Hyperlinks Subvert Hierarchies

Doc Searls is considering the big bloatospheric issues again.

I have this idea that the blogosphere is the one place in the world — or perhaps an entirely new world, or a part of a new world, created on the Net — where there is no need for class, for caste, for gates or keepers of anything.
To me this is a world where the only success that fully counts is in helping move good ideas along, in helping make this new world a bigger, better and more open place. And in helping others enjoy the privilege of participating in it.
I see this world as a place built on credits given, taken and passed along. I see this world as a place where it is at least possible to overcome disagreements, and to come to new agreements that would not be possible without the protocol, both technical and civil, we call the hyperlink.
I’ve always thought the most important thesis in Cluetrain was not the first, but the seventh: Hyperlinks subvert hierarchies.

However, Seth Finkelstein isn’t prepared to drink the Searls’ Kool-Aid.

This is an idea that goes way back in a certain type of mythologizing – whether it’s called the Classless Society, The New Socialist Man, The Wild West, The Wide-Open Frontier, etc. – of a New Era where rank and privilege have been abolished, and all is based on individual merit. I wish it were true too. But sadly, wishing won’t make it so (and mistakenly believing it can get people deeply hurt in various ways).
There’s then some particularly pernicious implications which flow from the above myth. If there is in reality a vast inequality of status, yet the theory is that the new world is merit-based, that provides a lot of disturbing tension, cognitive dissonance. There’s some obvious ways to resolve it. One immediate method is to say those lower down the hierarchy must be un-meritorious in some way – whiners, as a cognate A-lister has expounded elsewhere. Another method is simply to deny that inequality exists. And these are where the cruelty manifests.
This world is exactly the same as *every* *other* *media* *world*, in that there’s a few participants who have enormous reach, while most have little to none (“Power Law”). That’s just a mathematical fact.

One thought…it seems the bloatosphere is fast becoming mainstream media, thus the very idea that it is revolutionary, as opposed to evolutionary, needs to be questioned.
[UPDATE] New York Magazine talks to Clay Shirky about the Power Law.

“It’s not about moral failings or any sort of psychological thing. People aren’t lazy—they just base their decisions on what other people are doing,” Shirky says. “It’s just social physics. It’s like gravity, one of those forces.”
First-movers get a crucial leg up in this kind of power-law system. This is certainly true of the blogosphere. If you look at the list of the most-linked-to blogs on the top 100 as ranked by Technorati—a company that scans the blogosphere every day—many of those at the top were first-movers, the pioneers in their fields.

[via Gaping Void]

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. hugh macleod says:

    Bloggers pontificating about the “bloatosphere” do not interest me. Bloggers transforming their businesses through blogging interest me.

  2. while we’re on the subject of blog inequality…

    New York magazine has just published a very long article about blogs and the whole inequality thing: “Blogs to Riches- The Haves and Have-Nots of the Blogging Boom.”But if you talk to many of today

  3. The fact that you’re self-interested is pretty well established, Hugh. Lucky for you, lots of us are interested in what you’re interested in.
    By the way, bloggers are also transforming their business reputations through blogging, so it’s not all business, it’s often quite personal.

  4. hugh macleod says:

    I don’t seperate “business” and “personal”, Dave 😉