“It’s with a heavy heart, and much consideration, that today I would like to announce my retirement from blogging.”
Jason McCabe Calacanis
Hold the front page? Well, yes, maybe — at least of the Silicon Alley Reporter, the U.S. trade magazine he founded.
Jason Calacanis is more widely known as the man who sold a network of blogs for around $30m to AOL a few years back. He is one of Web 2.0′s highest flyers in the sense that he turned big thoughts into big bucks. He now runs his own hand-rolled search engine, Mahalo.
His resignation “post” (as purists still call them) is worthy of Victorian melodrama, leading to charges of link-baiting — a common way of driving traffic to blogs. Naturally, he denies this, claiming never to have soiled his hands with such practices. Perish the thought.
He will, he says, replace his blogging activities with a private email list comprising roughly 1000 subscribers, all drawn from a group he calls “insiders”. These are intelligent, tech and business types of the kind most often found in Silicon Valley, California. So if you’re an Albanian circus performer with limited English, don’t bother to apply.
Why this move, and why now? Obvious answers include:
1. blogging has had its day.
2. attention spans are getting shorter, hence Twitter.
3. good bloggers often work as hard as journalists for little pay.
4. blogging has failed to build a reputation for quality.
5. spam comments have brought the system to its knees.
6. blog comments have let in demons from the outer darkness.
And there are many more reasons than those.
For good writers with something original to say, blogging has become a downward-leveller, rather than an enabler, as originally intended by weblog pioneers like Dave Winer. If you are a serious blogger, most readers will assume your opinions are prejudices, and ranting your principal method of communication. Otherwise, why don’t you write for The Guardian or Scientific American?
Commenters will lead you to believe the worst of the human race, which is why the traffic lights at the top of this site read “Comments OFF, Email ON.” Signs like this are becoming more prevalent around the “blogosphere” as people start to audit their return on capital from blogging.
The email list system is more like a private forum in which selected subscribers discuss topics in a “thread,” in this case the leader of the group’s weekly email. As a method of publishing to a coterie of like-minded individuals who are able to develop the arguments and refine them in a civilized fashion, the list has much to commend it. It’s also very cheap — no paper, printing and postage costs, or time-overhead batting away the daft, stupid, nasty and positively evil intruders.
For an author writing a nonfiction book with closely-argued chapters, it would be an excellent way of fact-checking the material and the logic of its presentation bit by bit, without having to submit it to academic specialists for verification before publishing.
In Jason Calacanis’s case, I would suspect he just wants to express himself in writing without all the hassle from trolls and oddballs.
In the end, the wisdom of crowds is no such thing because the most reckless, outspoken elements inevitably rise to leadership positions, drowning out more measured voices.
Meritocracy — the spirit of excellence, with decisions taken at points of maximum competence — always needs nurturing in cell-like establishments.
Let’s face it, the world is too big for any one individual to make much of an impact without vast wealth or political power. The blogosphere has become so enormous, comprised of multitudes of tiny, discrete pieces that it takes on the laws of quantum physics rather than the world of direct contact with our peers that humans crave.
There’s no worse tragedy than to have communicated widely for years only to discover that the throng out there still doesn’t know what you’ve been talking about.