% fortune -ae paul murphy

The uncouth vocal utterance of the people

While it's obviously dangerous to read too much into a musical comedy skit, I like to think of Anna Russell's backwards to the Folksong as a searing indictment of the folies of punditry. She discredits the Britannica's (Eleventh Edition?) supercilious definition of folk singing for my title here, and goes on the point out that folk songs mediated by experts usually sound as if they're just about to get to a tune, but are never quite gauche enough to get there.

For me the talkbacks are the best thing about this whole blogging business -even though reading the comments often makes me wish I could go back and rewrite the blog so maybe it would, actually, finally, really, get to a tune.

Among frequent commenters, for example, I almost always agree with Roger Ramjet - at least at the reflexive, "yeah, me too" level. In contrast I don't generally start out agreeing with the arguments put forward by Yagotta B. Kidding, Anton Phildor, or Richard Flude -but they all make me think, they have a regretable tendency to be right, and I'd be happy to meet any of them in real life.

There are lots of other talkback contributers whose signature means that the comment will be worth reading -Micheal, Jorwell, and Hugh Jass, for example, come to mind.

And then there's Carl Rapson. He's an infrequent contributor but more than once he's said stuff I wish I'd said and he's sometimes gotten a lot closer to a real tune than I do too. My July 15th blog entry, for example, quoted the introduction to a paper on the Social Implications of Accessible Computing by E. David, Jr. and R. M. Fano. Here's Rapson's comment, starting with a quotation from the quotation.

"Technical means are now available for bringing computing and information service within easy reach of every individual in a community. What will be the effect on our society?"

One effect is already being seen - people seem to be thinking less for themselves. With the plethora of web sites on the Internet, and now with the advent of blogs and RSS feeds, it's easy for anyone with any particular viewpoint to find others that hold the same viewpoint. And for some reason, many people seem to believe that seeing it on a web site or in a blog makes it true. We seem to be losing the ability to reason, to recognize fact as opposed to opinion, and to consider alternate viewpoints. The ease of finding those that agree with us seems to be making us less willing to listen to those who don't agree with us.

Far from equalizing knowledge, the Internet seems to be balkanizing the human race even more.

I think that's a legitimate concern - and it isn't that many of of us haven't already thought this, it's that he said in a way that both crystalizes the issue and illustrates why the talkback section is often the most valuable thing about this blog.

Paul Murphy wrote and published The Unix Guide to Defenestration. Murphy is a 25-year veteran of the I.T. consulting industry, specializing in Unix and Unix-related management issues.