The social networking phenomenon is upon us, and it seems that half the world (in reality, less than one sixth) is instant messaging, blogging, wiki-ing and generally collaborating and communicating in new and exciting ways.
The idea here is to capture thought processes and ideas which ensure that the pace of change towards a far better future has never been faster.
But there are problems. Let's start with the idea of a blog. The Wikipedia definition reads: 'A user-generated website where entries are made in journal style and displayed in a reverse chronological order.'
Seems simple enough; essentially a web-based diary, generally with the capability for others to comment if they agree or disagree with what's been said.
The results are presented pretty much as an old bulletin board or a discussion database would have been, and this is where we can have problems as we try and figure out whether a blog is to provide us with real value.
Let's say that the first entry in a blog says something along the lines of 'Today, I decided that Linux really is useless.' Provided that others are tracking the blog, someone will undoubtedly respond to counteract the comment.
In fact, it's likely that many, many people will. And some of these comments may spin off other comments, some in agreement with other points raised, some in defence of the original comment, and some completely off subject.
Trying to find any real underlying truth, or even to track the underlying argument in a blog, can therefore be a little difficult.
We have a collection of statements that present themselves as self-evident truths, and reading any part of the blog without looking at all comments against that part means that we are bound to only get part of the story.
Similarly, reading a blog where there are no comments means that we are essentially getting the view of one person, and we have to treat the information accordingly.
So, let's move to a wiki. Again, Wikipedia (itself a wiki) defines a wiki as: 'A website that allows the visitors themselves to easily add, remove and otherwise edit and change available content, and typically without the need for registration.'
The idea here is to move dynamically towards the 'wisdom of the crowd'. Let's take the same example. On a new wiki, someone opens up a topic on Linux and types in 'Linux is really useless'.
Again, assuming that the wiki is being used, others will come along, and rapidly or slowly, changes will be made to the entry until we get a semblance of an agreed perception of the truth.
Note that we are talking about 'perceived truth' here; we are still at the whim of those who are active in the specific wiki environment.
The wisdom of the crowd may not always be correct, but it is the perception that counts in the end not the truth itself. Overall, though, the output of the big wikis, such as Wikipedia, seems to be impressive.
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