Jeff Jarvis Strikes A Blow for Web History

Buzz Machine Sept 2011

Nearly two years ago, I wrote that while the Web has a future, it may not have a past. Exhibit A in my argument was the lamentable state of Jeff Jarvis’s influential blog, BuzzMachine. Started in the aftermath of 9/11, its archives offer an invaluable chronicle of the development of new media in the 21st century. But as I noted, trying to dig through those archives was nearly as arduous as excavating Troy. Links to the first few years of posts were hard to find, and when you did, they were encrusted with spam advertisements.

A year and a half later, thanks to son Jake Jarvis, the archives have been restored. Though it means quite a few of the links in my article have been broken, I’m happy at how easy it now is to read through those early posts. True, they don’t have the original look and feel, and they have squirreled away somewhere the ominous old blog title, “WarLog: World War III.” But you can always find samples of the original on the Internet Archive.

In all, it’s a good day for the history of the Web, one I wasn’t sure was coming. Now if Filloux will just correct that typo….

Is Social Media Better at Getting You Fired, or Hired?

Khristopher J Brooks on Tumblr In what may be a record for journalists getting fired for their social media activities,Khristopher Brooks was sacked yesterday before he even started his job with the Wilmington (Del.) News Journal. What was his offense? Writing on his blog about getting the job, and using the newspaper’s logo and quoting from the offer letter without permission.

Brooks played a small role in a post I wrote earlier today on the New-Media Survival Guide website suggesting that journalists should write a Firing Manifesto. The idea, basically, is to know when you should choose between saving your job and saving your career.

Though he didn’t have any say in it, getting fired may turn out to have been a positive development for Brooks’s career. In a piece in the Huffington Post, which I read after posting my article, he reports that in the aftermath, he’s received a number of job offers and other opportunities. We won’t know for a while, but it seems social media has done his career more good than harm.

Blog Comments: Chaos or Currency?

Are comments more trouble than they are literally worth? According to Animal’s Joel Johnson, the answer is a resounding Yes.

I believe I’m right, and I think it’s important to start the discussion. And my theory is very easy to disprove: just run your own analysis on your traffic and determine exactly how many people are scrolling down the page to read comments. Then figure out how much you’re spending to maintain comment communities that are civil, vibrant, and not an embarassment sitting just below your own work. I bet once you run all the numbers, you’d discover you’d be saving money simply by not having comments at all. (You’d probably save a bundle on therapy for authors alone.)

Johnson’s objections to comments are many. First, he says, most of them are worthless. Only 1 or 2 in 100 “actually provoke discussion or elucidate another’s argument,” he argues.

Next, he says, comments don’t make any money. (But then what does for most bloggers? Please let me know.)

Moreover, commenters are often rude to authors. Comments, he says, are a dinner party, and “if I’ve invited you to have a seat at my table, at least have the courtesy to not call me an idiot for serving you food slightly different than you preferred.”

Finally, and most damningly, almost no one actually reads the comments.

I’m sure all this is true for high-traffic, commercial blogs. But I’m willing to bet that for the vast majority of blogs, the problems Johnson and others experience at mainstream, consumer oriented blogs like Animal simply don’t exist.

One reason, of course, is that most blogs, like mine, alas, don’t get many comments to begin with (other than the spammy variety that Akismet so silently and effectively filters out).

But some are so clearly and consistently focused on a single community interest that they generate with almost every post a huge number of intelligent, interesting, and polite comments. For some of my favorite blogs, in fact, the comments are at least as good as the original post, and often better.

Though I haven’t asked them, I’d guess that Steve Buttry, Mark Schaefer, Mitch Joel, Porter Anderson, and others too numerous to mention here don’t just tolerate their comments, but live for them. Certainly the comments they approve and respond to all reflect a genuine and productive engagement with the topic.

In addition to a carefully targeted focus, there are probably a couple of other reasons these bloggers get such a wealth of thoughtful and useful comments.

First, they are all personal. These bloggers are heavily invested in their blogs, and take the responsibility for every word that appears in them.

Second, they are all genuinely good, thoughtful, and generous people. They attract like personalities that come to enhance the discussion, not to degrade it.

So, yes, if your aim as a blogger is first and foremost to make money, you may want to disable commenting. For the rest of us, though, comments, not cash, are the currency we seek.