After the recent Forbes: Attack of the Blogs article, the blogosphere exploded in discussion about the article. Perhaps this was Dan Lyons intended effect after all, like yelling "fire" in a crowded theatre. Ten days later, the hue and cry has mostly passed, though I am still getting pings and mails ("Did you know you were in Forbes magazine?"). At this point, while I don't think my dad has seen it yet, a lot of others have. There have also been some interesting comments about the print edition , the criticism of the Lotus community, and a notable omission.
The various blogs covering the story included Doc Searls. He and I had an offline e-mail conversation about the story, and about his collection of links, which included many other blogs--but initially not mine. Searls graciously updated his links to include my blog entry. In his e-mail back to me, he wrote:
I think there is also something about blogging that gets scant credit: provisionalism. Non-finality. While conventional journalism tends to be homiletic and conclusive ("this is so, and I've done the research to prove it"), blogging journalism is often provisional ("this seems to be so... what do the rest of ya'll think?").This is a huge and powerful thought. Journalists write as if they get one shot to tell the story. They might write follow-ups, but a "mainstream media" article tends to be written to stand alone, to represent a complete picture, and to answer as many general questions as possible.
This was certainly the case with Attack of the Blogs. I note with interest (though not conclusively) that an IP address Mr. Lyons was using has not revisited my website once since the article was published. The blogosphere reaction to the story comes in more like Letters to the Editor -- Forbes has likely received more than a few on this story -- but that does not mean that the original writer is reading the responses. Much of the mainstream media still does not believe in the self-correcting nature of blogging -- I doubt we'll see a follow-up story in Forbes a year from now.
Bloggers realize they have an accountability to their readers that is different than mainstream media. I'm not talking about some of the blogs that have become online magazines, but rather name-brand bloggers. Searls captured this thought in his e-mail, too, as he describes the "sovereign nature" of a blog:
My blog is my domain. It is the unfiltered (except by myself) source of what I alone think and say. Before blogging, we didn't have that.If an individual blogger writes a one-sided story, he/she can expect to be criticized for it -- either on their own site or on other blogs. They can expect their credibility to take a hit. They can expect their readership to change (in most cases, to drop).
In this particular instance, one of the fascinating things is how the mainstream media and the blogging world have actually combined synergistically. While Forbes readers may not see the rest of the story printed in the magazine, they can on the web -- even on Forbes.com. Without a trace of irony, Forbes publisher Rich Karlgaard started blogging the week after this article ran. I'm quite proud of the fact that he was immediately challenged by one of the Lotus community (you know, those who were described as "sickos" in the story) for the obvious conflict.
Searching on the title of the article and the article's author reveals a huge buildup of sovereign voices dissecting and deconstructing the article. I have seen a bunch of those searches land here on edbrill.com. Not only is the article not being taken at face value, the characterization of the players within it, including myself, isn't either. And thus, powerfully, the one-sided nature of a traditional journalist's article has been revealed and deflated-- by the very technology being attacked.