Has the blogosphere lost its umph?

I didn’t join the blogosphere early enough to say that I remember the good old days, but TechCrunch noted today that historic blogger Robert Scoble is lamenting the superficial nature of the community in 2008. Erick Schonfeld of TechCrunch writes, “There was a time when a good idea (like a cheap Web tablet) would be chewed on for a month by the blogosphere, going back and forth between different bloggers, and getting refined along the way.”

Scoble and Schonfeld are speaking in the context of tech blogging, but I get a sense that their complaint can be applied to the blogosphere at large. The Aesthetic Elevator strives to be a forum where such chewing goes on. At this point, most of the chewing is done by me and a handful of regular commenters. My hope is that — especially with the addition of three new contributors — this blog will still one day be a place where significant conversations about art, faith and culture take place.

My wife and I often wonder why and how certain blogs get the traffic and attract the conversation that they do. The Aesthetic Elevator gets quite a bit more traffic than Old World Swine (at least, according to Quantcast), however, the Swine garners quite a few more comments from readers than the Elevator ever experiences. Both of these are quality blogs with, in my opinion, fairly original material and good writing.

Other enigmatic examples abound. Last week I happened upon a lengthy post on why the American church should get out of the marriage business. The post garnered 94 comments before I visited, and it was poorly written. In the first ten comments, half of the respondents expressed confusion. Perhaps — hopefully — the writing is normally better on that particular site. Equally puzzling is the kind of traffic numerous personal weblogs receive, where people go on about their daily life and personal interests in no certain manner.

Maybe personal websites are more of what people need from the internet these days. They are, obviously, more personal, and the more our culture diverges from a community based structure the more we need to replace relationships and face-to-face time past generations experienced. Our built environments, our work environments don’t encourage interaction and conversation like they may have in the past.

And as a sidenote on our modern work environment, yesterday was the 40th anniversary of the dreaded cubicle.

The Aesthetic Elevator is an animal in between the news driven styles of TechCrunch or Engadget and the angst and rambles of personal blogs. All are valid, and all overlap to a degree in their content and tone. I often wonder, though, if there is less of a market for this Aesthetic animal — driven by deeper than average theorizing and covering less than mainstream subject matter — than for news and personal anecdotes. I guess I answered my own question, largely, by noting the “less than mainstream subject matter.”

Regardless, I’m not after traffic or a larger market for this website (though I’d take more traffic, mais oui!). It was pointed out somewhere on line sometime last year that how many visitors a blog boasts of is less important than the kind of visitors regularly visiting. Fifty intense, conversational regulars is far better for a forum like The Aesthetic Elevator than 5,000 random viewers. Will fifty intense, conversational web surfers please raise their hand!

About pcNielsen
Paul Nielsen founded The Aesthetic Elevator late in 2005. He owns a piece of paper, located somewhere in his house (not on the wall), stating that he earned a B.F.A. from the University of Nebraska around about 2001. While there, he studied studied architecture, graphic design and ceramics, graduating with a degree in studio art. Paul presently serves as communications manager for a small non-profit doing their print design and marketing. He spends as much time sculpting in his studio as possible — which is not nearly enough. Visit his website at pcNielsen.com.

2 Responses to Has the blogosphere lost its umph?

  1. Julie says:

    ::raises hand::

  2. Tim J. says:

    It’s odd you did this post today. It just happens that I had one of my posts picked up and linked by a much bigger fish – Mark Shea (who I noticed at one point today had fifty or so people visiting his site at the same moment).

    So, I had probably double the hits I would normally have for the day (the Quantcast numbers look pretty much right to me, BTW).

    The result? One comment, all day long.

    Who knows what the numbers really mean? It’s like art; if you’re not motivated to do it just for the sake of doing it, you probably won’t do it that well or keep it up very long, either.

    I had the good fortune of cutting my teeth on the blog of a good friend for a couple of years before I launched my own. His was another of these very influential blogs and happened to be known for lengthy, erudite and at times heated combox discussions, so by the time I started Old World Swine I was known by a fair number of involved readers, ones perhaps more motivated to comment than the average lurker.

    The lurkers matter too, though. I’m always pleasantly surprised to get a comment from someone I’ve never heard of who begins with “I’ve been reading your posts for a long time…”. It does make me think.

    You never know who you may be influencing – for good or ill.

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