Tuesday, August 09, 2005

We've Only Just Begun

According to the WSJ (subscription), Netscape went public just 10 years ago today. Which besides starting the Dot Com boom (yawn), enabled blogging (cheers)! And the BBC to reference one of my posts (double cheers)!

Where will the blog be in 10 years time? The BBC gives a journalist's perspective, looking for areas where the blogosphere can add to the MSM. It references Chris Dillow who asks: Why Is Journalism So Bad?

"Journalists are not trained to think clearly. So cognitive biases are epidemic. Every paper every day contains at least one example of: the representative heuristic; the hindsight bias, overconfidence in our limited knowledge; the salience effect; or the fundamental attribution error".

Still, I once wrote for my University's newspaper, and appreciate the journalist's defense:

As we noted in May, paid journalists have various advantages over bloggers: like resources, contacts, and not having a day job to worry about when they're sitting there writing.

But with all that time to write comes a penalty: the deadline. Bloggers don't have those, and a harsh critic would argue that this means that there's even less of an excuse for hasty conclusions if you're writing online.

The article then references two blogs that seem to add value to the MSM.

One is Depleted Uranium, with our analysis of the math behind police deciding to shoot suspected suicide bombers. They conclude:

Of course, no-one could claim this single mechanism provided a complete model of how to understand what London's policemen are experiencing, but it's an analysis which stays with you, and one which you can't really imagine popping up in a newspaper.

And then they pick up on historical perspective:

Here's a passage quoted by Jonathan Calder's Liberal England:

"They saw a park-warden and some school-boys running towards a figure that appeared to be crouched on the zigzag path below the Observatory. Racing down, their first thought was that the man had shot himself, but the scene they encountered was unexpected and horrific. The park-warden was holding a man who, despite massive injuries, was still alive and able to speak."A London suicide bomber: but one from 1894.

The article concludes:

And it's this freedom to offer up analogies, explanations and speculative nuts and bolts that gives the blogosphere its strength.

The newspapers have got rhetoric and leader columns covered. What it would be great to see from blogs is the start of a set of building blocks - analogies, psychological mechanisms, and actual experiences - to help us build up an understanding of the mad world around us.

It's a task more noble than "taking on the media", and it's one that only the blogs can do.

Well said, it encourages me to stick to my goals for this blog - fact based, numerate, analytical, engineering-focused and knowledgeable of the past. Er, and right wing (sorry, BBC).