Blogging, good or bad, or wait a minute, what was the question again?
1 June 2003, 5:19 PM
In this morning's Observer, John Naughton writes in defense of bloggers and blogging. He is responding to a recent New York Times article complaining, it seems, about how bloggers have risen to the top of all the Google searches, and thus are displacing responsible journalism. Naughton mocks the author for his supposed indignation: "After all, most bloggers are not professional journalists, but rank amateurs!" Naughton imagines him saying. Further, Naughton disparages Big Media as hacks, saying that "much journalistic coverage is inevitably superficial and often misleading, and [...] many blogs are thoughtful and accurate by comparison." That'll learn that moron in the Times, right?
Er, not so much, no.
One problem is that the article he refers to doesn't complain about bloggers at all. Geoffrey Nunberg (who, by the way, is not a journalist as such, but a linguist who has an audio column on NPR and is an occasional columnist elsewhere) actually said, "The beauty of the Web, after all, is that it enables us to draw on the expertise of people who take a particular interest in a topic and are willing to take the trouble to set down what they think about it." His complaint is not about bloggers at all, but about Google's search engine, and the way it ranks results of searches, saying they rank "activists and enthusiasts" higher than they ought.
I have noticed that Googling is a bit of an art, and that a delicate touch is required, particularly in casting an eye over the results. I have also noticed that Google really has taken over; I used to use Altavista exclusively, until the popups got out of control, although for a while in there I used hotbot and something else I don't recall. I suppose many people still use the Yahoo search engine, and I have heard terrific things about alltheweb. Most of the time I do searches, however, I am looking for a specific piece of information (such as Ernesto Zedillo's current address), rather than a topic (such as globalization). I get quick accurate results from Google, but I imagine I would from any of the others.
Mostly, however, Numberg's point is that people who use Google should be wary, and not take the top ranks to be the best:
"The outcomes of Google's popularity contests can be useful to know, but it's a mistake to believe they reflect the consensus of the 'Internet community,' whatever that might be, or to think of the Web as a single vast colloquy — the picture that's implicit in all the talk of the Internet as a 'digital commons' or 'collective mind.' ("Search Engine Society; As Google Goes, So Goes the Nation" 18 May, 2003 New York Times Section 4, Page 4)
This is an excellent point. John Naughton appears to have missed it. Too bad for him, I suspect he needs it more than most.