Blogger basher

Bill Thompson has flipped. According to this article for the BBC (and in no particular order): blogging is not journalism and will not effect mainstream journalists, link frequency and pagerank are ‘just the rule of the mob’, Google is storing your personal search data for sinister reasons and we need an ‘Ofsearch’ to police the search engines.

In fact, he obviously hasn’t flipped but this is a good example of a fairly common response to new stuff in general. First, a natural and appropriate resistance to hyperbole and loss of perspective and, second, a defensive reflex that snaps in when something new threatens a hard won worldview. Bill is a genuine UK Internet old-timer and a true believer and I think the scale and pace of change of the blogosphere probably represents a profound wobble for his stable understanding of the way the net works.

I can say this because that’s how it feels for me too… In fact, I’ll bet every prematurely grey hair on my head (and that’s, like, all of them) that blogging is the ‘paradigm shift‘ we were pretty sure was happening back in 93 or 94 but which disappointingly evaporated.

(incidentally, this entry includes my first embedded link to Google Labs’ very promising Glossary feature).


  1. Think you’re right about Bill’s piece, Steve. Incidentally, Daniel Brandt, who runs Google Watch has just dropped a comment on my site telling me Bill is right about Google.

  2. From Bill’s article: “Often [blogging] is as far from journalism as it is possible to get, with unsubstantiated rumour, prejudice and gossip masquerading as informed opinion.”

    US mainstream journalism currently consists of unsubstantiated corporate flacking, reproduction of Pentagon press releases, and unquestioned promotion of political dynasties. See

    No wonder blogging feels so refreshing in the USA. Since elections here no longer mean what citizens intend, and since the press has taken an extended leave of absence, at least we can opine for free.

    If blogging isn’t journalism, well, journalism isn’t journalism here either.

  3. I haven’t flipped and I don’t feel threatened – I embrace the commentary, criticism and feedback that blog writers can bring to the world, and I use Google myself all the time. In fact I interviewed Sergey Brin for Internet Mag three years back [maybe more – can’t remember now!] and wrote about how wonderful Google was.

    But I had enough hype from people like Steve and Simon back in the mid 1990’s to last me a lifetime, and I watched the dotcom boom and bust, and I think that a rather more sceptical, questioning and analytic approach is called for. OK, my column was inflammatory and I knew that it would get lots of people annoyed – it was fun to write just because of that. But there is a serious aspect here too.

    Blogging is interesting but I am yet to be convinced it’s world changing. The new media revolution did not destroy News Corporation; the blogosphere will not depose Julie Burchill. If we accept that then we can move on to try to understand what it is capable of doing and whether it’s worth having.

    As for Google – I’m tired of US corporations that don’t understand what data protection and personal privacy mean messing with my data. Microsoft, Google, Amazon: they are all the same and they have to be stopped. It’s a matter of principle, and I will take every opportunity I can to point out what they do. I linked my piece to Google Watch, but strangely enough I verified the claims made there through other sources, so didn’t feel the need to say ‘as GW says’. It’s called journalism – I suppose you bloggers need to be reminded how that works.

  4. Yep, the Sergey Brin article was in our February 2000 issue. There’s a huge reproduction of the magazine’s cover in the office foyer which I pass every day when I come into work! 🙂 On another note, no one seems to have mentioned how Overture has bought AllTheWeb and AltaVista in the space of a week…

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