In yesterday's Yi-Tan Conference Call, I believe Howard, at the end, lamented that the often trumpeted "conversation" of the blogosphere was actually a duologue. People were split on topics and tended to scream more than converse. He quoted Jason Calacanis' post: Why Intelligent People are Walking Away from the Discussion.
Even though I (highly uncharacteristically) am generally a lurker on Jerry's Yi-Tan call, but the conversation is always very intelligent and enjoyable. Always thought provoking.
And I was provoked. Some part of my brain over the last 24 hours was thinking about that and a few other things. Those things had to do with King5 morning news.
We all know that the death of conversation in America is due to a confluence of factors that have rewarded development, thought, and social patterns that deny people the time or tools to have detailed conversations. We have adopted an aggressive winner-take-all attitude that makes even the mundane a high-stakes fight to the death. Even Food Network has managed to make food stressful.
We are quickly bored of victors and always ready to jeer and second guess those who do not triumph.
The News and our conversations reflect these, our new true core values. We are a culture obsessed with failure that believes it is obsessed with success.
So, King5 news. If I had my way, I'd set fire to current-format TV news My wife, however, feels differently. So, often, in the morning, I am confronted with TV news.
Over the last week we've had two local events:
Julius Williams was shot to death. This was a "minor" event, in that if you GoogleNews Julius Williams you get more things about pro football than you do about his death. As a society, we quickly wrote it off and moved on. What was interesting, though, was that King5 that morning reported on the shooting telling us that Williams' MySpace page provided no clues as to why he went AWOL from Fort Lewis or why he was shot. MySpace was a primary source of information - even when there was no information. It was so primary, it had to be mentioned.
Jason Fortuny decided to ruin the lives of over 170 men. He did this last week, King5 reported on it today. But ... a few things. The first - they reported it like it happened just now. "Over 170 men in the Seattle area woke up to find themselves victims of a prank today...." So the "timeliness" of the network news was a bit overstated. True, they woke up to that today, but they also woke up to that the preceding four days. But the really interesting part came at the end of the 15 second segment where anchor Joyce Taylor glibly said, "Gosh, I wonder why someone would do something like that, I guess we'll never know." Then they went off to traffic. Which they spent over 2 minutes on and which you can get any time here.
So when we add these together, what do we get?
We have proponents of the blogosphere watching blogs take on the predictable and boring divisions of our society. We have a society that understands it isn't satisfied with its own level of communication, but doesn't know what to do about it. And we have those that bring us our news expecting their work done for them and, in one case, they expect a personal MySpace confession and in another they don't notice four days of constant blog posting and discussion.
Another thing that someone said in yesterday's Yi-Tan call (I'm sorry I didn't note who) was that we didn't get the division between mainstream media and the blogosphere as we thought we would. What has developed instead of a million Ralph Naders poking holes in mainstream news stories, is an evolving partnership. But it's still humans underneath the movement.
Anyone who has any expertise and then reads a news story on the matter of their expertise seems to see errors in the news story. Most stories I've seen on urban planning, the growth of technology (MySpace especially), or transportation have sometimes minor, sometimes major, errors. Blogs will catch those errors and discuss them. We do.
Here are my fears about all these things:
1. Our attention span is too short (especially in blogs) to have a long conversation.
2. Our society is too auto and television oriented to meet in anything other than a contrived way to have a face to face meeting
3. Our existing political divisions have caused us to distrust everything
4. The rate at which we receive information makes it easy to forget or dismiss things even more than a few hours old
5. America is really expensive now. We all have to work, we don't have time to relax, we are temperamental.
6. Mainstream media is a publicly-traded commodity which must shock in order to sell. Detail is not shocking. Media will never tell us what we need to know to understand, only to tune-in.
7. As Calacanis says, As the conversation becomes shrill, it becomes boring. It's all fight or flight. Smart people recognize that partisan bickering is a time-sink. They leave when the Al Frankens show up. Even if the Al Frankens are funny.
8. We currently have no mechanisms to reward a long, thoughtful conversation.
Perhaps we web 2.0ers should band together and figure out how to actually reward community, rather than finding gizmos to flip.
Update: My champange breakfast buddy Martin Geddes, also notices a similar phenomenon - creating telephony solutions with no attention to users. The news is intent on instant consumption - information without regard to usefulness. The telephony providers are intent on instant consumption as well. Usefulness and users, if they become necessary, will be a later product to sell.
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