Deconstructing “You’ve Got Blog”

Now available in a book

This article has now been published in a book, We’ve Got Blog (official site; Amazon). The version below is the original online posting; the book version is also available. (And people are still bitching about it.)

Rebecca Mead’s article “You’ve Got Blog” in the 2000.11.13 New Yorker (official version) on the blog-abetted romance of Jason Kottke and Meg Hourihan has finally put us Weblogger kidz on the map big-time. Now every damn milquetoast æsthete cursing himself for still being stuck working at the Barnes & Noble in Evanston, Reston, or Laramie will want to start his own blog. There goes the neighbourhood.

The article is excellent, full stop. Mead accurately, fairly, and indeed winsomely encapsulates the blogging phenomenon through the tried-and-true narrative device of personifying an abstract process with a hero (and heroine). In fact, Mead got so many things right that the story works on multiple levels; the knowing reader can identify a few truths our Barnes & Noble neophyte could not. Let’s explore, shall we?

  1. The unbearable incestuousness of blogging: “The other people who have blogs... read your blog, and if they like it they blog your blog on their own blog.”
  2. The A-List: “Jason Kottke... is widely admired among bloggers as a thoughtful critic of Web culture.... Getting blogged by Kottke, or by Meg Hourihan or one of her colleagues at Pyra, is the blog equivalent of having your book featured on Oprah.”
  3. Publicity stunt: On the topic of the relentlessly-counterblogged publicity stunt of the “memory” of a young girl riding her bicycle, Meg is quoted thus: “I was especially struck by the number of people who thought it was a big prank pulled by the ‘popular’ kids to make fun of the uncool kids.” That clearly was not the intent, but the effect was the same, highlighting the incestuousness and insularity of the crème-de-la-blogging-crème.
  4. The Golden Age: Derek Powazek’s retrenchment from blogging “provoked a flurry of postings from neophyte bloggers, who feared they were facing the Twilight of Blogging before they had really had a chance to enjoy the Dawn of Blogging.” Setting aside for the moment that Powazek is now well and ably back in the blogging game (not true when the original article appeared), this entire question revolves around a single word: audience.

“Yeah? So?”

Rebecca Mead quotes Jason Kottke: “He’d written that there were things going on in his life that were more personal than the stuff he usually wrote about in his Weblog. ‘Why don’t I just write it down somewhere private... a Word doc on my computer or in a paper diary?’ he asked himself, and his readers. ‘Somehow, that seems strange to me, though... The Web is the place for you to express your thoughts and feelings and such. To put those things elsewhere seems absurd.’ ” In the time-honoured tradition of documenting deep-seated feelings and experiences in plain public view, it’s time to explain why I wrote this companion piece.

You may think I’m jealous. Trust me, I’m not. Mildly envious, yes, but not jealous.

The straw that broke this camel’s back is the knowledge that all these A-list bloggers, and many of those unlucky enough not to be on that list, led well-funded and more or less rewarding lives in the Internet industry. How many times have you run across a blog posting like this one?

Rio just came out with a new MP3 player shaped like a walnut – and about the same size. They say it’ll sync with my Palm, which is too damn new for me to have synced it with my old Palm, let alone the Cube or the PowerBook. Anyway, something to pick up on Saturday morning.

I would be less inclined to complain if I were able to share in the Internet bounty in even the most trivial way. None of us Webloggers is particularly wealthy; few of us became dot-com millionaires. It’s just that everyone but me gets to make a living. It bugs me that the A-list kids are not really any smarter, or any better at Web design, or have anything particularly better to say than so many of the plebes. Their fame is inexplicable, but famous they are – and able to keep their heads above water. It’s the combination I resent.

Elizabeth Taylor was at least beautiful and could act, when not knocking back the sauce and buying diamonds by the barrel. What causes an anointed cadre of objectively undifferentiable Webloggers to be viewed as demigods escapes me. And it does in fact chafe against my egalitarian instincts. Many of us are as good as they are. (There. I put myself in one of the camps. And not the one that elicits profiles in the New Yorker.)

We can look forward to further triumphs and prosperity for Jason, Meg, Derek, and the other quarterbacks and cheerleaders of Weblog High. Successful people remain successful. If I could get a piece of that action, I’d be right in there rootin’ them on.

What people are saying

This article was nominated for a 2001 Bloggie. (Also nominated for giving birth to the meme the A-list. Lost both ways.) I enjoyed another superexclusive nomination in 2002. And lost.

This is a reasonably famous or notorious addition to the metablogging œuvre. The critics, as they say, are raving.

So, I mean, you tell me.

Updated 2002.12.28 ¶ 2007.07.15

You were here: fawny.org → Deconstructing “You’ve Got Blog” (classic version)

See also: The book version