September 01, 2004

Blogs win – always

Bunker Mulligan has a great post comparing Mainstream Media (MSM) to the blogosphere:

The Blogsville Gazette is written and edited by a very diverse group. Not diverse in the sense that MSM™ has of diversity. Real diversity. We have folks like Hewitt, Reynolds, Trunk, and Volokh who are lawyers. We have engineers like myself and SDB. We have teachers and soldiers. Sarah speaks about thirty languages and has lived and studied abroad, and is married to a soldier. Marc and David are linguists, and Alex is an international businessman. There are doctors with blogs. And housewives (is that term still acceptable?). Almost every country in the world is represented, and there are no electronic borders. Those are just a few I thought of without grasping for lists.

MSM™ has former politicians and journalism majors.

The Gazette has Instant Fact Checking for those who care to do a little research. We can also access all the government databases MSM™ could access, if they bothered. Misstatements of fact are dealt with quickly, and severely, in the editing room of the Gazette. Retractions follow, or discussion. Either one pulls us toward the truth. All agendae are represented, and all are challenged.

All this is true (well, almost), but I think it misses the most important feature of the blogosphere: in the computer world we call it parallel processing. The hardest problem regarding the news is not being able to access facts that you are looking for (though this can be hard), or even verifying them (which can also be hard), but figuring out which are important, among the myriad details that are accessible. The blogosphere solves this problem through parallel processing. Whenever I post something, or link to something, I am broadcasting a message: THIS IS IMPORTANT to anyone who might be listening. Any of my listeners who agree with me are likely to repeat the message, either by linking to it, or promoting some version of their own. BUT if no one, or few people, think it’s important, it will soon be forgotten. In this way, we create the roiling stem of a mushroom cloud that will quickly reach the Instapundit, the Volokh Conspiracy, et al, and explode outward. Then everyone will know. Our strength is in numbers. As of this writing, Technorati tracks 3,717,771 blogs, and doubtless there are more. With those kind of numbers, someone will be an expert in anything, and now we have the means to tap into this expertise. And it can come from the unlikliest sources, which no expert would predict. Who is wise? One who learns from every human being. Who would you trust more to give you the right answer? Four million randomly chosen people, or your buddies in the newsroom who were all chosen because the boss likes the way they think? The blogosphere has the characteristics of wise crowds, as set down by James Surowiecki:

1. Divesity of opinion – each person should have some private information, even if it’s just an eccentric interpretation of the facts.
2. Independence – people’s opinions are not determined by the opinions of those around them.
3. Decentralization – people are able to specialize and draw on local knowledge.
4. Aggregation – some mechanism exists for turning private judgments into collective decision.
Even if the mainstream media weren’t ingrown and biased, you would find that the blogs win – always.

(By the way, I’m a software engineer by profession, and I have been and hope to be an entrepreneur. At the moment, I am working on the successor to the World Wide Web, which will do things that no one has yet imagined – as did the World Wide Web. As a side effect it will solve Steven Den Beste’s problem. I take it as a complement that Bunker Mulligan made the mistake he made.)

UDATE: Eugene Volokh makes a similar point. To paraphrase: “I’m right because I’m a certified professional.” Academia meets none of the characteristics of wise crowds. Let’s call it a dumb crowd – that might explain why they keep getting things wrong.

Posted by David Boxenhorn at September 1, 2004 09:04 PM
Comments & Trackbacks

I may have been wrong about your chosen profession, but not about your linguistic abilities! That make our diverse group even more diverse!

Posted by: Mike at September 1, 2004 10:38 PM Permalink

Thanks, Mike.

Posted by: David Boxenhorn at September 1, 2004 10:42 PM Permalink

You mean "compliment" with an "i."

Posted by: Grammar police at September 2, 2004 04:08 AM Permalink

Congratulations on being spotted at Instapundit, David!

Mike, thanks for the mention! You'll probably feel an Insta-lanche as well. So congrats to you too.

Posted by: Amritas at September 2, 2004 08:52 AM Permalink

Thanks, Amritas.

Posted by: David Boxenhorn at September 2, 2004 09:33 AM Permalink

Unfortunately, as you noticed, my individual archives are somehow hidden by my upgrade to MT 3.1 and who knows when I'll get that fixed!

Posted by: Mike at September 2, 2004 12:41 PM Permalink

The link actually works, now. That single category refused until I put a gun to its head.

Posted by: Mike at September 3, 2004 02:00 AM Permalink

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