Sunday, April 22, 2007

The best news is like Ecto Cooler

(I originally published this on Tumblr. Enjoy!)

Jason Goldman:

"Eventually, I believe, everyone will be using the web as a medium of self-expression. Just as ~everyone has an email address, so too will ~everyone have a place on the web that they can point to as being theirs (even if it's not fully public or shared with everyone). ... But both from a philosophical and professional standpoint, I want to see as many as people as possible use the web to express themselves. Moreover, I want to build the tools that enable them to do so."

(on Goldtoe Lemon.nut)

Jason's post is a fantastic overview of the could-be about the blogosphere and web-in-general. He touched on one bit that I think is critical in evolving the blog landscape from "bloggers" to "~everyone:" the argument against the everyman publisher — namely, that not everyone thinks or realizes they have something interesting to say, and the similar-yet-different argument that "maybe not everyone should be blogging."

But there is another side to this story that I haven't heard or read exercised: how will people (and I mean a critical mass of people, across the tipping point) learn to digest this much information and interpret it for themselves?

I'll break down these two arguments as "production vs. consumption."

  • Production:
    • people are not interested in blogging
    • people are boring
    • people think they are boring
    • people think others are boring
    • people are bad writers/designers/people (see: MySpace, "people are boring" bullet point)
  • Consumption:
    • people don't know how to think for themselves
    • people really, really like Kool-Aid
    • people are easier trained to write than to think

So the production argument is pretty well understood. I agree that everyone does have something important/creative/interesting/inflammatory/marginally coherent to say, and I acknowledge that there are challenges ahead in having everyone publish.

But the consumption side — and this is the argument I haven't heard — what happens when every average Joe has access to (or an unstoppable deluge of) diverse, biased, subjective, disparate, and sometimes flat-out wrong opinions? What if everybody only read the Opinions section? What if everyone gets a bottomless cup of Kool-Aid?

Fanboys are a great example — look at digg and see how the "Apple Cult" articles are moderated versus the "Fuck-Microsoft Bandwagon" articles. Who needs "six words uttered by an innocent man" to convict him when you have six thousand or six million blogs that say he is guilty?

There is an insidious side to this, too: hard, technical barriers prevent people from writing. Nothing prevents people from nonthink or groupthink. Once ~everyone has a blog, and they will, no hard barrier will stop them from becoming an inexhaustible fount of stupid.

So change is coming. At least I hope so. But so is the need for people to become smarter and subjective. Anyone care to head this up?

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