Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Quality in the Jewish blogosphere

Two blog events worth noting, and somewhat connected. Firstly, the relatively sudden closure of the magnificent and wildly popular Not the Godol Hador (again...). Although people will inevitably connect his closure to recent "pressure" (otherwise known as threats to 'out' him) from certain people who considered him theologically "dangerous," he claims it has more to do with a new boss -- seemingly confirming the observation by MOChassid (I believe), before he closed down, that most successful bloggers were people who have too much time on their hands at work. It does look more than a little suspish, but let's give him the benefit of the doubt. Either way, his blog was original, insightful, entertaining and fulfilled a real need, and its closure is a great loss.
A week or so ago, Hirhurim celebrated its 500,000th hit, making it (as far as I can see) one of the top 2-3 blogs in the Jewish blogosphere. On the face of things, this is extremely surprising, as Gil's posts are lengthy, deep, often legalistic/technical, assume a sophisticated level of Jewish knowledge, and cater to a very niche market. In another medium, it would have had very limited exposure; compare, for example, to the circulations of journals dealing with similar topics, in similar depth. The Godol Hador, for all his brilliance, would have received no exposure whatsoever; and although his format and tone do seem more natural to the blogosphere, his blog's success, too, is surprising, in that it is heavy on theology and again seemingly caters to a very niche market.
What the success of both these blogs emphasises yet again is the versatility of the medium, as well as its strength as a forum for voices who are usually under-represented. It also shows that, whilst there are still many people out there who sneer at the blogosphere and assume it to be a waste of time, good and thoughtful writing is rewarded.
In Jewish terms, for all their differences and for all their faults, these blogs -- to different extents and in different ways -- again emphasise the thirst for real debate and open discussion in the Orthodox community, to which the blogosphere is perhaps uniquely suited, as well as the passion, intensity (and interest in minutiae...) of some of its members. They show that we deeply care about issues of belief and theology, which routinely get ignored or suppressed in other forums. Most of all, I am impressed by the high quality of these blogs (as a result of the synergy of writers and commentators); even compared to the top 1% of the blogosphere, as far as I can see, these seem unusually knowledgeable and sophisticated. It's worth noting.

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