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Friday, December 09, 2005

Objectivity versus Caring and Blogging

This discussion of a review of Joanne Jacobs' new book Our School is interesting. One point in particular: Drum clearly wants a more "objective" observer, as opposed to Jacobs, who is closely associated with the Downtown College Academy (DCA) project and supports charter-schools in general. This brings up an ongoing question about "objectivity" versus "depth and caring", and is why I like to read opinionated blogs versus more "objective" sources. Jacobs obviously cares about DCA in a personal way, and this caring lies behind her motivation to write a book about it. In addition to the care brought by an "insider", she also has lots of information that an objective outsider would have a hard time finding.

Finding an objective observer who cared enough to do the legwork and such to write a book would have been difficult to impossible. I find this with blogs as well: a soldier blogging from Iraq cares far more about the subject matter than a typical reporter, who would cover this story as a "story" and not as a personal mission. This will obviously slant his blog reports, but it will also mean that a vast store of knowledge and passion is brought to the subject matter that simply can't exist for someone who will move on to another story at the end of the day.

Similarly for other subject-matter blogs: you want detailed opinions about legal matters of the day, ask lawyers, not journalists, who will themselves talk to lawyers and report their findings to you as secondhand information. The same holds true for just about every field. Maybe the writing will be rougher, and you will get strong opinions versus "objectivity". But if you read three or four blogs on a particular topic - particularly if they are on different sides of the topic - you'll know far more than about the topic than you would if you went to most journalistic reports.

Not to sound geeky, but this is a real-life manifestation of the "abstraction pyramid" problem that occurs in big software projects. The more layers between the data and the user of the data (which may be another computer program in this context), the more "cooked" the data will be - and the less useful it will be.

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