Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Return of the Blog People

First, a little site maintenance: I've been meaning to add this link for a week or more but life's been hectic. Better late than never though: the site feed is now active for all you atom subscribers out there (over on the sidebar, under Familial Blogs). Also, continuing my Open Source Evangelism, I've added a button at the bottom of the page, linking to, a fantastic, free alternative to the corrupt behemoth and child bone marrow-sucking spawn that calls itself the MS Office Suite. I've been using Open Office for about a week now on my office computer and just downloaded it for my laptop. It has everything that MS Office has, just not as clunky and not subject to the whimsical maintenance schedule of a corporate puppy kicker. It even reads your old Word Doc, Excel, and Power Point format documents and can save in those formats as well. Open office is very user friendly, with a much more intuitive interface than MS Office, in my opinion. So, check it out. It's free, which means if you no likey, you no loose any money.

Now, the meat of the matter:

I've been wanting to write a follow up on last week's kerfluffle, ALA President-Elect Michael Gorman versus the Blog People. Doesn't that sound like an old 50's sci-fi movie? The tweedy librarian with the thick glasses who saves civilisation from the mush mouthed, pin headed Techno Geeks from planet Blog, who are bent on replacing all complicated books featuring long words with short, pithy posts, probably about Paris Hilton, or their cats.

The problem, as I eluded too last week, is the fact that Dr. Gorman doesn't know his audience. He wrote a screed decrying the proliferation of blogs, the digitization of public domain books by Google, (the scourge of the Old School Librarian) and the general decline of Western Civilization as we knew it, about ten years ago. Like many librarians of the previous generation, President Gorman isn't very comfortable with computers. He uses them, even writes articles on how he thinks they should be used and can be useful. But he doesn't trust them. Of course, what this generation of librarians is learning, is that you don't have to trust computers. They are tools, and will do what you want them to, if you take the time to learn how to use them efficiently. You shouldn't put trust in an inanimate object because computers, cars and dishwashers, as shiny, complex and lively as we like to think they are, are really nothing more than just fancy hammers and saws. No one is suggesting we trust them to do anything. But to distrust them is to fall into the Animistic Fallacy, to presuppose that a computer or any other machine (or inanimate object) has a life force, and one that might oppose you if you don't stroke it and whisper encouragements into it's USB port. One wonders if President Gorman casts disparaging glances at his salt shaker or distrusts his fork.

We all fall prey to the Animistic Fallacy from time to time. It's a hardwired concept, one that creeps around in our genes and sneaks up on us in the middle of the night, or when confronted by something unfamiliar. That shadowy thing in the corner, is it out to get us? Do we eat it? Fuck it? Chase it away before it spoils our crops?

Well, not to worry, we Blog People aren't out to get you. In fact, we want to help. Don't let our crass vocabulary or extravagant, middle brow lingo fool you. Bloggers, at least us crazy liberal ones, have the same goals as librarians: providing access to information. Whether it's by commenting on current events, ranting about the state of the world, or just trying to get people to read our novel in progress, blogging, like being a librarian, is all about information and providing people with a way to access it. Blogs aren't a threat and neither is Google. They're simply tools, like the old card catalog you miss so much used to be. They're just easier to get to.

Update: Judith Berman hits the topic from a different angle (changing trends in SF publishing):

The Internet is perhaps the best symbol of everything disquieting to boomers (and their elders) about the present, including the generational divide with respect to technology. This divide is the subject of the old joke about the 8-year-old being the one who programs the family VCR. Part of what the joke expresses is the fear that members of the younger generation, at ease with all new technology, are growing up strangers to their parents.


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