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Attack of the blogs!

“Web logs are the prized platform of an online lynch mob spouting liberty but spewing lies, libel and invective. Their potent allies in this pursuit include Google and Yahoo.” Daniel Lyons

I was immediately drawn to the newsstand this morning, as I glanced over and saw the cover of Forbes:

I will admit to reading the whole thing standing in the middle of the sidewalk. I was enthralled and appalled by the content, somewhat wishing my dad didn’t know I am a “blogger”. What will he think of me? What about Grandma?

Here is the thing. This is the most negative generalization I have read. A few excerpts:

“Blogs started a few years ago as a simple way for people to keep online diaries. Suddenly they are the ultimate vehicle for brand-bashing, personal attacks, political extremism and smear campaigns. It’s not easy to fight back: Often a bashing victim can’t even figure out who his attacker is. No target is too mighty, or too obscure, for this new and virulent strain of oratory. Microsoft has been hammered by bloggers; so have CBS, CNN and ABC News, two research boutiques that criticized IBM’s Notes software, the maker of Kryptonite bike locks, a Virginia congressman outed as a homosexual and dozens of other victims—even a right-wing blogger who dared defend a blog-mob scapegoat.”

“’Bloggers are more of a threat than people realize, and they are only going to get more toxic. This is the new reality,’ says Peter Blackshaw, chief marketing officer at Intelliseek, a Cincinnati firm that sifts through millions of blogs to provide watch-your-back service to 75 clients, including Procter & Gamble and Ford.”

“The combination of massive reach and legal invulnerability makes corporate character assassination easy to carry out.”

“Many repeat things without bothering to check on whether they are true, a penchant political operatives have been quick to exploit.” (finally some are spared)

You can read the full article here. [Free registration required]

While it cites examples of bad blogging and irresponsible individuals it fails miserably in highlighting those who actually do good (which I will not list here), and the benefits that blogging has had on individual societies, and the world as a whole. It is also hard to gauge the perception of Forbes’ readers, and what their reaction will be to this article. Will they write to the editor? Will they resort to blogging? Will they put the magazine aside and forget about it?

Is this article as irresponsible as the blogs it is bashing?

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ENTRY DETAILS
ARCHIVE ID 2460 FILED UNDER Discussion
PUBLISHED ON Nov.02.2005 BY bryony
WITH COMMENTS
Comments
Matt’s comment is:

Oh no! People criticized Microsoft, big media companies and Lotus Notes? Where will the madness end??

I haven't yet taken the time to read the whole article, but this excerpt sounds a little, well, insane.

Yes, there are poison bloggers out there. But there are plenty of other outlets for people to bash things.

Not long ago I saw an apparently homeless man standing on a street corner yelling and giving a "thumbs down" to every Ford car that passed by. I have no idea what his motivation was, but I doubt that he affected many people's perceptions of Ford. (Who knows, maybe he helped Ford out a little!)

This seems like a nifty way to blame the latest, probably-misunderstood thing for the world's ills. It does disturb me a bit to see this as a huge front-page item on Forbes. Have any bloggers attacked them lately?

Without being too political, I trust that most people are able to make up their own minds about , regardless of what bloggers or CNN or political spinsters try to sell us.

On Nov.02.2005 at 06:02 PM
Chris Rugen’s comment is:

Look out! Blogs are the new videogames/comics/rock 'n' roll/hip-hop! Lock up your children! How long before someone claims blogs distribute adult materials to children. Like any medium, particularly on the web, requires the consumer/reader to be informed and make intelligent decisions about who they believe and what they read.

The Forbes article is misleading to those who don't know anything about blogs and enraging to those who do. It's ludicrous. Oh no! Large manufacturing companies are suffering from consumer opinions! Boo hoo. Now our carefully constructed brands and marketing are subject to scrutiny! How can we keep lying effectively! This smells like another instance of large corporations trying to convince consumers that empowering consumers is bad for them.

It's a democratic medium with low barriers to entry. There will always be frothing zealots.

On Nov.02.2005 at 06:05 PM
Matt’s comment is:

I'm even more amused now that I've read the whole thing. I'm familiar with Groklaw and the whole SCO/IBM charade. I won't drone on, but let's just say that SCO launched a poorly-thought-out legal attack on a lot of companies, including IBM, Novell, RedHat and lots more.

I also thought it was fun that the author made it sound as though Six Apart actually operates every blog that uses Moveable Type, et. al.

Ironically, Forbes has its own blogs right there on the site. I'm getting confused now...

On Nov.02.2005 at 06:19 PM
Dave Werner’s comment is:

People have always had opinions; blogs give them a convenient and immediate platform to express and receive feedback on those opinions from a larger audience. The author of this story has just as much right to voice his praise of a company as I have to denounce it. It's called public opinion. I'll agree that discerning fact from fiction can often be difficult online, but I'm not forced to trust anything. I trust CNN, I trust the BBC; heck, I trust the Daily Show. I don't trust pikachufan77.blogspot.com. But hey, blogs are an easy scapegoat.

On Nov.02.2005 at 06:26 PM
monkeyinabox’s comment is:

Blogs should be very scary to big business. No longer can you mess over the little guy and get away with it (well as much as you used to).

Before the internet was around, if you got bad customer service or a faulty product, what could you do? Tell your friends or write letters to the Better Business Bureau but it wasn't easy to tell a lot of people or get feedback. Not many people walked down busy streets with a large sign voicing their protest or complaint.

When Usenet popped up it was easier to rant about bad companies or products to a larger audience, but it still was a technology that many people used, so basically you were preaching to the choir.

Blogs are nothing new, but they appeared on the scene when the internet was popular and more mainstream. And when you can infect Google with lot's of customer experiences and reviews it is something big. When a very popular blog says something about a product, the word gets out and more often it will be biased, but truthful.

These days with iPods and iTunes, podcasts are taking off as well and big business has more to fear than just blogs. The little guy has never had more power to voice their opinion to a large audience.

On Nov.02.2005 at 06:59 PM
pk’s comment is:

what's happening is actually two- or three- pronged. this is spoken from my personal experience.

first off, yes, some blogs are attacking brands and media outlets. it's a total david and goliath thing. some bloggers feel like this is their chance--finally!--to be the voice that makes an opinion, and they spout off willy-nilly. some of them really don't think about the consequences.

secondly, some bloggers are conflicted: they want to be called part of the media, but they refuse to acknowledge the responsibility of full media participation. it is one thing to be a gossip reporter; quite another to definitively state that you know things are happening.

i have to add here: i think one thing that bloggers do well is act as watchdogs for news agencies. there's a lot of misinformed reportage that weblogging clears up, especially in times of crisis.

thirdly, the media is attacking back right now. plain and simple. that's where this article's coming from. i can't say i blame them. they've been dealing with this for years now, and things have been getting more shrill over the past couple.

i was part of a panel a few weeks ago in which members of the advertising industry asked me what my former client gawker media (i recently ended the relationship) was doing to measure their results and more effectively target their audiences. the answer is: not much. this is amateur media, not professionals. gawker's found a loophole where they can actually be professionals--by dealing in gossip. other bloggers haven't quite realized the distinction yet. bit of a mess.

On Nov.02.2005 at 08:51 PM
pk’s comment is:

i also forgot to add: i think this is only getting the cover story because it's happening so loudly in new york's literary circles, and so a lot of magazine publishers--including forbes--are feeling this heat more than the rest of the country. the article's probably a little overstated from a lack of perspective.

On Nov.02.2005 at 08:58 PM
ravenone’s comment is:

Anything new and fairly popular will have it's share of people who will freak out and claim it's the next bad thing, capable of turning your children into drug-dealing, gun-toting war-causing thugs.

I've gone through various fights with my mom about the 'dangers' of -Reading too much, Writing Too Much, Drawing too much, Watching TV, Videos, DVDS, the Internet...

and since graduating from college I'm now away from my mom and free to sit back and watch the next phase of "this fad is evil" pass me by without being in the firing line.

This is not to say that all blogs are good. But a blog is neither good nor bad. It's a tool, a THING. People will have opinions no matter what, and will find a way to express themselves. Blogs are just another way of doing that.

On Nov.03.2005 at 12:23 AM
Paul’s comment is:

The Cluetrain Manifesto said it best more than 5 years ago. Online transparency means more consumer power, more truth in politics, cutting out fatty middlemen, and a true democratization of the publishing freedoms bestowed upon us by our Constitution.

It is also up to each citizen to do his/her due diligence to decide whether the source is an authentic voice or just another crank.

As far as I know, libel and slander laws still apply on the internet, so businesses have the same recourse as they do offline.

Finally the playing field is levelling, and the fact that a major biz mag is putting it on the cover proves that bloggers are having the impact that was only a wispy dream a few short years ago.

On Nov.03.2005 at 12:38 AM
pk’s comment is:

i think heralding a new thing as inherently better because every voice is equally represented is misguided. personally, i don't think democracy is all that when it comes to the media. i prefer to see a mediascape where the most qualified voices are talking.

also, paul, re: your comment:

Online transparency means more consumer power, more truth in politics, cutting out fatty middlemen, and a true democratization of the publishing freedoms bestowed upon us by our Constitution

what we are experiencing is not online transparency. we are experiencing more of a town hall scenario, where anyone regardless of credibility or knowledgeability, can make a ruckus. also, many of the bloggers being referenced in this article are hiding behind anonymity. that's cowardice, not transparency.

while i do think it's good to have watchdogs for the media at this particular point since there's such a dearth of misreporting happening, there's a lot that goes out of control by the nature of the medium. town hall yelling can escalate to a witch hunt rather than a search for the truth in many cases.

also, i think we are seeing a distinct lack of recognition of qualified voices, since everything's shaking down so hard. it's difficult to decide who's speaking the clearest when everyone's shouting.

On Nov.03.2005 at 01:17 AM
James Cooney’s comment is:

I haven't read the full article, though it sounds interesting - if I have time before I catch my train this afternoon I'll try to pick it up. My question would be does this article differentiate between the different types and intents of blogs? For example, there is really an almost indisputable difference between something like Wonkette (which I love, mind you) and the likes of Speak-Up or Design Observer.

Across a variety of technical, and even non technical, but just niche, fields, there are blogs providing useful material that is of varying degrees of quality. Often, quite high and as good as print material. Then there is news or political commentatery that simply rails shrilly for or against this or that. Does Forbes differentiate?

Also, does this breakout of the same old corporate/advertiser whine fest? "Oh no, we can't control consumers 100%." The summary seems to point that it doesn't.

On Nov.03.2005 at 09:57 AM
Jason Tselentis’s comment is:

We're witnessing a moment when it’s not only about how often you write (published in print or on the web), but also about how well you write. A bigger question lingers underneath this, "What media matters most, print or digital?" Meeting the editors of AIGA's Voice (Heller) and Eye Magazine (Walters) at the AIGA Boston conference, I was torn between which of them I should submit my next manuscript to. Heller blatantly said, print is always better.

Online or on paper, for these voices to elevate over the noise and chatter, it comes down to how good a writer is at promoting their work and their image. Take a look at all the pieces written about “a call for criticism.” One has to wonder, is this about promoting criticism or the fact that a select group of writers are covering the subject of design. (There’s no such thing as bad publicity.)

Fast Company is right on in their criticism. I myself can't help but ask, How long the dear, diary blog will linger on? This has its place (and I'm as guilty as anyone of succumbing to romanticism and humanistic poetics), but this media offers much more than self-reflective nostalgia. Doesn’t it?

PK has a vaild point: qualified voices are an issue. I'm waiting for the next book from Allworth Press that will focus on these matters, Heller could title it How to be a graphic design critic and co-author with Poynor.

;-)

On Nov.03.2005 at 10:05 AM
pk’s comment is:

My question would be does this article differentiate between the different types and intents of blogs?

nope. it's blanket generalization. take a look; i was fairly entertained at how naive it was as to the different types of blogs. i was entertained to imagine a mommy blog editor writing to take down a major brand.

Also, does this breakout of the same old corporate/advertiser whine fest? "Oh no, we can't control consumers 100%." The summary seems to point that it doesn't.

there's a lot of that, too.

On Nov.03.2005 at 12:03 PM
sgj’s comment is:

Blogs are an interesting new annomaly, and one (primarily due to Speak Up) that I am personally finding more and more engaging every day. However, this medium is essential the Letters to the Editor section of any given publication…�sans editor.

With blogs, the reader must take on the responsibility of sifting through the entries, and deciding what information is relevant and worthy of persuing. The reader must become the editor. This is especially important when users come to blogs for decision-making information, news, and warnings (product based or otherwise). And one would hope that if users are getting their information from a blog, that they are at least verifying that info with other, none-blog sources. (i know this is asking a lot...)

My reactions to this article is one of disbelief, followed by disappointment. I am surprised that such a heavily anti-(anything) point of view is given top seed in this issue. I think aricles such as this definitely belong, but there is no mention of the benefits of blogging. Again, many readers will not take the time to formulate their own (informed) opinions, merely adopting this writer's generalized POV as their own. I feel like the editor-in-chief should have required an investigation on both sides of argument, and perhaps the debate itself (blogs. good or evil) should have been the focus of the coverstory.

On Nov.03.2005 at 12:10 PM
Bryony’s comment is:

A few pivotal problems I have with this article:

• there is not background info that truly explains what blogs are and how the work, kinds, industries, objectives, track record, etc.

• it deals with one (rather extreme) point of view

• due to lack of information, I find it to be misleading

It is easy to say we, as readers, have to decide what we do with the information, but we have to also take into account the trust that has been established with the publication(s). The more trust exists, the less we tend to question.

While we are responsible for absorbing and sifting through the information, I also think that Forbes failed to fulfill its own responsibility in providing full factual disclosure/information to help their audience draw an informed conclusion.

On Nov.03.2005 at 12:55 PM
Mike’s comment is:

Three words … Freedom of speech.

On Nov.03.2005 at 12:56 PM
Tan’s comment is:

I think it's the pot calling the kettle black.

Blogs are not journalism or editorial news in any traditional sense of that media. It's a public forum. The issue of uncontrolled, unsubstantiated slander via blogs is unfortunate — but nevertheless, it's protected by our constitutional right to free speech.

If anything, Forbes is masking its own mud-slinging under the guise of editorial news. It's protecting what it sees as the devaluation of traditional print editorial, and lashing out at a new public format which it has no involvement nor control of.

The net changed everything. Blogs are just the next step.

On Nov.03.2005 at 01:30 PM
Tan’s comment is:

>Freedom of speech

Mike beat me to the punch. I wondered how long it would take for someone to point out such an obvious violation.

>a distinct lack of recognition of qualified voices

Qualified = elitist.

On Nov.03.2005 at 01:36 PM
pk’s comment is:

Qualified = elitist.

not at all. by qualified, i mean qualified. someone who knows the issues and can prove it by disclosing their identity, their own knowledge on a subject, and the specific topic at hand.

example: i want proof that a design history blogger has double checked everything before reporting it as fact. i don't want someone who would say that futura was designed in the early 1970's (as a college professor once did to me) without bothering to check.

On Nov.03.2005 at 02:12 PM
Jason T’s comment is:

Qualified = elitist.

Please elaborate, Tan.

On Nov.03.2005 at 02:23 PM
Armin’s comment is:

Another thing that is wrong with the Forbes articles is that it is a year, year and a half, late. Most blogs — at least "worthwhile", popular and relevant blogs — have stepped up to the plate and tried to take responsibility of the content of their blogs and rant with their facts as straight as possible. Forbes' argument is tired and misguided.

When someone critiques a blog, they are critiquing people. Nothing is the blog's fault or success, it's the people behind the blog. So, reading the cover of Forbes, it might as well say "Attack of the people who now have a platform to say what's on their mind". Blogs are simply an amplifier for what people are already talking about at the watercooler, bars and over dinner.

On Nov.03.2005 at 02:29 PM
JonSel’s comment is:

Not to be too obnoxious, but how is this relevant to graphic design, beyond Speak Up being a graphic design blog?

On Nov.03.2005 at 03:33 PM
Chris Rugen’s comment is:

So, reading the cover of Forbes, it might as well say "Attack of the people who now have a platform to say what's on their mind".

That would've been great. I wonder if they would've gone with the same illustration.

On Nov.03.2005 at 03:35 PM
Armin’s comment is:

JonSel… It's not. But that's alright.

Even if our definition of design isn't inentionally broad, we like to be able to talk about many things.

On Nov.03.2005 at 04:28 PM
Bryony’s comment is:

Not to be too obnoxious, but how is this relevant to graphic design, beyond Speak Up being a graphic design blog?

It might not be design as we usually define it, but it has a lot to do with communication and responsibility. Something we work with every day.

On Nov.03.2005 at 05:15 PM
Michael Surtees’s comment is:

Here's some more info to scare corporations about blogs. Advertising Age has mentioned that U.S. workers in 2005 will waste the equivalent of 551,000 years reading blogs.

"About 35 million workers -- one in four people in the labor force -- visit blogs and on average spend 3.5 hours, or 9%, of the work week engaged with them."

You can read all about their stats at http://www.adage.com/news.cms?newsId=46494 (login required)

On Nov.03.2005 at 06:01 PM
Tan’s comment is:

>by qualified, i mean qualified. someone who knows the issues and can prove it by disclosing their identity, their own knowledge on a subject, and the specific topic at hand.

I should've said qualified > leads to elitism. Remember, blogs are nothing more than a public forum. Instituting structure, ethics, and relevance is one thing — but establishing a hierarchy for qualified opinions can lead to a slippery slope. Uninformed slander should certainly be avoided, but defining who is "qualified" is going too far. Furthermore, there's qualified opinions and qualified bloggers.

Besides, in the consumer world — anyone who buys a copy of Windows is a qualified Microsoft blogger, are they not?

On Nov.03.2005 at 08:09 PM
pikachufan77’s comment is:

don't you hate it when someone reaches through the screen and punches you in the face? That's some sweet, subtle magazine cover design.

On Nov.03.2005 at 10:44 PM
pk’s comment is:

Here's some more info to scare corporations about blogs. Advertising Age has mentioned that U.S. workers in 2005 will waste the equivalent of 551,000 years reading blogs.

i noticed that too. i kinda wondered, at the time, why they were hyping blogging as this major major threat to capitalism.

i think it's even funnier in light of the new sixapart project, comet, that makes blogging a semi-private activity that you can share with certain people rather than the entire world. i sorta think that's the real weblog market: people who wanna keep in touch with their immediate sphere.

On Nov.03.2005 at 11:26 PM
Ravenone’s comment is:

U.S. workers in 2005 will waste the equivalent of 551,000 years reading blogs.

...you mean they read in the U.S.?

wow. I though that was a Lost Art, at least coming from my last lit course in college, where half the class could hardly read enough to read the darn syllabus. (I wish I were making this up. I really, really do).

On Nov.04.2005 at 12:59 AM
pk’s comment is:

but establishing a hierarchy for qualified opinions can lead to a slippery slope.

yeah, but you're putting words into my mouth now. i didn't say anything about heirarchy, i said:

someone who knows the issues and can prove it by disclosing their identity, their own knowledge on a subject, and the specific topic at hand.

that's all. just someone who can prove somehow that they know what they're talking about. i didn't mean anything as silly as some blog review board or similar retardation. i just meant true transparency.

On Nov.04.2005 at 04:45 AM
bla bla blogs’s comment is:

Blogs are simply an amplifier for what people are already talking about at the watercooler, bars and over dinner.

exactly, Armin and nothing more... who puts any stock in blogs?

blogs are the reality programming of the net, junk food

as I've said before people tend to say things alot

differently when they don't have to look anyone in the eye, now some may think

this is an new kind of "honesty" but it's just another passive aggressive justification

of communication that undermines people as individuals, gangs inevitably form, perspective gets smaller.

the forbes article is a bit late but it would have great if they wrote it from a less defensive vantage point.

I completely limit my time on blogs, it takes away from photography, talking to a real person and real friendship,

sketching, and most of all in a career full of constant criticism I just done want to hear it on my down time, I want to have fun!

learn stuff I don't know already, go places I haven't been already and that’s not going to happen here.

On Nov.04.2005 at 10:25 AM
pikachufan77’s comment is:

bla bla blog-

Blogs aren't all bad, right? Our good friend Armin meets new people all the time in the real world and online thanks to this blog. It's a great place to start a friendship!

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go pick flowers and talk to bees.

On Nov.04.2005 at 10:33 AM
Tan’s comment is:

pk —�didn't mean to twist your words, I'm all for transparency. I've never posted under a pseudonym either.

And yes, like you, I value comments more from people who obviously know what they're talking about. But I respect the right of everyone to join in the conversation, even if I happen to think that what they say is ignorant and irrelevant.

On Nov.04.2005 at 12:12 PM
pk’s comment is:

blogs are the reality programming of the net, junk food

ugh. so true. a lot of publishers are pandering directly to that, because it's such easy money.

On Nov.04.2005 at 02:15 PM
Michael Surtees’s comment is:

I wonder what's worse, magazines from print pandering to vanity, or blogs that can measure results.

On Nov.04.2005 at 11:07 PM
99’s comment is:

I just scanned comments, and did not read the article, but it seems no one mentioned this: did Forbes detail that the blogging about Kryptonite was primarily informing consumers about a severe security threat -- an essential fact, since Kryptonie makes, well, locks. That alone would make the Forbes article as poorly researched and hyperbolic as any bad blog. Remember though, it's Forbes, and they are pretty much caveat emptor, chapter and verse. Their notion of branding is tied solely to shareholder return and nothing else. Certainly they worry about ethics, but only if the perception of ethical failure impacts revenue.

On Nov.06.2005 at 10:49 AM
Sam Potts’s comment is:

This topic may've dwindled but I have semi-related question for everyone. Along the lines of how blogs are or aren't like print journalism, what is your sense of ownership of what you write on a public blog, specifically Speak Up? What are your assumptions about what could happen with your words once you post them?

I ask because my sense--which is limited--is that the blog realm hasn't figured it out. The model should be print publishing, where the person who wrote the words holds the copyright, as with books and magazines. The publisher is largely the means of distribution, with an overlay of editorial control and an underpinning of quality control (hence Heller's comment that print is always better). Blogs are also largely a means of distribution. Thus the words I write should belong to me. (This also allows Speak Up to use the "The views exprssed are not necessarily those of the management" kind of thing, which is implied on most all blogs anyway.)

Full disclosure: this has been a problematic issue for me in the past over some things I wrote when I was SU author, and I've let Armin know that. The "Finer Details" at the bottom of the page are not really clear or, I think, feasible. What happens when the author and Speak Up disagree on reproduction (as in pint #1)--who has final control? Point #3 by the way is a relatively recent additon. In my past experience when things I wrote got reproduced elsewhere, I was never contacted for my okay. I hope that that policy has changed. It's only right that the true author maintain control over their words, not the distributor. Problem is, if Joe Magazine wants to use something from Speak Up, he's going to contact Armin, not the writer--so a greater responsibility falls to Speak Up to clarify the policy. What's everyone's assumption about their own right to control their own words?

On Nov.10.2005 at 10:58 AM
pnk’s comment is:

Sam, my assumption is that, by placing my words here on Speak Up, they become joint property of Speak Up and myself. If I wanted to publish them elsewhere I'd feel no need to ask for permission, nor would I assume Speak Up needed my permission to do the same. They fact that they asked, as was the case for a recent Sheepy, was in my mind an act of politeness and right-acting. What we create here is a semi-permanent conversation, and I assume good faith on the part of all participants. I guess I'd just rather be idealistic until that position proves untenable.

On Nov.10.2005 at 01:21 PM
Sam Potts’s comment is:

Interesting, pnk. I was not asked to be quoted in the first Sheepy and was embarrassed by the quote of mine that was used. That's when I started grousing to Armin, so I'm glad you were asked.

On Nov.10.2005 at 01:31 PM
Armin’s comment is:

For the record: We did not ask permissions on the first Sheepy. Some people didn't mind at all, others, like Sam, did. It was an oversight as we didn't really think it would be an issue. Call it naivete, call it stupid, whatever. We didn't do it. We did it now to avoid putting anyone in a position they didn't feel comfortable. It's been more than two years and we learned our lesson.

On Nov.10.2005 at 02:02 PM
felixxx’s comment is:

Its a Brooklyn thing...
grouse (grous) Informal intr.v. groused, grous·ing, grous·es

To complain; grumble.

On Jun.08.2006 at 06:01 PM
Erick Schluter’s comment is:

My dad wants a Blog...

Sigh...
:worried:

On Jun.10.2006 at 07:32 PM