Monday, June 30, 2003

When Instapundit Speaks

it makes sense to listen. Especially when he is discussing successful blogging as he does here.

One of his points, while true, points to a serious weakness for the blogosphere. Rapid-response to the news of the day does seem critical to blog success. Yet the premium on speed weakens analysis and fresh reporting. Those latter activities are the very areas usually cited as the strengths compared to traditional journalism.

One way to be fast is to do reflex-punditry of the sort we see on TV (especially on the McLaughlin Group). Talking heads react to the news and apply their individual ideological template. Eleanor Clift and Pat Buchanan don't bring new information to the viewers; they simply repeat the appropriate talking points. A lot of blogs end-up as nano-pundits: "More idiocy from the Bush Camp," "Go Rummy," etc.

(An interesting sidenote is that Instapundit doesn't do a lot of punditry. Mostly he directs traffic to others's work. When he writes longer posts they usually are on matters where he has real expertise.)

The following passage from this article also has some relevance. While it discusses corporate managers, the personality type described seems to fit quite a few influential bloggers.

The most interesting of the three is the Narcissist, whose energy and self-confidence and charm lead him inexorably up the corporate ladder. Narcissists are terrible managers. They resist accepting suggestions, thinking it will make them appear weak, and they don't believe that others have anything useful to tell them. "Narcissists are biased to take more credit for success than is legitimate," Hogan and his co-authors write, and "biased to avoid acknowledging responsibility for their failures and shortcomings for the same reasons that they claim more success than is their due."

Narcissists typically make judgments with greater confidence than other people . . . and, because their judgments are rendered with such conviction, other people tend to believe them and the narcissists become disproportionately more influential in group situations. Finally, because of their self-confidence and strong need for recognition, narcissists tend to "self-nominate"; consequently, when a leadership gap appears in a group or organization, the narcissists rush to fill it.

Energy, confidence, conviction, self-nomination: traits that are ideal for writing memorable posts quickly. The problem is that such bloggers-- because they don't "accept suggestions" and are loath to admit mistakes-- will keep propounding their version despite new evidence dug up by others. The real power of blogs to facilitate collaboration gets stifled when this type of blogger becomes a key interpreter of a story or issue.

The need for rapid response also turns many bloggers into amplifiers for those self-nominated experts. With nothing to say ourselves, we link to those who write fast and take a clear position that we agree with. We end up with fewer serious dialogues and more of the formulaic debate pioneered by Crossfire.

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