January 4, 2006

Links Subverting Hierarchy, Part 2

Dave Rogers replies that, in a hierarchy, you might have many superiors. I meant, of course, that in a hierarchy you have exactly one immediate superior. Rogers then goes on to assume that the weblog ecology contains multiple interlinked hierarchies; this admits the point he is arguing against. Hierarchies have no cycles; hypertext links among weblogs demonstrably create cycles; therefore hypertext links among weblogs do break hierarchies. The Cluetrain assumes this matters a lot, Rogers assumes it doesn't matter much, and we're no further along than we were when we sat down at the table.

A sequence is not a hierarchy. Take a bundle of blogs: we can easily order them by traffic. We can order them by revenue. Does that mean it's a hierarchy? Nope. Does this mean weblogs have made traffic or revenue less relevant? No.

If we look at the blogosphere as it is, there's good reason to believe cycles matter. The power of the Fifth Rule -- Find Good Enemies -- is all about subverting hierarchies. Would Mark Pilgrim have nearly as much traffic without Dave Winer? Would Adam Curry? And don't Pilgrim and Curry send a lot of readers to Winer, directly and indirectly? I think it's likely that the friction among these weblogs generates traffic for all of them.

Same thing in the political blogosphere. Kos and Talking Points build attention together -- both when they agree and when they differ. Neither of these sites agrees often with, say, Andrew Sullivan, but when Sullivan does something dramatic, the commentary builds attention for everyone. Sure, they're competing, but their opponents make each of them more effective in the competition.

What would Buffy Say? "it's all about the power. Who's got it it, and who knows how to use it."

Update: Dave Weinberger.