We then filed into the main hall for the morning session, which was Debate: Play by today's rules--or change the game?. More on that later.
Here's the later:
The topic was, Play by today's rules or change the game? The subtext seemed to be, how to get more women into the Technorati top 100.
To me, that question is without utility. I'm just not interested. I'm interested in having the stuff I've written read by people who are interested in that particular piece of micro-content. My question is, is the gender mix of Technorati top 100 even relevant to this collection of women bloggers?
Confession: I was not particularly well prepared to listen to this discussion. I should have had in front of me the points list for the discussion, which were
The BlogHer Debate
1. Does the lack of links from link-counters and the so-called A-list represent real, institutional barriers to entry or contrived barriers to entry--economically, personally, professionally, culturally?
Editorial comment: the link-lack may hurt if you are using your blog to position yourself professionally as a respected political commentator. But I don't see that Technorati (or any other link-counting system) is actually a "barrier to entry".
But so few of the bloggers I met were using their blogs in this way....
Does the lack of links hurt/help/not affect women bloggers who seek to:
- Gain professional recognition, credibility and rewards (including funding and community)?
- Gain personal recognition and credibility and rewards (including readers and community)?
- Generate revenue via advertising and/or sales?
- Make a living?
- Make a cultural change?
- Advocate for an opinion or a perspective?
It seems like the link system is a way of gaining reputation by endorsement. This is about blogrolls, really -- isn't the real deal links within a particular post, establishing credibility and citing authority?
2. Does playing by the existing rules of blog link-counters shout down alternative, diverse and new voices? Are we participating in our own demise? Why/Why not?
I don't think the link-counting "shouts down" new voices, particularly, but you know my interest isn't in adding my voice to political commentary.
3. Do we owe it to ourselves and/or other women to win this game even if we don't personally care about the lists? Could separate ever really make us equal? Why/Why not?
I think this attitude is buying into the paradigm that more eyeballs=better. I would rather have one very influential reader than 1,000 do-nothings.
4. If we want a meritocracy, do we need to code one ourselves? Let's rewrite the rules and/or write new code -- how do/don't you want to:
- Tell the world about your blog?
- Recruit the readers you're looking for?
- Communicate the quality of your blog to readers?
- Communicate the quality of your blog to potential sources of revenue?
Elisa Camahort has a long and thoughtful post in this issue, and on meritocracy in general, on the Worker Bees blog.
The "where are all the women political bloggers" discussion (which gave rise to BlogHer) discussion started off in February 2005. The root was an observation by Susan Estrich:
"Depending on the day or the paper," wrote Susan Estrich, professor, columnist, and woman, "three or four of the columns you read on the typical opinion page are likely to be written by a man, and if you're lucky, one by a woman. If you add the cartoon, which is almost always by a man, you can get to five or six opinions by men and one by a woman."
The political blogosphere provides another clue. Although its geeky Usenet roots were (and are) testosterone laden affairs, there are still no formal barriers to entry here, no old boys club in the usual meaning of the word. Yet if you take a look at the Blogosphere Ecosystem, which for all its faults is probably the closest thing we have to a consensus measure of popularity for political blogs, you will find exactly three women in the top 30: Michelle Malkin, La Shawn Barber, and Michele Catalano. (There are a few group blogs in the top 30, but those are very heavily male dominated too.)
(Culture Cat has a great survey of Gender in the Blogosphere Jude Nagurney Camwell created A list of female political bloggers. Then there was an invitation-only event, a Harvard Symposium Whose News? Media, Technology and the Common Good Hailey Suitt had a response and a challenge. (Here's what I wrote) Lisa Stone said, "What women bloggers? There are a huge number -- let's meet face to face. And so BlogherCon was born. But back in March, Elisa Camahort wrote:
Men, as well as women, have been asking, "Where are the women?" And we have been responding...we're right here. That the same question is being asked now as was asked one year ago or two years ago is frustrating, but the real question is: what, if anything, do women bloggers want to do about it?.... Every time I ask the question, "why are there so few women in the Technorati Top 100?", my next thought is, "Who cares about the Technorati Top 100? Is that a desirable measure? And if not, then what is?" We can all acknowledge that there are different kinds of bloggers, and some will never care about links and traffic and being quoted...that's not why they blog. But there's a whole group of women bloggers who are creative and expressive, but also ambitious and driven about their blogging. How do we all increase our individual satisfaction within the group endeavor that is the blog community? That's what Bloghercon will explore.
I think this is something to come back to, again and again, over the coming months.