Living in the Echo Chamber

Posted on 11/26/2004 in misc

Robert Scoble, MS geek blogger, gives us a great example of life in the echo chamber.

By the way, I really don't understand why the press thinks there's a browser war underway. The real war is between RSS and HTML. At the recent Gnomedex conference about 80% of the attendeesaid they were using a news aggregator. That's a HUGE shift in behavior and has far deeper consequences than a browser choice does.

Huh? There were about 250 people at Gnomedex - all of them hardcore geeks. Yet, to Scoble, a change in behavior amongst them represents a seismic shift in the overall market. Of course, he might just be trying to distract us from the fact that his employer makes a browser that sucks.

He's wrong. Very wrong. The vast majority of the Internet using public has no clue what RSS is. When we first launched I had a Subscribe link and Michelle got several emails and IM's from friends that were totally confused by it. I changed the label to RSS feed - in the hopes they would just ignore it if they didn't know what RSS was. My example is just an anecdote - not unlike Scoble's Gnomedex example. However, I'm very certain my example is much more representative of the public comfort level with RSS.

The only surprising thing about Scoble's Gnomedex story is that 20% of the hardcore geeks aren't using a newsreader of some sort.

We are not in the majority. We are not even close. I'm not convinced blogs have even hit the mainstream yet. They might be close - the flurry of news articles related to the election coverage raised awareness greatly.

There is a tendency among some bloggers to try and make this stuff way more important than it really is. It's publishing, personal publishing. Thomas Paine was doing it 250 years ago. It's faster, cheaper, and more convenient than older forms of publishing, but it's still just publishing. It's just an incremental improvement. Bloggers are not doing anything unique or new.

Some people point to Dan Rather as some sort of watershed moment. I don't think so. Publishers have had to deal with detractors and competition since Gutenberg built his second press. Back in the old days, major cities had 8 or 10 daily newspapers. Anybody with an opinion on the news, and access to a press, could put out a daily to refute something in another daily. Again, faster, cheaper and more convenient today? No argument from me. But it's hardly revolutionary.

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