It’s supposed to be A-Z, not A versus Z


While the original point of Scoble’s BlogCode post may be lost by the brrreeeport tagbait project, it is clear that the collective unconscious strikes again – Whether it is the issue of the ‘Z-list’ or not being allowed to sit at the cool kids table, the question of being found and heard seems to be an emergent issue again. Doc Searls talks about the A-List as gatekeepers and then in a separate post points to numerous bloggers from the long tail who have written on this issue like Mike Warot.

The bottom line is that this is one of the tactical/practical issues behind the Pareto principle and power law distribution – it is why the head of the long tail is so large and powerful, but the tail is so long and thin. The value of the people and idas in the thinner tail is not actually low, it is still just very, very, very difficult to find the gold within the mine using the mining tools that are available… Which does not mean that Doc needs to change his behaviour, but rather that we still need better tools for discovery. I had thought Tailrank was supposed to do this, but instead it seemingly highlights the same A-listers that Memeorandum and Technorati do and puts those in the tail a click behind them – where most mainstream users will never discover them.

Still, we must look to the fact that we are the early adopters relative to the rest of the people, and the everyday people’s behaviour will be slightly different than our own in this regards. While many of us early adopters will delve into the long tail looking for subjects and deeper smarts, the majority of the masses will continue to do what they have always done, rely on the implied power and authority that comes with fame and wide distribution/awareness. Even though Doc doesn’t want this role, he plays that role within the system – it is one of those universal laws, not something bad he is doing. I don’t think there is anything wrong with it really, but as he did with his post linking to numerous other bloggers, he has the power to shift some of fame’s bright spotlight on other’s via hyperlinks. Scoble just wrote about a similar issue with regards to Guy Kawasaki ‘joining the conversation‘ a short while ago where I posted a relevant comment to this subject.

The trouble is, the power of A-listers is real and very often legitimate in that they have risen to such a level of awareness and impact by being insightful AND understanding how to leverage the system to build an audience. It is not necessarily an evil conspiracy when it comes to the cross-linking between them – it is usually just an issue of people bringing their entire weight to bear within the conversation on particular subject matters, within different conversational spaces. In the global conversation that is the blogosphere, it just happens to be THE most public space for those who really care about what the best thinking is. The difference is the A-listers bring a lot more gravity to their words since they are more widely recognized, with a greater number of ‘trust points’ in the minds of everyday people. It is also often a necessity for them, from a practical viewpoint, to counter what they perceive as incorrect statements from other people of power – hence, a very necessary public service for them to engage other’s of somewhat equal power in debate to ensure the right ideas are being spread and the wrong ideas are being squashed.

From a practical point of view, we still need better editors and filters with high valued ‘trust points’ in order to find the ‘good stuff’ (like Memeorandum is today and Cool Site of the Day used to be). The public conversation system itself has its own natural laws in effect that are hard to counter. Perhaps it is time for someone to develop a specific site (Zlisters.com is already taken!) that shines the spotlight on a relatively unknown subject matter expert each day within different fields of expertise – from this site many A-listers could engage them in conversation rising up the Z-lister’s good ideas and shooting down their bad ones, ultimately defining and establishing their expertise. By focusing the conversational spotlight in such a way, the ranks of the A-list could swell and the entire knowledge economy would be the better for it.

In a very small way, this is part of the idea of BarCamp and BrainJams – to ensure that everyday people’s ideas can be heard as opposed to continuing to support the current slate of talking heads on the podium in front of the public.

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