February 25, 2005

I'm Blog People

So, I was just surfing Instapundit before going to work, and I was steered towards this ridiculous piece of buffoonery. And, because Nick Coleman today is apparently lamenting the demise of brewery letters, of all things, I decided to fisk this instead.

Revenge of the Blog People!
By Michael Gorman -- 2/15/2005

Already my fingers are twitching, like an Old West gunfighter about to take out the town drunk in a showdown.

A blog is a species of interactive electronic diary by means of which the unpublishable, untrammeled by editors or the rules of grammar, can communicate their thoughts via the web.

Helloooo? Freedom of speech? First Amendment? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Last I checked, the First Amendment didn't have any caveats in there about requiring editors or even grammar. You'd think a Dean of Library Services would know that, but. . .

(Though it sounds like something you would find stuck in a drain, the ugly neologism blog is a contraction of "web log.") Until recently, I had not spent much time thinking about blogs or Blog People.

And we Blog People, in turn, didn't spend much time thinking about Michael Gorman (the last name Gorman sounding similar to the "urp" that would preceed projectile vomiting, as long as we're trading barbs here).

I had heard of the activities of the latter and of the absurd idea of giving them press credentials (though, since the credentials were issued for political conventions, they were just absurd icing on absurd cakes).

You know, I'm wondering if Michael Gorman may, in fact, be an alias for one Nick Coleman. So, issuing press credentials to bloggers for the conventions was absurd, eh? That's fascinating, seeing as how some of the best reporting coming out of the conventions that I read came from BLOGGERS.

I was not truly aware of them until shortly after I published an op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times ("Google and God's Mind," December 17, 2004). Then, thanks to kind friends with nothing but my welfare in mind, I rapidly learned more about the blog subcultures.

Uh, oh, sounds like Mr. Gorman found himself on the receiving end of a blog swarm and simply couldn't take it. Just a guess.

My piece had the temerity to question the usefulness of Google digitizing millions of books and making bits of them available via its notoriously inefficient search engine.

"Notoriously inefficient search engine? Let's see. . . I'm gonna go out to Google and type in "Michael Gorman". . . and. . . huh, fascinating. Jeez, I wish everything in life was so damningly inefficient.

The Google phenomenon is a wonderfully modern manifestation of the triumph of hope and boosterism over reality. Hailed as the ultimate example of information retrieval, Google is, in fact, the device that gives you thousands of "hits" (which may or may not be relevant) in no very useful order.

Unless, say, you do a search on "Michael Gorman" and get exactly what you're looking for on the first freaking try. I didn't read Gorman's piece about Google, but if this stuff is any indication, it's no wonder the evil blog subculture tore him a new A-hole. He probably deserved it. From the looks of it, Gorman probably wants Google to reorganize itself under the Dewey Decimal System, in which case I'd probably still be trying to find "Michael Gorman."

Digitized books
Those characteristics are ignored and excused by those who think that Google is the creation of "God's mind," because it gives the searcher its heaps of irrelevance in nanoseconds. Speed is of the essence to the Google boosters, just as it is to consumers of fast "food," but, as with fast food, rubbish is rubbish, no matter how speedily it is delivered.

Yes, the world would be far better served if Google consisted of wheeled ladders and wispy-bearded octogenarians who shuffle their way amidst a sea of books and take roughly 8 million years to find the information you seek. Slow down, Google; take your time. Smell the roses. See what you're missing. You young whippersnapper, with all your fast newfangled techNOloGEE.

In the eyes of bloggers, my sin lay in suggesting that Google is OK at giving access to random bits of information but would be terrible at giving access to the recorded knowledge that is the substance of scholarly books.

Based on what evidence, exactly? I mean, seriously, RANDOM BITS OF INFORMATION? Let's see what pops up when I Google, say, "United States Constitution". . . Oh, the sheer, terrifying RANDOMNESS! Random BITS, no less. Jeezum crow. The very first thing to pop up is a link to the entire text of the Constitution, and that's a random bit of information? Under that reasoning, could I please have a random bit of a million dollars?

I went further and came up with the unoriginal idea that the thing to do with a scholarly book is to read it, preferably not on a screen.

Or, better yet, perhaps give people the CHOICE to read the book, or read it online. I know, I know, I'm just talking crazy here. It's a Friday.

It turns out that the Blog People (or their subclass who are interested in computers and the glorification of information) have a fanatical belief in the transforming power of digitization and a consequent horror of, and contempt for, heretics who do not share that belief.

No, that's not necessarily true. We have a belief in the transforming power of digitization and a horror and contempt for people who turn around and call us names, like Blog People. And we have a horror and contempt for people who don't apparently understand the concepts of free speech and a free exchange of ideas and debate. See the difference? Gah.

How could I possibly be against access to the world's knowledge? Of course, like most sane people, I am not against it and, after more than 40 years of working in libraries, am rather for it.

So long as it unfolds as per the dictates of Michael Gorman, apparently.

I have spent a lot of my long professional life working on aspects of the noble aim of Universal Bibliographic Control—a mechanism by which all the world's recorded knowledge would be known, and available, to the people of the world. My sin against bloggery is that I do not believe this particular project will give us anything that comes anywhere near access to the world's knowledge.

Ah, yes, because if it can't be conclusively proven that something will be a 100 percent success, there's no point in even trying. Because, attempting to digitize the world's books won't necessarily achieve the goal of imparting ALL of the world's knowledge, well, let's just sit on our hands here. Look, of course Google can't provide access to every bit of information in the world. The point is to try and provide as much access to information as it possibly can. If you can come up with something that's wrong with that, go ahead and try to convince me. I'm betting you won't be able to.

Who are the Blog People?
It is obvious that the Blog People read what they want to read rather than what is in front of them and judge me to be wrong on the basis of what they think rather than what I actually wrote.

Those damned Blog People, with their lousy opinions on things. *shaking fist* How dare they read what they want! Don't they know that they should be reading only what Michael Gorman wants?!

Given the quality of the writing in the blogs I have seen, I doubt that many of the Blog People are in the habit of sustained reading of complex texts.

There you go, Mike. When you're up against the ropes, facts stacked sky high against you, what better way to fight back than to call your critics stoooopid? That's a Nick Coleman tactic. Congratulations! You are now a writer on par with Nick Coleman. *shuddder*

It is entirely possible that their intellectual needs are met by an accumulation of random facts and paragraphs. In that case, their rejection of my view is quite understandable.

So, not only are they stoooopid, they're stoooopid because of Google. This guy really is something else. Thin skin? Check. Reactionary? Check. Clueless about the First Amendment? Check.

At least two of the blog excerpts sent to me (each written under pseudonyms) come from self-proclaimed "conservatives," which I find odd because many of the others come from people who call me a Luddite and are, presumably, technology-obsessed progressives.

First off, why does it even remotely matter if someone writes under a pseudonym? Mark Twain was a pseudonym, for crying out loud. Second off, why does it even remotely matter if someone is a "self-proclaimed conservative" or a "technology-obsessed progressive?" Political leanings just don't factor in on a debate such as this. That whole paragraph was an obfuscation of the debate at hand. Why would Gorman do that? Oh, right, because he's WRONG.

The Luddite label is because my mild remarks have been portrayed as those of someone worried about the job security of librarians (I am not) rather than one who has a different point of view on the usefulness of this latest expression of Google hubris and vast expenditure of money involved.

Okay, I have to say, "Google Hubris" would be a great name for a rock band. Aside from that, more and more I'm getting the vibe here that Gorman is just mad that people, apparently A LOT of people, disagree with him.

I'm no Antidigitalist

See also: I'm nobody's monkey.

If a fraction of the latter were devoted to buying books and providing librarians for the library-starved children of California, the effort would be of far more use to humanity and society.

This just keeps getting better. First Gorman states that he's not worried about librarian job security, and then he turns around and laments a lack of libraries in California. And "library-starved children" to boot. Won't somebody please think of the children?!! One imagines California children, their cranial skin stretched taut around their library-depleted brains. Google should just stop this ill-advised idiocy and start building California libraries immediately! Seriously, is this guy channeling Nick Coleman?

Perhaps that latter thought will reinforce the opinion of the Blog Person who included "Michael Gorman is an idiot" in his reasoned critique, because no opinion that comes from someone who is "antidigital" (in the words of another Blog Person) could possibly be correct.

Keep in mind here that in this "reasoned critique" by Gorman, he has already basically called bloggers dumb and uninformed, and labeled us Blog People in a not-too-thinly-veiled attempt to equate us with stumbling, brainless zombies. And he has the temerity to take umbrage with people calling him an idiot and antidigital? Dude, buy a clue.

For the record, though I may have associated with Antidigitalists, I am not and have never been a member of the Antidigitalist party and would be willing to testify to that under oath. I doubt even that would save me from being burned at the virtual stake, or, at best, being placed in a virtual pillory to be pelted with blogs. Ugh!

Author Information
Michael Gorman, president-elect of the American Library Association, is Dean of Library Services, Madden Library, California State University, Fresno.

That's it. It's official. This was a Nick Coleman column. That last paragraph clinched it. There can be no question about it. Seriously, though, my advice to Gorman is to grow a thicker skin so he can deal better with criticism. Especially out here in the blogosphere where debate, shall we say, can be pretty hot.

Then, I seriously suggest Gorman should brush up on the United States Constitution, with particular emphasis on the First Amendment.

I'm sure he could Google it.

UPDATE: You know, I'm now here at work, and I feel great after that fisking. It's truly refreshing to use my blog to rip on people who rip on blogs.

It's also refreshing to post pictures of breast cupping.

Posted by Ryan at February 25, 2005 08:32 AM

"the last name Gorman sounding similar to the 'urp' that would preceed projectile vomiting, as long as we're trading barbs here"

That was good. :) I'm not a big fan of the overused "LOL" and the like, but I did, indeed, laugh out loud at than line.

Posted by: Strider at February 25, 2005 04:44 PM

What would it take to get all of blogdom to refer to this clown as Nick Gorman? Heh.

Posted by: Jim at February 25, 2005 06:37 PM
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