Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

Ernie the Attorney
Blogs are 'unsourced rantings' says former NY Times editor

From the 'Department of Supreme Irony' comes a statement by Howell Raines (the former Executive Editor of the New York Times) that blogging is 'unsourced ranting' (the link is to a article that links to an Atlantic Monthly article that you have to subscribe to in order to view).

First of all, Raines' statement is so completely ludicrous as to be laughable. Weblogs have a lot of shortcomings, but lack of sourcing isn't one of them. In fact, if you want to criticize weblogs you would do better to complain about the excess of linking to other sources and the dearth of original material. But the more important point is the one filled with irony. Here is Howell Raines, who lost his job at the NYT because he was at the helm during the Jayson Blair scandal, complaining about problems with 'sourcing.' You remember the Jayson Blair scandal don't you? He was a young rising star reporter who was Raines' 'golden boy' at the Times. It turned that the way that he rose quickly was by not wasting time doing the usual investigative grunt work; instead he completely fabricated stories and sources.

“Blogging is the Same as Stamp Collecting for the Semi-Retired”

I still keep running into references to New York Times’ technology reporter John Markoff’s off-handed remarks that he does a blog, it’s called “” In a recent conversation he told me that as far as he was concerned blogging is essentially the same as “stamp collecting” for the semi-retired.

We should have "funniest characterization of blogging by New York Times people" awards.


People make the argument that blogs are merely worthless rantings of shoegazing teenagers and voyeuristic manic depressive cat-owning latté sippers. Yeah, that's probably how I'd see it if I wandered over to the top page of any of the major blog services and just started clicking around from blog to blog with no direction.

I could make a similarly dismissive argument about the New York Public Library, after wandering unguided and uninterested and finding volume after dusty volume of "Herkimer County Statistical Record for 1885" in the particular corner I'd encountered.

In both cases, there are a lot of gems in the dungheap to be found. These guys just don't know where or how to look. Give them a decent RSS reader and a list of good sites and they'd probably change their tune.

Funny, too, that these guys dismiss blogs and then point back to their *websites*. What ever happened to the newspaper people bashing the web in general?

We should also start a "create irrationally dismissive characterizations of the NYT" contest. Then the results could run side by side, for full effect.


Issues of the NYT are as about as useful as toliet paper for dinosaurs.

I think, weblogs are most of all a huge chance for individuals to express themselves in any chosen way - without authorities or mass media. Of course this will erode slowly the monopoly of the "right" opinions of press or politics. Weblogs are the avantgarde of the free expression of individuals so to speak.

I spent the beginning of the nineties listening to people who hadn't a clue what they were talking about telling me that the internet was like CB radio. I was right and they were wrong (I think?).

the NYT wants to keep tight control of information, and the flow of ideas. When you follow links on a piece of information this allows for being exposed to different point of views instead of just their point of view. If its not their spin doctors doing the analysis, and how information should be digested and interpreted, then definetly its dangerous for them.

I would argue that in terms of understanding your world, especially popular politics, even the dungheap aspect of blogs is pretty valuable. I'm an economist, and one of the valuable things I've gained from the blog experience is a better understanding of just how pervasive really silly economic ideas are amongst the general public (on both the left and right). Blogs don't provide a rigorus sense of how widely these ideas are held, but they still give you an idea of the kind of stuff circulating out there. One problem with living mainly in the academic world (as I have done) is that it limits your contact with and understanding of the (influential) rest of the world, regardless of silly or uniformed some of sacred ideas of that world may be.

During 04, I felt that talking and/or blogging about blogging was necessary in order to cover the phenomenon, but that it was always a flirtation with tedium.

Joi I know you have a financial interest in "blogging" so your irrational exhuberance is understandable. But have any of the pajamadheen ever stopped to wonder why most of the mainstream sees them as latte feuled wide eyed fanatics? Maybe instead of spreading so much hype about changing the world and all that rainbows and treehugging type stuff, why not just advocate this software for what it is: an easier way for people to publish their writings to a decent looking web page? Ease off the PT Barnum/Jim Jones style a bit and maybe some of the perceptions might change.

So Chris_B, you are suggesting that "bloggers" only "blog" about how great our software is? How wonderful it is to easily maintain a relatively decent looking website, and participate in a community of sorts?

I think we're already beyond that and those with bigger minds see how that is conducive to trying to make the world a better place. Or is that too lofty a goal? Should we all just sit back and watch "Reality Television"? Would that be more acceptable to the cynics of the world?

Let the dreamers dream. They are the ones who actually begin the processes required to change things.

The NYT can do no wrong! Seriously, I think newspapers and journalists feel threatened by blogs.. and why not...

Alas, generalizing about blogging is even harder than generalizing about journalism. I'm sure there are many bloggers that put more work into their blog than many journalists put into their copy. For every Jayson Blair, there are many hacks who don't do much more than visit a press conference and make one or two calls to some old sources.

But, it's also important to remember that most blogging is very different than journalism. Most of the blogs I've seen are very personal and filled with more opinion than new facts. That's okay because ultimately opinion becomes more important than facts.

I think many traditional journalists look down on bloggers because the journalists know how hard it is to get information and double check it. Most bloggers don't have the time, the commitment, or the interest in burning the shoe leather. Again, this is fine. A blog can be whatever the blogger wants it to be.

It might be better if we talk more about how blogging complements the traditional press. I think of most blogs as a better, richer, deeper and more interesting version of the letters to the editor. The best blogs are better than many opinion columns.

If some bloggers want to aspire to be more than just letters to the editors or op-ed columnists, it might be good for them to coin a new term. The readers need some clue that the author is claiming that a certain amount of objectivity and work went into the piece. The author needs a buzzword that indicates that he or she set out to do more than just express a personal point of view. Perhaps the author interviewed multiple sources. Perhaps the author insisted on double checking each fact. Perhaps the author had a friend edit it. Traditional journalist aspire to do all of these things.

I think it would be great if there were some kind of buzzword that can signal the aspirations of the authors to the readers from the get go. We need a word that's less casual than blog. Any thoughts?

Here are the ones from the top of my head: journo, jog, or facto. None seem that great to me, but I never liked "blog" at the beginning. Now it's grown on me and it's infra dig.


re: # 9 by Boris Anthony -

I wasnt talking to you in the first place. The comment was directed to Joi. I think you have seen me on IRC and are aware of my opinions and may have seen what I've posted here before. I dont really understand your tone, but rest assured I didnt intend to threaten you personally. In case you were not aware of my thoughts on the matter of "blogs," allow me to summarize them for you:

It is patently obvious that web pages of whatever format are a relatively neutral medium. The people composing web pages mostly represent a slice of a certain socio-economic demographic and are not inherantly prone to be "dreamers" any more than they are prone to be "do-ers." Some will have new ideas, some will come up with action plans and some will go and do things.

There is probably some sort of cause/effect relationship between the development of software which makes it easier for individuals to write on the web and the growth in popularity of doing so. There are probably many other factors involved as well. Nonetheless, "blogging" in and of itself is no more revolutionary or world changing or anything else than broadcasting ones opionions or facts one has witnessed on HAM radio. Both will reach a limited audience world wide.

Go ahead and dream, propose whatever you want whether it is salvation by UFOs or a proposal to provide clean water to the huddled masses. Either way, your ideas are shaped by the medium, but are not defined by it. "Blogging" is about as relivant a term as "telnetting" or "ftp-ing". Make no mistake, I respect the software which runs web journals and I certainly respect certain people who write their opionions, thoughts and observations on the web using said software. I dont however respect the claims of revolution when all I see is an evolution of what was already there.