In favor of the small

Since the internet went mainstream in the 90s, information has been readily available for everyone. But can it be trusted? What makes a reliable source? At school, people seem to think ‘the bigger the better’. Big sites are generally considered trustworthy, while small and relatively unknown sites, like personal blogs or forums, are off-limits. However, imho small blogs are typically better sources than those big news outlets.

For one, random people online usually don’t have any financial incentives. They’re not writing to please an advertiser, publisher or particular audience—they’re writing because they’re passionate about the subject. This makes a huge difference. There’s no money at stake, no undisclosed incentives, no monetary gain. They don’t need to clickbait their writing; there’s no reason to maximize views. A blogger isn’t financially dependent on their blog, so there’s no goal to sell ads. They don’t need anything from their readers.

Furthermore, the articles on credible news sites are generally written by journalists. That’s good, because they fact-check and remain objective and neutral. However, a journalist will always be a generalist: they know a little about a lot. On the other hand, bloggers can be specialists and will often have a more in-depth understanding of the topic. In other words: specialized blogs are often more accurate than media coverage on the same subject. Just read some news items on topics you’re familiar with yourself:

I’ve mentioned a few times how easy it is to pick apart inaccuracies in media coverage on a topic you know about, and the unease that sets in when you realise every topic likely has the same issues.

Moreover, bloggers don’t have any restrictions while writing: they can make their articles as long, technical, and detailed as they please, not having to tailor them to a specific audience. However, a journalist has to make their writing accessible to a large audience, exchanging valuable detail for readability.

On blogs and forums, I know that what I’m reading is the authentic and personal experience of an actual person — not some corporate marketing bullshit. I’m not alone in this btw; there’s a reason people keep appending “reddit” to the end of their searches. Small blogs are written by people. I think that scares institutions like schools, which were created in a world where the only other big institutions, like media companies and publishers, had the ability to put stuff into the world. “Oh no, actual people are now able to write and publish stuff on their own!” PANIC!

We should be more kind towards stuff written by people. It’s not scary; it’s just different.

Clarification

The blogs I talk about here are not the commercial BuzzFeed kind of blogs, but rather the things you’d find on the IndieWeb or Small Web.