How many people who blog know that many blogs automatically send trackbacks or send pings to pingers sites like weblogs.com? How many bloggers know that these pings trigger services like Technorati to include their posts in an index and that any mention of my blog in their private diary cause a link to their diary to show up in my sidebar within minutes? One of the things that some of us forget is that it's not all about attention. Most people want a little more attention than they get, but they usually want it from the right people and only when they feel like it. One of the problems of using the "big time bloggers" to design the technology is that we often forget that many people would rather NOT have their contexts collapsed.

I've recently had the experience of receiving inbound links from people who write very personal diaries. I struggled when trying to decide whether I should comment, link to them or otherwise shed attention on a conversation or monologue that appeared to be directed at someone other than me or my audience. A lot of people will say at this point that posting on the "world wide web" is publishing to the public and information wants to be free, yada yada... I would disagree. The tools are just not good enough yet. Live Journal has a feature that allows you to post entries that only your friends can see. I would love to be able to add special comments interspersed in my blog posts for only my close friends.

I know the point is to keep it as simple as possible, and I can already hear the arguments, but wouldn't it be useful if there was a way to manage your audience better on a blog by blog or a post by post basis? It might also make sense to be a bit more explicit to new bloggers/journalers about what the consequences of pinging/trackbacking is.

I remember a message board where activists were preparing to march in protest against the wiretap law in Japan. This message board showed up in search engine results. A well-meaning policeman dropped into the message board and mentioned that they might want to get a permit. The community was in flames about being "wiretapped". So this isn't a new problem. Just bigger. What technology actually does and what people expect it to do are very different so the "technically speaking" answer is not always the real answer. Also, the tensions caused by the technologies should be viewed as opportunities for the innovators.

5 Comments

There is much unavoidable "political" baggage attached to the whole process of linking just because popularity does equal a sort of love for many people. It would be ever so nice, idyllic in fact, if we didn't attach so much importance to reciprocal linking.

What does linking mean, anyway? I like to think it means "Hey, this is neat, go here". I admit that being linked by someone who's site I admire is a great compliment. On the other hand, having my link dropped or never being linked doesn't really effect my thinking one way or another (a high ideal I maintain despite, honestly, the occasional pang or regret or momentary reflection of "Why did that person drop me?" or "Why don't they link me?") I'm working to maintain an ideal here.

I try to have fun with referals and all that. I've discovered sites I really like because I saw they were linked to me. I've also found sites that I didn't like so well. And then there are sites I do like but don't link because the owner is on hiatus or posts very infrequently and I don't keep up with them.

I have a specific purpose in my "permenent" link list -- to tell people what I like and what I'm reading lately. Thus, my list gets pruned regularly. I am also very cautious about "private" sites to which I have access and do not link them without permission.

I'm no saint, and I can't say I'm immune to the fantasy of being wildly popular. Admiration is pleasant to consider, especially when you don't have it. But some people crumble under the weight of being popular. Their writing becomes restricted, their every word is quoted and analysed, commented upon and critiqued. The very thing they started weblogging about -- to communicate with other people, or at least some group of other people -- becomes impossible. Some become trapped in a role, restricted to a particular kind of writing, and are chastised when changes in the person are reflected online -- or they ignore their changes to maintain what their audience expects.

"Audience management" is an interesting concept, certainly not a new one to most entertainment industries. I think it leads to demographic analysis and sometimes to a dumbing down of things to make them appeal widely. Still, there's merit in the idea of speaking to a particular group without regard for those not in the group. Is that elitism? What does it mean?

Thanks for the post and the interesting thought fodder.

I say blog openly and honesly for all the world to see....blog about something big like solving poverty or turning around the entire economy of the world or starting a business that helps little people learn how to make big money....a school for entrepreneurs.......let the people see what you are saying to your close friends.....speak always as if the entire world is watching you.....this is true leadership......help the world....don't cut us out..........dk

I write a personal style blog, but it's certainly not a private diary. In writing publically, I expect that I'll get linked to publically - or even commented back towards. Actually, I rather enjoy that aspect.

I don't tune to make things appeal to people, but I do knowingly censor. I didn't start out doing it, but after a close call or three (I'm a little slow sometimes) I'm conciously not commenting on some aspects - like my job and co-workers.

I hope you do continue to write about just what things you think of - it's interesting to me... maybe to others too. I appreciate the viewpoint that is foreign to me, and yet accessible - it widens my world. -j

I have the ultra-left, midwestern/southern, debt-ridden/book rich, divorced/remarried, baseball/pulp/film/music loving middle-aged father thing down.

So I read blogs for the viewpoints I can only grasp, not experience. The beauty of so many a blog is the transparency of the writer's life.

I understand a need for personal comments, but wouldn't many of those comments mean more when mailed, or emailed, to the friend?

Maybe I'm selfish for the writer's whole reality, but I believe less transparent blogs are more PR and less true.

Of course, I realize some things can not be blogged. I took a month off from life in November and I can't blog why. It would only hurt an innocent person. I can't state certain personal information because my wife and I have an online/phone/mail stalker and we have to make life difficult for him. Certain jobs and people are offlimits, I know this.

So, what do I really know about the popular bloggers? I'm writing for an audience of 10 tops. :) But in blogs like yours I glimpse multitudes and I am far richer for it. Thank you for what you can post.

Your post brings to mind the notion of a permission based blogging system.

You may have two public categories, two categories that only your family can access, one category for your co-workers, and one for yourself, that nobody can access.

Every reader can see the public posts. You simply have a log-in field on the blog. When a pre-approved reader of the personal areas logs in, they gain access to the public and some of the private areas.

I know there is at least one blogging system that has this type of permission based blogging system in place today.

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