Shelley Powers has a post today about the Gatekeeper thing. Sometimes I think Shelley sees herself on one side of the gate and sometimes I think she sees herself on the other. As she points out today, the truth is probably both- there are multiple gates and, at least to some extent, everyone is a gatekeeper of sorts.
She gives a brief history of the word gatekeeper, and then says one thing I agree with and one I don’t. Followed by a conclusory truth that I believe is undeniable
I agree with her that “the high ranked sites tend to give and withhold flow more as a matter of obtaining more for themselves than to enforce a specific viewpoint or behavior.” It’s like anything else, those who have want to keep and those who don’t want to get. Like democrats who were born wealthy, it’s easy to argue for the little guy- as long as the little guy stays little and the big guys stay big.
I think, however, that the desire to keep what you have- be it traffic or attention- is but one of several gatekeeping forces at play in the blogosphere. Another is the smell of money and the desire to marginalize those who might lay stones along the road to riches. And perhaps the most powerful force at play is the human need to belong, which carries with it its dark twin- the need to exclude others. The same forces at work on the playground still apply in the boardroom and the blogosphere- the exclusionary tactics are just disguised a little better and cloaked in new jargon.
I don’t agree with Shelley’s river metaphor- at least the idea that too much water is bad for the river. In the case of the blogosphere, the internet serves as a deep and boundless ocean just a few miles downstream. As such, the danger is not that the river will overflow and become chaotic. The danger is that the river will dry to a trickle- fed only by the pontification of the river kings and the chorus of sychophants. A shallow river is bad for the river animals and, ultimately, for the ocean itself.
As evidenced by my conversational manifesto, I have largely turned a bored ear and a blind eye toward those whose primary motives are self-aggrandizement and/or making money. No blowhards and no tupperware parties please- just good conversation. It’s not about traffic- no one is a better conversationalist than Doc. It’s about sharing, at least in part, a basic assumption about why we blog. I blog to talk, to have fun and to learn. So do many others.
Shelley’s conclusory truth plays right into this point: “I have found over the years that elevation really comes from attention downstream rather than up…. We grow our audience from each other.”
Exactly. That is the key to getting permanent, sustainable traction in the blogosphere. I would add one additional point to this conclusion: we grow our audience from others who share our basic philosophy about blogging. People who blog for the same purpose can form a more natural bond than a mix of bloggers, some of whom want to talk and learn and some who want only to make a buck off of the first group.
In the real world, it is a great offense to try to make money off of your friends. So why is this tolerated, encouraged and even worshipped in parts of the blogosphere? What do you want your blogsphere to be? A flea circus full of gamblers and confidence men who promise, but will rarely deliver, the opportunity to join them in their greatest caper, or the functional equivalent of a comfortable living room where you can talk with friends about topics of mutual interest?
I know which one I prefer. And it’s not the one I see so often when I pull up my feeds.
But the one I want is out there. Waiting. Full of people who want the same thing I do from blogging. And who aren’t waiting to toss an ad in front of me or sell me a bill of goods.
I am putting together a plan to create a little pocket of conversation with other bloggers who share my beliefs. Nothing formal. Just a group of people who choose, at least for the time being, to float down the river together.