Wednesday, April 11, 2007

More bloggery bloggocks

Well, the spat between Guido (and Iain and Dizzy and so on) and Tim Ireland (and Unity and Justin and so on) seems to have been somewhat ahead of the curve (or is this merely a reflection of the MSM taking a while to catch up to us uber-hip young gun-slingers?). Jonathan Freedland, Terence Blacker and Oliver Kamm have all opined on the problems facing the blogosphere (sorry Oliver, I know it's a grimly pretentious neologism - and crikey you should know about those). While Kamm concentrates on the deleterious impact blogging, and political blogging in particular, has on democracy, politics, life in general etc, both Freedland and Blacker are talking about the new attempt to police the blogosphere.
Kamm's dismissal of the bloggers as un-edited, un-fact-checked, ungrammatical mono-maniacs (is this slightly deflated by the fact that in the article linked to above in the Guardian the new media site is referred to both as 910am and 901am?) seems to indicate a conflation of blogging with commenting. It is absolutely true that the comments section of Comment is Free inevitable degenerates into a pointless 5 minute hate within ten comments. But there is rather more to the blogosphere than the comments section. It's like dismissing newspapers because of all the people who write to the editor. In any event, Oliver's article has been better responded to here, here, here and here. No need for my tuppence worth.
Freedland and Blacker, on the other hand, are essentially making the same argument that Tim did in his campaign against Guido and Iain: that unless rules are expressly made and expressly kept to, the value of blogging is diminished. For what it's worth I broadly agree with that - though on what should constitute these rules I suspect we're further apart. There are problems with the concept of a guide to blogging etiquette (by Emily Poster? Arf). The most obvious is the 'You and whose army? point. Who is supposed to police and enforce these rules? What possible sanctions could they bring to bear? The whole point of the internet is that it's not easily conducive to censorship - look at the blogs that come out of Iran, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Even if we posit that the Government would get involved, is that a desirable outcome for anybody? Will the blog police come and take way my licence if I don't delete anonymous comments?
This leads to the conclusion that any 'blogging code' would obviously have to be voluntary. But the basic nature of the code (which is a slightly tidied up version of Bill and Ted's 'be excellent to each other') is such that anybody who would sign up to the code would probably already be following its spirit. It's rather like those signs in buses saying 'Please do not spit on the floor'. If you're the sort of person who is likely to be swayed by polite notices, then you're almost certainly not the sort of person likely to be spitting on the floor in the first place.
The blogosphere (gah, twice now) is an inherently self-policing area. If people dislike sites, then they stop visiting it. This could be because it's badly written, abusive, rarely updated or just dull. Visitors to the blogosphere (OK now I'm just doing it on purpose) have an absolute democratic right to vote with their, um, index fingers and get the hell out of Dodge. If they really object to a person who refuses to allow comments, or edits the merry hell out of them, they can start up a parallel site designed to attack/expose that person. Or they can not read what he writes.
Incidentally, if Freedland thinks that women don't blog, or that they can't get as angry or as articulate as men, he's not been looking very hard.

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