Monday, January 02, 2006

For those who don't appreciate blogs...

I have a friend who doesn't get it. She confuses the medium with the message. Because anyone can make available any bit of garbage on the Internet, she concludes that anything found on the Internet is garbage. She prefers the MSM -- in her case, the Globe & Mail. But, suffering from cognitive dissonance, she ignores the fact that the Globe & Mail itself has a web presence and she continues to trust it.

But no publication is valuable simply because it was published. It's only when its content has passed our own tests that it gets deemed trustworthy. In the same way, while everyone has an opinion, you are not interested in everyone's equally*. When you read someone's blog over time and you learn that their facts are well sourced, that their logic is sound, that their analysis is of value, then you start to rely on their conclusions or opinions. There are zillions of blogs and bloggers and, like people one meets in the flesh, they have to establish their credibility before we trust them.

There has been much bloviating about the place of blogs in the great scheme of things. Some argue that they will replace more conventional sources of information and opinion. Some dismiss them all as worthless. It would seem to me that what the Internet and blogs have done is provide more equal opportunity for the spreading/sharing of info and opinion. In addition to ease of entry, the thing I like best about the medium is the ability to link to sources. What I find so frustrating about conventional media is that when I read something and I want more (e.g. who said that?, what's his/her interest in the issue?, what's the background?, what did he say/do before?, I've heard this opinion/side, now what are the facts? or what's the other side of the story?, etc) there is no easy way to get that "more". Whereas there is on the Web.

The technology makes it possible for an individuals to make a difference. But there is no guarantee than anyone will (or should) pay any attention. Unless that individual provides something that others feel is of value and someone notices their blog and links others to it, they will remain invisible and ineffectual. And that's fine. As in all other aspects of life -- there are no guarantees of fame or respect. We each get to interact with a few individuals and we have the opportunity to earn their affection and respect, but the key is... it must be earned. Which brings me back to blogs. Once again, Digby says it better than I could:

"[...] we scruffy bloggers are [...] are greeted with great skepticism because we are unregulated, uncredentialed, and in some cases psuedonymous, so we also must go to great lengths to document our findings. Luckily, the technology that gives us such amazing instant access to reams of information also gives us the ability to link directly to our source material --- as Arianna once described it "showing our work." And over time we gain credibility with our readers the same way that newspapers do."
As I've said before: read the whole article.

* Here is an original (if crude) quote: Opinions are like assholes -- everyone has one and is rather attached to their own but few of us are particularly interested in examining or embracing those of others.

Update: I'm not sure what the proper technique is for making changes after an article was originally posted. FYI, I made some grammatical changes and added my crude quote.
--bill Jan/28/06


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