In 2004, a group of individuals managed to demonstrate that a set of documents that CBS news anchor Dan Rather claimed had been authenticated were in fact forged. These individuals–the bloggers–were not media professionals; they were normal citizens using the new tools for publishing on the web in order to get the word out. They were dismissed by CBS executive Jonathan Klein as each being just “a guy sitting in his living room in his pajamas writing.”
It wasn’t the stakes of the specific documents that was at issue–some frivolous controversy about whether or not then-president Bush had received preferential treatment when he was in the National Guard. What was really interesting about the event was that the once silent audience of mass media was talking back. In the past, if the typical private citizen noticed an error in a public story, they had no means for pointing it out beyond their circle of acquaintances. The web and the applications built on top of it–like blogs–made it possible for people to join the public conversation without going through the filter of media professionals for the first time.
It was that aspect that excited the imagination of one 19-year-old GMU history student, and inspired him to start a blog of his own. One of the big blogs he was paying attention to at the time was Instapundit, so he decided that his blog would have the -pundit at the end, even though he was only vaguely aware of what a pundit actually was. He had been reading about the philosopher Protagoras, one of the Greek sophists, so he decided that the blog would be named Sophistpundit, and realized almost immediately how pretentious that sounded. That didn’t stop him from keeping it.
Four years later, when thinking about how it would be nice to have a place to point potential employers that didn’t include the profanity and melodrama of a 19-year-old, he started a second blog, Cloud Culture, to talk specifically about matters of media and technology. It also had the advantage of having a far less pretentious title.
It has now been about seven years since I started Sophistpundit, and three years since I started Cloud Culture. A lot has changed in that time in my personal and professional life, to say nothing of the web and media. It makes less and less sense to have blogs branded with their own names, and even less sense to continue keeping them separate. I blog in part because I love to think through writing, and to engage in public conversation, but also because I am trying to build up my name. I have no interest in Cloud Culture or Sophistpundit becoming a household name or moderately well known. If I’m promoting something, I’d like to be promoting me, my name.
When I started Sophistpundit, the blog was still the most prominent unit of social media. It was not just a place to write posts, but also to share interesting links, pictures, and videos. These days, we have Facebook and Twitter and their competitors to give us common places for social sharing. Increasingly, my blogs transitioned from places I dropped multiple small updates on a daily basis, to places where I posted long form writing every week, or every other week.
This site will serve as the new home for that kind of content, as well as my personally tailored public profile.