January 13, 2004

When the comment spammers are more of a community than we are

Shelley's back, sounding justifiably frustrated by threads and cords that are winding together on the net in a way that is choking the written voice of the individual.

I can't disagree with a word. While I haven't been plagued by the comment spammers who seem to have found their new killer ap in MT's comment system, I understand what Shelley is saying about seeing in them something we can envy -- their twisted spin on an ability we as bloggers used to have.

They watch, they interpret, and then they do their dirty deed. They're paying attention.

Shelley is right about the current state of weblogging, where the roar of the blog collective is drowning out our individual voices. Just as we numbed out after decades of bombardment by mass media (and so we came here), so too the blogworld goes bigtime. It's not good enough to simply read and write and resonate. We've come to look for the next sensation, thrill, influencer, conference, must-do, must-attend, gotta meet.

Yes, I do think a divide is emerging within a medium that attracted us initially by its flatness--no one really weilding any more power than another except through the quality of their writing and ideas and the strength and power of their individual voice.

You see, there was nothing to gain through blogging in the early days. It was my voice informing her voice informing his voice: our whole was greater, but our parts were pretty cool too. There was nothing to lose, specifically, or to benefit from. There weren't as many pundits and VCs and CEOs and politicians and top dogs playing. WE were all top dogs by virtue of being someplace those types weren't.

Now bloggers fly hither and yon for conferences, for meetings, to campaign for the latest answer to humanity's (that's US humanity, of course) ills. And the physically connected bloggers create this new hyper/physical space where they talk and move and network and exchange money--and where does that leave our online space and those of us who choose not to ride the blog train?

I have met two bloggers and one lovely blog-spouse: Halley and AKMA and Margaret. I wouldn't trade meeting them for the world. They are unique and individual and wonderful. There are also bloggers I talk to by phone, some regularly and some once in a while.

Equally as important to me, there are some webloggers whose voices I've never heard but who are in my thoughts frequently, some who I may never meet. And yet I know them the way I always have, and I like something about the constant of those relationships--the lack of expectation that they ever be anything else. In this world, that is nice.

Part of my recent voicing of my distate for Howard Dean, I confess, has everything to do with electing him as President of the webloggers association, and my fears over what it will do to blogging if he wins. I can already hear the weekend political shows, the nightly news, and their spin on how the Internet, a weblog particularly, elected our next President. Instead of a partnership among human beings who also happen to have professions, we will become a "target market." What do bloggers like to drink? Try Mountain Dew for Bloggers!

What do you think that will do to our neighborhood? Mainstream media and advertising will be parking on our lawns, running over our pets and kids, and creating mainstream mayhem out of what used to be a beautiful path through a secret forest.

Neither Shelley or I can change the things we wish we could. Not saying we'd change the same things, but in our inability to even make a dent in what is becoming the "establishment" of weblogging rests a common frustration. I recognize my frustration when I read of hers.

It can make a broad grumpy.

So, Shelley, I hope you'll stay for a while and keep writing and saying what you think. You always make me think a little deeper. I just wish it didn't make me so sad sometimes.