Jul 30, 2005

schoolyard fights by way of the web

The rise of blogging has had some unusual results. The one I've been noticing more and more lately is the seemingly endless rounds of catfighting that go on in the tech community. I'm sure you've seen them before - Mac vs. Microsoft, Microsoft vs. open source, RSS vs. Atom, etc. I won't mention names or point to blogs. I think the writers tend to get off on those kind of referrals.

If you read a number of tech blogs you've probably come across this catfighting that is reminiscent of high school. It usually involves lots of name calling, taunts, whining, enlisting friends (sympathetic bloggers) to your cause, and an attempt at intellectual one-up-manship by way of fact distortion. This in turn creates a set of catfights in the comments sections. And it all plays out in slow motion compared to the high school versions I was witness to.

Even journalists are getting more involved in this kind of thing - in this case those at the tech rags (cnet, zdnet, the register, etc.) Many of these sites have 'blogs' and it's almost as if the name blog allows these writers to become more whiny and more taunting and more personal.

It does get tiresome but on some level these guys (and it is largely guys) are showing you a lot more leg by doing this. When it was just professional journalism, attacks and cuts at technology or people were more veiled. Now they're more like a slap in the face. You know exactly where everyone stands.

It was like the journalists were standing around minding their manners, behaving properly, and getting to class on time. And then the bloggers stormed into the school smoking cigarettes, cranking AC/DC, and starting foodfights. The first response of the journalists was to call them a bunch of hooligans and make fun of their Pink Floyd t-shirts and long hair. But after getting hit in the face one too many times with soy burgers or beef stroganoff, the journalists have decided to take off their argyle sweaters and put up their dukes. They are starting to toss overcooked brocolli back at the bloggers.

The other benefit of this is the really good writers stand out. The ones who bring well thought out ideas and facts shine in comparison to this melee going on in the background. It's like the cool brave kid who comes in and stops the fight.

I guess this kind of thing must have been going on for years but through other channels the masses didn't see. For better or worse the rise of blogs has brought this kind of catfighting to the masses. It's like Ultimate Fighting Championship with tech geeks.


Anonymous said...

the new york times book review has a good article today about blogs and mainstream journalism. while not exactly equivalent to the flamewars related to technology, i think there's a fair amount of crossover.

one primary point of the article is that blogs have made the entry cost of publishing (nearly) zero, which tends to have a number of interesting effects. it's like throwing stinky broccoli at people in one school cafeteria while you're actually eating in another — bloggers can say what they want because they don't have to answer to advertisers or other interests that can influence their content. it's a marketplace of ideas without economic forces to govern their expression.

C. Fuzzbang said...

Saw that yesterday. Great article. He touches on different points but I think he nails what's going on right now. It was a great NYTimes overall.