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November 27, 2008

What Would "Bloggers" Twain and Franklin Think of the Web?

By Martha Rosenberg

When Ben Franklin advised Americans to, "Be civil to all; sociable to many; familiar with a few; friend to one; enemy to none," over 200 years ago he clearly was not anticipating the Web.


When Ben Franklin advised Americans to, "Be civil to all; sociable to many; familiar with a few; friend to one; enemy to none," over 200 years ago he clearly was not anticipating the Web.

But when Mark Twain warned against "modern inconveniences" he clearly was.

What would the nation's first bloggers have made of spam?

Would they open "Make Your Girlfriend Scream and Holler"?

Answer the dying woman in Nigeria who wants to leave them her inheritance?

Contact the Chancellor of the Exchequer of Great Britain with a check for a million dollars?

Would they have fallen for "Your Email Has Won," spam or--an even bigger stretch--"Buy A Home With No Money Down"? (see: current recession)

Would they have considered hypertexted content that tells readers a pear is "a pale green pome fruit," after they read "a pear shaped design"--useful? Or an insult to the intelligence?

Would Franklin and Twain have had the patience to stare at the speed bumps before the content they were seeking known as "welcome screens?

How many times would they honor "required field missing" when buying a new quill pen online and return to the original order before questioning the authority of the pseudo human shopping wizard?

Would their inventive minds have tolerated a technology that can reject illegal and maxed credit cards in five seconds but not glean the state someone lives in?

Forcing someone to scroll through all the US states and territories for two letters?

What would the early democracy advocates have thought of the stereotyping known as Web profiling?

The unsolicited newsletters that arrive from ski trip packagers because you bought running shoes?


Two years ago?

And the sellers of male enhancement drugs who pepper your mailbox daily because you explored--didn't even buy--getting your allergy pills over the Web?

And don't forget Amazon offering you books on toxic guilt because you searched for "Shane A Dog" but mistyped one letter?

And the "profiling" from so called friends who think you'd enjoy the blog and video links they send--not to mention photos of their nephews and new car?

Nice hobby, sending cyber minutia, if you don't have to work 50 hours a week.

What would Franklin and Twain have thought of "libraries" that make you divulge your name, address and other personal data--Register Now; It's Free--before you can read the information you're interested in?

Only to get advertisements for the next year for your one moment of lapsed anonymity?

What would Franklin and Twain have thought of the Web's literary democracy, or electronic town hall, in which people who differ with a posted article say--by way of disagreement--"blow it out your ass," "right here Buddy," and %$#*^ in Post hoc attacks, pun intended?

Finally, what would men who probably burned their fingers with candle wax reading late into the night have made of the Web's singular two paragraph "stories"?

Which make you click to a new page to read the second paragraph--if you still have the stamina and your lips aren't tired?

What would they think of a cyber wizard asking them after the two paragraphs, "Was this story useful"?

"How would you rate this story?"

And "Would you recommend this story to others?"

Would Twain say the same thing about reading "content" on the Web he did about telling the truth?

The main advantage is you don't have to remember anything?

Submitters Bio:

Martha Rosenberg is an award-winning investigative public health reporter who covers the food, drug and gun industries. Her first book, Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health, is distributed by Random House. Rosenberg has appeared on CSPAN and NPR and lectured at medical schools and at the Mid-Manhattan Public Library.