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September 11, 2005

Consider the following quotations from a recent magazine article:

"We have entered the era of the amateurs."

"The network is now self-organized from the bottom up and is very decentralized. With local initiative and flexibility, it's very robust."

"Spontaneous groups of friends... who have few links to any central leadership, are generating sometimes very [effective results], notwithstanding their frequent errors and poor training."

More rhetoric from social media hucksters, right? More boosterism about "citizen journalism"? Guess again -- the topic at hand is al-Qaeda in 2005.

Frightening as this idea may be -- that the qualities of distributed social organization so widely championed among tech industry observers are currently being employed to kill innocent people -- it's not even the most terrifying insight to be found in the piece.

<=> | September 11, 2005


Throughout history we've seen highly motivated individuals leverage all manner of means to promote their cause. The points in your blog indicate that we have had a demonstration of this through the actions of al-Qaeda.

In many ways the fact that new methods and resources have been used in these ways validates the new methods. This validation in no way diminishes the impact that the actions will have had on those targeted.

Just as in the battlefields of Scotland, new techniques dramatically change all future approaches to achieving an outcome.

The challenge to the enablers of these options is to adjust to the new potential not try to adapt the old context with new methods.

In 16 years of publishing online I've noticed that the old context has taken over by mass and the new options are seldom explored.

The challenge for those enlightened by new potential is to engender change amongst the masses, change that propels everyone foreword and closes the gap between the newly empowered citizens and the 'soon to be outmoded' citizens.

Posted by: Mark Bergin | Sep 13, 2005 2:40:41 PM

Using new technology to kill people is nothing new. Using new technology to disseminate the ideas of religious zealots is nothing new. But perhaps the medium also influences the messenger. A web browser isn't like a walkie-talkie - your potential conversation partners are not limited to the select few sharing a channel. Individuals who take advantage of this feature to ferret out like-minded zealots from amongst the riff-raff cannot help but realize that they - not the world - are the ones imposing the limitations on who they speak to and when. Perhaps, in some small way, this dampens their inner fire?

Posted by: garrett birkel | Sep 14, 2005 2:38:29 AM

Yet another off topic post, sorry:

Why is the president taking responsibility now?

What else is in the news cycle that they are trying to draw attention away from? A few days ago, there were dramatically increased flybys of military jets overhead... which usually foreshadows some new attack on foreign soil... but where, what? I, for one, don't know if I really WANT to know what's really going on...

Posted by: catmistake | Sep 14, 2005 4:04:10 AM

Well, what do you think "the revolution" means, Jesse? We're not trying to build Web 2.0 to replicate a top-down, controlling, bureaucratic system which couldn't respond to a category 5 hurricane with more than enough notice.

Guns don't kill people, people kill people. Al Queda is taking distributed social organization and using it to advance their cause (albeit in a completely inhumane way). Now with great power, comes great responsibility. What are we, Generation X, planning on doing with it? Hopefully it doesn't end with sharing photos and bookmarks.

Posted by: sean | Sep 16, 2005 2:25:40 AM

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