Click here to close now.

Welcome!

Search Authors: Carmen Gonzalez, Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, John Wetherill, Mike Kavis

Related Topics: Linux

Linux: 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 Open Data Centers (ODC), a carrier-neutral colocation provider, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Open Data Centers is a carrier-neutral data center operator in New Jersey and New York City offering alternative connectivity options for carriers, service providers and enterprise customers.
When it comes to the Internet of Things, hooking up will get you only so far. If you want customers to commit, you need to go beyond simply connecting products. You need to use the devices themselves to transform how you engage with every customer and how you manage the entire product lifecycle. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Sean Lorenz, Technical Product Manager for Xively at LogMeIn, will show how “product relationship management” can help you leverage your connected devices and the data they generate about customer usage and product performance to deliver extremely compelling and reliabl...
The explosion of connected devices / sensors is creating an ever-expanding set of new and valuable data. In parallel the emerging capability of Big Data technologies to store, access, analyze, and react to this data is producing changes in business models under the umbrella of the Internet of Things (IoT). In particular within the Insurance industry, IoT appears positioned to enable deep changes by altering relationships between insurers, distributors, and the insured. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Michael Sick, a Senior Manager and Big Data Architect within Ernst and Young's Financial Servi...
The IoT market is projected to be $1.9 trillion tidal wave that’s bigger than the combined market for smartphones, tablets and PCs. While IoT is widely discussed, what not being talked about are the monetization opportunities that are created from ubiquitous connectivity and the ensuing avalanche of data. While we cannot foresee every service that the IoT will enable, we should future-proof operations by preparing to monetize them with extremely agile systems.
There’s Big Data, then there’s really Big Data from the Internet of Things. IoT is evolving to include many data possibilities like new types of event, log and network data. The volumes are enormous, generating tens of billions of logs per day, which raise data challenges. Early IoT deployments are relying heavily on both the cloud and managed service providers to navigate these challenges. Learn about IoT, Big Data and deployments processing massive data volumes from wearables, utilities and other machines.
SYS-CON Events announced today that CodeFutures, a leading supplier of database performance tools, has been named a “Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9–11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. CodeFutures is an independent software vendor focused on providing tools that deliver database performance tools that increase productivity during database development and increase database performance and scalability during production.
The explosion of connected devices / sensors is creating an ever-expanding set of new and valuable data. In parallel the emerging capability of Big Data technologies to store, access, analyze, and react to this data is producing changes in business models under the umbrella of the Internet of Things (IoT). In particular within the Insurance industry, IoT appears positioned to enable deep changes by altering relationships between insurers, distributors, and the insured. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Michael Sick, a Senior Manager and Big Data Architect within Ernst and Young's Financial Servi...
“In the past year we've seen a lot of stabilization of WebRTC. You can now use it in production with a far greater degree of certainty. A lot of the real developments in the past year have been in things like the data channel, which will enable a whole new type of application," explained Peter Dunkley, Technical Director at Acision, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Intelligent Systems Services will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Established in 1994, Intelligent Systems Services Inc. is located near Washington, DC, with representatives and partners nationwide. ISS’s well-established track record is based on the continuous pursuit of excellence in designing, implementing and supporting nationwide clients’ mission-critical systems. ISS has completed many successful projects in Healthcare, Commercial, Manufacturing, ...
PubNub on Monday has announced that it is partnering with IBM to bring its sophisticated real-time data streaming and messaging capabilities to Bluemix, IBM’s cloud development platform. “Today’s app and connected devices require an always-on connection, but building a secure, scalable solution from the ground up is time consuming, resource intensive, and error-prone,” said Todd Greene, CEO of PubNub. “PubNub enables web, mobile and IoT developers building apps on IBM Bluemix to quickly add scalable realtime functionality with minimal effort and cost.”
The major cloud platforms defy a simple, side-by-side analysis. Each of the major IaaS public-cloud platforms offers their own unique strengths and functionality. Options for on-site private cloud are diverse as well, and must be designed and deployed while taking existing legacy architecture and infrastructure into account. Then the reality is that most enterprises are embarking on a hybrid cloud strategy and programs. In this Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo (http://www.CloudComputingExpo.com), moderated by Ashar Baig, Research Director, Cloud, at Gigaom Research, Nate Gordon, Director of T...
Sensor-enabled things are becoming more commonplace, precursors to a larger and more complex framework that most consider the ultimate promise of the IoT: things connecting, interacting, sharing, storing, and over time perhaps learning and predicting based on habits, behaviors, location, preferences, purchases and more. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Tom Wesselman, Director of Communications Ecosystem Architecture at Plantronics, will examine the still nascent IoT as it is coalescing, including what it is today, what it might ultimately be, the role of wearable tech, and technology gaps stil...
DevOps tends to focus on the relationship between Dev and Ops, putting an emphasis on the ops and application infrastructure. But that’s changing with microservices architectures. In her session at DevOps Summit, Lori MacVittie, Evangelist for F5 Networks, will focus on how microservices are changing the underlying architectures needed to scale, secure and deliver applications based on highly distributed (micro) services and why that means an expansion into “the network” for DevOps.
With several hundred implementations of IoT-enabled solutions in the past 12 months alone, this session will focus on experience over the art of the possible. Many can only imagine the most advanced telematics platform ever deployed, supporting millions of customers, producing tens of thousands events or GBs per trip, and hundreds of TBs per month. With the ability to support a billion sensor events per second, over 30PB of warm data for analytics, and hundreds of PBs for an data analytics archive, in his session at @ThingsExpo, Jim Kaskade, Vice President and General Manager, Big Data & Ana...
For years, we’ve relied too heavily on individual network functions or simplistic cloud controllers. However, they are no longer enough for today’s modern cloud data center. Businesses need a comprehensive platform architecture in order to deliver a complete networking suite for IoT environment based on OpenStack. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Dhiraj Sehgal from PLUMgrid will discuss what a holistic networking solution should really entail, and how to build a complete platform that is scalable, secure, agile and automated.
We’re no longer looking to the future for the IoT wave. It’s no longer a distant dream but a reality that has arrived. It’s now time to make sure the industry is in alignment to meet the IoT growing pains – cooperate and collaborate as well as innovate. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jim Hunter, Chief Scientist & Technology Evangelist at Greenwave Systems, will examine the key ingredients to IoT success and identify solutions to challenges the industry is facing. The deep industry expertise behind this presentation will provide attendees with a leading edge view of rapidly emerging IoT oppor...
In the consumer IoT, everything is new, and the IT world of bits and bytes holds sway. But industrial and commercial realms encompass operational technology (OT) that has been around for 25 or 50 years. This grittier, pre-IP, more hands-on world has much to gain from Industrial IoT (IIoT) applications and principles. But adding sensors and wireless connectivity won’t work in environments that demand unwavering reliability and performance. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Ron Sege, CEO of Echelon, will discuss how as enterprise IT embraces other IoT-related technology trends, enterprises with i...
When it comes to the Internet of Things, hooking up will get you only so far. If you want customers to commit, you need to go beyond simply connecting products. You need to use the devices themselves to transform how you engage with every customer and how you manage the entire product lifecycle. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Sean Lorenz, Technical Product Manager for Xively at LogMeIn, will show how “product relationship management” can help you leverage your connected devices and the data they generate about customer usage and product performance to deliver extremely compelling and reliabl...
The Internet of Things (IoT) is causing data centers to become radically decentralized and atomized within a new paradigm known as “fog computing.” To support IoT applications, such as connected cars and smart grids, data centers' core functions will be decentralized out to the network's edges and endpoints (aka “fogs”). As this trend takes hold, Big Data analytics platforms will focus on high-volume log analysis (aka “logs”) and rely heavily on cognitive-computing algorithms (aka “cogs”) to make sense of it all.
The Internet of Everything (IoE) brings together people, process, data and things to make networked connections more relevant and valuable than ever before – transforming information into knowledge and knowledge into wisdom. IoE creates new capabilities, richer experiences, and unprecedented opportunities to improve business and government operations, decision making and mission support capabilities. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Gary Hall, Chief Technology Officer, Federal Defense at Cisco Systems, will break down the core capabilities of IoT in multiple settings and expand upon IoE for bo...