Of Shel and Chip and Seth and Nick

Remember a long time ago (in blog years) when we had the last debate about Gatekeeping? In the midst of it all Shel Israel offered up a tale about some lady who started a blog and got famous as proof that anyone can become an A-Lister. I guess Shel figured he had so befuddled us with his logic that the debate was put to rest, out of confusion if not consent.

Now we’ve had another gatekeeping debate in which some A-Listers respond with contempt at the very mention of the issue, while few take the time to view the issue objectively. Nick, Seth and I, among many others, attempted to have a conversation about it in the comments to Nick’s post as well as the comments to Chip Camden’s post. I guess it looks like we’re hopelessly confused again and so, presto, Shel graces us with another homily.

This time it seems that the fact Shel found Nick’s post via “one Sterling ‘Chip’ Camden” somehow proves that the blogosphere is so flat that if you stand on a sardine can you can see the back of your head. I’ll leave for now the condescension of the word “one” and the fact that in the very post in which he claims that A-Listers have no gatekeeping power, he is quick to call himself one (along of course with Doc and Michael), as those nuggets are really not germane to my point.

Let’s think about this a second. The fact that on one occasion, Shel found his way to a post by Nick via a post by Chip means that the notion of a gatekeeper is, to quote Shel’s pal Robert, bunk? This is somehow true even though Shel makes it a point to say that he doesn’t read Nick’s blog and only acknowledges it when Nick starts a conversation that he (Shel) simply can’t avoid? I bought and enjoyed Shel’s book, but I suggest Shel leave that logic out of his writing portfolio.

In fact, my primary conclusion after reading the so called A-Listers’ explosive reactions to what was nothing less than a thoughtful and well written post by Nick (regardless of whether you agree with his conclusions) is that someone IS complaining a bit too loudly. It’s just not who they think. You don’t need Gertrude to tell you that the higher you go up blogger’s hill the louder it sounds.

And then Shel turns to Seth. He says he has subscribed to Seth’s blog “for a while.” That’s a good thing. An iron-clad, logically indisputable thing, however, is one of the recent comments Seth made in response to a surprisingly mean-spirited comment by Hugh MacLeod in the comments to that post by the “one” Chip Camden (sorry, I tried to let it go, but couldn’t)- a comment that uses a close first cousin of the logic Shel tried with his most recent homily.

Hugh says:

I’ve been a pro writer for almost 20 years. The successful writers I know personally, without exception, take responsibility for their own experience. Seth doesn’t, as far as I can tell.

To which Seth replies:

I suspect this says something more about you, rather than being a moral lesson of global import. It’s akin to “The rich people I know personally all attribute it to their faith in God”. That could be a true statement as far as it goes, but the objective meaning is not what you intend.

To which I say, the fact that Shel stumbled across Chip’s post on his way to Nick’s post has no bearing whatsoever on whether there is or is not an oligarchy in the blogosphere. Just like the fact that Hugh, who is rightfully well known for his blogging and drawing, knows a bunch of self-responsible professional writers has no bearing on the notion of self responsibility for Seth or anyone else.

I have no gripe with Hugh, and I have no gripe with Shel. I am just exercising my ability to, as Shel puts it, “interest enough people enough of the time.”

Because my original post, which was addressing the reach of the blogosphere as a whole as opposed to the varying reaches within it, was part of the inspiration for Nick’s post, I want to say for the record that I don’t believe anyone anywhere has any duty to link to me or anyone else. While I’m a ways down the hill from Shel and his proclaimed peers, I have a lot of readers. Sure I aspire to have more, but my argument has always been more about being a part of the conversation than about engaging in the inefficient process of badgering links out of Shel and his ilk. Sure, I have said many times that bloggers listen with links, and sure I have been frustrated at times by getting linked around. But links for me are always secondary to being a part of the conversation. Evidence of participation, perhaps, but a by-product of the goal- not the goal itself.

Since we are using Chip’s post as part of the official record on this round of the gatekeeper debates, I’ll restate a comment I made there that sums up my position on this nonsense.

I’m not so much interested in having the blogosphere operate differently as I am in calling bullshit when people try to say it operates differently than it actually does.

What gets my dander up is when someone like Mike (and Shel for that matter) who got to the top of the hill, in part, due to relationships with the Scobles and Winers of the world, tries to say the blogosphere is an equal opportunity place.

It ain’t. Life ain’t either. It’s OK that they ain’t, as long as you don’t try to pretend they are.

Tags: , ,