Monday, April 11, 2005

World Perception of Information

When we change our view of the world, our world itself changes as a result.

I noticed this today as I was writing a report on the blogosphere and the people who compose it. While adding words like “blogosphere”, “folksonomy”, “blog”, “blogging” and “blogger” to my MS Word dictionary it started to sink in. I’ve always thought of myself as a bit of a mid adopter when it comes to technology. Though I’m a bit ashamed to admit it, I just recently bought my first laptop (the Compaq nx6110, in a case with HP branding all over it), and am still an avid user of IE, even though my colleague Rob Harwood is trying his best to lure me into Firefox with promises of “tabbed browsing”, “better page searching technology”, “virus protection”, and a slew of other features, which sound very appetizing, but somehow I just can’t break the old habit. My new excuse is that the scrolling section on my touchpad doesn’t seem to work in Firefox. I guess this just goes to confirm that once you’re product has crossed the chasm, features aren’t everything anymore. However, mobile technology and blogging have been capturing my attention as of late, and therefore the ideas that I associate together, are beginning to change my view of the world.

This struck me when at a dinner party earlier in the week the topic of blogging came up. My friend Scott mentioned that he just didn’t get it. “Why should anyone waste their time reading from a bunch of people who just want to hear themselves ramble about their opinions?” He was speaking about the trend of diary blogging, but his opinion disturbed me. Though I was ready with a barrage of rhetoric about why people waste their time listening to politicians when they fully know that less than half of what they say has any real substance to it, and was probably composed by a script writer after reading the latest opinion poll, I held back, and simply replied, “because it’s real.”

I found myself recounting some of the language of Jeremy Wright and Darren Barefoot, in their True Voice audio conversation with Stowe Boyd, about professional bloggers. In it, they mention some of the differences between journalists and bloggers and one of their points was about “the roots and ethics of journalism”. In the mid 20th century, a lot of journalists were getting paid to write, by the people doing the advertising. Every paper was basically turning into a tabloid, and newspapers started to realize that their readership was going down, because people didn’t believe what they were saying. So, journalists banded together and realized that it was their objectivity to issues that was their real livelihood, and being paid to talk about an issue, was a sure way to prematurely end your career. So reporters and journalists stopped writing their opinions, and started “reporting facts objectively”. One thing Jeremy and Darren didn’t mention is that editorial columns have always been a popular part of magazines and newspapers, and these editorial columns have often been the most thought provoking, and indeed the most talked about part of the publication. They are also the most heavily opinion-based section of the paper. Jeremy and Darren pick this topic up again in their interview, and say that it is the ability of bloggers to be authentic that makes them popular. And while journalists trade on their objectivity to an issue, the real value to bloggers and blog readers, is the opinions of the author. This was my answer for Scott, that the real, unabashed opinion, of a real person, is why people “waste” their time reading blogs.

Six months ago, the conversation could have ended with Scott's rhetorical comment, but since my perception of the information available to me has been changing, I have therefore become a source of information for others, and therefore a cog in the information exchange. Who knows, the world of information itself may be forced to change because of a cog like me. It will be interesting to see where information sources head next. Will the wiki gain popularity? Or sites such as del.icio.us? What information is the most valuable to us, and will there be a time when we would be willing to pay for it? What is worth paying for? I’m predicting that these answers will be revealed by the end of 2005, and a small handful of companies will emerge to lead the change. Will it be yours?

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