28 April 2013

Neither portal nor destination be

This is a set of musings on the nature of blogging brought on via a post at Stacy McCain's site Where Were You in 2002? (h/t: Insty).

Seeing Overlawyered moving over to Cato spurred on the question about 'making the big time' and 'are you a portal or destination?' in Stacy McCain's post.

In 2002 I was healthy, working, and helping to get the last of the Afghan materials out the door in the Agency I worked in before moving over to my R&D slot which I had requested a temporary re-assignment after 9/11/01.  This did not mean I was not interested in blogging, far from it, I was an avid reader of a number of early blogs and attended conferences featuring both Old and New Media (like the old Seybold Seminars or Print '97).  Part of my work was to scour the early web for material and avenues of presenting and using data that were new or novel, that would help move information to the warfighter.  That meant learning all I could about everything from blogging to 3D interfaces to the coming transition to the post-32 bit world and IPv6.  The methodology is straight out of James Burke's Connections series: let the pinball effect give you information and insights from multiple realms and see if the ideas cross into the realm you inhabit so as to allow it to adapt and change.

It is from that perspective that I took in the idea that the Internet is not about portals and destinations, hubs and spokes, nor even about connected clouds of users and information.  I can't tell you who put it like this, there are numerous possible authors, but I picked up on the idea that the Internet, blogs, media sites... the entire thing from static repositories of information like the reference work sites I link to all the way to Big Old Media sites... are something called a hyperlinked conversation.  Hyperlinks are generic in type, they are an unbiased connectivity form for the electronic New Media.  Hyperlinks are also that most powerful of things that mankind invented in the Old Media: an indexing tool.

That comes from James Burke and the power of an index of a book, that list of ideas and pages where they appear, is that they allow you to cross-index.  You can take an idea word, go to a page, find another idea word, go to its index, and find things that it links to via the index.  Hyperlinks do this exact, same function, but a far faster than you can with a static, read-only memory system with a hand/finger interface with leafs to flip through known as a book.  What a hyperlink allows, however, is the ability to show source of an idea via that link, and you can find other ideas that are linked to in the article/video/etc. and follow those links to see how ideas connect.  Everything, even the person who is a minimal utility node in a Metcalfe's Law network offers utility because you can use a search engine (of your choice) to then find out all the other people who link to an article/video/etc. and follow those links back to their sources.  Even the most dead-end of sites, those that studiously don't link to other bloggers, is still connected to them via the link to the source material and your ability to check other incoming links and go back to those sites to find out what ideas are there.  The hyperlink is thus an indexing tool for ideas.

From this there is no such thing as a 'portal' nor 'destination', no 'hub' nor 'spoke', nor even 'communities' of blogs and sites.  What there are is conversations that link to ideas forming their own interconnected set of sites, pathways, and journeys. Following James Burke this means that no site that requires human thought to construct sentences that purvey ideas, that have a logic connecting them, is alone unless it links to no one, and accepts no links and is an isolated node.

That is what I thought in 2002.

People can move around, become highlights or disappear, as I am largely doing, and yet the conversation continues within and amongst humanity.  It is a huge, extended conversation that now includes mini-thoughts via Twitter, picture thoughts and video thoughts (not necessarily stories but just thoughts and ideas) and it is all connected by the generic thing we call the hyperlink.  It is one of the most powerful tools deployed by mankind, and yet its actual invention starts with indexing.  It is the simple but powerful things that move minds, spirits and humanity.  That also has a precursor description in the Noosphere and the Internet can just be seen as a crude, physical form of Noosphere, not the thing, itself.  The next simple tool will not supplant the hyperlink nor index, but will move that conception one more step and then everything changes. 

And yet where it comes from will be obvious. 

What it will enable is beyond imagining. 

Just like the hyperlink and Internet before the invention of the hyperlink.

I can remember where I was in 2002... and with difficulty back to 1992 when there was only the first hint of html via sgml.  Yes, I can do that.  Can you remember the world without the Internet?

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