Deconstructing Blogs: Presenting Blogger Archetypes

Internet Language/Structure Presenting a set of blogger archetypes: the singers, the wingers, the fingers, the ringers, and the stringers. Update March 14th: For an abbreviated version of this, read What type of blogger/self-publisher are you? Update October 23rd: I’ve added the archetype flinger.

The consensus that was pushed through the Blogging, Journalism, and Credibility (“WebCred”) conference at Harvard a couple of weeks ago was that journalism needs to change. In less than two weeks, it seems that blogging has joined its sometimes-combatant in crisis mode. New York University’s Jay Rosen, who at the end of the year had declared that “What the printing press did to the Catholic Church the blogging press does to the media church,” now concedes “I am starting to realize my error. Blogging has no nature. I knew that, but haven’t been emphasizing it enough.”

Robert Cox, who had assembled the Media Bloggers Association in November, made this post on the conference private mailing list: “My concern is the misleading, generic use of the term ‘blogger’. It is a totally meaningless term.” This he posted to his own blog, but not to the MBA blog. Cox’s concern was that despite all of the praise of bloggers that’s being paraded around, identifying himself a blogger doesn’t help him get phone calls returned any faster. Cox elaborated in a post to the list (that he planned to post publicly on his blog):

As I think about “standalone journalists”, “citizen media”, “grassroots journalism” it is clear that the solution is not for bloggers to complain that they are not treated with respect and then use that fact to justify being unfair in their reporting. It is incumbent on those bloggers/Journalists (and I include Wiki News correspondents under this term) who want respect/credibility to do something more about it.

In the aftermath of the conference, I got in touch with a number of the voices who weren’t heard from to write about inclusiveness at the conference (which has been accessed over 400 times). Among those I reached was Rebecca Blood, author of the Weblog Handbook, whom I had met very briefly in Boston last summer. We had a lengthy exchange about the past, present, and future of blogging, and in the midst of it, she sent me a link to a recent essay by Tom Coates, a longtime blogger. Coates, while completely outside the orbit of the Berkman insiders, is drinking the same water on the other side of the Atlantic:

And I’m beginning to think that the thing we have to do is start to reconsolidate and refactor the weblog concept itself… In a whole range of issues – from the collation of our browsing to the handling of our photos, from the posting of our opinions to the way we’re relating to our social networks – the traditional weblog format is starting to buckle.

Not that this is anything new. Two years ago, Clay Shirky, a widely-read technology writer, and adjunct professor at NYU wrote an essay Power Laws, Weblogs, and Inequality, in which he illustrated how a small number of blogs command most of the audience. Here’s how he mourned the passing of the term:

At some point (probably one we’ve already passed), weblog technology will be seen as a platform for so many forms of publishing, filtering, aggregation, and syndication that blogging will stop referring to any particularly coherent activity. The term ‘blog’ will fall into the middle distance, as ‘home page’ and ‘portal’ have, words that used to mean some concrete thing, but which were stretched by use past the point of meaning. This will happen when the head and tail of the power-law distribution become so different that we can’t think of J. Random Blogger and Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit as doing the same thing.

Shirky’s analysis regarding categorizations is insufficient; it is like the comment that Hemingway told Fitzgerald on why the rich were different. In this case, they have more links. We need sharper tools to understand the differences. I’d like to start the deconstruction today. What is needed is a good classification system– based on intent. The intent that has been conceived by the blog evangelists is often a nation of citizen-journalists, taking back the media (whether one faults them for being too liberal, too corporate, or simply being The New York Times ). Of course, such a nation already exists: it’s South Korea, which has 35,000 citizen-reporters contributing to the Internet-based news service OhmyNews. They’re just not called bloggers. (What are they called? — ed.)

AN ANALOGY

We first need to escape from conjugating the word blog anymore. It’s linguistically trapped. The noun lent itself to a verb of the same name, which in turn generated an occupational noun: a blogger blogs on her blog. This triple is uncommon in English, but in the cases where this used (fisherman/to fish/fish, pitcher/to pitch/pitch) there’s a great variety of synonyms to substitute. It would seem to me that these words have been integrated into the vernacular in a way that blogs have not.

Consider the automobile. A century ago, it changed the world, but it did not challenge the general vocabulary. The carriage for private passengers became the car. An omnibus had been in use since the invention of the railroad, as a way to shuttle passengers to the train; it has since been shortened to the familiar bus for mass transit use. Commercial goods were hauled by truck, which goes back as far as Middle English to mean a pulley cart. A new use, which built on the new root, was a race car. On the other hand, the various extension of -mobile (Oldsmobile, Batmobile, Popemobile, truck mobile) are limited to corporate brands and pop culture.

There’s also a point to make about credibility and standards. The statement that “not all drivers are the same” does not change the fact that there are some universal standards that apply to the activity. Each different function of driving brings its own licensing practices. People can get hurt through reckless driving– and the potential is greater with larger vehicles and at faster speeds. The same is true of the written word.

PRIOR CATEGORIZATIONS

As I like to say, there are two types of people in the world, and the first group ends up categorizing the second group. While categorization is unpopular to the second group, I have enough company in the first group, so I’ll review some of the prior categorizations.

Function

Some of the categorization work involved drawing circles around blogs at the exclusion of others. In April 2002, John Ellis wrote in Fast Company, “Bloggers are not devoted to keeping you on their page.” David Weinberger, in a dinner talk at the WebCred conference, asserted that polished pieces did not belong in the blogosphere, since they couldn’t keep up with the conversation (I transcribed that part of his talk; Shelley Powers cited me; and one “Reverend Matt” shot back: “anyone who claims to able to say who is and is not a ‘real’ blogger is lying to you and/or themselves”)

Others bastardized the term weblogs to come up with other subcategories: war blogs were begotten in the wake of 9/11; blawgs have been used to describe blogs by lawyers; k-logs has been mostly dead on arrival as the term for (I’ve explained that the K- prefix is guaranteed loser in American brand names). Similarly, people have thrown around the terms “pundit blogs” or “tech blogs” or “group blogs.”

The problem: these are still stuck linguistically, and none of them have been accompanied by an expanded explanation. (as laborious as this document. —ed.)

Linkers vs. Thinkers

Rebecca Blood is one of the sharpest and most patient thinkers about weblogs, and she happens to one of the original authorities on them as well. In 2000, writing a history of weblogs, she explained that the original aim of the weblog community was to filter the web. This changed after the introduction of the Blogger software, which encouraged more people to write journal-style entries. This dichotomy evolved into linkers vs. thinkers, which first may have appeared on Steven Den Beste’s blog in April 2002 (some people who wrote him after the post suggested the terms); the was cited on Robert Williams’s blog in October of that year. It took another year for Daniel Drezner of the University of Chicago, in a post “The division of labor in the blogosphere”, to identify two types of bloggers– he just called them “portals” and “commentary.” Den Beste replied in the comments, reminding Drezner of the thinker/linker terminology.

None of these classifications have really stuck. In July 2004, Drezner co-authored an academic paper with Henry Farrell of George Washington University, The Power and Politics of Blogs. They did a decent job of explaining why certain political blogs are popular, but they skipped any attempt at trying to categorize blogs.

Form

In 2003, Rebecca Blood was invited to submit an essay for the Nieman Reports on weblogs and journalism. In her essay, she offered caution about the conflation of the terms. “Blogs have become the default choice for personal Web publishing to such a degree that the two ideas have become conjoined.” In a contemporaneous research paper on the blogosphere, Joel David Bloom of the University of Oregon continued the conjoining, using this definition: “any site that is available exclusively online, is updated frequently, and includes large numbers of links to the content it cites.”

Stymied again with the elastic definition of formats, I felt I had to start from scratch. In December, I came up with a list of twenty-five writers and publications– not all blogs– who wrote frequently on the Internet about American politics and called it the Online Political Writers Scorecard. For visual clarity, I grouped them by a “spectrum”– independents, independent collaboratives, pundits, media sites, collaborative/community sites “which either use blogs as an inspiration, model or are otherwise, again, confused for blogs.” For each, I asked some solid questions about how they were put together. Did they use the log format? How did they use links? Was there a public comments section? How many times a day did they post? Were they edgey and folksy as blogs are expected to be? Did they pull in many sources, as journalism demands? My assessments may suffer by the sheer size of the task, to read through that many publications, reading back over a few weeks’ worths of material to try and extrapolate some gradings. I would have been happier if the writers supplied it themselves, and only two did. Nonetheless, the data illustrates some that there were wide variances from the stereotypical blog.

The biggest trend I noticed was the regular tradeoff between posting frequency and the thoroughness of the writing– which, traditionally is the value of periodicals. The chart also helped me plan the next experiment– how would each of these writers/sites to a certain piece of political news? Over the several days that I worked on the chart, the Asian tsunami hit. It didn’t take long for bloggers to find the angle related to U.S. politics (e.g. how much aid to give), and so I summarized the reactions. Whereas typically a blogger links to a few things he likes or links to one thing he doesn’t and writes a reaction, I linked to them all without prejudice, finding: banality, partisanship, sensitivity, and vanity.

Intent

I’ll acknowledge Rebecca’s point that they are arranging links for their audience. But so does the media. It doesn’t explain why they are filtering. What is the writer/blogger trying to do?

Between reader and writer, there is an expectation– an unspoken contract, if you will– about what the content will include. The standard may some measures of objectivity, some of the compassion, some of the raw partisanship. If the publishers deviate from the formula, the audience may wonder; conversely, in the interactive world, if the readers/contributors assert their own agenda, the primary writers could lose interest as well. This “contracts” theory came to me while in Jay Rosen’s workshop at the Berkman Center’s December Voting, Bits, and Bytes conference– this was hosted in a law school, after all– but the workshop attendees did pick up on it.

It came back to me when I drew up a response to Jay Rosen’s conference paper Bloggers vs. Journalists is Over. In my response, I argued that such a truce ignored the ongoing conflict between journalism and their critics (not just bloggers), as well as between bloggers and… who, indeed. Perhaps it is the nefarious wingers — whoever they are– who give the earnest bloggers a bad name.

By Saturday morning, after the first day of the conference, I had added some more groups: the ringers, who didn’t have to struggle for credibility (as Seth Finkelstein put it), and the stringers— those who had to. But nobody wanted to discuss it during the open sessions. At five thousand words, I’ll get my revenge here. I’ve since carved out two more categories, the everyday singers as well as the quick fingers who do what the wingers do but ten times better.

THE ARCHETYPES

The following are archetypes; they are not meant as exclusive categories. Meet the singers, the wingers, the fingers, the ringers, and the stringers.

Singers are the vast majority of people who have blogs: the folk. Most don’t write about politics. I choose the word singer to pay homage to Walt Whitman’s vision, as he used the verb regularly in his poetry to indicate the celebration of self. In a November 2002

essay explaining why he blogs, Loren Webster wrote: explaining why he blogs, Loren Webster wrote:

I also like to think, as Whitman suggests in “Song of Myself,” that “every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.” If I learn something from my experiences, I hope it might valuable to someone besides me. I have learned much about myself from reading others’ poems and stories; I hope that others can also learn something from my experiences and my writing.

A similar Whitmanesque sentiment has been voiced by Weinberger: “We’re writing ourselves into existence.” These are people who see blogs as journals and scrapbooks, or anything else, who am I judge? But not everybody wants to be understood so innocently.

(Update: I have since written down some extended thoughts on Whitman as the primogenial blogger. Incidentally, my own early theory of folk-blogging had imagined bloggers as rappers. Josh Levin of Slate gave this idea the lighthearted treatment it deserves, focusing on the he “silly, silly names”, the props to friends and disses of foes, both are “populist, low-cost-of-entry communication forms that reward self-obsessed types who love writing in the first person.” They also complain about The Man– which we’ll read about in the next section.)

It is one thing to sing a song of yourself; it is another thing to do so about the issue of the day for a more public readership. Such is the domain of the wingers— the hacks and flacks who riff on the news and are winging it most of the time. This group has grown into prominence in the two years leading up to the 2004 presidential election. One of the characteristics of the wingers is that they write short, frequent posts.

“If I care about something, I write it. That’s the essence of blogging,” said Markos Moulitsas Zuniga of Daily Kos in a discussion thread this past summer on blogger discretion. He didn’t point out whether understanding fit in the chain between caring and writing. Weinberger’s theory of the ethos of incompleteness– that one person can write incomplete thought and someone else will come along and correct it– fully encourages people to just wing it. Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit posts an average of twenty times a day, and many are just brief links without any comment. In 2002 he had passed along the assertion that Sweden was poorer than Mississippi. This was challenged, and he conceded; Reynolds followed in the comments with a point for wingers everywhere: “I find that people often read more into a link than I mean by putting it there, but that’s life. It’s a frickin’ blog, after all. If you don’t like the free ice cream, fine.” More recently, Henry Farrell of George Washington University dubbed this credibility dance “the blogging two-step.”

in this past summer on blogger discretion. He didn’t point out whether to fit in the chain between caring and writing. Weinberger’s theory of the ethos of incompleteness– that one person can write incomplete thought and someone else will come along and correct it– fully encourages people to just wing it. Glenn Reynolds of posts an average of twenty times a day, and many are just brief links without any comment. In 2002 he had passed along the assertion that Sweden was poorer than Mississippi. This was; Reynolds followed in the comments with a point for wingers everywhere: “I find that people often read more into a link than I mean by putting it there, but that’s life. It’s a frickin’ blog, after all. If you don’t like the free ice cream, fine.” More recently, Henry Farrell of George Washington University dubbed this credibility dance

When journalists lodge complaints about bloggers, it’s the wingers that are in their crosshairs. Canadian politics reporter David Akin told Jay Rosen: “it’s so rare that bloggers create real ‘value’, that a blog post becomes a primary document.” This follows Alex Jones’s notable op-ed Bloggers are the Sizzle, Not the Steak: “bloggers, with few exceptions, don’t add reporting to the personal views they post online, and they see journalism as bound by norms and standards that they reject.”

Most identifiable of this group are political wingers, though there’s a highly visible group in the realm of new media who also have a habit of winging it some time (I track them with blog bunk). Most wingers tend to support “advocacy journalism,” though the needed discussions on ethical issues are regularly deferred. They’re wingers in the traditional press as well, of course. Just this past week the story broke that a Wilmington man had constructed up an identity as “Jeff Gannon” and was able to get into White House press briefings. When confronted with this, the White House press secretary essentially gave his blessings to wingers everywhere by suggesting that his office has abandoned interest in any sort of baseline standards for journalism: “In this day and age, when you have a changing media, it’s not an easy issue to decide, to try to pick and choose who is a journalist. It gets into the issue of advocacy journalism. Where do you draw the line?”

Timothy Karr of the MediaChannel watchdog group worried recently: “If scoring political points is the sole motivation of such participatory news communities, then citizen journalism is nothing more than mob advocacy.”

Of course, no one should be faulted for being a passionate advocate. They should be faulted for being a hack– neglecting to grasp, and also, obscuring, the larger context. There is a way out of it: see the next group.

More familiarly known as the pundits. But maybe they want something beyond pundits, and we have a good word for them: the fingers.

Like wingers, these groups take aim at the political/media issues and public figures of the day, but they’re a cut above. The name is the most abstract so I’ll give a few reasons why it may fit. First of all, they’ve got their “fingers in every pie”– the idiom in English which means they’re covering a lot of stories. This may be the most elite of the groups, and the elite of the elite can be called Goldfinger’s — the men (and they’re mostly men) with the Midas touch. (They also can signal to their legions to throw steel-rimmed hats at targets). If you forget, “finger” is similar to “filter”– that’s what this group does well. They’re not afraid to give the finger, either. They just don’t do it every day– they mostly keep all ten fingers on their keyboard.

What distinguishes this group from the common wingers is they actually do the work, and they know their stuff, and they’re a lot more thorough. They’ll link to an issue of the day, and they’ll also put it in context. If they keep it short, it’s because they’re right on the money. They fact-check and go into depth. They are less nakedly partisan, and they are more likely than wingers to demonstrate independence from the party line. The fingers– pundits, really– tend to be the ones read most by the press (see Drezner and Farrell’s

The Power and Politics of Blogs). ).

The original political bloggers hailed from journalism. Andrew Sullivan was a well-known journalist (having served as editor of The New Republic, among other jobs) before he started blogging. Sullivan has become one of the most well-known bloggers now, though he has recently announced his plans to take a break from it in order to work on a book. Joshua Micah Marshall created Talking Points Memo around the same time, to serve up liberal talking points daily. The three-man team at Powerline launched two years ago and reached the elite level by acting as a focal point during the 60 Minutes memo investigation.

In recent years the independents have been complemented by professional efforts from national political magazines. They, too, have their fingers at attention to cover the news of the day: The Washington Monthly‘s Political Animal, with Kevin Drum blogging. The American Prospect‘s TAPPED is an edited, blog-style production with contributions from Jeffrey Dubner and Matthew Yglesias. The New Republic‘s etc is Noam Scheiber. I’m not sure which of these liberal sites is most palatable to conservatives, but the National Review‘s TKS (formerly The Kerry Spot) by Jim Geraghty meets the reverse need, it is exemplary for its depth and its patient approach.

With the smallest group, it’s also, well, tough to put your finger on them sometimes. Individually they’re talented writers, and they are comfortable enough with the genre that they cross into other categories sometimes. Atrios and Drum sometimes just wing along, and both have at times, for lack of news, posted up pictures of cats, following the singer influence. On the other hand, when Jim Geraghty and Josh Marshall don’t see any news cross their lap, they go and find it as any stringer would. Marshall is not only doing advocacy efforts, as he is on Social Security these days, but he actually may be more effective than any single private citizen in hammering away at the Democratic Congressmen abandoning the party line. Two years ago he had led the charge of exposing the racist statements of Trent Lott. Yeah, the fingers got to him.

Sullivan still does enough outside writing that he may just qualify for ringer status. But more and more we see non-journalists entering the fellowship of the ringers. Let’s have a look at the next.

Ringers are professionals who have blogs on the side as an alternative channel to reach their audience in the stripped-down “unplugged” sessions. MSNBC’s prime time lineup Chris Matthews (

Hardblogger), Keith Olbermann (Bloggerman), Joe Scarborough (JoeBlog ) all have blogs. ), Keith Olbermann (), Joe Scarborough ( ) all have blogs.

This group also includes public intellectuals– foremost, a law professor

Larry Lessig. From the windy city, Judge Richard Posner and Nobel Laureate Gary Becker exchange ponderous essays on issues of the day. In the last few months, business leaders have joined the trend as well. Andy Stern has, or had, his a blog on the website of the Service Employees International Union, which he’s President of, though no one’s posted to it in 3 months. Mark Cuban, Internet entrepreneur-turned-owner of the Dallas Mavericks, is the BlogMaverick. General Motors created the Fastlane blog at the start of 2005 to catch the trend… From the windy city, exchange ponderous essays on issues of the day. In the last few months, business leaders have joined the trend as well. Andy Stern has, or had, his an of the Service Employees International Union, which he’s President of, though no one’s posted to it in 3 months. Mark Cuban, Internet entrepreneur-turned-owner of the Dallas Mavericks, is the. General Motors created the blog at the start of 2005 to catch the trend.

Ringers don’t have to filter the web or riff on the news. They make their own news. Many bloggers winged a mention of the Iraq elections, but it was the rare blogger who began his post “One of the amazing things about owning a TV network, is that I get to take chances…” and then Mark Cuban explained how he sent his HDTV unit over to cover the Iraqi elections.

For these power players, creating a blog may be mostly a symbolic gesture — it’s the equivalent of planting trees at an office park to show you’re an environmentalist. And well, seeding a whole company of bloggers may be tantamount to establishing a “green” building or campus. Though as a technology for aggregating input across large organizations, blogs simply don’t scale.

But on the whole, ringers are delighted with the whole concept with the blogosphere– it’s another place for them to be the big cheeses. Let’s turn our attention to the final category, the ones who are still searching for the cheese.

Stringers are the opposite of ringers– they are amateurs who can only achieve credibility through patient writing. They may be journalists who got caught in with the whole blogging wave. Or they are budding experts in a particular field, and they realize that having their site called “blog” is a totem towards some wider recognition. Contrary to the singers, the stringers are not writing themselves into existence but other things. It is true that we stringers are more apt to use the first person in writing– I got you there, didn’t I?– but the self is hardly the focus. As for the other pablum of

blog bunk — news is a conversation, not a lecture; the media church is ceding power to the edges– gives us a break already. If they’re going to be at an institutional journalist (or an academic) to an article, it’s because they individually out-hustled them, and not because of the format. — news is a conversation, not a lecture; the media church is ceding power to the edges– gives us a break already. If they’re going to be at an institutional journalist (or an academic) to an article, it’s because they individually out-hustled them, and not because of the format.

And unlike the wingers and their ilk, the stringers aren’t losing their mind reacting to every teensy bit of news. We could wing it, but we really don’t want to waste the time or the reputation. Many stringers really do seem themselves as journalists, covering a specific area and building stories over time (by now you may have realized that this ain’t no ordinary blog post). Rarely do we post more than once a day. After all, there’s not just the audience of the present to meet, but the audience of the future (That is, the people who will read it long afterward, perhaps via a search. –ed.)

Stringers are the big breakout group, and they are the readiest to break away from the common perception of blogging. One of the standout practitioners among bloggers is Chris Nolan, who writes the California-based blog Politics from Left to Right. Chris considers herself a standalone journalist, emphasizing the welcoming nature of the term: “there are or soon will more people — experienced journalist — coming on the web every day. And what we do is different in a number of ways from what’s gone on before.” At least one vote of approval came from Steve Outing of the Pointer Institute, who posted: “I think this could catch on!”

Other notable stringers are Laura Rozen, who holds the virtual foreign desk at War and Peace (“a journalist who blogs,” she told me when we met). MyDD’s two-man team of Jerome Armstrong and Chris Bowers, with Matt Stoller, have done terrific original reporting on the DNC race.

What if there were no blogosphere?, I hypothesized that there are knowledge networks online which exists outside the blogs. Besides the planisphere, I also suggested the term “contratsphere” which would include sites that are dedicated to critically covering a single topic. Matthew Sheffield, who along with his brother Greg, runs RatherBiased (focusing on the CBS Evening News Anchor), was more or less accepting of the term. When he contacted me regarding the scorecard, the first thing he said was: “I was pleased to see that you correctly identified that our site is not actually a blog.” As it happens, the Sheffields are charter members of the Media Bloggers Association. Another new development is WorldChanging, a group blog with a mostly international focus. I exchanged email with Jamais Cascio’s, one of the editors, and he explained:

We consider ourselves a blog in that we’re using the blog structure (daily posts, organized with the freshest stuff on top, rich links, etc.) but steer clear of some of the blog world’s bad habits… A number of blogs have a “hey, I just noticed this today” approach, and while that’s somewhat intrinsic to the process, we try to avoid allowing that format to dominate.

It’s the stringers who are the ideal. When Dan Gillmor talks about “citizen journalism,” he’s looking to stringers, we hope. When Dave Winer wrote “In the weblog world we don’t string together sound bites to create a ‘story’ — we continually cover an area, and comment on developments over time,” he probably had stringers in mind, even if he himself escapes such journalistic discipline.

It’s the stringers who are most interested in credibility. They want to be taken seriously. The stringers also demonstrate the least angst about the mainstream media, given that they are likely to freelance in journalism, or associate with reporters, and recognize that it’s up to editors to confer on them greater legitimacy.

Eight months– and many readers– after this piece originally went up, I realized that a number of the high-profile websites complete have their own -inner.

In September 2003, Jason Calacanis, the former editor of Silicon Alley Reporter announced plans to build a weblog publishing empire of up to 300 weblogs that would share advertising revenues. Rival New York blog entrepreneur Nick Denton scoffed at the idea, writing on his own blog that his top websites at his small Gawker Media shop were grossing $2,000 a month (“Roughly the earnings of a starving freelance writer.”). Two years later, Calacanis had signed on 58 weblogs and sold it to AOL at a deal estimated between $25 and $40 million.

Calacanis– and his buyer– evidently realized that blogs could take a substantial bite out of the trade publication business while the political bloggers would still be agonizing over issues like credibility. For any targeted marketing niche, be it parenting, automotive, gadgets, it really doesn’t matter what editorial content is posted. The Weblogsinc sites take care to visually distinguish the editorial content from the advertising, but both serve the same purpose to the readers. The writers can fling up whatever sticks, and thus they may be appropriately called flingers.

Three of the top five blogs, ranked by link popularity on Technorati, have large focuses on gadgets: BoingBoing, founded by writers Mark Frauenfelder and Cory Doctorow in 2000; Gawker Media’s Gizmodo (“The Gadgets Weblog”); Weblogsinc’s Engadget. BoingBoing has a bit wider range of content than the other two, often capturing any sort of cultural zeitgeists which can be summarized in a picture and three hundred words. Its roots are not as a trade publication, but an independent ‘zine which Frauenfelder had begun in 1988 on popular culture and technology.

The flinger type should not just be associated with sites about marketing niches or gadgets in particular; anybody can get in the poor habit of just flinging content on their blog. But the temptation is certainly greater when the content is about things instead of about people or ideas.

Conclusion

Now that we have deconstructed blogging we can start talking sense, even if it sounds a bit funny:

  • Everybody demands that the media starts to read from the stringers, but they confuse them with the wingers, who are just nonchalantly expressing the values of the singers.
  • More ringers have begun blogging, but many of them are out of touch with the singers.
  • It wasn’t all bloggers who pushed the media scandals. The wingers had a hand. The fingers got it on the front page of the news.

One final word about categories. There’s also a rather tedious discussion in the blogosphere the value of agreed-upon taxonomies vs. user-devised “folksonomies.” My answer: both. Some folks will propose taxonomies that enough people will find useful and then will use it. I have proposed some terms, based on a long analysis of online media, based on conversations with some of the sharpest unsung minds in social media, and most importantly, based on a catchy suffix. If I have missed some archetypes, feel free to extend yourself: humdinger, swinger, gunslinger, handwringer, jerryspringer, boingboinger, harbinger, yan-yinger….

But remember I am not even proposing categories here; these are simply archetypes to help understand the different motivations that go into what we call blogging. I actually think the most interesting publication will able combine something from everything– the singing to embrace the poetic mind; the winging as red meat to the partisans; the fingers to keep pace with the news; the celebrity ringer showing us that, gasp, they are just like everyone else; and, of course, the stringers to actually write original content. The irony is, when you put these together in different proportions, you’ll get something like The Atlantic Monthly or The New York Times or any other general-interest periodical.

There’s a couple of motivations I’ve purposely left out, as they go across the board. And they’re going to likely be built on completely new technology. One is the need is to bookmark pages and quotes for research purposes. I’ve written about the del.icio.us service and how it provides a streamlined utility for doing just that. Second is the need to not just allow many people to talk– but to help people listen to each other and to caucus their opinions together. This serves the organizational or corporate needs, and blogs were never really designed for that. So the next chapter, we hope, begins the civ world.

Postscript, February 13th: About 53 people have read this and have had to put up with about a dozen typos in the 5,000-word piece. In all but one case I have cleaned them up without changing the meaning. The most egregious example was this sentence: “They fact-check and go They are less naked partisan, and not infrequently dispatch some wingers on their own side to demonstrate their independents.” That’s a dangling phrase, a misleading statement, perhaps wrong use of “dispatch” ending in a spelling error with “independents.” When I read this again, I realized that other than my prior observation on Jim Geraghty, I couldn’t really back it up, I changed it to “They are less nakedly partisan, and they are more likely than wingers to demonstrate independence from the party line.”

I sent this to a number of the people I quoted, though none of them have taken it up yet. Ironically, the first discussions of this have been happening in a blog based in the Netherlands Ver ~ Basterd. I have asked some neighbors who spent a year in Holland to help me translate where Babelfish can’t!

Postscript, February 24th: I hope I get a ‘B’ on this paper. A number of them were missing, now that I’ve proofread this thoroughly. In the future, I need to focus on completing the BAR– that’s “be” “a” “are”– the most common words I had dropped. There’s no excuse and I regret being so sloppy. Though it didn’t stop 200+ visits so far. There’s been a discussion on a German blog. In Quebec, Jean-Pierre Cloutier provided an analysis in French, which got read in Switzerland and passed to an ex-Brit there who wrote a short review, pointing out “The writing is generally engaging and eloquent, though marred by a significant number of uncorrected grammatical errors, missing words, and typos.” So I had to get back to work. Once again, there were about a dozen corrections. amazing. I fixed some more of the phrasing as well in parts to make it more clear and added some hyperlinks. The only substantive change was adding the section on Whitman and rappers. I’ll check it in as a new version.

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