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June 26, 2005
On Grokster Punditry and Power Laws
Speaking of Grokster meta-blogging, Ernie Miller is having a typically thoughtful, typically enjoyable back-and-forth with Seth Finkelstein on the subject. Along the way, Ernie articulates well a point I've tried to make in my own conversations with Seth on the subject of blog A-listers: "It's not about the number of hits you get, it's about the knowledge produced. ...For all this talk of power law distributions and A-lists, the creation of knowledge is not pre-determined."
Despite the power laws, insight from specialists like Seth and Ernie does indeed "rise to the top" and influence the discussion, even when there's no direct "credit" in the form of article quotes/Slashdot links/A-list hat tips/Google love. None of us can quantify influence as easily as we'd like to. A link farmer can put X number of links on his blog "resume," but so what? Seth has put X number of links in the minds of people who care deeply about censorship on the Internet. Similarly, Ernie's blog is quite obviously the progenitor of many of the more nuanced and interesting mainstream media articles about current developments in law and technology. Do the journalists who write the articles link back directly to specific posts at Importance Of...? Rarely. Nevertheless, there's no way you can plausibly argue that he hasn't influenced the discussion.
Grokster day will indeed be filled with blog punditry by people with varying levels of knowledge and expertise in the subject matter. And you can be sure that whomever posts the first comment at Slashdot will have an ego-warming deluge of linky love. But the people who know and care most about Grokster will be elsewhere, listening to the other people who know and care most about Grokster. And that's where we'll see the valuable knowledge production happening, regardless of the number of "hits."
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