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Friday, February 25, 2005

"Revenge of the Blog People" 

"This ad hominem attack has all the charm and flair of a college student engaging in his first Usenet flame war in 1983."

Ouch.

(Hat tip: FrazzleDad, or Rob's comment on FrazzleDad's post, via Instapundit.)

The ad hominem attack in question can be found here, in a piece by Michael Gorman, President of the American Library Association.

I'll just make one comment here, if I may. Echoing others, it's clear that Gorman is a very poor Google user.

My piece had the temerity to question the usefulness of Google digitizing millions of books and making bits of them available via its notoriously inefficient search engine. The Google phenomenon is a wonderfully modern manifestation of the triumph of hope and boosterism over reality. Hailed as the ultimate example of information retrieval, Google is, in fact, the device that gives you thousands of "hits" (which may or may not be relevant) in no very useful order.
Well now. "Notoriously inefficient?" Raise your hand if you've ever heard a living soul (besides your parents and grandparents) complain about having a hard time locating something on Google.

Just yesterday, I answered a question for someone that would have been virtually impossible pre-Google. I certainly wouldn't have found the answer at a library without spending many hours digging through books and stumbling upon it by chance. It took me a couple minutes to Google it, since I had to refine my search a couple of times. In fact, in light of Gorman's piece, I'm tempted to ask that question at a library to see what happens.

The question: "This African-American was the first to fight in the civil war (1861) whose true racial identity was not known until his death nearly a year later (1862)."

Answer here if you're curious.

Beyond quick access to facts like that one, I would have given my right arm to have had Google when I was in college, researching political science papers. Lexis was useful, but when it comes to academic papers, I can often find their pdf versions instantly through Google. In a traditional library setting, I would be lucky to ever learn of their existence, let alone obtain a copy to read in under a minute.

And getting back to Gorman's assault on bloggers, I wonder if he realizes that they are the ultimate primary source, available to anyone with a web browser. You don't need a reporter to interview the man on the street any more. From Baghdad to Tehran to Kiev, the man on the street is publishing directly.
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