Lee Gomes (WSJ) writes about the riches that the Net has given us:
The Net’s biggest riches, though, involve the spread of information, or at least, of facts. Who played the sheriff in that movie? Which one was Pathfinder? How do I fix my dishwasher?
All just a few clicks away. It is hard to remember what the life of a fact-gatherer was like before browsers.
The Web is getting better with ideas, too. Should America go to war with Iraq? You can follow the debate online from just about any point of view: political, national, religious or other.
Newspapers with online versions are one way. Another are weblogs, the running online journals that are one of the few “hot” parts of the online world right now. Blog start-ups are being bought up by bigger Web companies, which are betting that lots of people will be willing to pay $10 or $20 a month to be able to publish their daily thoughts on Saddam Hussein, Bill Gates or Justin Timberlake.
This boon in information has its risks. Ultimately, all we might be getting from the Web is shorter attention spans, clicking from one topic to the next. And there is the chance that in an age of blogs, political discourse will grow even more hyberbolic and overheated, as folks try to stake out differentiated positions in an increasingly crowded marketplace of ideas.
The Net’s information and ideas flow is perhaps the best thing to have happened – especially for those among us who live outside “tech hubs”. The Net (and especially now, the blogs) are almost as good as being there, as one can follow various conversations from thousands of miles away. Better still, a blog lets you become a participant in these conversations, helping enrich your own knowledge and share it with others.