Otterman speaks... (2003-2007)
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Otterman speaks...

Cycling, macintosh, natural history and life in Singapore - Archives

List of Categories : travel * museum * cycling * Singapore Naturalist * science * kakis * mangroves * movies * mac and the internet * meow * NUS * life in Singapore * lit * world *

Thu 06 Sep 2007

"I HAVE never, nor will I ever, read blogs."

Category : mac and the internet

So bad its funny

Gwynne on Facebook pointed out to me that Ong Soh Fern (The Straits Times: Life Section, 06 Sep 2007) declares that she is "an information snob." She prefers "writing to come in published formats: newspapers, magazines and books." This is because, she says, "there is quality control."

Propagating ignorance

My friends and I would have been rolling around on the floor in laughter at this point.

Except that many an unwitting reader has not yet learnt that you can't believe everything you read, print or otherwise. Prejudicial articles like these have helped to fan unfounded fears about blogging. It has permeated the mainstream with such effectiveness (print is still king, after all) that friends who espouse responsible communication have found their paths summarily blocked. Predjudice tends to have that effect.

How to search?

Ong Soh Fern also says that finding intelligent bloggers "is akin to looking for a single brainy needle in an exceedingly large and, mostly dumb, haystack."

This is a useful quote that highlights the particular importance of being able to search and weigh credibility of sources.

Interestingly I had to employ those skills in the early 90's when I was in pursuit of information about otters in Southeast Asia. I sought out books, papers and grey literature the old way, visiting many dark, neglected rooms in regional institutes. I even tracked down a retired mammalogist right to his doorstep in Malaysia, and conducted field work to understand the issues. I had to weigh the credibility of all this information I had accumulated and eventually even categorised them. Then I finally figured it all out.

Unsurprisingly, I uncovered many mistakes. Look hard enough, you will, its no surprise. All you do is add to the existing knowledge and improve it ever so slightly.

So the principles to search and weigh have not changed. Just the medium. With the explosion of information at our fingertips, it remains a critical skill to imbue our students and ourselves with.

"I HAVE never, nor will I ever, read blogs."

She says that "The new divide, it seems, will be between those who can afford to pay for the correct sort of information, and those who cannot." Ironically her content, which I had to pay to read, invests itself on denigrating a medium she admits to not perusing.

Similarly, her disdain about blogs is the view most scientists hold about journalism efforts here. Colleagues in the community never wanted to talk to journalists during a crisis, for most that we encountered were poor at handling the facts or understanding context.

Over time I have learnt to be pleased when they get it mostly correct and have exercised great patience when they struggle with the facts. The good ones shrug and explain about editors, deadlines and diversity.

Populist writing

A polite exchange with another writer of a similarly-toned article ended up with him recommending to his child, one of my nature blogs that I had cited. Still, he didn't offer that through that act he had negated his 'all blogs are bad' statement. Perhaps his on-print persona was playing to a different crowd and his personal views might have been diffferent.

I guess journalists and their editors ultimately conspire to sell newspapers. And you have to take that into account when you encounter their "drastically shorter and much more populist forms of writing."

Oh rats, I just fell for it!

I comfort myself, for so did Ivan!

Posted at 12:44PM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | , .