The Blogosphere According to Godin

Seth Godin, obviously having read and taken to heart some of the words of old what’s his name, steps forward with his take on the noisy blogosphere.

As those rocky places where many of our words could find no purchase (I can cut loose with my own brand of literary reference every once in a while) fall away before the flattening forces of the citizen media movement (alliteration and pretense- put me in coach, I’m ready), the once ordered nature of the blogosphere becomes the cacophony of the masses (I’m in the zone; is it me writing these words or Nick Carr?).

The result is too many voices competing for too few ears. A situation Seth compares to the tragedy of the commons. The real tragedy for common folks, of course, is that none of us have any idea what that is. So I took one for the team and looked it up for us.

It’s a parable, sort of like the ones Jesus and Andy Griffith used to tell.

Between those two great parable tellers came some guy named William Forster Lloyd (he has three names so you know he was smart; four names means you’re both smart and rich). He told a story that was later told by Garrett Hardin in Science magazine.

The parable uses a lot of fancy words to say that if a lot of people compete for the use of a shared resource (be it a grazing pasture, a fishing pond or the blogosphere), the end result is overuse, which is bad for everyone. It’s the smart guys’ version of the prisoner’s dilemma.

The end result for the blogosphere, according to Seth, is that to save it we have to use it differently. The autonomous collective (the literary references keep on coming) different- through restraint, selectivity, cogency and brevity (which is what Seth manifestly advocates). Or the feudal different- with the lords within the castle and the fiefs without (which he doesn’t mention directly, but it’s the blogosphere’s zoning and paper equivalent).

Asking the citizenry of the blogosphere (far too many of whom are chasing the almighty dollar) to be reasoned in their use of the shared blogosphere is like asking people not to litter.

Those of us who are willing not to litter are already not littering. Others will turn a deaf ear to the plea, even while remorsefully tossing a candy wrapper out the window.

So if we know the autonomous collective approach is doomed to failure, what is left?

That is the question.

Update: Scott Karp says the answer is more metadata and better filters.