My suegra left her first comment on a blog yesterday. In a voice mail thanking her, I encouraged her to start her blog:afterall, she's a bright, witty woman with a lot to say about the state of the world. But will she? Will blogging become the next email, as some predict– an Internet activity that everyone does? Or is merely a geek activity more appropriate to debates about the validity of the Battlestar Galactica Season 2.5 conclusion than to mainstream discussions?
These questions are coming to the fore a bit more. Can those of us like Ethan , who are "who are enthusiastic about the read/write web" take heart in the recent Pew Iternet Study that found that 57% of adult respondents have created and shared something online? Are we sobered by the release of research like Eszter Hargittai's that shows the number of folks actually engaging with blogs and read-write web devices is astonishingly low? Jakob Nielsen makes similar points in a discussion with Jeff Jarvis at Buzzmachine:
You are extrapolating from your personal experience. This is invalid. You are not an average user….
Who would have thought even a year ago that the BBC, The Guardian, CNN, CBS, and other major media would need to run to catch up with this wacky thing called the podcast — and that once they did catch up, they’d serve them to large and devoted audiences.
And who says we need to create for the average anymore? Who the hell is average? No one is. The beauty of this new world is that we can create and serve in many ways for many people and needs and interests.
And Jakob responds in a comment :
That will work only for the people who are most fanatic, who are engaged so much that they will go and check out these blogs all the time. There are definitely some people who do that — they are a small fraction.
[UPDATED: I meant to add: with RSS' spread into mainstream products like IE7, the New York Times' MyTimes, and Yahoo, won't that tiny fraction grow exponentially?]
Relatedly, John Dickerson, in his article on Lieberman challenger Ned Lamont, asks whether blog-driven challenger Lamont has
tapped into a winning political movement, or does he just have a bunch of supporters who can type quickly?
Like Ethan and Jeff, I'm an optimist– I think the blogosphere is certainly more than quick typers. But, per Eszter and Nielsen's challenges, where's the data, Pew phone studies notwithstanding? In a similar vein, see the comments left by Eszter and Pat Aufterheide in response to my post about Saul Hansell's optimism that MySpace is a media literacy tool:
Eszter: "I am not sure who are all these people he is talking about who are or will be participating actively enough to learn. But it will be interesting to follow and find out."
Pat: "The evidence at the outset of this phenomenon gives us no guide."