inability to read Chinese excludes me from much of what happens locally in both the media and out there in the real world. On the other hand in Singapore English is a primary and commonly used language.
2. The nature of blogs in the two places is also shaped by the social and political environment. That's what Mr Brown was getting at and I can only agree. I have nothing against personal diary style blogs and indeed enjoy reading many of them. but the potential for blogging as a new medium and political tool is vast and only just starting to be realised.
3. Blogs themselves often reflect their setting. Singapore seems a more collegial place compared to the individuality of Hong Kong. And so it is with blogs.
There's far more to this and I welcome more debate.
More importantly I implore the Hong Kong Government to not sit idly by while Singapore overtakes our beloved city in this cutting edge field. To the HK Government here's my proposal:
1. Give an immediate grant of HK$50 million to me to set up a project to develop and expand blogging in Hong Kong.
2. I need exclusive use of a Government jet to travel back and forwards to Singapore and other places to better understand the issues.
3. I need a massive grant of free land, cheap loans and preferential treatment to develop a massive property venture on Hong Kong Island, to be called Blogport. To help fund this I will need to be allowed to build 10 luxury condiminium complexes. It's happened before.
would language make a difference?
could there many more chinese-language blogs than english-language blogs in hong kong? as compared to the chinese-english ratio in singapore (i am not aware of any census counts)
here are some hong kong chinese-language blogs that no english-language ones can touch:
Hung One Bean: http://hungonebean.blogspot.com/
these people can read and write in english, but they use chinese instead, and i don't even imagine how these results are deliverable in english.
Singapore is an island and their blogs reflect that. The vast majority are very young and their blogs are somewhat childish and incerstuous*. They blog about each other far more than HK bloggers. I think we have some better quality bloggers (Hemlock, Simon, Spirit Fingers spring to mind and others who don't blog often like Fumier, Ordinary Gweilo, Undressed* King on the Blog, Hongkie Town, Daai Tou Laam etc). As for the Singapore bloggers - OK there's a couple of good-looking birds, but the only one who writes well is SPG. Among the guys Expat@Large, mr brown are pretty good but I don't rate the others much. I don't think numbers are everything. The local English media ignore us because we're constantly slagging them off too! I'll post on the subject.
* deliberately mis-spelt to get past the spam-blocker, Simon!
I would agree that there arn't many (non expat) English blogs in HK, while almost all Singapore blogs are in English. Maybe you guys could run a meta blog that has "notable posts" translated from the Chinese blogs in HK. I was once looking at organising something like this Mainland China and Thai blogs.
Another thing we are looking at doing here in Sg is work through public libraries and community centres to run sessions on blog/rss and other social networking tools. That would bring more people into blogsphere and hopefully more interesting writing and interaction.
I haven't spent much time in Hong Kong, thus this comment is based on my experience living in Singapore and New York. Please excuse me if it is irrelevant.
Surprisingly, I've found that the Internet is a much larger part of the average Singaporean's life than a New Yorker's. People my age (mid-twenties) in Singapore started using the Internet heavily in our early teens. Even in 1995 and 1996, when most of the people you'd encounter in online communities were American, it was almost impossible to find a single chatroom without at least one Singaporean chatter. We had BBS's in 1993/1994, and a Singapore-based MUD with hundreds (if not thousands) of users.
Singaporeans seem to really enjoy the heck out of online communities. I remember when I found out my (middle-aged) aunt had IRC buddies, I was shocked. But despite the technological learning curve, she really dug the Internet.
I think most Singaporeans definitely see the Internet as a social arena, whereas most of the New Yorkers I know use it as an informational tool. Perhaps our comfort level with using online communities as social activity is why we've so many blogs and such strong connections between our bloggers?
How dare you make such an arrogant comment on Hong Kong bloggers!! How dare you suggest HK government give you a grant to promote blogging culture!!
I suggest you "grant" yourself some money and time to learn Chinese and Cantonese. Or just "grant" yourself some time for self-reflection and learning to be more humble to local cultures.
I agree that Hong Kong blog culture is not strong enough. But the reason or solution is not about language. Try to know more about the Chinese societies.
Just want to remind you of one more thing you might not be able to understand. There are millions of bloggers in China. Most of them write in Chinese.
They rely on blogs for getting and exchanging information more than people in Singapore and the West because of government's censorship. But I would not come up with any idea of teaching Hong Kong people to write blog in simplified characters.
You are upset for no reason hegelchong. Simon isn't actually asking for government funding, he is actually being sarcastic. The whole asking for money is a parody of the stiffening levels of bureaucratic morrase that smothers Hong Kong as well as the level of collusion between monopolist business interests and the government.
what's the meaning of "east meets west" after all? if eastern languages have to give way to the western counterpart for making themselves visible; if the west, without understanding the eastern cultures and respecting their cultural values, while making stupid and arrogant comments about the place's culture / blogsphere.
and i wonder if the writer knows what is the value of blog, blogger communities, and the new trend in blogger journalism in providing an alternative frame of reference to the world's reality. such value can never be promoted by any "state", it is a counter current to the static hegemony.
please don't think that because you can write in english then you can represent the east to the Rest.
Blogs don't provide "an alternative frame of reference to the world's reality". Citizen journalism or distributed journalism is not about providing "alternate frame of reference". It is about revealing the truth.
Ever heard of the phrase "given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow"? That's the maxim formulated by Eric Raymond to describe the process in which Open Source methods of software development attain such excellence.
It equally applies here, "with many eyeballs, all lies are shallow". Blogs provide the eyeballs to scrutinise what other people say, so that any lies or untruths will be uncovered. The explosion of blogs allow for many people to scrutinise what others say, especially in the mainstream media, provide them with a platform to publish their criticisms so that others may gain from their insights.
Any references to "alternate frames of reality" would certainly lead people to conclude that you've either been reading too much of that po-mo crap, or hitting the bong one too many.
I'd like to factor in Internet usage by Singaporeans vs Hong Kongers in their everyday lives. As Samantha rightly states, Singaporeans tend to use the Internet as an extension of their social lives and perhaps Hong Kongers use it to a lesser extent? I am also guessing that blogging is a fad that hasn't caught on with Hong Kongers. Yet. Btw, how often has the media in HK reported on blogging, much less having a blogger write regularly on one of it's major publications? The Singapore media has been quite active in promoting blogs, which simply gets people quite curious over it. That's my take... it's all good though, as the blogging pie is massive and everyone should have a slice of its goodness.
Han, I'm never upset about what simon said. I just find his ideas funny and stupid.
I certainly understand simon's irony. But there are always assumptions behind irony. How come you don't understand my irony?
Even if I didn't understand it, it would not be necessarily a problem of "proficiency". It might be about "culture" (or sense of humour). And how come you guys (and HK government) keep judging people's English?
I do appreciate Singaporeans' blogs. But the problems of simon (maybe including you?) are not about language, not about his proficiency in English or Chinese. The problem is whether you show respect to the local society and cultures.
hegelchong: it's understandable how and why you're pissed off, but I don't think simon means to be completely disrespectful of the local culture in Hong Kong. it's not like he's totally slagging it off...
maybe it boils down to a cultural divide in the end (ironically enough). he's just being critical and voicing his views, and you're viewing it from a more Eastern perspective i.e. as a 'disrespectful' comment on the local culture, not giving 'face' to the local blogging community. chill out, i say! :)
Chinese is my primary language but I blog in English. I do agree to an extent that the English blogs made by Chinese speaking HK Bloggers is lagging behind SGs ones. (I don't find my blog interesting or worth following to be honest, but at least I made the effort)
But there are again some interesting Chinese blogs around which are worth reading.
John Hawkins: Speaking of which -- take a look at the following numbers. This is how much money the following bloggers are making per week off of Blogads if you take how much money they charge for a weekly ad and multiply times the number of ads they have. Keep in mind that these numbers will be a bit high because rates longer than a week are a bit cheaper...
Frank J.: Instapundit is making more than my salary as an engineer.
John Hawkins: Daily Kos $14,500, Talking Points Memo $8500, Eschaton $6000, Instapundit $3250, Andrew Sullivan $5200...
Ace: John, You're killing me. Crushing me.
John Hawkins: Hugh Hewitt $3000...
Michele Catalano: A week?
John Hawkins: MyDD $6200 , Wonkette $4000
John Hawkins: So is money changing the blogosphere in your opinion? As far as I can tell, it's only changing it for the better.
Frank J.: I know I wouldn't post as much if I weren't trying to improve my traffic so I can charge more for ads.
Michele Catalano: I think it shows in how much people post.
Ace: I've gotten no money thus far (save from donations), but I know I'm tempted to cool down my rhetoric in exchange for a little jack. (my emphasis)
There's more. Blogging is going the way of the internet before it: it is going from the hobby of amateurs to the domain of professionals. But Mammon is a funny old God to worship and there are serious questions that need to be considered. Ace's comment is the key: it would be natural for bloggers to "adjust" their message to persue advertising dollars. In this bloggers would simply be following in the footsteps of mainstream media. Despite journalists protestations to the contrary, most media are aware who pays the bills. That's natural and that's capitalism. Now it's blogging's turn.
Much has been made in recent months of blogging as a new medium and its impact on mainstream media. Yet it seems to me that at the same time money from advertising is luring some blogs into a spiral: a blog serves a niche and thus delivers particular readers to advertisers and so that blog continues to specialise and specialise in that niche to attract more ads. Perhaps it is inevitable. Blogging is strange in that the more popular you get, the more expensive it becomes. There are reverse or dis-economies of scale.
I don't begrudge bloggers trying to earn money from their sights. Hell, the idea that at least some might follow in the steps of Andrew Sullivan or TPM and become almost full-timers is an exciting prospect. What I would like to see is that each blog that accepts money via Blogads (or similar schemes) has a post somewhere prominent clearly explaining the blogger has considered the issues that come with accepting money from advitisers. Issues such as how potential conflicts-of-interest will be dealt with. What ads will and won't be accepted. Any explicit influences advertising has over content. In other words, I'd like to see bloggers facing up to the same issues that other media have dealt with on this issue.
It is great to see blogging rapidly change from a hobby to something far greater. The arrival of money is a part of the evolution of this new field. It brings both risks and rewards for bloggers and their readers and it important that both are considered, rather than just rushing for the money. And while I accept that bloggers are fully justified to recoup their costs and be repaid for their time and effort, I also feel an ambivalence. One of the great aspects of blogging in its earlier guise was that it was the work of amateurs and that it wasn't done for money, but only for the hell of it. Just as the Olympics seemed to lose a special something once professionals were admitted (and Rugby Union while we're at it), so blogging to seems to be losing a certain something about it just as it is gaining credibility and respect. Call it nostalgia.
I've been turning down ads for months. It's not that I couldn't use the money...it's just that...I don't know...I don't look at blogging as a profit center. I guess it would be worth the headache to make big bucks, but I'm happy where I am. Small, obscure and off the beaten path. I had the opportunity to make a large jump recently and decided against it. My blog is just an outlet for writing that I don't sell to print.
I have no problem with bloggers who sell ads...none at all, although I have noticed some bloggers have no shame regarding tip jars. And I mean NO shame.
I certainly understand and feel your nostalgia, but parctically speaking I don't see a problem. When any particular blogger sells his/her soul to the Ad Mammon, the readers will figure it out very quickly. They'll point their browsers elsewhere, taking the Ad Mammon with them.
I couldn't care less about the ads, so long as it doesn't degenerate into pop-ups and flash ads that assault the center of your screen, which seems to the new, next things for many websites. And there's no need to make some declaration, since it's very obvious that BlogAds and Google Sense are now on all the more popular blogs. The biggest threat is that some bloggers will adjust their content or political views to improve their financial position.
Paul: I'm with you. If that Murdoch fellow rings me again, I'm taking out a restaining order! But I do agree I don't see blogging as a profit maknig venture, but I can understand those that do.
Alisa/FD: What worries me are two things: Firstly that a single person doing a blog is not going to be as able to police against conflicts of interest, either conscious or more importantly those subtle ways that having advertisers can influence you. Secondly its the point FD makes; that certain bloggers may be tempted to adjust their views to draw more advertising. Tail wagging the dog and all that.
I am not sure that you have to change your message just to reach a wider audience. In fact in blogging I think the opposite is happening. The MSM has benn unwilling to change their message, so bloggers have been reaching wider and wider audiences by filling the market need. Like Fox news, they see an audience that was untapped and are now reaping the rewards.
In fact, if they do start changing their message to get "wider appeal" they are making the same exact mistake the MSM was doing. Ignoring what their audience is telling them. Their biases will still be obvious but their attempts to be "balanced" will end up being bland and no one will think they are balanced anyway. Readership will drop and ad revenue will drop. Look at CBS and see what they've done to the "Tiffany" network as an example.
Capitalism means filling a public need and you profit from it. Don't fill it, don't profit. Do I know whether Glenn Reynolds, Bill Quick, Charles Johnson ever really believed what they write. Actually I can't be sure they are even real at this point. But another take on current events and call outs on the BS is what I am looking for to balance blatant forgery I see on the airwaves and they are fulfilling that role.
An interesting thing: The discussion around blogging for profit currently centers around political blogs. It makes sense - that's the current focus of blogging hype, and it's unclear how (or even why) people who blog outside of the political sphere should be renumerated for their work. Will people pay for a tongue-in-cheek parenting blog, e.g.? Or are the political blogs tapping into a unique market of die-hard wonks with cash to burn?
Personally, I use my blog as a writing showcase. I've already sold pieces to editors based on the strength of my blog pieces. Whether I'll ever net anything for the blog itself is an open question.
I've been reading the round-up of reaction to the Vice Presidential debate at The Moderate Voice (via Dean) and Allah's, both impressive efforts. Knowing how much work goes into link-fests, it is even more impressive and a great way to quickly summarise the general reaction (which in this case appears to be mixed) to the debate. But it has lead me to formalise something I've been thinking about for a while, which I now dub the Law of Linkage:
The value of any one link in a post is inversely proportional to the total number of links in that post.
For example, if there is only one link in a post, then that link is extremely likely to be followed by interested readers. If there are 10 posts, the chances of jumping to the links are significantly decreased, because if you start following the links you're going to lose the gist of the original post. I admit that on occasion you can find yourself jumping from link to link in random fashion, but usually you're at a particular site because you want to read that site, not others. Obviously if the link is a key part of that post (e.g. an entry reaction to a post at another blog) the chance is that link will be followed; but again the chances are that will be the only link in the post.
When it comes to link-fests there's a second law as well:
The likelihood of any one link being clicked in a post decreases with each additional link that precedes it.
In other words you may even follow the first few links in such a post, but you're not going to be spend hours following them all. In that case the ones at the start are far more likely to be followed than those below (with the possible exception of links at the very end of a post).
These are issues I've been conscious of in constructing the regular Asia by Blog series. It comes down to weighing up being comprehensive to being practical. Going forward I am going to restrict the number of links in each edition in order to make each link more "valuable", albeit not at the expense of providing appropriate coverage. Thoughts welcomed.
Your law of linkage is a rework of Masnick's law of communication wnich was first published in 1973. That law states that a listerner's understanding is inversely proportional to the number of words used. Now this is the general law derived after much experimentation. If I remember the original research it was thought that it varied as the square root of the number of words used but many case studies later it was realised that this was too conservative. An 87% correlation to the direct inverse was found for educated humans.
Michele eloquently and accurately pops the latest blogging bubble. Her premise is simple: that the very moment blogging is getting wide exposure, blogging is also reaching a low point. While I agree with her sentiments I can see a silver lining in the current clouds.
At least some blogs are mutating into quasi-journalists, hunting for scoops and trying to break news as a direct result of the success of the Rathergate (what a horrid name; it's such a cliché to add "-gate" to any controversy. Surely the blogosphere could have come up with some better?) and the large spike in traffic that resulted. The emergence of advertising on blogs and the rush of such exposure has turned some blogs into "scoop junkies".. This inevitably leads to pressure to break the next big story. But just like Big Media, news isn't like that. There are occasional big stories separate by the more humdrum and mundane. Sometimes several big stories break at once, but then there are periods of relative "quiet".
Some bloggers whom have hit upon the idea they may be journalists may be right. As is so common, whereas initially the blogging medium was composed mostly of generalists, we are now seeing the rapid specialisation by some blogs. This narrowed focus creates blog experts in particular fields and allows readers to jump immediately to certain nodal blogs for information on particular subjects. This is, I think, what Michele is lamenting. But specialists are following their interests and their traffic. The rewards (either financial, in readership or otherwise) are there for those that follow their focus. Yet there is still room for generalist blogs, although their popularity may suffer. Every day there are more blogs, there is more to read and yet God dictates there are only 24 hours in each day. You could compare the changes in the blogosphere to the general pattern of evolution - a combination of survival of the fittest and the best adapted. Generalists retain their niche and specialists find theirs, all coming together in a "blogosystem".
However at times the output of the blogosystem as a whole can disappoint readers, particularly long time ones. Blogs change over time as the interests of the author(s); some blogs that are now branching into journalism are a case in point. Along the way they will lose some readers and gain others. It is part of the constant process of change in the evolving life of each blog within the blogosystem. Just as the blogosystem as a whole evolves, so do the blogs within it. I share Michele's disappointment that some previously favourite sites have changed for ways I consider less interesting. But thankfully there are plenty of others out there to take up the slack. Another analogy is a marketplace. Stores change their wares to capture new or different customers or enhance their profits. Some older customers don't like the changes and have to find new stores to replace them. It's a pain in the backside, especially after finding a set that you like and can rely on. But eventually you find others to take their place. The stores (blogs) follow their self-interest and the shoppers (readers) follow theirs, and Adam Smith's Invisible Hand creates something greater. It's laissez-faire capitalism in action.
Longer time readers will note that the weekly "Enemablog" feature, where I summarised some of my favourite links of the week from around the blogosphere. It was for a simple reason: each week there was less and less I thought interesting or worthy enough to link to. I understand the intensity of the coverage of the US election; the importance of breaking the Rather story; and the other top stories floating around at the moment. They bore me to tears. The constant incestual linking between certain blogs is danger of becoming a constant cycle of mutual admiration to the exclusion of anything interesting. There seems to be so many more important things in the world worth talking about: Darfur, Iraq, events all over Asia. But if my previously favourite blogs choose to focus on things that no longer interest me, then that is fine. I'll simply move on to those that do. Like Michele. Or Joe. Or Dean. Or Helen. Or any one of the other blogs on my blogrolls. Time and content permitting, I'll bring that weekly feature back once I start seeing links again worth hanging on to.
We bloggers and blog readers have a choice. Thank God for the blogosystem's diversity.
That's the beauty of the RSS reader, no? I can plug all of the blogs I like into it and, in one place, see what everyone is writing about. And if they happen to be focusing on the color (sorry, colour) pen John Kerry pulls from his pocket, well, I can move on to something more interesting. I'd say, once again, you've nailed it.
I've noticed a lot of blogs changing, and quite a number dropping off. I too have started reading fewer and fewer blogs, other than my die-hard favorites which I have linked in a certain place.
Your blog has also changed a lot-I read more of an edge to your posts, more of a strident political nature than perhaps you had even 6 months ago. But it's the way you write things that brings me here, and it's the fact that I really like you and your writing that keeps me here.
You self aggrandizing pinheads crack me up. "Rathergate" was not broken by a blogger. it was done by a dude named Buckhead on a website called "FreeRepublic.com". FreeRebublic is not a blog but a message board. I love how your sad little community is lamenting the fact that any idiot can put up his own webpage and post a bunch of links to a bunch of other sad dorks' websites. Face facts, there is little difference between most of you. You offer nothing different than countless other attention starved children. As for being journalists, why would you want to go from being an amateur idiot to being a professional one? If you are starting to worry that your voice will be lost amongst the cacophony of sad sacks, take off your pajamas, buy a megaphone and a soapbox and take your show on the road...
Firstly let me clarify a misunderstanding. The Showcase differs from its predecessor in that it is NOT a contest. I encourage people to link to posts they like but there will be no weekly "winner" at this showcase. It is literally a display of new blogs and nothing more than that.
However the following is the core of the article:
My reservations about a revived New Weblog Showcase are based on what blogs really are, instead of unrealistic bloggers' delusions. The blogosphere has developed into a place where a few people with grandiose, often bullying personalities, have gathered sycophants to them. The networks of sycophants trade links back and forth among themselves. Based on this totally artificial construct, bloggers in the networks develop a sense of importance completely out of touch with their actual status in society. The members of a given network also regurgitate the brain droppings of their 'great leader' on demand. As a result, the blogosphere is an echo chamber of the know-nothings much of the time...
The risk with this contest is that it will become another way for the networks to support their participant, regardless of the quality of entries submitted. Awful entries will win votes because they have been smiled on by one of the larger networks. Excellent entries will fall by the wayside because the independent bloggers lack cheering sections. The results will say everything about the organization of the blogosphere, and nothing about thinking and writing well.
So, it is with ambivalence that I link to Simon's New Weblog Showcase and urge people who qualify to consider participating. There are independent bloggers who post entries that are well-researched and ably written. But, based on what I've observed in the blogosphere, we are a minority. If new bloggers adhere to basic standards of journalism, I welcome them. However, there are more than enough bad bloggers already.
As I have just explained there is a misunderstanding in that this is not a contest. But that aside there are some serious issues raised that need addressing. Mac has an underlying assumption that all bloggers are attempting to be journalists and that blogging is attempting to become the "new media", replacing "old media". Furthermore Mac alleges the blogosphere revolves around incestuous linkage and sycophantic linkage in a self-deluding cycle. I will address each in turn.
Firstly the showcase itself can be compared to a trade fair. It is a display of products (blogs) that may not otherwise receive exposure given the large number of blogs. In true capitalistic fashion the market will dictate which of these blogs will gain a wider audience and which will not. Some will find a particular niche and others will attempt for a broader audience. The Showcase will not make a blog successful. Only consistent and good content by the blogger themselves can do that. The Showcase can help bring a blog broader exposure, something akin to advertising.
The Blogosphere itself is a microcosm of the internet. Some sites are obscure either by design or due to limited appeal. Others have a broader appeal and wider readership. A very few dominate their category, much like Amazon or Ebay. Very few blogs even pretend to be a replacement for established media. They are not disseminators of information and fact nor rivals to big media. Some, and again this is a limited category, act as an adjunct to media. Some act as monitors, finding fault with big media and its reporting of news. Some act as fact checkers, reflecting the author's particular expertise and bringing it to bear for the wider world to consider. Very few pretend to be objective reporters of fact. What blogs do bring to bear is almost immediate punditry and opinions. If others finds certain blogs that reflect or challenge them they will gain in popularity. Blogs gain and lose readership depending on that core ideal of serving the readers what they want. It should be noted that many blogs are not written for an audience, but rather as an outlet for creative writing or opinions to be read by none or all. As I have already said, most do not pretend to be "journalism" so it is difficult to understand why blogs need to adhere to so-called journalistic standards.
That's the thing about the blogosphere. It's a marketplace of ideas and opinions. Like any market some sites are popular and are mass-market products. Others are products filling particular needs. Many of these blogs do not survive for long in the harsh world of the blogosphere as it takes sustained effort to provide content consistently. The ones that succeed are because they have found their market and cater to that market, be it large or small.
As for the charge of incentuousness, the blogosphere is guilty. But again that is to be expected. Firstly the blogosphere acts as its own police force. If someone, especially a "big" blogger, posts an item that is factually incorrect you can be guaranteed that someone will pick up on it quickly. Secondly the blogosphere reflects what happens in Big Media but in a more honest fashion. Few newspapers or TV news shows will admit it openly, but the news agenda tends to be set by the very biggest in the media game. Others follow, often syndicating reports from the dominant players. This is not a surprise. The big players are big for a reason and have the resources to do these stories. Alternatively they have a particular angle or access that others must necessarily rely on (for example Al-Jazeera). This is the big media equivalent of linking, except it is nowhere near as obvious. Thirdly the blogosphere as a whole is far greater than the sum of its parts. The constant linkage is its greatest strength and leads the reader direct to the source, or to alternative opinions, or instant responses, or responses to responses. It is the written form of that most basic human interaction: conversation.
Blogging is still in its infancy. Even given the speed of adoption in the world of IT it is not yet significant compared to greater internet use. But this is rapidly changing. There has been fast growth in readership, blog numbers and influence. Don't believe me? Howard Dean, lauded for his use of the internet in his campaign, maintained a blog. Leading politicians have followed this lead. The Democrats are giving bloggers credentials for their convention. Blogs have forced the New York Times and the LA Times to make corrections and blogs were directly responsible for bring the Trent Lott story to the fore. Blogs' readership may not be broad but largely consists of IT professionals, political types (including politicians themselves as well as political junkies), news hounds, journalists, media types and academics. As a whole this group could largely be called the intellectual class. With such an influential audience blogs can punch far above their weight in readership simply by those whom they influence. Any reader of blogs will find, as I have, that many issues and ideas are opened up to them that they might never normally have considered or even come across. It is this broad exposure in the marketplace of ideas that makes reading blogs such a worthwhile experience. It also acts as a feedback loop: those blogs that enhance the experience develop a greater readership and extend their influence, bringing in more readers and linkage.
In the end, however, the influence of blogs is only as great as the readership allows. Most readers of blogs are aware of the limitations of a single person or small group of people maintaining a website of content on a part-time and voluntary basis. Some are moving to a semi-professional basis such as Josh Marshall and Andrew Sullivan. However these types will always be in the minority. Most blogs are labour of love, not methods of financial gain. When reading with all of this in mind blogs are enriching, stimulating and broadening experiences. They should be enjoyed for what they are while bearing in mind the necessary limitations of their form. Like any modern market the reader has the ultimate tool in exercising their discretion: they can read as much or as little (even none) as they like. It is their loss.
As for me, I will continue to enjoy this new medium and feel flattered to be a very small part of it. The blogosphere will find its place in time and it is fascinating to watch it unfold. Most of all I love the diversity, the broad spectrum of opinion and the instantaneous cut and thrust of it all. If you don't, the newspapers and TV remain there for you to use instead.
UPDATE: read the comments for some more great insights.
As you say, Blogging (like the internet) is a relatively new technology, and one can track the historical-evolutionary path of recent new technologies and see that making predictions or having specific expectations is a fool's game.
All 'visual' technologies (and I put the web in that category, among others) are/were INITIALLY exploited by "pornographers." They have the greatest incentive and apparently the most creative (albeit often 'criminal') minds.
Painting, photography, film, video, and the web were seized by porno producers -- and only later did the average producer/consumer add applications.
The Blog is similar; it began as 'first person' xxx stories on porno sites, ie 'journals', and were later adopted by digital diarists -- and have only recently become recognized as 'something more', as you say, an adjunct to the mass media, a fact-checker, etc. etc.
The only problem arises when one (MacDiva, for instance) tries to pin rules, labels, and restrictive expectations on this evolving form.
It's like someone telling an early 19th century photographer that Photography should ONLY be accurate depictions of reality.
Given the variety of later (and especially contemporary [digital] photography, that sounds ludicrous.
A blog, then -- like photography -- is Information. Info comes in a variety of forms -- and performs a huge variety of functions: good, bad, ugly, and indifferent. The only rule is that there are no rules.
And at the heart of it all, Blogging is Writing -- and a sign that even in our hyper-electronic environment, a literate, linear-minded, narrative-based typographical creature might continue to exist on a planet slowly evolving to accomodate a pair of eyes gazing out from an atrophied mind and body playing video games or watching American Idol.
PS: Simon, if you haven't figured it out yet, MacDiva's "essays" about "Blogging" are really just pedantic exercises meant to demean other bloggers and boost her sense of importance. They rarely contain any original thoughts or insights.
(example: MacDiva: "...There are independent bloggers who post entries that are well-researched and ably written. But...we are a minority...")
-- Which reminds me: one might also add this to the long list of Blog "uses":
"A relatively isolated, disturbed and/or sociopathic person's only sense of importance, communication, and means of personal expression."
Email. It is reckoned to have been "a good thing", saving paper, speeding communications, enhancing workplaces and information flows. It is cheap, quick and convenient. It has a lot to answer for.
Email is an excuse for laziness. Its very convenience lends itself to people engaging it without thinking, much like talking. Often email acts as a written one-sided conversation. It has the advantage that you can tackle it at a time and place of your choosing. You can delete, edit, reply, forward, copy, import, export, bend, twist and (sadly) live for it. It's cheapness and format are such that people rarely think about it. That has to stop.
So I hereby humbly present some Laws Of Email:
1. Before adding someone in the To or CC box, ask if they really need to see it.
A sender's instinct is to copy far too many people on emails that may have little to do with the recipients. This breaks down into three main reasons. One is arse-covering - if everyone's been copied no-one can say they didn't know. The second is the arse-sucking - look at me, I'm so good, I just did this, aren't I clever. Lastly is the arse-draining - regularly sent blocks of information churned out and blasted as more information fodder. The best way to think about it is to put yourself in each recipient's shoes and ask if you would read it if you were them.
2. Replies to emails are worse than the originals.
Replies are usually instantaneous reactions. They are rarely well thought out considerations of the issues and topics brought up in the original. Often it leads to a quickly disintegrating cascade of misunderstandings and insults that finally gets sorted out in the traditional manner: by speaking to each other.
3. There is no email in the world that deserves a one-word reply.
Don't send me an email saying "Thanks". It's 3 seconds of my life I can't get back.
4. Just because it's an email doesn't mean the rules of English grammar don't apply.
Little things like punctuation and capital letters are really not too difficult to find on a keyboard. Or so you would think. English grammar is not particularly easy but the basics are. Once you work out how to write complete sentences and where pesky commas should go at least I've got a chance of understanding your intent. Going overboard is a danger too. Three exclamation marks don't make the point any better than one. Smileys and abbreviations have a place but don't go overboard either, unless you want the email look like alphabet soup.
5. Email is not a replacement for the telephone (or other person-to-person interaction).
Email is a static medium. It is not a form of dialogue. It is the modern era's form of correspondence. There's a world of difference. Don't be a lazy idiot because you can't be bothered picking up the phone or walking around the corner to talk to someone. This leads to...
6. Don't call me to tell me you sent an email.
I look at emails when and as I can. I don't need a minute long phone call telling me to look at my email. Especially when you could have told me the contents of that email in the phone call.
7. If you are relying on a spell-checker, at least use some common sense.
Just because Microsoft says a word is spelt wrong, you don't have to agree. Some people are no good at spelling and checkers work for them, but for God's sake use your brain a little and make sure the result is still in English.
8. It is not a crime to read over an email before you send it.
Just because you dashed it off doesn't mean you've got to hit the send button. The email doesn't evaporate. Do the world a favour and read it once. You'll be amazed at the baloney you've written.
9. Make each message brief and to the point.
The best emails have the main points in the first few lines; if you have other guff then add it below. We've all got inboxes stuffed to overflowing so the quicker and more simply you can get the information across the better place the world will be. Here's a hint: why not make the title of your email descriptive enough that people will know the contents before they open it.
10. Don't forget there are other forms of correspondence.
Email can be a great way to keep in touch with distant family and friends. But really the ancient art of letter writing needn't be discarded at the great altar of technology. Handwritten letters, even with scrawling writing and crossing outs, is far more personal. You may even remember how to write with a pen if you use it once in a while. And stamps don't set you back that much.
11. Spam is bad, don't make it worse.
Look at your email and the people you sent it to. If your name wasn't there would you call it useful? Helpful? Or a waste of space.
12. Viruses are bad, don't make them worse.
Don't open attachments unless you are 100% sure you know the source and are expecting the file. Morons who haven't realised that opening that ZIP file from email@example.com will get what they deserve, but you needn't join them in the 7th circle of Hell.
13. Etiquette is not a four letter word.
Don't use all capitals. Don't even say "Oops I had the Caps Lock on" half way through. Just use the Backspace button and try again. Just because it is an email being polite is not a crime. You needn't sign off with a Your Obedient Servant, but putting your name at the end is a good start. That said you don't need an all singing signature either. Avail yourself of some pointers and advice.
14. Get organised.
You needn't reply to every email straight away. Many are junk and useless. But not replying at all is the same as picking up the phone but not saying anything. Replying too quickly can get you in trouble (as mentioned earlier) but taking days or weeks to reply certainly doesn't help either. If you're getting overwhelmed with email, do something about it. Start sorting mail into folders. Use the filters and rules. Start asking people to take you off lists. Stop getting Dilbert and Joke-a-Day sent to your inbox if it's getting clogged up. Be diligent and prioritise. Look at the email - does it need immediate action? Can it wait? Can it be deleted without reading? Don't wait for later. Later never comes.
15. Encourage others to follow the rules.
The world isn't go to be a better place if you do it on your own. Encourage others to follow your example.
16. Stop whinging and start doing.
The ritual of returning from holiday and impressing everyone with how many emails you have is quickly replacing other forms of measuring importance such as status, fame and success. Your job competence is not related to your inbox size; indeed the better you are at handling email the better you will be in your job. Everyone's in the same boat so get on with it and stop talking about it.
This is by no means comprehensive. Additions or comments are welcome.
mich just read your blog and saw how much you have blogged today. her comments couldn't be published in Singapore, but involved the words "do" "some" "(unprintable in Singapore)" "work". in that order.
When mailing to a list, if you think it may be forwarded by the recipient, use the BCC field for the addresses. That way your addresss book doesn't get forwarded 30 times all over creation. This does not apply if you WANT the recipients to know who else got the email.
*Cutting & Pasting
When you do forward something, cut & paste the text in a new email. That way you're not forwarding the address of the person who sent it to you.
Just because the message travels at the speed of light does not mean I will read it right away. Wait at least 30 minutes before chasing the message up. If it's urgent either phone me or come and see me
Another one-don't expect an instant reply from me just because you're a loser and have the "Mail Opened" notification tagged on each and every mail. I may find your mail boring. At any rate, I will respond to it when I feel like it. I have a life.
This blog suffers from a disease. Don't fear, it's not contagious. I choose to call it Nice Blog Disease (NBD). It's similar to Don's and Jim's diagnosis of Nice Guy Disease (NGD). Like NGD it punishes the nice and rewards the wicked. And it is just not fair.
There are all sorts of blogs out there. They fall into 3 main categories. Firstly there's the political ones. These rant and rage against all that is wrong with the world, which tends to be anything they don't agree with. Secondly there's the humour ones. These find some niche and spin comedy from it. Sometimes these are combined e.g. Allah. Then there's the rest which are best described as slice of life blogs. These are diaries, reflections, observations. Of course many blogs are combinations of various elements of these. However keeping it purely in one of these three categories is the first step to blogging success. The next step is to take your category to an extreme. So in politics, take a view and push it hard while slating everyone who cannot see your point of view. In comedy, stick to your theme and redo it over and over again. In the slice of life ones the more open about yourself the better. If you expose demons or expose your life to the world you'll get the hits. Just as people like to stare at car crashes, the same with lives.
I am not saying I don't enjoy any of these kinds of blogs. My blogroll contains examples of each and I enjoy them all a lot. Otherwise they wouldn't be on the roll.
What I do have a problem with is simple. Those blogs, such as this, that are a mix of these categories tend to not get the publicity. The hits. The links. The notice. Especially if you're on a periphery, such as Asia. The Blog-iverse is based primarily around the USA, so that puts Asia right on its outer extremes. There are exceptions of course, such as Gweilo or Jim. There are no slice of life blogs that come close to approaching the dominance of political ones such as Instapundit, with the possible exception of Lileks.
But I maintain blogging is like life. Often, nice blogs come last. Any ideas for curing NBD? Perhaps post a whinge about NBD?
Which is why I am trying to do what I am doing with the Asia blog awards (which now includes a category for best essayist and best diairist).
I built it in a way which meant that it was not only the top ten that got a mention.
If 200 Asian blogs (and there are more than that) put the logo on their bar and posted a noted saying go vote for your favourites here we could get a buzz going and extend the readership of some of these sites.
I have a feeling I am going to fail because I think most people prefer to complain rather than lift a finger to do anything or support anyone who does (in general).
There's a fourth (fairly) major category: writing/reading blogs. Neil Gaiman's (http://www.neilgaiman.com/journal/journal.asp/) would be a pretty successful example. Mine (http://metastasis.popagandhi.com/) would be a pretty pathetic one. Though I suppose you could treat them as "slice of life" blogs which lives just happen to involve a lot of writing/reading.
Anyway, NBD or not, yours seems to be doing decently. I just discovered it (through Phil's contest, so it looks like its achieving its aims!), but I'll certainly be reading it in future.
The perverse thing is that if I just did a directory if Asian sites it would not be as effective (although that is mny next project). By wrapping it up in some form of competition it generates a lot more interest.
I have previous stared at my blogging navel in contemplation of the world of blogging. However something has happened today that has caused me to reflect and think some more about blogging and in particular this blog.
What is a blog for? It really is an unanswerable and probably useless quesiton. Whatever the writer intends for a blog to be is irrelevant to what it becomes. The blog simply is whatever those who read it deem it to be. If it accomplishes the goal of the blogger as well then that's a bonus. But like most things on the net how it's used is more important.
Nevertheless the blogger is doing it for a reason or reasons. People are free to read or ignore each blog as they see fit. Most bloggers are at least in part driven by a need to be read, because if no one's reading then they never will accomplish their goals. On a further level it is about influence: either through humour, thought or otherwise. Most blogs contain elements of persuasion to a point-of-view, even if it is only oblique. The successful ones are often measured in hits but I would argue even more important is what influence they have on their reader. Many might read Instapundit daily because it provides a quick overview of what's going on in the blogosphere and world, without ever being influenced by Evil Glenn's thoughts. That's what I mean by the difference between a blogger's intent and a blogger's impact.
Let me talk about the one blog I know something about: this one. There is a mixture of purposes here. I am trying to keep family and friends in touch with our lives in this foreign land. I am trying to make observations about this land I am in from my unique point-of-view (as anyone's views would be unique from their point-of-view). I am trying to use a mix of humour and thought in discussing whatever pops into my head. Sometimes I am simply just having fun and experimenting with this medium. And for whatever reason you have found this little corner of the net and are reading this now. So obviously somehow that mix is working.
But I don't post everything on this blog. I make no apologies about my self-censorship. I hide the identity of my family, though it is not hard to work out who they are. I like to think the characters are obvious enough without pinning pictures and real names on each. I disguise where I live, not because I think I will be stalked (Brittney, email me for the address), but simply because it's not relevant to the goings-on of this blog. I do not comment about my workplace. I try to avoid too much commenting on topics that overlap with my work for the same reasons. I am always mindful that this blog is in public and essentially here for all time (which in blog terms is about 5 months, but you get my drift). I do think about some of the people who read this such as family and co-workers. If I choose to say my boss is the greatest guy in the world I expect he will read that sometime. Hopefully he will then see fit to pay me a whopping great bonus so I can retire. Like a newspaper the writer needs to be mindful of his audience as well as his purpose.
The question comes as to where to draw the line between what goes on here and what stays off. There's no rules for that. I make that decision each time I post something. Usually it is not such a tough decision. The question is usually what to post because it is interesting or it fits or just because. I spend more time worrying that I'm using too many contractions in my posts and breaking too many grammar rules like using prepositions to start sentences or having long sentences that are a series of clauses joined with conjunctions in differing tenses and voices and finally ending a preposition that is unrelated to the previous phrase, but.
This post is not like that. All this has been prompted by some very unsavoury events at the Disneyland complex where I live. The man in question is a friend of several of my co-workers. I've posted the article because it is obviously relevant to my life here. But I've been deliberating whether I should and to be honest I'm still not sure I've made the right decision. Murder happens all too often but thankfully it is rarely this close. But when it does come so close to home (both literally and metaphorically) it causes a pause for thought. This time it is not happening to that mythical "them", it is happening to "us". I can't put that mental distance that's needed in order to make the news feel safe enough to comment on. Instead I'm simply waffling on in a metaphysical dissertation on the nature of blogs. It is really overly self-indulgent in the extreme.
So now we're at the end of this post and you'll soon move on to the next one or to another blog. Just like in a novel or newspaper though it is important to remember that these words are written by someone with an agenda and a motive. The process of writing always involves judgements such as these: what to include, what to exclude; what to say, how to say it; and when not to say anything at all.
Sometimes those judgements are extremely difficult to make.
Wow. I'm really sorry about what happened there. The word "gruesome" comes to mind.
My blog is a personal blog. I don't write about politics or current events. I don't do it to keep up with family and friends. But, like you, I am extremely careful to mask names, specifics, and real details about my company. Basically, I don't list anything that I could get called on the carpet for (that they are having lay-offs in a few weeks is a matter of public record).
Blogging is ok and necessary and interesting, but at the same time, it's always best to keep the details private.
Interesting post. I have thought about this a lot in the past 10 months. My site is pretty well known now as is the person behind it. I don't mention too many names unless they are public names but so many people know the characters I am referring to (like She Who Must Be Obeyed or SWMBO, my girlfeiend) that it gets very difficult.
I would probably never be able to renew my membership in AmCham (I used to have one as theMD of a company you have almost certainly heard of). Companies that might employ me only have to do a search and find my name plastered over the Internet both from magazine articles for the past and my blog which is very well indexed by google.
Once you start down this road you have to be careful of the doors you close. I have closed a few. Sometimes I think with hindsight doors I should not have.
This blog is a random mix of family news (for the family and friends back in Oz), Hong Kong happenings and other bits I pick up on from time to time. It is deliberately like this and in keeping with this theme there are deliberately no categories to sort through the mess. The blog reflects whatever comes into my little head at the time. My thoughts are not in order or in categories and neither is this blog. For that I make no apology. Hopefully there's something interesting enough to keep you reading, otherwise skip to the next entry and it will be on something very different.
But back to the original question. Who reads them? My theory is mostly they are read by either other bloggers or those who know bloggers. It is an ever-growing circle but it is still confined within itself. There are few outlets from the blogweb to the wider world or even into the wider internet.
This grouping of bloggers is a self-selected elite. Why an elite? It is easy to start blogging but there are still barriers to entry. You have to find a host, work out the format, decide on what your blog is for, create it and then post content. You need to be comfortable with technology and have a rudimentary knowledge of the net. Inevitably this requires a few things: computer and (usually) high-speed internet access, an ability to write at least moderately well and having something to say. Something different to say, otherwise your blog will remain visited by yourself and your Ma and no one else.
The blogweb is a slice of humanity. It is not representative of all humanity. It is not even representative of all internet users. It is diverse with different views and people...in some ways. In others it is very much all the same. There are so many original voices and spending some time following link to link can lead to the remote parts of the net. But what does it all add up to? Do blogs really do much? Can they influence anything in the real world? Or are they like those newspaper editorials that everyone gets wound up about but don't do anything to change anyone's mind? Doesn't all this diversity get monotonous?
All these blogs are just (mostly) talking to each other. Ideas and memes just spin around the blogweb at a hundred clicks a minute, but do they go anywhere else? Are there any examples where the blogweb has had an influence on the "real" world?
I sometimes imagine that all this blogging is a great diversion of energy for lots of intelligent people. It is the human equivalent of putting the 1,000 monkeys with 1,000 typewriters in a room to come up with Shakespeare. From my limited knowledge blogging has only caught on in a big way in the last three years. Maybe it's all too early to tell if it will amount to anything more than giving people an outlet to vent and have a mutual admiration society for each other. A way to say to the world: "I'm an individual," followed by the blogweb's "We're all individuals. We're all different," with apologies to Monty Python.
I've changed my mind because I read "XYZ" is something you rarely read in the blogweb. I don't know the answer. When is the last time you saw that in a blog?
To answer the original question of who reads weblogs? Everyone and no-one. Everyone in the blog web (or with connections to it). No-one that matters.
I debated this too, actually. I thought blogs were read by, well, bloggers. But there is a larger community of web geeks, people with extra time on their hands, and those who find their way to blogs via Google searches and whatnot.
BBC has recently had a series of articles on blogs, which I think has opened up the spectrum a bit.
I am also curious about how to branch out. I think it's really only a matter of time. We are, after all, all voyeurs to some degree.
Instapundit and Matt Drudge and others seem to be having an increasing influence on the mainstream. Because they are putting ideas out there that are different from big media or look at things from several point of view. Blogs are eliciting feedback that is immediate. They are getting discussions going. Those that are exposed to them are telling their friends (Hey check out Gweilo Diaries I said to a friend. Next thing I know they have a blog). I think the idea is going to grow and by the time of the US election next year, one or more bloggers will have a significant impact. (One or more candidates have hired bloggers to blog their campaign!!)
And if blogging is "elite" then what is the bignewspaper these days? Per person that they reach, some of the larger blogs costs are miniscule compared to the NY Times etc. How much would it cost you in time and money to build the NY Times from scratch?
On a relative scale, blogs give those people with vastly less total resources at their disposal an increased ability to get their idea out there. Many, probably even most, are not profound ideas and some are even silly or inane. But there is some real quality ideas and discussions happening now that just would not have been out there several year ago.