Ming the Mechanic
The NewsLog of Flemming Funch

Friday, February 14, 2003day link 

 Bubble Blog Emergence
Ross Mayfield did an excellent post on Distribution of Choice and another one on Ecosystem of Networks. I was sitting looking at his neat chart, wondering why I didn't really like it very much. Well, it is a good chart, and it shows what kind of audience weblogs might have in their different roles. I guess what I don't like is that it is not how I'd *like* things to work. Which is a bit hypocritical to talk about if we're talking about emergence at the same time, and this happens to be how things emerge. But it sort of indicates that what emerges from blogs is in the bigger picture the winner-take-it-all phenomenon of power-law distributions. The people who are first or who are popular will just get more popular. Which sounds like a U.S. election to me, but it doesn't really sound like what I think emerges from blogs.

So, I decided to make my own chart, coming from a totally different place. Maybe it looks crazy to anybody but me, but, hey, I gotta try.


So, here the point is that it starts with ME and the choices I make and what happens to them. So, if we're talking about blogs, there is first whatever I have the thought of writing about. I make some choices about what to write about. Let's say we consider each of those thoughts or choices a little bubble, and that those little bubbles naturally rise up in the information ocean.

I might have a small group of people I'm already working with, and we might use blogspace as a place to work on things. We share a project, and we either put our pieces together between our blogs, or we write about what we do from each our different angles. Blogging allows us to work more openly and refer to each other's work, while also sharing it with a bigger audience.

My blogging bubbles float up and get spread wider. People I don't know read my blog, and read various people's blogs, and we get attracted to each other. Connections form. It might just be that we read each other's stuff, or we link to each other, or we start talking in other ways. That becomes a good basis for forming new groups that can act together.

All of our bubbles, mine and those from other blogs, with the added value of our collective linking choices, will float up and into the cloud of the web. Specifically they will end up in an assortment of directories and search engines, most notably in Google.

And that is in part where there are interesting and new things going on. Not just that few people get most of the attention, but also that the choices of many relatively ordinary folks become more visible than ever before. And they form emergent patterns that become very visible.

For myself and my weblog of relatively modest popularity, I notice that many of the bubbles I set up rise to considerable size and power, because they're supported by others who choose to link to them. What interests me there is not so much how great I am at showing up in search engines, but how easily the collective opinion of (a group of) bloggers will show up prominently.

A rather random example is that I wrote a couple of little blog entries about Nestle doing some not very nice things. Now, if you do a web search on CNN or on Google on "Nestle sues Ethiopia", I'm number one. If you just want to know about "Nestle Corporation", I'm number four, before several of Nestle's own sites. Nestle last year made 5.5 billion dollars in profits, but yet you and I, by linking a bit to each other's posts, can compete very well with their web presence and influence public opinion. Not me, but us. It wasn't even my own info I posted.

The point is not at all whether I have unfairly more or less readers than some other weblog. The emerging democracy in blogs is in that we together leverage our choices in a way that normally isn't possible unless you run a big corporation or you're run by one. We're a swarm of thought bubbles.
[ | 2003-02-14 04:28 | 2 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

 Emergent Democracy Meeting
Today I participated in a very enjoyable conference call / chat / blogger event arranged by Joi Ito and using infrastructure from the socialtext team. The theme was 'emergent democracy', particular as it relates to blogs. Joi called it a 'happening' which is quite appropriate as it happened in several media at the same time. We were on the phone, 18 people or so, from Japan, U.S., Canada, England, France, and maybe somewhere I'm forgetting. And we were chatting online at the same time. And we used a WIKI as a place to coordinate the information. I really enjoy that kind of conversation that happens in a multi-dimensional way, even if it is sometimes hard to keep up with it all at the same time. But it gives everybody an outlet, even if we work in different ways.

Some threads in the discussion were about what emergence really is. Is it like ants who collectively appear more intelligent than they do individually? Are we having conversations or are we creating structure? And we talked about tools. What tools do we have? What tools might we invent that better might allow useful democracy to emerge? And I guess that's mostly what we converged around. An intention to continue working on coming up with better tools and better infrastructure. And to keep talking about what it might be that we ought to do.
[ | 2003-02-14 21:58 | 0 comments | PermaLink ]

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