Saturday, March 19, 2005

Ghettoes and gatekeepers: end-run

Jeremy at Parableman responds to my initial post . While he doesn't agree with my premise regarding a paucity of well-known Christian bloggers, and he mistakenly thinks I want more links to Christians from the A-list, still he offers some good information and advice. Let's start with this:

"There are at least thirty that I know about that are evangelicals in the top 400, and that's not including other Christian blogs or any I don't know about. ...I don't know why even four or five Christians in the top 100 is supposed to count as low."

What we're talking about is five or ten percent (mostly in the USA) in a country that supposedly is 76% Christian. OK, Jesus said not everyone who calls Him Lord really is a Christian. And surely the true number is much less, otherwise this nation would look radically different than it does. But five or ten percent? That still looks like under-representation to me. Are we to believe that only 5-10% of people in this country are Christians, or that Christians have lower-than-average interest in blogging? If I had more time, I would look at the numbers in detail: percent of bloggers who identify as Christians, the amount of content of their blogs that is explicitly Christian, and the percent of links that they get from the A-list, and whether those links are to posts with explicitly Christian content. What makes me believe that La Shawn is right that the A-list is functioning as a gatekeeper --deliberately or not-- is that there seems to be a discernable gatekeeper effect. An effect has a cause. I think we need to consider how to do an end-run around the A-list gate.

"[M]y blog is linked to from most of the top philosophy blogs. Hardly any of these people are Christians. Most of them disagree with some of my most deeply held convictions. Yet a number of them read my blog faithfully, interact with me in detail, and link to me from their own blogs." (From my comments section) "The secret is to know a lot about a subject, learn how to say something about it that people want to hear, and then become known within the community of bloggers on that subject. ...Joe Carter had a great series on how to get noted in the blogosphere recently that encouraged people to find their niche."

I think that this has to be a key part of the equation. Christian bloggers, each in their own niches, relating to non-Christians in the same niche. We can't all be philosophers, but we all have our interests. On the other hand, Evangelical Outpost is (per TTLB) the highest-ranking blog with explicitly Christian content, and Joe is not a niche blogger. He covers the gamut, and his comments sections runneth over. So there is also room for someone who can talk effectively about a wide range of issues.

"I have no interest in being associated with blogs like Daily Kos, Little Green Footballs, or any other site whose signal to noise ratio is just very, very low. "

So be selective and give thought to why you want to be linked by a particular blog. This too, I think, is good advice. I would add that for a Christian to seek notoriety for its own sake is mistaken.

"I guess my question is this. What is it about being linked to by the A-list bloggers that's supposed to be determinative of what Christian blogs are all about, and what reason do we have to think bloggers who aren't Christians would have much interest at all in the things most Christian blogs discuss?"

Just to reiterate, I am not trying to figure out how to get linked by A-list bloggers. But neither am I content to live in a Christian blogging ghetto that non-Christians seldom if ever wander into. There has to be another alternative. I think that part of that alternative involves niche blogging, or the sort of thing that Joe does, for those who have the time and talents. We're called to go where the people are. I still think we need to give more thought to that.