This posting is another in what I now realize will be a longer series on the life-cycle and utility of communication channels. The first, posted on December 14, 2003 is entitled: Six Stages In The Life Cycle Of Communication Channels.Six Stages In The Life Cycle Of Communcation Channels Now in this current paper I will consider the special case of information propagation and dissemination for original, disruptive, or counterintuitive intellectual content.
The peer-review process filters undesirable qualities from publications within scientific and academic communities. It is generally intolerant of innovations, disruptive observations, and contributors whose work is nearly entirely original (with the exception of mathematics), yet these qualities are essential to a healthy intellectual environment.
Original workers take great risks, often remain isolated from their peers, and are typically shunned and disrespected by potential employers. They are lonely thinkers that crave colleagues and dialogue.
The web-log, or blog, is now the most accessible as well as the most rapid route to publication for these original minds, and it does offer some dialogue. But the blogosphere is a generally a chaotic and unreliable marketplace for information. It is more often used for agglomerating news, publishing news and commentary or accessing news, either personal or news of interest to the greater community, than as a portal for serious intellectual publication.
Publishing original material on a blog is risky because the contribution is automatically branded unreliable because the writers become known by the company that they keep, and that company is far too often intellectually messy and unreliable.
The interconnection between weblog sites and commercial advertising renders their non-commercial content suspect, but without concessions to advertising, no one pays the blogger to think or publish. That is not a bad thing. A weblog that has no commercial content or connections may be a pure source of original thought. But note that ‘original’ does not equate with ‘good’, and so the blogger may find himself back among ‘bad’ company, or he or she may be the bad company one would rather avoid.
The blogosphere is also less easily searched for contributions in one’s field of interest than a peer-reviewed journal because one must make a dedicated active effort to search out original content that because of it’s originality we cannot know the appropriate search terms beforehand. Original material published in blogs gets quickly lost, but original material is as lost, but less quickly, in the dusty piled-up peer-reviewed journals as they pile-up unread on desks, floors, shelves, and library stacks.
There is a hazard common to both. Original thought may require decades or longer to find champions and ultimately acceptance in any community of workers. Subscription only journals in limited edition may go out of print and weblogs or websites are almost certain to go dark long before that moment of discovery and credit. What may keep an idea alive beyond it’s primary publication channel will be the number and quality of the referring citations by others. Both peer-reviewed journals and web publications do a poor job of tracking citations.
What is the answer to this dilemma? Do we create a new channel, or some identifying ‘brand’ for weblog published contributions that aspire to be more than a diary or a gushing recitation of enthusiasms
We could create a searchable catalog of weblog communities of interest that authors could join to become more accessible and visible within a community of like-minds, and TWINE (© Radar Networks Inc. in Beta)Twine will soon offer us the chance to do just that.
Otherwise, how would we sort the relevant particular from the millions of other blogs, and what criteria would be used for the sorting, to be applied by whom or what committee? Who would pay for such an (unpopular) effort? Can those of us who attempt to publish original material on weblogs self-regulate according to some agreed-upon rating system within which we objectively self-evaluate or rate our own contributions? Can the fox clean the henhouse without eating the hens and the eggs? Should some reader-rating system be installed to provide a measure of reliability to contributions and authors? This now exists but is not universally applied.
This posting, and my dilemma, are an example of the problems I discuss here. I cannot rate even this, my own original writing about rating systems because I am so without ‘objectivity’ and limited to my own perspective. Is it useful and valuable? I must take the risk of posting it and leaving the evaluation to you.
Technorati.comtechnorati has initiated a recent minor change in it’s rating system that is showing up with increasing frequency but fails to address the problem of qualifying original material relative to any standard beyond popularity. The Technorati authority and rank reflects only the relative frequency or number of times a website or blog is linked to another blog or site. The problem as I see it is that truly original and disruptive material may be so hard to identify, and so poorly communicated or understood, that it may forever carry a low ranking. That may be a mark of intellectual honor. Here is why:
The Technorati.com website states that: “The best way to increase your Technorati Authority is to write things that are interesting to other bloggers so they'll link to you. Linking to source material when you blog is also a great way to engage in conversation and help others find what you find interesting.”
To an author of original thought this is a near impossibility, and undesirable as well. It amounts to pandering, or in the case of an artist, such as a painter, painting for the marketplace—not a sure way of making a living as an artist but almost a guarantee that no real ‘art’ will result from the effort. These same caveats should cause some concern among those who manage Technorati.com, and even more concern among those original workers who will soon involuntarily be tagged with low ratings that are meaningless to their effort but discouraging to searchers.
In the paragraph previous they state that: "The Technorati Top 100 shows the most popular 100 blogs based on Technorati Authority. To an original thinker and worker, “popularity” is not an objective or a valid measure of worth. Truly original work in any serious field rarely if ever finds a popular audience. When it does happen it may require decades or more. The outstanding exception to this is the great love ordinary Italians have for their “popular” yet serious operatic music and musicians. We should all be Italian.