The Blogosphere: Insular and Incestuous?
Let me begin this post by saying that I deeply treasure every single one of you, my readers. I truly do. You are the reason why I've designed my blog to be lightweight, standards-compliant, accessible, and free from excess "eye candy." My respect for you is the reason why I am committed to avoiding begging you for money—ever. You are the reason why I write this blog. To be sure, I keep the material that I write strictly for myself in my personal offline journal.
What am I driving at, then? Simply this: I've come to the realization of late that the blogosphere represents a rather limited, insular, and incestuous subculture of people. A dynamic, intelligent, and inquisitive subculture of people, certainly—but a subculture that is limited in scope and insular in reach nonetheless. Yeah, I know...*yawn*...tell us something we don't already know, Tim. Hear me out.
Over the past month I've had the good fortune of meeting a larger-than-typical number of new friends. In having these spirited conversations with these good men and women, I've learned many interesting facts about them. One striking detail is how many people, especially in the over-40 crowd (of which I am almost a member),
- Are mildly, moderately, or heavily technophobic
- Are barely computer literate
- Have no earthly idea what a "blog" is
To quote Dr. Phil, I didn't just ride in on a load of turnips. That is to say, I knew on many levels that there exist many Americans who are not as "plugged into" the Internet as, say, my wife and I are. However, the degree to which this is true has been double-underlined for me recently, and this insight caused me to discern a couple critically important points:
- Weblogs can be considered incestuous because they often involve the same group of people "feeding" upon each others' material
- Weblogs can be considered insular because only those with a certain degree of computer literacy are able to access them; those without "teh skillz" are absolutely, utterly in the dark regarding the insight that weblogs have to offer
Concerning my "incestuous blogosphere" remark, the best explanation I could find for this emerged from a November 16, 2003 post entitled "Blitzin' the Blogosphere" from the Read My Lips weblog:
Now, 'bout that incestuous blogosphere crap, I have been sayin' for years that some bloggers continually link to the same blogs all the time. I know I do, because I seldom read blogs that are not on my blogroll, yet most blogs on my blogroll are there because someone on my blogroll had linked to a story of theirs that I liked, I checked out the blog and added it to my blogroll. Regrettably, I find I only have so much time to devote to readin' blogs, so I just can't be readin' them all. Sorry to those of you that were mentioned in the Washington Post story, but I have never read your blogs or ever even heard of your blogs. I did, however, notice that my blog was not mentioned in that story or anyone's blurb about that story. I wasn't surprised.
Until a month or so ago I maintained a small blogroll at Mother Tongue Annoyances. Then I decided to scrap the 'roll and to limit my links list strictly to topical Web sites that closely match my site content.
Honestly, if I were to list the weblogs that I visit on a regular basis, you would see such a random hodge-podge of viewpoints! To me, the idea of link exchanges, blog "popularity contests," blog post award banners, "A-list bloggers," and such does nothing but lend credence to the notion that the blogosphere is becoming slowly more incestuous and self-consuming over time. As the blogospheric pop mantra says: blog will eat itself.
In short, I realize not only for myself as a blogger, but also for perhaps any blogger, our potential readership is but a tiny fraction is what it could be due to the minority of "blog-aware" users in the world. Again, I know that this is not earth-shattering news to anyone reading this post; after all, you are, in all likelihood, part of the "blog-aware" populace!
I'm grateful to those organizations and individuals who take it upon themselves to help increase the visibility of personal weblogs. That's cool. For my part, however, I tend to keep MTA on an extremely low profile in my daily life. While I am quick to "talk up" somebody else's weblog to a friend, I am uncomfortable referring someone to my own site; it feels too much like shameless self-promotion. Your mileage may vary, naturally.
Thanks for letting me
bend your ears touch your eyes.