DIGG.com, Blogging, and the Evolution of Web 2.0

Blogging is the realm of the elite.

This was one striking sentiment echoed time and again in a recent blogging summit I attended (where I was a speaker/panelist on Pro-Blogging). The statement was in light of the following observations that several individuals–experienced and novice bloggers alike–share:

  • Majority of bloggers write in English, and (no matter the geographic location) not in the vernacular.
  • Bloggers and readers of blogs are usually those who have easy access to computers and Internet connectivity.
  • Access to podcasts is usually limited to those who have decent broadband connections.
  • Only the A-listers and those who have established credibility are read by a considerable audience.
  • More often than not, it’s the more affluent among society that have access to blogs and who usually blog themselves.

This is definitely contradictory to the claim that blogs and blogging–along with podcasts–have largely contributed to the democratization of the Web today. True, compared to five years ago, the Web is now teeming with more information that’s usually from the grassroots, or directly from us, the consumers of information, ourselves. It used to be that one could only get information online from a few established mainstream news portals; now bloggers provide information and opinions from their own perspectives. It used to be that information goes through various filters and editorial processes before being finally published; now most everything is instant.

Some consider this part of a concept they like to call this Web 2.0, or to summarize how Wikipedia puts it, among others:

  • Collaborative exchange of information
  • Organization with folksonomies, instead of taxonomies
  • Decentralized/mass-publishing through blogs, wikis, and podcasts
  • Web applications as computing platforms

However, if we take into consideration our earlier premise, that “blogging is the realm of the elite,” then the very goals that “Web 2.0” embodies might be in vain. In this case, I have reason to fear that “Web 2.0” would just turn out to be just another “Web 1.0” model in the making. It looks like we are but gradually moving into a state where the community aspect of the Web is losing out to dominance by a certain few.

Take for instance the recent critique on DIGG published here at ForeverGeek, which essentially poses the theory that DIGG is really not the community-driven website it was publicized to be.

This revolves around the theory that DIGG can be gamed. It’s either the articles promoted to the top spots are arbitrarily choosen by DIGG’s owners/managers, or that the voting can be artificially inflated with the use of automated tools, or a “DIGG army” of clicker-happy friends or employees. These are contrary to the claim that promotion to front-page is done by popularity, and it’s the community or the public who votes or “diggs” articles.

Either way, we come back to the concept that this area is essentially dominated by the elite–for DIGG, it’s either those who have administrative control over the site, or those who have the resources to run a campaign to artificially popularize their choice submissions.

Perhaps most have already laid down the issue, not without making their own conclusions and probably siding with whichever end of the debate (I find the issue close to my heart, as I’m both an FG contributor and a very avid DIGGer). However, it would be reasonable to theorize that this basic elitist concept can extend to the other areas where “Web 2.0” is supposed to empower the grassroots to have their say in the community.

With blogs, we’re beginning to see it. Even if millions of blogs are started everyday, most of these would die out with short lifespans. Those that survive will find authors struggling for readership amid the presence of A-listers or really popular bloggers, and blogging attempts by the mainstream media. It is also evident in the way most most bloggers write that almost everyone is just echoing everyone else–it is very rare to get one piece of original sentiment, information or commentary. And it is in the realm of the elite, the thought leaders, those with a say in how things are done, to come up with such original material.

And then what about other areas of collaboration? In collaborative endeavors such as wikis (i.e., Wikipedia), it is the ideal that anyone with valid information and updates can make revisions to any entry. But what’s stopping those in control from arbitrarily imposing heavier controls on the content and lockdowns to the public? And what’s stopping them from arbitrarily deciding to alter their site’s content in a way advantageous only to them?

I could go on and on, looking for signs that other currently “progressive” applications are actually just normalizing into becoming clones of their traditional counterparts. Then agian, I could be downright wrong–and quite paranoid–with my generalizations. But considering that we humans are fond of repeating mistakes of the past, and that in statistics, no matter how radical an outlier we have, we end up with most nearing the average, then my arguments might just have a point.

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