Unscheduled Post: Niches and responsibility


There has been a recent blog discussion on the topic of attribution.  As a piece of plankton (not even a small fish) in this world I only suffer from the occasional automatic link farm reference.  However this is a debate worth having, with good posts from Andy Baio and Jason Kottke which both have long comments discussions.  Merlin Mann on 43 Folders took the ball from this and started to run:

The niche is the thing, friends. It’s the future, and it’s here. Things like this little rhubarb are just the earliest Braxton Hicks contractions of a change that will be getting way, way weirder than most people think.

But, if we each have the arrogance to demand the credit that we’re due, an astonishing number of opportunities begin to unfold. We learn who really made what we love; not just who put it someplace where lots of people can see it. We discover whom we admire and we make decisions about who to collaborate with.

Merlin Mann, Free as in ‘Me’

When I started this blog I put up a post about why.  The desire to put something out there, to say things I thought were important and hope that they manage to find the people who are interested in them.  Though I have become comically addicted to watching the rise of my rather small page views, I try not to chase them.  I know that it makes a huge difference not just who the people looking at the site are, but how they react.  If I can change a few people’s opinions about mathematics in a small way my work is worthwhile.  The difference between this metric and the page views is that it is very hard to measure.  Am I putting in a lot of effort to words that are never truely read?  As an academic of course I am used to this, but at least published papers look good on my CV.  

So I am proudly preaching to my own tiny niche.  Why do I think that niches are important?  Moving away from mainstream to a world of overlapping niches, we can admit  that there is no “real world”.  The one that people regularly accuse others of not living in, but rarely say about themselves.  In collecting their own personal collection of niches people have to ask questions about who they are.  Hopefully (I put my utopian hat on here) this will lead to an increase of the attitude that whatever one does it should be done well.  This includes consuming.  Taking the time to find out where things (from food to blog posts) come from.  Thinking about things, not just taking the convenient whether convenience is the cheap item or the easy opinion.  Maybe, just maybe niche blogs and easy publication can help some of these things grow.  

I will admit a slight hidden agenda in posting this.  I have been a fan of 43 folders for a long time, and almost worshiper of Merlin Mann since the change of direction.  His post has already attracted over 4000 comments so I doubt he will actually read this, but I can hope!  One criticism though Merlin, saying something is a polemic is just as much a sign of “people who think they are clever” as saying it is a rambling rant.

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