WNY Small Worlds

Everyone seems to assume that new technologies tend to decenter and diversify social ties. I think the best example of this is the degree of contact undergraduates have with their parents these days, even when they are “away” from home for school.

But it also seems to tie together people in the “medium range”–what once might have been called the community. These are communities of interest that retain some degree of regionalism. Of course, meetups and similar events represent the most explicit case of this.

In a more personal sense, though, blogs have served an interesting role as matchmaker. John Schull recently tracked me down as part of a serendipitous path through the blogosphere, for example, and I have more than once been unnerved by meeting someone who reads my blog regularly (and thus knows far more about me than I know about them).

I think this is an important issue when it comes to identities and weblogs. The best blogs I read are clearly identified with the author(s). That’s why I have names on my blogroll whenever possible. There is something about have clear ties to reality that seems to affect the quality–not always, but often.

As the blogging trend continues to grow — and the entry of AOL will constitute a tsunami here — there will be a lot more out there to sift through. I think that some of the tools at our disposal already put us in a better position than the Web as a whole was in during its explosion in the mid 1990s, but we need to be able to find tools that allow us to locate the good stuff, but maintain the kind of random connections blogs now allow. Increasingly, the Web is no longer “surfed,” in large part because connective hypertext has become a rarity outside of blogs.

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  1. barb
    Posted 1/13/2003 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

    Like, if someone you aren’t sure you really like but need to work with reads your blog all the time and then mentions it when you talk, and then you’re like…hmm, this person might have some brains if they’re that interested in what I have to say. It could happen.

  2. alex
    Posted 1/14/2003 at 12:25 am | Permalink

    Barb: Is this irony/sarcasm? Neither translates to the web well. I expected you to read my blog. To know me is to blog me. I was thinking of the truly random folks, like students who have never taken my classes who come up to me and start talking about my dog and my weekend. Or like people who email me out of the blue because something in my blog struck them. In most cases, like the one mentioned here, that is really cool. In one or two cases, it’s slightly creepy.

    I guess part of this is that I would expect it if I got a lot more traffic. Only about 40 people a day read my blog–I think I spiked at 200 one day–and I figure about a quarter of those, based on the google searches, etc, get here fairly randomly rather than being regulars. Some of those hits are interesting: playboy.com, In-Q-Tel (a CIA venture capital company–they haven’t called :), a luxury hotel in Geneva. It’s the lurking regulars that sometimes freak me out a little.

    And now that I’ve written this, I realize that not just you but many others who have emailed me about things on my blog are worried that I’m talking about them. Just forget I said anything! None of you are weird; at least not in a bad way. I love you all, I’m just borderline agoraphobic, and sometimes this feels a bit agora-ee.

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