Blog Action Day
I suppose I should have held the "Solving the Climate Crisis" post for today. Blog Action Day is a world-wide project to get as many blogs as possible to post today, October 15, about the environment. At last count, over 15,000 sites registered to participate -- and that doesn't include the blogs that post about the environment every day anyway.
Blog Action Day is an interesting concept: make the environment a topic of conversation by making it essentially unavoidable for people who read blogs. If it's successful -- and in this kind of effort, success is measured not in practical results, but in levels of participation -- I'd expect to see this become a regular type of event, across a variety of issues.
From a foresight perspective, it's been interesting to watch the evolution of the blog format, and the kinds of roles it has come to dominate. Blogs are attention engines, if you will, serving as filters to promote or diminish a panoply of ideas. If a story, a concept, a meme catches hold, it can spread across thousands upon thousands of weblogs in a matter of a few tens of minutes, and even if the perspectives on the given idea vary dramatically, the important point is that this particular story -- Al Gore winning the Nobel, for example -- is suddenly impossible to avoid. Since blogs function to feed conversations, online and off, there's a good chance that what's buzzing in the blogosphere reflects what's important, for that moment, in connected offline communities. There's obviously a long tail aspect to this; certain ideas may be buzzing in the blogs covering a diversity of subjects, and some may be dominant only within particular sub-categories.
I find the rise of meta-blog events, like Blog Action Day, to be particularly fascinating. These are attempts to manipulate the attention engine, and in doing so, alter the broader, connected conversation. My suspicion is that the impact of this particular Blog Action Day will be hard to see, lost in the glare of the continued discussion of Al Gore's Nobel Peace Prize win -- that is to say, getting people to talk about the environment is not that hard when people are already talking about the environment. That said, a Blog Action Day that tried to raise an unrelated issue -- the monks in Burma, for example -- would almost certainly fail to change the steamrolling conversation already underway. Blog Action Days, and similar memetic engineering efforts, are likely to be most effective when there isn't currently a dominant story being discussed.
We're still in the early days of figuring out how to use this Web thing for good.