[conspire] (forw) Blogging culture (was: OSI, GAP, and "Exhibit B" licences)

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Fri Feb 9 15:53:22 PST 2007

----- Forwarded message from Rick Moen <rick at linuxmafia.com> -----

Date: Fri, 9 Feb 2007 15:52:13 -0800
From: Rick Moen <rick at linuxmafia.com>
To: ben at linuxgazette.net
Subject: Blogging culture (was: OSI, GAP, and "Exhibit B" licences)

I wrote (replying to the author of
http://www.tendersystem.com/modules/wordpress/archives/9, who referred
to my Linux Gazette issue #134 article as something I had "blogged", 
and asked me to have a "discussion" via his own blog):

> By the way, no I most certainly did not "blog".  I do not "blog".
> It's called a magazine article.

Just to elaborate, privately:  For many years, I and others laboured
towards bring about something like weblogs, i.e., towards using
computers to bring the power and freedom of the printing press to
everyone.  It was a longtime dream.

That dream, now achieved, has proved to be something of a nightmare:
Yes, there are certainly some essays that greatly merit reading in some
weblogs.  Probably, some number of weblogs consistently repay reading,
e.g., Don Marti's.  However, the format and surrounding culture tend to
haul even those down into the muck.

The problem isn't really that blogging software has lowered the bar for
the inarticulate, vapid, incompetent, and emotionally labile -- though
that is also the case.  The problem is some systemic tendencies:

o  A culture of impermanence.  I write with some care for quality and
   long-term significance, but find that blogging is overwhelmingly 
   concerned with the transitory, and structured to reinforce that
   tendency, e.g., the strong emphasis on what has been posted lately, 
   as if what was posted last week no longer mattered.

   If I have something serious to say, I'll save it up, polish it, and
   publish it as an article.  (Note that posting something on a blog,
   Web forum, or CGI "send us feedback" link leaves you _no_ independent 
   archival copy of your post, as do SMTP or NNTP-based fora.)

o  A culture of gossip, one that seems to have dribbled onto the blogosphere
   from Web forums.  Read the feedback on just about any blog, for 
   starters.  The feedback posts on my and Karsten Self's "The Pirates
   of Penguinance" were predominantly so tacky and awful that I forked
   off my own copy without them, which turns out to have been A Good Thing 
   since the IWeThey site recently collapsed.  (See "culture of impermanence".)

o  A culture of egalitarianism to the exclusion of discrimination on 
   grounds of _merit_.  The predominant assumption is that it's not 
   important that you understand a topic, just that you have an 
   opinion about it.   

   Elitism on grounds of merit is A Very Good Thing.

o  A culture of spin-control, revisionism, and censorship.  Blogs tend
   to get quietly, retroactively edited for content by people who've
   said things they later find inconvenient, and visitor comments that
   don't suit the blogger's agenda get quietly deleted.  

   When I write critiques, I'll be damned if I'll post them only in some 
   Web "gated community"; it's smarter to use mailing lists with
   more-neutral administrations, or Usenet, or one's _own_ Web pages.

These are hardly new problems:  They existed in BBSes, FidoTech
echo-conferences, etc.  What's new is that people (like Christiaan
Erasmus of ValueCard dba TenderSystem, a firm with yet another dodgy
"open source" proprietary licence) _actually_ think commenting on
other people's blogs is a reasonable substitute for using real
discussion media.  It's just not.

----- End forwarded message -----

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