Unplugged in the lost world of ancient libraries

by Arnaud HERVE
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Posted to arnaudherve's Blog
I haven't posted here since September 2005, nor participated in discussions. I want to apologize and give an explanation, while developing my new outlook on CMS development.

Last year for reasons of poverty, I had to move to a bungalow in a camping ground, in which I had to spend the winter. Chilling cold, and very tedious to walk from there to take a rare remote suburb bus. Things are getting better now, and I'm in a proper flat downtown. I think maybe the real material life of opensource software contributors should be more often exposed, and realizing who is paid by what or who's not might shed light on a lot of unresolved questions.

However, the important thing is that I spent one year without an Internet connection. I had internet at work, but at work I was... working.

Since I didn't even have tv I got a public libraries card, and started borrowing books. And it is during the first snows that I started to realize how much better was the world of books compared to the Internet. I mean that the contents in books from a small town library are usually more interesting than renounded website about the same subject. I mean that Wikipedia for instance is still ridiculous compared to most vulgarization books in such libraries. I mean that if you really want to learn about something, then it is still better, in 2006, to stay away from Internet and spend the dedicated time on books.

So I had the opportunity to build my own summary of what was worth in Internet. I did that because I belong to a particular generation who saw the personnal computer arriving at the beginning of their university studies, but achieved their PhD before the Internet arrived. In short we were able to do everything without Internet, and we were able to reach an acceptable scientific level without Internet.

It is essential to understand that, when Internet arrived in the faculties, we had our minds already formed by books, and for us it was like the access to a worldwide library, and to free discussions on specialized subjects with intelligent people all over the world. "Internet" at that time was more or less a synonym of "University", and that was prestigious. Being connected meant knowledge.

Then came the commercial Internet, including porn. I mention porn here because I got a job this winter as a network administrator in a secondary education school, and obviously it is the potential access to porn that causes teachers a problem in using the computers equipment of the school. They are enticed to use computers, by the State or their hierarchies, but they fear judicial risks. It's not only porn, it can be teenagers writing obnoxious things and so on. In short, the authorities are still in the mentality of Web = Knowledge = a sort of modern holiness, whereas grassroots teachers have to cope with the reality of the commercial web, and if you ever had to master a class of roaring teenagers, you can understand the computers room can be like a dangerous hell to you.

This is not the only danger of anachronism at all, since we are now in a third wave of the Internet, which some call Web 2.0, and I call the Silly Web. It is characterized by a free expression of egos, without increase of knowledge. Continuing on the teachers' perspective, the new Web is not something you can place on the Good/learning against Evil/dangerous scale, you cannot really say it's bad, you can just say it's something between a trivial amusement and a loss of time.

MSN is an example of the Silly Web. I say MSN and not Chat on purpose, because there is another reality than programming principles and concepts, there is the reality of use by the majority of the population. I mean that as a programmer you can of course stay aloof and ignore real use, but dominant social trends will sooner or later catch you, and if the contents in the wider society are worthless, then your container will also be deemed worthless.

When I was at high school there was a guy who was excellent at maths, and everybody called him "IBM". Why? Because computers meant intelligence, scientific databases, engineering calculus, etc. But now, you see an intelligent guy, would it come to your mind to call him "MSN"? Have a guess what sort of guy you would call "MSN"... I hadn't been in contact with teenagers since my own schooltime, so it was even more spectacular to see them rushing to the computers as the things on which they can play shoot'em all games, and send smileys and whizzes and badly spelled no phrases words to their pals.

Objectively, the average teacher is now tempted to keep his students away from the Internet, in order to force them to learn something, and develop real abilities. What does it mean for CMS programmers? Well personnally I anticipate a catastrophic loss of prestige for the Internet, and this why I developed the concept of "homework", which I am going to expose in my next post.


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by Kozuch, 29 Nov 2006 (22:10 UTC)
Nice post! (:biggrin:)

What about homework ?

by Tochinet, 16 Jun 2010 (13:38 UTC)

That is really refreshing. You're right, the Web 2.0 means "low quality", and that's probably the reason why it can take eyeballs away from TV ;-)

While you were definitely correct 4 years ago, things are even worse now, with people not having to rush to a computer anymore. They use they "dumbphones" to access Facebook and play farmer. While at work, the content I find on the Internet takes more time to search, less time to read, but learns me less interesting things than the two books I borrowed from the local library.

One strange thing : you say you work in a school, and you weren't in contact with teenagers there ?
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