Can Blogs Resemble the Human Mind?
The weblog, Metafilter (Meta Filter or MeFi), has evolved from a news filter / community blog into a reference site with a distributed folksonomy. The community of users that edit Metafilter adhere to explicit guidelines for what content is suitable for posting, how to respond to a post, and too many other rules of etiquette to list here. Wikipedia has a volumonous set of Policies and Guidelines for editing. There is also a more distilled version of their Ruleset.
Metafilter, unlike Digg, strictly enforces its guidelines. The website Metatalk is a blog dealing specifically with enforcement of these guidelines and usability issues. Typically, when a post or FPP [Front Page Post] is deemed inappropriate by community-members, it winds up in Metatalk, where Matt Haughty, Metafilter’s housekeeper, diligently weeds it out (is that a mixed metaphor?)
If you ever want to check out a fascinating document, read Metafilter’s Guidelines. Just kidding. Its really quite boring but integral to the success of the site. That and the diligence and alertness of its users. Metafilter is constantly grooming itself. Since this grooming is carried out in a semi-distributed fashion, there is less chance that anyone will be asleep at the wheel or using his or her power with abandon.
Resulting from this vigelance, Metafilter has developed a distinct character: a sharp, witty, insighteful, and even compassionate character. One of the facets of this personality is a level of quality control that takes enormous presidence. A new member of the community might find this elitist or off-putting. This trait accompanies other sites as well, such as SomethingAwful (Something Awful). These are adaptive conventions that were adopted by the community members to stave off trolls. In fact, all of these conventions were developed to insure the orderly governance of a community forum within a largely un-policed Internet.
Metafilter encourages community members to post multiple links in each post. Single-link posts are discouraged within the community but tolerated to a certain extent. The multiple links transform each post from a mere link to something much more valuable. What results is a group of links that are connected by some commonality. This commonality may or may not be implicit. It may be a series of links about saber-tooth tigers, but it might also be a series of links composed of diverse topics containing the word ‘tiger’ or ‘saber.’
Here is a classic example of a post where the links share a common subject theme.
The final chromosome in the human genome has been sequenced. The Human Genome Project has completed sequencing Chromosome 1 and has published its work in Nature here. If you’re impatient, here’s a sneak preview..
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 7:45 PM PST – 32 comments
The author of the post has gone with an obvious choice for relating these disparate links. Each link points the user to a site that is relevant to the topic of the Human Genome Project, whether it is a link to a Wikipedia article describing what a chromosome is or a link to the Human Genome Project website, all links share this common thread.
Here is another example, which is not a classical example of subject-linking, but the common thread, Stephen Merritt, stays the same.
Is Stephen Merritt a racist? Sasha Frere-Jones, the New Yorker’s Pop Critic and maybe the finest music critic writing today, has long been an activist against rockism. Stephen Merritt, the gay, white auteur behind such postmodern pop experiments as 69 Love Songs, and sometime target of S/FJ’s ire, recently got into hot water with Jessica Hopper, among others, for allegedly racist comments made at the EMP Pop Music Conference, which is Christmas and Halloween all rolled into one for music crits and their fellow nerds. Slate’s John Cook defends Merritt, claiming that disliking rap doesn’t necessarily make one a racist, and S/FJ responds with some further thoughts. But was Frere-Jones accusing Merritt of racism, specifically, or simply of wack unexamined biases? And is that a fair criticism? Slate’s readers don’t seem to think so.
posted by maxreax at 4:53 PM PST – 177 comments
Here’s a novel example of a post where not only has the author included many relevant links about Ayaan Hirsi Ali but has included links to other metafilter mentions. This type of post connects not only the external links, but those links from the earlier post as well.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali (née Magan)
has already been mentioned in several times in Metafilter. Whether you consider her a couragous campaigner for women’s rights and against Islamofascism, or a crass opportunist, there’s no denying that she’s some character. However, it now seems that her Becky-Sharp-ish rise to fame and power also left a similar trail of embittered ex-friends and lies that has ended up landing her in serious trouble with fellow right-winger (also previously mentioned in Metafilter) Rita Verdonk, Dutch Immigration Minister.
Before feeling too sorry for Ayaan, consider that she’s moving to Washington DC, where she’s landed a job at the American Enterprise Institute. I’m sure she’ll fit right in…
posted by Skeptic (34 comments total)
Each of these posts, which are relatively compact, have a quality not unlike a human memory. Memories are visceral sensations that do not adhere to any meta data scheme. If we could tag an individual memory, it could have lots of different attributes. For example, Summer Camp: (sitting under a tree, the sound of creaky bunkbeds, the color of my dufflebag, the smell of the dining hall, the sound of the bugle in the morning, the fear of going in a canoe, betrayal by a girl, etc. etc.) These tags might appear at some other point in life. I may hear a sound on the radio that sounds like the bugle from camp. The sound triggers a memory of hearing the bugle along with other thoughts that are relevant to camping as well.
One might argue that web links differ from memories in that they are malleable and vulnerable to alteration. What if my memory of the bugle call at camp were actually transformed into a beat box or removed entirely. My response is that most of our thoughts are ephemeral as well. When I recollect that bugle call, I might not get it exactly right. I might have only a fleeting impression of the bugle, or that there was a bugle, or a musical instrument. These are the pitfalls of having a brain. Sometimes memories stay crystal clear; other times, they fade depending upon how much effort is put towards preserving them.
As the web grows out of its awkward ‘text’ and ‘jpg’ phase into a more multi-media experience, we will begin to see more paralells between blogs and memories. Perhaps this is the ultimate destination of the Internet for our human culture?
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