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Mini Interview #3: Rebecca Mead, weblogs, and MetaFilter

As part of a continuing series of mini interviews, I recently questioned New Yorker staff writer Rebecca Mead. Rebecca is the author of You’ve Got Blog, along with several other non-weblog-related articles. Here’s what she had to say:

Q: Now that you’ve had a few months to think it over, what do you *really* think of weblogs?

A: This question is the weblog equivalent of that old conversational line where the guy says, “All I’ve been doing is talking about myself. It’s time *you* said something. What do *you* think about me?”

I like weblogs a lot, in theory. I’m excited by the idea of individuals seeking and finding readerships of their own, and I think the connectivity that blogging promotes is a wonderful, life-enhancing thing. The world can look bigger through a weblog. My absolute favorite thing on the web is Metafilter, which teaches me things I don’t already know, engages me with often very intelligent discourse, and serves as an excellent tool for procrastination in my working life. (The only thing that isn’t any good about Metafilter has been the recent trend towards long debates about whether Metafilter is any good.)

Of course, in practice, I think that the majority of weblogs I come across are awful โ€” derivative, puerile, self-important, blockheaded, dull. But that’s fine: I think that most media products are awful. I don’t want to watch most of what’s on TV; I don’t want to read most of what’s on the newsstand. It would be surprising if there were more than a few weblogs that held my interest. Someone’s reading them, just like someone โ€” a lot of someones, actually โ€” are reading Teen People. It doesn’t have to be me.

Anyone who read my story in the New Yorker will probably understand that I am more interested in bloggers as characters than I am in blogging as a โ€” yawn โ€” phenomenon. (I’ll leave that angle to Newsweek et al.) One of the satisfying things about having written about weblogs is that I’ve been able to keep up, as it were, with what’s going on with my former subjects, without actually having to communicate with them. This, for a journalist, is a kind of dream come true, because we always want to know what happens to the people we write about when we depart the scene, and we hardly ever find out. Being able to read the blogs of my subjects has been a little like experiencing life after death โ€” so that’s how things turned out once I was gone! So I’ve kept an eye on you all. I was very sad to watch the implosion of Pyra โ€” reading the accounts of that on various participants’ sites was rather like watching a reality-TV show gone horribly sour. I’ve checked out Meg’s new brown hair via her webcam. I’ve wondered whether Ev has found anyone to share his office space. And I’ve read your own site in the hope that I’ll learn something about how things are going in your personal life after I’d broadcast details of it to 850,000 readers. But you’re far too discreet for that. :: end