A couple of very kind folks have emailed me this week, expressing support for me personally in the wake of a couple of posts that have proved to be mildly to moderately unpopular within various communities. As I told them, however, while the support and the gesture are greatly appreciated, they’re really not necessary. It’s not just because taking criticism is part of my job and goes with the territory. It’s also because I think that with very few exceptions, the conversation you and I hold here, in this space, is of a very high standard. A remarkably high standard.
As I’ve said before, we’re not all going to agree all the time; life would be pretty boring if we did. All that I’ve ever asked is that you treat my arguments, and the arguments of other commenters here, with the respect that they deserve. More rational discussion, less impassioned argument. If you think I’m wrong, don’t tell me I’m an idiot – I knew that already – just explain to me why. Infallible I most certainly am not, and if you argue a good case I’m more than willing to change my mind. You know, the whole Keynesian facts change thing. In simple terms, I’m not asking you to agree – I’m just asking you to hear me out.
And you know what? You guys deliver that, day after day. You don’t just show me respect, you show each other respect. Even when you disagree strongly with what I have to say, your responses stay well clear of the personal attacks and fundamentalist positions that characterize the discussions in other, less polite, quarters. That way madness lies. For that, you have my sincere gratitude.
Considering the culture around here further, it seems obvious to me that size is a factor. Nick Carr, apparently, would lament the existence of the quasi-celebrity status afforded a very small list of “A-list” bloggers, saying:
And all through the night the blog-peasants could hear the sounds of a great feast inside the castle walls (where the media and publishing royalty still live)
Setting aside my initial skepticism of hearing that cry from him – I’m quite sure he’s not hurting for readers – I can’t for the life of me fathom why the absence of such status is viewed as a negative. Certainly most of us want to have some readers, as opposed to pumping words by the hundred into a vacuum. But is the goal really to be Arrington or Scoble? Who made up, made up that myth?
Would it be nice to have tens of thousands of regular readers as do the A-listers, rather than the paltry 1300 or so I’ve plateaued at? From an AdSense perspective, undoubtedly. But hordes of new people would, in my view, change this place, and not for the better. One simple example: replies. I know a couple of comments here and there fall through the cracks and go unanswered, and I’m not particularly quick about it, but I try very hard to address each and every comment made on this blog. If I had a Scoble sized audience, that would be impossible. Nor do I want hordes of people begging me for a link. As Donnie quotes in a recent post, there are some basic scalability limits to human interaction:
There are scientific publications reporting existence of a “magical number” of people involved in a project that maximizes the efficiency. It is actually even stronger – you effectively cannot go over a certain number of people without restructuring.
What the magic number is for blogs, I really couldn’t say. But based on the quality of the comments I keep getting from all of you folks, it’s pretty clear that we haven’t hit that yet. Here’s hoping we don’t. So if the A-listers are having castle parties, let’s make this place more like a backyard BBQ. In other words, feel free to bring friends over, but make sure they’re cool