Welcome!

Cognitive Computing Authors: Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White, Bob Gourley, Yeshim Deniz, Carmen Gonzalez

Related Topics: Linux Containers

Linux Containers: Article

i-Technology Blog: Can Blogging Change the World?

After Asking Last Week "Are We Blogging Each Other to Death?" the Ongoing Debate Continues

Jeremy Geelan's i-Technology Blog: Can Blogging Change the World?

Ina wonderfully eccentric [and subsequently deleted] posting last week entitled "Does the old school accept blogging?" Alan Williamson suggests not only that I am a late adopter to the world of blogging, dragged-reluctantly-into-the-future-through-a-hedge-backwards kind of thing, but also that the reason for this is - not to beat about the bush - that I'm more or less a hidebound relic of a bygone age.

So permit me quickly to extinguish both myths.

First, as to blogging. Alan references my recent Are We Blogging Each Other to Death? posting and says that he detects in it an undertone of, as he puts it, "What's it all about? This whole blogging nonsense?" Well I have a startling revelation for Alan: this is called critical thought. Blame one of the finest educational systems on earth if you like, but I am proud to say that it's the "undertone" of everything I have done, written, or published for the past 25 years: "What's it all about? This whole BlackBerry nonsense?" -- "What's it all about? This whole 'social software' nonsense?" -- "What's it all about? This whole 'ambient findability' nonsense?" Yes, yes, yes. Until proven otherwise, all emperors are naked.

In other words, of course my default stance toward blogging is that of skepticism. Doh. That is my default stance toward life in general. If that makes me, as Alan says, "old school" (though I think this may just be a reference to Trinity College, Cambridge having been founded in 1546 and/or The John Lyon School having been founded by Harrow school in the 1870s), then so be it. To my mind blogging is no more deserving of a free ride than flogging: in my view all human activity requires critical scrutiny before being given the thumbs up/thumbs down.

Alan, bless him, then launches into the destruction of another paper tiger, namely that I am "troubled" about blogs because of their unstructured nature:

"Blogs are in their raw form, just a collection of unedited, quickly written, musings from the top of people's heads.  No, or very little, thought goes into them ...  I can hear him screaming now as he reads this very entry, thinking to himself, if he could just rearrange that sentence with this, and further explore this phrase... trying to get himself to the end without exploding. [note to Jeremy - sorry!]"
But this is in fact a complete non-issue. Little thought goes into what most people on the planet say or do, but I am not going to lie awake at night worrying about it. Blogging naturally is no exception. There's amazing, insightful writing and there's drivel; nothing new there, whether it be in newspapers, magazines, pamphlets, essays, novels, and now blogs. My concern is with insight, not blindness. The sheer proliferation of the words that make up the blogosphere may impact the efficacy of search engine results, but it is not "troubling" me. What is troubling me is the notion that there is some kind of refreshing originality to the word-morass simply because it is typed into a browser or encoded into an mp3 file instead of written down or merely spoken out loud in a FTF conversation.

Alan continues his theorizing:
"I don't think for a moment he feels threatened by blogs, but I do see him react in the same way that some developers reacted when IDEs started to include lots of wizards.  Lowering the barrier to entry can sometimes have the effect of making something look too easy and therefore devalue the real skill behind that."
Which alas is a second non-issue. To contend that those of us fortunate enough to extract a livelihood, sometimes even a decent living, from words are in some way circling the wagons and trying to keep blogs from diluting the currency of our uniquely insightful gems of prose is at best plain silly and at worst delusional. It is to miss the point entirely. The point (as Alan well knows because as he notes he and I have discussed this many, many times over the past 5-6 years) is not that blogging rivals journalism or punditry or social criticism. Of course it doesn't, it is merely a part of it. No, the problem is that people like Alan keep on (and on and on and on) trumpeting its virtues as if they were in any way different from the virtues of self-expression in general.

In short, like the inveterate technologist he is, what Alan Williamson is doing is mistaking the medium for the message and misguidely portaying blogging as Something Completely Different when everything indicates quite the contrary, i.e. that it is Something Entirely the Same. Freedom of expression, as guaranteed by the First Amendment, is hardly some New, New Thing. Viewed this way, blogging is about as remarkable as logging. That is, it isn't remarkable at all.

So what does all this leave, in terms of contradistinguishing blogging from any other form writing/speaking? It leaves what we might call the "Disproportionate Impact" issue. Alan is much exercised by the thought that, as he puts it, "if they hit the sweet spot ... bloggers can indeed change the world." He instances the recent about-face by SonyBMG over its use of copy-protection software:
"Think back to how we would have done this just 5 years ago?  We would have needed to lobby a journalist to write about it assuming his publisher didn't have any potential come back from ruining a relationship with a big national company.  Then we would have to guage the reaction from readers in a medium where communication is still very much one way.  Naturally this would have only been in one country and if the story didn't hold enough interest, well you know what they say, today's story is tomorrow's chip paper.  So the chances of Sony getting away with this tactic 5 years ago, would have been very high." 
But how, pray, does this make bloggers in 2005 any different from, say, pamphleteers around the time of the English Civil War? As Amanda Griscom has written:
"When the printing press became a public instrument in the mid-seventeenth century, the autocratic voice of England's King Charles I could no longer remain discrete, inexorable, or unchallenged. Pamphleteers could sound off to their allies and adversaries alike in the form of one-cent printed flyers created with Gutenberg's moveable type."
When Alan writes "Finally the common man has the opportunity to actually make a difference," I am at a loss to know whether he means it or is merely pulling all our legs. "Finally"??!? Good job that there hasn't been anything like a 550-year history of freedom of printed expression in the run-up to the mere 8-year history of blogging ;-)

Experience shows us that technology has the mysterious power to cause the suspension of all critical faculties in some people. Blogging is remarkable, we are asked to believe (by technologists) because it is mediated by technology. My point is merely: so was pamphleteering. "There is nothing new under the sun," as the wisdom literatures teach. Tellingly, that phrase, which comes from Ecclesiastes, is there followed by (my emphasis):
Is there a thing of which it is said,
         "See, this is new"?
     It has already been,
         in the ages before us.
"The dumbing down of a craft," writes Alan in his final sentence, "can be painful for any skilled professional to observe and change, like time, can never be stopped." Yet at no point has he even begun to make out any sort of a case demonstrating that I believe blogs "dumb down" commentary/analysis/social criticism and wish to protect my high-falutin ivory tower bastion of late-adoption. (It strikes me as being a bit perverse in any case to accuse the founding editor of a major book series entirely devoted to the future of being backwards-looking.)

It's not that blogs dumb anything down that wasn't already dumb. It's more that they don't elevate to the level of insightful anything that wouldn't already have been deemed insightful in the pre-blog era (all 542 years of it). Whereas my distinct impression just now is that blogging is being invested with all manner of curative powers akin to Coca-Cola as originally formulated in 1886 by the Atlanta druggist John Styth Pemberton -- you know, the one who ensured that it contained parts coca leaves to one part cola nut. Coke was promoted as a patent medicine that would "cure all nervous afflictions--Sick Headache, Neuralgia, Hysteria, Melancholy, Etc...." 

If blogging, as Alan contends, gives ordinary folks "the opportunity to actually make a difference," then that's a good thing. "This is of course assuming somebody is listening...," he adds, before concluding (again, my emphasis): 
"...and as the blogging world has proven, somebody is always listening somewhere."

I am not even going to say that I fear Alan here may be confusing "listening" and "hearing" (reading someone's blog is not the same thing as cognating it). I would merely note a general trend to cram into blogging the hopes and dreams of our times...and sound a note of caution. That's all. Blogging is unlikely to cure AIDS, eradicate world poverty, or bring peace and harmony to the Middle East.

Even Robert Scoble, for example, Microsoft's best-known blogger--whose blog is read by millions of people annually and is the top-ranking business blog among Technorati's Top 100--isn't able to pinpoint precisely what's so different about blogging, though his forthcoming book Naked Conversations*  (co-written with Shel Israel) ends with the sweeping statement that "something has changed, and blogging is impacting business of all sizes in most parts of the developed world."

"Ultimately, blogging has ended one era and ignited another," Scoble and Israel write, a tad over-portentously perhaps.

Of course on the other they may even be right. Caution is by no means relevant in all circumstances, and improving the human condition is probably one of the areas where one should most readily throw caution to the wind. As Goethe said: "Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now."  

Author's Note
* Naked Conversations (to be published by Wiley) comes out in January 2006. Quotes here are taken from the Advance Uncorrected Proof.


     posted Sunday, 27-Nov-2005

More Stories By Jeremy Geelan

Jeremy Geelan is Chairman & CEO of the 21st Century Internet Group, Inc. and an Executive Academy Member of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences. Formerly he was President & COO at Cloud Expo, Inc. and Conference Chair of the worldwide Cloud Expo series. He appears regularly at conferences and trade shows, speaking to technology audiences across six continents. You can follow him on twitter: @jg21.

Comments (1) View Comments

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Most Recent Comments
Paul Horne 02/06/06 04:39:50 PM EST

Here's an example of a blog that supports changing the world... http://www.cthings.com

@ThingsExpo Stories
SYS-CON Events announced today that SoftLayer, an IBM Company, has been named “Gold Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York, New York. SoftLayer, an IBM Company, provides cloud infrastructure as a service from a growing number of data centers and network points of presence around the world. SoftLayer’s customers range from Web startups to global enterprises.
The explosion of new web/cloud/IoT-based applications and the data they generate are transforming our world right before our eyes. In this rush to adopt these new technologies, organizations are often ignoring fundamental questions concerning who owns the data and failing to ask for permission to conduct invasive surveillance of their customers. Organizations that are not transparent about how their systems gather data telemetry without offering shared data ownership risk product rejection, regu...
Multiple data types are pouring into IoT deployments. Data is coming in small packages as well as enormous files and data streams of many sizes. Widespread use of mobile devices adds to the total. In this power panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists will look at the tools and environments that are being put to use in IoT deployments, as well as the team skills a modern enterprise IT shop needs to keep things running, get a handle on all this data, and deli...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Grape Up will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct. 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Grape Up is a software company specializing in cloud native application development and professional services related to Cloud Foundry PaaS. With five expert teams that operate in various sectors of the market across the U.S. and Europe, Grape Up works with a variety of customers from emergi...
20th Cloud Expo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Super Micro Computer, Inc., a global leader in compute, storage and networking technologies, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Supermicro (NASDAQ: SMCI), the leading innovator in high-performance, high-efficiency server technology, is a premier provider of advanced server Building Block Solutions® for Data Center, Cloud Computing, Enterprise IT, Hadoop/...
In his keynote at @ThingsExpo, Chris Matthieu, Director of IoT Engineering at Citrix and co-founder and CTO of Octoblu, focused on building an IoT platform and company. He provided a behind-the-scenes look at Octoblu’s platform, business, and pivots along the way (including the Citrix acquisition of Octoblu).
Amazon has gradually rolled out parts of its IoT offerings in the last year, but these are just the tip of the iceberg. In addition to optimizing their back-end AWS offerings, Amazon is laying the ground work to be a major force in IoT – especially in the connected home and office. Amazon is extending its reach by building on its dominant Cloud IoT platform, its Dash Button strategy, recently announced Replenishment Services, the Echo/Alexa voice recognition control platform, the 6-7 strategic...
Bert Loomis was a visionary. This general session will highlight how Bert Loomis and people like him inspire us to build great things with small inventions. In their general session at 19th Cloud Expo, Harold Hannon, Architect at IBM Bluemix, and Michael O'Neill, Strategic Business Development at Nvidia, discussed the accelerating pace of AI development and how IBM Cloud and NVIDIA are partnering to bring AI capabilities to "every day," on-demand. They also reviewed two "free infrastructure" pr...
Judith Hurwitz is president and CEO of Hurwitz & Associates, a Needham, Mass., research and consulting firm focused on emerging technology, including big data, cognitive computing and governance. She is co-author of the book Cognitive Computing and Big Data Analytics, published in 2015. Her Cloud Expo session, "What Is the Business Imperative for Cognitive Computing?" is scheduled for Wednesday, June 8, at 8:40 a.m. In it, she puts cognitive computing into perspective with its value to the busin...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Hitachi, the leading provider the Internet of Things and Digital Transformation, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Hitachi Data Systems, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hitachi, Ltd., offers an integrated portfolio of services and solutions that enable digital transformation through enhanced data management, governance, mobility and analytics. We help globa...
Cognitive Computing is becoming the foundation for a new generation of solutions that have the potential to transform business. Unlike traditional approaches to building solutions, a cognitive computing approach allows the data to help determine the way applications are designed. This contrasts with conventional software development that begins with defining logic based on the current way a business operates. In her session at 18th Cloud Expo, Judith S. Hurwitz, President and CEO of Hurwitz & ...
Financial Technology has become a topic of intense interest throughout the cloud developer and enterprise IT communities. Accordingly, attendees at the upcoming 20th Cloud Expo at the Javits Center in New York, June 6-8, 2017, will find fresh new content in a new track called FinTech.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Interoute, owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017 at the Javits Center in New York, New York. Interoute is the owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform which encompasses 12 data centers, 14 virtual data centers and 31 colocation centers, with connections to 195 add...
The age of Digital Disruption is evolving into the next era – Digital Cohesion, an age in which applications securely self-assemble and deliver predictive services that continuously adapt to user behavior. Information from devices, sensors and applications around us will drive services seamlessly across mobile and fixed devices/infrastructure. This evolution is happening now in software defined services and secure networking. Four key drivers – Performance, Economics, Interoperability and Trust ...
Grape Up is a software company, specialized in cloud native application development and professional services related to Cloud Foundry PaaS. With five expert teams that operate in various sectors of the market across the USA and Europe, we work with a variety of customers from emerging startups to Fortune 1000 companies.
Cybersecurity is a critical component of software development in many industries including medical devices. However, code is not always written to be robust or secure from the unknown or the unexpected. This gap can make medical devices susceptible to cybersecurity attacks ranging from compromised personal health information to life-sustaining treatment. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Clark Fortney, Software Engineer at Battelle, will discuss how programming oversight using key methods can incre...
The Internet of Things is clearly many things: data collection and analytics, wearables, Smart Grids and Smart Cities, the Industrial Internet, and more. Cool platforms like Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Intel's Galileo and Edison, and a diverse world of sensors are making the IoT a great toy box for developers in all these areas. In this Power Panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists discussed what things are the most important, which will have the most profound e...
@ThingsExpo has been named the Most Influential ‘Smart Cities - IIoT' Account and @BigDataExpo has been named fourteenth by Right Relevance (RR), which provides curated information and intelligence on approximately 50,000 topics. In addition, Right Relevance provides an Insights offering that combines the above Topics and Influencers information with real time conversations to provide actionable intelligence with visualizations to enable decision making. The Insights service is applicable to eve...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Super Micro Computer, Inc., a global leader in compute, storage and networking technologies, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Supermicro (NASDAQ: SMCI), the leading innovator in high-performance, high-efficiency server technology, is a premier provider of advanced server Building Block Solutions® for Data Center, Cloud Computing, Enterprise IT, Hadoop/...