Gillmor Takes On Dvoraks Anti-Blog Stance

By Steve Gillmor  |  Posted 2003-11-20

Gillmor Takes On Dvoraks Anti-Blog Stance

I dont normally rise to the bait of the anti-blog crowd, but John C. Dvoraks latest work of art really got me going. On the surface, its the kind of thing the Wall Street Journals Lee Gomes does – pointing at the centerfield bleachers and calling the moment when a disruptive technologys bubble bursts.

Gomes most memorably did this with peer-to-peer, that demonized technology that has been driven so far underground by the RIAA that Microsoft has now embedded it deeply in Longhorn. So far no one has made the connection that RSS, the Real Simple Syndication or something like it, is threatening to become the first killer app of the post-Napster p-to-p space. Oops, I just did.

But RSS is all about transporting blogs (and soon everything else you can think of), not creating them. Heres where Dvorak runs off the rails. His latest manifesto on our sister site, Co-opting the Future, revolves around two factoids: a white paper study by Perseus Development Corp. that reveals an alarming attrition rate for abandoned blogs, and Dvoraks observation that Big Media is turning bloggers into, my favorite line: "a new breed of columnist with a gimmick and a stern corporate editor."

Last in, first out. My second favorite line: where he criticizes these faux blogs "spewing the same measured news and opinions weve always had." Im not sure who John is referring to when he bemoans "the emergence of the professional blogger working for large media conglomerates," but Ill list a few of the original blog voices who Ive grown addicted to over the last few years.

Doc Searls, Ray Ozzie, Dan Bricklin, Dave Winer, Dare Obasanjo, Jon Udell, Mitch Kapor, Adam Bosworth, Tim Bray—Ill stop before I forget too many superb minds whove created unique voices that add immeasurably to conversation of this emerging Net-based platform.

The dirty little secret Mr. Dvorak is ignoring is that blogs (and more profoundly, RSS) have changed the dynamics of professional journalism, not by replacing it, but informing it with the authentic voices of the creators of the technology while its being created. This can be uncomfortable for the embedded media -- witness John Markoffs reluctance to handicap bloggings survival long-term in a recent story for the New York Times.

Next page: Even Microsoft has embraced the Blog, so why not you?

Microsoft embraces the Blog

Take the recent turmoil in the blogosphere about Microsofts prospective move away from some Web standards in Longhorn. When former Microsoftee (and current BEA VP) Adam Bosworth blogged misgivings about Microsoft routing around the Internet through a proprietary set of XML interfaces, I asked for a quick interview. He begged off, replying, "The blog was/is very liberating because I can publish at will."

Later, he reconsidered his position, blogging that he was going to look more into it, When he finally returned to his series of posts on the development of a new Web services browser this week, he paused briefly to report the results of his research. The net: a measured and uniquely informed opinion that a) Longhorn is not likely to be pervasive any time soon, and b) hes not going to worry about it. He does suggest Kevin Lynch, Macromedias Chief Software Architect and another blogger, might.

Readers of a Big Media book on Microsoft, Breaking Windows, by the Wall Street Journals David Bank, will recognize Bosworth as the tactical genius behind Microsofts ultimate bet on XML. They would likely intuit that Bosworth is well aware of both the impact of his words, and the strategic value of the blogosphere. And I am not less informed, either as a journalist looking for a good story, or as a citizen of the Net ecology concerned about the effects of market force power politics.

"Perseus thinks that most blogs have an audience of about 12 readers," Dvorak argues. Yes, John, but who are those 12? If one of them is Bill Gates, and another is Tony Scott, CTO of General Motors, and another is John Cleese, well you get the idea. Sometimes its who you know as much as what. RSS only amplifies this, allowing a Ray Ozzie to post only when its valuable to him and his readers. Its "Youve got blog."

I could take Dvoraks post apart line by line, because of course it is a post in blog space. Sure, its gone through the filter of "a stern corporate editor" but so has mine and every single blog post Ive ever written. Sometimes Im the editor too, other times Im not. But always Im trying the best I can to use the right words at the right time to tip the balance in favor of information, perhaps knowledge, and hopefully insight.

"Its no coincidence that the most-read blogs are created by professional writers," Dvorak warns. And this: "So much for the independent thinking and reporting that are supposed to earmark blog journalism." Heres a test you can try at home: take the word blog out of the last quote.

By the way, this column can be accessed by an RSS feed. John, wheres yours?

Discuss this in the eWEEK forum.

Johns RSS feed can be found at And Im not all that stern.

-- Editor

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