Friday, July 1st, 2005
Wednesday, June 29th, 2005
Today, the Center for American Progress’ Campus Progress project launched a blog for interns in DC for the summer:
Today Campus Progress launches Social Capital, a new blog/calendar (blogendar?) designed not only to make sure your social calendar remains packed while you’re in DC, but also to give you a place to share stories about crazy intern mixups, tidbits overheard in hallways or on the Metro, right-wing buffet spreads, and more.
Friday, June 24th, 2005
The folks at the blog search engine Technorati have teamed up with the organizers of the Live8 concerts to create an “Blog Central” where they’ll be aggregating blog posts about the concerts. I’m considering going to the Live8 Philly concert, but a friend of mine is in town that weekend so I am not sure if I’ll make it up there. See concert information on the official Live8 website.
Wednesday, June 22nd, 2005
Kathryn On and Rock Creek Rambler are sponsoring a blogger meetup Friday at Eyebar from 6 to 9 p.m. they’re calling “Live Blog 05: Like Blogging, but with Speech". Yeah, it’s at Eyebar, a self-described “place to see and be seen.”
Here’s what RCR says about it:
Don’t forget about Live Blog this Friday. All bloggers, commenters, and lurkers are invited. But if any of you lurkers come, you have to actually talk. If you just stand around watching everyone else it will really creep me out. Kathryn and I really hope y’all make it, because otherwise we’re totally going to feel like the chess club of the blogosphere. If you have other plans, break them, because this happy hour is going to be off the hook. And then we’re going to put it back on the hook, because we don’t like clutter.
Monday, June 20th, 2005
The author of LifeHacker, a technology blog and one of the Gawker media properties, is teaching a $900 course in “Weblogs and Online Journalism” at the Maine Photographic Workshops in Rockport, Maine. I learn new things all the time - not only is the self-described “one of the world’s great creative centers” in Rockport, Maine, you can also apparently charge quite a bit for blog knowledge. (Via George)
Friday, June 17th, 2005
‘Perfect Storm’ Brewing in A2
The other day I sat down with Dale Winling to talk about a couple organizations he recently launched. Dale is a first year PhD candidate in Architectural History at the University of Michigan. He has undergraduate and graduate degrees in history from Western Michigan University and is from a town outside of Kalamazoo. I met with Dale to talk about two organizations he has founded in Ann Arbor: the New West Side Association is a neighborhood association targeting students in Ann Arbor’s west side, and the Ann Arbor Alliance, a membership organization open for members from anyone in Ann Arbor. The NWSA has a website and blog, and was written up in the Daily and on Arborupdate.
We talked about the role of students in Ann Arbor politics, which has been in recent years very small. This is something I have long bemoaned: in a city where over 1/3 of the population consists of students and renters, that community plays a minimal role in city politics. Furthermore, instead of treating this massive affront to democracy as a problem to combat, city leaders have been all too content to build a status quo which excludes most of the city from meaningful political participation. Although virtually all freshman live in the dorms, by their senior year almost every undergraduate at the University of Michigan will live off campus in a house, apartment, or fraternity or sorority.
However, I believe have been a number of recent developments indicate a group of student and renter citizens has coalesced which will seriously contend for power in the city. A perfect storm is brewing which could revolutionize Ann Arbor politics. The key components have fallen into place: an alternative media structure open to new voices (blogs, Arborupdate, student media), progressive public policy (the engagement of planning students), and viable political candidates. (Yes, the triad is similar to Wellstone’s formula for a “winning politics")
First, through the activism of a small group of blogs, there has developed an online community interested in engaging in local issues. This website has played a role in that, as well as Arborupdate (which I founded last summer), and Ann Arbor is Overrated, among others. Arborblogs, an effort to create a directory of Ann Arbor blogs has flourished under the able control of George Hotelling, and plays a role in connecting the Ann Arbor blogging community. Arborupdate in particular has become a venue where voices who otherwise not have a platform, like graduate student June Gin, can pose the question: “Will [Ann Arbor] continue to be a diverse, multi-cultural community where arts and ideas flourish? Or will it be transformed into a commodified playground for wealthy bored people? … Is urban apartheid part of our “Cool Cities” vision for Ann Arbor?” Second, there has also been interest building in the larger political community in engaging students in city council politics - College Democrats has discussed it at meetings and at least one student has run recently for City Council (Rick Lax). The issue of the greenbelt engaged students in unprecedented levels in local politics. Furthermore, the increase in knowledge and interest in community planning and design by undergraduates has been fueled in no small part by popular history professor of Matt Lassiter and the general coming into vogue of New Urbanism. This heightened level of activity has been a long time coming: My junior year as an undergraduate a friend organized a Student Neighborhood Action Project through the student government and a class to pick up garbage in the Student Ghetto (and hold a barbeque).
Furthermore, the existing city politicians have done much to fan student organizing in the past few years. The eminently reasonable and limited proposal introduced for Accessory Dwelling Units in the city was smacked down by the City Council in 2002, which subsequently fueled much organizing by Students for PIRGIM. City government was restructured to eliminate the planner and move more power to the council members and neighborhood associations. A draconian towing ordinance hit many students unawares with large fines that were reduced after an uproar. Murmurs of a couch ban last summer sparking unprecedented vocal participation in local politics many who had not spoken up before. (See my post on the role of blogs in the controversy)
Most recently, I have heard of perhaps the most encouraging sign yet: a serious student contender for city council. Eugene Kang is a lifetime Ann Arbor resident who will be running in a primary against a moderate democrat. And that brings me back around to Dale’s groups. We spoke how the two could be resources for tenants, advocates for progressive city planning based on the principals of New Urbanism, and a badly needed voice for the downtown renter community in Ann Arbor politics. I believe the combination of a large number of engaged undergraduates and professional planning students provide both the political base and intellectual resources to advance an agenda dedicated to affordability, sustainability, and inclusively. Ann Arbor doesn’t have particularly bad policies, however an atmosphere of complacency and pessimism about what is possible for the city hangs around the Guy Larcom building on 5th Ave. If they set their minds to it, students, renters, and their allies could be a potent political force who could fundamentally re-shape the city’s politics and also urban form. Imagine a city where tenants’ rights are a top priority, the planning commission and council aggressively pursues an agenda of dense, sustainable development, and new and radical ideas to provide affordable housing are earnestly explored. If they set their minds to it, students like Dale Winling, Eugene Kang, and June Gin – and their supporters – could begin to make this vision a reality.
The Contagious Media Showdown, a contest to attract the most traffic to a new website by (basically) any means possible, has ended with Forget Me Not Panties, Crying While Eating, and personal favorite (I’m on the “C” list) Blogebrity the winners.
A 16-year-old Tennessee boy recently came out to his parents. They didn’t react well: they sent him to anti-gay boot camp. However, his moving blog has created what Terrance calls a “blog storm” on the web:
So, that’s where it stands for now. A lonely, scared, gay teenager in Tennessee dropped a post into the big blog pond, and cause ripples and then waves of support, awareness and action. How it will all end, no one can tell. Zach hasn’t blogged since he’s been at Refuge, and probably can’t. According to his blog, he’ll be there for at least one more day, and maybe a few more. When he gets out, returns home, and has had time to sort out his thoughts, He’ll probably blog about it. The difference is that there are a whole lot more of us listening now.
Thursday, June 16th, 2005
The Meetup.com D.C. blogger meetup yesterday was fun, about 7 people showed up at SoHo tea and coffee for an enjoyable wide-ranging discussion. The attendees included Pat, John, Michael, Damian, Dan and Jamy.
Thursday, June 9th, 2005
I’m really excited about this - Gothamist has sponsored a series of highly successful concerts with local bands in New York, and we’re going to do the same here in D.C. The idea is that you charge just enough to cover your expenses and highlight some local talent. We’ve decided to call our series “Unbuckled” (Gothamist used “Moveable Hype,” a take-off on the name of popular blogging software)
When: June 30 at 9 p.m.
Monday, June 6th, 2005
After the proposed couch ban that the Old Forth Ward Association brought to the Ann Arbor city council last summer, many students began discussions on blogs and other websites to counter the idea that house fires are related to the couches many students and renters keep on their porches. Because homeowners in the ward have been organized, they have been able to promote their agenda in the community. But since students and renters have in the past been highly disorganized, they have normally only associated with one another through school programs, not through neighborhood associations — giving them limited capacity to voice their concerns for the neighborhood itself. …
The New West Side is also working toward legalization of accessory dwelling units, sometimes called “granny flats.” The association said these add-ons could be rented out, creating affordable means of living and a source of extra revenue for the homeowner. …
Students and renters are able to communicate using blogs created and utilized by many of the participants of the West Side, including arborupdate.com and goodspeedupdate.com, as a tool to get informed about local issues and get their opinions heard by other students, renters and leaders of the community.
“These tools in no way replace seeing our neighbors on a regular basis. They serve to augment and improve these relationships,” Winling said.
West Side’s first call to action is its endorsement of a counter-proposal to a bill introduced by Rep. Chris Ward (R-Brighton) to the Michigan House that could potentially limit the ability of cities to have house inspections. Ward’s bill would change the Ann Arbor’s current inspection policy, which mandates inspections every two years, to a minimum of one inspection every five years and a maximum of one every three years.
“This merely loosens protection on the poor,” said Dan Faichney, LSA senior, and West Side member. Representatives from West Side said if Ward’s proposal passed, it could decrease the frequency of follow-up inspections to make sure houses are up to code, causing houses to remain dilapidated for much longer than they would under current limitations.
Sunday, June 5th, 2005
Saturday, June 4th, 2005
The W. Times noticed a post Mike wrote for DCist about how their paper was for sale in Billings, Montana - for $2.50 - in their “Inside the Beltway” feature in today’s paper:
Still a bargain
“DCist,” a popular Web site (www.dcist.com) about everyday life in the nation’s capital, has posted a photograph from a faithful D.C. tipster who happened into a Barnes & Noble bookstore while visiting Billings, Mont.
“While no other national newspapers aside from USA Today and the Wall Street Journal have seemed to have made their way to south-central Montana, just below Shotgun News [on the newspaper rack] is The Washington Times,” the posting notes.
We see by the photograph that a single copy of our newspaper sells for a rather hefty $2.50 in Billings. Here in Washington, where Pony Express charges aren’t tacked on, the paper still costs a quarter.
Thursday, June 2nd, 2005
The website art.com, which sells posters and prints online, has come up with an interesting way to build their email list. They provide visitors a neat graphics tool called artPad where visitors can create art and send it to their friends, and the website collects the resulting email addresses for their list. (Although I was glad to see the email had clear opt-out instructions.) The tool generates an animation of the graphic being created. This portrait of myself was done by my friend Libby.
A quick technorati search seems to suggest it hasn’t been online very long … if you have made an image, leave the URL generated when you email it to a friend in the comments.
Wednesday, June 1st, 2005
> Kicking off today: Take Back America 2005
Wednesday, May 25th, 2005
- U-M Naked Mile featured in Flickr user Naked College Running. See my Naked Mile page with information about the now defunct Ann Arbor run, and some evidence of the type of people who find it with Google: ” … take a hike and get your SLIMY hands of the Naked Mile … ” Uhhh ..
My DCist post on neighborhood listservs has generated quite a list. Here’s what my post had and what the readers came up with (in no particular order):
East of the River
New Hill East
Mt. Vernon Square
Crystal City (VA)
Tuesday, May 24th, 2005
Click on fighthunger.org to donate $.17 to feed a hungry child and find a local event to participate in their Sunday, June 12 Walk the World event. Yes, there are walks in DC scheduled and some other unlikely places, but none in Maine OR Ann Arbor. You know what to do.
Monday, May 23rd, 2005
A popular city-based blog in Washington D.C. may need people interested in writing on the following topics: covering wine sales at local liquor stores and writing accessibly about wine, covering the D.C. theater scene, covering the Mystics, and perhaps managing an regular interview feature. My information is to the left.
Friday, May 20th, 2005
My friend Kyle at Information Leafblower has entered a design into an online design competition held by Nike. Go here and vote for the shoe designed by “Information Leafblower” Hey, I didn’t say you had to buy anything from them!
Thursday, May 12th, 2005
Sunday, May 8th, 2005
Wednesday, April 27th, 2005
The newspaper group which owns my hometown newspaper the Portland Press Herald in Maine has quietly been adding more interactivity to their website. For at least a couple years they have had blogs in their “20 Below” section written for teens, and in the last year have introduced a number of blogs targeting their regular audience - including sports, cooking, the outdoors, even one written by an “out-of-stater.”
I think this shows a cautious yet enlightened approach to harnassing the new medium and providing useful and entertaining content to their online readers. Their approach to blogs has put them well ahead of many larger newspapers like the Washington Post in both their approach to the new medium, but also with respect to the technology behind blogging - the Post uses a commercial tool used by many personal blogs (Six Apart), and the Press Herald has apparently developed their own system. The Post also stubbornly sticks to their awkward “Live Discussions” in lieu of what are, in my opinion, more effective and engaging ways to interact with readers online.
The Portland Press Herald also does something I haven’t seen many other daily newspapers doing - allowing readers to leave blog-style comments on regular newspaper articles. (See this article as an example.) Perhaps one day they’ll allow commenting on all articles.
I’ve written about newspaper websites before here: “As I see it, print publications who view the web as just a place to post their articles are not adapting the format of their medium to the new capabilities of the internet.”
Tuesday, April 26th, 2005
The W. Times has an intereting story about the websites of two Virginians running for governor: “There is a certain demographic that increasingly is getting its news from what we call alternative sources,” said Mark J. Rozell, a professor of public policy at George Mason University.” And this gem: “Anyone with a computer can put up a site using inexpensive software. Purchasing a site can cost as little as $20 annually.” Shocking! The websites:
> Tim Kaine for Governor (D)
> Jerry Kilgore for Virginia Governor ®
Saturday, April 23rd, 2005
“AU: where Saudi princes and spoiled rich UN brats form a melting pot of popped-collar proportions.”
– AU Sucks
Monday, April 18th, 2005
My friend Scott has posted a few thoughts about the Michigan Independent (and its website) on his new blog. The Independent is a new student publication at the University of Michigan. I think he has some good criticisms. I’ll refrain from saying a whole lot about the newspaper as I haven’t seen the paper copy and I don’t know much about how it came about, but it seems to be off to a good start - now they’ll have to prove they can be a useful and viable forum for Michigan’s progressive community. I’m afraid the newspaper shows a lack of imagination when it comes to internal structure and their use of technology, but the editor-in-chief Ryan Werder has assured me they will be refining things as they go along.
There is one tip I have for their website - use upcoming.org to host your events calendar. The webmaster has painstakingly compiled lots of events information, but relying on one person to do this job is inefficient - and will inevitably depend on that person’s diligence. This is part of the reason blogs and other dynamic websites are so successful - they are collaboratively maintained, and if one individual takes a break the action can continue instead of stagnating.
If the webmaster had used the same amount of energy compiling the events and put them on Upcoming.org, the Independent could use them for their own events calendar, but dozens of bloggers and webmasters in the Ann Arbor area could also easily draw from the centralized pool. Wait a minute - freeing the information, sharing the events? Sounds good to me. For more details check out my post “Why You Should Use Upcoming.org” I also wrote this a while back for a related application:
One of the best way to cultivate a devoted readership to your news-esque blog is to provide them timely, up-to-date information about events around the city. Blog readers are information hounds and like to be in the know - and if you establish yourself as a reliable source of good information about fun and interesting events around town, they’re bound to return for a second or a third visit. However, covering past events and posting information about interesting upcoming events isn’t enough - the average twentysomething whitecollar wage slave is looking to fill the after-hours time slots in their datebooks without poring over every entry. That’s where an events calendar comes in.
Events calendars are great for blogs, because the nature of blogs means your readership will generally share your interests - and be interested in attending similar events. Events calendars are a great way to cut through the information overload of your average entertainment listing from city weeklies or even the average daily newspaper. There’s a problem with all of this. Events calendars are a pain in the ass to keep updated. People get busy, and they get out of date. You have time to enter lots of events this week, but next week you’re crushed at work. What’s the solution?
That’s where upcoming.org comes in. This website allows you to enter events as easily as you write an email or post to your blog - type in a box and click “submit". However, you can also use this account to keep a constantly up-to-date listing of events on your blog. Thanks to the miracle of RSS (real simple syndication) you can paste in a little code to your blog’s template, and voila, it will check with upcoming.org to keep the list up to date. If all of this weren’t enough, upcoming.org is community-driven. You can enter events to list on your site, but if other people enter events that look interesting to you, you can add them to your events
calendar with one click. If other people like the events you list, it will drive traffic back to your site. The site even allows users to discuss events if you have questions about details, or simply want to make a general comment.
> See my post on Tips for Posting Events on Upcoming.org
Friday, April 15th, 2005
Some of the DCist staff feature in the DCeiver’s short play, “Cockblocking the Bloc Party: A Play in Three Acts”
Monday, April 11th, 2005
After introducing an events calendar which draws from the free community events website Upcoming.org, many of the DCist readers have been creating accounts on that website to enter their events. This is a great development, but there are good and bad ways to use the service. Here’s a few tips:
1. Use Short Event Titles This is a pet peeve of mine. An event with a long title will take up 3 or 4 lines of our calendar (most take 1 line). Although it may seem like a good idea to be very descriptive I find most of these distracting because you have to plow through the adjectives before getting the gist (Is it a concert or a film?). However, just the name of your favorite author or an obscure artist may not be enough to get the point across. Use short but descriptive titles.
2. Seperate Entries for Seperate Events Say you are really excited about a 2-month long film series. Instead of posting the entire schedule in one event post, enter a handful of the most interesting films seperately. Which leads us to ..
3. Include More Information The event description space will support basic HTML so you can create a hyperlink to a website with more information (if it exists). If there is not more information on the web, include an email address or phone number as a courtesy to the public, who may have questions about the event.
4. Post the Event Well in Advance This is perhaps the hardest rule to follow. The key to getting word out in sparsely used online communities is allowing for plenty of time - the events with the most attendees
Tuesday, March 29th, 2005
“Great blog on what’s happening in D.C.” - Washington Whispers “Best of the Web”
“Not quite a year old, dcist impressed us with the volume of their posts. Their mad bloggers, baby. Who knew there was so much to say about this city? Okay, we knew…we just don’t get around to it.” - Life In the District
“DCist covers Williams’ State of the District speech better than the major papers.” - Babylon On the Potomac
“Can you guys start posting more frequently? There’s only been one post since the start of the week. I know it’s only Tuesday mid-day, but DCist.com is crushing you guys right now with their coverage. I need more to read.” - Anonymous comment on the WaPo’s “Going Out Gurus” Blog
“DCist is a great source for what’s happening around the Nation’s Capital.” - Mike Holden
“… some newcomers to the local media circuit … are stealing some of the limelight from Washington’s old standards in local news …” - The Northwest Current
“Much like its author, my blog has been experiencing technical difficulties on and off all morning—and I’m inclined to blame last night’s DCist happy hour.” - Grammer.police
“.. a must read for all of interested in what’s going on around our capital area.” - Washington D.C. Art News
“The editors at DCist (dcist.com) … collect tidbits of political and cultural arcana.” - Washingtonian Magazine
Thursday, March 24th, 2005
I attended the “launch” of mediabistro’s fishbowldc tonight ("A gossip blog about Washington, DC media"). FishbowlDC is run by Garrett Graff, who works by day at Echoditto, where he posted some thoughts about the relationship between blogs and journalism earlier today: “What’s increasingly clear is that a small subset of blogs, perhaps numbering a few hundred, perhaps numbering a few thousand, are becoming news outlets rather than just commentators.”
A quick Technorati search reveals one occasional blogger who overheard someone ask “Who are all these people?” although mentioning DCist. Garrett got the job after hearing about it on DCist, and made quite a few headlines earlier in the month after obtaining a press pass to attend the White House briefing. I also got to meet Julian tonight and some of his colleagues at Reason …
Monday, March 21st, 2005
I think it’s great when people decide to sit around and discuss the changes afoot in American media, particularly when they’re as resourceful as the Brookings Institution. In fact, Brookings is having exactly that kind of guest-heavy event tomorrow, as you may have seen on DCist.
The event includes lots of serious minded bloggers and other online folks like University of Michigan professor Juan Cole, Andrew Sullivan (a retired blogger but good guest), and Jack Shafer, the editor of Slate, and Jodie Allen from the Pew Research Center (which has been producing some interesting studies about American’s internet use). However, the event also includes Ana Marie Cox, aka Wonkette, and she’s the guest I have to take issue with. Don’t get me wrong: Ana is a very talented blogger, and a witty writer. But she’s essentially a gossipy tabloid for the blogging world. But why would Brookings invite her for their very wonky discussion? It would be like inviting Us magazine to talk about the State of the American Magazine. I’m not the only one to wonder about this, as she’s been so busy appearing on TV and panels she hasn’t actually been blogging in a while. It seems there’s a lot of theories floating about: she’s attractive (true, but not enough of a reason for me though), she’s a woman (otherwise your panels would look rather male … and white), and Nick Denton is a millionaire (he certainly is good at PR, but rich people usually are). My personal theory is that she validates the subconscious prejudices of the type of people who work at Brookings and assemble these blog panels - that blogs are somehow inherently salacious, make dirty jokes, and probably publish rumors. Sometime mid-2006 they’ll discover blogs actually have genres, just like every other media.
So who else would be good to invite? Cyberjournalist has this list of influential bloggers, which I don’t like too terribly much. Who would you invite?
Tuesday, March 15th, 2005
Founder and CEO of blog search engine David Sifry has posted this graph on his blog. According to his data the blogosphere is growing at an explosive rate:
Technorati is now tracking over 7.8 million weblogs, and 937 million links. That’s just about double the number of weblogs tracked in October 2004. In fact, the blogosphere is doubling in size about once every 5 months. It has already done so at this pace four times, which means that in the last 20 months, the blogosphere has increased in size by over 16 times. …
We are currently seeing about 30,000 - 40,000 new weblogs being created each day, depending on the day. Compared to the past, this is well over double the rate of change in October, when there were about 15,000 new weblogs created each day. The remarkable growth over the past 3 months can be attributed to the increase in new, mainstream services such as MSN Spaces, and in increases of use of services like Blogger, AOL Journals, and LiveJournal. In addition, services outside the United States have been taking off, including a number of media sites promoting blogging, such as Le Monde in France.
Monday, March 14th, 2005
Letter from the editors:
To our readers:
When we launched DCist in August 2004, Lenny Campello was an early and enthusiastic supporter. As a gallery owner, writer, and prolific blogger Lenny is one of the most energetic boosters of the D.C. area visual arts community.
As we began to expand out coverage, we hired on Cyndi Spain to compile weekly listings of arts events for our readers. Lenny volunteered to contribute to these listings and we agreed, making clear we wanted to avoid the perception – or reality – of any conflicts of interest. Lenny would submit his listings to Cyndi who would compile the final Arts Agenda. Occasionally these arts agendas included information about Lenny’s gallery or shows by artists he represents – we were aware of this and deferred to the judgment of Cyndi.
Recently, popular D.C. blogger Kriston Capps posted a pointed criticism of DCist’s connection to Campello on his blog Grammar.Police, saying “you really can’t don the critic’s cap when you’re a producer in the community.” Shortly after the posting Lenny wrote to us on his own accord resigning as a contributor to DCist. He wrote “I do not want anyone to have any questions about the integrity of DCist when it comes to its future art reviews and the current Tuesday Arts Agenda,” observing “An ethical reputation is hard to earn, and very easy to lose.” He has posted a response to Kriston’s post on his blog here.
We have accepted Lenny’s resignation from DCist – he will no longer have the formal role as a “contributor.” However, we have encouraged him (as we do with all our readers) to continue to provide us with information he thinks we’d be interested in including. We will continue to read his blog and remain in touch with him. Since the medium of blogging is extremely new, we recognize ethical standards continue to develop and evolve. We strive to run a website that is as informative, fun, and transparent as possible, and we’re always looking for constructive criticism and helpful news tips.
On that note, we’re currently looking to expand our arts coverage. If you are interested please drop either one of us a line.
Rob Goodspeed and Mike Grass
Rob at dcist.com, Mike at dcist.com
Sunday, March 13th, 2005
Wednesday, March 9th, 2005
Part of my work at People For the American Way is helping out on their Young People For Program, a project to build the progressive movement on college campuses. They will be offering a series of online classes, and I’ll be teaching the first course - a brief history of student activism.
Registration is now open for the first-ever YP4 online course: the History of Student Activism 101! The syllabus and registration information is available on the Young People For Academy website.
The course will cover the history of student activism in the U.S. from the early 20th century to the present. We’ll cover the student pacifist movement of the 1930s, student civil rights activism of the 1950s and 60s, and the myriad of movements and issues which mobilized students in the 1970s, 80s, 90s and today. We’ll discuss student anti-war and anti-apartheid activism as well as students’ ongoing efforts to change the structure and direction of colleges and universities themselves.
The course is six weeks and tuition is free, however there is space for only 15 participants. Students will complete short readings, post to an online discussion forum, and participate in a weekly conference call at 4 p.m. on Thursdays. The course will conclude with a short final project. Participants will earn a YP4 Academy certificate. To learn more, go to academy.youngpeoplefor.org or email Rob Goodspeed at rgoodspeed at pfaw.org.
Tuesday, March 8th, 2005
Cyberjournalist has a list of public broadcasters who Podcast, the practice where you can download the audio program to listen to on your computer, MP3 player, and yes, even iPod. As I see it the internet is becoming more like the broadcast media: independent organizations and websites are now producing regular programs, and blogs are more and more like broadcast channels with streaming data, audio and video.
Meanwhile, the traditional broadcast media are becoming more compartmentalized and fragmented, like online content. Movies, music videos, and programs are now available on demand through digital cable - not unlike the web (it’s there when you request it), and TiVo has restructured regular broadcast TV - you can now divide it up into discreet units as never before for consumption later. Where is all of this heading? Well, I think podcasting is here to stay, and will quickly join online only radio as a viable alternative to traditional broadcast over the airways. Beyond that, who knows.
Thursday, February 17th, 2005
I think it’s a great sign that the D.C. bloging scene is finally developing its own little mini-scandals complete with cross-blog discussions. It’s also great that the Washington Post finally realized that blogs are a much more intuitive and useful online media format than what they have been doing until now on their website - mostly awkward “online chats” which few people I know read closely on a regular basis.
Here’s the scandal in a nutshell: the entertainment section just launched a blog they call “The Going Out Gurus.” Fellow DCist writer Kyle criticizes them for posting information about an indie rock concert in Baltimore (they had just subtly knocked DCist for writing about indie rock too much). However, then they did something interesting, and a big no-no in the blogging world: they deleted the post. In reponse to Kyle’s inquiry about why they’d delete the post, they sent this reply:
Hmmm, well we’re not really sure what you’re talking about. But, we took down the Neko Case post because the show was yesterday, so it didn’t make sense to leave it up. Also, I’d be hard pressed to describe Neko Case as indie rock. She’s alt-country - or straight ahead country - or rock.
The scandal continued - our writers Catherine noted it on her blog, and the DCeiver commented “So, they seem to have WEBLOG confused with MARQUEE or CALENDAR,” and today someone asked the entertainment staff about it on an online discussion:
Washington, D.C.: I like the new blog, but I don’t understand why you took down the Neko Case post. As one poster said, it’s not a blog if you take down a post. But keep up the good work.
Joe: OK, D.C., let’s straighten this out once and for all. We took down the Neko Case post because it was recommending a show that had already passed and so it wasn’t really serving much purpose staying up.
My bigger question though is, aren’t blogs supposed to be whatever their creator wants them to be? I’m pretty sure that there aren’t any international treaties regulating what is or isn’t a blog? I find it very funny that some bloggers, who are all about freedom of expression and ideas, should be so insistent on rules and regulations for blogs. People just need to relax a little bit.
It seems Joe is discovering there may be a bit more to blogging than just meets the eye. In fact, many print media people find blogs interesting but struggle to fundamentally understand what makes them tick, or respect them as a legitimate and maturing information medium. Experienced blog readers will know that it’s a major faux pas to delete any post. When something is found to be incorrect, you use the strikethrough tag to show it has been corrected, add an “update” at the bottom of the post, or at the most remove the content, but always leave a note. Since everything on the web can be so easily modified, this is an essential “rule” that has evolved as blog authors try to build and maintain trust with their readers. I remember reading someone else posting a week into writing a new blog that they had learned this lesson after being harshly criticized for doing the same thing - deleting a post without an explanation. I don’t want to dwell on this as I trust the Going Out Gurus have learnt their lesson, but this makes me think about what blogs are and why they have been successful.
As I see it, mediums of communication evolve out of the technology available - so the format of a newspaper wasn’t determined just by what newspaper editors decided was correct, but the format of daily publication (headlines, articles with bylines, photos, letters to the editor) evolved in close connection with advances in printing, distribution, and circulation. As I see it, print publications who view the web as just a place to post their articles are not adapting the format of their medium to the new capabilities of the internet. Sure enough, slowly print publications have begun to run online only features, post interactive graphics and features, and even allow readers to discuss things in forums. However few realize they are simply retrofitting an existing model, developed for print publications, and sticking on a few bells and whistles.
Blogs have been such a success because they take advantage of two critical aspects of the internet: instantaneity and interactivity. From their creation, blog content was posted instantly. The one-edition a day format for most newspapers and the weekly format for magazines is determined by the reality that the publications have to be printed and distributed. Online, both the creation and the consumption can happen continuously. This is why blogs work so well - they can be read as they are created, which can only happen online.
Similarly, even the most innovated newspaper websites are not very interactive: the ways the readers communicate with the publication is through the letters to the editor space, or sometimes through a reader ombudsman. However, this level of interactivity was derived from the print model - there’s only so much space for letters and they can only be printed once a day. Online, content can be posted immediately and space is basically free, and discussions between readers can occur quickly, not drawn out in a series of op-ed columns and letters. Blogs succeed exceptionally well here, as well: virtually all successful blogs have comments which allow real-time (or practically real-time) discussions between blog authors and their readers. Some popular blogs (most notably all the gawker blogs) don’t have comments, however I would argue they display a different type of interactivity. These blogs frequently have prominently displayed email address and AIM names for “tips” from readers, and frequently contain content contributed by readers. Although they may now allow commenting, by encouraging dialogue with their readers and using readers as a source of information means they are highly interactive, just in a different way.
If you are a newspaper writer who is a bit mystified by blogs, they might appear to be “whatever their creator wants them to be,” but that has never been totally true. In fact, some people have even begun discussions about formalizing ethics rules for blogs as has been done in offline journalism.
Wednesday, February 16th, 2005
Today, CampusProgress.org launched - a new project to cultivate progressive politics on U.S. campuses and encourage alterative student media. The project is related to something I am involved with - People For the American Way’s Young People For project, which has a fellowship program in its first year of operation, campus trainings, and online courses.
The Young People For program also has a blog written by 2004 fellows.
Tuesday, February 15th, 2005
I am hosting this meetup tomorrow … it should be fun!
What: Washington Weblogger February Meetup
When: Wednesday, February 16, 2005 at 6:30 PM
SoHo Tea and Coffee
2150 P Street NW
Washington, DC 20037
Thursday, January 27th, 2005
Thomas Paine was basically a blogger — in 1776.
Martin Luther’s version of blogs totally ticked off the Holy Roman Emperor, who issued the Edict of Worms banning Luther’s writings.
George Orwell was a blogger. So was Brian Lamb, the guy who started C-Span.
Blogs are really an Internet phenomenon of just the past couple of years. But the essence — the je ne sais quoi — of blogs is that an emerging technology makes it possible for individuals outside the mainstream media to reach an audience. Blogs can be subversive, giving rise to ideas or arguments that would otherwise stay buried.
Today, software tools make it cheap and simple to post personal journals on the Web, so more people do. “I wouldn’t underestimate how much of this is driven by the tools,” says Jonathan Weber, the former editor of the defunct Industry Standard, now starting a blog-infused Web site about the Rocky Mountain region.
Blogs and the reasons they exist have historical antecedents.
Take Luther in the early 1500s. About 60 years before, Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press. Before that, only the church and governments could afford to reproduce and manage information, keeping a lock on ideas and power. The printing press gave Luther a way to distribute his thesis — an early version of blogging. Next thing, we had Protestants.
In Paine’s time, the key was the falling cost of printing pamphlets. That allowed Paine to get out his ideas in Common Sense, which greatly influenced the American Revolution. Pamphleteering was quite the bloglike craze in the 1700s, though most amateur writers stuck to politics and religion. The colonists didn’t get anything like one current blog, called, “Adventures of a Domestic Engineer: The day-to-day travails of a sleep-deprived mother of three.”
Orwell wrote pamphlets before writing 1984. Lamb was maybe the first video blogger, or vlogger. In the 1970s, when ABC, NBC and CBS reigned supreme, cable opened TV to low-budget operations. Lamb worked in the Pentagon’s public relations department before launching C-Span in 1979. He was a nobody who took a small bite out of major media’s influence.
In the 1990s, personal Web sites became the next step toward blogs, which aren’t much more than streamlined, single-purpose personal Web sites. …
That’s all very much part of the sweep of history. The cost of producing, distributing and managing information has steadily fallen — and will keep falling. Traditional barriers to entry disappear. Newcomers stick their noses in. Existing media have to adjust by playing the new game (traditional media outlets starting Web sites) and/or creating high-end products that offer something the “amateurs” can’t touch.
Some outlets won’t or can’t adjust, and they’ll get whacked. Monks no doubt kept hand-copying manuscripts, and sometime around the Renaissance, got driven out of the book business.
Blogs will push media to change. At some point, some blogs will gain real influence and make money, and they will get bought by big media companies. That’s how it often works. …
While reading this article I thought “Wow, what a great article.” Until I got to two paragraphs at the end, which reminded me exactly who was publishing this little bit of blog history:
One thing, though: Despite the claims of consumer groups, major media can’t become all-powerful, however much they consolidate. The falling cost of information will create new kinds of competitors and voices, much as it created bloggers and pamphleteers.
I don’t know if this is as clear-cut as the author thinks. When Fox News or Sinclair Broadcasting are allowed to purchase an unlimited number of local channels, and then distribute centrally-dictated editorial directives, it seems to me they ARE becoming too powerful. Perhaps not measuring up to the hysterics of some critics, but disturbing nonetheless. Second paragraph:
“That traditional media are shrinking down to a few dominant players actually reinforces this point,” says Larry Downes, author of The Strategy Machine. “When old methods of communication mature, it’s natural for them to merge. Diversity in media will win out, thanks to faster, cheaper and smaller computing power.”
I don’t buy this sort of “well, it’s natural” argument. Media has been allowed to shrink down to a few dominant players because the government re-wrote regulations limiting the number of radio and television stations individual media companies could own, and other barriers to corporate consolidation. What Robert McChesney has correctly pointed out wasn’t really de-regulation but the replacement of public regulation (government) with private regulation (corporations). I try to be optimistic and think that diversity in media will win out, but it won’t happen organically or “naturally” without struggle and debate.
Tuesday, December 21st, 2004
When I tell my father I regularly post writing about my ideas and research (even my honors thesis) directly to the web, he gets concerned. How will I know someone won’t steal it?
I can’t blame him. After all, in an offline world it’s all too easy to steal someone’s idea, particularly if they’re simply a recent college graduate of little stature. However, it hasn’t happened to me yet. In fact, the only result I have seen has been remarkably positive. After posting my thesis online (PDF), I’ve been contacted by a former journalist who I cited in my honors thesis now in her 80s living in Sweden and the planner for the City of Detroit called to ask me if he could use my thesis in that city’s effort to build a park to commemorate a community I wrote about. When I put the syllabus to my course on political activism online, I was contacted by someone who had designed a similar course who sent me some feedback and his syllabus.
Although I don’t have that many ideas or writing worth stealing, I have written some things which have garnered modest online audiences. In those examples, everyone who commented on my idea (that I know of) clearly attributed their source. In fact, in the culture of the web attribution is extremely important. This is due partly because links make it easy (no need to bother with writing out the source author, title, date - just pop in a link) but also because cheating is easy to discover: a quick Google search can easily uncover whether the same words or phrases appears anywhere else on the web, and tools like Technorati can even see who is linking to your webpage.
This is why I think the cultures developing in intellectual communities on the web - which value attribution, transparency, free discussion, and the centrality of ideas and content, not social status – will be good for university communities. In fact, the web can help make universities more relevant and connected to the world. University of Tennessee’s Glenn Reynolds, University of Michigan’s Juan Cole, Stanford Professor Lawrence Lessig, and many other professors already write popular blogs about their area of expertise. As Universities open more of their resources to larger audiences, the quality of scholarship can only improve.
The Chronicle of Higher Education has been running an excellent series on academic plagiarism, which got me thinking about the topic to begin with. While doing an otherwise admirable job, the reporters don’t think much about how plagiarism is found out. Although some of the cases they describe were found through happenstance, at least one was discovered when an undergraduate entered some words from an article into an academic computer database.
I was very excited to hear recently that Google plans on ndexing all of the books in the University of Michigan and Stanford University libraries (to be completed well before 2010, with other libraries on the way). In addition to opening this information to the online world, this news will also profoundly impact plagiarism. Once the work is complete, if plagiarists lift even a sentence from any the millions of books which will be digitized, anyone will be able to discover them through a simple Google search.
In a Shakespeare class I took in high school, we were given the assignment to read and summarize one of the Bard’s history plays. I spent hours dutifully trudging through “Henry the V", and presented my summary to the class. However, one of my classmates’ summaries sounded suspicious: he couldn’t even pronounce some of the words he had allegedly written. A quick web search revealed he had simply copied a summary off of the web. I printed off the website, stapled it to his handout, and put it in our teacher’s mailbox.
The web can also help prevent plagiarism, not just catch it. Although professional organizations seemed hesitant to make claims of plagiarism public, it’s only a matter of time before one of the victims decides to make their allegations and evidence public on the web. (For all I know, this might have already happened) If the allegation is true it could help catch and even prevent the practice in the first place. I have long said that when I become a teacher if I catch a student blatantly plagiarizing, I’ll put his or her full name on the web with a short explanation of the incident with the evidence. I’ll call it my “plagiarism hall of shame.” I would hope any student (or professor) who knows they risk public, lifelong embarrassment would think twice about cheating.
Monday, December 20th, 2004
I am looking for collaborators interested in helping create a news and issues blog about progressive student activism in the United States. I am looking for current students (K-PhD) or recent grads with experience in grassroots organizing or working for independent and advocacy media and with a wide variety of ideological, personal, and issue backgrounds and experiences. If you are interested please email me ASAP: rob(at)goodspeedupdate.com.
Tuesday, November 23rd, 2004
A group that calls themselves the Robot Co-Op has launched a beta tool called 43 Things. It’s a way of keeping track of life goals, and also see which are popular among the group. Boring, you say? After a while, it can be oddly addicting. My list is here.
The folks at Echoditto point to two sources of interesting information about the size and growth of the Blogosphere: Livejournal’s statistics page, and this ClickZ article about the number of blogs. They report that the people at Technorati extimate the size of the blogosphere has doubled every five months over the past year and a half. The article also reports on a study which concluded that “over 90 percent of blogs are authored by people between the ages of 13 and 29.” Meanwhile, Pew Internet has found 2% of Americans maintain blogs.
After attempting to estimate which cities contained the largest and densest blogging communities and describing some of the emerging regional and local blog cultures, I am interested in studying online cultures from a larger perspective. Here’s an interesting list of the countries with the most LiveJournal users:
* United States - 2666008
* Canada - 181320
* United Kingdom - 140697
* Russian Federation - 98575
* Australia - 62824
* Germany - 18268
* Philippines - 17720
* Singapore - 15413
* Netherlands - 12752
* Japan - 11432
* Ukraine - 11132
* Finland - 9614
* New Zealand (Aotearoa) - 9242
* Brazil - 6885
* Israel - 6805
For much more information on this, see blogcount.com.
Friday, November 19th, 2004
Yesterday I attended the 2004 Roundtable on Progressive Politics and Technology, a mini-conference of a variety of people, organizations, and companies to discuss how Democrats and progressives use technology. Overall it contained lots of interesting tidbits, but little discussion since each panel had too many participants and the questions were saved until the end when most people had left. Some of the people over at EchoDitto blogged the first part of the event.
In my opinion the most interesting parts wasn’t the consultants squabbling over whether (and how) to construct more massive databases, but the introductory presentation by Phil Noble of PoliticsOnline.com, who talked about some of the interesting developments occurring in other countries. He discussed the political changes taking place in countries with more advanced cell phone technologies (enabling more political uses of SMS, for example) and broadband. As an aside, as a journalist I am fascinated by South Korea’s Ohmynews, and I’d love to help set up a similar organization in the U.S.
I was also interested to learn that the event was organized to kick off something called The Progressive Project, a “four year commitment to moving the progressive agenda forward by supporting innovative uses of technology.” Their public website launches on January 20, 2004, and it seems the entire initiative is still very much a work in progress.
Thursday, November 18th, 2004
Interestingly, it seems there have been several scenes of bloggers in the D.C. area in the past that have flourished, holding meetups and creating vibrant blog communities, however all are relatively dormant at the present time - hence my efforts to rekindle some sociability in the Meetup.com group. The next meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday, December 15 at Buffalo Billiards. Since I’ve received one complaint about the day we’ll consider moving days of the week starting in 2005.
Tuesday, November 9th, 2004
The community-edited events website Upcoming.org has launched a “popular” section listing the metro areas with the most events in their system, and also the most popular events. As of today, the most popular “metros” on the website were: New York City, San Francisco, Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor, Boston, Amsterdam, Los Angeles, Atlanta, San Francisco Bay Area, and Austin.
Upcoming is a very robust community events calendar - users can load information about events, view events entered by other people in their areas, discuss the events, and even find out who is planning to attend each event entered in the system.
I have been practically evangelical in my support for Upcoming, writing a short piece titled “Why You Should Use Upcoming.org” for Arborblogs, a community directory of local blogs in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I believe the website provides a framework to help individual bloggers work together to function as a powerful yet dispersed, noncommercial, grassroots media. The argument goes like this: if a critical mass of people in one area use Upcoming.org, anyone who uses Upcoming.org to host an events calendar on their website can choose to include on their personal sites events entered by other area Upcoming.org users. Unlike the events calendars in magazines and newspapers, the online listings can be continiously modified and updated (no deadlines for publication!), viewable by anyone, can be discussed freely, but also can be utilized by individuals with specific interests to create edited listings for their own sites.
I used Upcoming.org as one measure of the strength of online cultures in a recent white paper I posted to this site, where I argue cities with large populations of “creative class” professionals are leading the pack in the creation of online technologies and cultures.
Tuesday, November 2nd, 2004
This is a message from the Michigan Independent Media Center:
FORWARD THIS MESSAGE * SPREAD THE WORD * BECOME THE MEDIA * TAKE CONTROL
MICHIGAN INDYMEDIA TO PRODUCE SPECIAL ELECTIONS COVERAGE FOR MICHIGAN AND OHIO
Help Support Alternative Media on November 2 and Beyond
— website: http://michiganimc.org/
— breaking news: 1 877 825 9535
— for more info: email@example.com
One of the reasons Bush was able to steal the election in 2000 is because everyone was waiting for the television to tell them the answer. This time we’re watching the elections without the corporate filter.
The Michigan Independent Media Center (IMC) is teaming up with WCBN-FM Ann Arbor to mobilize coverage of the November 2 elections and we need your help.
The MichiganIMC will be a grassroots, non-corporate voice documenting possible voter disfranchisement, fraud and intimidation that may occur on November 2 (N2), as well as popular responses to injustices at the polls and other election-related protest activity. MichiganIMC is aiming to facilitate coverage of news from Ohio and Michigan, as well as national news.
This message contains important information that you need in order to support efforts to build an alternative media voice during the presidential elections. Read below for the following information:
-MichiganIMC Breaking News Hotline
-text message alerts
-Call for audio submissions for webcast radio
Tuesday, October 26th, 2004
After receiving lots of readers and some interesting feedback from a preliminary study I conducted on the location and nature of blogging culture in America, I decided to conduct some further analysis.
First, I decided I should use the U.S. Census’ metropolitan statistical areas to define my cities, since my original list had a couple cities (Namely Ann Arbor, MI and Oakland, CA) which were part of a larger metropolitan region. I added the data for these cities to their larger neighbors.
Second, I calculated a “blogging culture quotient” by adding together the number of members of the local meetup.com weblogger meetup group, the number of Diaryland and Livejournal users calculated by this study, and the number of Upcoming.org users. At least one person said the Diaryland data is inaccurate, and while I concede they might be correct I suspect its biases are systematic, IE it will be off by a similar amount nationwide. Second, the Upcoming site in general seems to have a bias for California. The meetup.com statistic should be the most sound, however in many cities bloggers organize meetups independent the website.
Third, I divided this “blog quotent” by the U.S. census’ 2000 population estimates (.xls) to generate a measurement of blogging per capita.
What did I find?
Monday, October 25th, 2004
Last summer, I was one of a number of bloggers who vigorously opposed a proposed ban on couches on porches of homes in Ann Arbor:
In the end, I concluded:
In the end, this issue isn’t just about couches, its about a certain class of mostly wealthy property owners being overrepresented in city politics. This is the reason why Ann Arbor has rolled back its liberal pot laws by piling on court fees, has exorbitant fines for snow removal towing (they all have garages, after all!) and refused to accept an extremely limited ordinance which might allow a few graduate students and old people to live in “granny flats.” People who are willing to stand up for the interest of the city’s renters, students, the poor (that remain), and many other virtually unrepresented communities must involve themselves in city politics.
The Old Fourth Ward Association is a neighborhood association notorious in the city for doing everything they can to boost their property values by calling police for even small student parties, and agitating for restrictive, puritanical laws. Many people in the city opposed a proposal a couple years back which would have eased the housing crisis by allowing home owners to rent out parts of their homes as apartments. This is from a recent email to members, via Ann Arbor is Overrated:
[O]n the couch ordinance that was tabled in September, some council reps indicated that they had received more emails against than for the ordinance. To me, the suggestion that email campaigns can affect council decisions is troubling. Can a group of temporary residents with easy access to sophisticated technology now exert more influence on local decisions that the individual opinions of longer term Ann Arbor residents with less access to technology?…Certainly, email campaigns and blogs have certainly influenced national politics in this way. The question is whether local politics should be influenced in a similar way.
Our friend AAIO has her own take: “Whew, at least they haven’t found out about our orbital mind-control lasers yet.”
Sunday, October 24th, 2004
Using a variety of measures, I’ve concluded twenty cities are key centers for blogging in America. Many of these cities have also been identified by Richard Florida as key centers for the “creative class,” a social grouping of Americans he identified whose work is primarily creative. (See the full mini-study)
I think that innovative online culture is taking place in these cities for precisely the same reasons he thinks they will succeed economically: a combination of Talent, Technology, and Tolerance.
Evidence of emerging online regional cultures:
- A multi-city network of news blogs I write for has sites in five of the top ten cities: New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington DC. (I write for their D.C. site)
- The metroblogging.com group has city-based news sites operating in a number of U.S. cities that make the list: Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Hawaii, Houston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New Orleans, New York City, Orange County, Orlando, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington D.C.
- The website craigslist has city-specific sites for virtually all of the cities I identify.
- Mature city blogging cultures also frequently have indigenous blogging guides: nyc bloggers, Seattle Weblogs, Boston blogs, Austin Bloggers, D.C. Bloggers, Chicago Blogs, etc.
On ‘Cool Cities’ and Blogs
The Emergence of Geographic Logic in American Web Culture
Online culture strongest in cities with ‘talent, technology, and talent’
By Rob Goodspeed
I like cities. A few months ago I read Richard Florida’s Rise of the Creative Class with interest. In it he argues some cities are doing better than others in attracting and retaining the economically successful “creative class” he thinks is becoming important in the American economy.
I like blogs. I have noticed that in the past year, amidst the explosion of number of blogs on the web, a number of cities seemed to have more blogs than others. Furthermore, I noticed in many cities an online culture of blogging began to emerge. In fact, I participated in this process myself. When I started goodspeedupdate.com, it was one among a tiny handful of blogs. As more emerged I founded arborblogs.com, a directory of Ann Arbor blogs, which now has over 100 sites listed.
I noticed something. The “cool cities” Florida identifies and the cities where blogging culture seemed strongest seemed to overlap. I decided to examine this connection, and I found there was a strong correlation between the number of bloggers in a city, and Florida’s index. In fact, the top 10 cities with the most bloggers included the top 8 from Florida’s list of centers of the creative class.
My theory: cities with the richest local online culture (measured in number of blogs, and use of a select group of other geographically-bound websites) will reflect those cities with the highest numbers of creative class people.
In short, the cities with the most blogs will be the most economically successful in the future.
Click beyond to read my full investigation. I found an interesting paper (PDF) titled, “Mapping the Blogosphere in America” which compiles the most popular blogging cities. My list, which takes into consideration a broader array of variables than just number of bloggers, differs slightly.
Monday, September 27th, 2004
Today, the New York Times Magazine’s cover story is about the impact of political blogs on the presidential election. The cover showed one subject of the story, blogger Ana Marie Cox, flanked by two veteran political reporters looking on curiously. They are labeled: the veteran newspaper reporters have covered 10 and 12 campaigns, Ms. Cox, 1.
The story discusses a number of political bloggers: Ana Marie Cox of Wonkette.com, Josh Micah Marshall of TalkingPointsMemo.com, and Markos Moulitsas of DailyKos.com, openly wondering exactly what importance these new media animals are having on politics.
The article notes the blogs can sometimes raise money – DailyKos.com author Markos Moulitsas raised over $40,000 for a Democratic candidate for U.S. House in Pennsylvania in a matter of a few days, and Howard Dean’s campaign blog arguably helped produce millions of dollars of online political donations – but their impact on journalism seems present only in isolated examples. Josh Micah Marshall reported on Trent Lott’s shady past while “traditional” media ignored it, and a “platoon of right-wing bloggers” let the assault on CBS news over the botched Bush memo controversy.
Beyond the personalities behind political blogs - there’s a larger story here: blogs are a rapidly maturing news medium clearly here to stay.
Blogs have the reputation for being sloppy with the facts and overly gossipy. However, just as in print one can find a broad range of content – from tabloid journalism to high-brow, sophisticated work - we should expect to find the same paradigms on the web. People like professor Jay Rosen, author Dan Gillmor (We the Media), Jonathan Dube of cyberjournalist.net and others understand that the web provides us with new formats and new tools to practice journalism - including blogs. While the early adopters might raise eyebrows, it shouldn’t be assumed blogs as a whole will be shallow, crass, full or rumors, or sex-obsessed.
The earliest daily newspapers in the United States arose in New York City in the 1830s and 1840s, and were simply broadsheets with two primary types of information: sensational stories of vice and crime, and statistical information needed for the conduct of business - ships arriving and departing, goods wanted for purchase and sale. These publications, as well as early popular printed works in the U.S., read more like today’s tabloids – full of sensationalist content. However, over time the medium matured, and a broad variety of magazines and newspapers found niches to exist.
Simply because Drudge publishes lies or Wonkette posts irreverent, snarky comments about sex doesn’t mean either are intrinsic into the medium of blogging. Blogs, which I define simply as a website that is frequently updated, come in all shapes and sizes. There are some intrinsic characteristics to blogging in general - and they’re not sex and lies. Will they degrade journalism, as the Times implies? I don’t think so.
- First, blogs are instantaneous – they significantly speed up the rate of communication for some. Television and radio also irrevocably sped up the pace of the news world – and older forms of media like book publishing and newspapers have found ways to adapt and persist.
- Second, blogs are more democratic than print, radio, or T.V. - they have greater possibilities for feedback than other forms of media. If a newspaper prints a lie, it is until the next day before they can correct the misinformation – or in the case of a periodical the next issue. Furthermore, editorial pages contain limited space for letters to the editor, and inevitably important letters don’t make it into print due simply to a lack of space. On the web, space is cheap – more voices can be accommodated. Furthermor, a blogger who posts incorrect or incomplete information can instantaneously retract or modify their post after one second or one year. Also, visitors can leave comments about the information – adding thoughts or additional data. In my personal experience, the blogs that attract and sustain the most traffic are precisely those who give their readers the ability to post comments or contribute by sending in information.
Furthermore, the tempo of publication has a very direct connection to the manner in which the organizations are run. For infrequent media organizations, it is very important for many layers of human editors to work together to insure information was accurate and complete if they wanted to gain and retain respectability, since they would put out an issue which would be distributed and discussed for a full day. Book publishing took this even further, serious academic publishers spending years editing and revising to ensure the published book, which would be around for years, could be as accurate and perfect as possible. These old practices don’t translate easily to the web: the New York Times’ campaign blog never took off partly because it was difficult to get edited information online in a timely manner. Capitalist blog entrepreneurs like Nick Denton know in order to run good sites they must adopt a new editorial framework. The Times story wrote that although Ana Marie Cox is paid $18,000 a year to blog by owner Nick Denton, “she likes the fact that Denton hasn’t put a lot of restrictions on her. ‘The only thing he said was that he wanted it to be funnier than Josh Marshall,’ she told me. ‘The bar isn’t raised too high.’” This is an idea I intend to expand upon at length later.
Finally, how will blogging evolve? Although it’s impossible to know for sure, I have some ideas:
1. Blogs will gain in popularity, diversity, and technique. Some will become highly institutionalized and “official,” perhaps even employing editors, advertising revenue, and incorporation (like DCist.com, which I edit). Older media organizations will continue to start blogs, just as they were forced to adapt to radio, television, cable, and the internet in general. There will be a wide variety of blogs – places to go for serious scholarly content, and places to go to find tabloid journalism and gossip.
2. The tempo of discussion, for some, will be sped up greatly. This has arguably been happening throughout the history of civilization. However, like previous shifts, there are many who will be not effected. It seems difficult to argue blogs will intrinsically cheapen the content of public debate – I think this might be the product of a dysfunctional political culture avoided by many sane, intelligent people – but I won’t work out this argument here.
3. Formal institutions will discover and “tame” the medium. Any new medium is born with a flurry of democratic exuberance. Naive computer enthusiasts thought the web would democratize public discourse, however time has shown although it’s easy to start a website, it’s hard to attract large readerships. Corporations started their own large websites, and many newcomers were forced out or relegated to the sidelines. The rules of the “old world” certainly still apply, although perhaps challenged. This will happen in the blogging world – much of the naive utopianism floating around today about the future of blogs will evaporate. It will become harder to develop a new blog – the window of opportunity will close slightly as “authorities” are established and blogging styles, genres, and protocols are worked out. No, blogs won’t usher in a renaissance of democratic journalism, but yes, it might make it easier for activist journalists to pull it off – the indymedia.org sites are a good but limited example.
New mediums provide innovative means for journalists of integrity, activists committed to social justice, and politicians seeking to improve the lives of people. However, they also provide new opportunities for those with less laudable goals.
Sunday, September 26th, 2004
Aaron Hawkings, author of popular Chicago blog Uppity Negro, has recently died. His site was known for its progressive politics and terse, witty style.
The news was announced on his blog by his sister September 9th. The family has not discussed the cause of death - Hawkings was 34. A recent message posted on the site from Hawkings’ mother thanked visitors for the “overwhelming” response to his death, saying “My hope is that Aaron knows how much he was loved and respected.” She also announced the blog would continue in some form, telling visitors:
If you read Aaron often you know he had passionate opinions about many things, including politics. If you really want to honor him this year, please register and vote on November 2, 2004.
His death was also reported by the newspaper Red Herring: “Bloggers mourn a lost brother”
I was an occasional visitor to his website, which was linked to from my old site, and found his views and style refreshing - he will be missed.
Monday, August 2nd, 2004
Friday, May 21st, 2004
Here’s my first post on the matter. Some recent press:
> New York Daily News: “Washingtonienne week”
> The Inquirer (UK): “Washington Senate sex blogger silenced”
> AZ Central.com: “Senator undecided on firing aide over sex blog”
> Gannett: “DeWine staff member’s alleged sex journaling practice exposed”
And this op-ed, which sensibly states:
” … Tell it how you want, but people have illicit sex. There is surely no exception among the satin marble halls and penetratingly pointed monuments of Washington (despite what the conservative majority may have you believe). Clinton’s trial for lying about sex to his enemies was a revelation, not because of the oval office’s penchant for pretty things, but because his impeachment exposed a Washington that conservatives (and many liberals) hypnotically pretend they are not a part of. The many conservatives who prodded Clinton for more information about his sex life, like the witch thrusting her finger into Hansel’s rib to feel the girth of his meat, were exposed as adulterers themselves. …”
> Portland State University Vanguard: “Word up: blogged sex heats D.C.”
The latest, from the AP, posted on the LA Times:
“Assistant of Ore. Sen. DeWine Is Fired
By Associated Press
WASHINGTON An entry-level staff assistant to Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, was fired Friday after an Internet journal of her sexual exploits was made public this week.
The woman, who used the pseudonym “Washingtonienne,” claimed in her Internet “blog,” a public Web page, that she was paid for having sex with a married man she identified as the chief of staff at a federal agency.
“Most of my living expenses are thankfully subsidized by a few generous older gentlemen,” the woman wrote. “I’m sure I am not the only one who makes money on the side this way: How can anybody live on $25K/year?”
The Web log has since been taken down. The woman had worked in DeWine’s mail room since the end of February. DeWine’s office declined to disclose her name.
“After investigating these allegations, our office has determined that there was an unacceptable use of Senate computers to post unsuitable and offensive material to an Internet Web log,” the senator’s office said in a statement.”
Wednesday, May 19th, 2004
This much is clear: a salacious weblog (Called “Washingtonienne"), ostensibly authored by a low-paid, sexually active staffer for a republican United States Senator has been taken off the web. Whether the author is telling the truth and whether or not they have been fired seems uncertain. The gossipy DC blog Wonkette continues to report on the story, which, she promises, “is definitely going to appear in the “legitimate” media (written by “real reporters") soon.”
> Also, the “Springfield News Sun” has posted something from the Cox news service: “Scandalous blog linked to DeWine office”