Shostack + Friends Blog Archive


"A Reader Writes…"

Rob Sama IM’d me a link to some Mac launch rumors at “” He then commented:

Rob: I was the one who pointed that out to Cringley, and Calzone had pointed it out to me

Adam: and you got no cred?

Rob: I guess. I mean, columnists like that often say “a reader told me…” and stuff like that

Adam: I think that’s an MSMism that’s going to go away

The MSM (MainStream Media) practice of taking a comment from “a reader” and running with it is old. As is the habit of trivializing them by calling them “a reader,” or perhaps using ‘reader’ as a title, as in ‘reader Rob Sama.’ I mean, what’s more passive than a reader, contrasted with the power of ‘columnist?’ After all, the columnist has opinions. They like sharing those opinions. And the editor has declared those opinions to be worth reading. By readers. You know, the little people. Like bloggers.

Or maybe not like bloggers. Because bloggers don’t have editors, although many hope to make it into the big time of being linked to by Boingboing, or Nielsen Hayden, or heck, anyone with more readers than ourselves.

But more to the point, bloggers aim to give credit where it’s due. Where did a link come from? Who said things that triggered a post? (Nominally, I should be linking my Friday Star Wars security blogging, but I figure its so well known I don’t need to.) This is a part of the democratizing aspect of blogging that’s so exciting: Anyone can do it. Anyone can set up a blog on a free service and see if they can collect some readers.

This is one of the reasons that some people are threatened by, and feel a need to trivialize bloggers and our pajamas. There’s chaos out here, and there’s no editor to protect you. What hierarchy there is comes from pre-blogging status, tenure as a blogger, and meritocracy. Taking each of those in turn: When Richard Posner or Mark Cuban start blogging, their prior achievements generate a readership for them. There’s a set of folks who want to hear what these people have to say. Tenure as a blogger is pretty simple. There’s probably 10 super-geniuses out there with blogs. Future Nobel prize winners. Oscar winners. Who haven’t broken through yet, but are talking about their work in their blogs. Over time, people will notice and link to them. But it doesn’t happen overnight. It happens, and here’s point 3, to those who do well.

That’s why I’m always genuinely happy to meet readers or get comments: It’s really hard to do this in a vacuum. Thursday, I had a good chat with a gentleman from Ironport, and, not having gotten a card, don’t want to mangle your name. But you mentioned liking the longer view bits.

And so over time, “a reader writes” is going to disappear, in favor of naming names. Because the writer will remember being the little fellow, hoping for the link from the widely-read.

2 comments on ""A Reader Writes…""

  • Saar Drimer says:

    Not to forget PageRank. Personally, I like my name mentioned if I contributed and feel a bit offended when it is not (happened a couple of times already.) I am extra grateful if the name is linked to my site and/or weblog.

  • Harry says:

    I seldom have anything apposite to say on this blog. It is, however, a highly valued resource for me and always interesting. Your insights into the blogging culture are especially intriguing.

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