Internet: Information Spreads

Published Jun 3, 2005
[an error occurred while processing this directive]

Edit page New page Hide edit links

A few years back, the Internet was just a collection of web pages. Not so anymore. The revolution has kicked into high gear, and new formats have developed to give voice to a wide range of opinions and information. The recent proliferation of new communication modes has planted the seeds of a true information democracy. And this is only the beginning. Let me bring you up to speed on the current and future Internet. And what you are going to do with it. You just don’t know it yet.

Internet: Information Spreads-Body

Same But Different
The Internet consists of several billions of web pages hosted on millions of computers the world over. And while it has been a commercial arena for several years, the Web has not been able to replace its offline counterparts as the medium of choice for news consumption, entertainment or utilities. TV didn’t replace radio; e-mail has not replaced the written letter. These technologies are used alongside each other, and we need all of them. We can learn a valuable – and ancient – lesson from this: No new medium will ever completely replace the old, just as Marshall McLuhan predicted.

It may seem like they do, though. I’ll bet you’re thinking about vinyl records, audio cassettes and CDs. But those are not different media in the sense I am discussing right now – they all do exactly the same thing – they store data for playback. I am talking about communication tools and information technologies that spawn cultures and change how we work and play – media that can change the way we think about the world.

A few issues back, I wrote about a phenomenon called blogging. Blogs (short for weblogs) are web pages with very simple administration interfaces, where people post their two cents, as private citizens, political campaign managers, journalists, consumers, scientists, or in any other human guise you can imagine. It’s a fantastically effective way of sharing information, and a great and powerful way of getting information to everybody who needs it. It’s a political tool: George Dubya Bush has one, so does Tony Blair. It can be a collaborative effort, with several people contributing, sometimes on a specific topic. Sometimes, it’s just a collection of links, photographs, video clips or songs. It can be anything you want it to be.

I wrote about this two years ago – and it was growing fast back then. Now it’s accelerating faster than any communication phenomenon in the world. Conservative estimates state that 40,000 new blogs go live every day. And it’s spreading to every part of the world. Journalists are using them in Kenya, South Africa, Vietnam, Iran, India and Brazil. There are ordinary people blogging in every country in the world, with the possible exception of North Korea.

Everybody’s Doing It
In China, a country where the Gong An, the information police, enforce strict control over all Internet communication, Edwyn Chan launched a blog to keep track of the anti-Japanese protests raging across the country this spring. In four days, he reached more than 10,000 people – impressive numbers in a country without widespread Internet access and where blogging is still in its early infancy. Instead of shutting it down, the Gong An told him to tone down the more extreme posts – a victory in China. This has spurned Chan to start his own media network.

Stories like this are popping up everywhere. In short, blogging is becoming a mainstream communication tool for everybody from teen girls to the U.S. president. The thing is, with everybody publishing, it can be hard to tell truth from falsehood. Not to mention the fact that most of the people voicing their opinions are neither Shakespeare nor Einstein. As a reader/consumer/Internet user you have to exercise a certain amount of critical thinking. Or you could go with the flow and make your own voice heard, on your own blog.

In the old days, if you wanted to know the meaning of a word, you would look in an encyclopaedia – preferably a great big one, with many tomes. That was the old days. In 2005, you only need the Web. A fantastic tool has arisen to sate your thirst for knowledge: the Wiki.

The what, you say? Let me explain.

Think of it as a collaborative encyclopaedia or an interactive primer. It can be both. And it’s a really great tool. In essence, a wiki is a body of information that is created and updated by several users. The term itself refers to the entire set of pages, while a single page is called a wiki page. Wikis are unusual among group communication tools in that not only the content, but also the organization of it, can be edited.

Living wikis are constantly changing, giving them an organic feel. The most famous wiki – and one of the most visited pages on the Web – is Wikipedia. This is the most comprehensive collaborative collection of information in the world. As I write this, it comprises more than 530,000 wiki pages in English, and hundreds of thousands more in other languages, from Spanish to Mandarin.

Information Trail
While traditional encyclopaedias tend to cover mainly word meanings and historical and scientific facts – Wikipedia covers absolutely everything. It explains how to prepare bait for sports fishing, how a hadron collider works, how many cup championships the Chilean football team Cobreloa has won, and everything in between, in addition to the traditional entries.

It’s a truly invaluable tool, and a great way to spend an afternoon surfing. Because every wiki page is filled with links to other pages, it’s a joy to “get lost in the information”, letting the links take you to all kinds of places – following a trail of interlinked bits of knowledge. Since it’s a collaborative effort, you will find that entries can change over time, as new information becomes known, or some aspect needs to be corrected.

Other wikis are used as comprehensive guides to specific subjects, ongoing projects, or as a tool for shared concept development. In this way they are very closely related to blogs. Both of these phenomena have arisen out of a need for quick and organic information sharing. I strongly recommend everybody to try setting up either a blog or a wiki the next time you start a project. This way, progress, benchmarks, small and large changes, documentation and every other aspect of a project can be linked together in a coherent way.

Get Your Own
If you want to try to set up a tool to change the way you work and communicate, there are plenty of places to go to get started, quickly and easily. I recommend as a good starting place if you want to start your own wiki. For budding bloggers, is good, and so is Easy to get started and easy to use. And supremely useful!

Bookmark and Share

Do you have any comments to this articel, please let us now:

Do you have any comments to this articel, please let us know:

Please be civil.

(Use Markdown for formatting.)

This question helps prevent spam:





Mobile News
Mobile news

Our news on
your website


Do you have any
tips to us


sitemap xml