Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Meta-Blogging 8. TPMcafe and The Allure of the Expert.

TPMcafe has finally launched, after months of breathless trailers. The trend towards consolidation of blogs has made me a little uneasy: it's inevitable, but the break-neck pace toward respectability leaves me a little sad. Josh Marshall's was the first blog I ever found, which is perhaps a sign of my media elitedom, but he was for me the entry into a world of rough n' tumble rhetoric, a twenty-first century debating society, or true participation in the online world.

The TPMcafe represents to me a very savvy move economically: Marshall is a free-lance journalist, and his online reputation has created a buzz that he is leaping on to establish a bloggy career. He is thereby securing a position for himself while cementing an institution for this ephemeral medium. It's a postive sign for the venture that the media-savvy Matt Yglesias should have decided to jump ship from his old url to join the TPM crowd.

While there's a certain sadness to seeing the format of blogging hit the mainstream, one shouldn't be entirely pessimistic. The enlisted bloggers are genuinely smart, trustworthy in their fields. The blogs are enabling (registered) comments, which is more than Marshall's TPM could boast.

For a much more positive take on the TPMcafe launch, see hilzoy's post on Obsidian Wings, where she induces that one value of blogs is to disseminate more democratically the findings of experts:
Their work (at least, the work of those who didn't already have blogs) will instantly become much more accessible to us. We will have an opportunity to figure out for ourselves whether or not to trust them. If we do, they can help us navigate the worlds of DC and policy in ways we would have a much harder time doing on our own. Moreover, they will all be asking one another questions, and responding to each other's posts, which will be fascinating. And, best of all, we get to ask them questions as well. In this way, we will be able to learn a lot of things we badly need to know, and to assess what we learn in ways we could never assess, for instance, a newspaper editorial or a long piece in the New Yorker.

In general and in principle, I do think that hilzoy is right, but I'm chaffing at the site's layout and registration restrictions and reserve the right to be cranky about bloggic changes for awhile.


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