Monday, January 03, 2005

Thoughts on my first month in the blogosphere

Today marks the end of my first month of blogging. In that time, I've been reading more blogs than ever before. I’ve also been writing more then ever. I am struck by how similar things are to a book I read years ago. It gave a detailed description of how information would flow in the future. Information, it’s all out there just waiting to be read, cross-referenced and disseminated to millions of faithful readers. So just what is out there? In this post, I will explore the types of blogs and what the future holds. Blogs can be broken down into the following types, Journals, Publications, and Filters. Journals are the outpouring of bloggers daily lives. They are the diary of the twenty-first Century richer in content than any handwritten page could ever be. Interactive diaries with comments and links to items of interest, photo albums with treasured memories archived for eternity, and mix tapes with the soundtrack of life time stamped for a particular period and in context with the rest of a persons thoughts. I’ve become personally invested in some of these types of blogs. Publications are something strikingly different from the Journals. There is an endless variety, everything from book and film criticism to actual books, poems, song lyrics, and essay. People may argue that this is a type of filter blog, but bear with me and I’ll explain my thinking I think of publishers as people who are putting together an original product. This essay is an example. Filters are similar to publishers, but with the fine distinction, they gather together information from other sources and create discussions. To me this is the real future of information dissemination. I want to build on this and take it one-step further and clarify. Blogging, RSS, and Newsreaders are going to be the key to gathering and filtering information in the near future. Just a couple of years ago the topic was information overload. We were being swamped with all of this new access to information- the internet had arrived. Filter blogs take that information and focus it into something manageable. Using my own blog as an example- My goal is to filter information about Arizona news, to provide a single source of news about Arizona, with a proactive effort to include issues in local papers around the state on a consistent basis. This is a profound change for the future. No longer do you have to subscribe to email notifications and clog up your email with updates you don’t always read; not to mention all the spam from having your email address sold on the open market after you sign up for said mailing lists. RSS and Newsreaders can provide you with any information you want from just about any source and on any topic. Filter blogs can provide you with the content even more efficiently as well as a conversation to go with it. To provide a view of where all of this is headed, I want to recall something that I read about ten years ago. David Brin’s novel Earth, in that novel, he described a future information technology that is very similar to the way the internet has developed. He describes how people would send out gophers (he may have called them moles and I associated it with gopher servers which is a pre-html internet tool for finding information) to collect information about various topics they were interested in. The information would be collected for them on their computers and they could read it as they pleased. It’s very easy to draw an analogy between that universe and the one we live in today. Today we have search engines that can search for news on any topic, we can then create an RSS feed from that search and bring it into a newsreader. It’s a powerful tool, especially when you want to follow a very narrow topic. However, we still have one piece missing, in the novel writers of information were given reliability ratings. This is the missing piece that will give credibility to writers who do the research, and who put together thoughtful information. I think this is something that will come to fruition in the near future. The need is already there. One way I could see this being implemented would be a simple rating scale for each post to be rated by the reader. An aggregate score would be shown on the post based on those ratings and on the ratings of any references or links included in the post. For example, I write a post on the Tsunami in the Indian Ocean in which I quote a first hand account written by a survivor. If the survivor were found to be a reliable source my credibility would increase, as would the survivors, but if they were found to be a fraud, or if I misquote or quote them out of context, my credibility would fall. Blogging is still in the early stages of development, but the future is bright with great content on many levels. It will be important to nurture that content and to provide tools for readers to know if they can trust the content. (I still consider this a work in progress, if you have ideas or thoughtful criticism of this post please comment on it. I reserve the right to make corrections to this post and add additional ideas provided in your comments.) Update

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