Over at Salon, Scott Rosenberg has a really thought-provoking and illuminating piece worth reading in full. Just two of the many salient insights:
The most significant choice we have been making, collectively, ever since the popularization of Internet access in the mid-1990s, has been to favor two-way interpersonal communication over the passive reception of broadcast-style messages. Big-media efforts to use the Net for the delivery of old-fashioned one-way products have regularly failed or underperformed. Social uses of our time online — email, instant messaging and chat, blogging, Facebook-style networking — far outstrip time spent in passive consumption of commercial media. In other words, businesspeople have consistently overestimated the Web’s similarities to television and underestimated its kinship to the telephone.
Where do these readers come from? More often than not, they are other bloggers. Observers steeped in the values of the broadcast world identify this as a failure: Look, the only people who care what you’re doing are already in your club! But in fact, as they say in the software industry, this reciprocity is not a bug at all — it’s a feature.People who have no experience blogging often fail to understand the essentially social nature of the activity. Blogging is convivial. Bloggers commonly blog in groups, whether formally (as with our Salon bloggers) or simply through the haphazard accretion of casual connections. In these groups, what you contribute is obviously important; but so is where you choose to place your attention. Reading is as much a part of blogging as writing; listening is as important as speaking. This is what so many bloggers mean when they claim that “blogging is a conversation”: not that each post sparks a vigorous exchange of comments, but that every post exists in a context of post-and-response that stretches across some patch of the Web, link by link, blog to blog.
In “The First Word,” her book about the origins of language, Christine Kenneally describes the scene when two apes trained in sign language first encountered each other: “What resulted was a sign-shouting match; neither ape was willing to listen.” Anyone who’s ever witnessed a deadend flame war online knows the feeling.