The Cluetrain Manifesto was written at the end of the 90s, and it catches and reflects the spirit of that heady time. Back then, the hyperlink did feel like a subversive tool, a virtualized and more subtle version of a Molotov Cocktail. There didn’t seem to be much symmetry or plan to linking. It was messy – a free-for-all. And for those of us who aren’t fond of bureaucracies or artificial hierarchies, it was liberating. Or, at least, fun.
Carr goes on to say that we can no longer say that hierarchies aren’t squashed by linking, citing Doc Searls’s coverage of AOL vice chairman Ted Leonsis’s ability to draw his attention to himself through his status leading directly to the number of links he receives and therefore his search engine position. That’s the problem with using link popularity to dictate usefulness in the age of the blog; people are affected by the things they always were, and will blog content accordingly. I’m blogging this story, for example, because I found it on TechMeme, which looks at popular stories in technology blogs overall. Because the story is already popularly blogged, I’m blogging it again, and the story, Nicholas Carr and Doc Searls all have yet more popularity. Meanwhile, potentially interesting stories that haven’t been as popular in the blog universe remain untouched.
Clay Shirky has written about this; it’s called a power law distribution, and is observable in most walks of life. Again, the Internet isn’t a whole new universe with its own laws and rules; it simply makes it easier to communicate. The usual rules still apply.