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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Instant (Publishing) Karma

The modern age has brought us internet video's and blogs and a whole host of things that even fifteen years ago did not exist.

From my perspective it seems pretty clear that no one set about specifically to create today's world - it sort of just happened.  For example, Youtube.  Does anyone really believe it started in 2005? Yet today I can go to Walmart and buy video cameras specifically designed for it.

The same for a lot of other things - blogs, all the rest.

But sadly I don't think that, as humans, we've quite caught up to the rapid pace of technology.

Take Captain Owen Honors as an example.  A navy commander fired for making lewd, sophomoric videos a few years ago.  Now one imagines that someone in charge of a large, nuclear power air craft carrier would be a responsible guy. (And, at least from a command perspective I see no reason to disbelieve this.)

Apparently he did not consider the full consequences of what making such a video might entail.

Then there is Private Bradley Manning.  This guy is accused of "downloading" the entire sum total of the Wikileaks web site from a supposedly secure US network.  The issue here, aside from whether or not Manning is a criminal or hero, is how this was even possible.  Unfortunately it turns out that 9/11 caused the various US intelligence agencies to combine there secure networks into a single all-encompassing network to ensure that information about terrorists known to one agency would be available to all the other agencies.

The only problem is that by the time this was completed virtually all secure US intelligence on any US computer network was only a few mouse-clicks away from a whole spectrum of people, like Manning, that probably didn't need to have access to it.  Making secret and secure information broadly available to many agencies cuts down significantly on the control an agency has over its information.  I believe that tens or hundreds of thousands of people had or potentially had access to that information.

Today's internet provides a publishing platform unrivaled by anything in history.  Virtually anyone can capture and/or create content of any kind and publish it for consumption by the entire world with a very small investment in time and money - on the order of probably $100 USD (this includes the cost of computer access, internet access, some portion of a phone or video capture device, as well as the incremental cost of learning enough to upload a video or post to a blog).

Think about this - twenty years ago to get something published you probably had to get a university degree in journalism, work at the local newspaper on the graveyard shift for years as a "cub" reporter for a grumpy editor, fight your way past all the other cub reporters to get "the story" that final got you into print.  This was a big investment in time and money.  Years probably by the time you were done.

Now, once you got there, you were unlikely to jeopardize this hard work.  There was a built in censorship governed by your investment in you getting your job and position.  Though many went from this type of newspaper publishing to novel writing and so forth where there were far fewer restrictions there was still the cost of getting something published.

Similarly for TV and movie personalities.  To get on the local news took work - an investment in yourself and your career.  And once you got there there was no reason to make some form of mockery of what you had done.

Contrast this to Honors and Manning - virtually no cost to produce or acquire content and no inherent governor like someone who worked their way up through the system might have.

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