Review of Blog! by Daniel Burstein and David Kline

On: October 5, 2006
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About Pepijn Uitterhoeve
I'm Pepijn, a veteran Utopia player (and gamer in general). I intend to write my master thesis on Utopia, and focus mainly on the cooperative aspects. Some more stuff about me may be found here: http://peppie.wordpress.com/about/

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Blog! How the newest media revolution is changing politics, business and culture is a collection of interviews interlaced with a few (short) articles about weblogs. The book is from 2005, which is cool since the subjects talked about are often fresh in your memory, and a slightly more balanced view is given of the blogosphere (as opposed to the over?enthusiastic literature from the earlier blogging days)

However, the book is still generally blatantly enthusiastic. It features two or three articles with a nuanced or reserved tone about the future of blogging, but most of the content is mainly shamelessly celebrating the blogphenomenon. With that said, reading the book could be compared to eating chocolate – you know it’s bad for you, but it tastes so good! As long as the reader keeps in mind where the authors are coming from and that there is no direct voice given to the opposition of the blogosphere, it is a good read and leaves you with a warm fuzzy feeling of (careful) optimism and hope.

About the authors

Dan Burstein is a journalist with a heavy economical leaning. He has been writing about economics a lot and is involved with a number of companies and funds. Curiously enough, he has also written books commenting on The DaVinci Code.

David Kliner seems (despite his appearance) to be a legendary journalist-slash-hero, having braved locales such as 1979 Afghanistan, 1983 Ethiopia and cocaine-ridden Bolivia. If that was not enough, he has written for several prestiguous journals and magazines such as Harvard Business Review and Wired. Like his comrade Daniel Burstein, he too has come to tilt heavily towards economy and business.

About their book

The book is a collection of generally optimistic essays and interviews, the focus being on the latter. It is divided in three parts: politics, business and culture. However, the culture section is rather chaotic; there is not really anything that clearly ties the articles and interviews together except for the financial undertone. I’d have called it ‘politics, business, and unsorted’.

There is a strong economical current throughout the entire book; often questions of money and marketing are laced through the interviews and articles. The book tries to cover too much ground for my tastes;for instance, there is one article Dan and Dave borrowed from Emily Nussbaum regarding the sparsely mentioned fact that the overwhelming majority of blogs are teenager-powered. Despite apparently having a massive numeral presence (Nussbaum claims 90% of all blogs (!) in the arena of individual expression and publishing, the authors have failed to pay much attention to it.

There are other missing voices in their book, such as a glaring lack of oppositionary poins of view. Notwithstanding three articles that attempt to nuance the bloghype, most of the pieces smell heavily of enthusiasm and optimism. While it makes for a pleasant happy read, you can not help but wonder if there are any elaborately argumented pieces written by advocates of the mainstream media who may oppose blogs. In this regard, the authors mirror more or less political blogs which are notorious for their fierce political leanings. Burstein and Kline seem similarly lopsided.

Another minor problem, which unfortunately seems unavoidable, is that many of the people interviewed, as well as the articles, keep explaining what weblogs are. After reading about the tenth definition of what constitutes a weblog, and finding out that it unsurprisingly resembles the previous nine definitions, things start to get a little tedious. Many interviewees also unknowingly parrot eachother; the same predictions and opinions keep surfacing. In each interview or article you will find three or four refreshing facts and insights into blogging, but most of the content you will have read before in the previous articles.

Another thing I found curious is that the poltiics section is heavily dominated by interviews with leftist bloggers and activists despite the mention that the top five political blogs in the United States consist of four conservative blogs and but one liberal blog. I won’t complain about the semi-subliminal leftwing leaning of the book, but I can imagine that conservative readers might find it annoying that they are underrepresented.

The main thing that readers will observe however is the emphasis the writers give to the financial viability of blogging. I am not talking about how the argument is made that blogs partially became successful due to the fact they are free of charge; this should be a given to those acquainted with the blog hype. Both authors however keep asking the people they interview about the financial side of their blogging, and keep musing in their articles about ways money can be made out of blogging and untapped markets can be effectively indexed and accessed. While it is refreshing to see two economical journalists being optimistical and assertive about the blogging phenomenon, a little less focus on the dollars in blogging would have likely provided a more balanced read.

I do want to stress that Dave and Dan are not blindly utopian about blogs. They do address most if not all the dangers, downsides and critiques that cling to blogging. It is just that the people voicing these concerns are not given a chance to say their part, and in effect the authors effortlessly relativize the problems riding with blogs or claim that the good bits outweigh the bad.

All in all the book provides a variety of (optimistic) views on blogs and the blogosphere; most articles will mention something fresh about blogging that you had not previously realized or known. It is definitely a recommended read for anyone interested in the subject of blogs and society. And you can’t help feeling a little bit better or happier about politics in general after reading Kline and Burstein’s work.

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