My blogging mentor Brian Lamb has asked anyone and everyone to answer a few questions. Here’s my 2 bits, Brian.
What is most significant about the emergence of blogs and/or wikis?
Their democratizing effect on communication and their power to interconnect everyone and everything. They’re so easy to use that everyone can, and almost everyone seems to be. The network effect being created by massively interconnecting content and people is so much more than just a few more links on your page or nodes in your social network. There is a qualitative change in behavior. It’s like running the Slime model in Netlogo with fewer than 70 agents, and then running it again with more than 90. You wouldn’t think that just a few more people doing exactly the same thing everyone else was already doing could make any difference. But we do see a distinct change in the behavior of the group. Blogs and wikis are enabling that… Lain‘s words are becoming more and more true: “No matter where you are… everyone is always connected.”
In your mind, what is most misunderstood (or little understood) about these tools?
Their ease is misunderstood by technical people, who look at them and say “I can make a webpage like that without their special software. I’ve been making pages like that since 1995.” What they fail to understand is that not all technical innovations bring heretofore unimagined functionality from artic. Some, and in my opinion the most valuable, take what 10% of the population had previously been able to do and make that capability available to 90% of the population. That’s what blogs and wikis have done. And this creates network effects, as described above.
Are blogs and wikis evolving into something else?
Not per se. Blogs and wikis made web publishing easier. There are other things that people do, like trying to locate and download files, or manage large projects, or videoconference, and there are people working on moving each of those from the 10 to the 90. But I don’t see that as blogs and wikis evolving into something else. There is, of course, the inevitable feature creep… can’t let things stay simple… Once they’re successful we have to build every feature known to man into them. Integration is good, right?
What are the implications of these publishing tools on ideas, public opinion and free speech?
As per above, they give voice to the 90%. This is a blessing and a curse, as it significantly empowers 80% of the people, and further disenfranchizes the last 10%. “Mass democratization” is, I believe, an excellently descriptive term for what it does.
What are a few of your essential blog reads or wiki communities?
Of course, Abject Learning and Brian & Co.’s Wiki Wonderland of Blog/Wiki/RSS Tastiness (TM) or whatever its called these days. My bloglines is actually a fairly accurate reflection of what I read regularly, except for slashdot, digg, and Google news. Shall we argue about whether or not any of these sites are blogs? =)