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Summary:WSJ.com - Portals: The difference between the old media elite and the new blogging elite is that the latter gets redefined much more frequently.

WSJ.com - Portals:

The difference between the old media elite and the new blogging elite is that the latter gets redefined much more frequently. All it takes is attracting links from other bloggers.

If you're clever enough, you can make a career out of complaining about never being mentioned by the blog-aggregation sites. Get enough people to read you, and you'll soon be on tech.memeorandum's front page. That's how software-mediated democracy works. It's not always pretty, but is there any better system?

Lee Gomes' column is a bit dismissive of the discussions going on through Memeorandum and blogniscient.com, but it also asks a question worth keeping at the forefront of the evolution of information politics: Is there a better system? I've suggested before that Memeorandum's algorithm simply reinforces an existing elite because it samples a limited range of blogs to begin its display of discussion—that's also the essence of human editing, a process built on the reality of limited attention—and true to Gomes' statement, it landed my blog on the Memeorandum home page more than before.

That the elite is more porous than before, when newspaper companies defined who got column inches, is a Good Thing, for sure.

That the power to crawl gives organizations the power to define dialogue is Not So Good, because algorithms that assume the kind of neutrality that produces "objective truth" without acknowledging the selectivity of the resulting data leads to misinformed readers. Gomes is pointing out that a lot of irreducibly miniscule arguments become holy crusades, while the details of real import are neglected.

The point that Gabe Rivera's Memeorandum has an audience of 12,000 is important, but that readership is not the new elite. The blogs selected to be on the page are an elite, of a sort. However, while doing analysis of social influence, I've seen repeatedly that it is the "mainstream media" that start the talking in many cases—this one, for example, where a Wall Street Journal article gets discussion going—and without that part of the media (the "media" includes everyone publishing today, from mainstream to "elite blogs" and the rest of the blog/podcast/Web/print universe) the discussion wouldn't be so robust.

So, the answer to Gomes' question is that the system is much more complex than "blog-aggregation sites" and "software-mediated democracy," just as newspapers were not the sole foundation of 20th century, either.

Technorati Tags: blogging, influencenetworks, LongTail, publishing

Topics: Tech Industry

About

Mitch Ratcliffe is a veteran journalist, media executive and entrepreneur. He was editor of the ground-breaking Digital Media newsletter in the 1990s and a frequent contributor to ZDNet over the years. He led development of the first Web audio/video news network at ON24, sat on the board of Electric Classifieds Inc. and Match.com, and wor... Full Bio

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