The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

I'll have fewer mouseclick options all this week, as I embark upon my self-imposed no-blog news diet.

Simply put: Starting today and extending through the end of Saturday, I will not direct my browser (or newsfeed reader, although I don't regularly use one of those) toward any sort of blog. I will not click on any of the links in my blogroll, I won't click through to any links on other sites that point to a blog, and I won't even visit news aggregator sites (like Blogdex and Daypop) that include blog results. The goal is a blog-free online existence for the whole week.

After the end of this week, I'll be given a short quiz by Steve Rubel at Micro Persuasion (whose own all-blog news diet inspired this) to see just how abreast of things I was without having blogs as part of my media consumption.

Why do this? Rubel's blog-exclusive exercise was meant to show how extensively blogs have penetrated the online media landscape, and whether or not that penetration was complete enough that one could rely solely on them instead of traditional media sources for keeping current. The results were somewhat mixed. I think an experiment with the opposite criteria would serve as a good counterbalance to Rubel's test.

I'm especially interested in seeing if this demonstrates how much of the daily topic lists that fly around the blogosphere--in a range of subjects--are reflected in the larger mainstream media. A very recent example of this is the controversy, on a couple of blogging-related fronts, surrounding Dave Winer. As I illustrated it last week:
However, consider that, for a variety of reasons, certain news items generate different levels of enthusiasm within the blogosphere than they do in the mainstream media. A quick check at Popdex and Blogdex today illustrates this: Along with broadbased stories like the death of Ray Charles, relatively obscure items like "10 Super Foods You Should NEVER Eat!" and a list (from 2000!) showing how some globe-spanning corporations outrank small countries' GDPs top the most-popular rankings on these online news aggregators. This effect has been noted widely within the blogging world, often critically as creating an echo chamber environment.
I'll deal with any grey areas as/if they come up. Many specialized news sites are getting closer and closer to being structured like blogs; those will be off-limits. (If assumptions about more sites taking on blog-like characteristics is true, then my timing on this might be ideal; anotehr six months, and it might be impossible to make a distinction.) Basically, I'll be going on my gut instincts: If it looks like a blog to me, it'll come off my monitor screen.

The blogs listed on this page are obvious first casualties. While only a couple of them regularly do news-aggregation as a core mission, most of them include a good sampling of current events, especially of the offbeat-news kind that, I've found, I might not otherwise find out about. Off the blogroll, Poynter's E-Media Tidbits is pretty much the kind of blog-like news aggregator that I'll have to avoid (and whose daily summary I'll have to promptly delete from my work email inbox). Other, less-frequent destinations will also have to be abandoned.

So, let's begin. I won't provide daily updates on this; I'll probably post something of a status report by midweek, and then a short wrap-up on Saturday, followed by quiz questions and results early next week. Otherwise, it should business as usual, for the most part, around here.