Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Blogs, Twitter, Mumbai & Hanumar Vaalu

Ever since the Internet began to pretend that it had more value than free porn, things have mostly been disappointing. The Internet has clearly underperformed in its non-porn avatar. However, that is a story for another day. I made a draft post on the mainstream media's coverage of how blogs and twitters were "helping people" during the Mumbai blast. I forgot to post it. So here goes the following.

For the past 2 months, I haven't been reading other blogs as much as I usually do. So, I haven't read any of the twitter updates or all the "live blog updates" during the mumbai attack. Presumably these were started and publicized during Mumbai floods, blasts and other similar events with the professed intention of "providing information" and "helping people". Popular bloggers who link to these blogs with comments like "great coverage" or "he is covering this by the minute" have also misled me. I now suspect that these popular bloggers have just linked these blogs/twitters for the sake of "doing something" without bothering to read them and understand their value. The question in my mind is -> has this has led to a "network" effect where other bloggers believe (because the big guys believe it) that there is value in these "live blog updates" thereby causing more links to these type of blogs? Has this unintentionally allowed those blogs to bubble up to the top of search results and thereby propelled them into TV Media's radar? Or, did the TV media do what the popularbloggers did? Pick an arbit twitter/blog out of their asses and called it "good coverage".
The TV based media either don't understand blogs/twitters and have simply reffered to these blogs/twitters just to cover their asses or have done it just for the sake of appearing well-informed. You know, like the way grad students refer to arbit IEEE papers (that they've never read) in their thesis bibliography page. The media thinks these blogs/twitters already possess great value. This cannot be true. I cannot imagine how those blogs and twitter updates would have helped people. Baring few exceptions (I don't know if any exist)- the people who update those blogs could not know more information than the media, police or the team manning the standard helpline number. I cannot see them providing a new angle to the story beyond what the dozens of screaming media channels provide. In some distant future, post critical mass, I can see these blogs and twitters potentially covering the small events (before they become really big) and tip off the mainstream media. But currently they aren't a replacement/alternative for covering big events.

I have a karuthu as to why this sudden and freak claim to fame happened for blog coverage of terrorist attacks. The average overweight guy sitting at home, playing video games, and feeding off library books - feels angry that he cannot be a superman and cannot rescue earth from the Doomsday monster. So, much similar to the way that girl in my office started a signature campaign/letter to Manmohan singh and created a lot of useless buzz, this person must've have started a "live coverage blog" to satisfy his own ego. You know "just to do something". Many people who have overdosed on "Rang De Basanti" must have felt the need to do "something" and have joined this. The main reason why I fear the Internet may provide us something dangerous before giving us something useful is because -> It provides people, who are inherently lazy, an easy alternative to useful/productive work (one that involves a lot of undesirable hard work). The crux of the danger is that this alternative provides similar levels of satisfaction and infinitely more popularity.


Anonymous said...

I agree with the overall arc of your point, but some blogs did add value. One example I know: someone in Bombay went to one of the hospitals and posted a pdf of all those admitted there from Taj/VT station etc. Later they posted a pdf with list of those who died. These were made available way before it was available to the media out there. If you are sitting in the US, sometimes getting the # of some hospital in India can be of minimal use (tough to get thru, too much confusion on other end etc.) I found that doc helpful as I had to trawl that to check that people I knew who were at Taj that night were not on it. But your point is taken.

Anonymous said...

/* sometimes there is no logic */
salute. :)

Alan Smithee said...

Sometime back I wowed a venture capitalist by claiming that any new technology could gain traction only by carrying porn or by positioning as an enabler for searching porn/dating/meeting people/creating friends. He promised to use this yardstick when it came to measuring the potential of a new venture.

Hawkeye said...

internet porn is like the kollu thatha of YouTube and is the sole reason why video-on-net technology advanced so rapidly.

Gradwolf said...

It is not only coverage. Your karuthu holds good for why blogs are a rage, why flickr is a rage, why youtube is a rage. The average bloke can do a lot of things. He can write and he can be read. His photographs can be appreciated.

The coverage through twitter, blogs just spawned out of these things. Like you receive an SMS saying someone needs B+ blood at so-so hospital and you find it ethically incorrect not to forward it. But most of these news is repetition from news channels so I really don't know what's the point.

Anonymous said...

Yes, getting to useful information in all this is like finding needle in a haystack. But, that is the most natural thing to happen.

human nature hasn't changed in centuries...


Anonymous said...

Though i agree that the whole live blogging and twittering and news by the minute is over done, I somehow do not accept that fact that "the rang de basanti " thing is over done.

I think traditionally us tam brahms have always had this, lets stay out of problems attitude. While i am no exception, i think we should laud people who atleast start campaigns. I dont think its an easy task and it is a small way of doing our part. It is not an ego satisfying thing rather i think its one of those " I should do something" which is definitely a good thing.

The whole "Its not my problem, if its bombay" needs to be weeded out.