Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Online news genres & the bloody blogs

Abstract:

Unlike the traditional print and broadcasting media, which were and still are shaped by the nation’s law makers, the Internet has been fashioned and shaped first by scientists, then internet luminaries and activists and now by many people. This distinctive attribute has underpinned the course of the Internet and set the stage for the Internet to become a remarkable social technology.

In this paper I will discuss how news of the Internet is presented and received, and the effect that styles of reporting have on popular understanding of the “net”. To appreciate the net’s role and the effect it has and likely to have in the future I will discuss some of the communication genres of the Internet as well as how the society is engaging the Internet in the process of collection, pluralisation and diffusion of news and information


Society and the need for news:

There’s a persistent view that high tech is constantly ahead of the society and it takes time before the society catches up with new technology and applications. However, it is the other way around; it is the technology that lags behind the societal needs and expectations. It takes time for the technologists to catch up with the wants and the needs of people and deliver mature technological solutions. Society’s demand for change and newness thus, is always ahead of whatever is current or new. The moment a system or a technical gadget meets people’s expectations – providing it is also affordable - its acceptance becomes a natural thing. There’s nothing remarkable about the fast acceptance of the Internet once it has enabled people to do what they always longed for; freely engage in all kinds of interactions, news making and modes of expressions and all these from the comfort of their own environment.

Often human desires remain unfulfilled for a prolonged period especially where people have little influence over the change. This is usually the case with institutional structures which are controlled by few and whose interests are not in tandem with the society’s interests. Traditional media is one such institution which is slow to evolve yet for centuries it set the tone and the scope of its news, information, education, and entertainment genres. The traditional media has been at the vanguard of adoption of new information and news production technologies for as long as it met its production frame. It has been slow, however, in adopting bi-directional interactive technologies to engage with its audiences. Louise Sito, publisher and editor of Spanish tabloid Hoy once lamented "We were all, as an industry, asleep at the wheel. While we were trying to protect markets...our customers changed dramatically, and we have not adapted to the marketplace gracefully."

Migration of news audience:

Despite the fact that newspaper readership has been in decline for over three decades (The Readership Institute – Impact Study), the traditional media has been slow to engage with its readers. The traditional “few to many” communication topology suited the news makers; it was highly profitable for them to control the content and context bias. The Internet, however, has challenged the stoic print, radio and TV media. It has delivered something people always longed for; having an input into the news- making, news-breaking and selective news-focus. A report by The Pew Research Center titled “Internet Sapping Broadcast News Audience” warns: “Traditional news outlets are feeling the impact of two distinct and powerful trends. Internet news has not only arrived, it is attracting key segments of the national audience. At the same time, growing numbers of Americans are losing the news habit. ... And more Americans than ever say they watch the news with a remote control in hand, ready to dispatch uninteresting stories.” When it comes to the print media’s news genre the situation is not any brighter. Louise Sito: "Look at most of the newspapers,...They are boring! They are boring! What are we doing to attract new readers to a product that competes with the 24/7 coverage of news on the electronic media? We have to evolve into something that has more analysis, has more relevancy, has more educational punch to it, has more fun....“ The Internet has developed its own dynamism of blended genres ranging from headline news and sharp/short news snippets to the classic in-depth coverage on any subject of interest. This blend of news genres all on a single web site or even on a single web page is appealing to broad news readership ranging from an occasional peruser of news headlines to professionals, intellectuals and college graduates with zest for in-depth news.


Interaction and Communication genres:

The Internet with its web of hyperlinks to any bit of news coupled with its capability to connect people in real-time and asynchronously has made it possible for people to engage with the news makers. Moreover, the Internet has evolved into a news/media outlet where anybody who wishes to be, can be a publisher, an editor and a producer of anything. More than that; with pod-casting technology virtually anybody can be a broadcaster too. The Internet is one unique medium, which is capable of facilitating most of the human communication genres of monologues, dialogues, polyogues and a hybrid of any or all of these genres. This hybrid of genres is comprehensively evident throughout the myriad of cyber communities, individual portals, web pages and blogs as well as through supplementary communication, news gathering and news following applications and mediums. People are the news makers! People extract, create and share content of their specific interest and with others like never befor in the history of human communication. They engage with fellow netizens in interpretation, analysis and dissemination of the news, reviews, truths and lies. Netizens employ various genres of communication such as: essays, articles, arguments, debates, political discourses and story telling including such pop culture genres as fantasy, flirtation as well as myths and naïve and utopian political chills. Through this process of communication, I have observed with interest how many have became not only skilled news finders but also de-facto news makers, publishers and editors by embedding their spin and perceptions into the news; often completely distorting the facts, other times exaggerating them and other times amplifying important details otherwise unnoticed by others. Indeed the spectrum of genres employed is broad. However the online communication and presentation skills determined the extent of engagement of the audience. Some succeed spectacularly and spawned both broad and deep response from many. Others scream and yell, yet they remain unheared. In the final analysis as potent the Internet technology is, the extent of engagement always depends on the skill of the communicator rather than on the content itself. The Internet provides many communication tools and genres so people can augment or amplify their message such as: mind maps, audio/visual sensation, online interactive games, P2P content sharing, synchronous and asynchronous communication, animations, blogs, personal web pages and portals. Those who can express best their personal flair and charisma are more successful in drawing others into their sphere of interest and influence.


Blogs – The New Media:

The Internet’s capability to record every bit of news, information and chatter coupled with its powerful search, filtering and news following technologies made it easy for people to find, extract and publish news. Moreover, the Internet has enabled both professional journalists and amateurs to interweave the original news with their own spins and opinions, in effect creating new, uniquely Internet news genre. Blogs are one of the finest examples of such a news genre. Naturally, intensive pluralization of news often results in indiscernible noise. Such “noise” genres, are not uncommon in real life; town hall meetings, mass gatherings, etc.; however, due to the spatial nature of such gatherings, once the audience is dispersed the environment together with its content and context is lost irrecoverably or at least cannot be re-created faithfully. With the Internet, spatial constraints do not play a significant role, thus the blog noises may be revisited and re-dressed many times. It is not difficult to re-create or maintain blogs and re-assemble the original audience or engage new entrants who may be interested in the subject. Eventually, through the process of content filtering and attrition of boring or incoherent authors it possible to make sense out of seemingly indiscernible noise; spawning new discourses, discussion threads or engender an avalanche of new blogs. What makes blogs such an engaging news media is that they are immediate, spontaneous and they are not constrained by rules of the conventional news genres which often perceived to be boring and dull. Blogs are especially great serendipity media, as some students have also discovered.

Conclusion:

“The question arises from the groundswell of legitimate media criticism that newspaper journalists have lost touch with their audiences -- that they write for their institutional sources and their peers rather than for fellow citizens; that they focus on inside baseball rather than public problems; that they emphasize political style and strategy rather than the substance and impact of policy proposals; that, in a desperate quest to produce what they perceive readers "want," they fail to produce what readers need to participate in democracy.” (Tim Porter)

Perhaps the most striking aspect of the Internet as a social media is that not since the Socialist revolutions of Europe (1848-1851) and the American Civil War (1861-1865), the traditional media have failed to provide a real forum for the citizens to participate in the shaping of their own democracies. With the Internet’s marvelously unregulated construct the Internet has grown not only to become a technological marvel but even more impressively it has grown into an unrestrained social media. The citizens finally have at their disposal a medium which, if they wished, they could use to actively participate in the shaping of their democracies.

Yet despite clear advice from some seasoned news men and the sight of dead newspapers littering the media road, some are still having hard time to come to grips with the impact of the Internet as a news service. They may go a distance, recognize a part of the problem but then they fall into a wailing pit. The following excerpt from the Sydney Morning Herald demonstrates this: “The world is changing, and clearly the demand for our product is not as high as it once was," Lynn Dickerson, publisher and president of The Modesto Bee, said at a panel at the Associated Press Managing Editors annual conference examining the challenges newspapers face. "I still think we're the last collective effort for democracy," she said. "We've got to survive, and we've got to succeed."

"At the same time, I'm trying to reach younger readers. I'm trying to do online. I'm trying to do multimedia," she said. "I'm trying to do a lot more, and I've got a lot less in terms of staff resources. And I've got a smaller newshole. I'm trying to figure it out."

Lynn Dickerson has failed to realize that the traditional media has long ceased to be the bastion for democracy. This failure is one of the chief barriers on the road to recovery. Reaching out to audience without listening, understanding and engaging with the audience, is a trivial pursuit.

Tim Porter, a seasoned news paper man has put it this way in his First Draft blogticle Journalism by Every Means Necessary:
“These days, when someone from a newspaper or a journalism school asks me to join a panel about the future of journalism or address the question of why a newspaper should have blogs, my inner response is a scream: You are slipping into irrelevance! You have an analog product in a digital world! Your economic platform is dying! You must do something! Now, go read my stuff for the last two years, and Jarvis and Rosen and Yelvington and Thompson and Sands and Robinson and the Readership Institute. Then let's talk.”
=====================================

References:

Louise Sito, Tim Porter(2005). "Dismantling the Language Barrier." American Journalism Review(62).
The Readership Institute – Impact Study, Human synergistics / center for applied research, i. (2000). Readership Institute - Impact Study. Culture Report: A Profile of the Impact Newspapers and Their Departments. J. 2000. Arlington, Human Synergistics/Center for Applied Research, Inc.: 144.
Porter, T
. (2005) First Draft Blog “Journalism by Every Means Necessary
Porter, T. (2005) Using Journalism, Not Stenography to Reconnect with Readers: A Guest Letter

Bibliography:
Baker, S. (2005). "Newspapers in trouble with youth? How about TV?" BusinessWeek Online.
Barr, J. (2005). Jeff Barr's Blog. Jeff Barr. USA, Sindic8.com.

Bowman, J. (2004). "Rhetorical recklessness." The New Criterion 23: 58.
The absence of any shame in self-contradiction among our journalistic and political controversialists today is a powerful indication that they only expect to be heard by the already-persuaded. In other words, communication has ceased.

Chaney, P. (2005). "Post Revolution Blogging." All Business.
Cronin, D. B. (2005). Dean's Notes: BLOG: see also Bathetically Ludicrous Online Gibberish. SLIS News. USA, SLIS News.
Genova, J. (2005). Bloggers Morph to Road Warriors. Jane Genova. USA, Jane Genova.
Genova, J. (2005). Blogging - Post-Revolution. Jane Genova. USA, Jane Genova.
Grave, D. (2005). Communication Nation. USA, Dave Grave.
Lipman, H. K. a. S. (2005) The New Criterion Volume, DOI:
Manjoo, F. (2002). "Blah, Blah, Blah and Blog." Wired News.
Reynolds, G. H. (2002). "A Technological Reformation." Tech Central Station.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Incongruent Life 2006

This year so far has been particularly difficult and trying; yet also one of the most profitable. I have completed my 2nd masters, however the most valuable lessons I have learned and experiences I have acquired had little to do with the academic knowledge or experiences gained during and through acerbic debates. I have learned a different set of values:

I have learnt to cope with many difficulties, endure and overcome trappings, pitfalls and pain of studying under stress. I have learned to collaborate with “virtual” people I’ve never met before nor will ever meet. Sadly, my last semester turned out to be rather barren when it came to collaboration. However, I attribute this to the fact that my fellow master graduating students in their last throws of study focused on crossing into the light at the end of a long and hostile tunnel. What I found particularly difficult to be is that for the 1st time I did not have a single student who shared my interest in my research project - Cognitive Information Continuum Model (C-ICM).

However, let this be understood correctly, I blame no one for this since my research project was way off this planet.

I have learned that individually conceived projects are far more difficult than pre-defined or parameterized projects. However, the real value of being off this planet has been the realization that there's more to life than:

  • pursuing complex concepts and esoteric theories
  • student life
  • intellectual pursuits of one’s own mind and
  • there’s more to relationships than committing oneself entirely to books and the works of others, regardless how noble or clever or engaging the authors and their works may be.

I have learned that Virtual is Real yet without flesh it is inanimate. Flesh is more real than virtual, and that physical affection is more sentient than even the most sensual virtual sensation.

I have learned that event the entire supercomputer grid with all its AI, neural networks and digitized knowledge does not come even close to a child’s smile or giggle or my a twinkle in my wife’s eyes.

During my last semester I have never slept so little in my life yet dreamed so much. I have never mourned the death of a virtual person or even a demise of entire virtual communities, yet I cried my eyes dry when a loved one passed away. I have learned that I have been quicker to get on the net than get on with my family, thus I have lost far more than I gained.

I have met some wonderful people both students – from my classes and from classes of other courses - and have built a few enduring relationships which stretch far beyond the confines and domains of the virtual class rooms.

I have learned that nearly all of my mishaps were self inflicted and have no one to blame for them. I had to fight my own demons because I did not notice the love, affection and protection of those who cared.

I have learned that the Internet stores vast amount of information and most of it is totally useless. The life span of any knowledge on the net is short. However, I also learned that without the Internet and the WWW, we would literally fight more physical wars instead of virtual. Without the Internet and the WWW communities would be poorer in every respect.

I have learned that despite much junk and pollution, the Internet is the richest repository of all sorts of wonderful things and I have learned how to find them without getting bogged down in the deluge of cyber gunk.

I have learned how little I know, yet today I know more than I knew when I began my sojourn with Internet Studies.

I have learned that kindness worth more than clinical intellect and that one trait that distinguishes us from machine is that we can make mistakes; machines are just too dumb for that.

I have learned to appreciate my teachers, yet I have not thanked them enough, so I may as well take this opportunity to thank at least Dr. Helen Merrick, who’s been one of the kindest academics I’ve ever met and whose care helped me through to the finish line of this endurance run.

Thank you Helen.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Who knows you?

There was time when what one knew mattered, indeed mattered much. Somehow the paradigm has changed to: "it's not what you know but who you know that matters" stupid. Well in this age of information deluge and short attention span the newest paradigm is "it's neither what you know nor who you know, but who knows You", stupid! Celebrities get appointed as ambassadors of the UN and the mediocre busybody buffoons get promotions. The quiet achievers and the productive personnel go on unnoticed. Naturally there are exceptions to this paradigm.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Mediocrity in your Face

“We realize that the low expectations of our culture, of our community of artists, even, instill complacency in us. We look at our work and unconsciously use a scale to evaluate it that is based on the mediocrity and lack of vision in our culture. If we can't work shoulder by shoulder with great people, we should take time to remove ourselves, to live in a kind of solitude where our standards can become the standards of our own passion, of our own souls.”
by Alex Cox of Italy Journal

The fundamental problem with the criticism of mediocrity is that it expects the mediocre to remove themselves from the positions of leadership and influence; this is a naive proposition. Such proposition affords the mediocre the luxury of pointing their finger towards the more capable.

The curse of the mediocrity is that the mediocrity’s worst and weakest can turn the talented against themselves. The more mediocrity is pervasive the more talented people suck up to it; if you can’t beat it, join it. “Team spirit” is one of mediocrity’s catch cries and spiritual strongholds for it best serves the mediocre. Understand me right. I’m not against team work or team structures. It is the spiritual notion of team that suppresses the blossoming of the talent. Too often we see organizational grand slogans like: “Innovation & fresh ideas!”. What they really demand, however, is fresh mediocrity while promoting those with the most insatiable appetite for mediocrity. The extent of mediocrity saturation in organisations - both governmen & private sectors - is amazing.

What’s than the solution, is there one?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Knowledge is Power or is it?

Over the last decade knowledge has become the principal value driver in every economy. Despite this, most managers, still have not learned how to harness knowledge. Why? There are 4 ways to get into a position of power and in the following order of precedence:

  1. By manipulation, including skillful ignorance and Machiavellian tactics
  2. By inheritance
  3. By accident
  4. Through knowledge, know-how, skill & experience

Having acquired some power the mediocre (the 1st 3 precedences) will raise the shields of ignorance to guard his/her position. It is mediocrity not stupidity which costs organizations and their stakeholders dearly! Someone said: "Knowledge is expensive but so is stupidity" so the mediocre managers have shut out the knowledge.

It is not the stupidity we need to be concerned about but about the monumental mediocrity which has permiated much of the middle and upper layers of management.

Mediocrity is far behind ability and scantily ahead of stupidity

Recently I've read the blogs worth reading:
Communication Nation
Jane Genova
Mathemagenic

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Knowledge Management Failure

Apparently the vast majority of KM systems fail. Many IT & KM experts and managers who claim to know what KM is all about have written countless articles, produced huge volumes of white papers and case studies, all eager to explain the causes of such failures. If they do understand the ills and the reasons for the ills of KM systems, than why can’t they fix the problems? Or is it because their finger prints are all over the failed KM systems?

I submit that KM systems which have failed have had little to do with Knowledge. In other words the systems which so comprehensively failed were not KM systems at all. They were re-branded ordinary data, information and document management systems. What has failed is the populist KM thinking paradigm. To squeeze more sales out of their ordinary data & document management systems, some vendors stick such “sexy” tags on their ordinary offerings like:

Information Knowledge System – IKS, which resembles more a plain, flat or hierarchical repository of outdated information, which should be labeled as junk information. Why? Because it consumes a lot of resources, it does not stimulate seriously creative thinking; in short, from useful Knowledge perspective its usefulness is limited. In fact it would be more profitable not having such system at all.

Knowledge Management Tools - KMT. A tool set which promises to decide for the user what is relevant for the user. Its decision is based on the user’s query or worst; user's profile. Implicitly these tools are promising to relive users from thinking; an attractive proposition for the simpleton and the mediocre for whom thinking is torment. The same grandiose "benefits" were promoted and promised for years by now discredited CASE tools and DSS/EIS systems. Now these things are called KMT.

Dynamic Knowledge Systems - DKS - little more than intranet based glorified electronic discussion boards or portals facilitating broad discussions, topics and interests. It is this "dynamism" of many participants with broadest topics and interests that promise to elicit on-demand tacit knowledge and convert it into an explicit knowledge and then codify and organize this knowledge into a repository of explicit knowledge. In reality most – not all - DK Systems are just feeders of more low grade information to IKS and KMT.

The list is endless. Sadly, KM label has become a fashionable fad and a corruption of knowledge application practice.

The fundamental problem with various so called KM systems is that they are implying that thinking is a difficult and daunting process, whilst suggesting that managers have more important things to do than think or could spend their corporate time on better things than "wrecking" their grey matter. The prompters of KM systems are offering a relief from such "torturous" pursuits as thinking; such elixir does appeal to the mediocrity.

Few are blessed with serious, specifically relevant knowledge or know-how. Any system which facilitates overly broad participation will inextricably bury any expert knowledge under a pile of low value chatter. I am persuaded that for valuable ideas & thoughts to produce innovation there need to be a highly afferent and efferent system capable of synthesizing powerful multidimensional analytical databases with the know-how of subject matter experts, the imagination of visionaries and the creative mind of innovators who do not fret from the challenge of thinking.

So is there such thing as successful KM and can it ever reach a consistent and higher rate of successful implementation? Yes to both questions for as long as the cognitive dimension of knowledge, which steams from the cognitive faculty of the mind, is at the core of Knowledge System. I'm reluctant to use the KM term for obvious reasons, so instead I'm using Knowledge Systems (KS), and where system does not mean technology only.

The fundamental pre-conditions to successful knowledge diffusion are:

  • Do not manage knowledge; manage knowledgeable people.
  • Sophisticated database technology is a critical component of a working KS, however, only if it is synthesized with human knowledge.
  • Knowledgeable people love technology. Without it knowledge diffusion would be inefficient and less effective and ultimately would compel high value knowledge workers to gravitate to places with high concentration of high quality technology.
  • The creators of knowledge are the best diffusors of knowledge and emanate from the same mind. The role of management and Knowledge Manager in particular is to encourage this dual process of knowledge creation and diffusion.
  • Focus on elicitation of USEFUL / EXPERT Knowledge only!
  • Match technology's sophistication level to people's cognition level. If people's cognition is low, question leaders' ability; if need be replace them with capable people & begin building a viable Knowledge System.
  • Elevate cognitive excellence above mediocrity.

Those enterprises, which are not captive to the mediocre leadership, will excel spectacularly.

Bill Ives: "I have found the key differentiator in KM success to be the quality of leadership and not the quality of KM solution design or technology. I have seen implementations with acceptable designs flourish under the right leadership and brilliant “next generation” KM designs flounder under poor leadership." - Portals and KM

Knowledge should be organisation's most potent assets in its assets portfolio. Those organisations where knowledge isn't the most valued asset are facing a bleak future; they'll become either an easy takeover "prey", or they'll die a cruel death.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Blogs, unbiased media?

Ashwini Kachapeswaran in the article "Logged out, Blogged in" proclaimed: "Blog is the future of the net. Free and unbiased information is what blogs promise to tell." This must be one of the most bizarre proclamations in the history of the Internet. Blogs unbiased?! It's proprietary media which has promised and keeps promising to be unbiased. True to its shameful tradition, however, most of the proprietary media has always been shamelessly biased. Blogs on the other hand have never promised to be unbiased. By their nature, blogs are intrinsically biased.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Wallowing in the World Wide Web of morass

The original idea of the WWW was to contextually link the content on the net. Today the idea of contextual linkage has been totally abandoned and the hyper linking shamelessly abused. Today everything is linked irrespective of context. The garbage on the web is overwhelming. We have submerged deeply into this morass, yet, we – the society are not choking on it. Oh no! We’ve learned to breath it, chew it, swallow it and than excrete it back into our own cyber environment, and… consume it again. This cycle of consumption of our own data/information excrement is so intense that now even the alternative (non-online) news media and information sources offer little more than reproduction of what is found on the first page of Google’s search result.

I see and hear my colleagues around the water cooler, in the meetings or even in knowledge groups are quick to offer instant solutions sourced from the WWW search results. And everybody seems to find the same staff instantly. Somehow the garbage always makes to the 1st page of the search results. The management appears to be the biggest suckers for information sludge.

I see a bright future for those of us who know how to find the fine information on the WWW. However, for now we just have to keep our heads above the sea of cyber gunk.

Monday, August 29, 2005

The growth of the Internet - because it's been long overdue

The Internet as social technology.
The technocraties built the Internet; then they got seduced by the early cyber activists’ myopic vision of the future wired world. Whilst the growth rate of the Internet is still marveled, I dare to suggest that today the Internet is decades behind where it could’ve been if not for this unholy marriage between the myopic vision of the cyber activists and the techies’ vanity. If other technologies’ development and direction were as slow and misguided as the Internet’s, today we would have steam powered submarines not nuclear reactor powered.

Surprisingly the social discourse today still revolves around the Internet as some sort of remarkable technology which somehow sucked people into a phenomenally boundless communication and community swirl. Many marvel at the extraordinary growth of this technology and its uptake by the global citizenry. The fact is that people are naturally and intrinsically inquisitive creatures who always wanted to do things faster and better or at least differently. Whilst the Internet is a remarkable technological feast, I think it is more remarkable that the WWW with its hyperlinks and GUI browsers in particular, were not invented much earlier. I submit that it is these technologies, once they appeared on the social radar, which infused the Internet as social technology into the societal consciousness. Despite this infusion the Internet is not a divine social elixir as some - especially the early devotees of cyber - would like us to believe. Lisa Palac in 1994 predicted: "The Internet will be to women in the '90s what the vibrator was to women in the '70s. It's going to have that power." Well... that's not what I'm hearing from women. The Internet does many things well; apparently vibration isn't one of them. Although Lisa still managed to fall pregnant, but than again, Lisa's no ordinary woman - she's a self confessed cyber bitch.

What’s even more remarkable is that in the 21st century there are many cyber luminaries who still worship the Internet as if by decree from the Silicon Valley. A decade ago Clifford Stoll forewarned: "Internet hustlers invade our communities with computers ... The key ingredient of their silicon snake oil is a technocratic belief that computers and networks will make a better society. [However] the most important interactions in life happen between people, not between computers… We techies should be more honest about what computers can do and what they cannot do, or else we are setting ourselves up for a big pie in the face."

People have embraced the Internet not because of its technological frivolousness but because as David Phillips put it in his response to the Communities of Play: "There is this animal. It has, over 60,000 years developed a range of very interesting social skills. It liked the Internet because it is a paradigm that suits its social skill set. The Internet became popular with this animal and grew and got better and it grew some more. If we look at the social skills of the animal, we see it and recognise it."

The reality is that there's nothing remarkable about the fast growth of the Internet. It is like the thirsty in the desert, there's nothing remarkable about seeing the thirsty rushing to a water well. Technology is a just side-show; a product of human ingenuity, social interaction, cognition and imagination. Give that "marvelous" technology to any other primate and the real worth of technology on its own will become quite clear.

Those who fail to heed the voices of social commentators with real foresight will be left to languish by the wayside. In a desert even staled water tastes cool and fresh.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Worth a L^oo^k :)

by Howard Kaplan: "Seen CPB's new viral campaign for the Gap yet?If not, you should definitely pop over their site, and prepare for quite a laugh."

Sunday, August 07, 2005

IM v Email

I found this little gem by Don Philabaum "Do you IM?" on the Wired Communities blog. Don is suggesting that the younger generation is embracing the synchronous communication tools ahead of the "oldies" like the humble email, which is so. However, I submit that the Internet has been yet again polarized along the age demographics: between those who are at or over the zenith of their useful life and tose who are still at the pre-zenith. In fact the polarization along the age line is more accentuated than along any other demarcation line including cultural, political etc. More and more of the mature folks are discovering the Internet but mainly as email. To them Internet = email. The maturing community - after experimentations and experiences with the various interactive tools like IM - are returning to the more mature tools like the email. As the netizens mature the email is becoming their darling again. I suspect it is because the asynchronous communication tools afford its users time to think through what they about to communicate. For the younger netizens this is not an issue. They seem never have time to listen not to mention digest each other's prattle - a kind of natural defense mechanism against the deluge of immature garbage. The mature folks on the other hand are tired of listening to and saying incoherent and incongruent flabs. Although email can't restrain the spread of thought pollution, at least the polution doesn’t come as fast and furious as it does with IMs. Where email really outshines its synchronous communication siblings is in its features to filter out the pollution before it reaches one's grey matter. To what extent the users are willing to filter out the thought pollution is another matter.

Igor Palmer
PS: Something I found somewhere in Nancy White's space: A Poem by Tom Coleman

Monday, July 25, 2005

The Future of The Internet...

My mind's sketches of the sketchy future

The Internet was designed as a communication network capable of withstanding even a nuclear hit. To-date this has not been put to the test, however, today and in the future this is no longer a relevant question. The importance of the Internet has grown to such extent that the USA would use nuclear force to protect the Internet if that what it would take to protect it. The future of the Internet thus is inextricably linked to the future of the civilization. The Internet isn't just a communication network of networks, it is a vital social technology and its future is assured no less than the future of the civilization. The question, however, will the future be bright, gloomy, more of the same we are experiencing now? I disagree with the predictions of the social luminaries of both persuasions - gloominaries and the paradaisaics. In the context of the Internet, I no longer make sharp distinction between the virtual and physical reality, for they both are an intrinsic reality of our physical existence. No doubt the Internet will evolve, however, I submit that it will evolve slowly; at least slower than the social evolution of the future generations.

The Internet has never been a particularly effective medium for connecting people to people. Probably most will disagree with such assessment; however, the reality is that the Internet was only really effective in creating and releasing multiple personalities within individuals; it created actors on the global cyber stage and inordinate number of village fools in the global village. The Internet has been exceedingly effectinve in connecting people to their PCs through which people have assumed various acting roles and used the Internet as an acting stage. Unlike in the physical world where there are few actors and many spectators, on the Internet virtually everybody is an actor. The greatest influence of the Internet on the communities was the release of the actor within. Since this process of release has happened throughout the world there’s no much more the Internet can achieve.

So, the Internet has passed its social impact bang and technological zenith at the threshold of the 21st century. Since then the evolution of the internet has been slowing down and it will reach its evolutionary tipping point by 2008-2010, beyond which the evolution of the Internet will plateau. I do expect some occasional technological spikes, however none of those will have significant social impacts we have been accustomed from the Internet. Sure more people will get connected to the Internet - especially from the developing economies - but the growth itself will not impact on the future evolution of the Internet. To lucubrate about this point I will digress slightly. The first social technology, which, transformed the world was Gutenberg's printing press. Whilst the printing technology and the medium have reached dizzy heights and still rocketing, the quality of the popular content carried by the print medium reached its spire decades ago and since then has been degenerating rapidly. So, despite the incredible advances in print technology the fundamental output remains the same and will remain; there's no more avenue for spectacular advancements in the print medium. The alternative to it was to invent a totally new social technology with a new social medium. Since the 1st Gutenberg Press it took 420 years for such new technology to emerge - the Internet, and 20 years later the social medium -WWW, became wide open and by 2008 any further development of this social medium will be peripheral. Technological advancements will be in the area of miniaturization - not of the actual devices but rather of the electronic components, wide spread of nano-technology and flexible organic electrical composites borrowed from the nature. All these which will enable manufacturers to build cuter gadgets but adding little value to social interfacing between people. The trend will be to continue to emulate the physical world with all of its desirable and undesirable senses. The problem with such approach is that the physical world is not perfect, and people are looking at something which offers alternative to the physical world rather than the emulation of the imperfect physical. The notion that the electronic medium will make the physical better is a false one. It won't. So there is no grand future for the Internet or the WWW. The present will persist into the future just like the printing medium until the arrival of the mass www. Thus the interesting question is not about the internet's future but what will be that new social medium which will rival or even outdo the Internet. Maybe there will be no more spectacular electronic medium we will just incrementally improve on what we have now… unless organic devices connected wireless or teleporting!


In the meantime and for the foreseeable future the current trend of connecting more people to more computers will continue. Technological evolution will be marginal and of little impact. Eventually, as many people will embrace the marginal developments of the Internet as will exit it or dump it because of boredom and loss of interest.


To be continued … orrrr not?

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

The Information Age is seriously ill

"The era of Information "hunter/gatherer" is fast fading away. Welcome to the era Knowledge Management". This I wrote as a starting statement in my KDR Lab web site. Well, it is my wish only. The information age – as aged and ill as it is now - isn't fading away fast enough. Whilst conventional information systems are excellent for data harvesting and processing they are no longer able to provide neither the required predictability of unconventional situations nor able to cope effectively with the impacts of unconventional situations and events. The idea that we need more information to make sound decisions and to solve our social and organizational ills still persists and is like a millstone around our necks. After countless failed critical decisions which were based on poor information and gut feel rather than on judgment based on discerned information, knowledge and know-how, there has been some realization of the value of knowledge and in many cases – although not many enough - even a noticeable shift towards engagement of knowledge diffusion specialists.

Arve Sund, executive VP in charge of extrusion for Hydro Aluminum North America, Baltimore in an article in the Indusry Week submits: "We are in an information society, and if you look upon the consequences of that from an industry perspective, it has deep implications of how we run our businesses. ...When you look back in history you see that information and technology was the power base of running a business. The consequence of that was that you protected information, you protected technology. If you look at it today, information and technologies are immediately available all over the world at the same time. That changes what is the key to success for businesses. It gets more and more important to look at the human resources side and people side as the key to your response."

Sadly, however, there are still too many snake oil merchants out there selling the need for more information gathering power and information storage to IT managers. What's even more sad is that some IT managers are still falling for the fallacy of the more information gathering power is better; and so they keep hording up mountains of all kinds of information and in the process burying the valuable information under the non-contextual, irrelevant, outdated and incongruent information heap. Welcome to the era of Information Deluge and Knowledge Depravity! Some IT managers worship the technology by decree yet cloak themselves in robes of grandiose slogans like Knowledge Management (KM), Competitive Intelligence (CI) and Business Intelligence (BI), whilst parading as champions of collective knowledge and memory. In reality these information gluttons are just like the emperor with no cloths. *“But the Emperor has nothing at all on! …But he has nothing at all on!” at last cried out all the people.” Yet the corporate information moguls still keep on dragging their organisations into the morass of useless and costly information: *"The Emperor was vexed, for he knew that the people were right; but he thought the procession must go on now! And the lords of the bedchamber took greater pains than ever, to appear holding up a train, although, in reality, there was no train to hold.”

Hording up information in corporate silos is easy and glamorous. Creating and diffusing knowledge, however, is difficult and not glamorous. The fact that it is far easier to sell technology than to asemble useful, contextual information and diffuse knowledge has led to the proliferation of coxcomb consultants who equate any kind of information with knowledge and will do anything to tickle technology worshipers' ego for a quick & easy sell. For they understand one thing well: "The more gross the fraud the more glibly will it go down, and the more greedily will it be swallowed; since folly will always find faith wherever impostors will find impudence." (Rev. Charles Caleb Colton 1780-1832)

** “The Emperor’s New Clothes” – Hans Christian Andersen

Saturday, May 21, 2005

World Wide Web of Junk

The WWW is the greatest junk yard of low grade information!

The value of the Internet as a repository of useful information is very low. Carl Shapiro in “Information Rules” suggests that the amount of actually useful information on the Internet would fit within roughly 15,000 books, which is about half the size of an average mall bookstore. To put this in perspective: there are over 5 billion unique, static & publicly accessible web pages on the www. Apparently Only 6% of web sites have educational content (Maureen Henninger, “Don’t just surf the net: Effective research strategies”. UNSW Press). Even of the educational content only a fraction is of significant informational value.

So why is it that the Internet is so popular as an information resource for the masses? I submit for 2 reasons:
  1. Convenience:
    Since everybody is using the same thing – the WWW – there’s no compelling or competitive pressure to seek out quality information.
  2. No alternative. All feed on the same junk.

For those who are skilled in finding the nuggets of valuable information an online library of 15,000 quality books is an attractive proposition.

Oh yeah one more thing; entertainment content has little quality information value, however, for as long as it tickles the consumer’s senses the Internet will unfailingly seduce all of us.

Did you know that there were days when the most popular search word on the internet wasn’t sex; it was hotels; sex ranked only 6th. Wow how useful this information is, and it wasn't hard to find.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Information 4 Pleasure

Information plays a central role in people’s life. Few other commodities are as potent and versatile as information and even fewer that are as all encompassing as information, which includes information for pleasure (Information Communities Model). Information is a substance for thinking, an ingredient of creativity and a source of pleasure. Understanding this is critical to the ability of Information Professional (IP) to exploit information effectively. Information for pleasure is one, which provides not only enjoyment but also a source of knowledge & learning. And vise versa, information for accountability, awareness, knowledge and sharing should incorporate elements of pleasure if it is to capture consumers’ attention. No other component of information model makes the information experience as sticky as the pleasure component. “But information is an experience good every time it is consumed” (Shapiro,Varian: Information Rules) This experience is even more amplified in the context of experiencing pleasure. Sports and pornographers in particular have long exploited the pleasure side of information and have developed some of the most sophisticated web sites and employed some of the most innovative online techniques and technologies to entice consumers to visit and re-visit their sites.
Pleasure is something that everybody is looking for and is prepared to pay a premium for it. IPs who understand this and skilled to incorporate pleasure element in their information design/proposition will always thrive. As the lecture notes confirm the top sites have always been those with strong entertainment or pleasure (sensual) content. The competition for attention is fierce. People will spend more time on web sites that incorporate information which gives pleasure. Producers of goods and services – including information goods - understand that in the “most valuable item in the information age: human attention” yet “attention is scarce in the information economy” (Shapiro,Varian: Information Rules)
Linda Cornwell in an online article “Kids Who Read Succeed investigates what does it take to increase kids reading achievements? Among other things she states that “Only if kids find pleasure in reading will they spend lots of time reading.”Marketers and producers of goods will pay high premium for consumers’ attention. Thus the value of pleasure component of information is very high. Other “techniques” to win attention is providing content for free. Many independent artists & authors willingly provide the fruit of their labor in hope to attract attention. As Tim O’reilley puts it: Lesson 1: Obscurity is a far greater threat to authors and creative artists than piracy.” Webcasting Live Events in Australia: The Kick-Art Experience by Tom Denison is a fascinating and insightful article. To produce information for pleasure is not an easy task. It requires thorough planning, hard work and at times little or no pleasure during the production phase. Nonetheless, making information pleasurable – whether for entertainment, education (edutainment’s the buzz word) or business transactions – will get people’s attention, thus increase their information consumption, which in turn increases the revenue.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Virtual Communities Attraction

Apparently “information exchange' is the No. 1 reason people join virtual communities” Initially this simple statement seems to be inadequate. However, if you consider what is information, than the above statement seems quite reasonable. For example, Monash School of Information and Management subscribes to the definition of information as being: "The content and context of communication", thus information exchange is essentially communication. Moreover, Shapiro/Varian in their brilliant book “Information Rules” defined the term information as: “Essentially, anything that can be digitized … is information”. This leads to understanding that anything which is digitized can be exchanged online or at least electronically and therefore one of the best places to acquire and experience digitized (information) goods. In the same book Shapiro/Varians suggest that ‘Information is an “Experience Good”’ An experience good is something consumers must experience it to value it. Unlike in the non-virtual world the cost of experiencing digitized things is very low. An experience is always something which is new. In non-virtual world newness of a product is what provides experience. “But information is an experience good every time it’s consumed” (Shapiro/Varian, Information Rules, Harvard Business School) “Knowledge and information are, in general, a valuable currency or social resource in virtual communities" (Binik, Cantor, Ochs, & Meana, 1997; Hiltz & Wellman, 1997; Rheingold, 1993a; Sproull & Faraj, 1997). In the context of the above, Ridings/Gefen suggestion that the no.1 reason people join VCs is information exchange seems to be well founded. Furthermore, since information is valuable – because of its experiential attribute – as well as “affordable” people will congregate / form VCs since that’s where they get their “shot” for satisfying their experiential needs especially since VCs provide experiences, which are most closely matched to the conscious or unconscious desires of the members. “Virtual communities, providing a subset of the information available on the Internet, are unique in that most of their content is member-generated” (Filipczak, 1998). Naturally, information exchange isn’t the only reason, however, it is the predominant reason.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Communities of Play

"Communities are networks of interpersonal ties that provide sociability, support, information, a sense of belonging, and social identity" (Barry Wellman). Castells in his briliant book The Internet Galaxy makes the point in quoting Barry Wellman’s definition of community that there has been a profound shift in paradigm from the traditional concept of communities, which are based on the sharing of values and social organization and spatialy bounded to “network as the central form of organizing interaction….Networks are built by the choices and strategies of social actors, be it individuals, families, or social groups.”

I submit that since not every group can be defined as community, the context is of paramount importance when we look at any group. Whilst a community is also an affinity group, an affinity group is not necessarily a community. Understanding the context behind any group is crucial especially in this post-modern world where everything is fluid, without definable boundaries and nothing is fixed (although post-modernism has been under the deconstructionists’ scalper for some time). The most obvious although not the only determinants of virtual community are:

  • Boundless spatiality.
  • Time: real-time, near real-time, synchronous, assynchronous.
  • Flexible structures and processes.
  • Perpetual ephemerality & emphemerality, which I believe is particularly virtualization play specific trait. I can't think of any non VC exhibiting such traits. This virtualization phenomena was evident even on micro level whilst studying the communities of play.

Social Communities

This subject – Virtual Communities (VC) is a fascinating one. I can’t stop thinking about it. In the process of studying the subject of VCs, I came to the view that the main expositors and thinkers of communities and VCs in particular were almost exclusively philosophers, social scientists, psychologist, psychoanalysts and communitarian activists. This situation has persisted in my view for far too long. The later group in particular propagated some Utopian; almost worship-like embrace of the Internet as the panacea from many if not all social ills. For example, the often quoted Dr. Scott Peck a psychotherapist wrote: "After many years of vague identification with Buddhist and Islamic mysticism, I ultimately made a firm Christian commitment - signified by my non-denominational baptism on the ninth of March 1980..." (People of the Lie, 1983) later elevated the notion of community to the level of a messiah in his book The Different Drum (1987) “In and through community lies the salvation of the world." The information professionals in the meantime were left behind to deal with the consequences of such myopic views, often embraced by many Internet enthusiasts and business leaders who bought into the obscure often ecliptical promises of a grand symbiosis between the business aims and the social “good” but with no or little regard for the pragmatic realities of the real world. Once I'm through with this course I will be more qualified as Information Professional (IP) rather than even a quasi sociologist. Thus I came to the realization that without an active engagement of IPs in the process of studying traditional and virtual communities the void between the network technocrats and the communities could not be bridged effectively. Until recently that interface bridge was predominantly the community of social scientists and online activists. However, IPs are gaining greater prominence in shaping the social interface of online communities.

The significance of the Information Professionals’ role in the formation and exposition of VCs was not articulated clearly until relatively recently. One of the reasons perhaps was the lack of “critical mass of participation”. The VIC Government’s Global Victoria paper suggests regarding the critical mass “participation goes beyond simply creating awareness. It involves giving people and business compelling reasons to participate”. The critical mass participation I believe has been achieved and is largely attributable to 3 reasons:
  1. Technological advancement: (affordable hardware, ease of use of web browsers, rich and easily accessible WWW content).
  2. Commercialization of the Internet, albeit many die hard cyber activists and punks keep decrying that the commercialization which is destroying communities.
  3. Engagement of IPs in the process of building Information Enterprises and Information Communities

Many still lament about the loss of community “spirit” or disintegration of communities (Robert Putman, Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community). I beg to differ. If anything, communities have expanded both in numbers, sizes and variety. The dominance of VCs, however, had not spelt out the end of traditional communities. The slight dents on the traditional communities made by VCs are far outweighed by the benefits VCs brought to the traditional communities. VCs brought to communities aspects, which in the past would either shackle the community or would spell the end of them; such as distance, no space to “hide” unless one leaves the community, no possibility of living out multiple personalities & role plays, ephemeral relationships without uprooting the long established relationships and very importantly both polemics as well as apologetics can coexist concurrently without undermining community structures. Communities in this wired (actually wireless is gaining ground as well) online milieu are created, thrive, evolve, mutate, transform, die and re-born constantly and fast and the best thing about all this is that VCs add value to the traditional communities. Castless points out that even Sherry Turkle, one of the pioneers of the social technology in her classic study on identity-building declared that: “the notion of the real fights back. People who live parallel lives on the screen are nevertheless bound by the desires, pain, and mortality of their physical selves. Virtual communities offer a dramatic new context in which to think about human identity in the age of the Internet” (Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet, 1995). I believe that by now the fight is over. Today I believe there’s a natural balance between online communities and “real” communities. VCs provide what non-VCs can't provide and vice versa. So people join or form communities according to their likings, circumstances and context. It is interesting to observe that another early pioneer of the online communities Barlow still lives in the past.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

The Serendipity Effect

The Serendipity Machine

David Green begins the 1st chapter of his brilliant book “The Serendipity Machine” with: “It’s risky business to make predictions about the future of technology” and than he goes on to demonstrate it by referring to IBM’s founder’s prediction about the future of computers. We know how off the mark Tom Watson was. This poor prediction is often quoted by many. Fair enough or is it? Tom Watson predicted 5 computers. What about the other crystal ball gazers? What did they predict? The point here is that whilst it is risky business to make predictions, the mankind owes the risk takers its existence. I submit that taking risk and erring on the risky side is still far less perilous than hiding under a rock. I’m not suggesting here that David Green mocks Watson. On the contrary, as you read Green's book the Watson’s prediction exemplifies as well as amplifies the serendipity effect. For what did Watson have besides his experience and vision to make such prediction?

With all the retrospection we have today we keep wondering how Watson could screw up so badly, yet I see no evidence that most of today’s visionaries’ view is any less myopic than those who had no such retrospection. We have now all the high tech gizmoes, quirky algorithms and fancy models; are we any better predictors of the future technology? I doubt it. In fact some very obvious realities are still viewed with amazement. For example the amazement about the “incredibly fast” take-up of the Internet in the recent decade. The Internet has been around for many decades and was fast becoming an archaic technology until the introduction of graphical browsers. Once PCs became affordable and the GUI browsers were pulled over the telent and its clumsy IBM variant TN3270 the fast take-up just had to be a natural thing. What’s so amazing about seeing a thirsty crowd rushing to a well? If anything, it is more amazing that WWW and GUI browsers were introduced so late. With the rollout of affordable PCs, WWWed content and the interaction complexity dropped to clickable level it would be extremely amazing if the fast rate of the Internet take-up wasn’t huge.

Often the truly surprising discoveries get overlooked, ignored or oversimplified because we focus too much on making everything simple. To quote H.L.Mencken: “ For every complex problem, there is an answer that is short, simple and wrong.” It seems we get amazed by huge numbers – it is simple - without the context behind those numbers, which is complex.

I started this deposition with Green’s 1st chapter. I may as well end it with Green’s last chapter (ch. 12) where he begins it with a quote from Peter Nelson “One of the problems the Internet has introduced is that in the electronic village all the village idiots have Internet access.”
The serendipity effect as Green describes it in his book is astonishingly beautiful and truly amazing, until we become obsessed with sensationalisaition of the trivial and the typical whilst being beset by complex problems and phenomenal phenomenon we choose to trivialise. "It is serendipity gone mad." (David Green).

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Lo^oK up

Terms, words & expressions (old & new)...

A coxcomb is ugly all over with the effectation of a fine gentleman. (Dr.Johson)
A coxcomb is one whom simpletons believe to be a man of merit. (La Bruyere)

Another Look @ Easter

An email i received recently from a friend. I'm usually suspicious about "happy" funny bunny laying eggs Easter messages. Oh i may as well be blunt here! The idea of cute pink bunnies and chocolate eggs is outright idiotic. Has nothing to do with the real meaning of Easter. So for a change I received an email message with a punch. Here it is.

Read only if you have time for God!


Let me tell you, make sure you read all the way to the bottom. I almost deleted this email but I was blessed when I got to the end.







God, when I received this e-mail, I thought...






I don't have time for this... And, this is really inappropriate during work.











Then, I realized that this kind of thinking is... Exactly, what has caused lot of the problems in our world today.










We try to keep God in church on Sunday morning...









Maybe, Sunday night...











And, the unlikely event of a midweek service.












We do like to have Him around during sickness...










And, of course, at funerals.












However, we don't have time, or room, for Him during work or play...










Because.. That's the part of our lives we think... We can, and should, handle on our own.










May God forgive me for ever thinking...










That... there is a time or place where..











HE is not to be FIRST in my life.










We should always have time to remember all HE has done for us.











If, You aren't ashamed to do this...











Please follow the directions.









Jesus said, "If you are ashamed of me, I will be ashamed of you before my Father."












Not ashamed?
















Pass this on ONLY IF YOU MEAN IT!!








Yes, I do Love God.








HE is my source of existence and Savior.










He keeps me functioning each and every day. Without Him, I will be nothing. But, with Christ, HE strengthens me. (Phil 4:13)











This is the simplest test.











If You Love God... And, are not ashamed of all the marvelous things HE has done for you...










Send this to ten people and the person who sent it to you!






I don't think I know 10 people who would admit they love Jesus. Do You love Him?






THE POEM








I knelt to pray but not for long, I had too much to do. I had to hurry and get to work For bills would soon be due. So I knelt and said a hurried prayer,





And jumped up off my knees.







My Christian duty was now done








My soul could rest at ease.






All day long I had no time









To spread a word of cheer. No time to speak of Christ to friends,
They'd laugh at me I'd fear.








No time, no time, too much to do,
That was my constant cry,
No time to give to souls in need
But at last the time, the time to die.






I went before the Lord, I came, I stood with downcast eyes. For in his hands God held a book; It was the book of life.







God looked into his book and said











"Your name I cannot find.











I once was going to write it down...








But never found the time"










Now do you have the time to pass it on?









Make sure that you scroll through to the end.








Easy vs. Hard

Why is it so hard to tell the truth but Yet so easy to tell a lie?





Why are we so sleepy in church but Right when the sermon is over we suddenly wake up?





Why is it so hard to talk about God but yet so easy to talk about nasty stuff?





Why is it so boring to look at a Christian magazine, but yet so easy to look at a nasty one?





Why is it so easy to delete a Godly e- ma il, but yet we forward all of the nasty ones?




Why are the churches getting smaller but yet the bars and dance clubs are getting larger?




Do you give up? Think about it . Are you going to forward this, or delete it?




Just remember-God is watching you. Prayer Wheel-Let's see the devil stop this one!






Here's what the wheel is all about. When you receive this, say a prayer for the person that sent it to you....





That's all you have to do....








There is nothing attached....






This is so powerful....





Do not stop the wheel, please....





Of all the free gifts we may receive, Prayer is the very best one.





There are no costs, but wonderful rewards... GOD BLESS!






May God keep you and bless you. If this doesn't give you chills, nothing will...this message is very true. Hope you are all as blessed as I was from this story. I wonder how many people will delete this without reading it because of the title on it?






There once was a man named George Thomas, pastor in a small New England town. One Easter Sunday morning he came to the Church carrying a rusty, bent, old bird cage, and set it by the pulpit. Eyebrows were raised and, as if in response, Pastor Thomas began to speak..."I was walking through town yesterday when I saw a young boy coming toward me swinging this bird cage. On the bottom of the cage were three little wild birds, shivering with cold and fright. I stopped the lad and asked, "What you got there, son?" "Just some old birds," came the reply.






"What are you gonna do with them?" I asked.






"Take 'em home and have fun with 'em," he answered. "I'm gonna tease 'em and pull out their feathers to make 'em fight. I'm gonna have a real good time." "But you'll get tired of those birds sooner or later. What will you do?"









"Oh, I got some cats," said the little boy. "They like birds. I'll take 'em to them."









The pastor was silent for a moment. "How much do you want for those birds, son?"








"Huh?? !!! Why, you don't want them birds, mister. They're just plain old field birds. They don't sing. They ain't even pretty!"






"How much?" the pastor asked again.







The boy sized up the pastor as if he were crazy and said, "$10?"






The pastor reached in his pocket and took out a ten dollar bill. He placed it in the boy's hand. In a flash, the boy was gone.







The pastor picked up the cage and gently carried it to the end of the alley where there was a tree and a grassy spot Setting the cage down, he opened the door, and by softly tapping the bars persuaded the birds out, setting them free.







Well, that explained the empty bird cage on the pulpit, and then the pastor began to tell this story.






One day Satan and Jesus were having a conversation. Satan had just come from the Garden of Eden, and he was gloating and boasting. "Yes, sir, I just caught the world full of people down there. Set me a trap, used bait I knew they couldn't resist. Got 'em all!"







"What are you going to do with them?" Jesus asked.






Satan replied, "Oh, I'm gonna have fun! I'm gonna teach them how to marry and divorce each other, how to hate and abuse each other, how to drink and smoke and curse. I'm gonna teach them how to invent guns and bombs and kill each other. I'm really gonna have fun!"





"And what will you do when you get done with them?" Jesus asked. "Oh, I'll kill 'em," Satan glared proudly. "How much do you want for them?" Jesus asked





"Oh, you don't want those people. They ain't no good. Why, you'll take them and they'll just hate you. They'll spit on you, curse you and kill you. You don't want those people!!"





"How much?" He asked again.






Satan looked at Jesus and sneered, "All your blood, tears and your life."













Jesus said, "DONE!"







Then He paid the price.











The pastor picked up the cage he opened the door and he walked from the pulpit.








Notes: Isn't it funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the world's going to hell.








Isn't it funny how someone can say "I believe in God" but still follow Satan (who, by the way, also "believes" in God).









Isn't it funny how you can send a thousand jokes through e-mail and they spread like wildfire, but when you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing?









Isn't it funny how when you go to forward this message, you will not send it to many on your address list because you're not sure what they believe, or what they will think of you for sending it to them.










Isn't it funny how I can be more worried about what other people think of me than what God thinks of me.










I pray, for everyone who sends this to their entire address book, they will be blessed by God in a way special for them.










And send it back to the person who sent it, to let them know that indeed it was sent out to many more











<>< <>< <>< <>< <>< <>< <>< <>< <>< <>< <><
"Of all the properties which belong to honorable men, not one is so highly prized as that of character." --Henry Clay (Early statesman from my home state of Kentucky)