Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Malcolm Gladwell isn't always right . . .

Posted By on 07.25.06 at 10:26 AM

click to enlarge 18.gif

. . . but this time he's on to something. He writes,

"my own experience with this blog has only hardened my belief in the intrinsically derivative nature of blogging. As those of you who read the New Yorker know, I wrote a review of the book Wages of Wins this spring, and then blogged about it. The review and my posts prompted a good deal of comments, both on this site and on other blogs. But when I did a search, I was unable to find anyone, among the many who commented on my comments on Wages of Wins, who had actually read the book itself. That’s weird, I mean, it’s a short book. And it's really not that expensive. But nobody—even those who were in highest dudgeon about the book’s conclusions—seemed to want to do more than comment on those who had already commented. Isn’t that the very definition of derivative?"

Indeed. Earlier in his post he makes a different argument that's kind of dubious. There he defends traditional media on the grounds that bloggers very often play off them and link to them--hence blogs are not the future.  "Newspapers continue to perform an incredibly important function as informational gatekeepers—a function, as far as I can tell, that grows more important with time, not less."

Well, not so much. Blogs are having some success at doing what the alternative press has long tried to do--keeping the institutional gatekeepers honest, through commentary and independent reporting. How the media and the blogs will function together remains to be seen, but their relation is already symbiotic.

About books, Gladwell's making a different argument--not that bloggers are derivative but that they often don't take the time to know what they're being derivative of. On that point, he's surely on target. We bloggers are in a hurry to be first. This blog will be a month old tomorrow, and by my rough count I've had ten posts that were primarily about particular books. In two cases I had read the book from cover to cover. Just because 20 percent is better than average doesn't make it a passing grade, especially if I was unfair to the rest. 

 

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