Take a look at this, then read the blog.
In a recent conversation, I was discussing how the internet has given anyone the ability to broadcast their ideas/message. On the whole, I saw it as a good thing. The 'blogosphere' is full of interesting articles and opinions on things that interest me. I directly work in the software industry, therefore the majority of posts are relevant. Those related to software itself; development and ethics - but also the ability for non-tech minded people to produce and utilise software/internet to get their message across.
Whilst for academic level writings there is an argument that information should be 'peer-reviewed' before being published - with the internet there is very rarely self-critical analysis before something gets published. I know I rarely read through a post more that once after it has been typed. So what effect does that have on information?
Many, if not all of the lecturers that I knew at University were adamant that searching for information on the internet was a bad idea. Groups on facebook like "I'm going to Wikipedia my degree" probably didn't help with their perception of the value of the internet. We were forced into using Library and Archive information that could be accredited to 'respectable' institutions.
Whilst this may make it easier for the lecturers to qualify the references when looking through the bibliography, it massively undermines the value of the internet. There's so much noise out there that I think it can provide an inspiration. We're all from massively different backgrounds with so many differences and similarities that there's a mine of experience to tap. It's often the case that academics sometimes have to look outside their 'circle' of expertise in order to answer certain questions. Fermat's last theorem was only solved through incorporating what was seen as a completely unrelated method into the solution. This is where the magic on the internet can really have tangible effects.
As educated lay people, many of us read into obscure subjects at a very shallow level. For example, whilst never being capable of solving Fermat's last theorem myself, it was interesting to read Simon Singh's book on the topic. I hold a degree in Psychology and Business; yet work in the realms of Free/Libre Open Source Software. They're hardly what one would call a 'standard' set of experiences. Yet there's so many more dimensions to my personal experiences. The power of them relies in linking them.
Thinkers and do-ers.
It's about time now that I realised that I'm not going to solve World Hunger, or attain World Peace and disarmament and make the world a better place. I'm not likely to come up with an idea that'll make the happen. I'm also not going to create a search algorithm to match that of Google - or achieve something major on the internet in a sector that hasn't even been conceived yet. However, I have the power to link people - to make people talk and bring ideas together. I have the ability to make friends with people and get them talking. I have the ability to critically evaluate other people's ideas and make them better.
So then, you may not hear of "Andy Loughran" as some genius that has just released a new software package, or solved massive social issues. But I'll carry on doing my little bit and hoping that lady luck finds me in the right place sometime in the future.