Doc Searls has an interesting post today about The Sourceocracy– the new breed of “gatekeepers” represented by the A-List Bloggers. His post was inspired by Tristan Lewis’s The New Gatekeepers post.
These posts touch on some topics I’ve been thinking and writing about a lot lately, beginning with my first post on the closed blogosphere on January 1 of this year, through last month’s Meet the New Gatekeepers post. I suspect the deafening silence in response to this post will help prove not only those points but also my point earlier today about cross-blog conversations being a poor substitute for comments. In other words, what you’re reading here is probably the sound of one hand clapping.
Anyway, one of the points of Doc’s post is that it’s more about good writing than the name of the writer. And I think to an extent that’s true. I also think that if you write hard and long and (perhaps) good enough, you can at least get onto the grounds of the Big Bloggers Club, if perhaps not in the door. Mathew Ingram is one example of a future A-Lister I didn’t know three months ago, but read every day now.
But while Doc is probably one of the best at my Rule Number 4 (equal opportunity linking), I still see examples every day of A-Listers and near A-Listers passing right over better content from lesser knowns to link to a one-off comment by another A-Lister. It is not a universal problem, but it happens. Every day.
That’s not a crime. People can link to whoever they want to. Or not. But it does create somewhat of a closed system guarded by a new breed of gatekeeper.
Doc mentions in his post that the best way to get links from him is to send him an email or write about him in a post. I agree with that, to an extent. I too monitor links and mentions and, as I noted earlier today, try to respond in kind. But I feel uncomfortable writing someone and asking, even indirectly, for a link. To my knowledge, I’ve never written anyone to ask for a link, even though I desperately crave them. I wrote Jason Calcanis once to ask for his thoughts on something, but he ignored me, which was about what I expected.
I’d rather just try to write good stuff and wait for people to notice. It’s a harder path for sure. My thought (or at least my hope) is that if I take that route I’ll be able to stay longer once I get there.
As a brief aside, I have no problem at all when people email me a link to a post they think I would be interested in. It helps me find new people to read and, if I have anything to add, I’ll often make a comment or a linked response. So please don’t take any of this as a reason not to email me. I welcome emails.
The other problem, and one that I think is even more of a hindrance to inclusiveness, is that too many bloggers are so busy tossing up posts that they don’t even read what others are saying on the topic. If everyone is talking as fast as they can, no one is listening. We talk with posts, but we listen with links. This problem is by no means limited to A-Listers and near A-Listers. But like any room, people just keep talking louder and louder in a futile effort to be heard.
I think Doc is correct that the blogosphere is a wide open space. It’s just that most of us want to live in a little community as opposed to all by ourselves out here on the prairie. The A-Listers sometimes act like the passing wagon train. You can admire the way they move across the landscape, but if someone they don’t recognize comes over the hill, they circle the wagons.
Tristan makes some good points about the evolution of the new gatekeeper. I particularly agree with this:
Membership on [the blogging A-List] is limited and many have said that the way to disprove the power of the A-list is by showing that new members have appeared on it: what few are willing to admit is that the new members are really only allowed as one of these groups if they are vetted by enough existing members. This creates a self-fulfilling cycle where members of the small club of “blogs that matter” get to shape the agenda.
I have changed my thinking a little since my first post on the topic. You can get a place at the table if you work hard enough. But the fact that a few people slip in doesn’t mean there’s not a barrier to entry. There is a gate and people are keeping it. Perhaps not intentionally, but the effect is substantially the same.
And while I agree much of what Tristan says, I can’t help but notice that he linked to no other blogs, A-List or otherwise, in his post. Again, there’s nothing wrong with that, but for some reason I find it interesting.
There’s no easy fix for these problems. The best we can do is try to be inclusive and reward others who are inclusive with our eyeballs, our links and our appreciation.
And write hard. Every day.