The blogosphere has a lot in common with the atmosphere.
In meteorology you learn early that the “atmosphere” has many “spheres.” There’s the troposphere (down here at street level where most of the weather happens – the storms and floods and tornadoes), and the stratosphere (just above), and the mesosphere (above that), and then, going further out, the ionosphere and the thermosphere – and even an exosphere. Do you do space weather? Then there’s also the magnetosphere.
We all know that the air gets more rarefied the higher up you go. So here’s a pointy-headed factoid for you. The little molecules that crowd the air down here, ten million trillion to each thimbleful? They collide with each other 5 billion times each second! Now that’s social networking.
But a few hundred miles above us – way out there, in the exosphere-magnetosphere – molecules are lonely. Between rare collisions, they go in ballistic trajectories, under the influence of the Earth’s gravity – just like a projectile fired from a cannon. And it’s also dangerous for those molecules. There’s lots of ionizing radiation from the sun! If one of those energetic photons hits our molecule and strips it of some electrons, then that molecule starts spiraling around the magnetic field lines.
The blogosphere has a similar substructure. There’s the happening blogosphere, which is densely populated, highly interconnected, and lively – the subject of much discussion, and widely held by social scientists to be transforming the way seven billion people live and work.
Then there are the outer fringes of the blogosphere. The feel there is a little different, isn’t it? The pace is slower. The experience can be a little lonely, and sometimes not entirely safe – in the extreme, not much different from those post-Apocalyptic movies that sometimes come out. Think The Book of Eli. Person-to-person encounters are not only less frequent, but there are also a lot of spammers and pfishers out there, masquerading as readers.
To compensate, many of us, in this socially-connected world, mimic the flocking behavior of birds (more details here). We try to fly toward the center of the flock – to spend time in that sweet spot at the lively core of the group.
Suddenly LivingontheRealWorld lit up. Thanks to the Capital Weather Gang, LivingontheRealWorld had moved a little closer to the interactive center of the blogosphere. And it’s still remaining active, 24-hours later. The CWG reference was to a post on the Louisiana flooding. And it triggered a bunch of comments. The shocker? People weren’t standing in line to compliment me. There was criticism. Well-deserved criticism. Thoughtful. Constructive. Hearing from everyone taught me a lot, and if some of you had a chance to read those comments, you had an additional learning opportunity as well. Good for everyone.
But there’s more. One of the comments came from Eddy Weiss, founder of a group called Chasing4Life, which does education, research, and consulting on disaster preparedness and response. He and his folks are based in Nebraska but go all over the country speaking to groups on this subject, trying to save one community at a time. All this from a guy who started out as a volunteer firefighter and found his passion. Got a pingback as well from Andrew Viertel, who blogs at “Great” Thoughts.” So, I got to meet some new people. Great people. Thank you, Capital Weather Gang. You have no shortage of claims on your time. But in the course of covering your story, you had a positive impact on the community around us as well.
We’ve faced a rough-and-tumble winter and spring here in the United States, with major snowstorms hitting the Northeast, tornado outbreaks through the south central and southeastern states, and now flooding on the lower Mississippi. Today’s Washington Post — a single issue – highlights the outlook for further flooding, with threats to levees and floodwalls; showcases the need for more international collaboration on cyber-security; cites the need for the U.S. to invest $2 trillion to replace deteriorating infrastructure; and bewails delays in EPA regulations for polluting boilers and incinerators. All this while the country is hitting the debt ceiling, world and national leaders are ensnared and distracted by personal problems and scandal; and disagreement grows more shrill.
A lot of challenges to work on! [And we haven’t even gotten to world peace.] But behind each of these stories, where you and I can’t see them so readily, there are myriad individuals and small groups like the Capital Weather Gang, Eddy Weiss and Chasing 4Life working the problems, collaborating, innovating. Chances are good that right where you are, you’re involved in dozens of collaborative actions like this yourself. Stay involved! Don’t give up! We should all pitch in. And we should all like the odds.
That’s why colloquy is better than soliloquy.