Tuesday, 29 June 2004

Bullies in the blogosphere

Laura of Apartment 11D is understandably quite annoyed at the public response that at least one (presumably prominent, although I haven’t seen the post in question) blogger gave to her survey.

I generally agree that, ethically, a good blogger will provide readers with an opportunity to have opposing views heard, at least in the form of trackbacks. It is disappointing that many “big boys” of the Blogosphere like Glenn Reynolds, Josh Marshall, the Volokh Conspiracy, and Andrew Sullivan don’t use “real” Trackbacks—Volokh relies on Technorati, which isn’t a proper pingback/trackback service, while Reynolds, Marshall, and Sullivan don’t even go that far; Sullivan accepts “reader mail,” but much of it is buried and all is stripped of any way to tell how authoritative the response is.

Laura cites Usenet as a more “democratic” medium; it is, in the sense that it does facilitate conversation more readily, but there are significant drawbacks to it—most notably, no inherent ability to enforce strong identities of participants in the discussion, which leads to the sort of trollish behavior that one finds at the comment sections of some prominent weblogs (or inmate-run asylums like Slashdot and K5), not to mention issues of spam, off-topic discussion, gratuitous vulgarity, and other vices large and small. The “decline of Usenet,” mind you, has been a staple of Internet discussion since at least 1992, when I was first exposed to it, so it has proven to be more resiliant than one might have thought.


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Interesting links regarding this complaint here and here.

Of course, Laura doesn’t have comments or whatever-back either, so Steven (assuming he is the anonymous blogger in question) is stuck with the same problem. As am I.

For what it’s worth, Steven seems to be pretty good about linking to dissenting opinions, especially when the dissent comes from the subject talked about. Laura didn’t know that, but then again, Laura is studying blogs, and should know enough by now about link etiquette in blogs to have at least given it a try. And Steven is at least circumspect enough not to slam on all researchers, something Laura should take notice of before she “skewers the entire enterprise”.

One could see the ease of feedback as a continuum, with Usenet and Slashdot on one end and Instapundit and USS Clueless on the other. Where’s the balance point? I suspect we’re still figuring that out. And for those who crave a more Usenet-ish experience, Technorati does provide a valuable service.


I so rarely read Den Beste (mainly because he doesn’t ping weblogs.com) that he wasn’t even on the radar screen of people I thought might be involved, to be honest.

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