Glenn Reynolds and Steven Pressfield discuss Afghanistan on Pajamas TV. Pressfield has leveraged his writing skill, experience and contacts into a serial of posts on Afghanistan. What’s fascinating about the Reynolds-Pressfield conversation is their description of the blogging process, which is familiar territory to anyone who has put pixels to screen. The most important ideas they float, which are actually larger than the writing process and speak to the emerging structure of the new information environment are:
- Internet content provision is a conversation. Pressfield realized that once you started providing content (in a blog for example) you had to keep it up. He teased Glenn for his uncanny habit of posting almost continuously — the trademark of Instanpundit.
- Glenn broached the idea that some content is provided as an asynchronous thread, though he didn’t quite put it that way. What he said was blogging ‘is how you turn procrastination into a virtue’. In reality it does more than that because the threads are re-entrant; they come back at some point into what you are already doing. Steven Pressfield took the idea further when he recounted his research process (“drilling”). The information gets pumped out of various wells, but none of it is ultimately wasted. They all flow back into the main thread of his work, which was novels, but which is now broadening out into blogging.
- But the key idea, which associates back to Pressfield’s idea of ‘tribes’ in Afghanistan and Reynold’s Army of Davids, is that bloggers (in general any content provider) catalyze tribes. This is a very powerful insight, possibly the key realization of the new information age. (Think of Chris Anderson’s concept of the Long Tail) It is the failure to grasp this point that underlies one of the key failures of the MSM. The Internet is a self-organizing medium; it’s a declaration of governance and independence whatever else it may be. The MSM has been trying to reinvent networked communications and return it to the Age of Kings. The MSM is the town crier model and its day is over.
At the moment the tribes are still finding both the membership and leadership; they are still in the process of discovery — finding themselves and others. But I think people will ultimately discover that even these processes are asynchronous. The challenge will be what to do with the outputs of these efforts — with the tribes — when they attempt to find re-entrance. The MSM has denounced the Internet as the agent of the great diaspora; what it fails to realize is that it will also be the scene of the great forum when the tribes come together on their own terms. The next great phase will be evolving methods for tribes to find peers (social networking is a primitive effort to do this) and cooperate.
Well I’ve gone on for too long. Go watch the Pressfield and Reynolds video and visit his blog. After reading Pressfield’s blog then go find a Think Tank paper on Afghanistan and read it for contrast. Both are likely to be products of intelligent men, but ask yourself the question: leaving aside the content, what is the difference in the meta-data of these two vehicles? Open thread.