Doc on Scornucopia

kinnon —  September 17, 2007 — 2 Comments

In my not particularly humble opinion, Doc Searls is one of the more thoughtful people in the on-going conversation about society and the web. Doc is a Cluetrain co-author, a Visiting Scholar @ UC Santa Barbara and a Fellow @ Harvard U’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. I quote Doc extensively in my chapter of Wikiklesia: Voices of the Virtual World, as well as in my short book, A Networked Conspiracy. I read Doc here and here (in Google Reader.)

Doc made a brief comment on the Scornucopia post below and pointed to an article he wrote earlier in the year for Linux Journal – Beyond Blogging’s Black Holes. Doc uses the black hole metaphor to describe certain blog conversations, quoting Don Norman to describe the effect.

“Microsoft is a conversational black hole. Drop the subject into the middle of a room and it sucks everybody into a useless place from which no light can escape.”

About 2/3rds of the way through the article, Doc says,

When blogging came along, I welcomed it as a big advance over other public discussion systems, such as Usenet and IRC-for three reasons. First, nearly every blog is controlled by an individual. It is that person’s soap box, pulpit, personal journal. Second, blogs are syndicated, meaning that others can subscribe to their feeds, or to searches for subjects that might lead readers to a blogger’s original thinking on a subject. And third, blogging seems especially well suited to what I called “rolling snowballs”. That’s what happens when a good idea gets rolling and then is enlarged by others who add to it.

Blogging also has a provisional quality. You don’t have to hold down one corner of a “debate” like the yapping faces on CNN and Fox News. You can think out loud about a subject that other people can weigh in on. You can scaffold an understanding, raise a barn where new knowledge can hang out while more formal accommodations are built.

In this last respect, blogging is a lot like open-source code development. Anybody with something useful to contribute is welcome to come in and help out. As with open-source code development, the results of idea-building on blogs have NEA qualities: Nobody owns them, Everybody can use them, and Anybody can improve them.

This provisional quality relieves blogging of the need to put everything in final draft form, which can be labor-intensive. Blogging is a kind of half bakery, falling somewhere between public e-mail (a way to write for “cc:world”) and polished journalism of the sort we write for print publications like this one. In fact, lots of ideas I’ve written about in Linux Journal were half-baked first on my blog. Software as construction, the Live Web, independent identity, the Giant Zero, VRM and The Because Effect are a few that come to mind.

But, it ain’t working like it used to. The black holes are getting more common and sucking up more time. The old leverage also seems to be drooping a bit. And, I don’t think it’s just me.

Make a point of reading Doc’s entire article at Linux Journal and also of reading the full post from Grant McCracken that prompted my original post.

And for those of you wondering about the creation of the Scornucopia graphic, here are the elements used to create it in Photoshop. The two images are from iStockPhoto and the smoke is from a program I use as one of my motion graphics tools called particleIllusion. I spent about 20 minutes putting it together.



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A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

2 responses to Doc on Scornucopia

  1. Blogs are just another tool for human mendacity to have its way. The problem isn’t the tool – weblogs – but people. It is an age-old problem.

    Part of the problem arises when the purpose of the weblog is to generate large volumes of traffic. I realized at some point that I was thinking too much of appealing to some market. Now, I write for myself, and the numbers have stayed pretty much the same.

    Hubris is a cruel mistress.

  2. And look at the quality of your audience – me as an example! πŸ™‚

    As usual, well said, Ed. Would that more people take the time to visit your blog – or subscribe via Google Reader. You certainly are one of the most influential bloggers for me.


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