This week, all over the world, WordPress bloggers are posting the same automated post, “2010 in review“. It’s WordPress’s summary of each blog’s hit counts, and comes with a health assessment based on these stats. The pretty obvious message: the more hits, the better. Traffic equals success.
Over at Domesticated Theology, Jeremy has been considering the ethics of blogging, and he points out three negative trends. WordPress’s “2010 in review” encourages all three of these:
- Exaltation of information over wisdom. The conventional blogosphere feedback loop requires maximum post output and hot-topic positioning.
- Self-commodification. The golden rule: make sure your blog gets noticed by Google.
- Unwitting participation in marketing. “Most bloggers are contracted to develop content by marketing companies who then use that content to drive keyword based marketing.” You know, I only recently realised that WordPress publishes ads on this blog!
Jeremy has highlighted similar things when it comes to social networking:
You are not Facebook’s customer. You are the product that they sell to their real customers — advertisers. …
Commercial social networks are much less about circulating knowledge than they are about connecting users (“eyeballs”) with advertisers. …
To use these tools is to reinforce, however indirectly, the “advertised life”, the incursion of commoditization ever deeper into human thought and interaction.
WordPress’s “2010 in review” might seem nifty to us bloggers, but it’s actually part of a bigger numbers game, a status quo that’s being driven not by creativity and conversation but by corporate revenue and product-pushing. Every time we blog to get hit-counts, every time we gaze at our stat counters, we become part of this machinery and start to surrender the possibility of being discerning, imaginative and innovative. We become pawns when we could be visionaries.
I know what I’ll be aiming for in 2011. If you’d like some ideas about stepping off the hamster wheel, check out the Slow Blog manifesto.
Arthur Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.