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Maybe this is a naive observation, but it seems to me that the metaphor underlying this notion of fairness economic competition in an open marketplace is the wrong one. It treats blogs as micropublications rather than networking tools, and the blogosphere as a broadcast market where channels view for viewers, rather than as a random access database that can accomodate and facilitate all possible queries. The Shirky paradigm is like trying to analyze a telephone system in terms of which users receive the most calls. In the U.S., 911 and 411 would top the A-list, no doubt. But the point of blogging is to compile information and make it available to others who might need or want it. Where the blogosphere has so far failed is in developing applications that make it easy to find such information. Most of the blogging ecosystem tools are like a telephone system whose white pages (the various blogdexes and social networking tools) list numbers by frequency of calls in, or like a library card catalogue arranged by number of checkouts. That doesn't make it very easy for me to find kosher pizzerias that deliver in my neighborhood, or books on recent trends in igloo construction, which is what I really need and want.

Stewart Butterfield

The philosopher in me cannot resist. Two points:

1 - The interesting question, IMO, is: why does anyone think that "the blogosphere" is the kind of thing to which notions of justice and fairness apply? (Subsidiary to that: why do you think of the blogosphere as an "institutional structure"?)

2- "Since there exists no unarbitrary way of drawing the line that separates the A-list from the B-list ..." This is bad reasoning, IMO. There is no non-arbitrary way or demarcating living things from non-living things (even if you think there is a clear distinction between simple single-celled organisms, viruses, various crystals, autocatalytic sets, etc., there are many vague states between, say, a living fish and a dead fish, as some particular fish is dying. But there are clearly moments when *that* is a dead fish and when it is a living fish.

There are clearly tall people and short people, and ... yea, verily, there are bald men and men with full heads of hair, and certainly there are heaps and single grains of sand. Sorites had a neat paradox, but we _ought_ not let paradoxes govern our every day reasoning :)

Clay Shirky

Fair cop on reason #4. I should have separated it from the others, as Marko has done, becuase it is a critique of descriptions of the weblog world, rather than a description of that world itself.

If I had to re-state that idea, I would say "The idea of an A-list suffers from great vagueness, because power law distributions are self-similar. No matter who you are, _everyone_ to the left of you gets more traffic or links (whichever you are ranking) than you do." (This holds true even in the Glenn Reynolds edge-case, as no one is to his left.)

In other words, in a power law distribution, the sense that a lot of people are getting more X than you is always true, even if you are getting a lot more X than most people (Glenn fails this restated test). Thus locating anything like an A list suffers not from the kind of "living/non-living" edge case Stewart notes, but from an inability to find any locus of the two categories at all other than the 1st and Nth positions. Not only are the edge cases blurry, the "center" doesn't exist at all.

Edward Vielmetti

Perhaps one way of restating the A-list / B-list phenomenon is to note that even people who are on the putative "A-list" of blogging are guaranteed not to be on some other "A-list". No one can simultaneously be an A-list blogger, rock star, politician, and cafe regular -- or name any of thousands of other categories -- all at once.

This is actually quite reassuring - it suggests that with only modest amounts of work you or anyone can be on *some* A-list somewhere. Even if it's only the A-list for your neighborhood's block party.

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