May 14, 2005

Your 15 Minutes of Fame Aren't Actually Yours

Dear Everyone,
There's not enough time to actually give each of you 15 exclusive minutes of fame.


You'll all have to form parallel lines and BLOG your heads off simultaneously and hope someone notices. Take all the time you want, because you're sharing it.

With everyone.

Your friends, the Powers That Be.

The instantaneous self-publishing that blogging allows has brought a welcome egalitarian element to human discourse. It provides a hyper-soap-box that has not been available to humans at any time in history.

Or does it?

I don't know how many people read my blog, for instance - and I bet I'm a pretty good example of the average Mr. Everyone - but I'll bet I could distribute my views more efficiently if I simply stood in front of a supermarket and shouted them out from, well, an actual soapbox.

Certainly blogging will continue to evolve, and the growth of blog hubs - like and others - promise to increase exposure of "everyperson" to the rest of the wired world going forward.

But if everyone is talking, who's listening?

I myself read online a lot, to the detriment of writing. I don't have 24 hours a day to myself so I find myself gathering like a squirrel. I add links to my favorites or subscribe via RSS and Atom and scroll through my aggregator at lightning speed looking for content I'll eventually wish to comment on.

And I'm constantly sucked into the commercial blogventures like the weblogsinc network of professional bloggers and business people vying for my time and the infinitely expanding Gawker Media Empire, a sort of oxymoronic "diversion central".

I wonder if I should hire people to read stuff for me. Then I can actually work, and interact with my real-life family, whose names currently escape me.


In 1992 I was taking some courses back at UCSD part-time, after a long hiatus, to finish my degrees. In one of the courses a young and spunky couple of geeks introduced us all to "the internet". As if we were in a bunker having a secret meeting of the Che Guevara society of new-world communicators, they excitedly distributed a list of complex looking urls printed out with a dot-matrix printer in the computer lab on a long perforated computer paper spool.

These were "addresses". To things you could "find". On "the internet".

I hardly understood a word they were saying. I got the gist of it, though. Not only could we "find" information, we could "offer" information. We were supposed to be able to personally interact with other people somewhere on this internet by using our student network accounts to send "email" and/or "upload" stuff for viewing.


The leaders of our little Internet Junta were insisting that this growing virtual network of computers across the world was going to change the way we all interact and communicate. Political discourse and social & artistic expression were to soon flower in ways none of us could imagine.

Some forward-thinking geeks we had there.
And they were right, if you call a decade "soon".

By this time, 1992, I had read a couple of books in Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game series, which in themselves were wildly forward-thinking in terms of the future networking of citizens of the universe. Card's tales described the social and cultural communications that would be possible for even the most unknown of unknowns, as soon as IDEA overcame LISTENER's predisposition to ignore the otherwise unimportant SPEAKER. This by the shifting of AUTHORITY via this new network.


Just a year after this UCSD class, I was on Compuserve at home, and then over to AOL (I was one of the first 100,000 subscribers as of 1993). Even then, though, figuring out how to format an email address to a user on another service gave me and the other 99,999 AOL subscribers fits. Well, for a week or two anyway.

Two years after this I actually had a company web page up on the internet - at considerable cost. But that's still just business, advertising, etc. Sure I could get my own personal site - Hey, actually, that's what I did. At considerable cost. This was no way for everyone to get their own 15 minutes of fame.

And then I started noticed in the late 1990's that companies were also giving server space to their employees. Getting there.

And finally has come blogging. Instantaneous, self-published blather.

Ah, the freedom.


However, it seems that as soon as blogging hit our proverbial "fame" funny bones this past couple years, the co-opting began.

Google, who will eventually figure out how to link to our brains directly, bought, which by the way was a good thing. Now it should remain forever free. If that's a good thing. (Tip: I'm never as sure of my own statements as I pretend).

And how is it free?

Advertising. They've got my eyeballs in return for giving me free space to try and attract eyeballs too. So how do we free bloggers get eyeballs to actually read what we're writing? Well, we can just write and hope. We can make the rounds, make connections with the like-minded, trade links, become a community, so to speak.

You can game the system like the Hot Abercromie "Chick", or you can keep pumping out page after page of topical, engaging content like unemployed people on speed, or you can combine with other bloggers to expand your repertoire of interesting content lines. Form alliances. Blogging Communes.


And poof, we're ALL famous ALL the time.

We've gone from passive digestion of broadcast news of the 1970's, to Talk Radio through the 80's and internetting through the 90's, and finally to blogging, still in its cacaphonous infancy.

Where any of you can say anything you want.
Someone might even hear you.


At 7:17 PM, Blogger Omni said...

My personal view is that classic blogging has already passed its peak; it's no longer a novelty, there are WAY too many blogs to ever see even 1% of them, and people are moving on. Have you noticed how eerily fast blogs are being deleted or abandoned? How many blogs that have commenting don't GET comments?

Podcasting is the new hot thing, and it's spreading fast; it's so much easier, after all, to run your mouth that it is to type coherent sentences, and it's still new-ish and novel, plus it's cooler to hear a voice than to see text.

Remember when everyone had a personal page on Geocities? Eventually, blogs will look just as... old.


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