Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Amateurs and Professionals Unite

The information business is being transformed by the Internet into the sheer noise of of a hundred million bloggers all simultaneously talking about themselves.
Andrew Keen - Cult of The Amateur

I was led to that quote in a round about manor via Jame's Fee's blog to an entry by Sean Gorman. There is an interesting discussion on the tensions between the Geoweb and the GIS industry (ESRI, MapInfo). In short, the GIS industry apparently considers GIS is what professionals do and the Geoweb is for amateurs. I don't really agree with this, but don't see too much of a problem with the terms used. I do agree that the Geoweb is not GIS, at least not at this point. I see a little danger with people who do not understand fundamentals about maps creating maps, but you get this even with so-called "professionals." Plus, the people, generally speaking, who build the Geoweb do have an understanding. I see GIS and the Geoweb on the same spectrum supplying different services around spatial data, they aren't the same but aren't too different. People who do Geoweb are professionals at Geoweb, and I'm definitely an amateur. I'd like to think of myself as a professional at GIS, and a person who does Geoweb probably would be an amateur at it. Everybody is a little defensive (me too) about their industry, and a little protectionist, for example just tell a Geoweb zealot that it isn't GIS. When I say it, it isn't meant to be an insult. There's just a lot of capabilities that I have in a GIS that isn't there in the Geoweb, just like there is a lot of capabilities that isn't in a GIS. The problem with ESRI is that they want their software to do everything. It's not practical or possible. I agree with James Fee's sentiment about all getting along, after all we are all under the same Geography hat. Sean Gorman had a link to the Cult of The Amateur book which had an excerpt you could read. I found the bits that I read of this book interesting. I don't agree with his points entirely. In the end the web is a bit of a quasi-market, and the users gravitate to the best sites, best blogs, best news organizations that meet their criteria. If a film review blog is filled with boring analysis and misspellings, then it is not going to be popular and not overshadow someone like Roger Ebert. This blog is proof positive that people avoid crap (except for 7-10 people one of which is my Mom). Even Wikipedia has had to tone down their encyclopedia for everyone to edit and now use "experts" to do the writing or monitoring. I do think the inclusion of a comments section on news articles is ridiculous, and although it is sometimes entertaining, they are usually filled with vulgar bigoted remarks. I forgot who's axiom it was about Usenets/newsgroups but if they go on for long enough eventually someone will start to call someone else Hitler or a Nazi. That is perhaps where the Web's greatest enemy lies is the anonymity. Which makes it difficult to tell where certain information comes from, but unlike Keen I'm pretty sure Web 2.0 users can tell that a blog is going to be a form of an OpEd piece, and if you visit the Ford blog you can expect propaganda. I think perhaps the greatest flaw in Keen's argument is that the "quality of public civil discourse" has been declining since before Web 2.0. Personally I point the finger at the political pundits like Rush Limbaugh, Anne Coultour, Michael Moore, Al Franken, and on and on; who leave little room for "civil discourse" and bifurcate an already bifurcated system. Anyway, that's way off topic and probably not the type of info you would read a GIS blog for. So I apologize, but I've typed it and it would take too much effort to remove it.

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