Saturday, January 22, 2005

Thoughts on the Blogosphere

South Texas Law Professor has some interesting thoughts on blogs:
Don't get me wrong, I dislike many of the blogs I see (they are either poorly done, or overly hotheaded and unreasonable), but I think the 'market' will sort and sift them over time. Saying that, I also recognize the market will also sort out some of the ones I like, perhaps even my own. (This is going to be a longer post, so I put the rest in the 'read more' section). What the conference participants who cried for rules didn't seem to realize is that there can be rules without anyone making them. We like to say right now that there are 'NO rules' - anyone can write anything they want, without cost, without impunity.

But that's not true. Every few weeks we read about someone who gets fired from their job because of their blog (occasionally because they espoused unpopular viewpoints, but more often because they created a 'stupid thing my boss did today' blog, which was unpopular with their boss. (or they do something worse, like reveal trade secrets). And everyone knows that blogs attract more readers by being frequently updated, well-written, and interesting, than they would if they weren't."
What attracted me to the blogosphere was the notion of a free market for ideas, where the common man can share ideas with the rest of the world without institutional influences. For example, if I were to write columns for the New York Times, the readership, whether I deserve it or not, would be there. The same can be said about the academic world. However, in the blogosphere, ideas are rewarded by the market. While it may not be a perfect market for ideas, it is, by far, the closest we have found to date. I had a discussion earlier today with a professor about whether the blogosphere was democratic or not. I believe that the blogosphere is an extension of democracy in that a successful democracy depends upon the churning of ideas among the people in order for them to reach informed decisions. A marketplace for ideas helps this process occur. Perry de Havilland at Sazmidata writes,
Democracy is about politics, and politics is about the use of the collective means of coercion. Democratic politics thus refers to systems by which the people who control those collective means of coercion are chosen and made accountable via one of several methods of popular voting. For something to be 'democratic' therefore, it must be amenable to 'politics'. Therefore for a blog to be 'democratic' that does not mean it is empowering or that it disintermediates the state. In fact it means the state, which is to say democratic politics is very much involved.

But you, the reader, do not get a vote on what get written in the articles on Samizdata.net. You may agree with what an article says or you may utterly disagree, but what gets written does not depend on how popular those sentiments are. We write what we want to write.

Where you do get to choose is whether or not you decide to come back and read us again. Much as in an open market, I might decide to try and sell my fruits and meats to those who pass by, yet I cannot force them actually purchase any of my goods if they do not wish to. They cannot stop me offering for sale those things I think makes economic sense but if I am wrong about what the market wants or if others make a better offer, then the passers by will choose to shop with someone else.


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