Thursday, February 20, 2003

Thoughts about Blogs

The news that Google has bought Pyra Labs hit the Edinburgh crowd like a brick. Of course, there was much talk centred around whether this is a "good" or a "bad" thing. On the plus side it does seem to indicate that blogging is going mainstream. It is re-affirming a phenomenon that the news agencies discovered in the wake of 9/11 that when there is a major event/news story people go on-line to the extent that sites like CNN, Fox and even our own BBC couldn't cope. Much of the information I got that day came from internet sources for example various mailing lists and also from the Usenet bulletin boards. Blogs provide pretty much the same sort of coverage, being information that people have heard from various sources, together with how the event is impacting on their own personal experience. The negative side is how companies, like Google, handle the information within blogs. As a socio-historical record of how people live, work and interact in a world that is becoming increasingly driven by technological advances it is second to none. The main worry I have is that Google, being driven by shareholders and a bottom line are going to use their position as owners to data mine blogs, extracting information and demographics that are a valuable resource to market research companies. Monster have already done this using CVs lodged with various job search websites that it owns, and Yahoo keep resetting options for their users so that they can sell information gleened from user profiles to marketing companies.

The whole discussion about the function of blogs set me thinking along another line. Why do we do it? There are lots of ordinary people like myself who have blogs that are updated infrequently. Yet I would suspect that in many cases only a handful of people ever view our rants, raves and witterings, being restricted to close friends and acquaintences. Having blogs coming up on searches would increase out exposure. Or would it? For example, a friend of mine, Charlie, is a writer. What if he and I are working over a weekend fixing computer, and we both blog in detail the problem, the fix, the problem that the fix caused, the new fix etc. Whose blog will people turn to? I suspect that people would go to Charlie's blog, and the reason is simple, he is a writer, he is a computer journalist, he has a high profile. I on the other hand am an unknown who has jumped the blogging bandwagon. It wouldn't matter that in this little made up scenario my blog may be more indepth. I'm an unknown and Charlie is a name. The vast majority of bloggers are going to fall into this "we don't know you so we won't read you" category and unless we manage to produce twice as much output as the "name" bloggers, whilst consistently matching their quality of writing, the balance will always be uneven.

Will Google buying Pyra, change this state of affairs? Will anything? Does anyone care?

No comments: