Wednesday, July 05, 2006

On blogging Goodbye, Blog
At first my interest was in news—whether about technology or politics or culture—but increasingly I became excited by the idea that the blogosphere could be a great venue for the exchange and development of ideas. One of the first blogs I got really attached to was called Invisible Adjunct. Now, alas, defunct, it was written by a woman who worked as an adjunct (that is, part-time and temporary) faculty member at a New York university, and her entries generated a fascinating conversation about the way the American university works, the way it should work, and how to get from Point A to Point B. I would read the site and think, "Yes, this is the way revolutions get started! Spontaneous communities of committed, thoughtful people testing their ideas against one another—iron sharpening iron!"

. . .[But]

Whatever one thinks about the structure of the internet as a whole, it is becoming increasingly clear that the particular architecture of the blogosphere is the chief impediment to its becoming a place where new ideas can be deployed, tested, and developed. Take, for instance, the problem of comments.

This might be interesting reading if you're new to blogs, blogging, and Internet fora in general. But it seems he's more or less looking at a particular slice of the blogosphere -- anything semi-closely related to politics -- and extending the characteristics of that to everything else. Comments are, in a way, the best and worst aspects of blogging. At their best, they give bloggers immediate feedback on what they've said and said blogger can update the post or make a new post incorporating stuff that came up in the comments (Althouse does this a lot). At worst, of course, comments turns into the intellectual equivalent of a food fight. Plus, comments can become associated with the blogger, even if he/she doesn't endorse or agree with what was said. This has happened a couple of times that I know of, where a comment has been more or less attributed to a particular site, making it appear as if the blogger endorsed it by leaving it up to be quoted.

Rampant commenting seems confined to certain areas of blogging though, and a lot depends on the blogger's persona, too. The more strident the blogger, the more vile comments they get. The aforementioned Althouse -- who often ventures into political territory -- doesn't get too many gutterscum posting comments, in large part because she's a fairly courteous blogger overall. Peeing in your own pool generally invites others to do so as well.

There's a lot of minor blogs out there that acquire good comments though, mostly in specialty areas where people don't get so worked up over the issue. The article describes at least two of them, and as few comments as ArchaeoBlog gets, at least a couple have shed some more light on various issues.

The low barrier to entry is a sticky problem though. ArchaeoBlog used to have registered-user-only commenting, but various people thought that was too much of a hurdle to make even a minor comment (I can see that, btw). Hasn't been a problem since, but then, ArchaeoBlog doesn't exactly deal with a lot of controversial issues.


Controversial to your average non-geeky archaeology nerd anyway.

But, as they say, read the whole thing. Please note this, however: [With] blogs you never know when someone is going to post—except for Glenn Reynolds, the InstaPundit, who posts all day every day. Normal people might write an entry three out of four days, and then go on a fortnight's hiatus . . .