Hit and Miss — One of Each

Canada scored a pick and a pan in this month’s Current Cites. The redoubtable Roy Tennant gave a talk and a glowing review to the Capitalize on Access Conference 2006 that just took place at the University of Ottawa. For the non-librarians among us, Capitalize on Access is the big library and technology conference of the year. RT says:

Always a good time, it has recently been discovered by library technologists south of the border to be a don’t miss event. Thus it is a fruitful and interesting cross-fertilization between the latest developments in Canada and the U.S., as well as Europe and points more distant. This year was no different, and the presentations and podcasts available here are testimony to the fact.

The conference stuff — PowerPoint decks, audio files — is rated TTA (“take a techie along”), so find a friend who’s even geekier than you and look and listen together.

The pan is for: “Pornography, gambling, lies, theft and terrorism: The Internet sucks” by Steve Maich, in Macleans, October 30 2006. Current Cites’ Shirl Kennedy says:

I’m not sure whether this article was intended to be ironic or not. I’m sure there are people who feel this way. It certainly does go on, and it includes a number of…rather sweeping and/or eccentric statements, which all revolve around the main idea — “Let’s put this in terms crude enough for all cyber-dwellers to grasp. The Internet sucks.” And so, by extension, do those of us who use it and find value in it. Some of the pronouncements here are just plain weird, and if you don’t want to waste the time reading it yourself, I’m providing some excerpts…

…of which she gives some 10 or so in one of the longest CC reviews I’ve ever seen. I’ll only treat you to one:

Just like America’s favourite little blue pill, the Internet produced in business a rush of extreme excitement, which temporarily interfered with normal brain function.


  1. My gosh, that Maich article just goes on and on with regard to negative aspects of the Internet. Except for the very last line, my feeling was it was just a very disillusioned, cynical person with a rant.

    This passage mid-stream is telling, I think:

    “Rather than promoting open discussion and greater understanding, the Net has fed the cynical perception that every form of traditional authority is based on lies and corruption. The much-hyped free market of ideas is a world in which the loudest and most outrageous assertion dominates the discussion. Everybody believes they are being oppressed by those opposed to them. The truth is what you already think it is, and nobody can be trusted.”

    I think he is trying to be one of those with the “loudest most outrageous assertion” with this article. The web is just a reflection of society. The ease of communication has, indeed, brought out some of the negative aspects of society we might not have seen had we been more individually isolated; however, it has also brought out some of the positive aspects as well.

    I’m wondering if any of us could put together a comparable response with positive discussion? For me, the web has been about interaction with others I would not have previously met, and building of communities where they would not have existed. I have been using social software (chat, conferencing, and email) before the Internet existed. In my opinion it has just gotten better and better. Here are some of the great things I get from the web:

    – more frequent communication with my immediate family
    – more connectedness with colleagues across the country (and in some cases, around the world)
    – becoming acquainted with colleagues from around the world
    – finding people who have similar experiences for the purpose of mutual moral support
    – sharing photos with a lot more people (before digital cameras I did not take photographs since it was too expensive)
    – distance learning via the web (courses)
    – learning about subjects of interest in more depth, especially from papers by others
    – learning from conferences I was unable to attend in person (through papers posted, blog posts, conference wikis, and photos on Flickr)
    – more readily available consumer information
    – more readily available government information
    – learning more about basic health issues
    – more creative cooking since I have more access to recipes
    – feeling more connected to my favourite musical groups/musicians since they now have extensive websites, email notification services, and blogs
    – better organization of the various groups I belong to

    Whew! I’m sure there are a lot more. 8-)

  2. My gosh, that comment just goes on and on.

  3. It struck me as Ken Whyte having commissioned a curmudgeon piece. It was a bit like Auberon or Evelyn Waugh without the jokes and the glorious style.
    Another reason why Macleans sits unread on our radiator.

  4. I dunno, I kinda liked the curmudgeon piece (of course I have a copy of the portable curmudgeon on my bookshelf too and I also read it at 1:30 am in a hospital waiting room). I don’t necessarily agree with most of the assertions but it was interesting to see someone take the position. I think one thing that can be taken from it, is that the Internet hasn’t exactly been what anyone thought it would be (d-uh). And there is truth to the assertion that a LOT of $ has been lost on the Internet.

    Because the Portable Curmudgeon has not been updated to include the Internet I’ll leave you with one for that other great invention of the past 100 years, the TV, but also applicable to the Internet: “Television is the first truly democratic culture- the first culture available to everybody and entirely governed by what the people want. The most terrifying thing is what the people want” – Clive Barnes