The "blogosphere" will number ten million souls by the end of 2004, but almost all of them will be dead. That's the conclusion from one of the first comprehensive studies of weblogging conducted by research company Perseus, which has analyzed over three thousand weblogs.
Perseus finds that the fad is most popular amongst teenage girls. More than half of the weblogs surveyed are run by teenagers and 91.1 per cent are under 30. "Blogging is many things, yet the typical blog is written by a teenage girl who uses it twice a month to update her friends and classmates on happenings in her life," the report notes. (We had noticed).
However, parents can breathe easy. Unlike many varieties of hard or soft drugs enjoyed by today's teenagers, weblogging isn't habit-forming.
No less than a million of the 2.7 million weblogs surveyed had been abandoned after a day, and 132,000 would-be webloggers gave up after a year. So like the Hula Hoop, the Pogo Stick or the skateboard, most teenagers will experience but a brushing pass with weblogging, and will continue unscathed to develop normal and healthy lives.
Perseus' study doesn't see a 'community' as much as a graveyard. The average weblog is only updated once every fourteen days, and Perseus concludes that "the majority of blogs started are dissolving into static, abandoned web pages." Well, maybe people have simply got better things to do. This is not a bad thing.
Meanwhile, in the parallel universe constructed by weblog tools vendors, junketeers, and unemployed HTML coders (who desperately hope that the dotcom tide will roll back in), momentous and world-shaping decisions are being made! For weblog software vendors, no less than a "second superpower" is being created.
Let's pan over to Harvard University, where, this weekend, a 'Second Superpower' presidential candidate (and erstwhile weblog tools vendor) Dave Winer is holding a fundraising Meet-Up, charging everyday webloggers $500 a head to attend.
What makes the Second Superpower unique? Millionaire Berkman blogger Dave Winer may pose this very question to his fellow millionaire Berkman blogger Jim Moore this weekend. They share an office at the techno-utopian Berkman 'law school', which is hosting the presidential Meet-Up.
But Jim, umm… who? Well, management consultant Moore is a man already notorious with NGOs we discovered, at the global N5M conference last month, for Googlewashing the phrase 'Second Superpower'. Until Moore co-opted it for a sappy Apple-pie essay in April, the phrase had been used by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to refer to the global antiwar movement. Moore borrowed the phrase 'second superpower' to refer to affluent types who were using the Internet, rather than the millions of grubby proles who were then taking to the streets. Not surprisingly, NGOs and activists resent this kind of semantic bowdlerization. And not so surprisingly, Moore has achieved the status of a minor Antichrist.
We caught this fragment of a promotional tape published on the Harvard website, before the line cracked, hissed and faded away. Maybe you'll have more luck than us, piecing it together - it's a 6MB MP3 file.
interviewer: Locate us in this blogosphere. Where the hell are we?
Moore: We're at an amazing time, right? We're at the time when, somehow collectively, we're creating a new kind of a mind…
Moore: It may be scary or it maybe quite wonderful. But we're creating a kind of mind.
Interviewer: I like it! You didn't say place. You said time. And mind!"
Mind! Wow! But what can it all mean?
I once occupied a large shared mixed apartment with a very elegant greyhound, which belonged to the landlord. It was an elusive animal, but once it knew it had an audience (and the audience only had to number one person), the dog would proceed into a very elaborate display where it licked its own testicles - quite theatrically - for two or three minutes. Then it turned to whoever was watching, with a 'how about that?' look.
I couldn't quite work out this inscrutable doggy stare until, by chance, I found myself reading the $500-a-head man's own website yesterday. And then it all made sense.
"Whatever happened to singing around the campfire, or family singing at holidays? Just because a handful of people do it so perfectly, does it mean that the rest of us should be deprived of the pleasure of self-expression," he wrote.
Surely no one is depriving Winer of the pleasure of self-expression, any more than we can resent a dog licking its own balls. ®