Christian Blogs and the A-List

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Kevin at Short Attention Span asked me to comment on his post that raises some worries about how little prominence Christian blogs have in the blogosphere. I think my Bootstrapping Blogs post deals with some of what he's asking, and I won't repeat that here. I did have some things to say, and since Ektopos was down for something like an hour tonight right when I wanted to say something, I just left a few comments there, which was difficult due to the 1000-character limit of the free version of Haloscan. I'll expand on those comments here.

Kevin says there are only a few Christian blogs in the top 100. It wasn't too long ago, perhaps two months, that we had at least 10 evangelical blogs in the top 100, maybe even more. This includes ones still there like Evangelical Outpost, In the Agora, La Shawn Barber, Hugh Hewitt, Scrappleface, and One Hand Clapping. It also included some that are now large mammals: I remember at least Wittenberg Gate (twice over), Adrian Warnock, Patriot Paradox, and Parableman. Any I can't remember or didn't know were evangelicals would put it over ten. Of course, the number increases drastically once you get down to the Large Mammals. 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.

The rankings are pretty fickle, because they're based on the last week and the last week alone (in addition to permalinks in sidebars). When it comes to the difference between a large mammal and a playful primate, it's all about continuing to get lots of people linking to your posts on a regular basis. It's not going to happen based just on blogrolls. So who's in the top 100 and who isn't will be a matter of who's in for that week and who's not for that week. Except for the people at the very top who have been there for a long time and have no sign of moving down ever, most of the playful primates and even many of the mortal humans may not be there within a month if they have a particularly slow couple weeks of blogging or if a good part of their excess of links came from hosting a carnival that had many links to disappear from TTLB's radar within a week.

Given how many blogs there are and what you might expect from most blog readers, I don't know why even four or five Christians in the top 100 is supposed to count as low. In terms of readership, Christian blogs are way overrepresented in the Ecosystem top 100, which doesn't measure links (see my above-linked post for why that's so and why I don't think that's necessarily bad). I say we should be grateful that we have as many as we do who are as noted as they are. I'm certainly grateful.

Much of the rest of Kevin's post has to do with why Christians aren't linked to by the very small part of the blogosphere that gets the most links and if there's some deliberate attempt on the part of high-profile bloggers to ignore Christian blogs. He wonders why more Christian blogs aren't on their radar and what Christian bloggers should do to make ourselves more noticeable to the top bloggers, since that's the easiest way to move up in the Ecosystem.

I wonder if Kevin is working from some premises that I just don't agree with. When Joe and La Shawn talk about the A-list, they mean simply the truly big names. He seems to be assuming that someone hasn't broken into the sphere of well-known bloggers unless those bloggers mention you regularly the way they do with La Shawn. That's certainly something great, but the blogosphere is much, much more than Instapundit, Power Line, Little Green Footbals, Atrios, Kos, and the rotating line of top bloggers that moves in and out of the top ten with them. For instance, my 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. This is with no mass blogroll for philosophers as we have with lots of other subjects in the blogosphere.

My goal is not to break into the A-list. In fact, I'm not sure I'd want that. No offense to La Shawn Barber, Evangelical Outpost, or Captain's Quarters, but most of the bloggers that I'd really want to notice me are not ranked that high in the Ecosystem. I find insightfulness more attractive than popularity, and most of the people attracted by popularity make for and readers who don't pay attention to what you're saying but just what they associate with people who say similar things. It tends to generate commenters who have no interest in discussion but just need some outlet to vent their hatred for their political opponents. This sort of thing does infect La Shawn and Joe's sites, unfortunately, and I get it less than they do but more than I'd like.

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. I have a pretty hefty blogroll, and yet I only link to three blogs in the top ten. I'm just not very impressed with the others in terms of things I look for in a blog. There are a couple complete nuts in that group, but even the ones that are within the range of normal political discourse just seem to me to be either unwilling to take the analysis deep enough to be interesting or are simply too wedded to a party mindset and unwilling to think critically enough for me to recommend them.

Even the better bloggers in that range have a hard time achieving anything close to what I really enjoy about my commenters. I'm not sure why getting into that range would even be desirable for many Christian bloggers. It may actually fit nicely into Joe and La Shawn's purposes. I suspect it does. It just doesn't seem the be the goal for most of us and actually might be counterproductive for many, as it would be for me. My goal is to write thoughtful stuff on important issues and to have people who want to engage in careful discussions of such issues be able to find it. I seem to have achieved that goal, and the one thing that would increase it would simply be longevity and continued support from those who already read my blog.

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? Are Christian bloggers writing about things you'd expect the average nonbeliever to want to read? I specifically gear my blog toward a general audience, and many of my readers are interested in just some topics I write about, primarily because they're not Christian. I try not to make my philosophy posts the sort of thing only philosophy graduate students should read. I reserve those posts for OrangePhilosophy or Prosblogion, which are blogs intended for philosopher audiences. I do write about things on this blog that I don't expect most nonbelievers to have any interest in, but I write about enough other things that they seem to keep coming back.

When I think about some of the top Christian blogs, though, I just can't imagine why most non-Christians would care to read them that often. Jollyblogger and Wittenberg Gate are ministry and theology blogs. Adrian Warnock is a networker for Christian blogs. SmartChristian Blog serves as an Instapundit-like linker focusing on just Christian blogs. Apologetics blogs attract a certain audience, including skeptics who like to refute Christians, but they're not exactly what you expect the average non-Christian blog reader to be interested in. There are plenty of Christian blogs that focus just on politics, but you can get that at many blogs that don't have the religious element that many people don't want mixed with politics to begin with. So I'm just not sure what Kevin wants is something we should expect at all, even if we desired it.

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Morning Links 3/19 from Pseudo-Polymath on March 19, 2005 9:32 AM

Some links: Bill Wallo has competition. Ginny at Chicago Boyz has an amazing critique of some classic TV.Jeremy Pierce has an interesting post on blogging, hit counts and links. Why are we blogging? The Ogre (and more links) ponder Mr... Read More

For example, is a blog with entirely political content, though written by a Christian really a "Christian Blog?' There are numerous examples of such blogs, and they are the ones with most of the traffic. Read More

5 Comments

FWIW, I consider you one of most consistantly interesting bloggers, you always have something worth giving some thinking time to.

Maybe part of the problem with popularity is that many of us just don't understand it on the mega level. Like all the wannabes that go to Hollywood hoping to hit the big-time, some of us just are going to have to be happy that we get a bit part.

Does celebrity all by itself serve Christ? A rhetorical no, but does that mean that celebrity cannot serve Christ? Whatever the calling, to be faithful in what we relate seems more the goal for the Christian blogger.

Good post Jeremy. I featured it on SmartChristian. Andy

Interesting commentary. I just posted on the same subject. While I do tend to agree with you that the Christian blogs, by and large, may not have the broad-based appeal to reach many non-believers, I have a more optimistic view for a different reason.

It seems to me the best hope for blogging is that it will further strengthen the Christian community itself. Once that happens, there could be a renewed advancement of the Christian worldview in all sorts of areas that would serve as a viable alternative to the secular culture.

(http://plaidberry.blogspot.com/2005/03/will-blogging-revitalize-church.html)

More important than the prominence of the Christian "blogosphere" or the prominence of any one Christian blog, is the quality of that blog. For example, if a Christian blog is largely a defense of a particular political party, consistently bashing members of an opposing political party, then it is focusing more on politics and focusing less on Christ's Great Commission, which is to make disciples of all nations. The prominence of the kind of self-centered, bashing-the-other-party blog is not Christlike. That is the way I see it.

Most of them are to themselves.

www.matthewsblog.waynesborochurchofchrist.org

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