Tuesday, May 03, 2005

More blog news

Blogosphere XVI -- The Bloggers Strike Again!

Today's New York Times has an article by William Broad, "At Los Alamos, Blogging Their Discontent", detailling how "A blog rebellion among scientists and engineers at Los Alamos, the federal government's premier nuclear weapons laboratory, is threatening to end the tenure of its director, G. Peter Nanos." The blog, set up by Doug Roberts, "has registered more than 100,000 visits, with more than half a million pages viewed and more than 5,000 comments. Discussions run on a variety of topics, from the sanctity of retirement benefits to the likely identity of the next contractor who will run Los Alamos. Since most messages are anonymous, there is no way to know how many laboratory employees contribute to the blog." Roberts estimates, however, that 200 to 500 employees have used the blog since it was set up in January of this year.

While the blog has received criticism from some Los Alamos management and their defenders, it is obvious that the blog has not only allowed employees to blow off steam but also brought their complaints to public view. Blogs open up institutions, public and private, to transparency -- to scruitiny by the public -- and this, IMNSHO, is, by in large, a good thing. It should make government administrators and policy makers, corporate executives, and law enforcement officials more thoughful in making decisions once they realize that such decisions may soon be available to millions on the Internet.

Blogs also, of course, open the door to cranks, screwballs, bigots, and anyone with a hate or conspiracy agenda to spew venom to millions -- and, often, the reader may not immediately see the difference between legitimate protest and "whacko" publishing. Certainly, such people could always go out on street corners to rail against perceived injustices and conspiracies. I remember seeing them all over downtown New York City years ago, often up on orange crates (even though we said "up on a soapbox") -- but now they can go home, sit at the computer, and reach millions. Further, in the old days, the listeners knew the difference between "Crazy Joe" on the crate in Union Square and Edward R. Murrow, Fulton Lewis, Jr., or Drew Pearson on the radio. On the Internet, it is not yet as easy to discern differences between reasonable commentaors and those "from Mars". One must study and question cotent rather that just accepting it as fact.

So, the Blogosphere is ripe with promise for transparency but is fraught with intellectual danger. We, the readers, must be alert and critical.


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