This week’s reading for class covered the creation and societal position of blogs.
First item up for discussion was the definition of a blog. Blog is short for weblog and can mean a variety of things. My definition, based on what I use the medium for, is a collection of thoughts on a variety of subjects that allows a two-way dialog between readers and users hosted on a web site. Comments about the article posted on the website can be made and replied to. According to the reading titled Essential Blogging, people use blogs for just about everything, from journal-type entries for friends and family, platforms for political issues, or just topics of interest to the writer.
Dan Gillmor’s book We the Media: Grassroots Journalism by the People, For the People discusses how blogs have changed the way journalism is done. The news used to filter down from the top; reporters would write articles, that were then published in the newspaper before an average person could read about it. Newspapers had some control over what topics went into print and distribution. News spread in a very controlled method this way.
With the advent of Blogs, this model has changed. An average person can write something and millions of people can potentially see it on the Internet. The average person doesn’t have to have a own a newspaper to spread their message; they only need a blog. There are no editors censoring material or space confinements of a newspaper column on the Internet.
According to Gillmor, blogging calls attention to stories traditional news media outlets may bury on page 5 or ignore completely. A recent example is the Sen. Larry Craig case. Apparently he had been having sex with men for a very long time, but publicly he is part of the conservative moral majority and is married. A blogger outed him on the internet a few years ago, but he was continually reelected on his family values ticket. This type of reporting, albeit ethically questionable, is something not picked up on in main stream media. It is investigative, sometimes perjoritive, reporting.
In general, blogs have been gaining respect in the media. Many newspapers employ bloggers to a variety of ends. The Washington Post and New York Times now keep bloggers on retainer and actively use this new medium to reach out to their readers.
LinkedIn was also mentioned in the class’s screencast, being described as the “professional” social network. I have a variety of issues with LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is supposed to connect professional colleagues so they can make professional contacts and collaborate on projects. People are supposed to ask their friends for introductions to other people for professional work, but it seems more like professional collusion t0 me. Maybe it’s because I’m of a rebellious nature and revolt against any authoritarian figures that have the potential to stifle my freedom of expression, but LinkedIn seems to be Big Brother software more than anything. Employers have the ability to contact anyone in your network to ask about you. I don’t know about the average person, but I really dislike work interfering with my life more than necessary.
What happens when you apply for a job and a company sees that you have 100 contacts but no positive recommendations? Aren’t they curious as to why you know so many people but none of them can speak to what you’ve done professionally. With the amount of contacts in your network, maybe they think you’ve work at 10 different companies and aren’t reliable. What if you put that you are looking for work in your profile and your current job decides help you find something new by terminating your employment?
What happens if you get a negative review on LinkedIn? Is that like the mark of Cain where people can visibly tell you’ve done something wrong? What if you were fired unjustly or decided the company you work for does a lot of shady and questionable things?
When I go into a job interview I don’t want the company to have any preconceptions or misconceptions about me or the work I’ve done. LinkedIn gives companies an easy way to do a background check on potential hires. People should be VERY careful with the items they list in their LinkedIn profile and who they accept into their network. Accepting the friendship of a secondary contact might not be the best thing to do when your company can ask them about you. You don’t know who they are and wouldn’t vouch for them in real-life, so don’t stake your reputation on someone met on the Internet. Things aren’t always as they seem, especially on the web.