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A Million Nation States of One fears Google Balkanization

Blog Tab or no Blog Tab?

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A consequence of this wonderful publishing tool is that the discourse has proved to be so dreadful. There's a case to be made for Weblogs as the most anti-social software yet devised. No wonder they're so popular with egotists, as the right to speech without consequences reaches its apogee on the web soap box. Compared to bulletin boards, or group discussions, there's no one to temper the conversation, or steer it to more useful outcomes. There is a lot of posturing, however, in this fragmented world of a Million Nation States of One. And as anyone who has tried to follow "the conversation" across dozens of fragments can confirm, it's the antithesis of coherent discussion. So it's revealing that one site which started as a weblog, and dropped the restrictive format in favor of editorial control and a Slashdot-style system, has become a runaway success: DailyKos.

Slashdot members have never liked the blog hype, so it was amusing to see the debate reprised once again.

"Please let this mean that blogs are now excluded from the main google search?? Why can't they add an extra tab (sites, images, news, blogs)?" asks one poster.

"With a Report this blog link?", suggests another.

Later, we learn that a developer is creating a toolbar add-in which appends the indispensible string -inurl:www.livejournal.com -inurl:*.blogspot.com - blog [and so on] to Google queries, so Google can ignore blogs in its search query. It sure beats typing it in every time.

The Balkanization of the internet is something we've covered before: it's happening at a social level, where people opt only speak to other like-minded people, and at the technical level, with subnets only accepting traffic from known and trusted nets. But there's irony aplenty in the notion that a form of communication so atomized becomes marginalized. How could it end up any other way?

In the end, it comes down to what we really want from computer networks, and we can start by adding up what we value already. Harmless amusement at work? Probably. Comfortable shopping? Definitely. Hods of "free" porn and music? Absolutely - and we can even begin to pay the artists who create it.

But as an alternative, escapist universe, it was always going to come up short. Any interaction that requires something like 'humor tags' to work was always going to be several steps behind real human discourse. The mooted Google Blog Tab is simply the world's polite way of telling the utopians to take their toys and move along. ®

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