Thursday, September 06, 2007

"I HAVE never, nor will I ever, read blogs"

I keep getting distracted from completing my IFLA series.

Like today.

Ong Sor Fern's piece in The Straits Times (Life! section, page 6, "Clearing away the cobwebs: Andrew Keen's The Cult Of The Amateur is a refreshingly brusque critique of how culture is being cannibalised in the brave new Internet world").

For reasons of copyright, I'm not allowed to reproduce the article. Here are some main points:
  • The article starts with "I HAVE never, nor will I ever, read blogs."
  • Later added that blogs are "a welter of undifferentiated information that blends fact with opinion with merry disregard for consequences".
  • She acknowledges that there are "intelligent bloggers out there. But trying to find them is akin to looking for a single brainy needle in an exceedingly large and, mostly dumb, haystack".
  • Then a substantial part that was a book review of sorts, for Andrew Keen's The Cult Of The Amateur: How Today's Internet Is Killing Our Culture And Assaulting Our Economy.
  • The writer qualifies that "Of course, my love of old media could be seen as springing from vested interest. After all, I work in the print media, about as old school as you can get".
  • And near the last part, she wrote: "... consumers of culture need to draw a line in the sand. They have to commit to paying for legitimate content, because if there is anything Web 2.0 has proven, it is that if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys."


We were discussing about this in the Media-socialist group. Generally a sense of "here we go again". But no angry words. More of tired resignation.

The Straits Times writer is free to express her personal opinion of course. In a mainstream medium, no less. Wish I could express my personal opinions in a mainstream newspaper too.

But what I took issue were the linkages being drawn in the article.

For one, what has "not reading blogs" have to do with the final conclusion of "you have to pay for quality information"?

It costs nothing to read blogs. And it costs nothing to publish blogs (not counting the time, but at least we don't have to pay to get published). I'd say most bloggers don't set out to be credible or authoritative sources. For most, their primary intent is to express their personal opinions and share personal anecdotes (stuff that Mainstream is unwilling or unable to publish, for various reasons).

That's the whole point. Blogs allow people to have their say.

And two, it's absolutely wrong to generalise that bloggers write with "merry disregard for consequences".

I consider the consequences all the time. And so do the responsible bloggers I know. If I don't, I'd lose my job.

Three, there's the part that essentially says because good blogs are hard to find, then most -- if not all -- blogs are of poor quality.

That's like saying, because I can't find a good restaurant in Singapore, therefore all restaurants in Singapore are bad.

But the most telling was the opening statement -- where the writer proclaims she has never read blogs.

I'm asking myself this: "If one has never read blogs, then how would one know that the quality is poor?"

Hear-say? Third-party information?

I thought part of verifying information was to check facts for ourselves.Link

But what do I know?

I'm just a librarian. Who blogs (double whammy!)

- Siva said he fell for it, i.e. the article was a ploy for him to read ST felt he had to respond.
- Google Blog search results for "nor will i ever, read blogs" (hat-tip to Siva again)]


  1. i thought we were over this blogs-are-unreliable-and-full-of-rants thing.

    though she does kinda admit her reactionary stance (vested interests in old media) anyway, so she's kinda not the best source to comment on new media anyway.

    actually i think the whole piece sounds more like the typical blog rant she derides than she might be comfortable with.

  2. C. Callosum9:57 pm

    Ivan, I'm glad you took the time to respond to this in your usual thoughtful and measured manner. When I read the article this morning I was pretty annoyed. Clearly if she hasn't read a single blogpost there is no way for her to know there is quality content around like the posts you produce week in week out, which have their own place and value despite not being fodder for mainstream media.

    I guess it's a common fallacy to dismiss without evidence stuff you're philosophically inclined against, and I know I've been guilty of it myself. But for a journalist to condemn all blogs in the national newspaper without doing any first-hand research ... well, at least it was in the commentary section. Too bad she won't see your response, since she's already declared all blogs unworthy of her notice.

  3. priscilla10:08 pm

    When I first read the article in ST, I was amused. When I read your post, I laughed (in a good way).

    I am reading Andrew Keen's book now and I have been raving about it. I am not sure I agree with all his comments but some are definitely worth considering.

    And you are absolutely right that blogs open up channels for people to have their opinions and thoughts published and shared.

    To be fair, Sor Fern is a GREAT WRITER (unfortunately, she might not ever know I wrote compliments about her because she refuses to read blogs!) and there are people who value her views but there are also many bloggers who write brilliantly and have amazing insights and whose views, I am sure many people value more than reading some (at times) frivolous articles in ST.

    Btw, what would you write about if you get a chance to write personal opinions in a mainstream paper?

  4. Sweeeeet comeback, Ivan.
    The Ms. Ong sounds like a pompous snob in that article.

  5. Well said!

    For someone who has not read a blog, yet trying say that blogs are bad. Where's the credibility?

    I know of great blogs! Blogs tend to target specific audience, so it's natural that some blogs will not appeal to others.

    It's a bad way to generalise blogs as bad. Those low-quality blogs that I know of are mainly diaries. And it's natural that diaries are peppered with flowery languages.

    Blogs are good! Just which kind suits you only.

  6. it would be cruel to fault her for acting like a butcher

  7. Haha...standing up as one of the dumb needles in the haystack.

    But really unfair comment by her, when she doesn't herself read blogs.

  8. Ong is doing the same thing - "a welter of undifferentiated information that blends fact with opinion with merry disregard for consequences" - except that her medium for publishing is paper, and not electronically.

    The medium for spreading the 'news's is different, but the method of creating the content is basically the same.

  9. theoretically you could have your opinion published in mainstream media. I wonder what would happen if "bloggers" write in to the forum page in ST in respond to this hopelessly ill informed opinion piece that didn't have her information verified before publication. tsk tsk.

  10. Ivan, Actually he sounds just a tad like you did when we met back in 2003, don't you think? Hs comments are seld defeating. If he has never read a blog, he wouldn't much know what's in them, would he?

    Let's not tell him.

  11. Hi Librarian,

    You have been featured in The Singapore Daily. Thank you for your support!

    The Singapore Daily Team


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