ALA President and Me, on Blogging

Apparently the American Library Association president isn’t a huge fan of bloggers.

I don’t consider myself a “blogger” in the mainstream sense of the word — I have a website of which the core is a diary-like text (you’re soaking in it) which I happen to update more-or-less daily. I too have an intense dislike of “the ugly neologism blog“, and refuse to use it in reference to myself (Merriam Webster bedamned). I also do not, in any way, think that this website makes me a “journalist”, a “columnist”, or really anything that could be accidentally or otherwise confused with some sort of professional, peer-reviewed writer.

Now, that said, Mr. Gorman (the ALA President in question) has penned this article which honestly has the feel and quality of an average “blog” entry. Here are some excerpts (for those of you who cannot read complex texts more than 2-3 paragraphs long):

The Google phenomenon is a wonderfully modern manifestation of the triumph of hope and boosterism over reality. Hailed as the ultimate example of information retrieval, Google is, in fact, the device that gives you thousands of “hits” (which may or may not be relevant) in no very useful order.

Here problem is the statement that Google is “hailed as the ultimate example of information retrieval”. Google is a search engine. It is, by far, currently the most efficient means of finding data and information on the web. It is nothing more than that. It is not a library. It does not do anything at all to help us organize, synthesize, or make sense of this information. I don’t know nor have I read about anyone who thinks that Google is anything more than just a really good tool for finding stuff on the web.

There is a difference between information and knowledge, and the keepers of human knowledge shall, I believe, always be human. If anyone thinks otherwise, then they’re wide-eyed fanatics who really don’t understand this sort of thing. Until we have proper AI, forget about replacing librarians. When we do have proper AI, we’ll all be holed up in glowy red bubbles generating electricity for our new robot overlords, so we won’t have to worry about it anyway.

All that said, I’m not really sure what bloggers have to do with Google in the first place.

It turns out that the Blog People (or their subclass who are interested in computers and the glorification of information) have a fanatical belief in the transforming power of digitization and a consequent horror of, and contempt for, heretics who do not share that belief.

Another sweeping overgeneralization written in anger and intended to paint “bloggers” in a bad light. There is nothing in this sentence that is a) true, or b) not intended to be a direct and ire-rousing insult to the blogging community. This is a combination of a troll and a flame, and not a very good one at that. How is this particular piece of intellectual discourse any better than what we see on blogs every day? (Hint: it’s not.)

Mister Gorman continues with this loaded bit of bait:

Given the quality of the writing in the blogs I have seen, I doubt that many of the Blog People are in the habit of sustained reading of complex texts. It is entirely possible that their intellectual needs are met by an accumulation of random facts and paragraphs.

The fact of the matter is that Mr. Gorman wrote something in the past that “The Blog People” disagreed with, and now he’s lashing out. The article he has penned here accomplishes nothing, being little more than an obvious flame and a clumsy troll. It’s already a week old, so maybe I just missed it on its first run through “the blogosphere” (where stories burst forth and die like stars in a time-lapse galaxy), but right now it’s the top story on Slashdot. It’ll peak on blogdex again, I’m sure.

For what it’s worth, I’m somewhat off-put by the growing sense of wide-eyed breathlessness surrounding “the blogosphere”. I’ve found my inner curmudgeon grumpily reading about bloggers suddenly referring to themselves as journalists, or about the strange mob-effect that has caused at least two real journalists (and one fake one) to recently lose their jobs. Dan Rather (and his team) made a mistake. Later they admitted to that mistake and apologized. The man resigned his post, proudly held, in disgrace. The “blogosphere” counts this as a victory.

I do not.

Personally, I’m still working out why I’m being curmudgeonly about blogging and the “blogosphere”. I’ve been reading about journalism and accreditation. I’ve been reading about journalistic ethics and responsibilities. I’ve also been reading about Hunter Thompson and the “New Journalism” that emerged from the 1960s. Reading a lot, and thinking. Thinking about gatekeepers and elitism, about peer-review and “many eyes make all bugs shallow”, about writing and editing, research and fact-checking.

Lots of thinking, trying to formulate a sensible opinion backed up by reasoned thought before writing it up. When I publish it, does that make me a journalist? No. A columnist? No. It makes me a woman with a website and an opinion, nothing more.

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2 thoughts on “ALA President and Me, on Blogging

  1. Dear sir or madam,

    You are hereby summarily dismissed from the blogosphere for your clumsy attempts at individual thought. As you are well aware, “blogging” is an activity strictly limited to underinformed, passive fact seekers. Any deviation from this standard is unacceptable and any future attempts at “blogging” be met with harsh reprisals

  2. Dear sir or madam,You are hereby summarily dismissed from the blogosphere for your clumsy attempts at individual thought. As you are well aware, “blogging” is an activity strictly limited to underinformed, passive fact seekers. Any deviation from this standard is unacceptable and any future attempts at “blogging” be met with harsh reprisals

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