NYT on blog comments as conversation

An interesting piece in the New York Times today (although it was in the Fashion & Style section, which I thought was a little odd). I’m not sure if the topic signals some kind of evolution in the way the Times looks at the blogosphere or an evolution in the blogosphere itself — or maybe a bit of both.

It’s about people who have become known — “Internet famous” — not for having a popular blog, or for being a YouTube star, but for commenting on other people’s blogs and content (no doubt an academic somewhere will call this “meta-blogging.”) As the Times piece puts it:

“Since many blogs have a readership of one — or, at best, the writer, his mother and some guy he sat next to in seventh grade who found him on Google — piggybacking on a more popular site offers a wider audience for a keyboard jockey’s gripes and quips.

Not everyone is up to the task of creating a blog with the kind of consistent tone and provocative topics that attract visitors.”

The Times piece profiles a Metafilter commenter known as DaShiv, as well as Seth Chadwick, who posts on a food-related site called Chowhound. But my favourite quote comes from Marshall Poe, a professor of new media at the University of Iowa, who describes the motivation of commenters in this way:

“You are one of the millions of people who sit at a computer all day… every hour you have 10 minutes where you’re not doing anything productive at work, and you can’t look at porn.

So you make a comment and fulfill this desire to show yourself off as a smarty-pants.”

The Times piece also talks about a commenter on Gawker, where the site picks and chooses who will be allowed to comment, and so a competition has developed where people try to post the wittiest comments so that they can join the club. Now that’s social networking. And DaShiv explains why he prefers to comment at Metafilter rather than starting his own blog:

“It’s easier to join in on a conversation than to start one,” he said matter of factly.

And it takes both kinds to make the blogosphere tick.

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