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Many Constellations

You know, the blogging world is truly amazing. My blogroll has usually been pretty small because each of my blogs linked to a different species of blog. Wood s Lot linked to lots of literary links (and let me say it: that weblog is better than any literary site I have found on the net. I could live off nothing but things I read from Mark Woods’ site and die a happy man). Tapped is a really wonderful blog leeching onto The American Prospect, one of my favorite leftist journals. Off the Kuff links to political news, usually about Texas. Crooked Timber (a new addition) links to lots of academic blogs, linked by category. Storyblog is Derek Powazek’s links to good storytelling sites. Well, my purpose here is not to rave about my blogroll but to point out how diverse blogging is these days. While Slashdot and Boing Boing often get posts from one another (an incestuous relationship), most of these blogs link to totally separate writers. And that is good. Particularly funny is when you find another weblogger like Seb’s Open Research and realize that you don’t know any of the people he’s been linking to. How do we ever manage?

For a year or two I was writing for Asiafirst like mad, and for a while, my weblog was The weblog about either India or China, and all new bloggers were linking to me out of obligation. (I’ve stopped that blog since then, but oh well). Then, as I lost the ability to update, I found that other Asia bloggers were linking to other bloggers, and it was impossible to keep current. Ok, it’s not essential to stay current, but you realize that information is not really centralized, that no one person can keep tabs on everything on a particular topic that many people care about. Even if the blog is not about information or opinion, you’ll look at the social blogs and just gape at all the blogging people that some bloggers claim to know. The typical blogger might be able to keep tabs on maybe 10 news sources (and here I’m including blogs), and the rest of the blogging/writing world just appears as darkness.

Google provides the illusion of interconnectedness. Every once in a while, I discover that some major content is missing from the Google radar or on the radar on anyone’s blog, and I wonder why nobody ever noticed it before. It has something to do with the nature of the content. If your weblog contains a lot of discussions or if the writer has an affiliation with an organization that has a major presence, then that post has a lot of visibility.

The problem is: bloggers shouldn’t have to be experts in PR or viral marketing to get their content read. Musicians shouldn’t have to know who’s hot or what style is in. Knowledge of the community of knowledge does help in creating interesting content, but immersing yourself in this community runs the risk of spreading opinions too thin. Blogging is a superficial art (and rather time-consuming). I fear it is not particularly creative. I once complimented Cory Doctorow for the brevity of his links. But the flip side of this is that one feels like one works in a bookstore; You know names of a lot of authors and vaguely why they are popular or whether they have books out. But have you actually read them? Do you really appreciate them? And does awareness of the bestsellers or the catalog’s taxonomy really assist you in writing your own stuff?

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