Barnett on the Tipping Point of Blogging

Dr. Tom Barnett had an excellent WPR column on the cognitive value that blogging has had for him:

The New Rules: Strategic Thinking in 10,000 Blog Posts or Less

In the last half-decade, blogs have gone from a quirky personal sideline activity to a mainstream, almost de rigeur professional activity — following the previous trajectory of Web sites and, before them, e-mail itself. To many, this democratization of the flow of information is a distinct blessing, to others it is the epitome of data deluge. As someone who has now posted blog entries every day for six years and recently passed the 10,000-unit mark (fulfilling Malcolm Gladwell’s quota for expert practice), I wanted to take stock of what this has meant to me as a writer and thinker

….Old-timer that I am at 47 years of age, I still read many of these sources via paper subscriptions, but that habit is slipping with each passing year and each new technology. In fact, what originally attracted me to online posting was the ease it offered in terms of maintaining the resulting database, compared to the hassle of physically clipping and filing MSM articles of interest, as I did during my pre-blogging days. With the blog, I can now attach my first-impression analysis to the formal citation, with both hot-linked to the full article and stored in a content management system — the blog — that I can instantly access and search from anywhere in the world.

In this sense, generating and maintaining the blog magnificently expanded my professional “RAM,” or random-access memory storage capacity. Without that upgrade, I simply couldn’t write or think at the level I do today, nor could I cover as much of the world or so many domains. Without that reach, I couldn’t be much of an expert on globalization, which in turn would seriously curtail my ambitions as a grand strategist — because nowadays, strategic thinking requires a whole lot more breadth than merely mastering the security realm. To be credible and sustainable in this complex age, grand strategy requires a stunning breadth of vision when judged by historical standards. So as far as this one-armed paperhanger is concerned — no blog, no grand strategist.

And I have to tell you, just making that admission in 2010 stuns me. But without the blog’s organizing and storage capabilities, I’d be reduced to a parody of “A Beautiful Mind”: tacking news clippings on walls and feverishly drawing lines between them, desperately seeking patterns but constantly falling behind the data tsunami. The blog thus prevents the early onset of what I call “strategic Alzheimer’s,” which is what happens when a strategist’s growing inability to process today’s vast complexity provokes a sad retreat into the past and an overdue reliance of history-is-repeating-itself arguments. But if a strategist no longer “gets it,” it’s because they’ve stopped trying to “see it.” The blogging “lens” corrects their vision’s lack of acuity.

But my blog is also my daily workspace, and I share it with strangers — for free, mind you — because I want to pass on this largely lost skill set of strategic thinking to others. I especially hope to reach the next generation of grand strategists, who would otherwise have to rely primarily on op-ed columnists’ flavor-of-the-news-cycle habits, with new “Manhattan Projects” proposed and “Marshall Plans” demanded every other month. Consider it a one-to-many offer of virtual internship.

Read the whole column here.

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