The Void in Gaping Void – What to do when blogs become victims of their own success?

by Andy Polaine on December 2, 2004

I’ve been having an interesting conversation with Euph recently in the comments of my previous post about the SoundPryer and it’s led me to ruminate on what happens when blogs become victims of their own success.

Our conversation went like this:

AP:Personal media spaces (blogs, iPods, bitTorrents, etc.) allow for something else to go on. I can write about green frogs, for example, all the time on here because I don’t advertise and don’t do this for the money. Euph: Question though could these spaces (blogs, iPods, bitTorrents, etc.) and personal connectivity eventually go the way the internet searching has sort of gone e.g the phenomen of some people thinking now that if you can’t find it by Google it dosen’t exist.

Now, I’m not sure that I agree people think it doesn’t exist if it can’t be found on Google, just that it’s too hard too find it any other way and why bother? So, the answer is yes, I think that is a problem and that’s been one of the strengths of RSS feeds, etc. Using a newsreader is a great way to scan what’s going on. But still, it gets a bit much sometimes – I’ve got 1,445 stories NetNewsWire is telling me I haven’t read. I won’t read them of course. Maybe 20, but that’s it.

When I’m not writing here, and not teaching or researching, I’m a magazine journalist too. That’s a real, paper one. Remember those? I write a column called Foreign Policy for a design magazine, Desktop, which is ironic because the site where I found another story about blogs being the victims of their own success goes by the same name.

Anyway, the writing the column means that every month I have to get in touch with somebody new to write about and email is usually the best form. I’ve written before how much I enjoy Hugh Macleod’s blog Gaping Void. I think he has some new and incendiary ideas about creativity and also the death of branding. I thought he’d make a good interviewee so I emailed him, twice. I also left comments on his blog. Nothing.

Now, I don’t particularly think it’s because I smell or my email says “you’ll get skin diseases if you read this”. He just gets lots, too much I suspect, mail. His site is getting pretty slow and hammered by visitors I would imagine too. So, now I can’t get in touch with him and kind of can’t be bothered either.

It’s particularly apt for Hugh because a lot of what his blog is about is that brands are conversations and experiences – a bottom up affair rather than a top down decision. He cites the example of Kryptonite locks not doing anything about the fact that it was all over the Web that you could open their locks with a Bic pen.

Yet now Hugh has the same problem. He won’t even know that his “brand” is suffering because well, he won’t get the mails or the comments. I can’t see a way out of this for bloggers except by either group blogging or simply following the foxes and rabbits model of population growth and decline. People will stop visiting his site because it’s too slow or they miss the personal interaction, the site speeds up, Hugh gets less mail and can actually respond to it and then the cycle starts again.

If blogs tell us anything it is that information hotspots emerge and die away again. Fortunately, of course, I dream about having Hugh’s problem. I’ve no idea who reads this much, but hey, tell your friends.

1 hugh macleod December 3, 2004 at 10:05 pm

I suppose I could just do what Nick Denton does- turn off the comments from his blog(s) and limit all e-mail replies to less than 6 words.

But of course, that wouldn’t be my style ;-)

I think the important thing for gapingvoid is for me to keep posting new cartoons. The other stuff- marketing rants, comment intercation, e-mails… that is secondary.

Thanks for airing these points in public, it’s good to see this stuff coming to the surface. Sorry if I’ve not been responsive enough, but jeez, I’m overloaded at the moment.

Ciao!

Hugh

2 euph December 4, 2004 at 11:50 pm

“Now, I’m not sure that I agree people think it doesn’t exist if it can’t be found on Google, just that it’s too hard too find it any other way and why bother? So, the answer is yes, I think that is a problem and that’s been one of the strengths of RSS feeds, etc. Using a newsreader is a great way to scan what’s going on. But still, it gets a bit much sometimes – I’ve got 1,445 stories NetNewsWire is telling me I haven’t read. I won’t read them of course. Maybe 20, but that’s it.”

Taking the scannning element back to the orginal post – like RSS feeds you can scan whats going on. But in mobile scanning does this defranchise users somewhat (I am not talking about money here e.g not being able to afford technology ) but rather Does that mean to scan what you want to – you have to be in a “gothic area” to pick up heavy metal, and a rich area to pick up classical music ?

So does that mean the farmer out the back of nowwhere will have no oppportunity to pick up nothing but country music and a slight buzzing sound ? Thus does it lead to a certain defrancshing of the end user (although this obviously happens in a lot of areas now in regard to communication for hundreds of reasons e.g goverment policy etc…)

“Yet now Hugh has the same problem. He won’t even know that his “brand” is suffering because well, he won’t get the mails or the comments. I can’t see a way out of this for bloggers except by either group blogging or simply following the foxes and rabbits model of population growth and decline. People will stop visiting his site because it’s too slow or they miss the personal interaction, the site speeds up, Hugh gets less mail and can actually respond to it and then the cycle starts again”

Ok kind of Going around in circles but dosen’t that kind of lead to an analogy and basis of Groupthink ?

“If blogs tell us anything it is that information hotspots emerge and die away again. Fortunately, of course, I dream about having Hugh’s problem. I’ve no idea who reads this much, but hey, tell your friends.”

I wonder the Ray Lewis idea a defranchising yourself from the creative process . Can you eventually defranchise yourself from yourself (without being dead)?

3 apolaine December 19, 2004 at 9:15 am

I think you need to explain what you mean by Groupthink more clearly and why it is neccessarily a problem – one of the alternatives is that we get told only one side of things from the mainstream media. It’s not groupthink, but corpthink.

I don’t think Ray is defranchising himself from the creative process – but having a system is his creative process. Would you argue that his work isn’t creative? Taken to extreme, perhaps you can defranchise yourself too far, but that’s extreme and not what he’s doing surely?

4 euph December 20, 2004 at 11:51 am

explain what you mean by Groupthink

Janus (1972) said that groupthink is “a deterioration of mental efficiency, reality testing, and moral judgment that results from in-group pressures.”
Janis, Irving L. Victums of Groupthink, Houghton Mifflin Co., 1972, Boston

As in society there is conformity – to some extent by everyone. But as many collabrative information portals center around one element or certain kind of information e.g green tree frogs could the elements to group think be heightened because the focus is on one kind of informational source losing site of balance ???

don’t think Ray is defranchising himself from the creative process – but having a system is his creative process.

Think you are assuming here that I am saying defranchising is a bad thing. I don’t think it is like deprivation – Is depriving yourself of something such a bad thing ?

Maybe more refering to the fact that when I was reading things on Ray Lewis site seems to distance himself even if not totally and even if it is the creative process . Maybe by defranchsing, deprivation , distancing himself whatever you want to call it the art work isn’t all consuming all Ray Lewis and that is why it stands on it’s own. Yes there is a creator like some one invented the computer you are using now but it still stands on it own. Yes it is a Ray Lewis photograph – but it isn’t just a Ray Lewis photograph, it’s a photograph.

5 apolaine December 20, 2004 at 12:20 pm

Definitely that does happen. I remember thinking that the links sections of design sites all linked to the same sites that had the same links. So the gene pool of inspiration got very small.

Blogging is a little different, largely due to the mechanisms of trackbacks and pings which disseminate the information and links in a more organic manner. I think it’s more like a conversation.

In the end though, yes, you’ll always find nodes or genres of types. I think this is a good thing and shows the web growing up. Not all TV is news, for example, it takes many forms. So should the web, and the clearer it is the easier it is to sift throgh. A real problem in the past has been the sheer amount of types and styles of information.

I don’t really know what to say to the Ray Lewis question. I mean, it works, I really like his images. However he gets them is sort of less important to me, though it might be important to him.

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