[This is my entry for InWeDay 2007. Click the link to see entries from other bloggers]
As crazy as it may seem, not everyone is happy with the prolific blogging habits of Web 2.0 writers. While lolcats and tech news abound, so too do backwaters of ignorance and inanity that require nearly no knowledge or forethought whatsoever. While many blogs deal with personal thoughts/experiences in the form as an online diary (or “journal” for the guys who are about to say “Hey! It’s a journal, not a diary. Get it right or pay the price.”), the power of blogging comes with responsibilities that can be all too easy to forget. Is there a way to fix this?
Part of the power of putting thoughts and assertions (no matter how asinine) up on the web is that “no [blog] is an island”; what you say is accessible to people all over the world, and whether it be in the form of e-mail, comments, or posts for/against what you wrote, there’s ample opportunity for discussion with people you wouldn’t otherwise get to meet. I’ve been lucky enough to have Thomas R. Holtz comment on some of my assertions about feathered dinosaurs, J. Judson Wynne correct a mistake I made about albino millipedes, debate with the creator of the “Evolution for Idiots” YouTube video, and engage in conversation with many other scientists, students, and interested members of the public. This is the strength of blogging as it is now; there is almost always someone reading or paying attention, and (if utilized correctly) this can benefit everyone. Scienceblogs itself is a successful incarnation of this idea, putting some of the best science writers in one place, putting them in close contact and allowing for plenty of debate (shall we ever forget “framing”?) Blog carnivals also foster a sense of solidarity and community amongst bloggers, carnivals like the Tangled Bank, Oekologie (remember, it’s at Greg’s place tomorrow!), and the newly-minted Carnival of the Blue all helping science bloggers find the best of science writing and other writers like themselves. For my own part, I find this much more productive, beneficial, and enlightening than all the ad-stuffed networking swamps like Myspace and Friendster.
But what about other bloggers? Most bloggers don’t regularly write about science, so it would be foolish for me to say that the way Scienceblogs works it the way all blog communities work, but I really don’t know. With science writing you are responsible for what you say; if you’re totally off base and have any readership, chances are someone will tell you and a debate will ensue. But what about issues not empirical? It’s easy to have an opinion, but it takes much more time and effort to actually come to know or understand anything, so is there any accountability for bloggers more concerned with social/political issues? Such blogs often experience rigorous discussion in their comments, but how much of it is constructive and how much is “I’m right and you’re wrong?” Again, I honestly don’t know, but even if civil dialog and research are not yet apparent the community and framework to foster such advances is already in place.
Blogging connects us to other people like never before, and while I certainly don’t agree with all other writers out there, the ability to discuss and debate is one of the greatest strengths of this emerging form of media. We don’t have to simply read the newspaper or watch CNN anymore; we can ask questions, have debates, and interact rather than simply digest information (although there are plenty of people who still do this anyway). Of course, there can be problems and drawbacks to the flood of free speech imparted to so many bloggers, but I would rather someone have the ability to speak their mind and me to vehemently disagree than to be given no voice whatsoever, and I think that’s something everyone can agree with.