John Robb commented on the Times essay comparing bloggers to pamphleteers:
Seems ridiculous that the media would continue to confuse a powerful horizontal tool (very much like desktop word processing) with how it is used by a few people. [John Robb’s Radio Weblog]
I’ve always found that the Internet is a sort of mirror pool (or maybe a Rorschach blob?). Everyone sees something different in it. Usually what they see is themself, or their interests, reflected back at them.
I found it extremely amusing in the early days of the ‘net boom when journalists would get online to do their story and come back with a lede about how much pornography there was on the net at the touch of a button. I would think gee, I wonder what search terms you fed into the box.
So I’m not surprised that journalists see blogging as a form (or bastardization) of journalism, that an essayist would see it as a platform for pamphleteers, and so on. I’m not really sure why “what it is” and “what it’s being used for” are so easily confused. Maybe it has something to do with how malleable—how plastic—computer-modulated media really are.
Certainly, like any good meme, the idea of blogging involves a lot of imitation. Fashions are inevitable in any living culture, and it takes innovators to separate out how things have to be from how they can be. And there’s nothing wrong with imitation. We can’t all be inventing or reinventing ourselves and our modes of expression all day long. Sometimes you have to do something
that you already know will work.
Plus, copying others is a great way to learn. Think of how many people learned HTML in the early days by viewing source and hacking apart the markup they found that way. There’s nothing wrong with (showing my age here) slowing down an LP to learn the fingering on some intricate guitar solo.
The first time for anything is always the most difficult, so any thing you can do to lower the threshold or vault yourself over the hurdle is fair game. There’s time enough for pushing the envelope once you’re in play.