September 15, 2004

Dinosaur in a Suit

Arthur Sulzberger, publisher of The New York Times, manages to be both an elitist and a reactionary at the same time.

This takes us to another important on-line phenomenon, the rise of bloggers. These individuals publish web logs that offer an ongoing narrative of their thoughts and observations. Some are professional journalists, but the vast majority of them are just folks with something on their minds.

While some of these individuals are making a serious and thoughtful contribution to our global dialogue, too many simply contribute to the sense that we're in the midst of an opinion-ridden free-for-all.

Bloggers contribute to the sense that we’re in the midst of an opinion-ridden free-for-all? But we are in the midst of an opinion-ridden free-for-all. This is America. Sulzberger can try to feed his opinions to us on a spoon, but he can’t actually do it. Not in this country.

The end of old media as we know it will arrive when the majority of editors come to respect the blogosphere for what it is instead of sniffing at those of us who contribute to it like we’re a bunch of gap-toothed peasants raising pitchforks at the palace.

Yesterday I quoted Nelson Ascher who pointed out that his daily paper in Sao Paolo, Brazil, beat The Washington Post on the Rathergate story for no other reason than that he reads blogs. (He also writes a blog, but it’s the fact that he is a professional journalist who reads blogs that gave his paper an edge.)

Some editors get the blogosphere already. Nick Shulz, editor of Tech Central Station, reads blogs. He also has a blog of his own. He recruits writers out of the blogosphere. (Writers like me, for instance.) The pieces he publishes link to writers in the blogosphere. And a panel on the right side of the main page consists of links to both blog posts and “old media” articles of note.

Nick doesn’t run a daily newspaper, but he gets it.

Sulzberger doesn’t get it. If only he could understand that the blogosphere can work for him instead of against him. Bloggers do a great deal of work for the mainstream media, and they do it for free. Not only can editors use the blogosphere as a talent pool, they can use it to find stories and angles their own reporters and opinion writers often miss. (I would miss all kinds of things if I didn’t read blogs. My own would be hopelessly behind everyone else’s.) More important, they can use the blogosphere to beat their competition by publishing the good stuff first.

That is what will bring old media down. Or, I should say, that is what will transform old media into something better. If editors and publishers like Sulzberger are too isolated from the new media reality, they will lose their prestige to whichever competitor figures it out first.

Come on, editors. You have an enormous new resource, and it doesn’t cost you a penny to use it. How much longer are you going to sit there in your suits and scoff at those in pajamas who keep kicking your asses?

(Hat tip: Kaus)

Posted by Michael J. Totten at September 15, 2004 03:22 PM
Comments

This is America.

Not from where I'm sitting, Oregon-boy. Blogs are global.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 15, 2004 03:26 PM

DPU,

Of course, BC-man. But Arthur Sulzberger and I are both Americans. And if he were, say, Syrian, he could feed opinions to people on spoons regardless of the fact that at least a few people in Syria probably read blogs when they can.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 15, 2004 03:39 PM

"The end of old media as we know it will arrive when the majority of editors come to respect the blogosphere for what it is instead of sniffing at those of us who contribute to it like we’re a bunch of gap-toothed peasants raising pitchforks at the palace"--- MJT

Why do you wish to be invited to dine at the lord's tables? You would be there only as an amusement and a condecension.While you are the peasants with pitchforks you represent a clear,present,and growing danger to the tendentious purveyors of MSM propaganda as they increasingly fear that their manors will be looted and their medieval systems brought down forever.
The ' old media' will NEVER be reformed through the 'use'of the internet.The use will only be to present their agendas using new tools and avenues.They are BIASED beyond hope of internal reformation and will never see an alternative to their 'preferences'.
The more you stay on the outside of the current media bubble the better for EVERYONE except for elitist manipulators such as Sulzberger.Men like him have to lose their position so that a more 'objective' truth can be fully accepted.

Posted by: dougf at September 15, 2004 04:26 PM

Lots of contradictions here.

Michael takes Sulz to task for his phrase "opinion-ridden free-for-all". Michael agrees that that is what it is - but then asks big media to appreciate it for what it is. But what is there to appreciate in an opinion-ridden free for all? Well, the beautiful manifestation of free speech, no doubt about that. But does it add anything to the task of cutting through the hype and spin to get at the facts? Occasionally yes - but far more often it is just opinion and spin.
I read blogs to get a sense of what people are thinking - not for any fair minded sense of what the facts are. Even when the blogsophere plays a major role in advancing a factual story, it is often a "stopped clock" syndrome - the very same people the previous week may well have been pushing some screwy rumor, or been busy promoting some partisan spin-agenda.

If the big media are biased,,,well 99+% of bloggers are immensly more biased, and with no institutional code of fairness to at least temper that bias.

In that vein, it is interesting to read dougf talk about the need for people like Sulz to lose their positions before a more "objective" truth can emerge! "Objective"? In the blogosphere?
Thats pretty funny!

Posted by: Tano at September 15, 2004 04:48 PM

Michael,

We seem to be watching the humbling of "old media". The dayts are gone when they control the news, and decide what we know and care about.

It has been amazing, although it should not have been surprising, that "open source news" on the internet would have blown apart this attempt at subverting the election. The blogosphere has been important, but even email has played a big part. The bloggers have been the means by which this has been published, but the readers who happened to have expertise, and emailed bloggers and talk radio hosts are what really made the difference.

Bloggers are the new editors and publishers, besides generating news and analysis.

Posted by: Jim Bender at September 15, 2004 05:03 PM

Blogging is more than just opinion. There are standards even on blogs. If you make a point, you have to back it up. Usually with facts or links to outside sources. That's what well writtn articles do. I'm not saying your average post is well written, but it's often more than just opinion. I've learned tons of stuff following other people's links, and I've reinforced some stuff I already knew having to back up my opinions.

Posted by: David at September 15, 2004 05:08 PM

'If the big media are biased,,,well 99+% of bloggers are immensly more biased, and with no institutional code of fairness to at least temper that bias.'---Tano

As was predictable,Tano weighs in with a 'defense'of the media status quo,however broken and defective the status quo actually is.Rather than dragging myself into this 'quagmire',I can only ask what his outlook would be if ALL the media were essentially clones of FoxNews and the conservative radio networks,and it was his viewpoints that were consigned to the margins by the powers that be.He defends what is because it suits his purposes,and validates his beliefs, not because it is either sustainable or desirable.

Posted by: dougf at September 15, 2004 05:12 PM

Jeez - I'd hardly cite TCS as an example of the contribution of blogging to public discourse - on the contrary, it seems to me to illustrate precisely Sulzberger's point: the vast majority of material on TCS, like the blogosphere in general, is strident, opinionated and no better informed or communicated than, say, your average dinner party conversation.

I can think of only four or five bloggers who I think make a significant contribution to public discourse, and all of them are either professional journalists or academics.

Which I think is the lesson. Blogs provide an excellent additional medium for people with knowledge, ideas, and the skill to express them. But those people already had other outlets in the mainstream media and academic literature.

What the blogosphere has not produced is any amateurs that have demonstrated themselves to be their equal.

For that reason, most of the blogosphere carries no more significance than a casual conversation (which too often turns into a slanging match).

Posted by: Mork at September 15, 2004 05:20 PM

Tano: If the big media are biased,,,well 99+% of bloggers are immensly more biased, and with no institutional code of fairness to at least temper that bias.

Yes, but we don't pretend to be otherwise. And the blogosphere as a whole is not biased. Only the individuals who up its parts are actually biased. Also, it is self-correcting, much more so than the mainstream media.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 15, 2004 05:20 PM

dougf,
Conservative radio networks are not what I would consider journalism. They are highly commercialized versions of blogs. Fox is on the edge - it essentially trades on the fact that traditional media are not "objective" - in the sense that no human can be objective - and so they say in effect "well if all of you are biased, then we will be even more so". Bar-lowerers.

I wonder down which path do all of you want to go? Do you want mainstream media to be more fair and strive for more objectivity? Or do you claim that this is completely illusory, and lets just have the opinion-ridden free-for-all, with no pretense?

If the former, then what about trying to live up to certain standards yourselves? (this addressed not to anyone in particular here, but to the blogosphere as a whole). If the latter, then why not just quit whining about the MSM not living up to standards that you dont intend to uphold yourselves?

Posted by: Tano at September 15, 2004 05:22 PM

Mork,

TCS is supposed to be opinionated. That is its purpose. Same goes for National Review, The Nation, The Weekly Standard, and The New Republic. They are all opinion magazines. There is nothing wrong with that. They don't claim to be anything else. You know you're getting opinion when you read what they have to say.

Same goes with my blog. Everyone who reads me regularly knows what my biases are. I don't hide my biases, I wear wave them in your face.

My point about Nick Shulz and TCS isn't that he and they (or, should I say "we") are not biased, but that we're plugged into new media instead of sniffing at it. The first big daily newspapers to follow suit will have a big advantage over the rest.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 15, 2004 05:26 PM

Mork: What the blogosphere has not produced is any amateurs that have demonstrated themselves to be their equal.

What about people who get published in "old media" because of what they first wrote on their blogs?

If you don't think my TCS and Wall Street Journal pieces count, then at least credit Matthew Yglesias for getting a full-time job at The American Prospect.

As for me, I have one and perhaps two upcoming assignments for true offline "old media." And it's because of my blog, and because of my blog alone. You'll see what I'm talking about when the work is finished and cited here. I'm not trying to brag, but you're nearly forcing me to do so in order to argue with what you're saying.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 15, 2004 05:31 PM

This 60 Minutes interview is probably the worst piece of journalism I've seen. The lady calls the memos a forgery and then goes on to spout her opinion as though it were fact.

Completely full of Bull Shit. Not one apology from Danny boy for the forgeries... and he's now saying that while they might be forgeries, no one has disputed the 'heart of the story'.

What's even more pathetic, is that there is no heart to this story... I don't care if Kerry got Bronze Star for an injury while filming a re-enactment of his latest battle, or if Bush went AWOL with 300 Korean Prostitutes and 5 kilos of cocaine.

What the 'heart' of any election story should be about, is the welfare of the American people and the issues that affect the daily lives of the American People.

I've had four years of Bush, and I don't think he gets more than a D on National Security, and an F on Domestic Issues.

I have absolutely no clue what 4 years of Kerry would be.. I wish he'd at least give me a clue.

So, Michael... You, Roger Simon, most of the people I spar with on your blog, and myself have all at one time or another agreed that we would prefer to find a political party that was Neo-conservative in Defense and Libretarian/Liberal on Domestic Issues. I have to think that the political hacks in Washington took an extra Tums today, just thinking about the 'Blog Monster' that may have sunk 1 major network, 1 Extremely Respected Journalist, 1 Presidential Cannidate (probably from the shrapnel), 1 Political Party (also probably from the shrapnel), within 72 hours.

With Great Power comes Great Responsibility.

Anyone up for a New Party?

;-)

D. Clyde Williamson

Posted by: D. Clyde Williamson at September 15, 2004 05:31 PM

'I wonder down which path do all of you want to go? Do you want mainstream media to be more fair and strive for more objectivity? Or do you claim that this is completely illusory, and lets just have the opinion-ridden free-for-all, with no pretense?'---Tano

If what we have now is 'objective'and propagandists such as Rather clearly believe that it is then the simple answer is that I don't want that.
The man is a LIBERAL with tendentious LIBERAL beliefs and values and it is that internal structure which has made 'Rathergate'not only possible but probable.I want a system where, if we have to suffer clowns such as this,he is obliged to fully disclose his biases and values BEFOREHAND so that I can reasonably interpret his contributions to public knowledge.I don't want him clinging to the high moral ground and casting aspersions on those who declare he is wearing no clothes at the time.According to Danny and his cohorts; "L;INFORMATION C'EST NOUS !!!" I find this offensive and DANGEROUS.
That is what I want;I don't know how to get there but I do know that as long as the MSM exists in its current form,progress to that goal is impossible. I hope CBS draws out this disaster until it drags them,and any remnant supporters,down by the bow.
MSM DELENDA EST !!!!

Posted by: dougf at September 15, 2004 05:49 PM

Michael,
I feel it necessary to comment that in the broad-brush critiques of the blogosphere that I have, and may yet make, I intend to exempt you from much of that. That is why I post here.

Congratulations on your gigs. But do you consider them journalistic gigs, or opinion pieces? The MSM has, for quite some time now, solicited and recruited intellegent and articulate writers who can give context and opinion, from a particular perspective, on the issues of the day. This is distinct however, from just-the-facts journalism.
So your reference to bloggers getting gigs with big media may well be besides the point - if the point we are addressing is the performance of media with regard to the facts.

Posted by: Tano at September 15, 2004 05:56 PM

When are you going to put your money where your mouth is, Clyde, and start organizing one?

Posted by: Eric Blair at September 15, 2004 06:00 PM

D. Clyde-

What would be the mascot of the party? A squirrel of discord?

Tano-

Oh, so now you want objectivity. Why, you're a veritable Juan Williams of the blogosphere. Unfortunately, Juan has become the Patrick Star of journalism. Oh well.

Posted by: DennisThePeasant at September 15, 2004 06:04 PM

dougf,
I dont know that I can pick out an answer to my question in your latest post. But I sense a great disilluionment with the MSM. And that leads me to wonder where the illusions came from in the first place.

I havent regarded the MSM as the oracle of truth or objective information since about 1968. The events of that time made it painfully clear that the mainstream media were corporate entities, tied into the agendas and dramas of the national elites (of both parties), and with the perspective that flows from that. More liberal on social issues than non-metropolitan types, no doubt, but also firmly wedded to the corporate elite perspective on economic issues.

I guess I dont quite understand how anyone could have imagined that they were anything other than human beings, speaking from their perspective, but also making efforts (sometimes successful, sometimes not) to try to present "both" sides of issues. Which puts them quite a few steps higher than just about any bloggers that I know.

Posted by: Tano at September 15, 2004 06:09 PM

Eric,

Mostly because I have no idea how to do so (but don't think I haven't been researching). I am serious about the blog power being used to force a more sensible party... the potential is there.

Dennis,

Heh, nope... I'm thinking perhaps a big scary creature we call "Blog, Reaver of Rather". ;-)

Well, Eric and Dennis... Shall we see if McCain/Liberman will get on the ticket?

Clyde

Posted by: D. Clyde Williamson at September 15, 2004 06:41 PM

A Democrat that Democrats hate and Republicans love, and a Republican that Republicans hate and Democrats love.

There is a certain warped appeal there...

Posted by: DennisThePeasant at September 15, 2004 06:44 PM

Dennis,

Nah, its a Democrat that the Looney Left hates and Republican that the Whacked Out Right hates. The question is how many of the Sensible and Sane Center are left to join the party???

;-)

Clyde

Posted by: D. Clyde Williamson at September 15, 2004 06:49 PM

McCain's a whack job, I think he's still suffering from PTSD. I wouldn't trust him as President. Lieberman's religion is simply a liability--you think the Islamikazies hate the US now?

No, go find a a RINO and DINO-- Say, Governor Schwarzenegger and Senator Miller.

Better yet, find a couple of Governors. Somebody with some experience of running a state.

Posted by: Eric Blair at September 15, 2004 06:52 PM

Eric,

Not a bad idea at all. Two Governers that aren't fond of partisan politics (with popular support) would be a refreshing change, compared to the past 16 years.

How about Gov. Schwarzenegger and Gov. Ventura ?;-) (Even Bin Laden wouldn't dare upset those two)

Clyde

Posted by: D. Clyde Williamson at September 15, 2004 07:05 PM

Nah...

You have to have Jeb Bush in the White House in 2008...for no other reason than to be able to watch Dan Rather try to read the evening news with a real serious Chief Inspector Dreyfuss eye-twitch going.

It doesn't get any better than that.

Posted by: DennisThePeasant at September 15, 2004 07:10 PM

I for one believe that power of blogs are hyped up to a degree. I do not deny blogs have changed the news world, however their effect is hardly earth shattering either.

Most blogs which talk about political issues are a just intellectual masturbation outlets.

No offense to Michael his blog is certainly not that, however others I have read are like that.

Posted by: Tristan Jones at September 15, 2004 07:10 PM

Tristan, and that differentiates Blogs from Rather how?

Posted by: Mark Poling at September 15, 2004 07:14 PM

Tano: But do you consider them journalistic gigs, or opinion pieces?

Depends. Mostly opinion. The irons I have in the fire at the moment, though, aren't opinion pieces. They aren't typical reporting, either. Ah, you'll see if and when they actually get published. I don't want to jinx it by discussing it too far in advance...

Thanks for the exemption, by the way.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 15, 2004 07:31 PM

I just saw Sixty Minutes II and all i can say is that I'm astounded. How much does Rather get paid (besides underthetableDNCdefeatbushmoveon.org)?

Posted by: d-rod at September 15, 2004 08:23 PM

If the big media are biased,,,well 99+% of bloggers are immensly more biased, and with no institutional code of fairness to at least temper that bias.
Posted by Tano at September 15, 2004 05:56 PM
************************************************
Care to give some illustrations of the Mainstream Media's institutional code of fairness? I haven't noticed much sign of it these days.

What I DO like about them is that when they do some creative editing which changes the meaning of a statement by 180 degrees I often find enough key words to do a search and locate the complete transcipt so I can see and or hear what was really said.

Posted by: Daniel Kauffman at September 16, 2004 02:05 AM

Blogs provide an excellent additional medium for people with knowledge, ideas, and the skill to express them. But those people already had other outlets in the mainstream media and academic literature.
Posted by Mork at September 15, 2004 05:20 PM
**************************************************
Yeah we just had a real good demonstration as to how much the Mainstream pays attention to real experts. They preferred their created experts until their hands were forced.

Posted by: Daniel Kauffman at September 16, 2004 02:09 AM

Not one apology from Danny boy for the forgeries... and he's now saying that while they might be forgeries, no one has disputed the 'heart of the story'.
*************************************************
Gee he could trade places with Senator Joe McCarthy. Another man who forged documents to prove a higher truth.

We have come full circle folks

Posted by: Daniel Kauffman at September 16, 2004 02:12 AM

MT makes a very important point--though individual blogs may be biased, the blogosphere as a whole is an amazingly efficient fact-checking machine (as well as an amplification device). In fact, the blogosphere is analogous to a well-functioning stock market. Individuals have their own particular biases for and against stocks, their own scenarios of how the economy is functioning at any given moment, but the market comes up with a price very close to the true value of a stock at any given time.

Those familiar with the law of large numbers and statistical principles will understand that one person estimating the number of jellybeans in a jar is likely to be way off, but 1000 people's estimates averaged are likely to be a remarkably good estimate.

The MSM's economic model, in contrast, is more akin to a monopolistic economy, with "privileged" news sources aggregating prices--and any economist can tell you that prices (i.e. information) can be consistently distorted by monopolists.

BTW, I don't think the MSM is a vast left-wing consipiracy--it has to do more with selection bias. Dan Rather talks with his privileged, left-of-center freinds and colleagues in Manhattan and imagines the rest of the world must feel the same way...it is human nature to suppose that all right-thinking people, in the end, think like we do.

Posted by: Daniel Calto at September 16, 2004 05:28 AM

DtP: re Jeb in 2008. I'm sure Dan Rather and CBS can unearth some disgruntled DCF secretaries in Tallahassee who will go on 60 Minutes and dis the former Florida gov while His Nibs sits by solemnly, like some button down version of Judge Hawthorne from The Crucible.

Posted by: Zacek at September 16, 2004 05:34 AM

'I don't think the MSM is a vast left-wing consipiracy--it has to do more with selection bias. Dan Rather talks with his privileged, left-of-center freinds and colleagues in Manhattan and imagines the rest of the world must feel the same way...it is human nature to suppose that all right-thinking people, in the end, think like we do'--- Daniel C.

It hardly matters if this is a conspiracy or not as the end results are equivalent in any case.Whether Rather and his colleagues sit around a table planning out how to infest the information networks with their preferences or it all just magically transpires by way of their collective inbreeding,the end product produced is still biased,propagandistic and un-reliable.
Changes must occur. SOON.

Posted by: dougf at September 16, 2004 05:54 AM

How did the old joke go now,
"Well sure, the government lies and newspapers lie, but in a democracy they aren't the same lies"

To be honest, the thing thats always bugged me is the false claims to objectivity from both liberal and conservative media. Bias is prevalent throughout the US news business, but nobody actually in that business is willing to admit to it. Just admit that you have a particular political bias and get on with it.

Posted by: sam at September 16, 2004 06:16 AM

"...but the market comes up with a price very close to the true value of a stock at any given time. "

Hmmm. Are we forgetting the nineties already?

But to the extent that there is any truth in this statement, it is of the emptiest kind - a tautology. The "true value" of a stock is whatever one can buy or sell it for, by definition.

"Those familiar with the law of large numbers and statistical principles will understand that one person estimating the number of jellybeans in a jar is likely to be way off, but 1000 people's estimates averaged are likely to be a remarkably good estimate."

Not necessarily true. A large number of estimates will form a normal distribution around the central tendency of the estimates - which may or may not be accurate. My anectodatal sense of these types of situations (counting stuff in jars) is that a large majority of people tend to underestimate the true value - for some reason, probably having something to do with the fact that geometry is usually taught at a stage in kids lives when they are least inclined to be paying attention in class.

In other words, for the notion that large numbers will converge on the truth, you need to have some factor that drives the central tendency toward the true answer. If you would have done a poll of 10 million people, one week ago, do you think that the consensus would have gelled around the prediction that Ivan would hit land at Mobile Bay? Probably not, because the masses were not equipped with sufficient insight into the climatic variables in order to make plausable predictions.

To bring this back to blogs - the great "opinion-ridden free-for-all" - the central tendencies emerging from the blogosphere would tend to gel around the ideas that the "average" blogger wish to be true, not necessarily what is true.

Posted by: Tano at September 16, 2004 06:30 AM

I pretty much despise Maureen Dowd, I'm sure that's no surprise; but she wrote a spot on column about Bush vs Kerry, and pretty hilarious too:

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/09/12/opinion/12dowd.html?n=Top%2fOpinion%2fEditorials%20and%20Op%2dEd%2fOp%2dEd%2fColumnists

worth a read

Posted by: David at September 16, 2004 06:46 AM

What frightens the Pinchboys of mainsteam newspapers is the gradual loss of editorial control. Many of the comments posted here refer to the vast amount of opinion that the blogs provide on any given story. Newspapers have their op-ed page but even that falls under their editorial control. Another area that the blogs have impacted is the "letters to the editor" page. Here again, mainstream newspapers are losing editorial control. That is what technological change is all about, it changes the dynamics. Pinch and Rather don't like it, but it was'nt that long ago that the new and upcoming medium of television did in the afternoon and evening newspapers and forced them into massive consolidation. Cable television came along and has fragmented the tv spectrum thus diluting Rather's control. The internet blogs dilute it even more.

Posted by: John at September 16, 2004 08:12 AM

I think that what we are seeing here is what has been dubbed "The Delphi effect" by sociologists.

"Sociologists discovered that the averaged opinion of a mass of equally expert or equally ignorant observers is quite a bit more reliable a predictor than the opinion of a single randomly-chosen one of the observers." - Eric S Raymond "The Cathedral and The Bazzar"

Eric uses this Delphi effect to explain the impressive success of Open Source software including Linux (now the fastest growing OS in the world), Apache (runs over 60% of the world's web servers), Sendmail/Qmail (most of the world's email), Bind (most of the Internet's Domain Name Servers)... etc etc etc.

I think that the Blogsphere may be feeding off of this same effect. It's interesting to watch how powerful Open Source software has become, on average its proven to be more secure and more reliable than commercial closed systems. The Blogs seem to have begun to do the same for news and opinion. With time, they may prove themselves to be more reliable than traditional closed news systems (print and broadcast).

Ratatosk

Posted by: Ratatosk, Squirrel of Discord at September 16, 2004 08:15 AM

'I think that what we are seeing here is what has been dubbed "The Delphi effect" by sociologists.'---Tosk

I have no expertise in this area whatsoever,but this comment was really very interesting.Insofar as I now really just read the blogs for my news and use the other sources for amplification as required,I find the argument very appealing.Thanks for an interesting analysis.

Posted by: dougf at September 16, 2004 08:21 AM

The problem with Tree Rat's analogy is that many of the users/proponents/whatever of the 'Open Source' movement have a vested interest in taking down commercial closed systems. For example, security. Much is made of the vulnerabilities of Microsoft software, but it is akin to throwing a brick through your neighbor's window and then bitching at him becuase he didn't have shatterproof glass. "See, your windows suck!"

That is not the case here. CBS's actions are conscious malfeasance perpetrated by them. That's way different from writing software that can't handle every hack thrown its way.

Posted by: Eric Blair at September 16, 2004 08:46 AM

I think that what we are seeing here is what has been dubbed "The Delphi effect" by sociologists.

Nah, we've just become an enormous neural net. The borg hive cannot be too far down the road, and I for one welcome our new cybernetic overlords.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 16, 2004 08:47 AM

A look into the hive:
Rathergate blog:
http://rathergate.xmatrix.com

Posted by: beemaster at September 16, 2004 09:15 AM

Eric,

Your post is quite uninformed.

First you said, "many of the users/proponents/whatever of the 'Open Source' movement have a vested interest in taking down commercial closed systems."

This is simply not true. The majority of developers in the Open Source community are not the rabid anti-microsoft ranters that are heard so loudly. Most of the developers are working on Linux (for example) because they believe in the idea that software solutions should have the source code available (for improvement, customization and bug find/fixing), not because they want to 'stick it to MS'.

Secondly, "Much is made of the vulnerabilities of Microsoft software, but it is akin to throwing a brick through your neighbor's window and then bitching at him becuase he didn't have shatterproof glass. "See, your windows suck!""

Open Source developers do not throw bricks. Security experts (like myself) find and report vulnerabilities, crackers/hackers publish exploits, open source developers write code for their projects.

Secondly, you analogy is quite flawed. Let's have a moment of Comp-Sci Zen.

1. Basic System security has not changed in the OS since the 70's. UNIX security functions quite like it has for nearly 30 years. This "known good" security architecture was around well before Microsoft became a company. Microsoft, instead of making use of these security basics, created a poor product.

2. Microsoft, has proven itself to be terribly slow to respond to new vulnerabilities, bugs and holes. When I reported a major bug to MS in 1999, they ignored me for two months, somewhere in that time, someone else apparently found the bug and an exploit made it into the wild. Microsoft had not even released an alert to their customers.

Microsoft isn't getting beat on the head for not having shatterproof glass, they're geting beat on the head for ignoring best practices in architecture, as well as vulnerabilities and flaws found by security professionals.

At any rate, Open Source trends seem to indicate that OSS is pulling marketshare from all of the Old Dinosaurs in the software world. IBM is giving up on their Server Class OS (AIX) and embracing Linux, HP is slowly deprecating HP-UX and pushing Linux to the fore, Sun Microsystems seems to be trying to get the best of both worlds, but their Server OS (Solaris) has taken a large hit due to Linux becoming its equal.

Linux is growing based on its merits, not simply on throwing rocks.

Let's hope the same can be said of the blogsphere in comming years. :)

Toskie

Posted by: Ratatosk, Squirrel of Discord at September 16, 2004 09:38 AM

An opinion-ridden free for all - sounds like democracy.

It's interesting to see who supports this 'opinion-ridden free for all' and who doesn't. An easy way to spot the dinosaurs.

Another interesting thing about Rathergate – we’ve known for a long time that the mass media and terrorism have a symbiotic relationship. The mass slaughter of 9/11 was timed and planned to ensure maximum press coverage. Palestinian terrorists, Iraqi insurgents and Chechen Islamists (or, in mediaspeak, "militants and separatists fighting for entirely unrelated causes") pose for the cameras, the ‘arab street’ mobilizes for the cameras, the al Qaeda publicity department is well funded and issues frequent press releases.

What will happen to the previously predictable symbiotic mass media/terrorist relationship now? How will al Qaeda, Fatah and other established terror groups cope if the behavior of their primary mouthpiece becomes unreliable?

The changes that may come to the old ways are almost asymmetric.

Posted by: mary at September 16, 2004 09:47 AM

How will al Qaeda, Fatah and other established terror groups cope if the behavior of their primary mouthpiece becomes unreliable?

Seeing how the gruesome beheading videos made by terrorist gangs have been released directly to the internet, and that those links were eagerly distributed around by blogs, I think we already can figure out the answer to that one.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 16, 2004 09:53 AM

Mary -- I think that "al Qaeda, Fatah and other established terror groups" will cope quite well.

Did it ever occur to you that these groups pay a hell of a lot more attention to what Al-Jezzera and a hundred other Arab media outlets you and I don't have a clue about say, rather than what the big, bad "mainstream media" in the good, old USA says?

That "symbiotic relationship" between terrorists and the media that you think and hope is coming to an end here is going strong and getting stronger over there. I'd add that the ongoing tragedy of the Pentagon's effort to turn Baghdad and the Sunni Triangle into Beirut, circa 1983, plays a key role in that symbiosis as well.

Posted by: Markus Rose at September 16, 2004 10:00 AM

True, but the coverage of those atrocities was not as reliable as the coverage that someone like Rather could provide. A lot of the coverage that the rabble provided was completely unfavorable to the "insurgents". They even used the "T" word!

The mass media is still terror's favored primary mouthpiece because their reactions are so predicatable.

Posted by: mary at September 16, 2004 10:01 AM

I would imagine that while many of us are savvy enough to have found the blogsphere, we are probably a very small minority of citizens. How long will citizens continue to get their news from the dinosaurs? In the Open Source world, I've been using Linux as my primary OS since 1995. All of my geek friends and myself were sure thata we would change the world in months, maybe a few years... It's taken a decade and only now are corporations embracing the new ideals of Open Source.

I'm glad it did though... Linux today is a much more refined product than it was 10 years ago.... I would imagine that the blogspohere will undergo a similar purification as it climbs over the carcasses of the MSM Dinosaurs.

Tosk

Posted by: Ratatosk, Squirrel of Discord at September 16, 2004 10:02 AM

sorry, that previous comment was in response to d-p-u.

That "symbiotic relationship" between terrorists and the media that you think and hope is coming to an end here is going strong and getting stronger over there. I'd add that the ongoing tragedy of the Pentagon's effort to turn Baghdad and the Sunni Triangle into Beirut, circa 1983, plays a key role in that symbiosis as well

Markus, Al-Jezzera's coverage of 9/11 was not al Qaeda's primary concern - but CBSs' coverage was important to them.

This article in Salon illustrates the influence that the American press has had on our military strategy. That media influence is not helpful, but it is predictable.

Posted by: mary at September 16, 2004 10:08 AM

A lot of the coverage that the rabble provided was completely unfavorable to the "insurgents". They even used the "T" word!

As their aim was to terrorize foreign nationals in Iraq and Saudi Arabia, I think that using the T word vesus the I word was helpful, or at the very least inconsequential. After all, they weren't trying to win the hearts and minds of Americans by beheading other Americans. They were trying to scare people.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 16, 2004 10:24 AM

Tosk,
I fail to see the relevance of this analogy. I certainly understand the similarity of blogs to the idea of open-source. But there is a big difference too. Open source code-writers are committed to a development process that disciplines their efforts - does the thing work, and work better than alternatives. The blogosphere seems to have no committment to an analogous principal at all. It is overwhelmingly partisan or personal spin on the news. Not trying to get at the truth. Bloggers will refelxivly tear down any arguement or piece of information that isnt what they want to hear. Once in a while, the stopped clock syndrome, they might stumble on a real error or scandal from the other side. But usually it is just phony spin (fisking), and lots of self-reinforcement.

I think there are some negative aspects to the blogosphere - precisely that they provide safe havens and reinforcement for screwy views.

Anyone who reads blogs for news, or even better, who reads blogs that they agree with in order to get news, is a bleedin' idiot.

Posted by: Tano at September 16, 2004 10:50 AM

They were trying to scare people

They're always trying to scare people. It's what they do. They use other outlets sometimes, like blowing lots of people up in public places or putting snuff tapes on the internet (the Chechen 'separatist' sites have plenty of those)

But the mass media is so predictably scared. When the Killian memo fracas started, their first response was to duck and cover. CBS is still doing that. After 7 days, there has been noble, public admission that mistakes were made. Nobody offered to resign, nobody at CBS openly discussed how their research methods should be improved.

It's no surprise that terrorists can predict what the media's response and coverage will be. It's no surprise that they make such an effort to seek it out.

This press coverage influences our military decisions. That's what's really scary.

Posted by: mary at September 16, 2004 10:55 AM

Tano,

I really don't have a comeback for that.

Its obvious that there are many blogs that fit exactly with your statements. That's why I no longer read or post on Roger Simon's site.

Tosk

Posted by: Ratatosk at September 16, 2004 11:09 AM

Tree Rat:

You simply added support to my point: "Most of the developers are working on Linux (for example) because they believe in the idea that software solutions should have the source code available (for improvement, customization and bug find/fixing)..." If that isn't an interest in getting rid of proprietary closed systems, what is it?

And your analogy still doesn't work. Again, CBS is consciously committing fraud. That is way different that poorly executed software develoment processes/practices.

Another point: "...All of my geek friends...". Does the term "High priest of technology" mean anything to you? Your average person doesn't want to sit there and configure their machines for whatever. Their computers are tools to help them get some other task done. Could you run an enterprise off of Linux in 1995? In 1991?

With this message?
"Hello everybody out there using minix -
I'm doing a (free) operating system
(just a hobby, won't be big and professional
like gnu) for 386(486) AT clones."

Who here even knows what Torvalds was referring to?

"Chuck the mainframe Fred, we gots something better here."

And here's another term to think about: "Technology Accretion".

But that's all off the matter at hand.

The Internet, or the blogosphere, is all about access to information, as Rathergate demonstrates. As MJT points out, points out, These large news organizations no longer have their monopoly on dissemination of information. And that's a good thing.

Posted by: Eric Blair at September 16, 2004 11:17 AM

Tosk,
Me too.

Posted by: Tano at September 16, 2004 11:26 AM

Eric,

I agree with your final statement.

"If that isn't an interest in getting rid of proprietary closed systems, what is it?"

Offering an alternative to closed systems. It is not the intent of Linux developers to bankrupt Microsoft, it is the intent of Linux developers to create an secure, reliable system. It is an alternative to closed systems, they can co-exist (in fact, a large number of Open Source advocates have publicly stated that Closed Source and Open Source both have a place in the software market).

"Does the term "High priest of technology" mean anything to you? "

Personally I prefer the term 'Self-Made Technocrat' or "GNU/Zen Master'.

Your average person doesn't want to sit there and configure their machines for whatever. Their computers are tools to help them get some other task done.

I agree. In fact, I did not recommend that the average person use Linux throught the entire 90's. Only with the adoption of better user interfaces and more user friendly system tools, have I begun recommending it to end users. Linux used to require such configuration... happily, due to the open nature of development, people who had ideas about better interfaces and management tools were able to build and contribute them. Linux today is considered by a number of non-geeks to be actually easier to install than Windows XP.

Could you run an enterprise off of Linux in 1995? In 1991?

Well, since version 1.0 of Linux was a hobby system that didn't make an appearance anywhere until August of 1991, your second half of the question is silly.

In 1995, I would probably have used OpenBSD for enterprise tools, and then only in specific areas. Linux was an immature OS that had limited capabilities. However, by 2001 Hess Oil had developed a Linux based Supercomputer that they still use today to sift through sismic data to find oil on the ocean floor. That same year, IDC reported that 20% of corporations were using Linux in the enterprise. And today you can buy a Home PC with Linux pre-installed from a large number of computer vendors... as well as $300 Home User PC's at Staples and WallMart.

If you think that Linux is still a moldy old command line/text config OS, you're a good 5 years out-of-date.

With this message?
"Hello everybody out there using minix -
I'm doing a (free) operating system
(just a hobby, won't be big and professional
like gnu) for 386(486) AT clones."

Who here even knows what Torvalds was referring to?

Linus wrote that post to software developers and computer geeks. The people it was directed to (users of Minix, another Unix clone) understood exactly what he was saying. It was addressed to an audience quite different than the one here.

"CBS is consciously committing fraud. That is way different that poorly executed software develoment processes/practices."

That isn't the point. Mainstream media is a closed system. Due to being a closed system, it has built-in failures. Its monolithic in structure and focused on making money as opposed to supplying the best news coverage possible.

Microsoft, to pick on the old chestnut as an example, is nmonolithic in structure, it is focused on making money and adding features instead of supplying the best OS possible.

Microsoft knowingly sells software that does not meet the Industry Best Practices (sort of like a News org, supplying news, but not following the standard of checking sources or verifying evidence).

It's not a perfect comparison... the main point I was trying to make, is that the Delphi Effect seems to work in Open Source, and it seems to be working here in the blogsphere.

Posted by: Ratatosk at September 16, 2004 11:47 AM

Whoa...wait a second here...

I hate to crash the party of our two stellar representatives of dispassionate truthseeking and objectivity, but the cruel fact of the matter is that both Tano and Ratatosk got chased from Roger L. Simon's site by posters who demanded logical arguments supported by relevant analysis and appropriate facts. I know...I was part of the posse who chased the dynamic duo outa Dodge. So let's get real here. There are enough of Roger's readers (and posters) here who know that it is I who speaks the truth as we know it.

Fax yourselves a typewritten memo, boys. The world has changed. You're gonna get called on your B.S. as soon as you post it.

Posted by: DennisThePeasant at September 16, 2004 01:25 PM

Dennis,

If you recall, I left Roger Simon's site due to discussions surrounding the overused "anti-semite" label, which got applied in a far more liberal manner than the seriousness of that label requires (in my opinion).

You can spout that I was chased off by logic, but it was the co-opting of a horrific term, in order to villify political opponents, that made me walk.

That and nothing else.

Ratatosk/ D Clyde Williamson

Posted by: Ratatosk at September 16, 2004 01:34 PM

"the truth as we know it"

You old relativist you, Dennis.

Fact is, you cant handle the truth. You wanna give us one of your trademarked emotional meltdowns, just for demonstration effects?

Truth is not a currency on Roger's site anymore. Its just a downward spiral of self-reinforced hyperbole, and librul-hatred. Pretty sorry sight. You can call it being "chased away" if you like, but I suspect anyone who has spent more than a day in blogistan knows exactly what you are actually referring to.

Posted by: Tano at September 16, 2004 01:42 PM

"I was part of the posse who chased the dynamic duo outa Dodge. "

Hrmmm... you know that didn't sound quite like what I remembered as my last discussion at RLS. So I did some research:

http://rogerlsimon.com/archives/00001089.htm

Fax yourselves a typewritten memo, boys. The world has changed. You're gonna get called on your B.S. as soon as you post it..

Indeed.

Ratatosk, Squirrel of Discord

Posted by: Ratatosk at September 16, 2004 01:51 PM

Ratatosk writes: I think that what we are seeing here is what has been dubbed "The Delphi effect" by sociologists.

You're kidding, right? I mean, are you saying that this "delphi effect" is actually an observed phenomenom, and a accepted axiom of sociology?

Or is it just the entirely fictional "delphi pool" concept of Frank Brunner's 1975 novel "Shockwave Rider," with a slightly corrupted new name, and dressed up in science drag to give it an imprimatur of legitimacy?

Posted by: Chris Vosburg at September 16, 2004 02:56 PM

Chris,

You bring up a very good question. I am most familiar with the term, as it is used in "The Cathedral and The Bazzar" by Eric Raymond. Internet searches have revealed the "delphi technique":

"The purpose of the Delphi technique is to elicit information and judgments from participants to facilitate problem-solving, planning, and decision-making. It does so without physically assembling the contributors. Instead, information is exchanged via mail, FAX, or email. This technique is designed to take advantage of participants’ creativity as well as the facilitating effects of group involvement and interaction. It is structured to capitalize on the merits of group problem-solving and minimize the liabilities of group problem-solving." http://instruction.bus.wisc.edu/obdemo/readings/delphi.htm

However, that is not quite the same thing. Thanks for tossing some doubt on it :), I'll have to go do some Library research.

Tosk

Posted by: Ratatosk at September 17, 2004 07:38 AM

Well this link: http://www.seanet.com/~jimxc/Politics/June2004_1.html#jrm2243

mentions the 'Delphi Effect' as well, it also mentions a couple books on the subject and an experiment from 1906.

However, its in a weblog, so I don't consider the source authoritative.

Posted by: Ratatosk, Squirrel of Discord at September 17, 2004 08:45 AM

Ratatosk says: I'll have to go do some Library research... Well this link mentions the 'Delphi Effect' as well, it also mentions a couple books on the subject and an experiment from 1906.

[tossing foot]

[checking watch]

Uh, sorry, Rats, was that it?

Posted by: Chris Vosburg at September 17, 2004 08:06 PM

No, that was not it (note the statement that it I didn't consider it authoritative??). When I have time to get to the library and research it I will, were you expecting me to drop my entire life and go hunt down some bit of trivia for you?

Sorry to disappoint,

Tosk

PS - Once I find some info, either way, I'll make sure to let you know.

Posted by: Ratatosk, Squirrel of Discord at September 20, 2004 10:50 AM

No, that was not it (note the statement that it I didn't consider it authoritative??). When I have time to get to the library and research it I will, were you expecting me to drop my entire life and go hunt down some bit of trivia for you?

Don't be silly, Rats. By way of reminder, it was you yourself who chose to make this "bit of trivia" the fundament of an argument that the blogosphere stands poised to become a more reliable source of news than traditional media. Obviously, if the "delphi effect" you cite is not a recognized sociological axiom, but rather the merest moonshine, then this argument falls rather swiftly to the ground.

Look, let's cut to the chase, and perhaps spare you a trip to the library: As you probably are already aware, googling ["delphi effect" sociology] produces only two results, both of which refer to Eric Raymond's usage in the CatB essay you cite. This alone oughta be enough to tell you that the "delphi effect" is not actually a recognized and generally accepted axiom of sociology (try googling ["confirmation bias" psychology] to get an idea of what you'd see if it were).

As for the actual origin of the phrase, I'm inclined to suggest that Eric Raymond may have inadvertently coined the term himself, perhaps-- as I suggested above-- as a result of misremembering the fictional "delphi pool" concept in Brunner's book as an actual fact he'd read elsewhere (you did know that Eric's a science fiction fan, right?), or misinterpreting Brunner's authoritative sounding description of the fictional concept as actual known fact circa 1975.

As applied to prediction, there are obvious problems with the concept which I won't go into here, but as open source evangelist Eric applied it to software debugging, it's merely a more scholarly-sounding-- thus authoritative-- advocacy of the folk wisdom contained within the bromide "two heads are better than one."

But it most definitely does not make the blogosphere a more reliable source of news than "old media," and this is the heart of Sulzberger's cursory reference to bloggers. The "new media" represented by the blogosphere is nothing new to "dinosaur" Sulzberger, who recognizes it for what it is: an endless stream of letters to the editor, some good, some bad-- and the other ninety percent laughably unworthy of print.

Posted by: Chris Vosburg at September 21, 2004 10:16 PM

Last Add (hopefully) "delphi effect":

Eric Raymond responded this afternoon to an email I sent to him a week-and-a-half ago asking about his source for this. His answer, in its entirety:

I know that some of the pioneering work was done at RAND, but I haven't been able to track down on-line references.

Oh, brother.

Posted by: Chris Vosburg at September 27, 2004 08:12 PM

A final observation, and then I'll leave you in peace.

The bona fides of the "delphi effect" phrase are a relatively minor point, yes, but apart from providing yet another cautionary-tale-in-miniature-- as if we needed one-- of the danger of uncritical acceptance of 'net-based information, they illustrate another, more significant, point.

First, for those with Irony Appreciation Disabilities, I'll simply spell it out: Misinformation gleaned from a source indigenous to the 'net formed the basis of an argument defending sources indigenous to the 'net (the blogosphere) as a reliable source of information.

Needless to say, bad idea. Clearly, the fact that this simple piece of misinformation has been cited hundreds of times on the 'net and not once challenged in the past five years argues strongly against the notion that the blogosphere is self-correcting, and it's not all that surprising. After all, the blogosphere is composed primarily of advocates, not journalists, and the difference between the two is illustrated in how "duty to truth" and "advocacy" are prioritized.

For a journalist, duty to truth is the prime directive, period. Bloggers are primarily in the business of advocacy, and, well, let's just say that duty to truth is a little farther down the list of priorities. Although it's true that bloggers often find and debunk/expose misinformation, it's typically only in service of that advocacy; they are far less likely to debunk or expose misinformation supporting their own point of view.

Example: Blogger Michael Totten cites blogger Nelson Ascher's boast of having addressed the CBS document forgery controversy on 12 September in his Sao Paulo newspaper column before the laggard Washington Post finally got around to reporting on it on 14 September, saying that it's Ascher's prowess in blog-reading that gives his hometown daily "the edge," and laughably goes on to teach Grandma how to suck eggs, lecturing NYTimes publisher Arther Sulzberger on the value of the blogosphere as a source for news.

Ascher's claim is nonsense. The Washington Post duly reported the forgery controversy on 10 September, as plenty of other newspapers did. Totten doesn't notice or care, because he's not as interested in information that tends to disprove his thesis as he is interested in that which dovetails nicely with what he's been saying all along. It's also worth pointing out that commenters here didn't point out the error either, for much the same reason-- most readers of a given blogger tend to be in agreement with his point of view. Lastly, it goes without saying that Totten has no way of knowing whether Washington Post-- or any other newspaper for that matter-- editors or reporters read blogs, but that doesn't stop him from claiming that they don't.

Uh, "/somerby."

But, that's blogging for ya. If a newspaper reporter tried this shit, he'd get reamed good by his editor; it's in complete disregard of good journalistic practice, and that's the difference, and my point:

When journalists violate the prime directive of duty to truth-- by relying on a single source or shaky sources, allowing advocacy to creep into a piece, failing to fact-check their work, or putting the desire to get it first ahead of the desire to get it right, this defines bad journalism. But these bad journalistic practices are simply the stock-in-trade of the more freewheeling blogosphere.

By way of illustration, when I was in college, I often visited a long-established ice cream parlor close to campus, which sold wonderful hand-made ice cream in several flavors in traditional sugar cones. One summer, a Dairy Queen began construction directly across the street, and I asked the proprietor if he was worried about the competition from them. He snorted and scoffed: "not the same product."

He was just whistling past the graveyard, of course; he was most definitely worried, but not about whether his product was better than the less expensive soft-swirl stuff offered across the street. He was worried that he'd lose patrons to Dairy Queen because they couldn't tell-- or didn't care about-- the difference.

And that is what worries Arthur Sulzberger: not that the product coimng out of the blogosphere is better than his, but that the public can't tell-- or doesn't care about-- the difference. He fears, and rightly so, that the desire to provide what the public wants to hear, as opposed to what the public needs to hear-- not to mention the desire to fill a need for instant gratification-- is an unhealthy one for a democracy, and as corrosive to democracy as the callow cynicism so common in the blogosphere, as amply represented by such sentiments as "both parties suck".

Or, for that matter, that embodied in Totten's citing a phrase he attributes to Mark Twain: "The man who reads nothing is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers."

You might want to contrast this with one attributed to Thomas Jefferson, "Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without government, I should not hesitate for a moment to prefer the latter."

Then, have a smile. Both quotes actually come from the same man, Thomas Jefferson-- yes, Michael, you screwed up again-- and try to guess which quote was made before Jefferson's presidency and which was made during his presidency.

Posted by: Chris Vosburg at September 27, 2004 08:26 PM

And as long as we're jamming people who can't get their facts straight:

The author of "The Shockwave Rider" is, of course, John Brunner, not Frank Brunner (comic book artist). Jeez, Vosburg, can't you get anything right?

Posted by: Chris Vosburg at September 27, 2004 09:12 PM
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