You say you want a revolution

I’m surprised how often I see the word “versus” in email. Photoshop vs. illustrator, personas vs. ethnography, email address vs. username, and blogtools vs. CMS. When I was a freshman in art school, I learned a useful word: dichotomy. It was years later I learned phrase “false dichotomy” and I’m wondering how many people have yet to learn it. In particular, I’m thinking of those working in new media/participatory media/social media.

I keep reading how blogs will make traditional publishing irrelevant. I also read how traditional publishing already provides a reliability and consistency that will show blogs to be merely a fad; the geocities of our time. And just over a year ago (I know because my domain registration notice just came) I sat down with friend Lars and added the word false to that particular dichotomy by thinking up PublicSquare.

A dichotomy is defined as “a division into two especially mutually exclusive or contradictory groups or entities.”

1. Almost everybody talks about blogs and big media (usually thinking about New York Times or Fox news, depending on who has annoyed you most recently). But publishing is currently taking the form of a continuum, from blogs to big media, with wikis, jotspot, writerly, writeboards, scoop and many others filling in the space between one maverick vomiting up ideas to a group refining raw facts into something palatable.

2. Mutually exclusive: Bloggers are adding editors, Om Malik for example, and newspapers are adding– nay, forcing— reporters to blog. Drupal has blog modules and articles modules and the difference is slight.

3. Contradictory. um. yeah. How contradictory are these two writing forms? When I was looking at them recently, they both depended on one thing for success: a person who can consistently write, and write well. Of course someone who writes every day, but only on their cat’s antics and their hair challenges is an aspect of the blog, but is this person really making Arthur Schultzberger tremble in his shoes? A journalist and a (successful) blogger are much of a muchness, except one gets fact checked and edited.

Where revolution is truly happening in my opinion is in the birth of collaborative publishing tools that enable new behaviors in writing, often children of the wiki family. Where blogger and other blog platforms were simply (though certainly impactfully) ways to make writing significantly easier, and came form a long line of tools form the printing press to the electric typewriter to microsoft word. They are all technology to get technology out of the way.

But wikis, writerboard, slashdot and scoop are all trying to get groups to be smart together, to write together and they give birth to a new kind of writing *and* giving voice to one-hit-wonders of authorship.

More on this coming soon… .


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  1. 1

    ideas,layered and similar, reaction and design. a palimpset to engage, liberty taking liberty with liberty, such being icense to take liberty at will; all of that, and a call to arms.

    damn, life is good.

    in les misérables there is a fragment where a young republican takes a rifle and, leaving the safety of a barracade during the july revolution, walks in the direction of several royalist troopers tending their horses in the distance.

    close enough, he raises his rifle and shoots one of the troopers.

    unable to make it back to the barracades before the troopers ride him down, or even to reload his rifle, he is a dead man, and he knows it.

    he knew it when he left the barracade.

    he willingly traded his life for the life of a trooper who opposed republicanism; he did so as a statement, and as an example.

    a sadness here is that his act was futile, none of his compatriots were up to so potent a method. sadder still is that had there been a number of such compatriots sufficent to overcome the royalists, the burden of those they opposed would have fallen on their compatriots, a burden they were completely unprepared for, completly unable, to meet.

    social beings organize hierarchially. design differs by need. choose to design for what needs exist.

    now, with liberty…

  2. 2
    Austin Govella

    Dichotomies are only ever temporary tools for framing a discussion, a slice of a multi-dimensional topic that you pin to the wall and point to.

    I also like them because they help force reticent participants to choose a side when sides need choosing.

    I think there are two parts to the publishing discussion that collaborative pubishing conflates into one topic. First, there is the problem of how people create content, and the second has to do with how it’s shared.

    Blogger (and MT and WP, etc.) help with the second problem. They help people share stuff they’ve created. PublicSquare does this, too.

    But the first problem seems to me the most important: how do people make stuff? In groups. Content creation is always a group activity. And though I’m not real clear on explaining the distinction between “people make stuff in groups” and “collaborative publishing”, I feel pretty strongly that there is one.

    (And hierarchies — social or otherwise — are perhaps the most persistent dichotomy we face. Worse because they’re almost never identified as more than two-dimensions.)

  3. 3
    Lawrence Krubner

    Where revolution is truly happening in my opinion is in the birth of collaborative publishing tools that enable new behaviors in writing, often children of the wiki family.“”

    Hmmm. I’m not sure. I think I am the news consumer that Arthur Schultzberger is worried about. I have been a news junkie since I came of age in the 80s. In the early 90s, before I connected to the Internet, being a news junkie meant subscribing to lots of magazines. The stretch from 1990-1995 was probably the peak for me. I was subscribing to over 20 magazines a year. I think one year I subscribed to over 30 magazines. Business magazines, tech magazines, political magazines, even one fashion magazine (Esquire). If you were a magazine publisher, back then, you loved me, I was your dream customer.

    Then the Web came along and I gave up on magazines. Then weblogs came along, and then RSS feeds, and then I was able to create my very own magazine. You should see my Netvibes account. I’ve two pages on Netvibes, one for tech news, and the other for politics. I’ve 42 RSS feeds on the tech page, and I’ve 51 feeds on the politics page. It’s like a magazine where I get to pick all my favorite writers. You’re on there, and so is Shelley Powers, Tara Hunt, Roger Cadenhead, etc – all my favorite tech writers. New material is posted every day – so much so that I can never hope to read it all. The quality is good and the intelligence of the writers is impeccable.

    So now it is 2006 and I only subscribe to one magazine – Inc, which I sometimes take places that have no Internet connection, so I take the paper version with me.

    Obviously, I am an extreme case and a statistical outlier. But that works both ways – compared with 1992, the magazine industry is missing about $300 a year that I used to give it (close to $500 if you adjust for inflation). Is that something traditional media should be worried about?

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