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Redefining blogging

Gordon Gould has an interesting post over at the Social Software Weblog called "Micro-famous: Defining and redefining success in the blogosphere, and it's particularly interesting in light of recent discussions about the Kairos award for Best Academic Weblog. According to Gould,

As millions more bloggers come online, the challenge of garnering significant amounts of people’s attention (which converts to social capital and, therefore, personal fame) is going to grow exponentially more difficult.  Fame, as measured by services like Google, Popdex, Technorati, etc, is going to grow very far out of reach for nearly all bloggers. This will be very frustrating for many people unless expectations get reset.

Although I'd argue that A-lists are an inevitable feature of networks that grow beyond a certain point, Gould raises the interesting issue of how such lists condition our expectations for weblogs. I think of it as the Gates-Walton factor: I can remember sitting in a cafeteria in grad school, and overhearing some undergraduates talk about how "useless" their degrees were, because "Bill Gates and Sam Walton never graduated from college." Or call it the American Idol phenomenon--people measure themselves unrealistically against those they see at the top of the heap ("I'm a better writer than Kottke!!"), and then turn bitter or drop out altogether when those expectations aren't met. Put more concretely, according to Gould, "For the average blogger, fame-as-success model needs to become pride in publishing on what is effectively the new refrigerator door. It needs to move away from being stack-ranked against bOING bOING and become much, much more socially localized."

This is where it connects for me with the Kairos award--it's not about asserting that there are C&W (or even rhet-comp) bloggers whose work is as influential as Invisible Adjunct or Crooked Timber. It's about cultivating "the concept of micro-fame among one’s peers, friends, and families." According to Gould, "this is both a technical infrastructure change and a social redefinition." That doesn't mean that we all need to just blog for each other in our little corner of the world--just as there are those among us who publish work outside of our disciplinary network of journals or present at non-R/C conferences, there will be plenty of us who target a broader (or different) audience. But recognizing those who do good work strikes me as the kind of micro-fame that Gould's advocating...


Ya (I swear over half my posts start out with Ya), I really can't imagine blogging outside of the 5 or so key people in my little blog circle. Though I know many others might stumble onto my blog and read, especially students, I generally write with that small circle as my main, initial audience. This makes blogging a particular kind of pleasurable experience much different than being a public intellectual. Without that core initial audience I probably wouldn't even be blogging.

Takes time to build an audience. Also takes time to show up in Google for your key topics. A lot of it is serendipity, people stumbling on your site, liking it, coming back.