We felt that as soon as it left our desktop it would arrive on another desktop free from prying eyes. We sure were surprised when we found out differently. The teenager whose parents searched their "Sent" mailbox and found strange writings to equally strange people they did not know led to parental controls, and limiting access to the Web for their kids. Doesn't really work that well. Kids are kids and they find the work-arounds.
Adults started to spend lots of time in online forums. Forums for everything, from Ford trucks, to mail order brides. Corporations soon began to show a presence on the Web. Pornography had always been there in some form, but was becoming more obtainable. Online gambling became prevalent.
The Web's evolution taught us some valuable lessons. Anything you put in writing on your computer can, and will come back to haunt you. It is forever. That email to your mistress? Fat chance it's deleted, it's still on your hard drive, and if the little lady suspects your cheating butt, she will find it. Send a nasty letter to the editor in the heat of the moment, and it will come back to bite your butt. Computers and the web have served a great service, but they have decreased our ability to think things through.
I think the biggest change since 1995 has been how we have learned to express ourselves. Fantastically designed web sites, lots of pictures, uploading our own videos, instant letters to the editor have all helped us become spontaneous in our expression. More so than ever before. Spontaneous expression is nice at times. "Ooooh, the flowers are lovely!" That's a spontaneous expression, and a nice one. Online it takes a different turn. "Mayor Smumkin is a liar, and wears a bad hair piece." That would be a spontaneous letter to the editor, and not a good one. If we had written that on paper, and waited to mail it the next day with a stamp, we may have decided for a rewrite.
After several years of people hanging out in forums expressing their feeling about things, the web log came into existence. The Blog started out as more or less a journal for people writing about themselves. Soon, it became a place for opinion, news, scandal, and opinion. Bloggers became accepted journalists at the presidential conventions, news agencies would stop by Drudge for the latest gossip, and information leaks. Blogging was gaining respect.
Most folks that blog do so for all the right reasons. There are wonderful blogs dedicated to photography, politics, self help, politics, babies, and on and on. Then, there are the other ones. The topic may be fine, but the head behind the keyboard may be a bit out of kilter. I know, that is a subjective feeling, but my feeling that Jeffery Dalmer was not a vegetarian is not solely a subjective feeling. His actions spoke for him, as do some places online.
So, I would like to give some unwanted advice. I can do that, it's my blog. Read it, and if you feel that it's useless to you, ignore it, but if you feel that I may have something, then think about it.
First of all, read. Read everything you can, as often as you can on anything that interests you. Cereal boxes are good. Newspapers are better. Books have a great rep, too. But keep in mind that if it's in print, doesn't make it so, or right, or the law. Look at the author, and ask yourself, "What is is motive?" Then after you experience a few chapters, columns, or blog postings by the same person, ask yourself if the person is being objective, or subjective. Is what you are reading an objective report of an event, a person, or an issue without any emotional ties from the author? If so, you can be fairly sure the information is not biased. The information may still not be correct, and this why if a subject attracts you, read as much as you can about it.
Just be aware that there are Blogs that share information, spin information, and give disinformation. You have to decide which one you want to rely on.
Be wary of writings that make a lot of statements like, "Phebis Glip is a liar". Obviously, subjective here. Why would the author write this? Why would he risk libel? Another example is, "The Business Society are in cahoots with the councilmen." Again, an opinion, and subjective. Any evidence? And I mean evidence that is straight forward, unmistakably clear in its meaning, not what the author interprets it to mean.
Also, be aware of style. Sounds a bit pretentious, but the style of writing and the format it is presented mean a lot to the overall message. Does the author use a lot of BOLD emphasis in his writing? Is the writer unable to say it in words, and needs to use another vehicle to make their point? Does the writer use quotation marks to mark words or phrases that are not quotes? If so, why? Is there a point? Is their venue, book, column, or blog a mishmash of thoughts? Are they addressing the war in the Congo in their posting, but have a slide show of grandma's new kitten in the corner? Just a matter of style, but can say volumes about just where their head is at, and how seriously you can take them.
Finally, when reading, look for the unwritten word. The words that are there, but not written. They are words that skew the text. In other words, the attitude, and tone of the writer. Mine is simple. I'm serious about what I write a lot of the time, but a totally not most of the time.
The "totally not" part you can be sure of. I'm easy to read in more ways than one.
Is the writer accusatory, obsessive on one topic long since solved, or dead? Does the tone of the writing have an undercurrent of , "it's all about me"? That's fine, but obviously a less reliable source of good information.
Bottom line, just be aware. Just because it's written, doesn't mean it is so. Cripes, the stuff I've written here could be totally off base. Is the blog a true blog, or something else like a newsletter for the party?
Free speech is free speech. Freedom of the press is exactly that as well. Everyone is entitled to vent like I am doing today.
... and others.