Things Are Just Starting to Get Interesting Around Here

17 Feb ’06

On Slate today Daniel Gross wonders whether we’re seeing the end of the business of blogs. Looking over his shoulder at the bubble that ended the dotcom days, and seeing the buzz that’s been building in the blogsphere, I suppose it’s natural for him to wonder: now that the hype has moved in, has hope moved on? Well, as Mark Evans and others (see here and here) point out, no – there may be a surplus of features and a deficit of actual business models, and the big M&A buyers and VCs may have itchy trigger fingers, but things are still just starting to get interesting around here.

Meanwhile, in a post that’s probably more related to Gross’ article than it ought to be, Nicholas Carr finishes Andrew Keen’s Web 2.0 hatchet-job in the Weekly Standard, and wonders whether we’re entering a new age of narcissism. Quoting Carr quoting Keen, all of this self-involvement dirties up the joint:

If you democratize media, then you end up democratizing talent. The unintended consequence of all this democratization… is cultural ‘flattening.’ In the end we’re left with nothing more than ‘the flat noise of opinion’.

While I certainly wish I’d said “democratizing talent” first, my second reaction is to want to squish this bug before it escapes and multiplies (too late – time to send in the cleaners). Herewith, therefore, Ingram after reading Carr quoting Keen:

This – not to put too fine a point on it – is a load of elitist clap-trap. (Richard MacManus of Read/Write Web is much more succinct than I in his post about it). Every time something even remotely new or different comes along, there’s always a knee-jerk “how did this riff-raff get in here” kind of response from places like the Weekly Standard. Imagine if everyone were entitled to voice their own opinion, or indulge their own tastes, instead of recognizing the superiority of whatever art or music or literature they’re supposed to be bowing down in front of. Total chaos. Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together – mass hysteria.

Real wrath-of-God type stuff indeed. Following closely on the heels of a lot of flabby thinking lately in the blogosphere about A and B and C and etc. -list bloggers, the Carr-Keen love connection is just a little much, or at least that’s how it looks from out here in the cheap seats. Certainly some neighbourhoods are starting to get a little chancy, but personally I don’t think that’s a bad thing. There are far too many experts out there with far too much airtime and far too little of any real use to say (to be clear, I personally don’t count Carr among them – I’m sure he’ll be relieved to hear that), and some of the most interesting and provocative voices out there now are new. Voices that would not be heard but for the Web 2.0 wave. Voices that have been waiting patiently to be heard. Enough of the editors for a while, yes? Much of the MSM has in recent years badly miscalculated the public’s appetite for nonsense and has left its need for creativity unrequited, and it’s just good timing, as far as I’m concerned, that the blogosphere is around to soak up all of that energy.

As I said in a comment on Mathew’s blog,

[O]ne point that Messrs Keen and Carr didn’t mention is what is surely one of the most powerful consequences of this, um, empowerment. The atomization of media will inevitably amplify the hurly-burly of competition and produce a much more interesting and provocative community of voices.

Is the age of the expert over?

I sure hope so. Things are just starting to get interesting around here.

Previous post:

Next post: