It’s been awhile since I forecast the future of blogs. I am increasingly convinced that what will drive almost all technologies for the foreseeable future is simplicity, disguising under-the-hood sophistication, enabled by elegant design. The digital divide is getting ever-wider, and we need to have tools that will let us more easily pull friends, colleagues and family members who are quickly being left behind, into the information age. As I’ve mentioned before, my father is my benchmark for technology — I can get him to use e-mail (though attachments are a challenge), and Skype, and even to view our daughter’s wedding pictures on Flickr, but not to get a webcam or to participate in online forums. That’s the dividing line that will, I believe, largely determine the future success of technologies, including blogs.
What is the simplest way to allow people to ‘publish’ and otherwise share their stuff with others? Drop it in an electronic ‘mailbox’. Bandwidth and storage are now both so cheap that we will soon not care about ‘mailing costs’ or ‘storage costs’ for information, photos, software, or anything else that can be represented in bits. So why not just have a folder that sits on our hard drive for everything we are willing to share with others? Whenever we initially save or change a document, message, or other file, we would be prompted to decide who it could, and who it should, be shared with. It would then be tagged, indexed and permissioned, and a shareable (XML+) version would be created automatically. All of the stuff in the Shareable Stuff folder on our hard drive would be subscribable by others, using the indexing and tags, and subject to permissioning access restrictions we had personally decided on. Google and other search engines would spider it (and probably keep archive copies of it). A viewer trying to access this via a search engine, via a bookmark, or via a subscription, would be able to view it either in the context of other articles with the same index or tags, alphabetically (for browsing), or in reverse chronological order (blog-style, for ‘newsreading’ and getting up to date).
Eventually this Shareable Stuff folder might cease to reside on our hard drives entirely (except as a back-up and off-line version) — it could sit out in cyberspace, accessible anytime from any device anywhere.
The next stage would be to make this Shareable Stuff collaborative. If I’m reading something from someone else’s Shareable Stuff, I would be able to comment, adapt or annotate it and then, if I’m appropriately permissioned by the original author(s), those additions and changes (appropriately ‘signed’ to show they were from me) would be made to the authors’ ‘original’ version. Alternatively, if I just want to annotate or change it for my own purposes, my ‘copy’ (with the original authors identities or ‘signatures’ maintained) would be added to my own Shareable Stuff folder. It would, in turn, be accessible by those I have permissioned to view my Shareable Stuff folder, and they might further annotate it.
This would create wiki-style collections of stuff that would ultimately become ‘collectively’ owned — each of the ‘collective’ owners would have their own copies with any private annotations they did not want to share, but there would be an emergent ‘collective’ collection that would in effect be owned jointly, with each of the members agreeing to honour a particular indexing, tagging and permissioning protocol for the collection that might, for example, allow (a) anyone to subscribe, (b) only certain specified people to append comments, and (c) only members to edit or change. The ‘official’ copy could reside anywhere (it would be any member’s copy minus that member’s ‘private’ annotations).
I know this sounds complicated, but all this detail would be hidden under the hood, invisible to the individual writer or reader. From their perspective, it couldn’t be simpler:
Defaults would usually make this decision as simple as clicking ‘OK’, drawing on the indexing, tags and permissioning that applied the last time you saved the file, or those that were suggested by the initial author of the document or message, or the permissioning you have assigned to other files with the same index or tags.
So in an extreme case, you could simply make all your stuff available to anyone who was interested. Your entire hard drive would then become (a) a filing cabinet — in the form of a huge wiki — open to the public to browse and (b) a weblog documenting everything you write as you write it. You wouldn’t have to do a thing except write (or draw, or podcast, or whatever it is you do to communicate and record your stuff). No need to set up and maintain separate weblogs or wikis, no need to ‘publish’ anything, no need to keep e-mails in a different format from anything else you write. No need to worry about different formats at all. The system would automatically ‘blackline’ the changes and annotations you made to any file since your last ‘save’ so that people who should or could read them get to see precisely what changes you have made in context, and don’t need to re-read the entire file.
You may have noted that this ‘system’ uses the ‘save’ command as the trigger to share stuff. And of course we don’t just ‘save’ when we’re finished writing. We ‘save’ often because of the shoddy and unreliable hardware and software we are forced to use by the technology vendor oligopolies (sorry, I couldn’t resist). So we would need to differentiate between ‘save in case the system crashes’ and ‘save because we’re done writing’. Maybe we call these ‘save’ and ‘done’ respectively.
My father could handle this.
With this system, everyone becomes a blogger and a wiki writer, just by writing in whatever applications they’re comfortable with. In fact a single meta-application, a kind of superwiki, could be developed for producing bits in any format, with all the underlying applications and translation code shoved under the hood where the end user needn’t worry about them.
You know who could rather easily do all this for us, of course. I’ll give you a hint — their name starts with a G.
Cartoon above is from this week’s New Yorker by ex-National Lampooner PC Vey. It brilliantly and poignantly captures what all of us (and our spouses) felt and feared when we started blogging (and sometimes still do). I’m getting it as a sweatshirt to go along with my Alex Gregory dog cartoon. Get your favourite New Yorker cartoons as prints or apparel here. Cartoonists need our support.
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My Bio, Contact Info, Signature PostsAbout the Author (2016)
--- My Best 100 Posts --
Preparing for Civilization's End:
What Would Net-Zero Emissions Look Like?
Why Economic Collapse Will Precede Climate Collapse
Being Adaptable: A Reminder List
A Culture of Fear
What Will It Take?
A Future Without Us
Dean Walker Interview (video)
The Mushroom at the End of the World
What Would It Take To Live Sustainably?
The New Political Map (Poster)
Complexity and Collapse
Save the World Reading List
What a Desolated Earth Looks Like
Giving Up on Environmentalism
The Dark & Gathering Sameness of the World
The End of Philosophy
The Boiling Frog
What to Believe Now?
Conversation & Silence
The Language of Our Eyes
Cultural Acedia: When We Can No Longer Care
Several Short Sentences About Learning
Why I Don't Want to Hear Your Story
A Harvest of Myths
The Qualities of a Great Story
The Trouble With Stories
A Model of Identity & Community
Not Ready to Do What's Needed
A Culture of Dependence
So What's Next
Ten Things to Do When You're Feeling Hopeless
No Use to the World Broken
Living in Another World
Does Language Restrict What We Can Think?
The Value of Conversation Manifesto Nobody Knows Anything
If I Only Had 37 Days
The Only Life We Know
A Long Way Down
No Noble Savages
Figments of Reality
Too Far Ahead
The Rogue Animal
How the World Really Works:
If You Wanted to Sabotage the Elections
Collective Intelligence & Complexity
Ten Things I Wish I'd Learned Earlier
The Problem With Systems
Against Hope (Video)
The Admission of Necessary Ignorance
Several Short Sentences About Jellyfish
A Synopsis of 'Finding the Sweet Spot'
Learning from Indigenous Cultures
The Gift Economy
The Job of the Media
The Wal-Mart Dilemma
The Illusion of the Separate Self:
Did Early Humans Have Selves?
Nothing On Offer Here
Even Simpler and More Hopeless Than That
What Happens in Vagus
We Have No Choice
Never Comfortable in the Skin of Self
Letting Go of the Story of Me
All There Is, Is This
A Theory of No Mind
The Ever-Stranger (Poem)
The Fortune Teller (Short Story)
Non-Duality Dude (Play)
Your Self: An Owner's Manual (Satire)
All the Things I Thought I Knew (Short Story)
On the Shoulders of Giants (Short Story)
Calling the Cage Freedom (Short Story)
Only This (Poem)
The Other Extinction (Short Story)
Disruption (Short Story)
A Thought-Less Experiment (Poem)
Speaking Grosbeak (Short Story)
The Only Way There (Short Story)
The Wild Man (Short Story)
Flywheel (Short Story)
The Opposite of Presence (Satire)
How to Make Love Last (Poem)
The Horses' Bodies (Poem)
Distracted (Short Story)
Worse, Still (Poem)
A Conversation (Short Story)
Farewell to Albion (Poem)
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