Much is being done to present to us a fabricated view of the world for us to live our lives in a compartment in that world. The very technology that was to put the world at our fingertips is now being used in a concerted effort to suppress information from us. Technologies were deliberately removed or degraded to be useless to inform us. In other words we are being driven in reverse on the information superhighway.
Before discussing this something must be said about news content in today’s media. You must have found that the style, meaningfulness, and level of content for some social networks are very low by basic standards of journalism. It is almost as if journalists nowadays are instructed to have two standards: one for the news wires and another for the social networks. This is true also for journalists at established media outlets. Content on the social networks tends to be superficial, does not reveal enough to spark interest, and sometimes is just partial text. The other device used with social networks is that the information might fly before you catch it. If you were not on the network as the information was published you miss it. This is guaranteed by the limits on the entries you can retrieve on your account or on the publisher’s social network page. Only sensational news is discussed or republished enough to come to you. Important information of interest to you gets right by you. The news publisher’s main web page usually has the day’s important news. But what is published and for how long will prove that we get what they want for us and not everything we would want to know.
If you compare world news for different international media outlets you might see very different goals in the news broadcasted. One focuses on news that caters to the undereducated or to those with a taste for weirdness. Another focuses the content on one area of the world. Another might present primarily economic news as world news. Most have access to the same news sources. The difference must be from the news programming goals. The different newswire services might also be used to funnel news to where it is desired. Back in the days when there were one or two wire services a journalist could gain visibility for each news item wired. What happens around the world on a typical day could be categorized as political news, economic news, cataclysms or pandemics, war or conflict, crimes or tragedies, failures in infrastructure, discoveries or technological developments, ‘newsworthy’ examples of exceptional quality human beings. The worldwide media outlets individually or as a whole do not present a comprehensive picture of all that.
Realistically a media outlet cannot cover everything that happened around the world. News items not picked up by a prominent media outlet should still be available on the internet. But deliberate methods are being used to suppress information. One method used is to drive the technology backwards. Real Simple Syndication (RSS) made it possible for anyone to release news content to a worldwide readership. The publisher of an RSS source controlled the lifecycle and amount of content. Media outlets still make use of RSS. But after an enthusiastic start this soon became something they do to keep a presence. One software company who had the power to keep RSS available to everyone discontinued its software. This could be seen a message that information accessibility for the average person is not desired by the powers that be.
Internet users could still search for RSS readers. But they must also research informative, useful, trustworthy RSS sources. Otherwise they might be presented in these readers with pre-selected sources that will give them the illusion of being informed. Also it could be that some readers put limits on the content retrieved from the source. We could get around this by reading the sources directly. RSS sources are usually published in XML format that can be deciphered. But the XML could be automatically formatted with styles for easier reading in the browsers. Most RSS sources omit the styles that would free the user to simply read the source in the browsers.
RSS was designed to make information accessible. But development of that technology was stopped to prevent information access. Someone publishing today must be motivated to continue to use the technology and publish RSS sources. Most people stopped using the RSS readers. Blogging services repurpose it for their own use. But blogs are for different type of content. The usefulness of RSS for blogs is limited and artificial: convenience for sharing blog rolls and for content-sharing with email marketing software. A well thought out design for a blogging service should include basic email marketing features.
The program to prevent information access seems to have dictated a deliberated dumbing down and degradation of search engines. Sometimes the search plainly isn’t done. The search engines become unintelligent and look for strings of text with no effort to give useful results. Here again the development of the technology was stopped or perhaps retrograded to make it useless for information access. Was this a deliberate strategy or are search engines being sabotaged by the dark forces of the world? Only the industry leaders have the answer. There is a concept that was brought into search technology that that interferes with straightforward search intelligence. If they were purported before to bring newly found value, ranking and search engine positioning clearly now get in the way of user-focused searches. But these concepts are now very useful to hide relevant search results behind pages of higher ranked irrelevant entries. Users cannot control relevance or date in their searches. Some search engines and search tools in other products present information with no dates. Publishers also release undated content. There are journalists who have published news articles with no dates. This is used to present old content as news while hiding current information to shape for us a view of the world. With this, if you thought search engines were the on-ramp to the information superhighway, there are long traffic detours now.
Personal web portals and bookmarking software are other technologies that were quashed to thwart information access. We will just make brief comments about bookmarking before describing the fate of personal portals. These were features for users to group pages for easy access. An indication that this technology was held back is that there were no efforts to create portability between browsers or platforms. Over the years bookmark search and grouping have gone backwards, particularly on the mobile platform. This must be from a deliberate program to thwart information access.
Personal portals were a way for people to make everything that is useful to them about the web easily accessible from one place, including news content. Portals gave users control over what information they get from the web to create their own manageable view of it and focus on what is useful to them. RSS technology was integrated into some portals for convenient access information from a variety of sources. Again, one software company got into personal portals seeming to lead and promote the technology only to discontinue the product and lead the world in a different direction.
Gone is the command panel from which to navigate the web. Users view the web in a scatter of sites where they follow, follow, follow information(?) or are followed. The different networks glaringly lack integration beyond the ability to chain accounts together with a logon, and beyond divulging our contacts. They are given the illusion of control since they select who they want on their page, and who and what they follow. But this is only to ingest limited, pre-selected, often meaningless, designed information. Control is taken away from users in very authoritarian ways. Information is presented at them with no structure or categorization and there are no mechanisms for them to fix that. They cannot easily make information stick for subsequent retrieval while maintaining privacy. Also features are very limited compared to what software did in the past. Some software deliberately limit basic features such as search, email, spell-check, save function.
Now that we are being forced to integrate so much from the web into our lives users should be clamoring for a return of portals. But this is not likely to occur. What is beneficial to users is against the interests of the industry. Enabling users to navigate the web from the convenience of their command panel does not bring enough ‘mind-share’. This could be fixed with enough ingenuity. But, as explained before, there are other motives…
Industry leaders if they are unwilling or unable to fix what was done to limit information access could show in small ways that they still have in mind what is good for the user. Each product could focus on what they do best: personal networking, information alerts or notifications, family and friends connections, interests search and sharing, messaging. Integration should be seen as a way to reinforce each product’s strengths to inspire better use of each. Instant messaging could be a very effective area of integration. Users could set options to receive instant notification on their phone for updates on the different networks and mark items for fast retrieval. A return to basics when it comes to software design would also show good faith. Products should be designed for an identified user type, to meet specific use requirements. But now no one finds out what users want and they are told to love what they get.
That effort at being constructive brings us back to reality. Given the agenda of disinformation built into the web, what must we do to regain control while keeping well informed? We are still at the mercy of search engines. But there are ways to regain control. First, we must stay close to the original source of information and avoid the meaningless content designed from it for us to ingest. We must make the effort to retrieve that information, with RSS where available, or by selecting and keeping good source pages. As for the different networks, we must evaluate each product for what use of it best fits our personal goals and stick to that. With this we could make some sense of the web and gain from it some of what decades ago was promised but is now being taken away before it is harnessed: information to enlighten and inform us to extents unseen before in the history of mankind.