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Thursday, June 24, 2004  

Blogospherics: New blogs should be better blogs

Blogger Simon at Simon's World is making an effort to revive The Truth Laid Bear's New Weblog Showcase. The contest provided exposure for new blogs. Bloggers submitted an entry and voters, from other blogs, decided which of the entries they considered evidence of the most promising weblog. Ideally, the best entry -- well thought out, researched, and capably written -- won. The ideal result occurred at least once. Mac-a-ro-nies won the contest.

Simon has described his plans for the new version of the competition.

Welcome to the New Blog Showcase Blog. After NZ Bear put his New Blog Showcase on hiatus I thought it was a shame that such a good idea go to waste. So I humbly present this New Blog Showcase blog, with the explicit aim of giving exposure to newer members of the blogosphere.

This will work a little differently to the Bear's old system. The qualification criteria remains simple: your blog must be less than 3 months old. Submit your post to me at simon@showcase.mu.nu and I will put it up. Each post will remain for 7 days from the day I post it. At this stage I will leave the comments open for now. Comments are NOT moderated but I will exercise my discretion to delete and ban anyone who doesn't follow the simple rules of common courtesy. I also reserve the right to close comments on particular posts or all posts at my sole discretion.

I strongly encourage people with blogs to link to those posts they enjoy. Or if you have something more you want to add, or disagree with, or whatever. Bloggers live for linkage and giving newer members of the blogosphere a taste of that is the aim of this site. All I ask is you also link back to the post here at this site as well as at the original.

I have mixed feelings about blog contests, probably because I have mixed feelings about blogs. I'm the person who will come on to a thread where bloggers are engaging in an orgy of self-congratulation and douse them will a ice cold bucket of virtual water. That H2O is called reality. The truth is most bloggers do not rock. And, the public is largely unaware of blogs. Only about 11 percent of Internet users have read weblogs, and those sporadically or only at the behest of friends or family. Researchers for the Pew Foundation have studied the authors and the audience.

A mere 2% of Adult Internet users maintain Web diaries or Web blogs, according to respondents to this phone survey. In other phone surveys prior to this one, and one more recently fielded in early 2004, we have heard that between 2% and 7% of adult Internet users have created diaries or blogs. In this survey we found that 11% of Internet users have read the blogs or diaries of other Internet users. About a third of these blog visitors have posted material to the blog. Most of those who do contribute material are not constantly updating or freshening content. Rather, they occasionally add to the material they have posted, created, or shared.

Furthermore, most blog entries are poorly written, completely unresearched, confuse fact and opinion and are bastions of copyright violation. But, what of claims blogs are better sources of news than print or broadcast media one hears bandied about? Pure malarkey. As imperfect as the media is, it is leagues ahead of blogs in providing reliable information. Even the best blogs provide very little information, relying on being conduits of opinion, instead. With the exception of a few bloggers who do some reporting, most notably Josh Marshall, of Talking Points Memo, little development of news occurs in the blogosphere.

My experience as a journalist has doubtlessly biased me. However, I believe it has biased me in the right direction. I believe quality matters.

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. Not long ago, I was engaged in a conversation with a blogger who was a part of a group that had spread a lie. He kept insisting that since X number of bloggers had linked to the falsehood and helped circulate it, that meant the lie was true. Stupid, you say. If the thing said is false, a million bloggers linking to it can't make it true. Absolutely. But, that is the kind of sophistry the organization of the blogosphere lends itself to. Information too often takes a back seat to misinformation and disinformation, and too many bloggers fail to grasp the difference. Instead, they rely on networks that reinforce their mistakes.

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.

To learn the qualifications for the new contest, visit Simon's blog.

10:45 PM