Release 4.0

Sunday, October 05, 2003

the attention divide - Bloggercon
I managed to attend only two panels at Bloggercon yesterday (plus social hours), but they were great… And I know it’s politically incorrect to blog so late after the fact, but the wireless was spotty.

In retrospect, despite all the inconclusive discussion about Utopia or dystopia, the issue I liked best was the campaign bloggers’ dilemma over control. There’s nothing more accountable than a campaign: If things go wrong, no matter whose fault, you lose... So campaign managers are traditionally loath to give up control of anything. The candidate must stay on message, and everything around him must be cheery – except for descriptions of the ills attributable to the incumbent or the other candidates.

Yet the essence of blogging is power to the people. Will the various campaigns allow feedback? Host bloggers? Etc. etc. What if we give up control and something bad happens? Of course, the answer is let the bloggers control one another. If someone says something stupid, someone else will reply. (Don’t dignify the idiots by having the candidate respond…)

And there are increasingly interesting tools to use. Why not something like Slashdot? Or Microsoft’s Netscan? A bow to Jeff Ubois, who is writing about Netscan for the next issue of Release 1.0. Think of when you walk into a party – the Bloggercon reception last night, for example. Some people are in the middle of crowds hanging eagerly on to a single person’s every word – Dave Winer, for example. In other groups, two people are debating, and others are listening – Doc Searls and Dave Weinberger, perhaps. Or one is asking and the other is talking: Chris Lydon and name-your-luminary. In other clumps, everyone is shouting. There are two-person exchanges where one is talking and the other is looking over his shoulder. On the periphery, Rageboy is muttering to other peripherors. A couple of people are near the food, silent. You can tell a lot without knowing anyone at all, and without hearing a word. The structure within any blog-circle is similarly telling: who is posting? And who is listening and commenting? Whose comments are inciting replies, and whose are ignored? There are tools that can show us that show us the community regulating itself, and that can help the community to do it better by making the structure visible. For example, Technorati, Feedster, Lafayette Project…

….or will they make us follow the crowd and ignore the peripherors, just as network tv does?

Then the second challenge. The first magic of blogging, of course, is that everyone can self-publish. Everyone has a voice. The tools makes that possible. But the next magic, much harder to achieve, is that everyone wants to be listened to.

What?!? the candidates don’t read every word the earnest bloggers post? Don’t they care? Won’t he (or occasionally she, though not at Bloggercon) reply to at least one question a day? After all, he spends quality time with “regular” reporters.

Amy Wohl made the interesting point of how long she has been giving speeches, but it wasn’t till she started blogging that she began to get all kinds of interesting feedback. But then she’s Amy Wohl; people listen to her, and want her attention back. Many other people may start to feel that they are publishing into a vacuum, especially each of the 2200-odd people that post to Dean blogs in a typical day (if I have my numbers right).

In the blogosphere, there’s no shortage of airtime, but there’s still a shortage of attention.

That is, there’s an attention divide: the candidates who get too much and give too little….. and the rest, who even en masse don’t have enough to give to satisfy all the world’s publishers, marketers and would-be stars, and who crave just a little for themselves.

[speaking of which, I know I should enable feedback and get more integrated into the blogosphere myself. Coming soon. Meanwhile, I’m at]

posted by Esther 7:39 AM

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