I noticed this morning that there have been some changes at what is currently the most popular blog out there right now (I think, at least according to technorati– it’s one of my favorite reads at least), Boing Boing. The changes are captured in this post, “Welcome to the new Boing Boing!,” from Mark Frauenfelder. I’m not so interested in the new look (though it’s nice) or the spin-off bb gadgets blog (though I like gadgets, too). I am interested though in the change in their policy about comments:
We’re also happy to be reintroducing comments to Boing Boing, a feature we reluctantly dropped a couple of years ago. At that time, we lacked the resources to manage the comments, and felt that a lousy comment system was worse than no system at all, so we pulled the plug. We’ve never felt good about it, though, because our readers’ comments added a great deal of value to the blog. To correct this, we hired a terrific community manager to oversee the conversations: Teresa Nielsen Hayden. At her own blog, Making Light, Teresa has proven herself to be a wonderfully wise and talented tender of online conversations. Teresa worked closely with our designers to develop a commenting system that supports the Boing Boing community while preventing noise from drowning out the signal. “We want this new community system to make Boing Boing even more fun and informative,” says Teresa. Under her supervision, we’re sure it will be.
And then the other thing I find interesting is the number of people that Frauenfelder thanks for “helping make it all happen.” I don’t really know how many of these folks actually make a living at Boing Boing (after all, I think all of the main writers here have other jobs of various sorts), but there is a lot of advertising on the site, and, given Boing Boing’s popularity, I would assume that putting an ad on the site isn’t cheap. They’ve got to be making money hand over fist.
Now, I’m not against writers making money, and I certainly have no problem with the success that the Boing Boing folks have had. Good for them. But I do wonder about the extent to which sites like Boing Boing (or others out there that either are profitable or that aspire to be profitable) are still characteristically “blogs.” Back in the day, Rebecca Blood wrote The Weblog Handbook that the weblog is of course written by an individual and is of course not done for money. (I’m paraphrasing here, but I’m pretty sure that’s in her book some place.) I’m sure she’s changed her mind about these things in at least some ways since blogging has obviously changed in the last 10 years.
Still, it raises a good question especially in terms of my project: to what extent is blogging still an empowering “writerly” activity when it crosses over into money making? If the exigence for the rhetorical act becomes primarily a pay check, is it still– what word should I use here?– authentic? I dunno. I always resist criticism of novelist who make a lot of money, but I guess I’m still a little more resistant to the big bucks bloggers.
Regardless, I think I’d like to interview these Boing Boing folks for the BAWS project.