Is it the Blog, or the Network?

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Great post from Dave Winer on blogs as a means of providing an unfiltered message. Apparently Dave and Jonathan Schwartz were discussing the advantages of the medium as a bypass to traditional outlets, i.e. the media.

But I think that people who choose to focus on blogging as a technology miss the point. What we’re really talking about is the network. Blogs certainly make that communication easier – and more transparent – but, ultimately, blogs are just an enabler. When you come down to it, blogs are really just a basic content management system with embedded syndication.

Now blogging fans, relax. I’m not saying that blogs are not significant – they clearly are (if you don’t think so, ask yourself how many media members are *not* reading Schwartz’ weblog), and I’ve written about that here, here, and here. Blogs to me are more than the sum or their parts for the following reasons:

  1. Like email, they enable informal conversations over the network
  2. Unlike email, these conversations are most often public and therefore transparent
  3. Unlike webpages, blogs are (or at least, can be) a conversation in the Cluetrain sense
  4. Just as Winer commented, blogs are a means of communicate without any filter, corporate or media

If you accept those reasons, the next logical conclusion – to me, anyway – is that the underlying value of blogs isn’t some unique technical feature (with the possible exception of syndication, although that’s not unique to blogs anymore) – it’s the network. It’s the conversation that the network enables.

Two examples, one blog, one not:

  • To anyone who’s ever had their words taken out of context, or misconstrued, the value Winer talked about is clear. It’s actually why I prefer to give comments over email when I’m working with a reporter I don’t know well. That way, I can’t be misquoted – unless I pull a Charles Barkley. Blogs afford that same opportunity, but also ensure that I have control over the message as a whole, not just a quote or two. My blogs can of course be taken and quoted without my knowledge – as mine was just last week here – but I can always point people back to my original statement for clarification.

    Now lest I insult some of my journalist colleagues, I should add that the overwhelming majority of the press I deal with I find to be very professional, and have no issues with whatsoever. But I can certainly appreciate the value here, particularly when someone like Schwartz is trying to impart a complex or nuanced message. Sometimes, as they say, the best way to do something is to do it yourself.

  • Blogs, however, have no monopoly on the network. While blogging began as as outlet for the technically inclined, that’s changing – quickly. And the need to communicate in a more interactive fashion is hardly new. Just this winter Red Sox fans benefitted from a player’s desire for the ability to communicate in the fashion he chose.

    Curt Schilling, a Red Sox free agent addition over the winter, ‘met’ Boston Red Sox fans in a chatroom hosted by a site I’ve mentioned before – The Sons of Sam Horn – prior to his signing. He was for a few months a highly active participant of the site, posting his thoughts directly with no filter, no spin (and anyone who’s read with the Boston Sports media knows why that’s important). A direct conversation with his paying audience was thus enabled, via a technology (user forum / chat room) that has nothing whatsoever to do with a blog.

    Interestingly, the media that he bypassed took exception to that, and used another medium (radio) to assail the new medium. You can listen to that here.

The point here of course is not to convince anyone that blogging isn’t an important new technology – as well as cultural phenomenon – but rather to emphasize that the conversations that the Cluetrain folks talked about are possible through blogging, yes, but lots of other channels as well. The trick is to want to have that conversation, and to find ways to enable it. We’re trying here, but have a long way to go.

The other obstacle – in some cases – may be those being bypassed (just listen to the audio above). In some cases those in the middle may fear the change (and we’ve seen what fear of technology accomplishes), and actively oppose it. But with the network, conversations are inevitable. It’s up to each and every one of us to figure out how to adapt.

One comment

  1. Anyone know any websites to get around school filters?

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