Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Canadian Inferiority Complex

Crossposted to Officially Unofficial and the E-Group

At the PJNet conference a couple of weeks ago, Iranian-Canadian power blogger Hossein Derakshan (Hoder) posed an interesting question. In an informal Q & A session after dinner, Hoder asked why blogging is not as popular in Canada as it is in other places like the US and Iran. My answer to the question was that maybe it only seems like blogging is not as popular here in Canada due to our smaller population. More on that idea later.

Hoder posted an item on his blog about the conference and he brought up the issue of Canadian blog popularity again. One explanation that he’s offered is that mainstream journalists in Canada have not yet recognized blogs for what they are.

As I said last night and David Akin confirmed it, blogs are not as known -- never mind popular -- in Canada as they are in the States and part of it could be because the majority of mainstream Canadian journalists have not been able to understand this new medium and how they can use it for their own journalistic purposes. Therefore they see it as an unreliable, teenage-oriented hobby, same as chat rooms, instant messenger, etc. (Hoder’s English blog, Editor: Myself )

Hoder suggested some ways to make blogging more well-known.

We Canadian bloggers should think of creative ways to talk more about blogs and its socio-political implications, so the public could gradually understand why blogs are important and how they can use them for their own purposes.

One of the greatest ways to start, I think, is to quote from Canadian blogs -- and also introduce them this way -- in hip weekly magazines such as Now and Eye. Now, for example, has a technology page every week which could be great starting point for such thing.

I don’t disagree that blogging is less well-known in Canada or that these are good ideas for raising public awareness.

While I still contend that Canada, with roughly 10% of the US’s population, may look less aware than it really is, I’ve been thinking about the question of Canadian blog popularity a bit further and I’ve come up with some other factors that I think play a significant part. I’ve commented on this at Hoder’s blog.

Political opinion in the US is much more polarized than here in Canada with bloggers on each end of the political spectrum more strident and less willing to listen to the other side's point of view. This could indicate a level of frustration that is exemplified in more opinionated blogging. I think that more Canadians than Americans are relatively satisfied with their government and the status quo and consequently aren't publishing as many angry blog posts.

I suspect that for Iranians who are very dissatisfied with their government and have fewer other means of expressing their frustration, blogs are necessary for free speech. Canadians do not feel that they have the same problem as far as freedom of speech is concerned. The US Patriot Act has stifled free speech even in the "land of the free" and blogs are speaking up in reaction to that.

As we've all seen, the busiest blogs and comments sections are those where an argument of some sort is taking place. Canadians like to think of themselves as civil, level-headed and non-argumentative - peacekeepers rather than warriors. I suppose it might just be that happy, peace-loving Canadian blogs don't stir the pot as much as those from other parts of the world where the population is less content with their political situation. (From my comment at Editor: Myself; paragraph breaks added and a couple of spelling errors fixed here. )

Another Iranian-Canadian blogger, WhoMan, added his agreement.

In my blogging experience I have found out that even American readers are far more likely to leave comments than their Canadian counterparts. It is because there are more opinionated people among them. Americans are more expressive than Canadians too, and they feel comfortable about it. As Jim mentions, you can tell that from their bumper-stickers, T-shirt decals, front-lawn signs and flags. No wonder that this culture produces more bloggers! Don't forget ego and being opinionated can easily end up in self-publication.

I want to play devil's advocate here too. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that there are fewer blogs (proportionally) in Canada than the United States, but I haven't seen any statistics indicating Americans have more bloggers (proportional to the population) than Canadians. the majority of mainstream Canadian journalists have not been able to understand this new medium and how they can use it for their own journalistic purposes. (Are) there some numbers to back this argument up? I know of quite a few Canadian journalists who follow Canadian blogs and some even keep their own blogs. (From WhoMan’s comment at Editor: Myself; paragraph break added and a typo fixed here.)

This next part is a bit off the blogging topic but relates nicely to the argument that the smaller Canadian population can make for skewed expectations. A corollary to this isuue came up yesterday in Darren Barefoot’s blog . Darren suggested that Canadian’s don’t do too well when it comes to winning Olympic medals. That certainly seems to be the case. But is it really true?

In a follow-up to some comments to Darren’s post, some interesting statistics emerged. Darren produced a list of several countries along with figures representing medals per million in population (MPM). Using this yardstick, Canada does worse than the top performers but we actually do better than the Olympic powerhouse USA.

Here’s Darren’s list:

Country MPM
Australia 2.95
Norway 2.2
Netherlands 1.56
Sweden 1.35
Greece 1.3
Germany 0.7
France 0.63
Italy 0.6
Britain 0.47
Canada 0.45
USA 0.33
Spain 0.3

There’s some good discussion happening in Darren’s comments section and he’s talked about the validity of the above list and also posted a link to an analysis of the cost per medal and the per capita cost for each medal at the Sydney Olympics.

So how about it. Do Canadians have an inferiority complex when we compare ourselves as bloggers or as athletes to our superpower neighbour? Or are we really inferior? Proudly inferior, maybe?


Post your comments at the E-Group.


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