Web Familiarity Breeds Contempt?
Posted by Bob Warfield on November 19, 2007
Fred Wilson writes a cautionary tale of Techmeme. He’s watched his own and other blogs written by individuals fall off Techmeme to have their place taken by professional news services and other aggregators. He has some concern that part of it may be his writing isn’t as interesting as it was when it was on the Techmeme leaderboard, but he also sees that he is not the only one to fall off. There are just a few individuals left: Nick Carr, Scoble, and Mathew Ingram.
Those three, incidentally, are great bloggers, but they are really one man aggregators more so than essayists on things genuinely new. Nick picks up most of the memes that buzz around Techmeme and works his own inimitable style of wry humor into writings about them. Scoble is a one man aggregator reading 800 or 1000 different blogs and blasting out content about them. Not so much as he was a year ago, he seems more focused on videos these days. And Mathew is also in a similar category.
I think the real problem is that Fred is missing something, some essential juice or vitality that used to be out in the blogosphere that services like Techmeme homogenize right out. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I subcribe to Techmeme, but I read it last. I’ve pruned most of my feeds so that if all they’re doing is parroting Techmeme, I don’t continue to subscribe. I read Techmeme last because it tells me whether my intuitions about what’s interesting match the world at large as depicted by Techmeme. On rare occasions, I get to read something new on Techmeme that I hadn’t seen or suspected from the rest of my blogs. That’s when I get excited about something there, otherwise it’s just more of the same and I spend very little time with it.
The feed pruning I mentioned freed up valuable slots for me to read more innovative posts that don’t make it onto Techmeme much. That’s a good thing for what I want to get out of the blogosphere which is creative stimulation and awareness. I can only keep up with 150 to 175 blogs in the time I’m willing to alot, so the more concentrated is their fire, the happier I am. No time to read the same stories over and over again, and no point to it either. If I write about one of those same stories myself, I always do a blog search and go read all that’s out there so I don’t miss a perspective. Otherwise, I’m on the lookout for new things.
All of this blogging behaviour, the trend towards homogeneity, is something I’ve written about before. The Internet is nothing more than an evolutionary system, and it experiences periods of punctuated equilibrium. There is a line, the expanding wavefront of memes. On one side of the line things are homogenized. Across that line are the blog aggregators: Techmeme and all the rest. On the other side are idea originatiors. I want to surf that ragged edge and avoid the conformity because that’s where the real juice is. The closer to the line you go without crossing into aggregator space, the more you’re witnessing the birth of significant new ideas on the Internet. That’s what the blogosphere is all about. Anything else and I’ll just read a newspaper.