Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Where do blogs fit in the history of social media?

In my opinion, blogging is the first and one of the earliest forms of social media. Blogging is the first phase of “the wisdom of the crowd.”

As I have written before, the first websites were brochure-ware, controlled by Webmasters. After the “Dot Com” bubble burst, the web came back much improved. Some people call it Web 2.0, and some dispute whether it improved that much, but it certainly enabled anyone to participate, and to publish. Participation came with bulletin boards and forums, and participation came with blogs. Blogs let anyone sign up and start publishing. Of course for most blogs, no one knew they existed and did not read them (like mine). But even at their best, blogs are a form of “one to many” publication. Some blogs have "comments" but they are hard to use, hard to follow. They read like the dead sea scrolls...literally.

With Facebook or MySpace, you see the next evolution. Anyone can publish themselves, and others can comment or post or share photos and links. This is better but not the same as social publishing.

But there is a change on the horizon. Whether Wikia, or Ning or Wetpaint, a new evolution is arriving. They each present the first generation of social publishing platforms – the "many to many" model. A platform is created on any topic wherein everyone who cares to contribute can contribute.
My point is actually very simple...blogging is just a rudimentary form of "the wisdom of the crowd." The technology which allows anyone to comment on anything, known as blogging, is empowering. It makes no distinction between those qualified and competent, and those who are not. Blogging is not journalism. Journalists can blog, that is true. But journalism has legal and professional and commercial standards. Blogging does not...at least not in the same way. Blogging is a form of mobocracy. That is what Aristotle called the extreme form of democracy.

Now in social publishing, a funny thing happens to the wisdom of the crowd...it gets wiser.

You see, when a community publishes, it also edits. So you can get the facts straight. And you get two sides of an argument. Blogs and forums tend to ramble on, and be very one-sided. Blogs almost never reflect and organize and gain some consensus. But that will improve as social media and publishing improves with wikis. The tools exist. One person makes a case or prepares a review. Then others add, in an organized way
or correct mistakes, etc. And the "wisdom of the crowd" is actually a unique entry versus the "expert" reviewer or journalist. Wikipedia does a good job with facts. But bloggers must evolve to be the "passion" but in a more coherent and valuable way. They will do this when they stop being individuals and start forming communities.

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