What’s wrong with the blogosphere, part 1

Update: Some people seem to think I’m "depressed" because I’m not making enough money and other people are. No, sorry, Gabe, that’s not it. I actually make a pretty nice wage between doing this stuff and writing books. I could make more, but I’m very comfortable with my income, thanks. My complaint is about the intellectual deadness of the blogosphere. Thanks to Tris Hussey for the pointer and the kind words.

Zoli Erdos comments on my remarks at ZDNet about Apple’s evil updater, which tries to push Safari on Windows users who previously installed iTunes or QuickTime. Here’s how he starts off:

I’ve been observing an annoying trend on TechMeme for a while now: when a good discussion happens over the weekend, obviously some writers will miss it – then they sleep on it, come back to it a few days later and TechMeme picks it up as a new theme.

To be fair, the rest of Zoli’s comment is fairly insightful. But I note that he didn’t actually give his readers a chance to go read what I wrote so they could compare his reaction to my original argument. Instead, he sent them to Techmeme. Ugh. [My mistake. As Zoli points out in the comments, there is a link to my post, but it doesn’t appear until nine paragraphs in. My name is in the second paragraph, and the links there both point to Techmeme,. Apologies to Zoli for getting that part wrong.]

Techmeme is the Short Attention Span Theater of the blogosphere. It’s an echo chamber. It encourages reactive, uncritical thinking. The blogswarm gets outraged by whatever they see on Techmeme, they write down whatever pops into their heads (without checking any facts and in most cases without even following the links), and then moves on to the next topic. A "discussion" lasts 24 hours.

Techmeme is a template for a gazillion me-too bloggers who manage to write a dozen posts a day without ever expressing an original thought. That, depressingly, appears to be a successful business model, at least for now.

I could make a lot of money if I followed that same business model. But as those who visit here regularly have probably noticed, that’s not my style. It’s rare if I write 10 posts a week at this site and ZDNet combined.

Meanwhile, back to my post, What Microsoft can teach Apple about software updates. How dare I actually look at an issue and provide a detailed discussion about it?! With screenshots and everything! We already had this conversation last week! It dropped off the front page two days ago! It’s old news! You missed it! Don’t you read Techmeme?

Uh, no. I look at Techmeme once or twice a month, just to remind myself what a waste of time it is, and then I go read stuff that matters. I have more than 100 technology-related websites and RSS feeds in my reading list. Very few of them ever talk about whatever is hot on Techmeme right now. Which suits me just fine.

And please, don’t get me started on Digg.

32 thoughts on “What’s wrong with the blogosphere, part 1

  1. Ed,

    I didn’t give my readers a chance to read what you wrote? Are you serious?

    There’s a whole block in the middle of my post, with quotes and the entire title of your post, linking back correctly to it. If that’s not a “chance to read”, I don’t know what is.

    (talk about short attention span…LOL)

  2. “Super plugged-in” does not equate to “super-smart”.

    I might be an old fuddy duddy, but I don’t often fool with these kinds of sites. I’ve used Digg a few times and enjoyed it. More often, I simply visit a dozen or so “non-aggregating, non-bubbling” web sites offering well-planned and interesting articles.

    Personally, I’d like a simpler BETTER-EDITED web. Ur[strike] Your[strike] You’re not likely to find that these days.

  3. Ed, by the way, you are completely correct about the updates. Apple as well as Adobe could learn from Microsoft. Really, it’s not a matter of learning so much as emulating.

    Ironically, I actually LIKE having Safari for Windows on my XP computer. However, I shun iTunes instead. Any time I manually update Quicktime I must explicitly avoid having iTunes loaded. And I must be careful to ensure “automatic updates” remains OFF. With Microsoft, it just works! (As far as updates, I’m not saying MS is perfect by any stretch.)

  4. I agree with you (and Paul Thurrott) that pushing updates like this is wrong, no matter who does it. I believe someone on Paul’s blog made the same point you did – there would be no problem if Apple deselected the new install by default and differentiated it from actual product updates.

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  6. “…they write down whatever pops into their heads (without checking any facts and in most cases without even following the links)…”

    True, that. We’ve seen many cases already where the Techmeme crowd just flat-out gets the story wrong.

    But it’s still one of our best news sources.

    We need a better news aggregator, one not tied into the paparazzi, AdSense mentality.


  7. (btw, thanks for keeping open comments. Lots of the noisiest weblogs require membership before commenting, or have unadvertised moderation queues which tend to squelch corrections.)

  8. Oh, the irony, Tris!

    And John, you’re welcome about the commenting. And you’re right about the “paparazzi, AdSense mentality…”

  9. I find value and enjoyment in both Ed Bott and Techmeme. Don’t get me started on Digg. 😉

    Back to Ed’s original post, I was thinking on that one real hard for awhile… Didn’t the DOJ require IE to separate from the OS? Yet, isn’t IE 6 pre-installed on XP and don’t auto-updates provide IE 7? I can’t recall… and I can’t recall which MS update product I use.

    I’m not as upset at Apple as many folks are, but I can understand the reaction and I can’t say I’m surprised… in fact, I suspected in November, 2006 they’d use this updater as a trojan:


  10. Dave

    “Didn’t the DOJ require IE to separate from the OS?”

    No, the US court required that Microsoft provide a way for Windows users and OEMs to hide the access points to IE and other so-called “middleware” products. And thus was born the Default Programs part of Control Panel.

  11. Techmeme seems to cull its [main] source headlines from the larger mass media much of the time, and you’re right Ed — the most interesting blogs and blog writing I read day after day never makes it to Techmeme. A better name is what it does — echo the masses: “echo meme.”

    Although it need not be, the weakness of blogs is their inherent brevity. There are few like yourself who will split a larger topic among several parts in separate posts.

  12. I think there’s a lot more wrong with the blogosphere than Techmeme, unfortunately. I stopped reading pretty much any blog for a variety of reasons not related to what shows on Techmeme. A good percentage of the blogosphere becomes an “echo chamber” without the assistance of Techmeme. I think there’s other services, such as twitter, that do this in a way that is much more damaging.

    Interestingly enough, I found your site because I do have a habit of checking techmeme.com on a regular basis. Do I do so because I think techmeme is a perfect solution and/or doesn’t suffer from some of the setbacks you mention? No, I do so largely because it is a way for me to quickly scan information that may not show in an RSS reader. I also like the fact that it includes articles from mainstream publications as well. You can’t have a balanced view on any topic w/out checking multiple sources, sources that may not be in the blogosphere.

    My advice for the blogosphere: Get out of it on some days. There’s a lot more going on than what’s being talked about in the blogosphere.

    One odd thing I keep running across in posts that discuss this…
    “originality” and “interestingness” do not equate to accuracy. In most cases, if not nearly all of them, the bloggers and people making comments in the blogs are doing so off of their personal opinion.

  13. Ed,

    I’m late to the discussion but I think you’re mostly right. It is hard to write original, insightful comment because it requires time and effort, which can demand a personal investment. As a result, a lot of people who want to participate in the conversation find it easier to write here’s-what-I-think-about-it posts.

    Another point: writing blog posts about what’s hot and what’s been talked about can produce more instant gratification because you can find yourself in the middle of the conversation right away. This contrasts to original posts that can live on the editorial edges, and take time to find their way into the spotlight – if they ever do. I wrote a post yesterday about what eBay might do with its Craigslist stake – good, original content but didn’t get a lot of attention. Nevertheless, it was satisfying.

  14. So what is the fix? Most really insightful tech writing will not be read because algorithms at Google and TechMeme favor blogs that are older, heavily linked from other places, and heavily read. The assumption is that these factors make them of more interest to a reader when this may not be the case at all.

  15. What I think is kinda ironic is how a big discussion has sprung up around this post you made Ed , but that no one seems to know/remember/both to acknowledge* (delete as appropriate) where the story came from.

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