Saturday, April 28, 2007

Groping For The 'Roll Eyes' Hotkey

My shadowy contacts in Farringdon Road have alerted me to the fact that in tomorrow's Observer there will be an article about the supposed 'Web 2.0 backlash'.

[UPDATE: Here it is.]

(If there's a Web 2.0 backlash on the go, clearly no one thought to tell Jeff Jarvis, who's been off on one all week about NBC trying to 'own' the US presidential debate by only broadcasting it on telly and not making it available on YouTube for people to 'remix'.)

Anyway, it's all about a new book by Andrew Keen, called 'How Bloggers Are Spoiling Things For Proper Journalists and Other People Who Have Something Intelligent and Important To Say', which - for obvious reasons - the mainstream media seems to be terribly happy with.

In one of many recent press articles on this topic, the Guardian's Tim Dowling posed this question:

Bloggers are clear about what they're against - mainstream media, censorship, etc - but in the 10 years it has been in existence, one question has yet to be answered: what is blogging for?

Oh, Tim. You might as well ask: what is talking for? Blogging is just conversation in text format, which everyone can read.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: the sooner our journalists realise that blogging is just people talking about the same stuff they've always talked about - only in such a way that journalists can now see it - the sooner we can stop having to read all this paranoid guff in the papers about hordes of brain-dead bloggers precipitating the end of civilised society.

Phew, eh? Now I'm off to mash up the highlights of the French elections with the latest Arcade Fire album, record it as a podcast, stuff it into a grenade launcher, and dispatch it up Jonathan Freedland's arse*. As I believe is my democratic right as a fully paid-up member of the 'citizen media'.

* And the arse of any other Guardian journalist who thinks that Comment is Free is a) a blog, and (even worse), b) representative of the blogosphere as a whole.

UPDATE: The above should not be construed as a death threat. (I don't even know how to make a podcast.) Jonathan Freedland is quite safe.

Well, from me, anyway.

I'll stop now.

UPDATE 2: In a truly bizarre coincidence, Mr BC and I found ourselves having tea on the lawn this afternoon with the chief executive of the Guardian Media Group. She confirmed that a lot of Guardian columnists were completely bemused at the notion that readers could answer back - and answer back impolitely - on Comment is Free, and that some of them remain very wary of the whole set-up.

I wanted to put her right about how blogging is not the same thing as CiF, and that proper blogging is actually nice and fun and equitable and sociable (much like having tea on the lawn) but the sun was shining and there were games of table tennis to be played, and it didn't seem right.

Also I am terribly shy in real life, so instead we stuck to safe topics, like homophobia and the wisdom or otherwise of attacking one's siblings with a sword. Sorry everyone, I fear I let you down somewhat there.

But anyway, somehow this has ended up as a rant about the Guardian, when actually it should be a rant about Andrew Keen. But Betty has said it all much better than I ever could have.

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Annie said...

Down at the bottom of that page is a link to Andrew Keen's
Amazon Blog,with a comment box, a profile page and a little photo saying 'Andrew Keen posted this [blog post]to readers who purchased his book'. Oh the irony. I wonder if Tim knew of this wondrous facility on Amazon? I hadn't seen it before.

patroclus said...

I know - for some reason it's perfectly OK for journalists/published authors/newspapers etc. to make use of blogs and blog-like formats, even as they slag off bloggers. The arrogance is sometimes quite breathtaking.

Blogging seems to be stirring up a bizarre hatred of amateur writers on the part of professional writers, which I find totally perplexing. It's like David Beckham or Michael Owen saying that people shouldn't be allowed to play Sunday League football, or that kids shouldn't play football in school.

I mean it's not like most bloggers even *want* to be professional writers. The whole anti-blogger thing is just plain weird.

Sean McManus said...

"Bloggers are against mainstream media." I must have missed that particular vote. Frankly, without mainstream media, there isn't much to blog about and everyone knows it, including the bloggers.

I think a lot of journalists feel threatened because they know they're not as good as some of the amateurs and the bottom is falling out of the freelance market.

The whole argument about the amount of amateur content spoiling culture is interesting. Having so much content creates new problems - difficulty of sifting for quality, lack of a shared experience with society at large, faster change. But it brings with it more opportunities - much more intense personal experiences as people find exactly their kind of content, much richer relationships with creators of content, and much more active relationships with creative content because it's not about sitting back and being forcefed whatever's on offer any more. I think most people (me too) are only starting to learn how to solve the new problems so they can reap the new rewards. It'll take some time to adjust.

I'm sure there's a great book to be written about someone stalking people who leave negative comments about them online. It will be interesting to see whether Tim Dowling has written it.

sb said...

I'm just simple and unsophisticated but isn't blogging just a development of having a good old rant with your friends or making some wry observations on life. We don't hold back over a pint of beer so what's wrong with writing it down? I don't understand all the fuss from these journalist types.

Sylvia said...

typical - just as I discover the joys of blogging, they're trying to ban it. I see it as just having an insight into someone else's life and commenting on it!

Mangonel said...

AS far as I cantell. blogworld is populate by VER POLITE menopausal women. ANd the Occasional VERY DRUNK one.

patroclus said...

Sean: Re 'bloggers are against mainstream media': With notable exceptions, most of the Guardian's opinion about blogging seems to come from its journalists' experiences with the paper's own Comment is Free site, where the journalists write opinion pieces and people comment on them.

Because these opinion pieces are usually on contentious/political subjects, or are written in a provocative manner, the comments tend to get quite heated. And because commenters are forced to be anonymous (as the Guardian won't link back to them) they're often ruder than they would be if they were treated as equals. Also, because the journalists usually fail to respond to any comments made, which implies that they aren't reading them either, commenters often get even more riled up. Hence the impression that 'bloggers' (more correctly: commenters) are against the mainstream media.

I could go on all day about the Guardian and its extraordinary attitude to blogging. Tim Dowling asks what blogging is for, but he seems to be quite happy to be paid to write a satirical column about it every week. And his Permablog column isn't even a satire on blogging; it's a satire on Comment is Free. If the paper won't link to other people's blogs and thinks its own site is the be-all and end-all of blogging, surely that makes it even more 'self-obsessed' than the actual proper bloggers that it's always so dismissive of?

I've nothing whatsoever against the mainstream media when it's doing its job. A professional media is a necessary thing, to bring us the news, spur debate and shed light on important and interesting topics. I just wish journalists would stop being so rude, dismissive and ignorant about bloggers - who are, after all, also their readers. Grr.

I agree with you re. the amount of content available these days - but as you say, people will adjust, more filters will emerge, and quality - of whatever kind - will always out.

SB: Exactly!

Sylvia: It appears to be only a selective ban. This bloke's thesis appears to be: 'blogging is OK when I do it, but not when you do it. I should be allowed to express my opinions in public, but you should not be, for what I say is intelligent, and what you say is foolish.' Twat.

Mangonel: Blogworld is populated by all kinds of people, just like the real world. We're fortunate to live in a corner of it where people are nice to each other. Niceness is an underrated virtue. Cheers!

Bloody hell, it's taken me an hour to write this comment!

GreatSheElephant said...

I've just read the article in question. What a ghastly snob. He doesn't seem to get the fundamental point either that no-one is forcing him (or anyone) to read something on the web. If you don't like it - move on. Unless I'm very much mistaken when you search on Wikipedia for Martin Luther, you don't get taken to the blog of your 11 year old neighbour.

Billy said...

There's only one thing for it: I'm going to have to set up a blog called BLOGGERS THINK THE PEOPLE BEHIND THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA SMELL OF WEE and see how long it is before someone slags me off in the paper.

Tim Footman said...

Tim Dowling thinks he's amusing. That's just about bearable, if misguided, but unfortunately the editor of the Guardian thinks he does as well.

And thanks, Annie, will check out that Amazon thing.

miss-cellany said...

I guess if nothing else it's 'nice' to know that the whole blogging thing has niggled 'them' enough to even bother to pass judgement. That they use the same format to do so, well it just kind of gets funnier and more surreal.

All a bit Alice in Wonderland really - they shout 'off with their heads' but really they are just 'a pack of cards'.

GreatSheElephant said...

The more I think about his argument (as summarised - haven't read the book) the less it makes sense to me even though I am arguably just as big a cultural snob.

I get angry about reality TV crap pushing decent drama and documentaries off television. I get angry about money being diverted from opera and classical music to sport.

But blogging isn't stopping people like Andrew Keen or various Guardian hacks from writing. If anything, it's giving them more to write about. No-one is being stopped from reading the mainstream media by bloggers. It just makes no sense. If anything, it's a win-win situation surely?

patroclus said...

I think Andrew Keen has just got it in for the starry-eyed technotopians who think that the democratisation of the media is the way to a more enlightened, productive and culturally rich society.

It's the same argument that's been going on for centuries - i.e. if you give the masses access to something (e.g. the vote, state education, the media), they will get overexcited and stop respecting their social/cultural superiors. They might even band together and run amok and break things, and then their social/cultural superiors will have to hide from them in bunkers, making it difficult to get to the Groucho Club. And there will be anarchy and mob rule.

Still, politics and education seem to have survived the transition to mass participation without anarchic mobs managing (or even really trying) to annihilate the bourgeoisie, so I've no doubt the media will be able to muddle through as well.

GreatSheElephant said...

hmm, perhaps we could set up a virtual Groucho Club for Andrew and his like?

fidel said...

I am a bit late on this one but it chimes with my thoughts on all of these blog awards that are propagated by the mainstream medja in order to take some ownership of and ultimately control of this medium.

Lil'ol' blog world is seen as a direct threat as it takes away the power of the media in controling the public agenda and through giving access to all to "broadcast".

Google has been sucked into the fifth estate and is seen now as the vehicle through which control can be achieved (You Tube/Blogspot etc)
So everyone should keep moving on- Am I starting to sound like the paranoid underground of the Terminator generation-yes. Scary isn't it.

patroclus said...

Totally agree with you, Fidel. If you ask me, the good thing about the internet as it currently stands is that it's very easy for people to move to new places if they don't like what's happening with Google, YouTube etc. There are lots of alternatives. I've always said I'll move from Blogspot if Google starts making me run ads on my blog, which thankfully they haven't yet.