Last weekend was the lunar new year holiday in China and Hong Kong, so I spent four days in Beijing with my wife and several of her family members. Autumn is the best time of the year in Beijing. The weather is mild and the winds favourable, such that the ever-present pollution which haunts the Beijing skyline is less notable. Beijing continues to grow and thrive at an amazing rate, and the energy there is quite noticeably different from Hong Kong's. The pace of life is slower up north, and the sense of optimism is much greater. Despite the greater freedoms that Hong Kongers enjoy, their city retains a more pessimistic and even oppressed air than it's northern cousin.
I've had a chance to do quite a bit of reading over the past few weeks. I have posted less on the blog, and this will probably be the case here on in. Personally, I think as a blogger it's crucial to focus on topics and issues that are important and helpful to readers in the long-term. The temptation with blogs and social media is to go for the simple, the crass and the popular. That's not what I want to do with this blog. My goal is to make posts relevant and interesting long after they are written, not just for five minutes. So you won't see me writing about Brad and Angelina's latest tiff, or George Clooney's new girlfriend. There's plenty of blogs where you can read such stuff.
One book I have been reading really made me reflect on this issue. It's Eli Pariser's The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding From You. It details how the media, both online and elsewhere, is becoming increasingly automated to present to you the information and stories that it "thinks" you want to hear. Almost every click you make on a web site sends information to someone. That someone is most likely an automated system that crunches your data and then custom-tailors the 'reality' you will be fed in the future. For example, in 2009 Google automated their search engines to present each individual with results which are specific to the searcher. Two different searchers searching for the same concept will get two different batches of results, in terms of the links that will show up.
The danger is that media is increasingly becoming molded according to the lowest common denominator, both for you as an individual, and for society as a whole. Many news services now closely monitor how many 'hits' a story has and channel news in that direction. Some even create stories after examining the "tending now" sections at Google or other sites. Pariser argues that the internet's promise of greater democritisation of information is disappearing. It's merely that the power is changing hands from big media/news organisations to the new boys on the block: Google, Facebook, Amazon and so on.
I will write more about this soon. All I want to say here I that reading The Filter Bubble has made me realise that, as a blogger, how vital it is to maintain a focus upon what I feel is important, not merely what I believe will "sell."
Another book I have just read is Daniel Domscheit-Berg's Inside WikiLeaks. The author was formerly a WikiLeak's spokesman, but had a severe falling out with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. I found the book fascinating, and it reflects many of the issues which I previously wrote about in regard to WikiLeaks, radical transparency, and Julian Assange. My next blog post will be an intuitive review of the book.
See you then!