In using the Wayback machine earlier today to start recovery of old posts, it hit me that it was roughly ten years ago that I started blogging.
I had seen blogs around, was starting to follow them, and thought I had something to offer. I can’t remember exactly how that got started, or even how I was proceeding, but John Ringo decided I should be doing more and introduced me to Joe Katzman at Winds of Change. Joe became my blogfather, and guided me as I moved from posting at WoC to my own blog. A few years after that, Blackfive honored me by requesting I guest blog at his place, and then let me continue to post after his book came out.
Some words to describe the last ten years come from the Grateful Dead: What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been. Also, the Pet Shop Boys might not be far off with “It’s a sin.” It has been a long time, but the time has gone by quickly. Being a part of massive changes in communication and human interaction is indeed strange sometimes. It must be said, however, that it is also so much fun, and we have had such fun, that it surely must be a sin.
For me, however, I think that some of the words to best describe the last ten years come from The Cruxshadows (I see storms on the horizon, I see the tempest at the gates) and Firefly/Serenity (can’t stop the signal).
Blogs, new media, and social media were born of technology that has revolutionized our world, and the way we interact with that world and with each other. Before the internet, before the software that allowed that pipeline to be used in an immediate and meaningful way, news tended to be one-way and stale. Print always has a time lag, from weeks (or months even today) to hours. Radio allowed more immediate news, but truly live coverage was something that took time and planning to make happen because of the technology of the day, and the model of operations inherited from print media. It changed, and the world changed with it, courtesy of war, but… Television was simply radio with pictures, and again technology limited the live part in ways that many today will never truly understand. It did change as it matured, but not to the extent radio changed, and changed the world.
A key point of the change, and lack of it, was that even as technology matured, it still took a lot of equipment (and luck) to do anything live. Live was carefully planned, often expensive (phone lines and related for signals are but one part), and limited to one spot.
The internet, software, and technology began to combine to change the world in the mid 1990s.
As the internet spread, the pipeline was in place to handle the signal, and most importantly, to handle it in all possible directions. The flow was no longer one way, it went every way and the chaotic flows often required skill to navigate.
The software came, grew, adapted, and took evolution to new heights. As others have pointed out, it was like putting massive modern printing presses into the hands of every person on the planet, without cost. Suddenly, everyone could be a publisher and share their thoughts, opinions, and news with the world. The evolution soon meant that it was not just words, but sounds, pictures, video, and multimedia — even green screens. What had once been the expensive domain of a few was now available to almost anyone.
With this came a change in technology. Digital imaging improved in quality by leaps and bounds, and prices dropped dramatically with each leap forward. Today, high-quality/high-definition audio, photos, and video are available in a device that fits in your pocket — with room to spare.
Today, the news is not a thing seen on television — it is experienced through multiple viewpoints from people on the scene through various portals. Those who follow these portals and understand how to filter get more accurate information in close to real-time than will ever make it to the screen in a newsroom for broadcast.
From that, however, comes the storm clouds on the horizon, and the tempest at the gates.
Traditional media has yet to adapt to the changes that have come with unprecedented rapidity. In fairness, the past has ill prepared them to do so: printing took centuries to move from books, to broadsheets, and even the move to the modern newspaper is a thing of a couple of centuries. The advent of radio came a full millennia after printing (with moveable clay type, 1041) began in China, and more than 400 years after Gutenberg (1440). Television demonstrated the change in the media development curve by coming in not long after radio, and from there things have only accelerated.
Media business models grew out of the staid development curve that were, and in many respects all traditional mass media economic models are unchanged at the core from almost two centuries ago. Change, however, has come and is being met with resistance on par with, and using many of the same delaying techniques, as the guilds of yore. They will be even less effective today than they were then.
Media operations models are not in much better shape. Many recognize that response times are no longer months, weeks, or even days. That said, however, few in media operations have truly begun to adapt to the fact that hours have become not minutes, but seconds. A person following Twitter, Facebook, and a few key blogs can get a good and fairly accurate account of an event happening almost anywhere on the globe in near realtime, making many media accounts stale and dated even before they air.
This is the tempest at the gates, in two parts. The first is a media establishment that is not handling change well at all. The second is a public that has not yet adapted to having that signal available.
The media is fighting the loss of exclusivity, priesthood, and control of the narrative in almost every way it can. The gatekeeper is dead, but like a certain Monty Python skit, it’s not dead yet. The new media outlets have been directly attacked, marginalized, and demonized in frantic attempts to retain control of the narrative. The narrative has been seized upon and trumpeted as the truth even in the face of clear and compelling evidence otherwise in an effort to force acceptance and control. The elite status of the professional media class has been challenged by the fact that anyone can be (and is) a journalist in every effective sense of the word courtesy of the new media technology and pipeline. The reaction has been on par with every aristocracy ever challenged in history.
Creating chaos is the fact that the public has yet to adapt to the new reality via development of an immune system. Rather, the more mature elements of society have not learned to filter what comes to them — the younger generation is developing such skills, but they are still somewhat rudimentary. The news has always been subject to hoaxes and junk, and that has been magnified by the massive streams of new information flow. It takes time to develop the sociological coping mechanisms, as well as the individual coping mechanisms that help separate wheat from chaff in the flow of information.
Meantime, the media growth/maturity curve is on meth, and the changes are almost too fast to track in some ways. Blogs are old news, and where old folks get information. New tech, new means, new…
The good news is, specialized news and information is available in amounts never before seen in history. If you want to know more about rocket science, well, you can go to real rocket scientists for it and not have to have it filter through multiple people before it gets to you. Curious about the military, you are covered. Want to know about food? Well, which of a thousand different facets do you care to explore?
The bad news is, there is bad information out there and an (old) media establishment that will do all it can to try to destroy the signal. There is, in fact, a lot of deliberate disinformation out there as part of efforts to retain control, or to gain it.
This has been the backdrop of the last ten years for me as a blogger and new media adopter. We have gone in a decade where it took centuries for conventional media to go. It has been a wild ride, but one I am glad to have taken. It has been an honor to be able to post to Winds of Change and at Blackfive. I’ve learned and grown as a person and as a professional. I’ve gotten to meet some truly amazing people, and make some wonderful people along the way.
The times are a changing, and the only guarantee is that the change is going to accelerate. For me, I am going to hang on and ride the wild ride for as long as I can. I’ve been exploring, and using some of the changes, I am working to expand what I do. To quote from the Cruxshadows again:
And though my mind is cut by battles
fought so long ago
I return victorious
I am coming home
They are trying, they will try, but the tighter they squeeze, the more slips through. Unless someone does something stupid enough to knock technology back to early 1900s levels, the signal will continue, and grow.
After all, you can’t stop the signal Mal. It’s gonna flow.
Hang on, the floodgates are just truly starting to open, and the ride’s just starting to truly get fun.