Why I Read Nick Carr

16 Aug ’06

His post today.

I have one comment, though. Carr writes about how vexing it is for some that it’s hard to get A-listers to link to their blogs. Carr quotes Jay Rosen, an NYU journalism prof who pens Pressthink, as saying that the best way to get a link from him is to write a post about one of his posts. “He carefully monitors mentions of his work in other blogs, he said, and he frequently provides links back to them, at least when they have some substance.”

Carr then notes:

The best way, by far, to get a link from an A List blogger is to provide a link to the A List blogger. As the blogophere has become more rigidly hierarchical, not by design but as a natural consequence of hyperlinking patterns, filtering algorithms, aggregation engines, and subscription and syndication technologies, not to mention human nature, it has turned into a grand system of patronage operated – with the best of intentions, mind you – by a tiny, self-perpetuating elite. A blog-peasant, one of the Great Unread, comes to the wall of the castle to offer a tribute to a royal, and the royal drops a couple of coins of attention into the peasant’s little purse. The peasant is happy, and the royal’s hold over his position in the castle is a little bit stronger.

I’m not inclined to put much energy into disputing that suggestion – I think it’s largely true, although I think the reason is innocent enough – how else would one come to the attention of any one busy person? And I doubt that the ‘sphere is hierarchical because of the technology; I think Carr’s last point is most accurate – life is hierarchical – it’s the way humans organize themselves in just about any social structure they construct.

But I would have riffed off of Rosen’s other point: “at least when they have some substance.” The A-listers are A-listers for two reasons – history of course, but also quality (and for some, the former carries more weight than the latter). And a significant reason that non A-listers don’t give that link back is because it’s just not worth giving – the writing simply does not merit the mention. Much of what is written, after all, deserves obscurity. The barriers are now gone, but our appetite for reading writing of quality remains. Absent editing, how to filter what is worth one’s attention? I don’t see why blog writing should be any different from any other creative activity – quality matters, is noticed, and distinguishes those who offer it from those who don’t. Few have it; many don’t and toil away in obscurity (been to Nashville lately?) until their will fails, others don’t but don’t particularly care and continue whether anyone notices or not. Expecting A-listers to give mentions to much of what is written in the ‘sphere today is simply unrealistic.

Innocent fraud? Perhaps. But I think it’s just life. It’s exciting. But it’s not for everyone.

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