Blogging About Blogs, The Bloggers That Blog Them, And Gaming

January 28, 2007

Yeah, it’s kind of wussy to blog about blogging, but several “incidents” occurred over the past week that were fascinating to watch play out, and one smarter than most blogger seems to have put things in perspective before it all happened (well, at least smarter than me).

First, I’d like to direct you to J. Leroy’s post Multiple Gaming Paths in Blogging. More specifically, it’s one paragraph that stands out for me:

“Blogs are conversation. Conversation can be one-way or two-way. And conversation usually has a purpose.”

The use of the word “conversation,” a decidedly “real world” concept made me realize that in our “first lives”, people also interact for a variety of reasons, depending mostly on their social relationships, and that “gaming” is commonplace in the real world, but since we’re used to it, it’s rather a non-issue.

For example, when I have a “conversation” with a work-colleague regarding a project, I’m only talking to said person to complete a specific objective. Cynically, I sometimes think if I weren’t being paid to do so, this conversation wouldn’t be occuring.

But it goes further. There are people (I’m sure you know some) that are intent on turning practically any conversation into a benefit for them. It’s the old cliche, the person only want to know you insofar as you can benefit them personally. Maybe it’s some soap they’re selling and they want you and all your friends to buy it, just because of your connection to them. I find this quite annoying. I’m not going to buy your stuff just because I “know” you.

(In blog-speak, this would be a “splogger” with stolen content and ads plastered all over theirs, linking to my blog and expecting me to “reciprocal link” back to theirs in hopes I’d send them traffic – more about this later)

Here’s an extreme example of “gaming” in the real world: Casey Serin, somehow wheedled into signing a stupid contract signing his life and the contents of his blog over to some ill-meaning ladies. Who then try to shut his blog down, saying they now own it. Casey was “gamed” by amoral people.

So after getting some real-world perspective, let’s visit blogger Robert Scoble who got into some hot water because he noted that engadget wasn’t linking to his blog regarding his story about Intel’s breakthrough new chips. Scoble got mad and blogged angry.

Here’s the response from Engadget. Engadget’s take and the methodology they used to not link to Scoble means that they see themselves as more of a news organization and not a blog. They’re not “reciprocal linking” willynilly, and treat their choices as editorial decisions.

But then other bloggers at Scoble’s “A or B level” began taking note. Mike Arrington also chimes in, as does Jason Calacanis. Now it’s bouncing around TechMeme, Tailrank, and I bet Valleywag will have something cynical to say come Monday (yep, they did).

I keep hearing this unwritten rule of blogging: if you quote a source, give credit. The easiest way is to link back to said source (someone really should write these unritten rules down).

However, when you receive a link from another source, the implication is that you should give one back in return. This is where things get dicey, as to simply do a one to one ratio isn’t practical. For example, you might end up with a blog sporting a blog roll with 250 entries (just from a UI perspective that’s scary). Also, a fair amount of links are from “splogs” which I’m sure, few feel an obligation to link back to them.

But it gets more complicated. What if you are linked to from a blog that you think sucks? Or what if you get a link from someone who is obviously “gaming” – just into promoting their blog and getting as many links as possible – which is totally fine, but not really jibing with why you blog? Or from someone who uses PayPerPost? Are you obligated to “reciprocal link” that person just out of kindness? And if you don’t, might they go bats and blast you all over the blogosphere? Is this a form of blogosphere blackmail – a new method of “gaming”?

But once again, for some perspective, I’d go back to J. Leroy’s concept of blogging as a conversation. Looking at the real world, would you get pissed off if The New York Times or Donald Trump wouldn’t answer your phone calls? Not really, because we don’t expect them to in the first place. They’re having different conversations with their audiences for different reasons. But ever since blogs showed up, people are expecting big, old media to change their ways and start having different kinds of conversations with different people.

Maybe the shift is: Readers are becoming news sources and even reporters themselves. Any big, old media website might have to start looking at their conversations in that sense – and offer the respect and attention traditionally reserved for one group, to the other.

Anyhow, I’m just observing from the outside, and pointing out that the mere fact that Scoble can go on a rant about this situation, get Engadget to respond, and then have discussion echo throughout the blogosphere (where i jump in and post my 2 cents) is in itself an awesome thing.

That this conversation can happen in this day and age is pretty darned cool. Not to mention entertaining.

And finally, where do I stand? Another “unwritten rule of blogging” is if you write decent, honest content on a consistent basis, people will link to you. Every once in a while, link to someone else that has written something you think is interesting. You’ll get Google and link love. You’ll slowly but surely gain readers. I (a “C” list blogger [ignore photo of Paris Hilton at that link]) still believe this to be true. You don’t need to “game”. People turn to “gaming” when they think the system is broken. It isn’t. That the above conversation is occuring is my proof.


  1. engtech says:

    I think most people have been in Robert’s shoes before… this argument would have been much better served if he’d used an example OTHER than himself.

    I know I’ve seen a story on TechCrunch/Scoble before where I was thinking “I covered that a month ago!” and wishing I’d gotten a juicy link. But all you have to do to restore humility is do a little digging and find the guys who had the scoop a month before you did, and realize that you’re being hypocritical because you didn’t go through the extra effort to find previous links either.

  2. Webomatica says:

    That’s a good point. If someone complains about a situation but uses themselves as the sole example it’s easy to call it sour grapes. I give Scoble the benefit of the doubt because I read his blog, but I can see why others might not see it that way.

    Humility is a good stance to blog from. Maybe another one of those unwritten rules of blogging.

  3. engtech says:

    Humility is always a hard target for blogging though because blogging by nature is an egotistical activity. What I found help me was when I realized that if you write crap about someone they’ll usually end up reading it[1]… it isn’t a soapbox into nothingness.

    Now I try to at least make good points if I’m going to rant into something…

    [1] If only because they’re searching what people are saying about them / their product.

  4. webomatica says:

    Humility is a hard target sure, but still worth striving for…

    I’ve definitely had to realize what you point out – I got a comment about a post I did on a web 2.0 site from a founder pointing out factual errors I made – which I fixed, but it was still a reality check. I think I was getting lulled into a sense of posting in a bubble because of lack of comments. It’s an easy assumption for the beginning blogger.

    Luckilly I don’t see myself as prone to rants, tirades, or anger – mostly just annoyance.