The demise of the geek bloggers

Duncan Riley> I’m never one to mince words, so I’m getting straight to it: the geek bloggers are in decline and there is very little they can do about it. But before the flames start let me explain further because I’ve been tossing up the title of this post for about 24 hours, some of the other titles included: time for the geek bloggers to get a reality check, and 3G the new blogging generation. All 3 titles sum it up.

Geek blogging is in decline. If you don’t believe me, take a look at the Feedster 500 or Technorati 100 today and compare it to the Technorati Top 100 over the last few years. Take a look back in time to the top 10 in the Techorati Top 100 on November 26, 2002 and you’ll see the generation of founding geek bloggers dominating the list: Doc Searls, Dave Winer…fast forward a year and things have started to change. Take a look at the list today…

The Three Generations
Blogging has essentially developed in waves or generations, each of which was notable for the backgrounds of the majority of people entering the blogosphere at each point.

1G: the geek generation
The 1st generation in the blogosphere was the geek generation. The founding pioneers that staked their claims in cyberspace and coded and talked about tech, blogging and other geeky related stuff. Notable amongst their brethren was Dave Winer, Robert Scoble, Doc Searls….and a lot of the people attending “Foocamp” and “Basecamp” and other strange gatherings the weekend just gone. I’d dont agree with the BlogHer crowd on a lot but I will on this point: the geek bloggers tend to be insular and link to each other. Take a look at how many times Dave Winer has mentioned and linked to Robert Scoble in the last week for example. Where we do diverge however is that the BlogHer crowd think that the geek bloggers are the A-List, but they aren’t exclusively any more. Sure, they’re the older statesman on the blogosphere, but they no longer dominate the so-called A-List the way they once did.

2G: the extrovert generation (2002-2004)
Labels are always hard to apply but I can think of no other tag for the second generation of bloggers, because in 2002 its was a damn site harder to set up a blog than it is now, and only those determined to join the blogosphere because they wanted their voices to be heard did. 2G bloggers are extroverts. They may have marketing or management backgrounds (like me), strong political backgrounds or beliefs (2002-2004 really saw the explosion of the political blogosphere in particular), journalism or artistic backgrounds…dig deep enough into the vast majority of people who got into blogging during this time and you’re going to find some level of extroversion: a desire to speak out and be heard and a desire and need to be listened to (or more correctly read by). The champions of the 2G generation are difficult to pinpoint because unlike 1G there are sooooooo many more people influencing and leading at different levels. Although some may have been blogging prior to this period, they don’t represent the first generation because although some may occasionally display geek tendencies (I’m pointing at you Calacanis!) they write for a large audience. In politics Kos and Michelle Malkin, Denton and Calacanis, and for that matter any number of Weblogs Inc’s writers.

3G: the consumer bloggers (2005+)
You know I chuckle when I see articles discussing whether blogging has gone mainstream or not because its as though the people writing such nonsense must be so insular as to not see a thing that’s going on around them, because blogging has gone mainstream, and 3G bloggers are flooding into the blogosphere at the rate of millions per week. This generation of bloggers is different to the past two generation of bloggers because the geek companionship of the 1st generation and the extroversion that drove the 2nd generation has been replaced by a sense of normality. Most new bloggers blog because they can, because others are, and because to many people (perhaps more so amongst younger people, and in particular amongst teens) having a blog is now regarded as a normal behaviour, just like having an email address and mobile phone are normal as well. For me the dawning of the consumer generation was MSN Spaces, because (perhaps much to the delight, or even credit of Mike Torres) Spaces works, and despite the initial limitations on launch I’d noted at the time Microsoft once again displayed an amazing ability to get inside the head of the average person and deliver a product they would use.

The insularity problem
As I’ve mentioned earlier 1G bloggers are insular, and its their own insularity that has lead to their current decline, and will continue to do so. I suppose the whole issue of insularity struck me last week when I wrote in support of Microsoft’s stance on RSS. There wasn’t a lot of user feedback but what was left was generally in support on my argument. Perhaps of note outside of the Blog Herald fellow 2G blogger and search engine afficianado Nick W (yes Nick I know you’re going to hate the tag) over at Threadwatch agreed. So a Pom and an Aussie agreeing on something may be a rare occurrence some days, but there’s truth in this, because Nick sees it from the same way as I see it, and that’s without the geek glasses that are clouding the views of the 1G bloggers. And the biggest set of geek glasses is currently resting on the heads of Robert Scoble and Dave Winer. I suspect that Dave’s understanding of the real world outside of his little car trips and regular meetups with other geeks means that he has long since lost touch with the reality of ordinary people, but I expected better from Scoble. But unfortunately his masters apprentice is starting to show all the signs of being engulfed by the same blind, geek coloured view of the world that his former employer has. He might have recently taken some time off, but since his return its gotten worse. Geek dinners, camps…if you want to understand real people and real markets you’ve got to meet a variety of people from different backgrounds and in different realities, where as Scoble is immersing himself seemingly within the same safety zone of geek culture from which he originally emerged and gained his fame years ago when the blogosphere was but young.

I could talk about this all day, but when I eventually get around to organising a Blogging Conference here in Australia next year I still want Scoble as a guest speaker, so I’ll stop now, but you get my point. Although not everyone is a huge fan of Steve Rubel (I’d note that I am, although I can sympathise with some of the gripes at Threadwatch over the using of marketing speak) Steve’s a great representative of the 2nd generation of bloggers having become less insular because as somebody in PR and marketing it’s literally his job to understand the minds of other people, because he’s literally paid to sell to them, and selling involves understanding your market. Calacanis, despite his occasional geek indulgences, gets this to, because the majority of the Weblogs Inc., network, particularly after the first dozen or so blogs, have been primarily aimed at a more universal audience. Why is Engadget so popular? because it brings tech and gadgets to the masses and it doesn’t aim directly at geeks only (sure, geeks can and do like Engadget, but I’d argue the format and language delivers a more diverse audience then say even Slashdot).

Can the geek bloggers be saved?
Saving is probably not the right word, because there is always going to be a market place for the Dave Winer’s of this world, its just that their audience will continue to shrink in relation to market share in comparison to other existing, and yet to be written blogs. 3G bloggers aren’t going to be interested in Winer driving a car and finding free internet access, nor Scoble playing with alpha technologies with other geeks whilst seemingly camped out in someone’s office. They are going to be reading Weblogs Inc., sites and Gawker Media sites, and hopefully Weblog Empire sites as well. They will be looking at more general, non geek culture blogs, like Shai Coggins amazing array of topics on the About Weblogs Network, topics that couldn’t be further from geek culture if they tried. They are going to read Jay Brewer’s Blogpire Blogs, and Shiny Media’s blogs, and they are going to read millions of other blogs as well, blogs that talk in the same language as they do and aren’t obsessed with geek culture, geek terminology and a insular geek viewpoint of the world.

End note: Some people may think I’m bagging geek culture, but I’d like to note that I’m not. Geek culture never had a strong basis in popular culture here in Australia as it did in say the United States so perhaps I’m considering this from a different perspective, but I suspect if I’d grown up in the States I’d probably be a geek as well, I read Slashdot, I put together computers and play with Linux Distro’s for fun, and my wife keeps yelling at me because my home grown PVR wont play VCD’s from within Media Portal (and if none of this makes any sense then its point taken). From a marketing perspective though I understand that what I write about, particularly here at the Blog Herald, has got to aim to be as universal as possible. Sometimes I can tend to be a little insular, but I recognise it and I look to challenge this, the 100 blogs in 100 days is part of this process as well. It’s sensible advice. If you want to sell to as many people as possible you need to be able to empathize with them, and empathy is best learnt through interaction and experience.

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  1. says

    Hmmmm about “geeks” – are you sure they’re targeting what you call the 3G bloggers? I’d bet their target market is fellow geeks who are really interested in what they have to say.

    Not sure why “geeks” would target bloggers specifically, anyway — 3G or otherwise. I’d be interested to know how you came to that conclusion? Isn’t it all about your target market? If a blog is doing well in its target market, why would its place on a generic list by Feedster or Technorati matter?

    I’m pretty new to blogging and not attacking in any way — just genuinely interested in why you came to those conclusions. But perhaps I misunderstood?

  2. says

    I suppose what I left out or didn’t clarify is that the 3G bloggers are going to dominate the blogosphere in terms of numbers and its these bloggers that will decide what’s hot or not, if you like. The 2G writers are the best placed to take advantage of the new eyes and ears because they take the time to understand the differences in people (basically the study of marketing/ buyer behaviour is what they called it when I studied it) where as the geek bloggers are too busy looking at one and other.

  3. says

    Great article, Duncan, your chronological classification throws up some genuine insights into the way the blogosphere works. Recently, I divided it up by motivation into three parts : Primary, Secondary and Tertiary. Your 3G sounds much like my Primary. But, like a database, there are many lines into the data depending on your perspective. And perspectives can change. A classic post.

  4. says

    Good analysis/essay here, Duncan. And nope, I’m not just saying that because you mentioned by blogging network. ;-)

    Anyway, I’m not sure if geek bloggers will really “die” in the blogosphere. It’s just that they probably won’t have as much “say” or “power” in the blogosphere because people will tend to move in their own blogging circles and cliques. The “power bloggers” or A-Listers will probably, for as long as there are people interested in them, though. Once people lose interest, then yeah, it’s a different matter then.

  5. says

    Duncan, I’m sorry to leave both a trackback and a comment, but I just had to tell you how insightful I think your post is. I’ve used a different set of terminology to describe this same phenomena (minus prophecying the demise of the geek blogger): innovators, early adopters, and early majority.

    It’s obvious blogging is in the hands of consumers now (early majority) and, as such, has great implications for marketers and PR people.

  6. says

    As the size of the ecosystem grows, the relative proportion of a specific set of predators to the total population, decreases. In fact, later predators may be better adapted than the progenitors, and thus the original species may diminish, or even become extinct entirely. That’s standard evolution, in metaphor.

    Absolutely, it’s happening to “blogging”. Some of us who write about “A-list” understand the subtleties.

    But remember, big fish in a little pond can still determine the fate of the small fish, even if there are many other ponds (which just means many other sets of big fish and small fish).

  7. says

    Interesting, I had also noted and commented on a related topic in a blog I write – the nature of podcasts follows much the same trajectory. I used the example of the automobile, where first-adopters were essentially mechanics, then enthusiasts, and finally mainstream users with completely new uses. It’s when the technology becomes “just” infrastructure that it fades from the foreground of thought to background. As for “saving the geek bloggers,” have no fear, those who are the mechanics/engineers of the technology won’t die – look at automobiles again or at ham radio – they’ll adapt some, but they’ll live quite a long time.

  8. says

    Duncan, love your stuff. Have to say, though, that I prefer to speak for myself. Your repeated references to the “BlogHer camp” and “BlogHer crowd” as if it were a group of individuals in lockstep is sloppy writing.

    If you intend to rephrase an attendee’s perspective, or that of a group of attendees, it would help your readers out to quote them or link to their writings. Or at least it would help me – because I was there and, just like every other conference I have attended, I’ll be darned if I can think of ONE topic where the “camp” was in 100% agreement. And believe me, if the “BlogHer crowd” was aligned around one POV on anything, it certainly wasn’t on *this* topic.

  9. says

    I would have also mentioned something about the era of “recycling blogs”, which seem to have been an offshoot the second generation, where a blog would just collect articles from blogs/new media and the like and provide a link with a one or two sentence comment. And yes, I was guilty in participating in one of these.

    But good article I have to say.

  10. says

    Mate this is the first time that I have tuned into TBH and I have to say that this is one of the most interesting blog posts that I have read for a long time. Kudos.

    I fall somewhere between the geek blogger and 2nd Gen blogger and more and more both are leaving a bad taste in my mouth. The A-List geek elite have by and large become self serving data filters. Rehashed content and news interspersed with self promotion get tiresome after a while. I am leaning toward unknown and quirky blogs more and more while I filter out many well know blogs to the ones that I only truly find satisfying to read.

    I think the time has passed for many bloggers who once felt the need to “keep on top of things” by tuning into the A-List bloggers. The market has matured and fragmented and as such many of the original bloggers have become less relevant to a large percentage of the readership out there.

  11. says

    I wish I’d read your post before I made mine recently about RSS in the “mainstream”. Although your focus is on blogging specifically (as opposed to RSS feeds from blogs), I really agree with much of what you did with your generations breakdown. I would still argue that blogging is BARELY beyond the 2G crowd and still mostly isolated to extroverts, but that is changing especially in certain peer circles.

    I happened to find my way here through Scoble (instead of being /.’ed, you’ve been Scobleized!) and I would say that in some ways you’re being too harsh on 1G bloggers like him. Maybe it’s just semantics, but rather than being in decline, I think those bloggers are just beginning to be dwarfed by the enormity of the blogosphere and even by specific “professional” blogs (or networks of blogs). I’d venture a guess that Scoble is OK with that too. He (and others like him) will continue to have a large and growing audience, but when compared against the more rapidly growing blog universe as a whole his “market share” will decline over time.

  12. says

    This obsession with ‘share’ completely baffles me. So if I do something that garners 10,000 readers from a total pool of 100,000 readers, that’s worth doing — but if I do something that garners 10,000 readers from a total pool of 100,000,000 readers — that isn’t worth doing?

  13. says

    What sort of dumbasses sit around actually wasting brain processes on this “A-List” blogger nonsense and then take it a step further by coming up with some ridiculously artificial 1g/2g/3g division?

  14. says

    I wonder what the problem is in “losing market share” when the market is expanding with the addition of millions of non-technical blog readers. Non-geeks never read Dave Winer and never will. Geeks read Dave Winer and will continue to do so. Winer isn’t going to lose readers to Holloywood celebrity blogs or to Wonkette or whoever. So where’s the big revelation?

  15. Peter says

    Maybe your problem is that you can’t write.

    You don’t know how to use paragraphs, so your work looks like incoherent shit.

    You are a parasite.

    Please fuck off.

  16. says

    Sorry, I think I misrepresented myself.

    I wanted to say that that from your output, it is clear that you have no talent either at communication or analysis – unless you were hoping to portray yourself as a cynical and witless cunt.

    Possibly you are a Caring Understanding Nineties Type – but please – we are already in the Twenty-First Century.

    Once again – please fuck off.

  17. Sydney says

    There may seem to be a decline in geek blogging with the introduction of blogging into the mainstream, but that’s because of the nature of geeks. Back in the pre-90s era, a geek was basically anyone who could use a computer, then, as computers became more maintstream, it was anyone who could fix a computer. Geeks don’t care if they appeal to everyone else. Hell, chances are, they grew up as an outcast, shunned and tortured by the “popular” people and therefore dislike what is “popular.” Now, they’ve become technological leaders, always one step ahead of the mainstream. So, as blogging becomes mainstream, it’s time to move on to something new until that becomes the norm. As long as there is technology, the geek culture will never die….we just move on to something else.

  18. says

    Hah! I’m a typo-creating hypocrite!!

    I lamented the enormous number of typos and grammatical errors on new blogs, and I carelessly used one myself in the sentence right before my complaint! That’s funny!

    I wrote “they’re friends do it” instead of “their friends do it.” Shame on me! LOL!


  19. says

    Duncan, absolutely fascinating and insighful post, but I think you give it the wrong headline.

    In my opinion, you should have picked one of the headlines you discarded — “3G: The New Blogging Generation.” Must be because I’m very bias — I’m one of these new 3G folks! (LOL! I’m also new here — like it!)

    However, I partly disagree with your conclusion: “Most new bloggers blog because they can, because others are, and because to many people (perhaps more so amongst younger people, and in particular amongst teens) having a blog is now regarded as a normal behaviour, just like having an email address and mobile phone are normal as well.”

    I think these new 3G bloggers fall into two categories:

    1. Like you said, MANY (BUT not most) new bloggers blog because they can, but I think it’s much more than that. They blog, because it’s cool and fun and hip and they’re friends do it. But, ugh, many of these new bloggers just ramble and rant about silly, meaningless stuff — at least many of the ones I’ve visited. (Oh, and the typos and grammatical errors are endemic.)

    Moreoever, I completely disagree with your conclusion that having a blog is NOT normal behavior akin to having an e-mail address! Millions are still in the dark about blogging.

    I constantly run into educated people who are like, “Huh! What’s a blog?” (I’m embarrassed to say that months ago, I was one of those people!)

    2. A second segment of these 3G bloggers have SOMETHING TO SAY — whether it’s important is up to the visitors the blogger draws.

    It is this group of newer 3G bloggers that can have some, if not considerable, impact and influence, I believe. (I’m trying to be part of this group.)

    We 3G bloggers with a messge DON’T just blog because we can! (Many of us would rather be doing other things!!)

    We blog because we should; we blog, because we were told that it’s an effective way to get the word out; we blog, because it’s the modern way to get discussion going, etc. We have many, many reasons.

    And we new 3G bloggers are still testing the waters — we’re trying to determine if this is effective. (OK, I’m speaking for myself here!)

    Anyhow, that’s my take on this whole thing.

    Thanks for the provocative site.


  20. says

    Thank god the geek blogs will die! It’s only when they become the minority that we know that the technology has truly taken off. And the geeks will be on to the next new shiny thing. As they should be, because they’re the ones developing the tech that the 3rd, 4th, 5th generations use.

    Sounds more like the evolution of blogging, the generations as you say, follows how the web was adopted. Geeks created the first websites, then slowly people read them, and then created their own. The geeks will always inherit a new tech because they’re the ones creating it. And you have the Winers and the Scobles venturing out to evangelise it. They’ll eventually get drowned out when the new tech takes flight, and the following generations make it better than what wa s initially conceived. Then the process starts all over again (things like Bar Camp promote that). It’s nothing to lament.

  21. says

    I think this is all fun, but the problem is it totally shows that you don’t understand how blogs work. There isn’t one “blogosphere.” There are hundreds. Am I competing with all the bloggers who write about quilting, for instance? No!

    Why not?


    Let’s try this again. If you search for, say, “Microsoft Blogger” are you likely to find me or are you likely to find someone writing about Britney Spears?

    Here’s a clue: I’m not competing against folks who write about Britney Spears or Quilting. It makes for a nice story when you say I am, but that doesn’t make it any more true.

    By the way, in the past two years I’ve moved from #74 to #29 on the Technorati top 100 list, even as more than 10 million blogs have opened up.

    If this were a competition seems like I’m doing pretty well so far.

  22. Carl says

    The fact that a Scoble checks and cares about his ranking shows how true this is.

    If there is no one “blogosphere” then what is Technorati doing with a top 100 list?

    What goes up must come down. Buh bye.

  23. says

    Sigh. Levels of approximation, people. There is – or isn’t – a “bogosphere”, in exactly the same sense that there is – or isn’t – a “mainstream media”, or “politics”, or “scientific community”, or any of many other terms that are used as overall collective shorthand.

    Someone could say “The mainstream media doesn’t exist, because the Podunk Gazette/print has little in common with CBS News/ TV.

    There are local hierarchies as well as global hierachies.

    So the point here is that “geek blogging” is diminishing its relative share globally, as the overall system grows, with more hierachies. But, note, it remains a local hierarchy. So it is not dying, but rather becoming of lesser share in total.

    Whether or not this matters to someone depends very much on what hierarchy they care about.

  24. Stewart says

    It’s hardly revolutionary to point out that people prefer to read about their own interests rather than the musings of ‘geeks’, however it would be silly to believe that ‘geeks’ don’t read ‘geeks’, and that the people that you’ve named at the top have in some dimished. (i’d guess, although i don’t know, that Dave’s hits on his blog are increasing not decreasing)

    I believe that they still something to say, and as a geek, i’d rather read Dave’s musing on his travels and his projects than well frankly your blog on blogs, after all being a geek i’m not going to learn much of anything from you, where as Dave and Doc, and to a certain extent Scoble have things to say that i’d be interested in…



  25. says

    “There isn’t one ‘blogosphere.’ There are hundreds. Am I competing with all the bloggers who write about quilting, for instance? No!”

    But you’re using the same infrastructure, Robert, and that binds the blogging community together with the same interests. There are hundreds of B/spheres, as you say, but they are verticals, like language and topic, which many people transcend, not least in meta terms. To understand the whole picture of this phenomenon, and its relation to mainstream media, you need a map. Duncan’s chronological map works, insofar as any map works. My own horizontal division by motivation into primary (chatters), secondary (moneymakers) and Tertiary (influence, cachet) also works on another coordinate. Taken together they define the essence of what blogging is. Of course, if you don’t care about “blogging” as such, it doesn’t much matter at all.

  26. Mike-hime says

    Firstly, I agree completely with Seth. I’ll be taking this in a different direction, though.

    Secondly, I’d like kick off the body with a quote from Vivek: “Well may be geek blogs are dying. But who cares?”

    You’re all so biased on this issue that you don’t appreciate the opinions of the very people you’re categorizing. It’s not just about the, “blogosphere,” or bloggers (of the geek variety or otherwise.) That’s all contrived nonsense anyway. The, “blogosphere,” is the same BS it was 6, or 8, or however many years ago that you’d like to track back. And that’s my point; it’s not the blogs that are the issue. It’s the overwelming quantity of mass media that’s sweeping the internet that’s the problem, and it’s disgusting. Instead of the tightly knit communities there once was, the internet has degenerated at best into a backwoods soap box screaming contest for everyone and their mom to stand upon and be heard, and at worst an advertising construct for all the big consumer business we had hoped to avoid when we andvetured into (or retreated to, if you’d like) those aforementioned communities in the first place. In other words, now it’s just like the real world! (If I wanted that, I’d have gone outside some time during the last 2 decades.)

    The decline of the so called geek bloggers is just another symptom and another reminder that a lower class of society is arriving en masse to displace more traditional netizens. So come on everyone, jump on the bandwagon! HUUR HURR. It’s only a matter of time until your mom is blogging professionally for the local Winn-Dixie. (I’m sure that’ll be a step up from cleaning the rest rooms.) After all, now that everyone else is on the intarwebs too, wouldn’t it just be easiest to VOTE on which bread we’ll be baking tomorrow?

    In conclusion I’d like to answer your question, Vivek, regardless of weather it was rhetorical or not. WE DO.

  27. says

    I was a geek blogger back in 1998 or so. (Of course that’s not what I would have called myself.) Now I find myself maintaining two weblogs — one that’s tech-focused, and one that’s mainstream.

    Seriously though, what would people rather read about, living or living with technology? Now that the internet is a mainstream medium, living will clearly consume more bandwidth.

  28. says

    It has been said you can live your life one of two ways. The first is through trial & error, and the second is through other people’s experiences.

    Thanks for sharing other people’s experiences and trends, Duncan …

  29. says

    It’s not the demise of geek blogging — but the wonderful fact that more people from ALL demographics are joining in. I welcome the addition of “other” people — and don’t mind that our percentage is decreasing.

    I didn’t like being alone with just us geeks anyway!


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