Scott Rosenberg on writing in public

Scott is a co-founder of Salon, and this excerpt is from his essay on “Blogging, empowerment, and the ‘adjacent possible.'”

One way to assess the impact of blogging is to say that the number of people who have had the experience of writing in public has skyrocketed over the course of the last decade. Let’s say that, pre-Internet, the universe of people with experience writing in public — journalists, authors, scholars — was, perhaps, 100,000 people. And let’s say that, of the hundreds of millions of blogs reported to date, maybe 10 million of them are sustained enough efforts for us to say that their authors have gained real experience writing in public. I’m pulling these numbers out of a hat, trying to err on the conservative side. We still get an expansion of a hundredfold.

Each of these people now has an entirely new set of ‘adjacent possibilities’ to explore. What they make of those opportunities will shape the next couple of decades in important, and still unpredictable, ways.

Essay Velocity

Much longer than usual quote from the source, but this is dynamic reporting by Alexis Madrigal of The Atlantic on the velocity of one essay and the people who accelerated it forward, c. 2010.

Bady’s kept the Zunguzungu blog since March of 2007 when he traveled to Tanzania. He’s averaged 15 or 20 posts a month since, mostly just links and blockquoted excerpts. In May of 2010, he had a big day when he posted about “The Soul of Mark Zuckerberg,” deconstructing one Zuckerberg quote with the help of W.E.B. DuBois. That post ended up linked by Jillian York, who works at Harvard’s Berkman Center for the Internet and Society. Bady thinks it’s that post that brought his blog to the attention of several in that sphere, including Cambridge resident and ethnomusicologist Wayne Marshall, who just so happens to be giving a talk at Berkman tomorrow. Marshall, in turn, appears to have been the key link between Bady and the world at large. He retweeted Bady’s announcement of his post on November 29. (UPDATE, 8:04 pm: Marshall pointed out to me on Twitter he’s known about Bady since December of 2008, and he’s got a blog post to prove it.)

The next day, the Berkman Center’s Ethan Zuckerman tweeted the post, calling it a useful close reading of Assange’s 2006 essay (which it is). Zuckerman is one of the most respected thinkers and writers on the geopolitical implications of technology and his tweet went far. It was retweeted by 30 people — and more importantly brought the post to the attention of BoingBoing’s Xeni Jardin, which sent traffic pouring to the post. The same day, WikiLeaks Twitter feed also linked to the post, saying “Good essay on one of the key ideas behind WikiLeaks.” 90 more people retweeted the post. According to BackType, almost 2,500 people have tweeted the story.

By 12:45 p.m. on the 30th, the post had made Nieman Journalism Lab’s Popular on Twitter list for the day. By 6:39 p.m., the New York Times’ Lede breaking-news blog had linked to Bady’s post. According to traffic logs Bady shared with me, almost 50,000 people visited the post that day, including — no doubt — many of the most influential journalists and opinion leaders. Tens of thousands have visited in the days since. Bady regularly engages in Twitter conversations now with the academics and journalists covering the story. Volunteers translated his story into Spanish, Dutch, and German.

Alexis Madrigal, “The Unknown Blogger Who Changed WikiLeaks Coverage”