What A list?

Nick Douglas at Blogebrity said it:

What is “sucking up to the A-list“? What game does Lisa Stone of the BlogHer conference think bloggers have to play? Why do people bitch and moan about lists of popular bloggers, then grumble “but you have to do what they say”?

What’s to suck up? Technorati’s top blog, Boing Boing, permanently links to one blog: Fark, hidden in a text link below a stack of ads. You can only earn temporary links from BB, by sending them something cool. Just find something they might like, and fill in “Your Website” on the suggestion form. Sometimes they’ll come around and find you; most likely if you’re also a coolhunter or techie or both. And if you’re not, why do you want Boing Boing readers anyway?…

Building a reputation in blogdom isn’t about sucking up to an A-list. It’s about sharing tidbits with other bloggers, blog readers, forum members, and chatters who might enjoy them….

You won’t build long-lasting fame and influence with a few blogroll links and a lucky meme find. You’ll build it with interesting, relevant discussion. And, as always, by writing something worth reading.

The irony of complaining about “the A list” is that it gives that list value it doesn’t deserve. That is the point of this world:

There is no A list. There is only your list.

Sure, I’m glad to be on the Technorati top 100 — well, topo 50, by the skin of my teeth, actually, but who’s counting? Well, I am. Not that I’m bragging, though I am…

But seriously, folks: It’s not the list that makes me happy. It’s the links. And though I’ll eagerly gobble up an Instalanche, it’s more rewarding to find someone new linking to me with something interesting to say or vice versa.

It’s not about lists. It’s about links.

And who made Technorati’s list the A list but the people who complain about it? Dave Sifry, who did indeed create the list based on his link data, emphasizes that by far the most links and traffic and conversation happen off of it.

Nick started Blogebrity, remember, to poke fun at the list lust in blogs. He made up lists out of thin air and then watched people debate them as he sat, smirking. He did it to make a point.

The worst thing about old media is that it is a closed club. We shouldn’t be making this new world into a collection of clubhouses.

: Correction: Nick did not start Blogebrity. But he supped of the Kool-Aid.

: LATER: Halley Suitt, who copresented the keynote Nick wrote about, scolds me for not linking to her about this. Well, I was reacting to Nick’s point. And besides, she did not even post about her own keynote until after she scolded me. Jeesh. Can’t win. All she said was this: “This thing just so rocks and is so fun. I am not gonna come close to describing it.” Rah Rah. Well, now that she did put up her notes, here is the link.

  • http://halleyscomment.blogspot.com/ Halley Suitt

    As you all probably know, the BlogHer Confernce this Saturday in Santa Clara started out with the "The A-List Debate" where Charlene Li of Forrester Research and I argued both sides of issue — why you should care about the list and want to be on it (her side) and why you shouldn't give a hoot about the list (my side). I'll be blogging today on the wide and deep collection of opinions on the subject. There was a lot of good stuff that came out of the discussion and it's most decidely NOT black and white.

  • http://www.phillyfuture.org Karl

    "it’s most decidely NOT black and white" – absolutely.

    And it *is* all about links.

    To deny the existance of the "A list" is to deny reality. I have a site that I know is an example of so many of the things you talk about Jeff – yet its very hard to get traction without the visibility an A-list link – like yours can provide.

    For me this discussion always circles back to Clay Shirky's "Power Laws, Weblogs, and Inequality":
    http://www.shirky.com/writings/powerlaw_weblog.ht

    Those who have the most inbound links have the most "attention influence". That's just the way it goes. Denying it doesn't change that.

  • http://cellar.org/iotd.php Undertoad

    USS Clueless is still #97 on the Technorati list even though he hasn't published in over a year. (I looked it up: last "real" entry was 7/31/2004, a year ago yesterday).

    It means we need a better list, because people are terrible about updating their blogrolls. It also calls into question the value of the list solely on the basis of number of inbound links. The list represents the blogging world's past, not its future.

    I heard Google is going to track how often a site changes as part of its algorithms.

  • http://www.keshertalk.com/ Yehudit

    This is disingenuous. We all want lots of people to read our stuff. If a blogger with humungous traffic links to us, we get lots more eyeballs on our pages. If in addition we are trying to make money from ads or whatnot, the more eyeballs the more money.

    Attention is still the irreducible coin of the realm.

  • http://www.onehandedeconomist.com Timothy

    Hell, blog for purely your own amusement folks. That's why I do it, and I get "pitiful" traffic, but it's a hobby for me, who cares who reads it? If I wanted to be famous I'd cure cancer or something.

    The big-name guys and gals got big not by being famous already or anything, but by saying interesting things. When you say "male dominated A-list glass ceiling" I stop reading your blog, and I never come back.

    Two good friends of mine from college are semi-blog celebrities (Bill Beutler of the Blogometer and Eric Pfeiffer of The Beltway Buzz, and that's cool, they enjoy it and they get paid. Good for them. The rest of us? So what if 90% of the blogswarm never has sizable traffic, it's a hobby, and paying the bills is why I have a day job.

  • http://www.phillyfuture.org Karl

    Attention is still the irreducible coin of the realm.

    People hate metoos… but that about says it all Yehudit.

    Attention is still the irreducible coin of the realm.

    That distills it right to the bone. I gotta remember that.

  • http://lovehopesexdreams.blogspot.com Tish G

    Why is is always that the A-listers are the first to dis the A-List??

    if it wasn't for this little irony, I'd laughing hysterically right now….but the fact of the matter is, when it comes to how bloggers and blogging is perceived by MSM, and by all those little people who do not live in metropolitan areas or are computer savvy, it is the A-listers who set the tone and the stereotype of blogging and bloggers.

    A-listers are the ones who are deciding what is relavent in the blogosphere by linking. This is a small group of people deciding what is relavent and important. And how many of them, including yourself, Jeff, bother to go into the tail of the Technorati dog and look at those tail blogs? And how might you decide which ones are relavent and which ones aren't? Do you decide on relavence by level of political discourse or the blogger's business acumen? Aren't you then making a judgement contingent on your own personal prejudices?

    And isn't prejudice something that divides community rather than support it?

    It might be nice if some A-listers who don't believe the A-list has any importance take the time to delve into the tail that is not wagging the Technorati dog and try linking to some of those blogs…and esp. to blogs that are not heavy on discussion of politics and business.

    Or do political and businessminded A-list bloggers fear the personal aspect of blogging? Just a notion….

  • http://www.phillyfuture.org Karl

    Or do political and businessminded A-list bloggers fear the personal aspect of blogging? Just a notion….

    I wouldn't think that's the case.

    But you will notice no LiveJournal/Xanga/MySpace blogs being linked to regularly – I've been trying to figure that out myself. They don't enter my realm of linking either.

    Apologies for commenting so much in this thread – the subject matter interests me very much.

  • http://lovehopesexdreams.blogspot.com Tish G

    But you will notice no LiveJournal/Xanga/MySpace blogs being linked to regularly – I’ve been trying to figure that out myself. They don’t enter my realm of linking either.

    Many of the bloggers who use these software packages aren't looking to be widely linked outside of these software packages. By mentioning these packages without understanding the people who post to them kind of undermines the point I am trying to make

    Many who use Blogger, Typepad, Moveabletype, RadioUserland and software of that sort, who are not on the teenage-socialware circut, who are beyond our 20-somethingness, blog in a personal/identity manner along with our comments on society/politics and sometimes on business.

    It is my contention, though, that we are not found, are not read, because we are not single-mindedly specific in what we blog about.

    Male bloggers often surf for politics and business stories. Many of us in the tail, who are insightful and personal, are not blogging every day on business or politics. We are not one-note bloggers.

    Wonkett is popular because (aside from being part of GawkerMedia) she is a one-note blogger. If a female is more than a one-note blogger, it seems to confuse male bloggers and thus there is a denigration of our blogging style. Just becasue we blog on more than politics, or more than business, does not mean that what we are saying is less important. We simply choose to write about more than one aspect of our lives.

    But, hey, if someone wants to pay me for being a one-note blogger, I might sell out and blog like Wonkett too. ;-)

    Perhaps, though, more of us should not only be on your blogrolls, but in your Bloglines feeds so we can be followed more easily–so that when we do blog on politics or business, you can follow us more easily

  • http://blogebrity.com/blog Nick Douglas

    First off, Jarvis, I dig you.

    But I didn't start Blogebrity. Kyle Bunch and Jeremy Hermanns founded it. I only joined when the blog was in full swing and the list was already made. But you're right on about the motives — although we DO like popularity, and we DO like most big bloggers.

    I've avoided general essays, preferring specific items. But I might as well blow it all, write some more theoretical work, and then get back to making fun of Jason Calacanis' hair.

    I'll post more about the silliness of attention envy this week.

  • http://lovehopesexdreams.blogspot.com Tish G

    The silliness, Nick, actually comes from A-listers saying the A-list doesn't matter….

    that's like someone like Brad Pitt saying he hates being a movie star.

  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    Here's another good article, by Jon Garfunkel

    http://civilities.net/TheNewGatekeepers
    http://civilities.net/TheNewGatekeepers
    "I will argue here that gatekeepers are inherently needed by the architecture of the blogosphere …"

    To address "There is no A list. There is only your list.":

    As a mathematical statement, there are people who reach thousands, tens of thousands, millions of others. And there are people who reach a handful of friends. It wrong to deny this has importance.

    Sure, some people write just for themselves, these are diary-keepers. But to anyone who has more than diary-writing as a goal, the exponential structure is relevant.

  • http://halleyscomment.blogspot.com/ Halley Suitt

    Holy guacamole … this is a mess already. So let me stir it up again. My concern was why an issue that started at The Blogher Conference and was a subject specifically addressed by me, Charlene Li and all these other awesome bloggers at the conference (including you Tish G) was NOT LINKED TO AS THE PRIMARY SOURCE IN THIS POST?

    Instead you link to Nick Douglas — was he at BlogHer and I missed him?

    It feels like "case in point" — and Jeff, you know I love you man — but COME ON!

    It's an issue that starts with this weekend's BlogHer Conf and you give us no links or attribution … are you trying to prove our point?????

    And yes, Tish, A-listers' "Ah Shucks, The A List Doesn't Matter" attitude is totally full of shit. If I'm one, I agree, you've outed us. Being a woman, I rarely feel I actually am an A-Lister.

    And as for trying to promote the Long Tail., read the piece in Newsweek about me and Rebecca MacKinnon and Lisa Stone doing just that last February at the Harvard Conference when we were getting so fed up with how rarely women bloggers and bloggers of color were linked to.

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/7160264/site/newsweek

  • http://nmallory.exit-23.net N. Mallory

    While I've been blogging off and on for four years or so, I had no idea there was a "A List". I'm not even sure what the point would be. What is this? High school?

    My whole goal is to read other people's thoughts and ideas and learn from them or solidify my own thoughts and ideas. I'm hear to connect with people across the world and expand my horizons and broaden my understandings of other people.

    I guess I don't understand what the big deal is. On the internet, shouldn't it be more about ideas and thoughts and words and less about gender and race.

    I mean, out of curiousity, I've linked to Blogs of the Day but I have yet to figure out how they decide which Blogs to List and in what order. It all seems so subjective.

    I guess I just don't get it.

  • http://blogebrity.com/blog Nick Douglas

    Grrrr. Okay. Definitely posting about this on Blogebrity tonight.

  • http://www.phillyfuture.org Karl

    The "A-list" – as an actual organizational entity doen't exist – and I don't think anyone is saying it does (I hope not – that would be rediculous) – don't let the A-list denyers sway ya there.

    It's simply a label applied to the current batch of most linked to bloggers and a way of recognizing their influence – that's all.

    To deny that influence is to deny mathmatical reality – and human nature itself – high school never ends bud.

    Read Clay Shirky’s “Power Laws, Weblogs, and Inequality”:
    http://www.shirky.com/writings/powerlaw_weblog.ht

  • http://www.cinematical.com Karina

    "If a female is more than a one-note blogger, it seems to confuse male bloggers and thus there is a denigration of our blogging style"

    I'm sorry, but let me just clarify – are you seriously complaining that boys aren't paying attention to you? Are we not past this by now?

  • http://www.phillyfuture.org Karl

    I’d argue that Wonkette is still heavily linked to because she is a good read. But – to support your point – she had a tremendous head start in attention by being part of Gawker media. A massive head start.

  • http://oodja.blogspot.com Jersey Exile

    I’m sorry, but let me just clarify – are you seriously complaining that boys aren’t paying attention to you? Are we not past this by now?

    Sorry, this question has been batted around before elsewhere (see also here and here and the consensus seems to be that, yes, women are disproportionately blogrolled compared to their male counterparts, although if you follow the various links you’ll see a lot of vehement disagreement as to why. Lefty blogs lambast the old boys’ network as still being alive and well in the new medium, while those to the right tend to favor a more Mars/Venus explanation.

    But it’s more than a gender thing. As Tish G suggests, there’s also the question of singlemindedness or blog focus. The blogosphere rewards “one note” blogs, probably because they submit themselves better that way to categorization, aggregation, and/or syndication. Think of how systems like del.icio.us encourage us to think of blogs as unifaceted entities.

    Yes, I know, beyond a certain point it’s impossible not to organize things along such principles, but there is a cost for doing so — blogs which resist easy categorization won’t get the same kind of linkage as those that keep it simple. I know that this has also been offered as a potential explanation for why women’s blogs don’t get the same representation in the blogosphere, but that then suggests that women’s blogs are inherent multifaceted while men’s tend towards the “one note” variety (back to Mars and Venus).

    Personally I think there are multiple variables in play here, but gender and blog focus seem to be the big ones. Not sure exactly how to remedy either except by adding a few extra clicks to my surfing to try and find important voices that the search engine results would have me ignore if I took the path of least resistance…

  • http://oodja.blogspot.com Jersey Exile

    Sorry my last link was to this thread. Must have typo’ed the HTML (missing that preview window!).

  • http://www.postwatchblog.com Christopher Fotos

    Why is is always that the A-listers are the first to dis the A-List??

    Goodt point. There’s a great Friends episode (did I just write that?) when half the gang has great high-paying jobs and the other half doesn’t. Hijinks ensue when they all go out to a surprisingly expensive restaurant and the factions start arguing about money. Chandler ends up saying, “But I never think about money,” and poverty-stricken Monica replies, “That’s because you have it.

    So yes, eyes roll when a high-traffic blogger talks about how little high traffic matters.

    But when the poster above starts talking about links to favored sites as a matter of prejudice–as if that’s a bad thing–we part ways. Jeff, Insta etc. post links to items that really interest them; what else are they supposed to do? And Glenn Reynolds especially tells readers not to rely exclusively on him and is always posting to the latest Carnival of Carnivals.

  • http://www.postwatchblog.com Christopher Fotos

    If a female is more than a one-note blogger, it seems to confuse male bloggers and thus there is a denigration of our blogging style.

    That is just a hilariously bizarre statement.

  • http://blogebrity.com/blog Nick Douglas

    Is this enough? Was it a cop-out? I think I copped out. Give me another day.

  • http://www.tonypierce.com/blog/bloggy.htm tony

    And though I’ll eagerly gobble up an Instalanche, it’s more rewarding to find someone new linking to me with something interesting to say or vice versa.

    sadly though i think many skeptics see you link to the instapundit far more than any “new” blog, and not only that but rarely do we see you go toe-to-toe with him on important matters that you obviously disagree with him about.

    therefore many A-listers are often coddled, unfairly, by others, including A-listers (even those who, courageously admit to wanting to stay A-listers) when they should actually be taken to task.

    to me, thats the biggest problem with the lists and the revenue and acclaim that come from the lists – people, good people, often bite their tongues on important matters because they dont want to burn the artificial bridges that help support their virtual popularity.

    it is very hard for me to believe that jeff jarvis could find himself more pissed off by dell computer than by some of the nonsense and that gets posted on instapundit.com

    new media or old media, we want to trust that the author is being straight with us and transparent. but these highschoolly popularity lists only lends to more doubt. truth laid bear and technorati are at least based on something – hits and/or links – blogebrity (the first site who named me an a-lister) is based on pure opinion of a few. other than make people upset, i really dont see the point of it.

    most of us like you jeff because of your opinions, not because you link to us or used to link to us. but how many up n comers really have the nads to potentionally burn bridges by criticizing those a-listers who they geniunely disagree with? and how many actually bite their tongue out of fear of never getting that instalanche? its precisely that chill effect that stifles some of the freshness and fact-checking-your-ass that makes this blogosphere so great.

    these lists only mute the conversations and give newcomers a false sense of insecurity. tens of millions of blogs and only 100 winners? that makes for a lot of losers. it’s not a good thing.

  • http://www.phillyfuture.org Karl

    While I agree Tony that that some might be afraid to knock those in the A-list – because they are seeking attention from it for some purpose – I don’t think that’s why most folks blog.

    I wrote something of length for once:

  • http://www.paradox1x.org Karl

    Oh… no posting of links here… ok… click my name in *this* post. Not the previous ones.

  • http://lovehopesexdreams.blogspot.com Tish G

    Chris…

    First, you could have been a tad less rude and list the name of the “poster” you quote, which is myself….or do you have a tough time listing the name of someone you disagree with?

    As for youself, Jeff, etc. listing what interests them…are they really doing just that?

    As I said to Jeff and will say to you, suck it up, get off your pedistal, and go into the Technorati tail. Look at blogs by others who are not at your particular social/blogosphere status. Don’t make excuses for blog-snobbery.

    You may be surprised what you find.

    As for the comment you found “hilariously bizaare”…hey, blogging is extemporaneous, and, yes, I’ve been accused of Yogi-isms a time or two (esp. by those who enjoy arguments on semantics), but the fact remains that many men love one-note, non-personal bloggers and often will dismiss a female blogger who discusses her feelings along with cogent social or political commentary. Male bloggers will consider touchy-feely stuff a reason to dismiss a woman’s opinions on politics or society–as they do in real life.

    Do women need to change the way they communicate to get respect of male bloggers, or do they need to rise to similar levels of professional status to get that respect? From what I’ve seen, professional status is one part of the equation, but the way we communicate, and what we communicate about, carries a bit more weight in the equation.

  • http://www.phillyfuture.org Karl

    Just to point out the obvious – I think there are two conversations here.

    One where Jeff and various commenters are responding to his assertion that the A-list doesn’t exist – and the other having to do with women bloggers. Both conversations are related – but not the same.

    So to hop into this second conversation… carefully…

    Many of the bloggers who use these software packages aren’t looking to be widely linked outside of these software packages.

    Many, but not all. The ‘public’ blogosphere seems to have an upturned nose towards these folks.

    By mentioning these packages without understanding the people who post to them kind of undermines the point I am trying to make.

    Did I just get insulted there ? :)

    I think you are spot on asking about needing to communicate in a way to get respect and attention – I think the answer is yes and I feel that goes for men and women bloggers both – but saddly – moreso for women. why that is – i have no idea.

    I think there is a little too much generalizing on the topic to tell ya the truth though. And that’s why I’m cautious to talk about it. Blanket statements I don’t think work so well in talking about how either gender views the other. Especially when they come from a member of the other gender.

    Back to the A-list discussion – I attempted to post a link that wouldnt’ take to here

  • http://lovehopesexdreams.blogspot.com Tish G

    Did I just get insulted there ? :-)

    nope…but I think you figured that out :-)

    I do, though, hesitate on LJ, Xanga, MySpace bloggers because there are differences that go beyond the main one that the press is always touting–that those programs are mostly for the teen-age set. That isn’t quite true, but I think that alot are not all that interested in the types of debates such as A-list/no A-list and the pissing contest of male/female bloggers.

    I think though that the A-list conversation gets combined with the gender conversation because there is a definite link (pardon the yogi-ist pun) between the two. There can be discussion of one without the other, but the overlap is pretty strong

  • http://www.southernfriedmind.com Brad

    I think if bloggers – male, female, both, or neither – spent as much time actively building traffic instead of complaining about other people having more traffic than them it wouldn’t be nearly the issue that it is.

    Putting up entries and waiting on the world to find you isn’t going to cut it no matter who you are.

    Bloggers are self publishers. Part of publishing is marketing, and marketing well. While marketing techniques may differ in the blogosphere than elsewhere, it’s still a very important aspect. “If you build it they will come” only works in Kevin Costner movies.

  • http://vnetone.blogspot.com/ Strata Chalup

    Seems like a lot of the dichotomy is about hidden assumptions of many sorts. The one that I’ll mention is “the A list” vs “an A list”.

    “The” is a be-all, end-all, up on a pedestal kind of marker, where “a/an” is “there’s more of these, and each has certain affordances and characteristics”. The difference becomes more pronounced when there’s no adjectival marker. Any adjective will introduce a slant that, and slants introduce potential inaccuracies, and potentially reveal the biases of the person doing the labelling.

    How do you feel differently about the following labels? Do you grok that some may be linked to the same list?

    “The Establishment A List”
    “the Old-School A List”
    “A WhiteGuy Clique A List”
    “The ChickList”
    “A Women’s A List”
    “The WhiteGuy Clique A List”
    “Dave’s Faves: a Blogosphere A List”

    … and so on.

    Seems to me that a lot of the argument is about the implicit “one and only, pinnacle and summit” invisible adjective in “The A List”. The places I’ve seen it described as “Technorati A List” or “Technorati/AO Top 100″ made it less of a big deal than calling it “The” A List.

    But I’m not from around here, so I can cheerfully commit ignorant iconoclasm and happy heresy. The blogowhatzit? Is that important? I mean, c’mon. As I put in a comment elsewhere, “Blah blah venn diagram intersections thinking they’re origin in polar coordinate spaces blah blah ginger”.

    cheers,
    Strata

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