Dave Winer says we should think of the Internet as an "idea processor".
The value of writing publicly on the Internet is that you can solve problems quickly, by using a network of people who pool what they know to create something larger. When the Internet works this is why it works.
Dave's got this absolutely right and absolutely wrong all at the same time.
Yes, the Internet, and in particular the blogosphere is an "ideas processor". But this isn't "when the Internet works". The Internet works when it acts as an action agent.
For Winer, I can see how he might see the Internet in this way. Many of the conversations that Winer is involved in relates to actual tangible things. When Winer debates RSS or OPML ideas that come out of those discussions (save for the political crap) can actually go towards "creating something larger".
However, I'd suggest 99.9 per cent of 'conversations' don't actually lead anywhere. Most of the conversations are just the digital equivalent of having a yack down the pub with your mates. You postulate, pimp and preen but in the end the only thing that ever gets done is the consistent emptying of glasses of amber ale.
Now, there's nothing wrong with that, but let's not pretend it's something it's not.
For me, the proof in the pudding is the fleetingness of memes(and god I hate to use this term and i apologise profusely for putting in the headline but the blogosphere made me do it). How many memes actually last longer than 48 hours. As soon as a meme drops off the front page of memeorandum, how much oxygen is it given? SFA. There are any number of memes over the last six months I would have loved to have really sunk my teeth into but they came, they crackled and they expired all in the space of a couple of sleeps.
How can we really evolve ideas, how can we evoke change, when we give what could be really interesting ideas and issues such limited time to play out. It's simply not possible to read something, sit on it for a few days and then take your time to write a meaningful response because by that time the meme has already burnt out and nobody is going to read what you've written. This is a fundamental flaw in the blogosphere and why for the most part it equates to nothing but hot air.
The only way, of course, for a meme to grow and prosper is for it to be based on something real, and preferably to have a high profile champion, who can keep bringing the meme to prominence. There are people like Dave Winer who fulfill both these criteria and so Dave would see the Internet as an action agent.
But for the most part, Winer is right when he calls the Internet an "ideas processor". Stick the idea in, turn it on, wait a short amount of time and watch the idea come out the other end all mangled up.