Noblesse Oblige in the Blogosphere

Nick Carr has posted about the innocent fraud that is the notion of an egalitarian blogosphere.

He makes a lot of really good points, including the sadly indisputable fact that the cult of blogging that we all embrace to one extent or the other is not the democratic, all for one and one for all place that we sometimes pretend it is.

I have been very active in the movement to knock down the gates and level the earth in that regard. Now that I actually have some readers, I go out of my way to engage new or undiscovered bloggers. But the fact that I have clawed my way up part of blogger’s hill does not change the fact that it is a hill. Or that I am not yet at the top. Or, more importantly, that there are a ton of people who can think and write better than any of us who are still at the bottom looking for the trail.

Nick’s post is a very thoughtful summary of the state of the blogosphere as it appears to those not at the very top of blogger’s hill. Reading his discussion of the lengths new bloggers have to go to to get recognized by established bloggers is enough to make even the most stalwart climber pause and consider whether the effort is truly worth it.

The idea, espoused by a popular blogger at a recent conference, is that to get links from the so-called blogging elite, you must link to them and add substantive thought to their topic. Without a doubt, that is an honest answer, and probably the most effective way to get some top of the hill links. It is also horribly inefficient, since in a semi-perfect world we would be writing not to get a charitable link, but to further the distributed conversations that some of us believe is the purpose and beauty of blogging. If I speak to you only to promote what you might say to me in response, are we truly talking, or am I merely a beggar asking for alms for the poor?

Does the enlightened A-Lister really believe it is the duty of his position to pass out links to the less fortunate? Hungry peasants can storm the castle. What can lonely bloggers do?

While I may be over-simplifying things a little, I think the so-called blogging elite are no different than any other slice of the population. Some of them are regular folks, confident in themselves and their real word positions. These folks are generally equal-opportunity linkers, probably because they get little of their identity from blogging. Others view their place at the top of blogger’s hill as a birthright, notwithstanding the fact that their place in the succession is often derived largely from the fact they were early adopters of what is still a fringe activity. Most are somewhere in between the two extremes.

But it is a hard climb, just to get where they can hear you if you call out. There’s no denying that.

Like Nick’s peasant listening to the party from outside the castle walls, I have a mental list of other bloggers who seem to go out of their way to link around me. Sometimes I get a little insecure and wish I could force them into a real world discussion of whatever issue is at hand, just so I could show them that having a popular blog doesn’t make them as smart as they think. But mostly I just chuckle and move on to conversations with those who are willing.

All of this reminds me of a recent post by OmegaMom, one of my favorite newish bloggers. She recounted reading a Pew report that found that most people blog for “creative, personal expression.”

Maybe it’s the act of expression that matters, and not so much the reaction to such expression.

Trees continue to fall in the vacant woods. The only question is whether they make any sound.