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Bruce Sterling gives blogs 10 years to live
Engage life support
SXSW Science fiction writer and professional pundit Bruce Sterling has cracked bloggers with the extinction stick, saying the plebs will crawl back into their ooze by 2017.
"There are 55 million blogs and some of them have got to be good," Sterling said, during a speech here at the SXSW conference in reference to the slogan on blog search site technorati.com. "Well, no, actually. They don't."
"I don't think there will be that many of them around in 10 years. I think they are a passing thing."
The great blog nation seemed unthreatened by Sterling's comments, as they giggled away at his tone and language. Such satisfaction struck us odd given that most of the SXSW panels touched on blogging in one way or another and around 80 per cent of the attendees claimed to run a blog.
The technology portion of the SXSW music and movie festival has been overrun by the easily impressed and gullible. A fine example of this comes from the constant obsession with Twitter at the show – an application that lets you tell the world when you've taken a pee or made a cup of coffee. "Packing for San Jose," Bwana writes, as we pen this story, while AlunR brags, "Wearing my twitter shirt."
"It's like watching you get beaten to death with croutons," Sterling remarked about the daily diary/moment diary fads of blogs and Twitter.
Sterling has serious concerns about the technology world's obsession with blogging and group think projects such as Wikipedia. He sees the technology emanating from a "a new world of laptop gypsies".
"You are never going to see a painting by committee that is a great painting," he said.
The gypsy idea plays on Sterling's notion that blogging and so-called community driven projects aren't really new at all. They're emerging from something close to tribal instincts of man passing down stories in an unregulated fashion outside of the mainstream.
"It is really pretty old," he said. "It has just never been put into mass scale production. I don't call it a good thing. I think it's just a new thing."
Still, Sterling sees this "commons-based peer production" as the "third world" of current economic development, following the first world of global markets and his second world that consists of all forms of governance.
(Yale professor Yochai Benkler came up with the "commons-based peer production" idea to describe projects where people are willing to work on large scale projects outside of standard compensation and organisation models.)
Make of that what you will.
Along with blogs, Sterling proved concrete on his feelings about mashups where you can combine songs together.
"People on the internet like to pretend this stuff is unbelievably great," he said. "Nobody is going to listen to mashups in another 10 years. They are novelty music.
"Just because it is new and people with laptops can do it and get away with it does not make it an advance."
Beyond bashing blogs and mashups, Sterling's commentary proved quite vague. He's not thrilled with technology fads, but thinks technology is shaking up the traditional business world. Time and again he stated that jobs which were once good enough to put your kids through college have disappeared as a result of the internet and pointed to Craigslist's rampage through newspaper classified sections as a prime example.
And, while the rise of the web has given us 55 million blogs, Sterling insisted that the US charges after more bandwidth by taking wireless spectrum from the cold, dead hands of television broadcasters and handing it to organisations willing to saturate cities with high-speed wireless services.
Sterling's admitted "rant" proved one of the most popular sessions at SXSW and closed out the "interactive" portion of the event. We were shocked to see hundreds of bloggers turn up for a berating, but get the feeling they're an S&M-type set. ®