The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Where Were You in 2002?

Posted on | April 27, 2013 | 32 Comments

In congratulating the Overlawyered blog on moving under the Cato Institute umbrella, Professor Bainbridge used the phrase “take the Boeing,” which in turn prompted Glenn Reynolds to flashbacks on the origins of that phrase in the misty dawn of the blogospheric age when the commercial value of the medium was scarcely understood. And, of course, the adaptation/imitation of the medium by major commercial operations has limited the readership space of the original blogosphere — i.e., individual online writer/commentators connected in informal networks or communities of sites.

This network/community concept seems to have been lost by (or, more likely, was never known to) newer arrivals in the ‘sphere. The idea that each of us is contributing to a common project is not just some kind of “Stone Soup” idealism, but is in fact the only way to build any genuinely meaningful alternative to that pathetic exercise in groupthink we call the Mainstream Media. Bloggers who don’t help build the alternative can complain about the MSM “borg” all they want; they aren’t really making a difference. There are two ways in which bloggers actually help sabotage the blogosphere:

  • Turn your blog into a series of lectures. “Here, let me tell you How to Save the World, because you pitiful mortals are obviously in need of my Superior Wisdom.” It’s one thing to go off on the occasional rant, but if that’s all your blog is about — sermons and lectures, as if you are the Oracle to whom readers turn in need of your delphic prophecies — then you’re doing the wrong thing. No one wants to read that crap.
  • Never link another blogger. It’s weird that some bloggers would rather link a story in the New York Times or the Washington Post than to link a fellow blogger. Why this is, I don’t know. Sometimes it seems like everybody has the same idea: Grab an MSM headline off Drudge, link it, include a brief blockquote and add some political snark. Not only does this effectively surrender content control to Drudge — so that bloggers are merely replicating the headline selection there — but nobody’s snark ever goes beyond their own readership, because no blogger ever quotes another blogger.

Ace of Spades once did a mini-rant — which I can’t find now — about whether your site is a portal or a destination. That is to say, is the reader coming to your site to find links to interesting material (portal) or strictly to read what you have to say (destination)?

The problem is that if every blogger starts thinking of his own site as a destination, then the site’s value as a portal — directing readers to interesting material elsewhere — is necessarily diminished or eliminated. And if this destination mentality takes hold at all the larger sites, then there will be few opportunities for new bloggers to join the community, and fewer incentives for smaller bloggers to participate in the conversation, because nobody with any significant readership will ever link them. What will eventually happen, in such a scenario, is that the independent blogosphere will wither and die from neglect, and be replaced by a corporate simulacrum.

Which is already happening, to an extent. This was what John Hawkins was talking about two years ago as “The Slow, Painful Coming Death Of The Independent, Conservative Blogosphere” (with sequels here and here). Despite the fact that there have been notable successes in recent years — e.g., William Jacobson’s Legal Insurrection has not only succeeded, but has produced a promising spinoff, College Insurrection — the fact is that the original idea of the blogosphere as an informal network of independent sites is being lost, not because independent bloggers are “taking the Boeing,” but because so many newer arrivals in the ‘sphere never even bothered with the concept of collaboration.

Well, this kind of rant could go on forever, but you didn’t come here for my delphic prophecies, eh?


UPDATE: Welcome, Instapundit readers! And, in case you didn’t realize it, the Instawife has a new book out entitled, Men on Strike: Why Men Are Boycotting Marriage, Fatherhood, and the American Dream — and Why It Matters, and which you should buy because if it becomes a bestseller, that’s one less spot available for a liberal book on the New York Times bestseller list.

Sometimes, life really is a zero-sum equation . . .



32 Responses to “Where Were You in 2002?”

  1. Evi L. Bloggerlady
    April 27th, 2013 @ 4:04 pm

    We conservatives/libertarians should be linking each other like Bennington College kids boink each other.

  2. Scribe of Slog (McGehee)
    April 27th, 2013 @ 4:34 pm

    Grab an MSM headline off Drudge, link it, include a brief blockquote and add some political snark.


  3. Scoob
    April 27th, 2013 @ 5:14 pm

    Sometimes I link to articles from the source instead of the blog so as influence non-conservative readers. As an example, the PETA shelter that killed animals is more effectively linked to the original article or liberal blog for convincing libs of the truth than a conservative blog. Linking to the conservative blog will cause a knee-jerk reaction from the lib of that “can’t be true”. Linking to a lib blog, for example, usually causes them to slink away.

  4. Adjoran
    April 27th, 2013 @ 5:41 pm

    On the other side of the linking, it can be rather frustrating to click a blog link for a story that is actually just a link to another blog with a link that is just another link to another blog before anyone links to the actual story at the source.

    The method which used to be used was to link the source, with a “hat tip” link to the blog which pointed you to it.

    Then Charles Johnson began just skipping the hat tips, and the whole system broke down.

    The moral of the story: Kids, don’t get started sniffing your own bicycle seat, it’s a gateway drug!

  5. Adjoran
    April 27th, 2013 @ 5:42 pm

    But how would an anal link work, exactly?

  6. ChandlersGhost
    April 27th, 2013 @ 10:34 pm

    Yeah, I like to link a source like the NYT as a prime source and a conservative blogger for commentary and as a secondary for that same reason.

  7. Bob Belvedere
    April 28th, 2013 @ 12:18 am

    Often what I do is link the actual report, hit tip the blogger, and then quote from them after a highlight / teaser from the report.

  8. K-Bob
    April 28th, 2013 @ 6:36 am

    It all went wrong when people decided this new way of presenting information should be called something that sounds like a noise coming from a cesspool.

    Kudos to ‘fess Reynolds and all for building a following, but people forget that Jerry Pournelle had his daybook on the internet long before there was a World Wide Web. And he already had one of the biggest followings in all geekdom long before the hipster term ‘blog’ took hold.

    (And speaking of hipsters, here’s a website that they should all follow closely.)

  9. Jaynie59
    April 28th, 2013 @ 10:15 am

    Exactly. I don’t have a blog but I use the Facebook Share links to get articles in my newsfeed so my liberal Friends will see them. I basically do it to annoy them. The problem is that I don’t bother with any blog that as an obivious “right wing” connotation because I know their knee jerk reaction will be to discount it. So I almost never Share anything from a blog called The Right Scoop, even though they have great videos, because I know nobody I know will ever follow a link to a site called “right” anything. If it’s a YouTube video then I’ll Share it from YouTube instead.

    The other problem I have is headlines. Zombie wrote a great essay before the election last year about how bloggers should do a better job writing their headlines, and boy, was he/she write on the money. There are a lot of articles and essays I’d love to Share on Facebook but I don’t because the headline is written with sarcasm or irony. The problem is most people never read past the headline and won’t get the sarcasm or irony. They believe that stuff so Sharing it would defeat the purpose.

  10. Instapundit » Blog Archive » STACY MCCAIN: Where Were You in 2002?…
    April 28th, 2013 @ 2:00 pm

    […] STACY MCCAIN: Where Were You in 2002? […]

  11. cbinflux
    April 28th, 2013 @ 2:07 pm

    Ok, now please explain ” the carnival of ______ is up!”

  12. mbecker908
    April 28th, 2013 @ 2:15 pm

    I find having to wear a condom when I write is very uncomfortable and distracting. The KY gets all over the place as well.

  13. robertstacymccain
    April 28th, 2013 @ 2:29 pm

    “Then Charles Johnson began just skipping the hat tips, and the whole system broke down.”

    I am perhaps not always as conscientious about linking bloggers as I should be, but the general idea of the blogosphere as a community or network, collaborating to disseminate facts and opinions that the MSM would prefer to ignore, is the fundamental concept that we should generally strive to keep in mind.

  14. Floyd R. Turbo
    April 28th, 2013 @ 3:15 pm

    And my little blog that could has always appreciated the link on the Blogroll (Threedonia) and thanks for the reminder to at always Hat Tip the source blog. I’ve fallen prey at times to the inclination to link to the “larger story” — the MSM. I will not do so again.

  15. Kent G. Budge
    April 28th, 2013 @ 4:00 pm

    The biggest mistake any blogger can make is to blog about what he thinks is “readership” wants to read, rather than blogging what he, himself, is interested in.

    From that perspective, the worst thing that ever happened to the blogosphere was site meters and rankings.

  16. TC_LeatherPenguin
    April 28th, 2013 @ 4:32 pm

    In 2002 I was building a permanent rage… and goofballing on the Hobo murdering, puppy blending Traffic Santa.

  17. TC_LeatherPenguin
    April 28th, 2013 @ 4:34 pm

    Visual Aids available! (enter your credit card# NOW!)

  18. Tedd
    April 28th, 2013 @ 5:17 pm

    I don’t disagree with the overall point, but there’s often a weakness in linking to other bloggers. All too often, you find a statement to the effect that some mainstream media publication has committed a grave factual or logical error, with a link to another blog that claims much the same, yet another link to another blog, and so on until you reach the source article, at which point you find that the claim is weak or even completely false. The blogs along the path often add little or nothing of substance to the original claim and, even when they do, it’s pointless because the original claim is false or flawed. So, bravo, maybe you’ve helped introduce me to bloggers I would otherwise not have known about, but not in a way that’s going to inspire me to return to their blog. Communities of bloggers are just as susceptible to narrative-driven confirmation bias as the MSM.??

    So, yes, linking to other bloggers is good, but only if that other blogger is talking about something with merit. And preferably when they have something of interest to say about the subject, not just a link to someone who does.

  19. CptNerd
    April 28th, 2013 @ 5:31 pm

    Yes, linking to other blogs is good, and I really appreciated the one time I got a “McCainalanche” from the link that you guys gave me, but at some point don’t we also have to provide original material? To say that it’s “only for whoever reads your blog” is pretty demeaning to those who are trying to be more than a “portal.” If I really want a “portal” I’ll go to Yahoo, I want to see original stuff, too.

  20. » Collaborators no more in the conservative blogosphere - Le·gal In·sur·rec·tion
    April 28th, 2013 @ 8:30 pm

    […] Stacy McCain has a post along similar lines, Where Were You in 2002? (via […]

  21. joe_kristan
    April 28th, 2013 @ 8:47 pm

    Stacy is on to something. I am not really a “conservative” blogger, in that I write about tax, not politics per se, (though anybody who might follow me would note that I’m more or less libertarian). Linking out to other tax blogs is a large part of what I do ( ). And maybe three of the people I link to regularly return the favor.

    I think linking out to others is like free trade, in that it’s good for you even when others don’t bother to return the favor. Still, it’s frustrating when I link to somebody else’s post on a topic I’ve already addressed, and they didn’t bother to link to my take. Manners, people. And if manners aren’t enough, remember that linking makes you stronger.

  22. John Scotus
    April 28th, 2013 @ 10:29 pm

    You should add one more category of blog–the older, established blog who only links to older, established blogs, but refuses to link to or even acknowledge newer blogs. I appreciate the times you have linked back to one of my pieces, but you seem to be an exception to the rule (Glenn Reynolds and William Jacobson are other exceptions). More than once, I’ve had a high traffic, older blog “borrow” a blog posting of mine, and then not even bother to provide a link back. When it is a story or an angle I’ve spent a day working on, this can be profoundly discouraging. Needless to say, I’m not going to be linking much to blogs who refuse to link back.

  23. Overlawyered joins Cato: some reactions - Overlawyered
    April 29th, 2013 @ 12:45 am

    […] Reynolds at Instapundit, and Prof. Bainbridge remembers the phrase “takes the Boeing;” R.S. McCain on blogging communities and linkiness; Coyote (“Congrats… The Overlawyered blog is one […]

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    […] Stacy McCain at The Other McCain had a similar sentiment yesterday. […]

  25. Critical Eye
    April 29th, 2013 @ 9:50 am

    Using Daddy’s money?

  26. Wither the Blogosphere? | Shall Not Be Questioned
    April 29th, 2013 @ 1:32 pm

    […] in the past four years, and highlights a lot of changes I’ve noticed too. He links to an article by Robert Stacy McCain on the same […]

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  29. Bob Agard
    April 30th, 2013 @ 12:08 pm
  30. Erick Brockway
    April 30th, 2013 @ 7:04 pm

    That’s why I like the h/t at the bottom, with maybe a partial BQ from the blogger to entice a better look. Then the drive-by reader won’t see the evil RS McCain at first, but then again, I link to teh evil “Faux Nooows” at times, so…

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    […] Where Were You in 2002? […]

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