File under: It’s 8:30 and I’m just getting home from a j-o-b? WTF? Where are the hovercrafts we were promised? Where’s my fucking jet-pack and hot robot maid?
There was a lot of conversation below decks about the Rich Blog/Poor Blog thing, and it has been commendably thoughtful, considerate, and never degenerated (as commenter sharoney noted) “…into recrimination, namecalling, "poor-me"-ism, and accusations of selling out.”
The poo cannons have been largely silent, and some frank questions and critiques got raised which seem to pretty accurately represent the general sorts of objections one hears on the subject.
So let's take them on, one-by-one.
But first, an industrial-size “Thank you” for your comments, emails and kind words. They are Cap’n Crunch for my occasionally weary spirit and often ass-dragging corpus.
Second, let me reiterate that I have no money on this horse. I do more than fine:
“…I believe I am spectacularly fortunate. I am the sole proprietor of my own funky little café on the edge of the Sprawl. The rent is zero – my day gigs cover the expenses for my meager vices, and any “value” the place has comes from word/sweat equity and the cool people that hang out there.
I set my own hours and whip up any kinda pie (or pictures of pies) that suits me. And when I set them out, smart, accomplished, passionate humans come by to nosh, read, chat, rebut, add, call me a smartass commie, riff, whatever.”
But there is an earnest debate roiling right at the heart of the digital Left about who we are, and about how closely our gallant ““Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité” words do and do not match our mundane, daily deeds.
And when that debate is roiling among writers?
Among the kind of people Voltaire must’ve meant when he said, “To hold a pen is to be at war?”
Well, it gets pretty interesting. Kinda draws my attention.
Third, commentor Swopa said...
If I may offer a rebuttal on behalf of a clique to which I don't belong...
1. It's kind of cheating to debate "the received wisdom of the Elders of the digital Left" rather than the specific words anyone has said. If I could paraphrase your argument to my tastes before starting, rest assured that as brilliant as you are, I could kick your ass on any topic -- and it would prove nothing.
I abbreviated, but fair enough.
To be clearer, I have heard this received wisdom echoing many times, but most recently at the YearlyKos Panel “Evolution & Integration of the Blogosphere” which Micah Sifry has done a fine job reporting on here (and which I have sullied by adding emphasis):
Chris Bowers starts out by asking: In terms of traffic, the top 50 national blogs who focus on politics has remained almost identical for the last two years. Instead of starting their own blogs, new people blog at DailyKos or HuffingtonPost, two mega-blogs. The top 50 receive over 95% of all the traffic. Is it fair to say that a blogosphere establishment has formed, at least in terms of urls, if not in terms of people?
Tracy Russo answers that yes, at least in terms of people, a "tight-knit network" has formed. It's harder for new voices to draw readers away from their established reading habits.
Amanda Terkel says that because the top blogs produce so much content, it's very hard for anyone to match that. HuffPost has 40 employees. ThinkProgress has four. You also see the establishment trying to co-opt the blogosphere. Ultimately it still depends on good content, not whether you come from an established organization. But overtime she agrees its natural for an establishment to form.
Amanda Marcotte says a lot of the feeling that there is an establishment comes from the sense from people with teeny blogs who feel that they can't get more attention.
Matt Stoller notes that broadband adoption has slowed, except among black and latino communities. If you look around the room, this [the blogosphere] is a media model for liberal whites. That market, I think, there's no more there. At least not now.
Tracy Russo responds: It's really hard to be one of those top 50 people, producing all that content every day, and promoting it to their fellow bloggers. You can work at it, however, but it's really hard to be a good blogger.
Ali Savino: There really isn't a single blogger type. Even Duncan has his guest poster minions. Unless you have five friends who want to start a site with you, I don't know how you can do it.
Duncan Black: My blog is really my voice. I don't write a lot. I link to other people, link to new sources, link to people who make jokes I wish I had made or wrote things that I wish I had written. When we move out of my zone into communities of people who are talking about things I don't really know about, I may read them and find them fascinating, but there's a barrier to linking to them because they're not really in my voice.
There was some interplay, but c’mon: it’s hard to get wisdom more “received” than from this group.
And note what it is that Duncan identified as his specialty: “I don't write a lot. I link to other people, link to new sources…” (might actually be “news”)
Bob Geiger, on the other hand, was very supportive as he facilitated “How to Get Your Blog Noticed”. Sorta pooh-poohed a lot of the received wisdom and gave a very good presentation, peppered with funny anecdotes and practical advise.
He’d make a fine teacher.
Then again, Bob is going on indefinite blogging hiatus.
Commentor Swopa also notes:
2. As a specific example of the above, when I've read high-traffic bloggers opining about what creates high traffic, they've emphasized not brilliant writing so much as lots of output. In fact, thanks to a quick Google search, here's Atrios: "People click on a website regularly when they expect it to have new content. If you're a thoughtful writer who tends to write longer essays then you're at a disadvantage."
Actually, if you dig 1/4 inch below the surface you find that these two issues are related, and mutually annihilating.
One, that people come by often to see New!Content!
But, two, they don’t wanna read essays.
OK, but if your “new content” is mostly 10-syllable epigraham-crackers that advise “What Digby said…” or “Go read Ezra…” that hardly qualifies as either "content" or “new”.
And when you go over to Digby or Ezra, odds are 6-to-5 and pick ‘em that you will be staring at -- gasp! -- an essay!
Maybe even a thoughtful essay.
Commentor Swopa also notes:
3. You're right, though, he does tend to link to a rather limited universe of blogs. But then, so do you. And the dirty, nefarious truth in both cases is probably the same: You link to blogs that you read and like.
Folks seem to forget that Markos, Duncan, and the rest didn't run for office as Representatives of the Blogosphere on a platform of linking to a broad and demographically representative sample of all liberal blogs everywhere...
OK, first let's dispense with the "reductio ad absurdum" strawmen bullshit of "...all liberal blogs everywhere...".
Second, yeah, guilty!
However, speaking only out of my own experience, I am compelled to cite the 1977 Supreme Court case of Apples vs. Oranges to point out some important differences.
Although I do link to others, and try to scatter it around, that is not predominantly my thing.
I do mostly (semi)original compositions. I might cite “The Tempest” or Harlan Ellison. Or parody “The Raven” or do a slide show, or write a children's story, or riff on the MSM, or a Dreaded Essay.
Maybe pen a commercial. Or perhaps a lexicon of GOP-types.
Or a lot of stuff that's sort of sui generis.
Also, for my size, I do rather a lot of original artwork, most of which is fairly well-received, but which isn’t much to do with driving traffic here or there.
I do 8-12 posts a week, not 85 (although by being persistent, I am now up to post #1,180)
I don’t do this even close to full-time.
“Dependable Renegade” (to pull an example of a site I like a lot) does the best snark captioneering in the business. But again, that site’s raison d’etre isn’t acting as a router to other people’s work; it is (to coin a phrase) a Destination Blog, and not an Aggregation or Transit or Base-Camp Blog.
Eschaton, OTOH, is predominately an outlet mall of short links to the other sites.
“I don't write a lot. I link to other people, link to new(s?) sources…”
There is nothing at all wrong with that -- it’s a useful resource and I loiter there myself from time to time -- and I’m glad Duncan has prospered. And if I were King of the Better Universe I wouldn’t want the blogosphere configured in any other way than as a place where people are free to do with their own sites whatever they wish.
- Your self-identified operational model is mostly driving your very large readership to other sites.
- You do it professionally: full-time and with a revenue-stream that is in no small measure traffic-based.
- You routinely and rightly deride the Old Media for the corrupting effect of its old boy, in-group clubbiness.
- You are a leader in a movement that stresses the democratization of the soapbox. Whose unofficial hajj next year will be called “Netroots Nation”.
And yet you rather conspicuously drive traffic to the same tiny handful of friend’s sites, who drive their traffic over to you, well y’know the neighbors are gonna talk.
In the end, I kinda figure this first iterations of bloggers will end up like first generation stars.
Q: Do you mean big, gassy and unstable?
A: OK, that was just cheap. Cheap and unworthy.
But, well, sort of because natural selection never loafs on the beach doing nothing for a couple of weeks in August.
Hell, in 4.5 billion years, natural selection has never so much as taken a sick day or pee break.
And because of that, the Olympians will always displace the Titans, the reign of the Elves will always taper off and give rise to the Age of Men, and already you can see the curtain going up on the final act for the Solo Blogger like me.
Which, for the most primal of reasons, makes perfect sense. Because in the end we are mammals that survive best by huddling together for warmth, efficiency and mutual protection. (And, of course, naughtygoodfun.) Creatures made up, in turn, of cells that figured out more than a billion years ago that specialization within a single organism was their collective ticket to the Big Show.
Nature favors biological organization that behaves like, well, Genesis:
knock out one lead singer, the drummer steps up, takes the mic,
and the band goes on.
I miss Billmon. Also DC Media Girl. And, of course, Gilly. And both Max Sawicky and the aforementioned Bob Geiger are boxing up their adjectives and calling it a day (h/t Crooks and Liars, via Mike’s Blog Roundup, ably pinch-hit by Blue Gal. Whew; links got more lineage than Russian royalty.)
But they’re individuals and not organizations, so their sites do not survive the loss of their auteurs.
There is a definite beauty in that; a purity of the singular artistic voice. Where it alights, it fills up all the rooms and re-tints the walls and floorboards with the distinct hue of its talent.
But when it’s gone…its gone.
And in a world of
Thy snark is so vast
And my blog is so small”.
the group site offers some shelter from the storm.
And a Dread Pirate Roberts
can theoretically go on forever.
And finally, Tanbark, you have indeed correctly identified the true identity of the Three Caveats: step up to ChiTown and collect a beer.