Looking Through You

Your lips are moving
I cannot hear
You voice is soothing
But the words aren’t clear
You don’t sound different
I’ve learned the game
I’m looking through you
You’re not the same
– The Beatles

Seth Finkelstein and Ethan Johnson are talking about marginalization in the blogosphere.

This is a complex and touchy issue, but here are my thoughts.

Common Sense and Fairness

Many, many times I have read things on a blog that have already been talked to death on other blogs. What’s OK and not OK in that situation is a “know it when you see it” sort of thing. Clearly if someone links to another blogger or engages him in a cross-blog conversation, then it would be wrong of him to restate what was said as if it were his own original thought.

On the other hand, if I talk about an issue today, some other blogger might talk about the same issue next week or next month, perhaps in a similar fashion, without ever having seen my post. The blogosphere is a big place and it’s impossible to know what everybody said today, much less in the past.

Maybe I’m being naive again, but I think if you apply common sense and fairness, these things will take care of themselves. And if you don’t, someone (be it Seth, Ethan, Kent or somebody we don’t know yet) will probably let you know.

But No Footnotes Please

Blogs are not generally research articles (thank goodness). But fairness is fairness, so some rules should apply.

It boils down to a couple of things.

First, the whole greater mindshare/Gatekeeper thing. I’ve had my say about that issue and, pending any new perspectives, I’m not going to rehash it all over again. It’s there. It’s not as bad as some think. Most of it is natural; a little bit of it is designed to exclude. But you can get inside the gates. Yada, yada, yada.

More importantly, and the thing this conversation makes me wonder about, is whether there is some implied duty to do a Technorati or Google search before you post something to see if someone else has already covered it (or in the case of a new discovery, already dis-covered it).

How Much is Enough

I generally search a little on a topic before I post on it to make sure I have at least most of my facts right and to look for other relevant and helpful links. Most of the time, I do this via a Technorati tag search. Once in a while (though much less often) I’ll do a Google search. But I don’t know that a search should be a requirement prior to posting about a topic.

It’s one thing if someone knows another writer has uncovered something new. In that case, I think a link ought to be included back to the original story. But the internet is a big place and if I have to do vast research before posting on something, then I’m not going to post very much.

If I were to accidentally jump to the front of the line on an issue, however, I would hope someone would let me know in an email or Comment, in which case I would (and should) supplement with a mention, link, etc.

Looking Through

I fully understand the frustration that occurs when someone posts something that you’ve already covered and it gets treated like earth shattering news. I protested (mildly) via satire when that happened about this very same Gatekeeper issue.

I don’t want to come off sounding like I can’t relate to the desire to be heard, because I can. And whether I write this blog for another year or 20 years, I will always do what I can to find and invite new voices to the table.

Sure, some people (and I think it’s a relatively small number) hand out links like medals. But given the communal nature of the blogosphere, those folks are their own worst enemy. And their numbers will decline over time as the blogosphere continues to flatten.

Just because someone doesn’t speak to you doesn’t mean they are ignoring you. They just may not have seen you.