1. Bloggers like to impress: I try, anyway, with mixed results (you're the judges on this one). I started doing this thing at least in part because I returned to University in my 30s to do an MSc in Politics & Administration, I loved doing it and mourned its passing for seven or eight years before I finally decided to jump on the blogging bandwagon (after a few false starts).
But being impressive is now a great deal harder. The sheer volume of quite-good commentary that's on the market now (thanks to the proliferation of social media tools) means that I'm fairly sure that any insights that I offer will have been made somewhere else, unseen by me.
I like to think I'm honest enough to acknowledge where I read something if I use it myself.
This was less of a problem a few years ago. I started blogging because I was fairly sure that no-one was saying the things that I would say - at least with the same emphasis that I did. Now, I'm fairly sure that they are, but I'm a bit worried about unwittingly parroting someone.
In this election, the sheer volume of amateur psephology around has made it very interesting for an anorak such as myself. This was never the case in the past. The conclusions we can draw from it about democracy are genuinely exciting for me. However, I've reduced my output of everything apart from micro-blogging (Twitter, Facebook, Posterous, Google Buzz & Google reader etc) for a number of reasons:
- That plagarism problem, as outlined above. I don't want to be some putz who repeats something that half of my readers have seen already.
- The completeness question: I used to be fairly confident that I could check a number of traps around the estate to find the corpses of relevant arguments and counter-arguments before I pressed 'send'.
The ingroup has expanded enormously. I'm beginning to know how MSM columnists felt when they first got the sharp end of the blogosphere a few years ago. They wrote for an even smaller self-referential circle, consolidating various metropolitan biases.
2. Collaborative filtering isn't there yet: I have a contention that I've tried out a few times without being contradicted. Here it is again:
Take all of your reading of the MSM in recent weeks and months. Think of the articles that gave you some level of satisfaction - for their wit, insight, informativeness and their personal communication - how far they met your specific needs as a reader. Now think about this. On the same day, someone, somewhere, wrote a much better article - one that had all of the information and other qualities that you were looking for - and they wrote it somewhere that's on the open web.If you crack the problem of how to find it and assemble it in a form that's useful to you, the notion of the MSM as a purveyor of high-quality information could die in short order. Specifically, this is a threat to the broadsheets.
That problem can be cracked by collaborative filtering. I use Google Reader for most of mine, and I can say with some confidence that I spend a great deal more time reading my iPhone than I do reading newsprint - the latter being a backstop for when I'm on the tube without a mobile signal. Mobile RSS is even close to cracking that problem and I'm sure the iPad will remove some of the tactile issues that newsprint diehards have.
But filtering 'worth reading' material has new created a new problem. There is loads of stuff out there that meets my needs (better than MSM, personalised, interesting). How do we de-duplicate and to highlight originality from this torrent of information that is hitting our (er, mine anyway) peripheral vision? The stuff that we dip into, read and recommend to others by sharing?
I'm writing this, at least in part, to help Andrew with his thinking around Poblish, but also as an excuse for why I'm not writing as much as I used to - I'm actually missing doing it, because I don't know what I think until I read what I've written.