Stacy McCain wrote a post the other day that I have been thinking about. Are we bloggers being collaborative? Why do people come to our blogs? Is it to find great truth that only can be found here? Or is it because the readers know we will direct them somewhere else where somebody very smart is sharing wisdom? McCain uses the words portal and destination to describe the two different kinds of blogs. A portal is a blog that collaborates, generously linking to other blogs. A destination blog is one where the reader comes to your blog strictly to see what you have to say. I want my blog to be both, but primarily one that directs readers to interesting ideas found elsewhere in the blogosphere. Before you know it, we've got a community or network of independent thinkers blogging away.
However, Stacy issues a warning:
This network/community concept seems to have been lost by (or, more likely, was never known to) newer arrivals in the ‘sphere. The idea that each of us is contributing to a common project is not just some kind of “Stone Soup” idealism, but is in fact the only way to build any genuinely meaningful alternative to that pathetic exercise in groupthink we call the Mainstream Media. Bloggers who don’t help build the alternative can complain about the MSM “borg” all they want; they aren’t really making a difference. There are two ways in which bloggers actually help sabotage the blogosphere:
Turn your blog into a series of lectures. “Here, let me tell you How to Save the World, because you pitiful mortals are obviously in need of my Superior Wisdom.” It’s one thing to go off on the occasional rant, but if that’s all your blog is about — sermons and lectures, as if you are the Oracle to whom readers turn in need of your delphic prophecies — then you’re doing the wrong thing. No one wants to read that crap.
Never link another blogger. It’s weird that some bloggers would rather link a story in the New York Times or the Washington Post than to link a fellow blogger. Why this is, I don’t know. Sometimes it seems like everybody has the same idea: Grab an MSM headline off Drudge, link it, include a brief blockquote and add some political snark. Not only does this effectively surrender content control to Drudge — so that bloggers are merely replicating the headline selection there — but nobody’s snark ever goes beyond their own readership, because no blogger ever quotes another blogger.
Ace of Spades once did a mini-rant — which I can’t find now — about whether your site is a portal or a destination. That is to say, is the reader coming to your site to find links to interesting material (portal) or strictly to read what you have to say (destination)?
The problem is that if every blogger starts thinking of his own site as a destination, then the site’s value as a portal — directing readers to interesting material elsewhere — is necessarily diminished or eliminated. And if this destination mentality takes hold at all the larger sites, then there will be few opportunities for new bloggers to join the community, and fewer incentives for smaller bloggers to participate in the conversation, because nobody with any significant readership will ever link them. What will eventually happen, in such a scenario, is that the independent blogosphere will wither and die from neglect, and be replaced by a corporate simulacrum.