Well my Fractal Blogosphere concept seemed to generate some interest this week. I think it's the first article I've done that got picked up by the populace without the support of an A-Lister. By that I mean, it got linked to by many "normal" people and no A-Listers (as far as I know). However one person did steer loads of traffic my way. That was Andy Baio's waxy.org linkblog. His site is obviously very influential and having since checked it out, I can see why. Andy points to many interesting stories you won't find on the mainstream channels - e.g. the sad story of the decline of a Meat Puppet.
Meat Puppets was a band that will be forever linked to Nirvana's MTV Unplugged album - it featured 3 of their songs and they played on it. Kurt Cobain was apparently hugely influenced by the Meat Puppets music and attitude, and of course Cobain and Nirvana were hugely influencial on a mass scale in the 90's. So the rise and fall of Cris Kirkwood was a moving story for me and probably lots of other people of my generation and ilk. Come to think of it, are the Meat Puppets a metaphor for all those influential webloggers out there who write remarkable and original pieces but never seem to get Bloggies-type glory and adulation? You won't find them on the Bloggies short-list for Best Essay 2004, but you may find them on my blogroll. They are my 'Meat Puppets Bloggers', to coin a phrase. Not that I'm comparing myself to Nirvana! I'm more like The Modern Lovers ;-) My point is they are people who have influenced me a lot and continue to inspire me in my own writing and web development efforts.
And I suspect they don't want to be really popular. Because if they got famous, well maybe they'll turn into the weblog equivalent of Nirvana and begin to find the pressure of mass popularity too much to handle, thereafter spiralling down into a self-destructive whirl of "I hate myself and I want to die" articles. Or maybe they'd handle it just fine.
I think I better define what I mean by "influence". Here are the two top definitions of "Influence" in dictionary.com:
1. A power affecting a person, thing, or course of events, especially one that operates without any direct or apparent effort: relaxed under the influence of the music; the influence of television on modern life.
2. Power to sway or affect based on prestige, wealth, ability, or position: used her parent's influence to get the job.
For arguments sake, let's say the first definition is Influence by Content and the second definition is Influence by Authority. In the world we live in, the concepts of Influence and Celebrity are linked mostly because celebrities carry a lot of Influence by Authority. That theory carries over to the blogging world too. But what would happen in the blogging world if Influence by Content was the main criteria for Celebrity? If quality of ideas and originality of thought were rewarded with celebrity status. Would Influence by Authority eventually infect and poison that Celebrity? Or would the Nirvana self-destruct principle apply, because such an original and intelligent person can't handle Celebrity? In an ideal world, Influence by Content and Celebrity would link together naturally and happily ever after. But how realistic is that?
The other thing my Fractal Blogosphere article taught me this week is the value of people who make constructive and forward-thinking contributions to a meme, such as Andrew Chen. There are lots of people in the blogosphere who are positive, but they often get drowned out by the naysayers. As I commented over on Andrew's blog, it's very easy to throw stones at glasshouses. It's a lot more difficult, but ultimately far more rewarding, to build new glasshouses or extend existing ones.
I always think of my weblogging experience as an exploration. I explore ideas, analyse them, think up new concepts. I skim stones over ponds and create ripples. Those ripples fan out and intersect with ripples created by other people. Maybe some people want to throw parties at the pond, splash around and have some fun. More ripples, perhaps waves. That's fine by me. But I think we can do without the people who throw rocks in ponds just to create a noisy splash and upset the current of other peoples thoughts.
I say leave the eddies and currents of the Web to mix together of their own accord. Let ideas intertwine and flow. Kind of like when Nirvana mixed their music with Meat Puppets. Look at what resulted from that - a beautiful and hugely influential record.