In InstaPundit’s early days, he hunted the Web for ideas. Now most are e-mailed to him; fellow bloggers know that a link from Mr. Reynolds guarantees a spike of hundreds of additional readers, if not thousands.
This confirms something I’ve suspected for a while, and I think that overall it’s probably a bad thing. There’s nothing wrong with getting ideas from your readers ? probably every blogger does this to some degree or another ? but on a large scale it risks turning your site into an echo chamber of interest only to people who already agree with you. This is probably OK in the case of a site like Little Green Footballs, which is deliberately designed to be that way, but not so good for a site like InstaPundit that tries to cover a wider range of topics and appeal to a wider range of readers.
One of the dangers of blogging ? as with any act of political activism, perhaps ? is that it has a tendency to harden your positions. You start spending all your time with people who agree with you, you’re bombarded daily with positive reinforcement that grows stronger as your views become more extreme, and you start to see the views of your most extreme opponents not as outliers but as the mainstream. And if you think Noam Chomsky is typical of the left and David Horowitz of the right, well then, you’re not likely to cut even the mainstream of the opposition much slack, are you?
To be sure, much of this is simply an unavoidable aspect of human nature, but I think the virtual nature of blogging makes it worse. It is much easier to demonize people you don’t know than ones you do, and much easier to write flaming rants than it is to say them face to face. Blogging may be revolutionary ? or not ? but it has its downsides as well as its virtues.