Thursday, August 04, 2005

How to improve blogging?

There always seems to be some sort of discussion going on about how the blogosphere can and should be made better. A while back people were asking if bloggers should adopt an ethics code like traditional publications; recently Larry Ribstein advocated a norm that would require bloggers to perform a pre-emption check (Will Baude attacks this proposal very effectively here); a few days ago, Douglas Berman asked how we could improve blogging as an academic medium.

I usually don't like the specific proposals that are put forward, but I do not worry about them because I know that the blogosphere evolves according to its own rules, without too much influence from anyone's conscious plan. The people who put these proposals forward often don't seem entirely aware of this. The code of ethics thing was particularly silly -- there are millions of bloggers out there, and the idea of making them all adopt a code of ethics is pretty outlandish. Whether something becomes a norm in the blogosphere depends on whether it works; that's why Baude's response can also be read as an explanation for why Ribstein's proposed norm would never take hold.

This is not to say that attempts to generate ideas for improvement are necessarily useless. If the code of ethics were a good idea, for example, it could never get off the ground until somebody presented a draft version. Still, my sense is that most such proposals will come to naught, and most worthwhile innovations in the blogosphere will be essentially unplanned.

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