Sunday, November 19, 2006

Google and the like, liberators or agents of the forces of darkness?

No question, the Internet is the best thing that's happened to the World in my lifetime. That IP is now dominant is a particular satisfaction as I was told by the strategists at 'head office' (who suffered horribly from the 'not invented here' syndrome) that it had no future when we started running it on our huge Local Area Network in the mid 1980s. Helped to reinforce my prejudice that strategists, like political pundits, are a fine bunch of people as long as you don't want to know about the future.

Will Hutton writes about Google, Wikipedia and all that sort of stuff today in the Observer. Although he lists dangers such as "it becomes easier to find information that suits your prejudices" I think he's an optimist like me about the liberating and democratising effect of widespread availability of knowledge and varying opinion. Most people are sane enough to be able to wade through the vast array of views and 'facts' on offer.

It's amazing that it now frustrates me if it takes more than a couple of minutes to find information that would have taken several fruitless trips to libraries and endless phone calls to establish even just ten years ago. I can find the lyrics to obscure songs that have been rattling around my brain since the 1950s; how can you put a value on that?!

I'm delighted that people from every continent have accessed this little blog. The most searched for things that have brought readers fleetingly my way are: Sego Royal (to a 23rd July post), Jack Dee BBC2 (19th October), JG Ballard on the South Bank Show (19th September) and two bits of hyped up hysteria which I mocked: whatever happened to Bird Flu (28th May) and 24 hour drinking law (25th January). I wonder why so few of the people have ever returned for more of my wisdom?

Talking of reinforcing prejudices, there was a lively little debate in the comments area of my previous post about political blogging. As I've mentioned before, one reason I'm relaxed about the alleged 'success' of rightwing gossipy blogs is that all they do is to reinforce a tiny group's peculiar views. If they go on thinking that their opinions are mainstream because ' all the commenters on Guido's blog agree with me', they'll go on turning off the vast bulk of voters. These sorts of sites are like extended suburban golf club barrooms...


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