May 30, 2003  ·  Lessig

Andy Orlowski has an interesting dump on blogs in the Register. But he also makes an interesting mistake.

I’m not sure how one could ever say what the impact of “blogs” is universally. Yet by asking the question like that, you miss important differences in different countries. Joi’sEmergent Democracy” stuff might seem odd from the perspective of England or the United States (because we of course have such healthy democracies, and soon we’ll have three media companies to tell us so); but within the structures of Japan, this channel becomes very significant. Likewise with the equivalent effect (though not through blogs) that has yet to be understood in the Korean election.

The link to teenage girls is even more mysterious, and yet to be understood. The other extraordinarily significant movement in Japan — dojinshi comics — is also said to have been sparked by teenage girls. That movement now gathers over 400,000 people twice a year to trade in those comics. And Sifry’s estimated number of blogs: 400,000.

Just a coincidence? Who are we to say?

  • Karl

    The Reg article reminds me a lot of this one. In both, the authors seem to want to throw the baby out with the bath water.

    I see some potential harms to blogging, but none so significant as to outweigh the benefit from those blogs that do serve a purpose grander than random exegesis on diurnal events.

    That begs the question, why are we seeing such a negative tone? Is the author offended by some bloggers claims to be the source of an information revolution? Wouldn’t it be more apropos to ignore the phenomenon, if you truly believed it had no chance of success?


  • Steph

    This isn’t the first time Orlowski has reported a less than positive view of blogs and bloggers. Dave Winer posted recently about another article where this was the case.

  • Dave Winer

    A pointer from an Orlowski article isn’t worth very much. Perhaps the people who read his articles don’t know how to click on those words in the funny colors? Maybe that’s it.

  • Dave Winer

    I meant to say “perhaps the millions of people who read his articles.” Could they really be so poorly informed, or is Andrew making up the numbers as he goes along?

  • David Moynihan

    Err, perhaps the Korean phenomenon can be a little better understood if you think about how news used to be dispersed in ROK until very recently (speaking as a guy who copy-edited the Korea Times for a bit when Kim Young Sam was prez):

    The Korean media conglomerates (chaebol) practiced self-censorship. Really. Every masthead said Chosun Ilbo or whatever subscribed to the code of self-censorship for Korean newspapermen. The red badge of boredom. Info came down from Yonhap (sorta like China’s Xinua, only the mainland coastal cities are already bigger risk-takers in some ways than my colleagues were), and what was approved went in, what was not approved did not go in, and that was pretty much that.

    The journalists themselves were rotated in and out of the various papers, and encouraged to do boosterism (like when Samsung got pressured to start making cars, on account of, you know, national pride or something), all the papers talked about what a wonderful thing this was: look out Japan; first Sony, then Toyota! I had one guy say to me he wasn’t going to do a good job on this four-page advertising blowout special (Kiwanis or somebody had a convention in Seoul), because, you know, the organization hadn’t bought enough ad space, and as an employee he was offended. His boss approved of his conduct.

    That was the news, actually: government-approved stuff, wacky tabloid bits from afar (Keanu Reeves marrying David Geffen), and advertiser-driven biz reporting.

    Things changed quite dramatically in the later years of Kim Young Sam, and particularly under Dae Jung (the trial of Roh Tae Woo being the hallmark of change), but the people don’t wholly trust what they read, even now, and were primed to believe in themselves as news sources.

    Disclaimer: my hours were cut back harshly at the Korea Times after I was a bit too enthusiastic in supporting a young, enthusiastic sportswriter type (who had a headline “Indians scalp Rangers 7-3″ that I let run without consulting the big boss). The stated reason for the force-him-to-quit was my presence “disturbed the women,” but that’s maybe another story.

  • Lessig

    David, thanks for the stuff on Korea. This is a story I don’t understand well, and it would be great to get lots more like you post here. I’m going to float a more general question about this. Thanks.

    Andy and Seth, sorry: I was trying to be funny. Failure, as always. The joke was the connection between girrl revolutions in Japan (dojinshi) and blogs. It wasn’t serious.

    But more importantly, Andy, I am really surprised you didn’t understand that your piece dumps. It’s not terribly harsh, and it is interesting. But I thought its tone was clear, whatever your intent. And if your intent is so separate from your tone, that may well explain alot.

    I spend a great deal of time down playing the significance of blogs to my friends — if by significance you mean the percentage of the world participating. (One person wrote me — “see, blogs show why you don’t need to worry about MediaCon.” Right.) But again, to think that “significance” is captured by ratings is to miss something.

  • Daniel Brandt

    A pointer from Orlowski in a Register article may not be worth much, as Mr. Winer points out, but a pointer from Winer to a blogging scam artist such as Microdoc is enough to keep him in business.

  • Rodney Breen

    Of course, Orlowski has noticed that Sturgeon’s Law applies to blogs as to other types of writing. But he really should stop quoting Pew Research as stating that the number of blog readers is “statistically insignificant”. They did not – Orlowski has simply misunderstood the statistics.

  • Anonymous

    Blogs don’t dilute Google results, poor searches do. You get what you search for, simple as that. So Orlowski searched for “second superpower” and didn’t find what he expected. Guess what, Google taught him something new – that the term “second superpower” is used in more than one way. Now what should you do? Cry online about it and try to rhetorically force Google to eliminate all blogs from its results? Or simply go back and do a better search that more clearly specifies your intention by differentiating between the different uses of the term “second superpower”? Google doesn’t need a “blog” tab, it needs an “education” tab to teach people how simple it is to search better.

  • Anonymous

    Blogs have established their place on the internet (and google). I refer back to several regularly cos they are damn good. Whilst i appreciate the point being made about blog-clog, i thought back as to how i found the blogs i read and re-visit….GOOOOOOOOOOGLE!!!