So, what is ‘truth’ anyway? Ben Kenobi and Sarah Palin Share The Stage

What’s your reaction to Sarah Palin’s performance in her interview with Dave Gibson last night? If you were a conservative, it most likely was positive. If you were liberal, most likely negative.

How can I confirm such a crazy statement? How can there be two opposing opinions of the same event? Two different takes on the ‘truth’ of it?

Go to memeorandum and follow the discussion on blogs that match your political view point and follow the discussion on blogs that don’t.

Or switch between CNN and Fox News if you want a massively bad head ache.

Witness reality torn asunder.

Back in 1997 Dave Winer wrote a piece about programming that helped solidify how I felt about my career choice – he summed it up as a pursuit of truth: Programmers:

Programmers have a very precise understanding of truth. You can’t lie to a compiler. Try it sometime. Garbage in, garbage out. Booleans, the ones and zeros, trues and falses, make up the world programmers live in. That’s all there is! I think programming is deep, it teaches us about the non-cyber universe we live in. There’s something spiritual about computers, and I want to understand it.

…When a programmer catches fire it’s because he or she groks the system, its underlying truth has been revealed. I’ve seen this happen many times, a programmer languishes for months, chipping at the edges of a problem. Then all of a sudden, a breakthrough happens, the pieces start fitting together. A few months later the software works, and you go forward.

When I look at memorandum each day and click away from the warm confines of blogs that share my political view, I am confronted with the the fact that truth is greatly determined by our point of view.

Thank you Obi-wan Kenobi, you bastard.

John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin as Vice President is both interpreted as a disaster by liberals and as an inspired move by conservatives.

But one thing is for sure, the move has dominated our attention and driven us a way from weightier topics like the economy and moves taking place across the world, with light weight controversies and indignities (kinda like Britney Spears news does every once and a while).

On this point, two folks I read daily for their points of view (usually opposing), greatly agree:

Doc Searls: Framing wins:

I don’t know if the McCain campaign actually intended for this to happen, but the way it looks to me right now, it’ll work. Palin is single-handedly turning Barack Obama into John Kerry: a policy wonk quarantined to the bottom end of the FM dial. It’s amazing to watch.

Groundhog Day: Competing Messages: Attention Deficit Nation:

…as I watched the media coverage around the announcement, and that of the self-important, self-aggrandizing “blogosphere,” it became clear, to me anyway, just what this was about.

While this is at least partially about winning attention for McCain’s candidacy, some of it even negative attention, it is mostly about taking attention away from Obama’s campaign. And, in that regard, it’s been a brilliant tactical move. Whether it will be enough to swing the election his way remains to be seen.

Obama at the bottom of the FM dial. And so moved are the policies and important events of the world taking place, while we are dazzled and spun every which way.

Jay Rosen outlined the strategy, in a piece posted on September 3rd, that was prescient: The Palin Convention and the Culture War Option:

John McCain’s convention gambit is a culture war strategy. It depends for its execution on conflict with journalists, and with bloggers (the “angry left,” Bush called them) along with confusion between and among the press, the blogosphere, and the Democratic party. It revives cultural memory: the resentment narrative after Chicago ’68 but with the angry left more distributed. It dispenses with issues and seeks a trial of personalities. It bets big time on backlash.

At the center of the strategy is the flashpoint candidacy of Sarah Palin, a charismatic figure around whom the war can be fought to scale, as it were.

It’s not like much of the press isn’t reporting on the lies and mischaracterizations spewing from McCain/Palin. Witness on the 9th: As Campaign Heats Up, Untruths Can Become Facts Before They’re Undone:

From the moment Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin declared that she had opposed the infamous “Bridge to Nowhere,” critics, the news media and nonpartisan fact checkers have called it a fabrication or, at best, a half-truth. But yesterday in Lebanon, Ohio, and again in Lancaster, Pa., she crossed that bridge again. on the 10th: Finds That McCain’s ‘Facts’ Don’t Check Out

Fact is the media, mass and independent, are being played like marionettes in a game to control your attention and keep Obama, policies, or real impacting events like the economy, from the public discourse.

Glenn Greenwald at Salon did a good job of tracking one of the latest false controversies – the ‘lipstick on a pig’ quote that was taken out of context. He mistakenly attributes the mass media as being the first on the story when Memeorandum was spreading the meme a day before it broke across the country: New heights of stupidity:

It isn’t surprising that the McCain campaign wants this sort of tawdry, Freak Show/Reality Show vapidity to determine the outcome of the election. If you were them, wouldn’t you want that, too? And though it’s not news that establishment media outlets are so easily and happily manipulated by these tactics, tactics which enable them to cover “stories” which their empty-headed reporters can easily comprehend, it is still striking to watch the now-decades-old process unfold and observe how absolutely nothing has changed.

It makes you wonder if ‘truth’ really matters anymore. Marc Fisher at Washington Post goes so far as to wonder if the Boomer ingrained distrust of authority has morphed into something far more ominous: For Working Moms, ‘Flawed’ Palin Is the Perfect Choice:

In this hyperdemocratized society, the national conviction that anyone can succeed is morphing into a belief that experience and knowledge may almost be disqualifying credentials.

Like many at the rally, Victoria Robinson-Worst sees Palin’s lack of experience as an asset. “I know people who have experience who are totally incompetent,” said Robinson-Worst, who lives in Loudoun County, designs wedding flowers and raises two children. “And I know people who have no experience who step in and get it right. I mean, women can do amazing things.”

This is where culture wars, identity politics and self-suffocating academic theories of deconstructionism have led us: Authority is suspect. Experience is corrupting. Ignorance is strength?

Next will be “war is peace.” Or have we already heard that one?

Shades of Nick Carr there huh?

Boing Boing posted about a book that might be the most important must-read of the year (I’m buying this today): True Enough: the science, history and economics of self-deception:

Manjoo makes a good case. He walks through a number of net-based conspiracy theories on both sides of the political spectrum, speaks with their adherents, the experts who claim it’s all bogus, and then to cognitive scientists and other scientists who explain the gigantic gap between what is so obvious to non-partisans and what is blindingly, passionately important to the adherents.

Grounded in history and science, True Enough paints a dismal picture of a species with a limitless capacity for self-deception and selective reasoning. But Manjoo doesn’t ascribe the rise of truthiness to fragmented media alone: he calls out PR firms, media outlets and others who have profited from the erosion of the truth.

Here’s a link: True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society (Hardcover)

So what to do?

As a programmer with a drive to find and share ‘truth’ I have no idea whatsoever. To me, 2+2 will always equal 4. Trusting a sound bite is like criticizing a system’s infrastructure without recognizing the context it was built in. I don’t give a damn what a politician says on the matter. We should all be looking for the big balls of mud that provide us with truth.

But slacktivist has an idea (which I don’t agree with) and that is to fight fire with fire – witness his latest post – John McCain, Friend of NAMBLA.

And a reminder – beware the October surprise: Bush Said to Give Orders Allowing Raids in Pakistan. It’s about time we close the deal, but why did it take seven years?

HonorTags and Citizen Journalism

Jeff Jarvis’s lists the first duty of a news editor in citizen journalism to “Aggregate, organize, and highlight the best of newsroom and citizen media”.

That’s *exactly* what our volunteer editorial team attempts to do at Philly Future. You can be the judge whether we are successful or not. Doing so requires tools and knowledge to use them. The tools we have are evolving, but are not yet where they should be.

One of the evolving tools we have is the practice of self tagging our own writing and photos with terms that make it easy to aggregate them – to pull them together for use. Folksonomies – collections of these collaborative categorizations – and tools that make use of them – are springing up all over the web

If it wasn’t for this practice, we would have had a near impossible time bringing together our regional web’s coverage of Live 8 . Technorati’s Live 8 aggregator, which brought together a tremendous amount of posts that were tagged as relating to Live 8, and Flickr, which had photos tagged as relating to Live 8, helped to identify relevant posts for review to highlight them at Philly Future.

Our Live 8 Philly coverage will continue to grow long after the event – specifically because of Technorati, Flickr and Philly Future’s own aggregator, which has who we consider the best bloggers in our region in it.

Philly Future attempts to be a tool that brings together the best of our regional web. Opinion, news, information, and more. It’s a daunting task for a volunteer effort. One of the issues we face is finding and attempting to discern if someone is posting something that is a factual news item, or an opinion piece. Reading is the ultimate arbitrator of this, but how to locate these posts initially is very difficult and flawed.

Think about it. How did you find *this* post? Probably from your aggregator. Or another blogger. Maybe a blogroll. What if no one linked to me? What if I had posted a quality piece and had no initial audience among those who are already well read? If I was some feed in a larger aggregator – that no one referenced – this post would easily be missed. Part of the din.

Clay Shirky wrote, way back in 2003, a piece that keeps getting overlooked in some places
“Power Laws, Weblogs, and Inequality”. Essentially, you must be linked to from those that are already linked to, in order to garner initial attention and traction. Shelley Powers has wrote extensively on this subject.

I took part in a related discussion at Jeff Jarvis’s site the other day. A great quote from Jeff: “I have to constantly kick myself to stop thinking of blogging in big-media terms, to stop judging it by the top of the power law and in silly lists, to stop assuming that bloggers want to do what media does (emphasis mine – Karl), to stop thinking that blogging has to be media, to stop thinking of blogs as publications and remember that they are people.”

Me too. He’s absolutely right. A tool to help combat that is to know a little about what the intent of a blog post is. What is the author attempting to achieve? Share his opinion? Post a news item? Do some activism? Tags can help here.

Look – we can rely on those that are already well linked to for telling us what is the news. For telling us who to read. For telling us what is important. Or we can search. Search for the new voice. Search for the new perspective.

Let those that are creating their own content tell us their intent.

Tags help us to do just that – help us to know the intent of an author. In Technorati, Flickr, and they help us to filter based upon the author’s choice – not some “authority’s”. This helps a host like me find content that I am looking for.

Still we have a long way to go – this volunteer still needs to read far too much to tell ya the truth. And it’s growing by the day.

That’s why I when I saw Dan Gillmor’s post about his group’s concept to help – HonorTags – I became very intrigued and did some thought. I believe – after the team has some discussion – we will use these within Philly Future to help folks identify – for themselves – what they consider the intent of their own writing. I believe it will help readers – and editors – know whether an author wants them to consider a post in different important ways.

Self-tagging is imperfect, for sure. It can be easily abused. And I don’t pretend to be an expert on the subject. But I welcome any new tools in my belt that can make life easier. I think this can be one.

Google becomes a media company

Google’s new video service, that allows you to upload, share, and sell your own works, sounds like a powerful tool, not only for professional video producers, but for hobbiests, bloggers, and more. Google gets to become a media company with the content produced by users of its service.

As always, there is a discussion at Metafilter worth checking out.

I think folks should be contrasting and comparing this to another video distribution service, but one with vastly different terms of service and copyright requirements.