Francis Hwang on Tue, 3 Jun 2003 19:49:02 +0200 (CEST)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

Re: <nettime> apres nettime-bold, le digest [byfield, jordan]

My mischaracterization of Orlowski's body of writing for The Register  
was sloppy hyperbole, and I apologize for it.

However, I still deeply mistrust his writing. I've read too many of his  
stories that follow this pattern: Use a headline that greatly  
exaggerates the significance of the facts reported, and fill the story  
not with facts but with your own opinions, thus disguising an essay as  
news, and marginality as significance.

(In its own way, I suppose, it's a rhetorical method that's well-suited  
to the short-attention span problem that blogging can encourage: How  
many Slashdot posters actually read the story before commenting on it?)

Some examples:

"Most bloggers 'are teenage girls' - survey"  
Except it's just a survey about _Polish_ bloggers, who can't at all be  
assumed to be representative of bloggers as a whole.

"Internet is dying - Prof. Lessig"  
Except he only said that the end-to-end nature of the internet is  
dying, as noted previously.

"Google to fix blog noise problem"  
Except for the fact that Orlowski offers almost no attribution to this  
conjecture except for saying that "sources suggest this is the most  
likely option." Are these even _inside_ sources? Or is this just some  
dude in an Internet cafe playing armchair CTO?

Maybe my psychologizing of Orlowski is just a nasty way of saying I  
don't like his writing. To take a recent example, I found the  
comparison of Googlewashing  
( to Orwellian  
newspeak to betray an astounding lack of perspective. (Not unlike  
recent posts here about the quality of nettime, which try to turn  
personal preference over list management into tubthumping ideological  
statements.) Newspeak was backed by the power of the state and was  
granted monopoly over all other interpretations of language, but if you  
don't like Google, you can just stop using it.

At any rate, it would be a mistake to interpret my criticism of his  
writing as a pledge of allegiance to the United States of Blog. I think  
blogs can be really useful, but there's really quite a lot of silliness  
there, too. I read a little of the blog evangelists, but I find myself  
disagreeing with quite a bit. The preoccupation with technologically  
aggregating personality and reputation (trackback, blogrolls, etc.) is  
probably counterproductive: These aren't technological problems,  
they're social, and hence resist automation. And I think many of the  
evangelists tend to vastly underestimate the political hurdles they  
face if they want to have a lasting impact on the outside world. (I  
thought James Moore's "Second Superpower" piece, which led Orlowski to  
coin the term "Googlewash", was embarrassingly naive at points.)

But then, what do we mean when we say "bloggers"? Some estimate that  
there are 500,000 bloggers worldwide  
But when we look at, say, the Blogdex (  
we find that the top stories have really small numbers. As of this  
writing, the top story is Slate's "Salam Pax is Real" story, but it  
only has 40 inbound links. 40 out of 500,000? What the heck is  
everybody else talking about? Well, quite a bit: I look at the most  
recently updated blogs on and I get entries about  
anti-Catholic bigotry, net-art, and Simon & Garfunkel. (I'm also seeing  
text in French, Portuguese, Spanish, and Arabic.)

Blogs aren't a community. They're a technology. If you and I are both  
set up at that's no guarantee that we have anything in  
common, just like it guarantees nothing if you and I both use email, or  

As with any other new endeavor, blogging's advocates include a lot of  
self-promoters and charlatans. That's okay, though, because the words  
of its most prominent advocates don't necessarily mean much when  
compared the actions of its users. Listening too closely to the theory  
is like watching a man's finger when he points to the moon. After all,  
most people in this world don't depend on theoretical frameworks to  
justify the things they do. They do what they think will work, and if  
it stops working they stop doing it.

As to "what works": This varies for everybody, of course, but I find  
that since I started reading news online using NetNewsWire I'm finding  
that it's an excellent way to stay informed about technology and  
politics. I'm a big fan of bloggers-as-filters, and now my reading  
habits include newspapers and magazines in countries all around the  
world, which I vastly prefer to, say, reading the New York Times and  
wondering if the dateline is real. On the other hand, I don't  
particularly find many bloggers saying much interesting about fine arts  
or film or music. That's okay; I get that stuff elsewhere. There are a  
half-million blogs out there. Luckily, you don't have to read all of  


On Monday, June 2, 2003, at 04:31  PM, nettime's_media_asset wrote:

> Re: <nettime> After nettime-bold, the Internet (Andrew Orlowski)
>      Ken Jordan <>
>      t byfield <>

#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  archive: contact: