December 25, 2001
Cory Doctorow on the Web's Carpetbaggers

Cory Doctorow has written some wonderful words to end the year with for the O'Reilly Network.

2002: The Carpetbaggers Go Home .

In case it's escaped your notice, the economy is also circling the drain. Once-proud giants like Yahoo are shutting down weird little community-driven divisions like The traditional business press is full of gloating editorials from columnists who insist that they were never fooled for a second, they knew from Day One that the Internet was just hype and horseshit, a waffle-iron married to a fax machine, and here we are, the bubble burst, fortunes lost, hardy-har-har. (Even a stopped (analog) clock is right twice a day.)

Having spent billions trying to make 95-percent-reliable services function at 97 percent reliability, the Captains of Industry are off for greener pastures (cough biotech cough), leaving behind a horde of underemployed html jocks, perl obsessives, pixel-pushers, and pythoneers. What are these reborn slackers doing with their time in a down economy?

Exactly what they've done all along, only more so. The spare-time economy has yielded a bountiful harvest of weblogs, Photoshop tennis matches, homebrew Web services and dangerously Seattlean levels of garage-band activity.

Webloggers aren't professional journalists; they don't adhere to the code of ethics that CNN et al are nominally bound by, and they often can't spell or string together a coherent sentence, let alone pen an inverted-pyramid story. Nevertheless, bloggers are collectively brilliant at ferreting out every little detail of a story, wearing its edges smooth with discussion, and spitting it out again. Further, bloggers are spread out across the Internet, mirroring, quoting, and linking back to one another, collectively forming a Distributed Provision of Service that is resistant to CNN-killing catastrophes like 9/11. Blogs are about 95 percent of the way to being full-fledged news-sources, and the difference between the bloggers of the world and CNN is a couple of percentiles and several billion dollars.

Even as cable modem companies are knocking hundreds of thousands of subscribers offline, untethered forced-leisure gangs are committing random acts of senseless wirelessness, armed with cheap-like-borscht 802.11b cards and antennae made from washers, hot glue, and Pringles cans.

Posted by Lisa at December 25, 2001 10:12 AM | TrackBack
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