All this has not escaped the attention of BusinessWeek, which made blogging its cover story this week.
Here is some of what they say, in a long, meandering, but stimulating article:
How big are blogs? Try Johannes Gutenberg out for size. His printing press, unveiled in 1440, sparked a publishing boom and an information revolution. Some say it led to the Protestant Reformation and Western democracy. Along the way, societies established the rights and rules of the game for the privileged few who could afford to buy printing presses and grind forests into paper.
The printing press set the model for mass media. A lucky handful owns the publishing machinery and controls the information. Whether at newspapers or global manufacturing giants, they decide what the masses will learn. . .That's the world of mass media, and the blogs are turning it on its head.
But thanks to blogging...
The divide between the publishers and the public is collapsing. This turns mass media upside down. It creates media of the masses.
How does business change when everyone is a potential publisher? A vast new stretch of the information world opens up. For now, it's a digital hinterland. The laws and norms covering fairness, advertising, and libel? They don't exist, not yet anyway.
Hm, reminds me of what CRN says about nanofactories. How does business (or the economy, or society, or geopolitics--choose your term) change when everyone is a potential manufacturer? Will today's laws and norms covering fairness, security, and privacy still hold sway?
Okay, back to BusinessWeek:
Blogs are different. They evolve with every posting, each one tied to a moment. So if a company can track millions of blogs simultaneously, it gets a heat map of what a growing part of the world is thinking about, minute by minute. E-mail has carried on billions of conversations over the past decade. But those exchanges were private. Most blogs are open to the world. As the bloggers read each other, comment, and link from one page to the next, they create a global conversation.
Pretty cool, huh? Just by reading this blog, and especially by adding your own comments, you are part of a global conversation!
Picture the blog world as the biggest coffeehouse on Earth. Hunched over their laptops at one table sit six or seven experts in nanotechnology. Right across from them are teenage goths dressed in black and thoroughly pierced. Not too many links between those two tables. But the café goes on and on. Saudi women here, Labradoodle lovers there, a huge table of people fooling around with cell phones. Those are the mobile-photo crowd, busily sending camera-phone pictures up to their blogs. . .
Wait a minute. Six or seven experts in nanotechnology have blogs? Well, let's see, there's Howard Lovy, there's Josh Wolfe, there's Nanodot and TNTlog, there's Richard Jones, and then there's us. That's six. Can you think of a seventh?
In a world chock-full of citizen publishers, we mainstream types control an ever-smaller chunk of human knowledge. Some of us will work to draw in more of what the bloggers know, vetting it, editing it, and packaging it into our closed productions. But here's betting that we also forge ahead in the open world. The measure of success in that world is not a finished product. The winners will be those who host the very best conversations.
Speaking of blogs, nanotech-aware journalist Dan Gillmor has started his own weblog focused on "grassroots journalism." It's informative and entertaining, so far, and worth a look every day or two (or an XML feed).
On Gillmor's blog, we read an item about "Why Current Intellectual Property Law is So Wrong-Headed" that points to a Financial Times column written by James Boyle. Here's a taste of Boyle's essay:
Since only about 4 per cent of copyrighted works more than 20 years old are commercially available, this locks up 96 per cent of 20th century culture to benefit 4 per cent. The harm to the public is huge, the benefit to authors, tiny. In any other field, the officials responsible would be fired. Not here.
It is as if we had signed an international stupidity pact, one that required us to ignore the evidence, to hand out new rights without asking for the simplest assessment of need. If the stakes were trivial, no one would care. But intellectual property (IP) is important. These are the ground rules of the information society. Mistakes hurt us. They have costs to free speech, competition, innovation, and science. Why are we making them?
Read the whole thing. Post a comment here about your thoughts. Take part in the worldwide conversation. We're glad you could join us!