MetaTalk/Blogroots - killing the conversation
December 9, 2003 12:46 PM   Subscribe

Why did closing off weblog-related MetaTalk content and moving to the dedicated Blogroots seem to kill the conversation? [more inside]

There used to be a thread every day or two, with dozens of comments related to weblog inside baseball on MetaTalk. Blogroots gets an update maybe twice a month, with 2 or 3 comments tops.

Does this reflect people's waning interest in the meta-weblog issues, or is it related to the site change? Or has the weblog-related-talk just migrated to people's individual blogs?
posted by adam to Computers & Internet (14 answers total)
Mostly I think it was the loss of convenience. You had to go to a new URL, you had to sign up a new account, and you had to follow it in a separate place.

There are also the differences between the two places, where all things MetaFilter is loose and free, Blogroots always screened the posts first and spent half the space hawking a book. Most posts in MetaTalk were very tech support-ish, whereas Blogroots was supposed to be confined to major news within the blogging world.

I don't know if it's that people don't feel like talking about blogging, there seem to a be a zillion sites setup for it, though I'm pretty unenthusiastic when it comes to talking about blogs at length (writing tens of thousands of words about them tends to do that to you :).
posted by mathowie at 1:15 PM on December 9, 2003

Yay! Blogs are finally just tools again!
posted by machaus at 1:40 PM on December 9, 2003

A tool for oppression of the masses! Down with blogs!

Blogroots always screened the posts first and spent half the space hawking a book

Funny how some things go like stink and others just kinda don't. I've always wondered about the factors that make things like that happen. On the surface of it, you'd think Blogroots had everything going for it to make it a vibrant community, and other than the book-hawking aspect (and the post-screening Matt mentioned), very few negatives.

Proven format, hothothot subject, micro-celebrities at the helm, built-in membership (through MeFi etc)...

posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:36 PM on December 9, 2003

Just seems like a very narrow topic to cover with very few possible (quality and non-redundant) links. As long as the subject was at metafilter it didn't take much effort to participate. But to move such a concentrated topic to its own domain with its own registration and rules seemed like a stretch.

micro-celebrities at the helm

I think that's part of the problem. The three who started blog roots are (of course) some of the biggest names in blogging. But recently their participation has dwindled. It appears the last link posted (by the big three) was oct 5. So we're going on three months where the three who don't even have to get their links approved have (apparently) found nothing link worthy.

And I'm NOT blaming them. I'm sure they're all very busy. Plus they all run their own prolific blogs (some several), have jobs, family, take trips to iceland etc ;). Not to mention that their book (as I understand it) was the catalyst for the site, and its been out for a while now. But I think a greater participation by the owners would certainly give blogroots a big boost (I personally would love to see more of their opinions).

For example, the latest link at blogroots deals with pc magazine rating blog tools. Blogger, who, of course, was started by a team that included pb, megnut, and mathowie, came in dead last with a 2 out of 5 rating. They were beat by everyone, livejournal, tripod, and other sites I've never heard. That seems startling to me. Blogger, with all its history and huge influence, is now last? What happened? What could be more interesting that hearing the opinions from those that started at pyra (and left)? Or from present blogger employees like Jason Shellen? Or Ev? What about Anil Dash's reaction to typepad/movabletype doing so well? But there is no reaction. And I'm guessing if there is a reaction from those I mentioned it will be on their personal blogs (which I completely understand).

I have my own opinions on why blogger seems to have been surpassed by the competition even when they had such a head start. But my opinion would pale in comparison to those I mentioned and not hold 1/1000th of the weight or credence.

When we started sportsfilter there were many times when the only links supplied were by the original nine. Many times there were very few comments. But we were relentless and now the site basically runs on its own (and is actually growing faster than we were prepared). I'll be the first to admit, however, that the topic of sports is much wider than blogroots, and having nine people at the top puts less pressure on each individual. I've gone a few months myself without posting but felt no guilt as I knew there were the other eight to pick up the slack.

Anyway, that's my 2 cents.
posted by justgary at 10:38 PM on December 9, 2003

micro-celebrities at the helm

I don't know... I've come across things once or twice that I thought might be interesting for blogroots, but I had the feeling "who am I to submit?" - I'm by no means any kind of expert, and don't even use blogging software (yet) for my semi-bloggish page. Blogroots just always seemed to me something for the "higher-ups".
posted by taz at 1:31 AM on December 10, 2003

What about Anil Dash's reaction to typepad/movabletype doing so well?

That's a good question... I did actually mention on my personal site (well, in a comment that's not even immediately visible) that I was really proud of our team for getting such high recognition for our work.

But the larger question of why I didn't post on that particular subject at BlogRoots (and I did consider doing so, actually) has a lot to do with human nature and with the fact that we're all in a blogging "industry" these days. For example, I wouldn't generally comment on Blogger's showing in that article because I've noticed that if I were to level a criticism (legitimate or not) at the service, it'd be seen as sour grapes, and if I were to offer praise to the service, it'd be seen as either ass-kissing or insincere. That damned-if-you-do sense takes a lot of the joy out of the conversation.

The business side of things is a big deal, too. If I say "hey, Tripod had a really good showing", I'll get an email saying "do you know if they're doing any deals? is Google going to buy them?" and even if I knew the answers to any of that and were willing to share them via email with a stranger, I just don't have the time to handle all the conversations.

I don't mean to sound like I'm complaining, as I'm more excited about weblogs and the potential of blogging than I have been in in a long time. Indeed, the core community of "blog industry" people that justgary refers to are people whom I find among the most interesting to have a conversation with.

For context, not to drop names: Part of the reason I'm in a good mood today is I got to talk to Meg this afternoon about where we think blogs are going, and it was just a good old-fashioned bullshitting session. I've been talking to Meg about blogs in one way or another for years, but to finally say "hey, people know what blogs are now, what does that portend?" is a good feeling, but not one that translates well to a site like Blogroots, I think. Maybe I'm just too sensitive to all the charges of elitism or in-jokery that have been levelled over the years.

I've been thinking about this stuff a lot lately... almost nobody who's in the "blog industry" (god i can't type that without scare quotes, even though it is a legitimate industry now) writes much regularly about the field of work we're in. I think almost everyone else talks about things that are related to their personal lives, like non-blog life events or maybe press coverage.

I would love to see more of the people who are new to blogs submit their opinions on posts on Blogroots; I'm always really excited when a name I don't recognize has an insight or perspective there that I haven't seen on weblogs. I'm fortunate, if I feel really strongly about a feature in a weblog tool, I can call up Ben and Mena at home and file my feature request. Or if I want to congratulate the Blogger guys on an achievement, I can just wrap a note around the brick that I throw through the windows at Google's offices.

I suppose my reasons for not posting at Blogroots are the oppposite of taz's, above. I think some of us are *over* represented in our influence on the weblog industry, and we're in positions these days which require us to err on the side of restraint in our public communication. That means it's an opportunity for people with new perspectives to get more prominence for their ideas, and to perhaps be critical in ways that those of us on the "inside" can't be, and I think that's a great opportunity.

Anyway, I'm rambling. Thanks for provoking some deep thinking on this end.
posted by anildash at 3:30 AM on December 10, 2003

In my opinion, Blogroots was doomed to diminishing returns (as opposed to the ever-expanding MetaFilter empire) because of the screening of posts.

1. Screening posts discourages participation by otherwise gung-ho members by a) delaying their post while it's evaluated by the "big three," and b) frustrating and disappointing those whose post are not accepted. How many of those who had posts denied actually submit again? (I know I have, but I imagine many have not.) In some cases, the delay between submission and post may also take some of the interest away from a post, in cases where the topic is of-the-moment.

2. Screening relies on the on-going interest and active participation of creators, who, as Matt noted, may not want to talk about blogs much anymore. If the gatekeepers are burnt out, how likely are they to remain active and to maintain the momentum of the site by approving posts on a regular and timely basis?

I don't know if it's possible to reverse the downward trend at this late stage, but I think removing the screening system could have allowed a community to grow at a natural rate while putting far fewer demands on Matt, Paul and Meg. I mean, with such a narrow focus, how many inappropriate/off-topic posts could there be?
posted by me3dia at 10:07 AM on December 10, 2003

Screening might have discouraged some participation but I think the bigger factor is the lack of feedback. Blogroots is less "Weblog as conversation" and more "Weblog as soliloquy".

Have you ever seen people lining up to get in a restaurant while a nearby restaurant sits empty? It isn't always because the one is a better restaurant than the other; people just like going where the crowd goes.

People don't participate in Blogroots because there are so few people participating – it's a vicious cycle. If I want to write something that few will read and even fewer respond to, I've got my own weblog.
posted by timeistight at 10:38 AM on December 10, 2003

In general, I just think Blogroots kind of sucks. We anticipated making it a really cool weblog resource, and had hoped to put all the chapters of our book online, encourage discussions, link to tools and reviews, etc. But for various reasons, a lot of that didn't pan out. I think the post approval process probably diminished discussions. I think our experience with our publisher (and interactions with them) diminished our enthusiasm for putting the book online (and the fact that they didn't want the whole book online at once and expected us to take down chapters in order to post new ones certainly killed our motivation to post chapters). And perhaps a bit of weblog burnout got mixed in. I know my participation has always been pretty minimal on the site, though I wish it weren't that way. I don't think Matt, pb, or I really put much time into Blogroots -- not the way we've put time into other labors of ours -- and I think that's reflected in what the site is today.

A few months ago we discussed what to do with Blogroots: pour some energy back into it now that weblogs are getting even bigger, leave as is, or shut it down for good. I'd be curious to hear what other people think could/should be done with it.
posted by megnut at 11:46 AM on December 10, 2003

Maybe make it a section of MetaFilter (i.e., and see if the existing MetaFilter userbase sparks more discussion and interest.
posted by timeistight at 1:14 PM on December 10, 2003

I'd second TimeIsTight's suggestion.
posted by anildash at 2:16 PM on December 10, 2003


(Assuming the post-screening element is eliminated.)
posted by me3dia at 2:38 PM on December 10, 2003

Fourth, with support for me3dia's request.
posted by gen at 6:44 PM on December 10, 2003

Hey, I was gonna say that, but then I got scared and didn't post because now that the two have become the three, it's holy writ that the three shall become the many, and I just don't have enough free time for all them subdomains!

Maybe back to a MetaTalk category instead?
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:06 AM on December 11, 2003

« Older Hot Coffee vs Iced Coffee   |   Unions Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.