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June 24, 2005 || 6:10 am

To those who think like my father

I'm staying up late tonight as I've got to be online when the UK gets to work so we can finish off this bid document. So in the mean time I'm catching up on some reading and blogging. I thought maybe both the geek and non-geek community might be interested in reading a little of the debate that I had with my father, who questioned why I had started to write more about technology (tagging etc) and why I was now including what he saw as nerdy and boring links.

Well, maybe I'm nerdy and boring. But as my friends know, there's nothing like a little provocation to get me on a rant. So, some excerpts from my email rant/reply to my father:

Whether you like it or not the internet is a really powerful tool and I think we need a broader debate and a better informed general public about what it can be used for [...] As I wrote in one post, the UK isn't very aware about the potential uses of blogs and various related new tools. And if you did start to delve in a little further [into the links] you might find a whole lot of things that could make your life easier, more engaged, more stimulating and more creative. There are new ways of keeping in touch with developments in the world and whatever your passions might be, and new ways of starting to set the agenda and engage directly with your public.

Shouldn't you all start to read up on these things? Its a realm in which an amateur (in the true sense) can become a powerful force - where you can make new connections and go beyond the email/website models to create interactivity and collaboration on a totally different level [...] That's why I'm trying to point people like you (because I know who my readers are and they are mostly unaware of these things) in the direction of a few bits of reading material that might stimulate your thoughts, and share my growing interest and curiosity about the broader implications of it all.

For me, the fantastic thing about the internet as it is developing is that it is absolutely the opposite of all the apathetic, TV-watching, passive behaviour that we deplore. It give you the easiest ways to express an opinion, engage in a debate, and actually change things. Because I'm interested in how we can create new participatory methodologies that really mean people can engage directly with the things that affect their lives, I think these models are really important. It's not fully developed yet but the explosion is happening (60 million blogs? that is amazing!) and the sooner we use these structures to engage people who otherwise would never find their voice, the better. And business can find better ways to work, and new opportunities arise constantly.

East London estate kids are on web forums writing passionately and inventively about music. They are writing - that skill that we are being told is on the decline - and reading what others write, and critiquing and analysing. Community groups in New York have mapped every single tree in the city and now know how much carbon dioxide they sequester from the atmosphere, and how that will change if a new road 'improvement' scheme goes through in their neighbourhood. CEOs of companies in the US blog and thus speak directly to their customers and shareholders. English MPs blog and allow comments to be posted to them on their sites. Isn't that something to celebrate and something that people should know about?

In brief: take the initiative. The adventure is only just beginning. And it doesn't mean that no-one will ever go down the pub and converse again - it just means that this tool will enable those conversations, and the possibilities of collaborative action, to become so much more rich in impact and meaning. And if you have any opinion on all this, tell me in the comments.



H, I think you are "ahead of the curve" to use consultant speak.

Again, the consultant types have classified people/movements etc. into things like innovators, early adopters, late adopters etc.

Not exactly, sure how useful that is, except to say you are probably an earlier adopter for this type of stuff compared to the UK average.

The potential for the social use of technology is only just beginning.

It was already obvious to us science bods that one of the big headaches was going to organising the informatino coming in - particularly for instance in biotechnology.

What many of your links and commentary suggests to me that one of the answers to this is getting community/people to use their time in organising the information from social links, to google maps to wiki.

Interesting the wiki-columns experiments in both NYT and I think Guardian, show that they can be subverted by a minority with an agenda

but in the long run, if you have faith in people and humans, I think we will find that these social information networks become one of the most important hubs we have. If networks will be nodal, then these nodes will be a vital link to our social consciousness.

This is not such a well organised thought. But, I think you should keep spreading the word becuase the more thoughtful people combine thier knowledge and interests and spread their information out into these tools, the better we will be.

Even as City people become supposedly more time poor.


PS and being challenged by fathers/orthodoxy will only make it stronger and they too will add their knowledge to the tree

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:14 pm  

absolutely - and I think the emerging taxonomy is really interesting re the way we learn language, think laterally, etc. It will reach critical mass as the tools for the 'average' user to participate get simpler and more accessible all the time. But I think that certain professions are good at seeing the potential and certain ones don't - and architects/urban designers/planners, although very technologically enabled in a lot of ways, are historically not very good at thinking outside of their disciplines and staying abreast of more street-level movements, which is what I think the whole social software thing is (massive takeup among the young, for eg). But we are some of the people who could benefit most from this joined up, network based way of dealing with the massive amount of knowledge that we are expected to master.

Wikis for editorials are clearly always asking for trouble. But by contrast comments on blogs and forums are very well-policed. the wiki model isn't at all perfect yet and requires refinement. But wikis within an organisation, for eg, could be really useful - or with a much more controlled membership (like Wikipedia now is).

The other thing re time poor/time rich is that I notice that the more I use these things, the quicker I can work. Tagging=less time filing and searching. Google Desktop Search/Mac Searchlight also being evidence of this.

By Blogger HL, at 1:23 pm  

I agree Hana, embrace the internet or you will be left behind. It is a powerful tool. How else would I have been able to read of your opinion and to make comment.


Jim Turner
(perhaps a new american friend)

By Anonymous Jim, at 8:05 pm  

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I concur Hana, grasp the web or you will be abandoned. It is an effective device. By what other method would I have possessed the capacity to peruse of your supposition and to make remark.

By Blogger Megha Sharma, at 6:53 am  

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