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Editorial The Internet

ALA President Not Fond of Bloggers 912

Phil Shapiro writes "American Library Association president Michael Gorman is not too fond of bloggers and blogging. '[The] Blog People (or their subclass who are interested in computers and the glorification of information) have a fanatical belief in the transforming power of digitization and a consequent horror of, and contempt for, heretics who do not share that belief... Given the quality of the writing in the blogs I have seen, I doubt that many of the Blog People are in the habit of sustained reading of complex texts. It is entirely possible that their intellectual needs are met by an accumulation of random facts and paragraphs.'"
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ALA President Not Fond of Bloggers

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  • Duh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by boola-boola ( 586978 ) on Friday February 25, 2005 @02:48AM (#11774611)
    Well yeah... blogs are for people to express themselves, not a place for them to write great literary works.

    Think of your photo collection and music collection. It's just another extension of that (think DIARY).

    • by yintercept ( 517362 ) on Friday February 25, 2005 @03:25AM (#11774824) Homepage Journal
      It seems to me that blogs help people develop an understanding of the links between information. For that matter, I think the main value of blogs and homepages is the building of links between the blog and world at large. A well linked blog becomes a discussion with the world.

      In someways, blogs are a welcome relief from published literature which can be a bit too introspective or polished. I do agree with the librarian who is dismayed at the hype given blogs. Everything in computers gets overhyped. Individual blogs like mine [blogspot.com] really mean nothing. In aggregation, they provide an interesting topology of the concerns of our culture.
    • Re:Duh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by GlassHeart ( 579618 ) on Friday February 25, 2005 @03:26AM (#11774830) Journal
      blogs are for people to express themselves, not a place for them to write great literary works.

      The complaint isn't that blogs are not great works of literature, but that they're such poor specimens. Surely there's something between the average blog and "great literary works" to strive for?

      • Re:Duh (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Vellmont ( 569020 )
        Blogs and bloggers are just people, anyone really. This fact seems to escape the ALA President as if anyone publishing information is automatically held up to some high standard.

        I guess I'm not exactly sure who this ALA president is really talking about. I don't "blog", and I'm not a "blogger" (unless you're one of those people who consider slashdot a blog), so I'm not exactly familiar with a wide variety of blogs/bloggers. But my feeling was always there's nothing really special and/or stereotypical ab
    • Re:Duh (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Foktip ( 736679 ) on Friday February 25, 2005 @03:27AM (#11774839)
      Apart from that, he makes it seem as though they're "inferior" for not having read "complex texts".

      Each person chooses a way to live; people do as they please. To claim that one lifestyle is superior is hypocritical, egotistical, and superficial.
      • Re:Duh (Score:3, Interesting)

        by sasami ( 158671 )
        Apart from that, he makes it seem as though they're "inferior" for not having read "complex texts". Each person chooses a way to live; people do as they please.

        My, my. What a ready defense.

        Although his tone is condescending, was he not speaking about the quality of writing and discourse prevalent in blogs? Is this not clearly associated with one's facility with complex texts?

        If one wishes to write for the public, one should expect to be appraised on one's literary ability, or lack of it.

        I have met n
        • Re:Duh (Score:5, Insightful)

          by LordNightwalker ( 256873 ) on Friday February 25, 2005 @05:52AM (#11775319)

          Although his tone is condescending, was he not speaking about the quality of writing and discourse prevalent in blogs? Is this not clearly associated with one's facility with complex texts?

          No, since his whole argument was against blog entries in English (I doubt he read any blogs criticizing him in other languages than English) it is clearly associated with one's proficiency in the English language. This in turn has much to do with the culture said person originates from. The fact that a Swede who happens to blog in English produces blog entries of questionable spelling or grammar gives us no insight in his abilities to read and understand complex texts. There is more than one language out there, and not everyone can be expected to have the same level of proficiency in any one such language than the people who natively speak it. After all, I wouldn't expect you to be a more eloquent French speaker than some great French author or poet.

          Other than that, I have to agree with you that Mr. Gorman's thoughts on this whole matter are quite unintelligently worded; he probably wrote this in some fit of rage, which isn't the best time to start defending yourself in public against critique. What I found particularly ironic was how he argued that bloggers are unintelligent and inferior in the "grokking complex text" department because their skills in the English Language department are lacking, then goes on a couple of paragraphs later to state that the money invested in this new Google program would be better spent in buying new books for libraries, for example in library-starved California. Yes... It would be nice if more Californians had access to the superior option of local libraries. However, even though Google's new program may not be as elegant a solution as a humble library building stacked with books, it's a resource everyone from around the world (China and similarly censored countries not withstanding) can access.

      • Re:Duh (Score:4, Insightful)

        by son_of_asdf ( 598521 ) on Friday February 25, 2005 @09:36AM (#11776122)

        To claim that one lifestyle is superior is hypocritical, egotistical, and superficial.

        That is a nonsensical statement, and exemplary of the sort of moral relativism that is prevalent among many people today. Of course some lifestyles are superior to others: how could you possibly claim that the "lifestyle" of someone like Mother Teresa was not superior that of Hermann Goering? It doesn't make a bit of sense, unless you're willing to assert that morality is irrelevant to quality, which makes this argument even more silly.

        If we apply the generalization to the librarian's statements, it begins to make more sense, however. Apart from that, he makes it seem as though they're "inferior" for not having read "complex texts". Inferior in education, perhaps, but in the grand scheme of things education is a good indicator of a person's worth as a librarian, physicist, or dinner guest, but not a great indicator of a person's intrinsic qualities. This Librarian is behaving as many academics do when faced with "competition from the great unwashed:" with disdain and snobbery.

        That being said, I think that the blogosphere is a good and vital part of the datasphere as a whole, and I'm glad it's there, if for no other reason than it serves as an audit for the fourth estate: if enough people cry "bullshit!" simultaneously, they'll eventually be heard.

      • Re:Duh (Score:3, Funny)

        by wondafucka ( 621502 )
        Each person chooses a way to live; people do as they please. To claim that one lifestyle is superior is hypocritical, egotistical, and superficial.

        I think it's fair to say that Michael Gorman is a snobby blowhard that discredits and smears the name of intelectuals everywhere. I think it's also fair to say that it is not egotistical nor hypocritical to say that my lifestyle of not being a complete judgemental prick mired in mini-ego battles is superior to his.

        That being said, I suddenly realised that I was

    • by serutan ( 259622 ) <snoopdoug AT geekazon DOT com> on Friday February 25, 2005 @03:39AM (#11774892) Homepage
      If the head of the ALA were a publisher, he would know that the overall quality of bloggers' work is no worse than the output of the vast majority of so-called "writers" who submit manuscripts. The fact that some people have talent and others don't is a trivial and uninteresting observation. His reaction sounds more like resentment that mediocre authors, whose work otherwise wouldn't be published, are able to attract large audiences on the web. Maybe he thinks they don't deserve it. Or maybe there's a crumpled up rejection slip in his wastebasket.
      • by joFFeman ( 574971 ) on Friday February 25, 2005 @04:25AM (#11775082) Homepage
        > Maybe he thinks they don't deserve it. Or maybe there's a crumpled up
        > rejection slip in his wastebasket.

        he's the president elect of the ALA. he's not really going to be getting any rejection slips. as someone who keeps an online journal, and as the son of a librarian, i have to agree with him. that's why robots.txt has an exclude rule for my 'blog'. i don't want to pollute the contents of the internet[s]. maybe my friends enjoy what i write, and that's fine- i just think it's more responsible to keep it out of the search engines. people often go to search engines for information on a certain subject, and weblogs are all they find in the first few pages. these are mostly sources they do not know, and thus (hopefully) will not trust.

        and what he said about the quality of writing in blogs... that's quite hard to argue against. the vast majority of blogs are written by youths for youths- basically public diaries. they are wholly uninteresting as anything but what is considered 'outsider art' by hipsters, who ironically enough compose the upper echelon of the 'blogosphere'. i don't like radiohead, i don't think strongbad is funny, but i do keep a weblog. it's a way to vent, and i don't think it should be considered serious work by anyone. some bloggers are seeking journalistic integrity, and that's great. some people write novels in the form of post-by-chapter blogs. that's cool- but blogs are for the most part internet pollution, redundant, inane, ego-stroking, and self-serving.
      • by mrchaotica ( 681592 ) on Friday February 25, 2005 @04:36AM (#11775115)
        I agree, except I look at it from a different viewpoint than you do. I wouldn't say he's so much "resentful" as that he has a valid complaint. The two biggest problems with the "information age" are separating signal from noise, and organizing information. Weblogs and Google are making things worse, not better, because the proliferation of raw data is outstripping our ability to process it. Of course, traditional journalism is no better, considering that they're catering to "consumers" instead of "citizens" now, and chasing after Google and bloggers themselves.

        We'd be much better off if instead of yammering on, some of these people became librarians and editors instead.
        • There's no difference between that and the publishing world, though. How many journals and books are written? And out of these, how many are Tolstoy or Dickens?

          The difference is the removal of the "premises". At one time, your information on which things to consume in terms of information was maintained by gatekeepers, and becoming a gatekeeper was expensive. You had to be a bookshop, and put a book in the window, or be a newspaper owner with premises, expensive presses and a distribution network.


      • If the head of the ALA were a publisher, he would know that the overall quality of bloggers' work is no worse than the output of the vast majority of so-called "writers" who submit manuscripts.

        But the head of the ALA is not a publisher. He is a librarian. This means that his job is not to evaluate works for publication, his job is to sift through the mess after the publishers are done and try to make some sense of it all. From the perspective of a librarian, publishing is inevitable, whether it's done by
    • Re:Duh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by curunir ( 98273 ) * on Friday February 25, 2005 @04:55AM (#11775167) Homepage Journal
      I think your analogy of a diary is particularly good. The vast majority of diaries never amount to anything. But some diaries become historical records that are truly valuable literary pieces. Anne Frank is the obvious example of this. Another would be all the diaries that constantly show up in shows on The History Channel. No librarian would ever think twice about having one of these works in their collection. Yet they make a big fuss about a form of media which isn't really intended to be archived. Maybe they should pay attention to the deterioration of forms of media that are supposed to be archived. The latest Grisham novel doesn't stack up too well against novels from past eras.

      I think blogs will be treated similarly to diaries by history. 20 years from now, we may see collections of important bloggings as eBooks, or however "real literature" is published at that time. But the vast majority of blogs will have vanished into the /dev/null, as it were.
    • They become fractious and ultimately divided forums that are the 21st century's version of the 18th century op-ed in that high-tech medium of the day... the printing press.

  • HA! (Score:5, Funny)

    by NoData ( 9132 ) <_NoData_.yahoo@com> on Friday February 25, 2005 @02:49AM (#11774612)
    Don't let this guy read any Slashdot comments in that case.
  • by daveschroeder ( 516195 ) * on Friday February 25, 2005 @02:49AM (#11774613)
    Caution: this post contains generalizations. Most of which are, unfortunately, true.

    Bloggers think they're going to be the revolution of the press, and that they'll take the place of the New York Times and Washinton Post, and Newscorp will crumble at their feet.

    Not with the half-assed misinformation and melodrama on the vast majority of the political and "news" blogs I've seen (to say nothing of the wild spitting and sputtering in the comments).

    Not as long as they have no problem with their complete and utter lack of accountability of any type, and the vicious, one-sided partisan nature designed solely to incite vitriol in their groupthink audiences.

    Not while they do nothing more than constantly pat each other on their virtual backs and reinforce their own worldviews and twisted near-conspiracy theories, ignoring any and all other sides of the story while simultaneously thinking of themselves as "open minded" and the only revealers of "the truth".

    Blogs have a place in the world of information. And, like all sources of information, I'll concede that some can, in general, build a reputation for trust and accuracy. But many, particularly political blogs, have no regard for anything but the furtherance of their own agendas, taking things wildly out of context, and going on vindictive missions to build a one-sided case to paint the target of their ire in the worst possible light, without any consideration for any other motivations or other sides of the stories.

    And they think they're the future of the media?

    No fucking thanks.
    • *obligatory comparison to Fox News*
    • While I doubt blogs will ever replace the traditional media, they do serve a valuable purpose. They have access to literally thousands of people who are interested in a topic and therefore can muster quite a bit of fact-checking/investigating, something far beyond the capacity of most "traditional" journalists to do when pressed with a deadline. This can both generate new information as well as track down leads more effectively than print media.

      Lack of accountability is not necessarily a bad thing in th

      • by trs9000 ( 73898 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [0009srt]> on Friday February 25, 2005 @03:29AM (#11774851)
        I agree with most of what you say. The open bias of blogs does not bother me. However, there are other shortcomings. Namely, the thing I don't like about blogs (or, usually just the portrayal of blogs) is the treatment of them as writings. Indeed, I have read many posts that could be considered an article, though usually those are even on the short side of things.

        All-too-often, some blogger will post an entry regarding a very interesting and thought-provoking idea, but mostly it's a few sentences and a hyperlink. The blog entry is just an arrow, a finger pointing at the moon. Why should the blogger get credit? Not only is the idea not theirs, they also didn't even offer an in-depth analysis of it (or more often: any analysis). Quite commonly, blogs are devoid of real content. When I look at a lot of the blogs--even professional ones--and they are essentially just posting summaries and references, I question the validity of blogs as a writing medium. Which is to say, it might be one for reference or information, biased or not, but not one of substance.

        The really funny thing to me is sometimes it becomes circular, or even recursive. This blog posts about a concept via another blog which posted something they found over here which was just a little blurb about Apple buying out TiVo. Again, the idea proves very interesting--the short degrees of separation and locus of interest allow for quick news online--but it is not very weighty.

        There are, of course, exceptions to this rule. Plenty of bloggers, especially those with a political bent can get long-winded. And, furthermore, this is not to discredit the weblog as a medium. I think its pretty great and has quite a bit of potential. But I use blogs (or more specifically, their rss feeds) as information harvesters, not as sources of well reasoned, well written articles.
    • News blogs are, in my opinion, really just the crude predecessor to WikiNews, which aims for NPOV more than most any newsblog, and that is enforced through collaboration. Give me a newspaper over WIkiNews most any day, though.

      I find the best of both worlds for news to be Fark or Slashdot -- the posts are mostly links to legitimate journalistic endeavours employing real journalists, but people can still ham it up on the comments -- de facto fora on Slashdot, streams of consciousness on Fark. Perhaps a bit
    • And this is different from FOX News how?

      Political Agenda is what that 24 hour POS news station is all about. Political partisan nature is what most news stations are all about.
    • Really he's right. Unfortunately as we have seen over the years society has changed and the "fast-food" culture has now hit our intellects. I guess it is just time to recognize that the "true" western civilization is on the decline, just like Rome we fell asleep when we got bored..

      The Enlightenment is over, the Renaissance is forgotten and millions of people live day to day in the darkness of oblivion. Oblivious to the great works and thoughts of millions of humans before them. Goethe would have cursed the
      • The Enlightenment is over, the Renaissance is forgotten and millions of people live day to day in the darkness of oblivion. Oblivious to the great works and thoughts of millions of humans before them. Goethe would have cursed them.

        Remember that history is (and certainly was, anyway) written by the academics and the educated; the kind of intellectual stimulation you're describing through the ideas of the Englightenment and Renaissance probably only applied to a tiny veneer of high society, while for the va

    • But wait.

      The mainstream media has shown itself repeatedly just as biased with its own political agenda*; as Hugh Hewitt wrote in his recent book BLOG, he likens it very much to the Gutenberg revolution: you had a very CONTROLLED media business, where very tight-knit group of people with their own biases were controlling everything about the public discussion, for all intents and purposes.
      * note to /.ers: simply because you are so far off in left field that Lenin is merely a 'faint pink' to you, doesn't me
  • by panth0r ( 722550 ) <panth0r@gmail.com> on Friday February 25, 2005 @02:49AM (#11774614) Homepage
    Look out! The "Blog People" are going to burn books!
  • by pintpusher ( 854001 ) on Friday February 25, 2005 @02:51AM (#11774627) Journal
    It is entirely possible that their intellectual needs are met by an accumulation of random facts and paragraphs.

    Not sure what

    a random

    paragraph is. The temperature here is 33 degrees
    fahrenheit. I took a walk today. My HP

    doesn't like talking to CUPS.

    There are 3,472 green M&M's in the

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 25, 2005 @02:52AM (#11774628)
    I don't even understand how this person became President of such an organization. His writing styles is absolutely atrocious. He offers no supporting evidence for any of his points. He really needs to go back and take a basic college writing course. I would fail him if he was my student and turned in a paper like that.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 25, 2005 @02:52AM (#11774631)
    "I doubt that many of the Blog People are in the habit of sustained reading of complex texts."

    Read complex texts? Ha! /.ers can't even be bothered to RTFA.

  • ALA People (Score:5, Funny)

    by splatg ( 672684 ) on Friday February 25, 2005 @02:55AM (#11774647)
    I'm not to fond of these ALA president people. From what I have superficially seen they make broad sweeping generalisations and knee jerk statements about others who they do not take the time to understand. I also heard that they don't shower very often and are cruel to puppies. There was a rumour going around that they get their tertiay education from discarded tissue boxes and glue sticks.
  • heretics (Score:4, Funny)

    by pintpusher ( 854001 ) on Friday February 25, 2005 @02:55AM (#11774652) Journal
    I do not have contempt for heretics who do not share my beliefs. I merely beat them mercilessly until they do.

    share that is.

  • by Romancer ( 19668 ) <romancer @ d e a t hsdoor.com> on Friday February 25, 2005 @02:55AM (#11774653) Journal
    "It is entirely possible that their intellectual needs are met by an accumulation of random facts and paragraphs."

    Kind of like slashdot readers?
  • by Pacifix ( 465793 ) <zorp.zorpy@com> on Friday February 25, 2005 @02:56AM (#11774660)
    News flash: A brontosaurus is not too fond of mammels and live birth. 'The mammels (or their sublcass who are monkeys) have a fanatical belief in the transforming power of being small, having a relatively large brain and the ability to withstand, say, a large meterorite striking the earth. Given the quality of their roars, I doubt that many of the mammals are in the habit of thundering across the primordial plains. It is entirely possible their survial needs are met through hair, live birth and quick adaptability.'
  • by BWJones ( 18351 ) * on Friday February 25, 2005 @02:57AM (#11774668) Homepage Journal
    Given the quality of the writing in the blogs I have seen, I doubt that many of the Blog People are in the habit of sustained reading of complex texts.

    Yo is sure to get schooled from my mad skillz. Oh by the way, this 3l33t haxor had oatmeal for breakfast this morning. Oh and here's a picture of my cat.

    It is entirely possible that their intellectual needs are met by an accumulation of random facts and paragraphs.

    On one level, blogs are intended for brief communications or thoughts that often revolve around a central theme, but not always. Often they are intended as a means for maintaining communication with family and friends or as a creative outlet. However, this guy has obviously not been very informed or is lazy about finding informative/interesting blogs out there like:

    Kevin Sites [kevinsites.net] whose reporting pioneered the use of the blog in combat reporting.

    Dan Gillmor [typepad.com] whose new efforts are targeted at grassroots journalism from sources exactly like blogs.

    Or Chris Anderson's blog The Long Tail [thelongtail.com] which discusses businesses, economic, cultural and political models whose goals are to take advantage of the significant portion of those populations underlying the distal distributions of a curve.

    And many others whose careful investigation, research, thought and reporting go into the content on their blogs.

    Oh, and then there are the blogs like mine [utah.edu]........

  • ... Given the quality of the writing in the blogs I have seen, I doubt that many of the Blog People are in the habit of sustained reading of complex texts. It is entirely possible that their intellectual needs are met by an accumulation of random facts and paragraphs.'"

    thats patantley fols.
  • Blog people, hackers, coders, geeks, nerds whatever we choose to call ourselves are people that collect, store, and disseminate information electronically. And I dare say that we are just as fascinated and obsessed and as diligent in our efforts concerning computers and digital information as our ancestors were with the printing press. We are kindred spirits. And it's a great shame that a library association president can't figure that out.
  • by rrs ( 113451 ) on Friday February 25, 2005 @03:05AM (#11774718) Homepage
    He's just bitter because the idea of mapping IP addresses to the Dewey Decimal System never caught on.
  • by miu ( 626917 ) on Friday February 25, 2005 @03:05AM (#11774722) Homepage Journal
    ...but he certainly doesn't get it.

    My piece had the temerity to question the usefulness of Google digitizing millions of books and making bits of them available via its notoriously inefficient search engine. The Google phenomenon is a wonderfully modern manifestation of the triumph of hope and boosterism over reality. Hailed as the ultimate example of information retrieval, Google is, in fact, the device that gives you thousands of "hits" (which may or may not be relevant) in no very useful order.

    If he is opposed to "inefficient search" then the Dewey Decimal system must infuriate him. Google is great for getting a rough idea of what is out there, occasionally it may lead you to something really worthwhile - but most of the time it only cuts down on the early legwork, something very worth doing.

  • by Sivar ( 316343 ) <charlesnburns[ AT ]gmail DOT com> on Friday February 25, 2005 @03:09AM (#11774749)
    ...He's actually a pretty funny guy:
    For the record, though I may have associated with Antidigitalists, I am not and have never been a member of the Antidigitalist party and would be willing to testify to that under oath. I doubt even that would save me from being burned at the virtual stake, or, at best, being placed in a virtual pillory to be pelted with blogs. Ugh!
    I hope he realizes that while most blogs aren't worth the bytes they are printed on in terms of content, there are enough gems that one can't write the entire concept off as a bad idea. In any case, judging bloggers by the quality of their writing largely misses the point--blogs aren't supposed to be a regulated, edited, meticulously researched medium of writing--they are a means of sharing thoughts with the world without having to jump through hoops. Whether the world listens, complains, enjoys the blog, takes offense to it, or feels that the author should have gingerly lucubrated every detail as if each entry were a Nobel Prize acceptance speech is beside the point entirely.
  • by whjwhj ( 243426 ) on Friday February 25, 2005 @03:11AM (#11774755)
    Haven't we all been in a social situation (out to dinner or a bar, for example) where a serious conversation starts up about a serious topic and what ends up happening is that the folks with the least informed opinions do much of the talking, whereas the ones with a more enlightened view say very little? There must be some facet to the human condition that predicates that ignorance breeds arrogance, and wisdom breeds restraint.

    Our current U.S. political climate bears this out.

    There are plenty of articulate and educated bloggers, certainly. But there are many many more who aren't. We should slow down and think more about the quality of our information, not just the quantity.
    • The difference between a dinner conversation & a web conversation is that here you can tune in whoever you want; it's not possible to drown someone out. A hundred thousand ignorant bloggers screaming at the top of their lungs won't stop you from reading whoever you want to read, exactly as if everyone else wasn't there.

  • by PingXao ( 153057 ) on Friday February 25, 2005 @03:11AM (#11774757)
    "It is entirely possible that their intellectual needs are met by an accumulation of random facts and paragraphs."
    Hey, it was good enough to score a few million for Ken Jennings!

    But seriously, who thinks blogs are where great literatire is to be found anyway? The best blogs-with-a-purpose seem to be the ones that report news stories the mainstream media won't cover. The blurring of the Tinfoil Hat as it were. Anyway, when I want good literature I usually turn to a book. For example in the wake of last weekend's suicide by one of my favorite writers, Hunter S. Thompson, I decided to finally crack open a copy of Hey Rube given to me last year which I had not gotten around to reading. I found this in the Author's Note at the very beginning:
    "What has gone wrong with our communication system since then? Why are we more ignorant and less informed today than we were in 1941? ... If World War III can start in a vacuum of silence and stonewalling by the White House, we are doomed like rats in a maze of fear. We are slaves to mendacity and hostile disinformation. Bread and circuses were not enough to sustain the Roman Empire and they will not be enough for the United States of America."
    You don't need to wear a Tinfoil Hat these days to see that the plutocracy now in power in the U.S. controls the message and the media. Bloggers who attempt the lost art of Journalism can become a powerful force for truth and justice, keeping the old-guard media whores honest (if that's even possible anymore). But I don't think the ALA has to worry about dumbing down Americans' interest in literature. For 90% of the masses television finished that off decades ago.
  • by wintermute1000 ( 731750 ) on Friday February 25, 2005 @03:11AM (#11774759)
    I'm no blogging cheerleader, but the patronizing tone he uses is bound to alienate a less enthusiastic booster of the blogosphere than I. He comes across as an arrogant prig who's using his (extremely limited) bully pulpit to bash those about whom he admittedly (and rather proudly) knows little. I have nothing but regard for the ALA and love my local libraries, but this mocking, snobbish attitude isn't going to win anyone over to his side.

    What I got out of it is that the president of the ALA is afraid that his way of life and his preferred methods af acquiring information are becoming less relevant, and rather than changing the way he and his association do business, he figures he'll stand up and mock the people who are changing things in hope that others wil listen. Nice try, man.
    • but this mocking, snobbish attitude isn't going to win anyone over to his side.

      It won me over. At least, upon reading it I found that my personal view of blogs and bloggers was much closer to that of the ALA president than that held by many bloggers themselves, and that the ALA president had expressed his view in a way that both indicated he understood the situation and was in itself well stated.

      So it comes down to what, exactly, the goal of this piece was. If the point was to express something, it was a
  • "Blog" (Score:4, Informative)

    by DarkZero ( 516460 ) on Friday February 25, 2005 @03:18AM (#11774795)
    A blog is a species of interactive electronic diary by means of which the unpublishable, untrammeled by editors or the rules of grammar, can communicate their thoughts via the web. (Though it sounds like something you would find stuck in a drain, the ugly neologism blog is a contraction of "web log.") Until recently, I had not spent much time thinking about blogs or Blog People.

    The word "blog" has existed for years now and has become so ubiquitous that most news channels, TV shows, magazines, and newspapers don't even feel the need to define it, let alone pick apart a word that practically everyone already knows the root of by now. This is like a radio DJ ranting about MTV in the '80s and starting his speech off by defining the term "television".

    If you're just now learning what the word "blog" means and believe that the people around you have no clue what it could mean or where it comes from, you're at least a couple of years behind the times, and are far less qualified than the average American to speak about the subject. If Tom Brokaw could regularly use it during the news coverage the presidential election a few months ago without even bothering to define it, it's pretty damn mainstream.
  • by Eric Smith ( 4379 ) * on Friday February 25, 2005 @03:34AM (#11774868) Homepage Journal
    His criticism of Google digitizing books is based on the idea that it's better to read entre books, preferrably on paper, rather than snippets served up as Google search results. I can agree with that part. But he fails to see that the value that Google aims to provide is the means to readily find what book you need.

    I have on several occasions tried to find a book that covers some particular detail of something, and failed, only to later find it by accident in a different book that I wouldn't have expected to cover it. Mr. Gorman must never have had this experience, or he would welcome new tools to help him find relevant books.

    I suspect that this is what the bloggers understand and have not been successful in conveying to him. But since I don't know specifically which blogs and bloggers he's referring to, it's hard to say.

  • Context (Score:5, Informative)

    by jbolden ( 176878 ) on Friday February 25, 2005 @03:35AM (#11774869) Homepage
    I think we could use a little context here. Gorman had written an article [infomotions.com]. for the LATimes questioning the value of Google's search engine for books (as contrasted with say spending the money on a library). The position of the article is that information in context (i.e. in a book written by a researcher) is worth far less to someone doing research than a far greater quantity of facts without the organizational structure of a book.

    Bloggers who focus primarily on
    -- putting together collections of obscure references
    -- often don't have formal training in their areas
    objected to the classical approach to research that Gorman advocated.

    I see this article as written response the blogs which attacked Gorman. As a society we could wonders on the library front for a fraction of the cost of projects like Google's; this is a point that no one questions. The real issue is what is the relative value of libraries as contrasted with digital information repositories.

    Blogging proposes a very democratic model of information evaluation that any intelligent person given access to the information will be able to derive the correct conclusions quickly and easily. The classic approach argues that a guided program of study is highly advisable prior deviling into raw sources of information. In feeds in which you are an expert which approach do you think is more correct?
  • by ggvaidya ( 747058 ) on Friday February 25, 2005 @04:00AM (#11774985) Homepage Journal
    That here we are, creating an accumulation of random facts and paragraphs, with no attempt to build up to a complex document ...

    Did Mr. Gorman just troll Slashdot??
  • My Take On Blogs (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nate nice ( 672391 ) on Friday February 25, 2005 @04:02AM (#11775000) Journal
    Blogs are glorified message boards and people like them because it's like having an auto+5 post. It's essentially reality TV for the Internet...so I guess it's reality internet.

    It will not replace modern journalisim because modern journalisim will replace itself. At best it could make editorial pages less read.
  • noise issue (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ethank ( 443757 ) on Friday February 25, 2005 @04:04AM (#11775009) Homepage
    I think what he fails to realize is that the benefit of blogs over mainstream press is that the amount of noise present directly equates to more information from which to sift.

    In the sense of traditional information theory, noise is information (to simplify a bit). Without noise there is homogenization of signal equating to a lack of movement toward chaos or entropy. Information therefore is created by breaking down communication channels, altering the signal (in this case news) between source and destination. The creation of noise hence creates a dynamic system of information in which all elements are going toward a state of complexity.

    Complexity = good.

    When extrapolated toward blog vs. popular press, blogs present a situation in which subjective filtering and emergence from it creates the content, rather than content coming from one source.

    It is a distributed publishing model which puts the onus of interpretation, use and distillation upon the reader rather than the propagator of said content.

    So taking information theory and applying it to blogs, blogs create more dynamic states from which useful information can be gleaned, but it changes the practice of information dispersal to the extent that the hierarchy which typified the dissemination of information pre-Internet has been flattened and in some sense elimnated. No longer is there a differentiation between the reductive properties of grass-roots press and large press.

    The issue I see with this guy is not that he is a Luddite, but that he is threatened by the breakdown of the hegemony imposed previously be the hiearchy created by movable type and the publishing industry.
  • by edunbar93 ( 141167 ) on Friday February 25, 2005 @04:14AM (#11775048)
    Most of the bloggers I know (ie, my livejournal friends) are in fact voracious readers. What they write in their diary is no indication of how much reading they do, how good they are at writing, or their level of education.

    The worst offender on my friends list is in fact an English student in her third year of college. She works in a library and takes every advantage of her unlimited access to it. The serious writing she does is very good and she gets high marks for it in class.

    But the fact of the matter is that a livejournal is just a diary you share with your friends. Historically, diary entries have been kept short in no small part because to do otherwise is very time consuming. The fact that you are keeping a diary at all is an indication that you are embarking on some kind of adventure and actually going about living your life. As such, you don't have a lot of time at the end of the day to write much, unless your living is made as a writer.

    I encourage Mr. Gorman to read the diaries of others and stop passing judgement on those who write them. He might stumble upon the plain fact that diaries usually aren't written by professional writers, but have their own worth anyway.
  • by Per Abrahamsen ( 1397 ) on Friday February 25, 2005 @04:17AM (#11775057) Homepage
    SMS, instant messaging, E-mail, message boards and blogs are all from time to time trashed by professional writters for not containing the same standard of writting as the traditional media, like (paper) letters, newspaper letter columns, and diaries (by grown-ups).

    That is probably true if you look at average numbers. Well, apart from newspaper letter columns, which I find slightly below Usenet posts in quality. And we don't really know about the private media, we tend only to see written diaries and letters from famous people.

    However, they also mean that a lot more people are writting than ever used the old media. Honestly, how many in here would ever consider writting to a newspaper letter column? And would you write long, carefully formulated letters to friends and family if you could not use SMS, IM or email? And how many of the bloggers among you would write a diary instead?

    What the professional writters are really complaing about is that they no longer have a virtual monopoly on writting. It is now for everyone. And of course, we are getting better at it. Much of the communication (like here) is done in public, and we can see which formulations get the point across and which doesn't. So while the writting may not become beautiful, it slowly becomes effective. At least for those who have anything at all to contribute.

    The other part of it is that we become less impressed by the written word, now that it has become a daily tool of our own. We are much less likely to believe in something because it is written (in a a paper or book) than our parents were. Since we know no special skills are required to write and publish, we intuitively know that the written word is no more trsutworthy than the spoken word.

    This also annoyes the professional writters, even if they don't know it.
  • by po8 ( 187055 ) on Friday February 25, 2005 @04:45AM (#11775137)

    What amuses and annoys me about Michael Gorman's comments (and yes, I did read them and understand them) is how arrogant they are. Gorman, as President-Elect of the American Library Association, is not just proud enough to say how much smarter he is than other commentators about managing information. No, he's proud enough to dream of telling Google how to manage their money. He's proud enough to characterize a whole class of people intelligent enough to operate a computer as mouth-breathing idiots.

    Best of all, he's very proud of how the Universal Bibliographic Control [ifla.org] scheme he endorses will solve the world's information access problems. Now please understand: UBC doesn't actually give anyone access to source materials. In point of fact, it seems to be a scheme for trying to assemble a meta-bibliography---in other words, a list of what printed materials you could read if you could get your hands on them. This is unlike Google, an organization crass enough to actually digitize the text of books, to put you one click away from the primary source of the information it indexes, and to maintain backup copies of that information against the loss of the primary source. It is unlike Project Gutenberg, an organization that has already published a huge number of digitized texts that are now available to anyone with Internet access. It is unlike even the bloggers, who at least make their own work fully available online. Gorman apparently has the more limited goal of indexing materials without providing access to them, while mocking the efforts of these other organizations to provide access.

    On the offhand chance that Michael Gorman is reading this, let me make my position as clear as possible. I am a scientific research and (if I do say so myself) a fairly literate writer. I use Google, Wikipedia, Citeseer, Project Gutenberg, and other online information resources on a daily basis, because I've found them to be quite effective for me. I read about five fiction novels a month. The last time I used a library card catalog was about 6 months ago. The reasons for this have nothing to do with the comprehensiveness of my University library's bibliography, and everything to do with the paucity of its actual content.

    I support our American public libraries, because I think they're an important bulwark in our fight for free speech. In terms of effectiveness in serving my needs and the needs of my family and friends, they are so bad that I fear for their future. Mr. Gorman, please keep in mind that when public library funding comes up for public discussion, your comments, especially given your position, are extraordinarily unhelpful. So, in the jargon of the "blog people" you so despise, please STFU.

  • What a hypocrite (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nohat ( 38834 ) on Friday February 25, 2005 @05:26AM (#11775247) Homepage
    Making vague accusations about people's intelligence is intellectually equivalent to calling them idiots. The entire piece is the academic equivalent of an escalation of a "no, you're stupid" playground taunt. Frankly, he should be embarassed about the immaturity of the whole thing, and he likely will be when those who he considers to be his peers call him on it. You know you're an important troll when your trollish screeds get posted to the Slashdot front page.
  • by adeydas ( 837049 ) <adeydasNO@SPAMinbox.com> on Friday February 25, 2005 @05:39AM (#11775286) Homepage Journal
    "Those characteristics are ignored and excused by those who think that Google is the creation of "God's mind," because it gives the searcher its heaps of irrelevance in nanoseconds. Speed is of the essence to the Google boosters, just as it is to consumers of fast "food," but, as with fast food, rubbish is rubbish, no matter how speedily it is delivered."

    And perhaps you have a better idea to search thousands of books in a matter of seconds other than digitising it and using the best search algorithm in this world! May be he wants us to search the catalogue and browse through thousands of books to find that one paragraph about something I wish to know for my paper. Talk about wastage of time. Even ancient manuscripts in India are being digitised with optical scanners by NIC [www.nic.in] so that it becomes accessible to scholars in the quickest manner possible. Also these pieces of history can be preserved for longer periods if kept away from the hassle of observation every other day. I believe the same goes with books too.

    "If a fraction of the latter were devoted to buying books and providing librarians for the library-starved children of California, the effort would be of far more use to humanity and society."

    Same might have been done in case of Iraq and Afghanistan too. But considering that the threats were true, if the wars were not waged, then another building would have collapsed or a nuclear bomb would have hit LA. My point is if we want to preserve our books and history and learn in the quickest manner possible, we have to bring technology into consideration. The only thing static in any field is change.
  • by Ray Radlein ( 711289 ) on Friday February 25, 2005 @05:56AM (#11775329) Homepage
    A blog is a species of interactive electronic diary by means of which the unpublishable, untrammeled by editors or the rules of grammar, can communicate their thoughts via the web.

    If the President of the ALA has such a low opinion of bloggers, perhaps his organization should stop giving so many major awards to them.

    I think what he actually meant to say was something along the lines of:

    "A blog is a species of interactive electronic diary by means of which the unpublishable -- except for ALA literary award winners such as Orson Scott Card [ornery.org] or Neil Gaiman [neilgaiman.com] or Sherwood Smith [livejournal.com] or David Brin [blogspot.com] or Jane Yolen [janeyolen.com] or Dianne Duane [blogspot.com] or, oh, bugger, you know, all those other ALA award-winning authors who also blog, not that I want to imply that ALA award-winning librarians who blog, like Kathleen de la Peña McCook [blogspot.com], are bad either, and oh, yeah, I definitely don't want to seem to be criticizing PLABlog [plablog.org], the brand new blog of the Public Library Association [pla.org], especially not when we put out a nifty little press release [ala.org] crowing about it, just last month, because that would look pretty stupid, now, wouldn't it -- er, um, what was I saying, again?"
  • Blogs and Books (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fncll ( 159437 ) * on Friday February 25, 2005 @06:23AM (#11775394) Homepage
    Talking about the content of "blogs" is as ridiculous as talking about the content of "books"-- as if there is something meaningful that can be generalized about the group. There's a boatload of bad writing on blogs just as there are in the pages of the journals in Gorman's hallowed halls of periodicals. There's also a lot of great writing to be found in both places.

    Gorman is responding to a select group of bloggers who chose to attack him because he doesn't think Google should be nominated for sainthood. I think he underestimates the power of searching and random access...

    But the real sadness here for those of us who love libraries (I do, and I support them by using them and contributing financially) is that he unfortunately represents a very real and powerful part of the administrative apparatus of most libraries. These people don't understand that the roles of libraries, repositories, and librarians are radically changing. I don't mind the whining of the fossils-- I even appreciate a bit of the productive tension between the white-gloved, shhhh-ing blue-hairs and the stinking rabble of the Internet-- but I feel for the younger set getting their relatively useless Library Science education at institutions run by the traditionalists. They might as well get a degree in phrenology or alchemy...
  • by thelizman ( 304517 ) <<moc.oohay> <ta> <kcattaremmah>> on Friday February 25, 2005 @08:48AM (#11775841) Homepage
    While his tone is dripping with condescension, not everyone who writes a blog is worthy to have their thoughts read. I write my blog for the sake of friends and relatives, and some people find my words either interesting or infuriating. I wouldn't deign to assume that I am at the vanguard of a new type of media content distribution paradigm as some people do. Over at K5 there's a hack piece on the blogosphere just about every week, and they all have the same conceited notion that blogs will revolutionize the world. I think that often we, the technorati, get so wrapped up in the splendor of what technology can do, that we tend to overestimate what it will do. Todays predictions of a new media format through wikis and blogs are analagous to the flying cars and domed cities of the 50's.
  • by fajoli ( 181454 ) on Friday February 25, 2005 @09:40AM (#11776150)
    '[The] Newspapermen (or their subclass who are interested in dailies and the glorification of information) have a fanatical belief in the transforming power of yellow journalism and a consequent horror of, and contempt for, heretics who do not share that belief... Given the quality of the writing in the newspapers I have seen, I doubt that many of the newspapermen are in the habit of sustained reading of complex texts. It is entirely possible that their intellectual needs are met by an accumulation of random facts and paragraphs.'

    How wrong that sounds today.

Nothing succeeds like the appearance of success. -- Christopher Lascl