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Ernest Miller Ernest Miller pursues research and writing on cyberlaw, intellectual property, and First Amendment issues. Mr. Miller attended the U.S. Naval Academy before attending Yale Law School, where he was president and co-founder of the Law and Technology Society, and founded the technology law and policy news site LawMeme. He is a fellow of the Information Society Project at Yale Law School. Ernest Miller's blog postings can also be found @

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« July 4 Grokster Roundup | Main | Experiments in Newspaper/Blog Hybrids »

July 04, 2005

The Marginality of Blogging

Posted by Ernest Miller

Stephen Baker wonders about how important blogs are (How to Appeal to Non-Bloggers? Think Virus Wikis).

I haven't been blogging. I've spent the best part of a week in Oregon, wandering from the misty coast to the high desert to the vineyards along the Columbia Gorge, and I have yet to meet anyone connected with the blog world in any way (at least as far as they told me.) To be fair, there were probably some bloggers or at least blog readers at those cafes in Portland and Bend. I didn't go around tapping on their tatooed shoulders.
Ok. And how many of those people with tatooed shoulders in those cafes read Business Week? Depending on the context, what medium doesn't seem disconnected? Isn't one of the major debates about broadcast television is that despite its wide reach it is pretty darn disconnected from the real world? Stephen continues:
My point is that blogging seems enormous and nearly omnipresent when you're doing it, but can seem marginal when you step away. Will blogging inevitably spread to rest of the world? I don't think so. Lots of people look at the computer as an information tool--a search engine and e-mail machine--but prefer to have most of their human interactions elsewhere.
But how long did it take email to really take off and become ubiquitous? I remember being exposed to email in the mid-1980s. It was very cool, sending a near instantaneous message across the country, getting two computers to talk to each other (which was a big deal at the time), but there weren't really very many people to email. Email was marginal. Very. Like email, blogs aren't a substitute for human interaction, they're a potential enhancement and it takes some time for them to propagate and be integrated into society.

It is still amazing to me how many people don't use TiVo. I can hardly stand to watch television without it. I grew up without the internet, yet it is difficult to imagine getting news without it. Currently, if I don't have access to my RSS subscription list, I feel disconnected. The internet, which just a few years ago was liberating for me, now feels limited and frustrating without RSS. Getting the news without RSS? Well, if you want to be all primitive about it, I guess you can try to make that work, but what a pain.

Do we need better tools? Absolutely. Do few people use blogs? Yes, but does that mean blogging is marginal? Only in the sense that all new technologies are marginal when they are first introduced. Ask whether blogs are marginal in ten years.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Blogging and Journalism


1. Seth Finkelstein on July 4, 2005 03:05 PM writes...

The toys. The wonderful toys.

But I think there's a difference between shifts and incremental changes to existing structures, and a kind of broad-based applicability.

Most people have a reason to send email. They don't have a reason to be a pundit and don't want to be a diarist, and to read a lot of other punditry and diaries. And those they do read are likely to be the same class of media Big Heads (I really feel no affinity to any advocacy statistic that is in essence "XX% of Internet users read a big-time pundit and/or a diary of a person they know").

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3. steve baker on July 5, 2005 05:06 AM writes...

Certainly a good point about the # of those coffee drinkers who read or don't read BW. But BW is a niche product, relatively speaking. Circulation is only about 1.2 million. My point is that for blogging to become as widespread as email or--yikes!--mobile phones, it must develop new applications that appeal to people outside the current bunch. I'm sure it will. But there's a good chance that these different applications, many of them mobile, won't be known as blogging.

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