“The collective future of blogs lies not in dethroning the New York Times — but in becoming a force that can make sense of the Web's infinity of links.” [Salon.com]
Although I've already referenced it a couple of times, I finally had a chance to sit down and really read through Steven Johnson's article, and I think we'll look back on it and see it had some seminal ideas that helped articulate a new phase for blogging. I like his vision but as I read the article, I couldn't help thinking that RSS news aggregators are already providing some small portion of this functionality. For example, take the following idea he expressed:
“Many blogs out there possess the standards and intelligence of conventional journalism, but there are already too many of them to keep track of the way we subscribe to old-style magazines or habitually tune in to favorite TV networks. If the blogging population expands at the current rate, soon enough you'll be able to spend an entire day just reading the front doors of all your bookmarked blogs. Better to do away with the dependence on front doors, and let your favorite bloggers come to you.”
My news aggregator is bringing the front doors of 136 sites to me every hour. Granted, it's still based on time and I don't think there is any aggregator software yet that is deliberately providing subject or URL cross-references yet, but it might be a good starting point. I've chosen far more than the 20 “guardian bloggers” that Steven proposes in his article, and I think most people that have found the aggregator & blog loop are subscribing to more than 20 sites. (This would be an interesting survey to undertake!)
If I could keep a massive database of the URLs, comments, and ideas running through my aggregator every day, that might be a foundation for Steven's idea. A search could run against that database first since I've specified those are the guardians of information that I trust the most. If I want further information, then it could run against the wider database Steven proposes.
I guess my question is if some of the building blocks are already falling into place. Backlinks could definitely be one building block, while personal aggregators might be another. And I still think the blogging tools can build simple fill-in-the-blank forms for general meta data about a site's subjects. It wouldn't be granular enough to help with the topical posts Steven wants to link together, but it would help organize and cross-reference the guardians.
If you haven't already read this article, please make sure you do. I think I'll be referring to it quite a bit in my future presentations. [The Shifted Librarian]