Monday, November 05, 2007

Metanarrative, Joe Morgan and Dave Winer

Many of my past experiences and hobbies have assumed post-facto significance in my own mind as I work on the looming beta version of Tinfinger, informing my understanding of what it is to create "an Internet version of the Who's Who". One of these hobbies is my predilection for snark blogs, specifically snark blogs which are focused on attacking one person. They are mostly anonymous, or at least pseudonymous, for obvious reasons. Some of them have evolved to the point where they are an essential part of the celebrity of their target.

Arguably the best such snark blog on the Internet - I would love to see a full list - is Fire Joe Morgan, which is mostly concerned with the eponymous baseball Hall of Famer and current ESPN gamecaller. As the name of the blog suggests, the author, who rejoices in the nom de plume of Ken Fantastic, thinks very little of Joe Morgan's fitness to be paid a lot of money to commentate on baseball matches. The high points of the FJM blog each week of baseball season are Ken's reviews of what he calls JoeChats, which are live online chats he has with fans on the ESPN Web site. Ken rails against Joe's obvious peccadilloes of poor communication: his overuse of the word "consistent", his inability to spell "concentrate" with two Ns, his complete cowardice in taking any stance at all on many questions, and his weasel words to get out of saying anything remotely interesting or controversial. What is more remarkable is that the FJM blog has become popular enough that readers who agree with him about Joe's incompetence have infiltrated these JoeChats and feed Joe with obviously staged questions, replete with misspelt "concetrate" and as many mentions of "consistent" as possible, purely to show Joe up. Ken, of course, gleefully highlights his reader's sly digs, and it all adds to the frivolity. One has to think that some people at ESPN must know about FJM by now and must know that they're being played for fools, which makes one wonder whether the tech lads who run the JoeChats agree with Ken and his minions and are also in on the gag.

While this is all very funny, it is also interesting in what it says about how the Internet is being used. The critics of a media practitioner are invading the medium itself and making parody part of his actual performance. I'm no media studies expert with a handle on the jargon of philosophy, but it seems to me that in this case the metanarrative is merging with the narrative.

Another example of where the snark blogs are becoming vital to comprehension of a person's fame is Dave Winer. Eye on Winer is not the first anti-Winer snark outlet and it probably won't be the last, but it's increasingly starting to look like FJM in that you can't really read Scripting News without also reading the comments on EOW to understand what's really going on.

For example, the anonymous author of EOW linked to the comments on a previous item today which predicted two weeks ago how Dave would react to the recent Google OpenSocial API moves, correctly identifying that Dave would attack Google for every flimsy reason other than the real one, which is that he hates Google whenever they support Atom as a competitor to RSS (not to mention OpenSocial as an alternative to XML-RPC). Is Dave that transparent? If so, is that just a function of age in that like Morgan, Dave is just too set in his ways to realise when he's retreading old ground and displaying his mental quirks one too many times? Dave shows some knowledge of the snark blogs tracking him, so he must know that he is being mocked constantly for the same bugbears. Does that make him more or less worthy of mocking? Familiarity breeds contempt, they say, and perhaps one of the downsides to the constant media exposure that both Joe and Dave enjoy, albeit in different media environments, is that personality faults are magnified and repeated again and again.

The tones of FJM and EOW are very similar: incredulity that their targets are so consistent (pun intended) in their incompetence and/or gutlessness. As long as Joe and Dave keep using the Internet to communicate, they seem incapable of changing their ways, and there will always be snark blogs there to feed off them in a relationship that becomes more symbiotic over time.

PS: Steve Gillmor would be another highly appropriate target of such a snark blog, given how much he's rumoured to be culpable for the downfall of Podtech... but no one cares enough about him to start one. :)


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home