Web blogs having too much influence or too much power? Hmm... that's a tough one - you're talking to a guy who drinks blogging Kool-aid for breakfast.
I think blogs provide a healthy balance to the recent consolidation in the media industry. All that consolidation has caused an enormous drop in the diversity of voices in the media. But with the rise of personal publishing, I don't think it's fair to say that "five or six companies [control] the media" anymore... at least, if you broaden the definition of media to include blogs.
2. The blogosphere is a dimension of the media. What do you think about the people behind the scenes? What types of people are driven to run weblogs? What is the payoff and what does that mean for the health of the blogosphere?
Who are the people behind the scenes... the bloggers? the blog tool creators?
As someone who falls into both categories, I guess I have a soft spot for people who are passionate. Providing tools that let people express that passion... well as an atheist, that's as close to God's work as I can come.
Blogging can be like pouring gasoline on the fire of someone's ego.
That's bad enough, but then take a couple people like that and let them cross-blog across the Blogosphere... it can get ugly.
It depends on what your goal is, I guess.
If you want to hit #1 on Blogdex or Daypop, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are good days to post something. Weekends tend to be very low traffic. If you publish on a Saturday night, your post gets linked to on Sunday and you'll be #1 on Monday, which can be a high traffic day.
That's probably not the healthiest reason to be blogging. And as of right now, Blogdex doesn't really drive a lot of traffic. Just post whenever you want. I like to finish my articles over the weekends and publish on a Sunday. It's probably not the best day to publish (lots of stuff comes out on Sunday night), but if you worry about your ratings too much you'll get sucked into the crazy world of web traffic counters and server logs.
My personal take is that weblogs have two roles here:
* They help break stories with their own grassroots reporting
* They help fact check and filter stories that have come out
Any individual blog post may have factual errors. But the Blogosphere as a whole is actually quite robust. I trust the Blogosphere to keep Journalists honest... and to give me a range of opinions on any given article. So in terms of my experience, I'd say that the quality of my news experience has increased.
I think the quality of news in general though, has stayed about the same. No futher comment there.
6. What do you think about weblogs that do not focus on news? I have seen weblogs with just photos, weblogs about playing games, and weblogs about sexual escapades. How do these weblogs contribute to the blogosphere and journalism and so forth?
I don't think any single blogger has any real responsibility to contribute to the blogosphere.
I'm a little reluctant to dismiss a weblog with "just photos". Noah Grey takes some unbelievable photos that make me feel embarrassed about my own blog. Zannah (usr/bin/girl) writes great blogs about video games every day. And Heather Hamilton (aka dooce.com) writes (or wrote) hilarious stuff about sexual escapades.
Anyway, someone's gotta come up with interesting stuff to link to, right?
Personally, I prefer to think of the Blogosphere as a democracy. I guess popularity and democracy aren't so different. Popularity is based on populus, which is Latin for people. Democracy is based on demos, which is Greek for people.
Either way, it's the same idea: every day people vote with their links for their favorite sites. It's the same principle that Google is based on. Democracy isn't perfect, but it's the best system we've got.
Even if it's true, blogs do a pretty good job of fact checking the news. That's a useful antidote to a problem universal to all news: the need to compete for mindshare from an audience with a short attention span.
But I think you're referring mostly to personal blogs? Sites like Romenesko's MediaNews or Corante on Blogging provide useful links to relevant articles in their respective industries (media and blogging). I like that media companies like Corante are starting to use the weblog format in such innovative ways, creating a hybrid model that's half-blog, half-media.
I eat that sort of stuff up: it's largely for that reason that I publish Microcontent News under the Corante umbrella.
Links are the glue of the blogosphere.
First, links make up a weblog's blogroll: the list of links (generally on the side of a blogger's page) that show which blogs they read regularly. These blogrolls are the key to tying together individual blogs into a community.
Links also provide a convenient way for bloggers to link to content outside of the blogging universe: cool sites, interesting articles, and the like. And on the flip side, those same links provide a convenient way for blog indices like Blogdex and Daypop to keep score of what's hot or not.
I think that's a good thing, since it means that information is spreading faster as the blogosphere gets more efficient.
There's been a huge spike in blog diversity in just the past year, as more bloggers have entered the fray. It used to be that most bloggers were kept by web designers, programmers, and usability experts. I love those blogs, but it's been an interesting change to see more blogs by non-techies.