Global Sensemaking

Tools for Dialogue and Deliberation on Wicked Problems

Embarassment of Riches (two senses of) [updated]

*Originally posted 29NOV08; 12:30PM PST*

When I started doing web-work I was already long familiar with how tech_doc types just don't rate. (Brutally frank, but simply so.)

Because of that I felt somewhat self-conscious publishing yet more ... a couple of thousand hits per month year after year isn't nothing, but it ain't no A-list!

That said, a dozen years later ... old habits die hard. Having just now re-visited an MIT wiki that carries on, brick by brick, I feel no less marginalized ... and yet to post again seems somehow justified.

What I call a "core dump"; 85KB links and resources from my "Dynamic Contents Projects" bookmark folder, posted to a page in my wiki: DynamicContentsLinks.

(Mid-90s each one of those sites would have received a review c/w screenshot and attribution; 5 or 6 years ago each might have gotten a short blog post.
Now? I do little, rather than nothing at all.
*shrug*
Maybe it's nothing more than yet another log on the fire ...
... but maybe that will encourage someone else who's humping along as an army of 1.)

Addendum: I just came away from what I consider a very, very important site yet.more disheartened. I'm sure there are many ... many who celebrate the deployment of IntenseDebate on the Change.Gov site. And I'm quite certain that those who've deployed it will be well rewarded for their work.
As my X (a New England gal) used to remind me, nothing so important that it can't be done badly.

"What worries you most about the healthcare system in our country?" ... evidence of sufficient skill? or manifest proof that I have reason for saying, "The IT community and its bannered and bespangled A-list have failed civil society" ... the project is an outrageous sham.

In just over 2 days the post has accumulated 51 pages of comments. Now, really, who is going to attend to that agglomeration? And when it grows to 91 pages, or 161 pages ... will the question be settled? Will yet.another heap contribute to anything except a false sense of engagement?
It's silly ... and delusional ... and as though a false light it will draw the project as a whole up onto the rocks.

The "Four Is of Bourgeois Politics": Invite, Involve, Inform, Ignore.

p.s. in the past few weeks I'm contact the webmaster over a dozen times telling them that the site's footer breaks in Firefox. it's still frabbed.

Addendum 2 - This copied from my comment in one of the forums:

... whatever must be said about this system's effectiveness or lack of same, folk participate. I have to ask myself: who is going to read pages 1 through 46 to find the little nugget in comment #2694? I can imagine someone with the finest and strongest motives reading through quite a number ... but isn't this communication via message in a bottle? "What if we created a forum and nobody read?"

Over a periods of decades I sought out instances of vigorous discussion, and I found more than a few, easily enough to dissolve whatever cynicism tempted me. That's not to say those instances are common as they should be, or generally available as they should be. But it does tell me the human appetite for vigorous rational exchange lives on. Even though like most appetites it can be temporarily satiated with some form of sugar, salt, and artificial flavoring.

Addendum 3 - The Change.Gov has posted what's being presented as a "reply" to the 3.5K+ comments (3.7K when the thread was closed). What really impresses me (negatively): they posted the image of a word cloud. Now I happen to be fond of Wordle ... used it to create the background image for my Twitter profile. But it isn't a word cloud. I was generating interactive word clouds more than 5 years ago. What Change.Gov trotted out was a picture of the 100 most frequent words. That's transparent interactivity?! No ... it's cheap and easy grand-standing. Thankfully the site is run by American Democrats, so there isn't the slightest concern ... there isn't the slightest contention ... there's either automagical concensus or, more likely, abject acceptance of what the newly descended angels have decided in their enlightened wisdom.
What I've been saying (for years) is that rainbow-colored smoke depicted as participatory technology is profoundly delusive and foundationally anti-democratic.
But, simply: nobody cares ... the A-list and the duly appointed are trotting out their entirely uninspiring technology because, as any reasonable person knows, commerce (like political power) is a matter of maintaining competitive advantage.

The "reply" could have been generated from a script written days before the thread began, with a few juicy specimens sprinkled afterward to spice things up.

Sad ... just sad ... an illusion intended to pacify and placate ... and marginalize those of us who have been working for better. (Again: IntenseDebate is just a Web2.0 version of the threading system that existed in 1997 ... nothing new.)

"Change You Can Believe In" brought to you by marketers and PR masters ...
... same old shiet in a Web2.0 pile.

p.s. Yes, you're right, the problem is my bad attitude: I've self-financed a 15 year research and development project and maintained my focus on "participatory deliberation" since 1973 because basically I'm just an unpleasant sort of person. I should be happy and satisfied with what we've done and drop the evidence-based BS. I keep forgetting I'm surrounded by saints and avatars. *snarl* </sarcasm>
I was trained to respect officers who showed a dedication to the mission. Not to career and opportunity: to the mission ... and that, for me, means the emancipation project. My cohort has, in the best instances, specialized in the production of anodyne soporiphics. "Change"? Up-beat jingoism ... light and love delusion ... cloyingly sweet crap.
So how about this: I'll give up on the idea of making a living from my years of sweat-equity ... I'll write off my IP and gladly live the rest of my life in abject poverty if someone truly actualizes my "discourse-based decision support system / evidence-based document portal" aka "participatory deliberation". But that won't happen ... "not invented here" is systemic. Economic activity is essentially political, even when it's just personality politics.
It's a hard rain is gonna fall, ayup.
*saddles blue ox*

Addendum 4 - My comment to "Join the Discussion: Former Sen. Daschle responds on health care" on Change.gov: The Obama-Biden Transition Team

I like the IntenseDebate crew and project ... but the system is basically a Web2.0 version of 1997 functionality for threading comments. (HyperNews comes to mind ... Daniel LaLiberte's project) Folk who don't think we need better don't realize the real challenge civil society is facing.
I think we need more ... and I think the Transition Team and the Obama Administration deserve better. We all do.

Adding a few lines on what becomes page 27 of 53 isn't "participatory deliberation" ... it isn't anywhere close to "Democracy 2.0".

It took me 28 years to derive a design ... Jurgen Habermas' "discourse ethics" combined with John Willinsky's "OpenAccess" ... but I can't get a hearing.

Until and unless we recognize the problems there will be no substantive change ... Spin2.0 is still just spin.
And nobody wants to settle for that.

p.s. a note on communications (I was SigInt BTW):
I've sent Feedback a number of notes saying that the footer here breaks in FireFox.
Each time I did, my note was blocked because the form doesn't accept the postal code we use in Canada. The form says it does, but it doesn't. It only works with US ZIP. I use the one for the WhiteHouse (and make a point of saying so).
The footer here still breaks in FireFox ...
... and the form still doesn't accept Canadian Postal Code.

God's in the details, ehh whot? "


Views: 8

Comment by Dan Keldsen on November 30, 2008 at 22:08
Hello again Ben, thanks for pointing out this network. Quite a bit of interesting discussion here!

For the change.gov project, yes, I agree - even though I like Intense Debate in general, once you get to large numbers (more than a page), it rapidly becomes difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff.

I'd suggest that for you and anyone else here who has a better solution, submit it via:
http://change.gov/page/s/commentsfeedback

There's an ability to submit screenshots as well as written commentary. Who knows, it might actually reach the right ears.

Unfortunately, I do not (yet, perhaps ever) have contacts within the incoming administration. For anyone interested in a truly transparent government discussion, I'd say we all need to get crackin' on raising the level of awareness that there even IS a problem.

Breaking the normal modes of blog commenting to get a NEW way put in place is going to be difficult. If a major, influential site such as change.gov can make the change though, then being able to leapfrog to other sites should be that much easier to accomplish.

I'd also suggest that anyone with contacts within Ning should work on this conversation as well. They're powering hundreds of thousands of networks, and THAT is a huge footprint to work with.

Cheers,
Dan
Comment by Ben Tremblay on November 30, 2008 at 23:38
I've been peppering Change.gov channels with feedback to the web team, sort of using "Please notice that your footer breaks in FireFox" as a channel test ... no evidence that any of them do.

Far easier to design a system that gives folk a place to have "fun" than it is one that actually does something. When I was helping keep the phone system working one of the things I appreciated was the we had great communications / co-ordination. Likewise in the military with *cough-cough* certain *cough* S&R functions ... global and effective.

When the market demands appearance and window-dressing *shrug* that's where resources and attention flow ... the "iron law of capital".
Comment by Ben Tremblay on December 3, 2008 at 3:27
updated again ... I don't imagine putting any more time into it.

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