The Terrible Rolling Tide Of English

Whenever I hear the inimitable Stephen Fry talk there’s usually a cord struck deep within. This brief talk about the Irish language and Ros na Rún to The Phil, (December 7th, 2010) is no exception.

“One can’t deny the terrible rolling tide of English”

Is English (or Chinese) destined to become the universal “common” or “basic” language imagined in so many sci-fi and fantasy novels? If these languages are destined to be so, should we be teaching our children Chinese in order to make sure they are prepared for doing business in the next 20 years?

As the world becomes more online centric, and international trade becomes a mundane everyday experience for even the smallest of vendors, I find myself wondering if when my son arrives the right thing to do for his future would be to have him learn Chinese as a second language?

After he’s mastered Chinese he can then learn some of the more esoteric and aesthetically pleasing spoken languages if he is so inclined.

While Irish is a beautiful language to me and I’m very proud of my heritage, the most practical application I’ve had for it since leaving school was the ability to understand commands in the military and hold conversations that I didn’t wish to be overheard while abroad.

You know the kind of conversations I’m talking about. There’s the ones you usually have in very hushed tones about someone being a complete prick, or a terrible waiter, but when you do it in a language that not many other people speak (comparatively) you can do it without resorting to looking like you’re trying to discussing cleaning the puss from your genital herpes in a room full of parrot like five-year-olds.

It was the same with German and Danish. I spent 7 years in Denmark, yet almost every time I opened my mouth to talk in Danish people wanted to practice and speak in English to me. It actually came to the point that I would ask please not speak to me in English or I’ll would never become fluent.

Beyond the cultural broadening that tends to occur when one learns a new language there’s  little “future value” to learning German, Spanish, French, etc.,  as a second language when the vast majority of populations of these countries already speak English (in some cases better than native English speakers I know).

Language is an  issue of national identity. It’s tied to it on a fundamental level, and of course there’s a strong need and desire to keep our national heritage (wherever you may be from), but we tend to forget that the young human brain is a wonderful malleable information sponge. If we start teaching our children languages early on, there is no reason at all why they cannot achieve fluency in multiple languages.

While I’m at it, perhaps I should instill an early appreciation of another language as well – one of the more fundamental programming languages, in order to ensure he is well grounded in our increasingly technology based society?

The buzz has left blogging. Wah wah, f’n wah…

Nick Carr asks “Who killed the blogoshpere?“. In an excellently constructed piece he laments the blogosphere and compares it to Ham Radio‘s which, oddly enough, while once being the domain of the über geek back in the day, still have over 3 million registered operational users, which is double what Technorati believe is the current number of active blogs.

Nicks piece was obviously spurred by a piece on The Economist, “Oh, grow up : Blogging is no longer what it was, because it has entered the mainstream“.

The piece in question was very obviously written by somebody who doesn’t know his (or her) arse from his elbow and probably couldn’t find either in a dark room with both hands and a flash light.

Why do I claim this? Well all you have to do is read the piece! Once you see a statement such as:

Twitter messages, usually sent from mobile phones, are fewer than 140 characters long and answer the question “What are you doing?”

The emphasis is mine! Yeah, obviously what we are dealing with here is someone who vaguely keeps abreast of social media happenings but has no  “real” experience of the tools they are talking about.

Not to mention the fact that they rate Jason Calacanis’s departure from the blogosphere for his email list as a major occurrence.

Don’t get me wrong, I have the deepest respect for Jason, even if he is the man I love to hate and considering that I’ve only ever agreed with him twice in recorded history, but his leaving the blogosphere was NOT a major event.

It was comparable to a mouse fart of the Richter scale and one still has to question if he has actually departed the b’sphere considering there are at least 8 (at time of writing) posts on his blogs since his “retirement”.

But what of the blogoshpere? Is it dead?

Hell no!

It may have reached a plateau, but to call it dead is like saying that Elmer has truly beaten Bugs.

What we have at the moment is an issue where the entirely insular English speaking blogosphere is only paying attention to the English speaking b’sphere.

Worse. Those insular idiots are mainly looking only at the portion of the b’sphere that stems from the US.

The fact of the matter is this: English speaking people make up a small portion of the online world (about 29% and dropping). The US is only a small portion of that, already small portion, of users.

As the rest of the world comes online we will have to deal with the fact that the blogosphere will grow, not just as a medium but in diversity.

Not only will it grow in diversity, but I am fairly certain that we will find blogs written in English becoming the minority. The future is not the US or European markets. It’s the unsaturated Indian and Asian markets, which already boast a large numbers of online users as we have but at a fraction of our population saturation.

Is blogging dead? No!

Just like Ham Radio operators have had their day (but are still more numerous than ever) blogging isn’t going anywhere. It’s just shifting its emphasis from the US market to the rest of the world.

This shift is not because US bloggers are becoming any less active, but because the rest of the world is becoming more active.

Advertising agencies will have to wake up and realise this reality before long. It’s a reality which I believe is already starting to affect blogger’s wallets as advertisers have to figure out where they want their adverts displayed.

This is a harsh reality that bloggers like you and I will will have to deal with.

Some of us already do.

Do we blog in English or the language of the country we live in? Do we tie ourselves to a single b’sphere or try to engage it all?

As other languages supersede English on the net, do we try to make those our primary blogging languages in search of an extra buck or 20 or do we focus on our established market?

I already speak 4 languages. Am I prepared to take on another 2 just for blogging?

Is the blogoshere dead? No!

It’s just shifting focus, to where the people are.

Ostracize the Xenophobes – AmericaNet

Note: April 4th 2017 – The problems outlined in this post become even more of an issue since the introduction of more top level domains such as .audio, .blog, .biz. Also, rather depressingly, 10 years after since I wrote the original article and America is still the #1 source of spam according to Spamhaus.

Lifehacker had what I can only call a xenophobic post yesterday: Stop spam from foreign countries.

The short post deals with a method of eliminating spam from Outlook by using top-level domain blocking.

It’s known that most spam (particularly malware such as keyloggers) originates overseas (Estonia, Moldavia, China, Poland, etc.) By blocking email from most of the undeveloped world, I’ve successfully reduced spam by 95 percent in the past year. In Outlook, click Actions > Junk E-Mail > Junk E-Mail Options. Click the International tab, then the Blocked Top-Level Domain List button. Now select the countries you wish to block.

Let’s just look at the two major problems with this approach quickly.

The first major problem is that most people who use this method (Lifehacker readership) will most likely block all domains except “.com” and “.us” and any other us centric domains and automatically be treating any legitimate emails from other top-level domains you block as spam.

So, if you live in the U.S., use top-level domain blocking and subscribe to either to either the comments or the daily digest of this blog by email then you won’t be receiving the information you’ve subscribed to.

You’ll be automatically blocking all email from this blog and any personal emails from me as this site is on a  “.dk” (Denmark) domain.

The next major problem with this approach is that it’s simply bullshit to assume that the majority of spam originates outside the US.

According to Sophos, the United States is the number one, NUMERO UNO, #1, spam relaying country in the world.

Sophos aren’t the only ones to come to this conclusion.

Spamhaus, have a much more up to date count of which countries are the worst spam offenders. Once again the U.S. is out in front.

It really bugs me that a lot of people who live in the U.S. act like the internet only exists in the U.S. and for U.S. centric activities.

There are WAY more people online in the rest of the world that there are in the U.S.

Let’s look at language. According to Internet World Stats there are approximately 1,114,274,426 internet users and only 29.5% of them use English online.

Don’t delude yourself into thinking that the 29.5% represents the Americans online either. You have to think about all the other English speaking countries out there.

Wikipedia has a list of 74 countries which have English as an official language. It also lists their respective populations.

It might surprise to realize that the US is only second on the list in terms of population (300,007,997) behind India which has a population of 1,103,600,000.

Obviously, not every one of the 2,174,387,694 people in these 74 countries speaks English even though it’s an official language.

But the same is true of the U.S.

Using the Wikipedia numbers we can see that the United States only makes up 13.79% of the English-speaking world.

Now, the United States may be the biggest internet using country in the world with 69.9% penetration, but it still only accounts for 18.9% of the worlds total internet users (assuming everybody with internet access actually uses the internet).

China accounts for 12.3% of world internet users but only has 10.4% penetration. What will the internet be like when China attains the same percentage penetration as the U.S?

Or how about India which has over 800 million more people than the US does and only 3.5% penetration. When India reaches similar levels of penetration it will account for over 789 million internet users.

You see, the U.S is just a small part of the internet and as other countries catch up in terms of internet penetration the U.S. centric nature of the web will disappear.

U.S internet users need to come to terms with this, and quickly. The internet does not exist just for the U.S. and it has grown far beyond its humble beginnings to become something that no country or nation can or should claim as theirs.

For the U.S. users who can’t accept this and who believe that following the advice in the Lifehacker post will be productive, I propose that we build a separate internet just for you.

We should build an an internet just for the xenophobic section of U.S. internet users so they can be safe in their delusional paranoia and self-imposed exile from the rest of the world.

You can even call it AmericaNet if it makes you feel more patriotic and safe!

To the rest of the U.S. internet users that are smart enough to realize that the internet does not exist for U.S. interests alone and who like to get an outside opinion, you’re more than welcome to hang out with the rest of us on the plain old internet.