Sunday, November 12, 2006

I'm an Internet pioneer and I didn't even know it


Today I had a chance to be part of a discussion group that included citizen journalist experts Dan Gillmor and Paul Jones. When the group had shrunk down to just Dan, Paul, my husband Michael and myself, Dan and Paul offhandedly mentioned "Web 3.0" and "Firefly" in the context of our discussion about how to use the Web to make free speech count with credibility and authority. I asked them to back up out of jargonland and explain what they were talking about. (The had called it the "Holy Grail" of Internet evolution and that piqued my interest.)

It turns out there was a major article about this in The New York Times this morning, so you can refer to it for details, but the basic idea is that search engines like Google can currently point you to answers, but can't answer questions for you. This is the goal of what is provisionally called Web 3.0 is to "add a layer of meaning on top of the existing Web that would make it less of a catalog and more of a guide" as John Markoff said in the Times.

What's cool is that even thought hadn't followed this development, I have already built my career on this technology. In writing Mojo Mom, I found that Amazon.com is a researcher's best friend. I started buying books on Amazon because as a nonfiction researcher, I needed to buy specialized books that wouldn't be sold in my local bookstore, and in buying so many I had to take advantage of Amazon's discounted prices.

What I found over time as my knowlege base and exploration grew was that Amazon pointed me to the next logical reference for my work. I was determined to make Mojo Mom a very well-researched and referenced book. By browsing and buying works by the authors I knew--Andi Buchanan, Naomi Wolf, Ariel Gore--I found out more about authors who were new to me--Rhona Mahoney, Susan Maushart, Rachel Cusk. This process went on for several years and enjoyed following Amazon threads for hours. The intelligence behind these searches and recommendations is apparently much more sophisticated than the simple "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought..." headers would lead you to believe. Through Amazon's intelligence, the computer became more than just an extra "hard drive" for my brain, it actually opened up new avenues of learning.

I try to go beyond my preconceived ideas as I swim down my Amazon stream of consciousness. I like to look up books that I don't agree with as well to find out what their network of ideas looks like. I read many of these and reference them as appropriate.

Finally, I check up on the heath, well-being and connectivity of Mojo Mom by following my own book's Amazon page. There are connections I would expect, such as Mommy Guilt: Learn To Worry Less, Focus On What Matters Most, And Raise Happier Kids by Julie Bort, Aviva Pflock, and Devra Renner; and The Truth Behind the Mommy Wars: Who Decides What Makes a Good Mother? by Miriam Peskowitz, as well as other connections that are less obvious but equally welcome. Mojo Mom is connected to Elizabeth Edwards' excellent memoir Saving Graces: Finding Solace and Strength from Friends and Strangers and Transforming the Difficult Child by Howard Glasser. Tranforming the Difficult Child is one of my favorite parenting books that I called upon in my own life recently. Now that I see that Mojo Mom readers are drawn to it, I may reach out to Howard Glasser to invite him as a podcast guest. I've already invited Elizabeth Edwards--she's a very busy woman but I am hoping to have her on as well.

My husband Michael has been a leader in Open Source software development for almost 20 years now, so it was especially gratifying to learn that I too am an Internet pioneer in my own way!

1 Comments:

Blogger Devra said...

If our books were people, your book would be our book's long lost sister who got found because we got on the Internet and looked for her!

5:00 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home