The Irish Blogosphere Criticism and Elites

Eoin Purcell

Teacups threatened by Storms
The Irish Blogosphere is small and shallow. Its readership is growing, as is the total number of participants. The growth and success of the Irish Blog Awards indicates that the arena is widening but, as it stands, there are only a few thousand bloggers and in total they get only a few hundreds of thousands of visitors a day.

That in itself is impressive but hardly earth shattering. What is more, the bulk of these visitors swarm about some leading lights, as one might expect in any media/publishing landscape*.

Which is why I was very surprised by the recent kerfuffle (Good survey post on Rick O’Shea’s blog) about this little post. Here is the worst of it:

I can only assume that the A-listers of the Irish blogging world are lovely, lovely people because to be frank, some of them are shit-awful writers. I shouldn’t need to point out (but I will anyway) that this is intended as a critique of the blogs themselves, and not of the bloggers. There are an awful lot of people out there who need to get themselves a good editor, or whose blogs need a harsh fucking review.

Both sides are a little overwrought
For one thing, elites often look talentless and undeserving to those left outside them. We seldom see the complex networks, the years of hidden slogging or the subtle appeal to others that ensures such elites their position. That doesn’t mean they are entirely without merit.

On the other hand, elites deserve the odd lobbed grenade into their comfort zone and a decent rigorous review would be welcome. The strong reaction against this post was to my mind, unwarranted. It suggests that those criticised remain insecure about their position within the Irish Blogosphere (a misplaced insecurity given the targets of criticism I assure you).

Elites Form
The truth is that either because they were first movers or because they were already well connected with existing bloggers or because they have exclusive access and content. It’s a little like Power Laws.

The A list of Irish bloggers has formed by a variety of methods. Some of them have exclusive content, insider positions or name recognition. Others have posted and worked hard to get where they are. Some succeed for reason I cannot even begin to imagine, but then complex systems as I said above, are often beyond the comprehension of most humans.

To boil it down, criticism is good, elites have a function (and are in any case, largely avoidable). We should all accept both those facts and move on with it.

Enjoying Sunday morning Radio,
Eoin

* And lest we forget, the blog is simply a publishing platform.

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3 comments

  1. Eoin,
    I agree with you that blogs are just a publication platform but there is one big difference compared to other internet sites. The community aspect of blogs seems to be stimulated by the comments features. You leave comments on articles you like, bloggers read your features and also leave comments.
    What I dislike about this is that it would be nicer to attract a larger readership amongst the Internet public as a whole. However, casual internet visitors seem less likely to comment and are less likely to return to a blog.
    I am not sure why that is but one of my theories is that the rather linear, chronological publication features of blogs is accepted by other bloggers but disliked by the general public.
    What I hope is that blogging tools can evolve into content management tools with more website-building features. I would like to have a blog that looked like a newspaper site. My ambition level would be to look like http://www.beo.ie where the content is not updated so regularly so you can have a nice site without neededing to refresh the content too often.
    The fact that there is an Irish blogging community is rather strange given the fact that most people write in English. You would think that the specialist bloggers would have a community but a community based on nationality is anachronistic in the internet world, it’s not a bad thing, it’s the comments feature at work.

  2. Aidan,

    Thanks for the message I’ll respond to the last point first. In my experience most niche bloggers are actually connected to their global niches while also being rooted in their home community.

    For some, like myself, where the home community is naturally small but the global pool is larger by far, that tends to be less balanced.

    For instance, when I first started writing about Publishing in Ireland, very few people seemed to be writing anything about it online, so I naturally leaned outwards and made connections with other, book/publishing bloggers.

    Oddly enough, if the metro area is big enough, many cities in the US have regional blogospheres where niches operate. In some ways, the internet enables people to find those with similar outlooks, whether they live down the street or across the globe thus almost reinforcing the power of geography and location.

    To the other points, casual blog readers tend not to comment precisely because they are casual. There is nothing too strange about that, most article readers in newspapers don’t send letters or make calls when they read stories. The silent majority if you will.

    I agree comments are great. I think you might be surprised to see exactly how regularly established media use comments. For instance one of the most commented upon blogs know, The Caucus Blogs, is run by the New York Times. Comment is Free from the Guardian is great at motivating a huge amount of comments.

    As for building community it’s possible that newspapers are not the perfect loci for communities, but there again it won’t stop them trying: For Instance

    Established media will easily (though not necessarily quickly in Ireland) adopt the tools of blogging (in fact they already have in many cases).

    I think your point about the linearity is valid, though perhaps misplaced. Chronological order is the easier and most logical way to navigate news, newspapers have used it for centuries after all.

    You can easily adopt a blog design that allows for exactly the layout you desire. Maybe wordpress can do it, I’m not technical enough to know but a few hundred Euro should be enough to redesign your site with those changes in mind.

    Lastly, attracting larger audiences is something everybody wants, the question is why should they read you? I’m pretty conscious that most of the people who visit this site, don’t find what they want. There are after all, very few people who care to any great degree about Irish publishing.

    Eoin

  3. Eoin,
    Thanks very much for some very interesting pointers there, I have a lot to ponder upon 😉
    Your point about it being possible to redesign my blog is valid but what I am hoping for is that it will become easy to do this with free blogging tools. Basically some of the extra elements of desktop publishing could be brought in to professionalize the look and feel of blogs. My own problem is that much of the things I have written are timeless so when they were written is not important. I write mostly about language and multilingual issues so my posts are not really point in time observations. If I were willing to spend a few euro I could have a great design though so your point is very valid 😉
    Comment is Free is definitely a model. They do get the man on the street to comment. I guess though that they are still only getting a small % of comments compared to visits. I get a lot on internet hits but they rarely if ever comment.
    The ‘Why should they read you?’ question is very pertinent. You have chosen publishing as a nice. I am trying a more general approach even though I know that specialism is what breeds a loyal niche. I want numbers though so I am trying to pend my specialist ware to the masses. Poetry anyone?

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