October 8, 2003

Energy in the Blogosphere

Bloggercon I was about energy. It was, above all, an energetic meeting -- lots of enthusiasm, lots of idealism, and boundless ambition.

The weblog, Chris Lydon argues, is something Emerson would have seen as uniquely American. But it's not uniquely American today because -- in this sense -- we have now all become Americans. Openness to change, individuality, and distrust of arbitrary superstitions and borders were distinctly American once, just as the rights of man were, once, distinctively French. Freedom fries, not potatoes dauphinoise.

It's intriguing how unimportant technological determinism has become among the big-name, high-traffic bloggers. At the moment, we don't much care about the way tools shape form, because we don't much care about form. (That's going on elsewhere, fortunately, but Bloggercon needn't do everything)

The weblog world is also a great believer that it will muddle through whatever the world throws at it, and Bloggercon really, deeply, assumes that if you just trust all the people, good things will happen. Lies spread quickly, but the truth, they say, catches up even faster. I worry about what the blogosphere would have been like, if they'd all had weblogs in 1938; Leni Riefenstahl would have made a great chief blogger, and Nikita Kruschev's war journal could have generated amazing flow. But this concern gets no traction; people figure it will work out, and that the new world will be better. Nor are people very worried about power law distributions of audience.

Same story with money. Bloggercon-ers agree that the weblog world has lousy economics now. People agree that the economy is more complex than it seems, and probably that "it's even worse than it looks". But there's lots of economic energy in the room. There's Esther! There's Amy Wohl! And, if Greenspun (who is not hurting for lunch money) wryly notes that, for all his traffic, his site earns about $400 in Google ads, everyone smiles and assumes that we'll work this out, too.

Money doesn't come first to the BloggerCon audience. They're not starry eyed: there are a lot of people in the audience who've made a lot of money by creating very challenging and technical businesses. But money isn't the point. And that, as Dave Winer observed at the outset, is priceless.