Wednesday, June 18, 2003

We are Blorg

Eve at The Swamp writes, "WE ARE BLORG. RESISTANCE IS FUTILE." This reminds me of something I've been meaning to write about for quite a while.

People seem fixated on the question of whether blogging is journalism, and what kind of journalism it might be, and which rules apply. The people who mention this the most tend to be journalists, though, and as journalists they naturally view nearly anything involving information as some new form of journalism. And graphic designers see the Web as a new place to practice graphic design. Accountants probably blog their credits and debits and think blogging is "the new accounting." They all miss what really lurks within the blogosphere.

Blogging turns humans into The Borg. In a good way.

According to Wikipedia:
Borg are humanoids that are enhanced with cybernetic implants, giving them improved mental and physical abilities. The minds of all Borg are connected via implants to a hive, a collective mind, orchestrated by the Borg Queen. According to a Borg in one episode, they only seek to "improve the quality of life in the universe" and add to their own perfection.

Yes, a collective mind. The people on my blogroll are like my Borg Collective. And if I am on someone's blogroll, then I am one unit in that person's Collective. We share our thoughts, we add to each other's thoughts, we improve the quality of life on the Web. We add to each other's perfection.

Sites like technorati allow us to find out who links to us. This informs us that we have been assimilated, and also allows a Collective to form spontaneously without any formal invitations or complicated joining procedure.

How do we feel when we visit a site in our Collective and the site is down? Do we not feel a bit of a strange panic, almost like a vital part of ourselves has gone missing? Like we went over to a friend's house and he or she had moved away without telling anyone? This feels so different from our experience when some other site -- a commercial site, or any site not part of our Collective -- fails to respond.

A Blorg Collective interaction has some unusual properties. We never know exactly who we are talking to, or when -- an old message from months ago may draw a response today, as if completing a sentence spoken only seconds ago. We may not know why someone assimilated us into their Collective, only that they did. And the next contributor may be someone we have never heard from before.

Unlike newsgroups or message boards, which are topic-centric, blogs are person-centric. We may initially find out about a blog because of a Google search on a topic, but we assimilate the person, not the topic. Some blogs like snarkfest have multiple authors, forming a Collective all on one site.

The Blorg brings out our cooperative nature in a way that many other formats on the Net do not. We generally link to things we like, things of value, things of interest. We usually find it to be too much trouble to link to things that annoy us, especially because bloggers perceive a link as a reward of sorts. (There have been proposals to create new kinds of hyperlinks that carry the opposite meaning, a sort of "I'm linking to this because I hate it" semantic. I hope this never happens! The current system very subtly encourages benevolence by not providing a very effective mechanism for meanness.)

Welcome to the hive mind. You will be assimilated, and you will assimilate, and you will be the Borg Queen of your own Collective. Resistance is futile.

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