I saw the Cites and Insight thing this morning and laughed a little nervously. It’s sort of amusing to watch people get all wrapped up about blog popularity (in this case called ‘reach’), but sort of depressing at the same time. Since it’s at least marginally possibly to quantify it, I know that it’s tempting to do it. I even understand that looked like a good idea at the time.
I’ve been involved in a variety of online communities, and at some point this sort of ranking always comes up. And it universally causes hurt feelings, conflict, and disappointment, and even results in some undue criticism being levelled at the chosen ones. While blogs really exist for the good of their authors more than for their readers, lots of people start up blogs in the hope of getting some limelight thrown their way, and it’s decidedly dark and dim to be among the unwashed in these things if that’s your goal. Is this a sign that no one really cares about what you have to say? Should you just stop now, since no one’s reading you? Have you failed in some way?
And then the chosen few get this moment in the sun, which is nice. But it also means that they get scrutinized a little more than they used to, because everyone’s trying to see what they’re doing that the rest of us aren’t. Nine times out of ten, people come away from such a search shrugging, saying “not such hot stuff, really”. And once those tokens of popularity are handed out, some people, the outer fringe types, the ones who are too cool to be mainstream, too edgy to be with the popular crowd, will start avoiding the big names to underscore their radical otherness. Divisions are made, cliques etched out, lines drawn. And over what? A few numbers that don’t give the whole picture? A snapshot in time that, over a few days, weeks, months, will look entirely different?
Ranking people cheapens the whole process. It creates and fortifies the depths of anonymity and creates the perch from which the chosen will fall.
Popularity is like the little girl with the little curl right in the middle of her forehead. When it’s good, it’s very good indeed. But when it’s bad, oh yes, it’s horrid.
I can say without reservation that I’m certain Walt did not intend to belittle anyone by doing this research. And yet, I can also say without reservation that someone somewhere felt hurt by being left off his ranking, and some librarian somewhere is looking at her blog tonight with a little less delight than she did yesterday. Is the value of this inevitably ephermeral research worth that loss of delight?
For me, the point of blogging, and the joy of blogging, is in having a place to write things down. For me writing is thinking, and I love to be able to share my thoughts with anyone who’s interested. Rankings therefore don’t bother me much, because my goal has never been to please other people. The only way for me to do something like this for as long as I have is to do it for myself. But still, I’m more than honoured that Meredith has called me “the Dorothy Parker of the biblioblogosphere”.
The best thing that can come of Walt’s research, as far as I’m concerned, is that we remember how many of us there are and support each other, reach out more often and engage each other in communication. And the next time someone goes to look at the statistics of the library blog world, he will see a large, interconnected web of full of people, opinions, stories, and delight. Not an exclusive A-list.