Online debates of tough issues are often polarized by messages taking extreme positions. It's a great medium for trivia and hobbies, but not the place for reasoned, reflective judgment. Surprisingly often, discussion degenerate into acrimony, insults and flames.
... Virtually everything is debated on the Usenet: whether computers are best left on at night, if cats can be fed a vegetarian diet, of abortion should be legal.
Predictable replies - maybe, maybe, and maybe, but each with more stridency. Plenty of opinions, but not much informed dialogue, and even less consensus.
Of course, since there are no easy answers, arguments over the Usenet are seldom resolved. They'll degenerate into name-calling; eventually one of the participants figuratively walks away, and a new debate begins.
Now, recurrent debates aren't bad - they're just circular and tedious.
Network junkies excitedly tell me that self-publishing leapfrogs over publishers, editors and broadcasters. The network passes messages from your keyboard to a thousand other monitors. It's not one-to-one communication like the telephone or one-to-many broadcasting like radio. Rather it's a many-to-many medium, a garden where freedom of speech blooms.
But the reality is that with millions of users posting messages to the network, the valuable gets lost in the dross. There are no pointers to the good stuff - you don't know which messages are worth reading. You can select by subject area, but there's no way to pick only the interesting comments.
With everyone able to upload their work to the network, the Internet begins to resemble publishers' slush piles. It's up to the reader to separate out the dregs. What's missing from the network are genuine editors.
Ah, editors! The bane of writers, reporters, and publishers, editors yet serve as a barometer of literary quality and advocates for the reader. Without them on the net, you simply have no way of telling what's worth reading.
By eliminating editors, our networks demonstrate their importance. There are plenty of writers on the Usenet, but few editors. It shows.
Indeed the best newsgroups rely on voluntary moderators, serving as unpaid filters. ... Their attempts to impose order on the chaos generate resentment, accusations of censorship, and occasional subversion; but it's the moderators who give shape and direction to the newsgroups. There are so few moderated newsgroups only because nobody's willing to put in the long, unpaid hours.
Since there's no identification required on the Internet, you can be as anonymous as you wish. You can change your name and identity as you please, and you location may be little more than a node.
You can invent a more confident persona, freed from shyness and physical limitations. A housewife in Boise, Idaho, gives herself the name Amazon Gal; a New York City teenager becomes Ranchhand. AT this masquerade party, you truly don't know who you're associating with.
...As my computer screen scrolls before me, I see each person with the same font, style, and packaging. In person, we'd sense a difference in clothing, facial expression, accent, and sex. All these disappear online.
...Tailoring a persona is an experience of otherness, a way to escape the here and now.
In some ways, the Internet reminds me of talk radio - the land where anyone can have his say. A forum for both fringe and trivial? A place where there's plenty of talkers and few listeners?
Uh-oh ... there's a closer analogue. It reminds me of CB radio.
[I]solated facts don't make an education. Meaning doesn't come from data alone. Creative problem solving depends on context, interrelationships, and experience. The surrounding matrix may be more important than the individual lumps of information. And only human beings can teach the connections between things.
A little icon blinks whenever a message arrives at my computer. ... This gives electronic mail a powerful sense of immediacy. ... "Open me now," the message tells us. ... The Internet propagates a sense of urgency. Writers once gave me a week to answer a letter. Today, if I don't reply within a couple of days, they'll ping me again.
My natural reaction? Type out an answer and ship it across the ether. Yet after I hit enter, I don't get another crack. I'm sending out my first draft. Unpolished, unedited. ...
E-mail ... discourages reflection. While logged on, it's difficult to compose a message and then push it aside for review ... it's too easy to press the send button. As a result, many letters are sent without thinking about their consequences.
In 1979, as NASA's Pioneer spacecraft flew by Saturn, I helped record the down-linked data onto magnetic tape. To make certain that we didn't lose any of this priceless data, we saved it in four formats: 9-track magnetic tape, 7-track tape, paper tape, and punch cards. That's a lot of boxes and cards...
Fifteen years later, all those cards ... [are] in fine shape, but I can't read 'em. Punch-card and paper-tape readers just don't exists anymore. Nor do those big reel-to-reel tape recorders. ...
Think of the many extinct formats: 78-rpm records; 2-inch quad-scan videotape, phonograph cylinders; paper tape; 80-column punch cards; 100-column punch-cards; 7-track digital tape; reel-to-reel audio tape; 8-track tapes; DECTape; 8-millimeter movies; 5-inch glass lantern slides.
Then think of the formats that are disappearing today: 45- and 33-rpm vinyl records; 5 1/4-inch floppy disks; Betamax tapes; single-side, single-density diskettes; EBCDIC coding.
... Today's information isn't just magnetic domains on ferric oxide or simple bumps on a glimmering plastic disk. The format of the data is essential...
Not all information is good information. We're already getting so much information, so fast, that it's more than our brains can process, digest and evaluate.
hostile to science
lacking in empathy
lacking in public spirit
out of control
Thanks to: Breeze, Chuck, Ivan Raikov, Kaiju, Kathy, Roger, Shirley, S.M. Dixon
i've got a little list...
Steven Abrams (Kansas BofE)
Howard Fieldstead Ahmanson
Roger Ailes (FNC)
Alan Bonsell (Dover BofE)
Bill Buckingham (Dover BofE)
George W. Bush
Bruce Chapman (DI)
The Coors Family
William A. Dembski
Leonard Downie (WaPo)
John Gibson (FNC)
Fred Hiatt (WaPo)
James F. Inhofe
Philip E. Johnson
by Joel Pelletier
(click on image for more info)
Stephen C. Meyer (DI)
Judith Miller (ex-NYT)
Sun Myung Moon
Elspeth Reeve (TNR)
Martin Peretz (TNR)
Richard Mellon Scaife
Susan Schmidt (WaPo)
John Solomon (WaPo)
Richard Thompson (TMLC)
Bob Woodward (WaPo)
All the fine sites I've
Be sure to visit them all!!
Arthur C. Clarke
Daniel C. Dennett
Philip K. Dick
Stephen Jay Gould
"The Harder They Come"
Ursula K. LeGuin
The Marx Brothers
Michael C. Penta
Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
"The Red Shoes"
"Singin' in the Rain"
Talking Heads/David Byrne
Hunter S. Thompson
"2001: A Space Odyssey"
If you read unfutz at least once a week, without fail, your teeth will be whiter and your love life more satisfying.
If you read it daily, I will come to your house, kiss you on the forehead, bathe your feet, and cook pancakes for you, with yummy syrup and everything.
(You might want to keep a watch on me, though, just to avoid the syrup ending up on your feet and the pancakes on your forehead.)
Finally, on a more mundane level, since I don't believe that anyone actually reads this stuff, I make this offer: I'll give five bucks to the first person who contacts me and asks for it -- and, believe me, right now five bucks might as well be five hundred, so this is no trivial offer.