We can learn what we want to learn
The action of writing a weblog can provide an entirely new vision of self-paced distance learning. Since it is self-paced and self-actuated, the results will vary from blogger to blogger.
As a blogger, I am constantly getting these “aha!” moments where I discover a pattern that will have profound effects on future events.
The constant research that goes into blogging provides a dizzying array of resources to draw upon. This means that I can sit here in the early hours of the morning, analyzing hundreds of articles until I find a thread that leads in a direction I wish to explore. Once the thread is found, it is often only moments before I am able to reach a conclusion about something I have never investigated before.
I can then Google the net to see if anyone else has come to this conclusion. Sometimes they have, sometimes not. At first, I was disappointed to find that someone like Joi Ito, Clay Shirky or Rebecca Blood had voiced the same thought years before. It was like coming up with a philosophical approach to science and finding that Richard Feynman had lectured about it forty years ago.
Then I realized that it didn’t matter if they had done it first, what is important is that I reached the same conclusions independently!
It is completely satisfying to be able to test my conclusions against the experience of others and find out that I was on the right track, or at least had company in my opinions. I learn something of value almost every day. This is a priceless opportunity to further my education.
The future of news
As I browse through weblog after weblog, I envisioned the time in 2005 when we will routinely get our news from RSS feeds from weblogs instead of broadcast media. It’s already beginning for me, as I routinely check Iraq weblogs instead of TV or newspaper for news of that area.
On any sensitive news, like Mad Cow disease, major media is too beholden to advertisers to provide any depth of coverage. You have to read the weblog of Dave Louthan, the man who actually killed the mad cow, to get a different side of the story. His frustration at the handling of this case is not surprising. Being a whistleblower is not a happy occupation.
Individual weblogs may not threaten traditional journalists, because bloggers are not always articulate nor can they always communicate effectively. But, bloggers as a group can swamp traditional news sources entirely if current trends continue. When there are bloggers with cellphone cameras routinely reporting news as it happens, there may be an interesting evolution. It is still in the early stages, and it is called moblogging.
Once there are hundreds of thousands of bloggers putting down real-time observations about life on this planet, we have a different kind of history being written. I feel it will be much harder to bury news and rewrite history, as blog records are almost permanent and can be instantly recalled for many years.
Get the idea of a vehicle hit-and-run incident posted on a blog, or a corrupt sheriff exposed on a blog, or an international cover-up unmasked on a series of blogs. The possibilities boggle the mind. Good deeds can also be acknowledged in a blog where they would not find room in most urban dailies.
Major media is so concentrated that a few powerful interests can throttle almost any embarrassing news item or conversely can alter the reporting of of matters to suit political ends. I think we have seen this with Iraq, the US presidential campaign, and the Mad Cow incident(s).
Bloggers report what they feel is interesting and they may put their own personal spin on events, as regular reporters do, but with many blogs reporting in parallel it is easy to compare accounts and come up with reasonable conclusions.
The general future of weblogs
If you want to get a glimpse of the future of weblogs, Joi Ito is one of the people to watch. He uses the web and draws power from it, as opposed to those who mainly write about weblogs, what they should be and how they should be run, etc.
Joi is an enormously successful entrepreneur, political rabble-rouser, investor, and blogger. He created one of Japan’s first personal Web sites, was the chairman of Infoseek Japan, and runs a $40 million venture fund. He typifies what can be achieved by a brilliant and unfettered mind coupled to the resources of the internet.
Read this Christopher Lydon Interview, Visitor from the Next Planet: Joi Ito. Seth Godin’s article, The Blog of Things to Come, in Fast Company gives you more of the same, although Seth lessens his credibility as a journalist with his unnecessary comments about “ordinary” bloggers.