Friday, March 30, 2007

blogroll binge and purge

one of the more comprehensive looks at all sides of the great amnesty day blogroll purge that we have found is at the republic of t.
(and not just because terrance quotes us three times):

and there's a strange kind of schizophrenia this inspires among those at the top of the list. on the one hand, they seem to be fully aware of the power of their blogrolls, when guys like aravosis, atrios, kos and bowers hold forth at length about why they aren't going to link to some blogs. on the other they seem to deny that they hold any such power, like kos' claim that he's not a gatekeeper (though skippy says kos is a gatecrasher who's closing the gate behind him), though the "blogroll purge" is kind of like closing the gate.
sure the blogs that were cut can still be found, but they won't be getting the kind of traffic that comes from having a link on kos' blogroll. and that's partially because many of the readers at kos at other major blogs are like the people i mentioned in the scenario above: they're looking where everyone else is looking, because everyone else is looking there, and everyone else can't be wrong. by extension, if there was something worth looking at somewhere else, then everyone would be looking at it already. and if they look at anything else, it will probably be what the "authorities" (to borrow a concept from technorati) tell them to look at, in the form of a link.
so, skippy and the others are caught between two apparent laws of human behavior. the first was explained by clay shirky in new york magazine.
the power law is dominant because of a quirk of human behavior: when we are asked to decide among a dizzying array of options, we do not act like dispassionate decision-makers, weighing each option on its own merits. movie producers pick stars who have already been employed by other producers. investors give money to entrepreneurs who are already loaded with cash. popularity breeds popularity.
"it's not about moral failings or any sort of psychological thing. people aren't lazy--they just base their decisions on what other people are doing," shirky says. "it's just social physics. it's like gravity, one of those forces."

the other i attempted to describe in an earlier post.
when you have a fairly static system, again like the economic model mentioned above, where it's in the interest of those at the top to keep things the way they are, you have to find a way to keep the unrest of the "have nots" down to a managable level. one of the ways you do that is to (a) convince them that the peak is reachable by almost anyone and (b) make them feel better about where they are. make the middle sound better, look better, and reward them a little bit and you've created a "middle class" that's satisfied enough to act as a buffer between the top and the bottom. do it will enough and they'll continue to admire those at the top, and probably even link to them.
and of course, the entire system itself must never be spoken of and it's existance should be denied. the articles states that "[t]he very subject of the a-list is so toxic" that none of the big-timers mentioned in the article would agree to be interviewed for it.

as readers of this space know, we have no problem speaking about it at all, perhaps to our detriment.