I say that "close enough for rock 'n' roll" means: "Rock 'n' roll's virtue is in its exuberance and its accessibility to would-be performers. If you want to play rock 'n' roll, you don't need to gather up a full orchestra and teach them all to read sheet music, drill them with a conductor and set them loose in a vaulted hall. Instead, you can gather two or three friends, teach them to play a I-IV-V progression in 4/4 time, and make some fantastic noise."
If the Internet has a motif, it is rock 'n' roll's Protestant Reformation thrashing against the orchestral One Church.
The interesting bit isn't what it costs to replicate some big, pre-Internet business or project.
The interesting bit is what it costs to do something half as well as some big, pre-Internet business or project.
Doctorow focuses for most of the article on the newspaper industry, but there are many applications, and its relevance to the Genealogy world is an obvious one.
The internet has revolutionized genealogy research. The online researcher can make some 'fantastic noise.' Because of this greater accessibility, more people are becoming enraptured by the sound. Many feel the results they get from the internet are 'close enough.'
However, the internet doesn't replace the sheer orchestral majesty of a row of microfilm cabinets at your local library, or the subtleties of interviewing the family elders. You're not going to break down as many brick walls playing just the "pajama game.'' And keep in mind: the quality of information on the internet is as variable as the quality of garage bands.