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Rob Goodspeed
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6/30: dcist concert @black cat
7/2: live8 in philly
7/13: nat'l student conference
8/15+: student activist training in a2
10/23: detroit marathon

--: Revolution and Evolution in the Twentieth Century
6/27: Arc of Justice

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Thursday, June 30th, 2005

Google Earth


Google has launched a software program that “combines satellite imagery, maps and the power of Google Search to put the world’s geographic information at your fingertips.” It’s called Google Earth. I’ve uploaded a variety of images to Flickr that give you an idea of what it can do - however non of the screen grabs utilizes the search features built into the system. Check out Glover Park and Detroit,

Comments (0) • Posted to Urban DevelopmentTechnology by Rob at 12:15 am

Friday, June 24th, 2005

Technorati, Live 8 Team Up

The folks at the blog search engine Technorati have teamed up with the organizers of the concerts to create an “Blog Central” where they’ll be aggregating blog posts about the concerts. I’m considering going to the 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.

Comments (2) • Posted to PoliticsBlogosphereTechnology by Rob at 10:38 am

Data Mining: So Hot Right Now

> WaPo: “Pentagon Creating Student Database
> NYTimes: “Age 16 to 25? The Pentagon Has Your Number, and More

From the NYTimes story:

The Defense Department and a private contractor have been building an extensive database of 30 million 16-to-25-year-olds, combining names with Social Security numbers, grade-point averages, e-mail addresses and phone numbers.

The department began building the database three years ago, but military officials filed a notice announcing plans for it only last month. That is apparently a violation of the federal Privacy Act, which requires that government agencies accept public comment before new records systems are created.

Comments (1) • Posted to PoliticsTechnology by Rob at 10:02 am

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2005

‘Wireless’ Cities

Via Echoditto’s link blog, Intel’s 3rd-annual wireless ranking of U.S. cities. I’m not sure how they measure this, probably wifi points per capita, which I think seems like a bad way to compare a region with lots of Starbucks (they all have access points) with a city whose downtown is totally covered by wireless. Nevertheless, here’s the top 15:

1. Seattle
2. San Fran
3. Austin
4. Portland (OR)
5. Toledo
6. Atlanta
7. Denver
8. Raleigh-Durham
9. Minneapolis/St. Paul
10. Orange Co
11. San Diego
12. Chicago
13. Boston
14. DC
15. Colorado Springs

Comments (1) • Posted to Urban DevelopmentTechnology by Rob at 10:25 am

Sunday, June 19th, 2005

Craigslist for Everybody!

My friend Ed Vielmetti tipped me off that Craigslist has expanded to a whole slew of new cities, including Ann Arbor and a bunch of others like Fresno, Wichita and even the entire state of West Virginia. Thoughts? I am still waiting for Portland, Maine.

Update: Maybe I missed it last night, but there’s now a Craigslist for Maine.

Comments (0) • Posted to Ann ArborTechnology by Rob at 11:41 pm

Friday, June 17th, 2005

Get a Job

I always like to try to help my friends and acquaintances find work. However, I inevitably forget who is looking, or forget to send along job opportunities I hear about. Thus, I’ve decided to create an email group for people I know who are interested in getting emails from me about work opportunities to centralize the whole affair. You can join using this box:

Subscribe to RobJobs

Comments (2) • Posted to Technology by Rob at 12:54 pm

Friday, June 10th, 2005

The RIAA on Campus

Always good for a link, George sent me a link to this EFF white paper:

Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) today released a white paper exploring solutions. Entitled “When Push Comes to Shove: A Hype-Free Guide to Evaluating Technical Solutions to Copyright on Campus,” the paper examines the benefits and drawbacks of several systems designed to combat infringement on university networks.

“The music and movie industries want schools to spy on their students and ban whole categories of computer programs from the learning environment,” said EFF Staff Attorney Jason Schultz. “But there are ways to reduce infringement without undermining education and research. This paper explains what they are.”

Comments (0) • Posted to Technology by Rob at 5:04 pm

Google Looks for A2 Real Estate

Via Murph on Arborupdate, the Detroit News reports Google is looking for space in Ann Arbor. 200,000 square feet of space for 1,000 jobs - in a state that badly needs them.

Remember all the backlash in the last year against Richard Florida and his Cool Cities theory? According to the News: “Boston and Boulder, Colo., are other cities Google is considering for the project, which seeks to tap communities with a large population of recent college graduates from 22 to 30 years old. … ” Shocking, I know. Now, do you think that there will be more or less companies like Google in the future?

The article also has this tidbit:

Google is also looking for space to digitize thousands of bound materials within U-M’s library system, said John Wilkin, associate university librarian. “I wish we could accommodate them on campus, but we simply don’t have the room.”

Google personnel are working at U-M’s Buhr Remote Shelving Facility, but Wilkin didn’t have an exact employee total or the amount of space they were using.

The project began last July, with a goal of finishing in six years, but the work could be done in three years, Wilkin said.

Comments (2) • Posted to University of MichiganAnn ArborUrban DevelopmentTechnology by Rob at 11:08 am

Tuesday, June 7th, 2005

Shut-ins in Japan

This is from a Post story today about Japan’s “nerd culture":

Yet some sociologists critical of the nerd culture here have linked it to the high incidence of severe behavioral problems among men under 40. Immersed in role-playing games and comic fantasy worlds, many have found real-life personal conflict difficult to cope with– one cause, some say, for a massive increase in the social problem of hikikomori , or shut-ins. Now numbering as many as 1 million nationwide, the shut-ins – mostly men in their twenties or thirties – typically live in their parents’ homes, rarely leaving their rooms.

Comments (0) • Posted to Technology by Rob at 1:20 pm

Friday, June 3rd, 2005

Political Tech Firm in Hot Water

Via E, this from AmericaBlog:

Convio, a big Internet consulting firm in DC, worked on Howard Dean’s campaign among other big lefty clients. Well, now they’re working for the Alliance for Marriage, the lead group of anti-gay religious right bigots trying to write us out of the US Constitution.

Comments (0) • Posted to PoliticsTechnology by Rob at 4:45 pm

Thursday, May 26th, 2005

Memorial Day Weekend on the Outer Banks

This weekend I’ll be heading to the Outer Banks of North Carolina with some friends. It will be my second time there, I visited once when my brother was working as a jet ski jockey. I remember the beach was beautiful, but it was too suburban for my tastes. My parents and I are not the most particular people, but only found one restaurant that we genuinely liked - Owen’s Restaurant, which although was significantly more expensive than most of the others had a quality of service and food far above anything else I tried out there.

The outer banks is an interesting place - in the summer I have heard the barrier island can have over 200,000 people on it, and in most places it is less than 1 mile across. However, as there are only two major north-south roads, there are frequently traffic problems. I think they should build massive parking garages where the bridges come over from the mainland, and construct a light rail line to ferry people up and down the coast. Although it’s on a smaller scale South Florida has a linear system connecting West Palm Beach and Miami that I’ve ridden.

Although mostly a suburban waste land of Food Lions and drive-through liquor stores, the area is not without its interesting points. There’s the Fort Raleigh National National Historic Site on Roanoke island, the site of the first attempt by the British to colonize North America (in 1585). The colony at Roanoke is most widely known as “The Lost Colony” as a return voyage discovered the site in ruins and the inhabitants gone. There’s actually pretty good evidence at least some of the settlers intermarried with a friendly tribe, and their descendents still live in the area. I read a book on the history of the Roanoke colony on my trip there written by an Outer Banks historian, which I found to be a fairly easy to read telling of the story: Roanoke Island: The Beginnings of English America. Of course, the next British colony would fail as well - Popham in Maine, which was evacuated after one devastating winter. Also along the Outer Banks is the Wright Brothers National Memorial and the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

Last time I also created an ephemeral art piece on the beach inspired by the work of Andy Goldsworthy I like to call “wind and waves” …

Finally, I couldn’t remember if I had Sprint service out there. I turns out I only had analog roaming, but it was not before I discovered this very interesting map of every Sprint tower in the U.S. …

Comments (4) • Posted to HistoryTechnology by Rob at 1:42 pm

First Online Hearing Held On the Hill

A group of House democrats led by Congressman George Miller are holding an unofficial online hearing on the United Airlines Pension Crisis.

Comments (0) • Posted to PoliticsTechnology by Rob at 7:44 am

Saturday, May 14th, 2005

I Need Help

Installed an internet card from Sprint. Now my images in the web browser(s) are grainy and when you move the cursor over it a message pops up and says “Shift + R improves the quality of this image.” If you know the solution, send me a message: rob.goodspeed at

Comments (3) • Posted to Technology by Rob at 8:55 pm

Friday, May 13th, 2005

“Stop Nuclear Strike with a Cellular Spike!”

The title aside, a great idea - sign up with and get a text message when Sen. Frist tries the Nuclear Option.

Comments (0) • Posted to PoliticsTechnology by Rob at 4:44 pm

Wednesday, April 27th, 2005

Comments on Newspaper Articles?!

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.”

See Also:
> Is the Post allergic to URLs?
> The Post stumbles into their own mini blog-scandal

Comments (0) • Posted to BlogosphereTechnology by Rob at 11:51 am

Tuesday, April 26th, 2005

Find a Rally For a Fair Judiciary Tomorrow

MoveOn PAC and our partners in the Coalition for a Fair and Independent Judiciary are organizing a massive national wave of protest to stop them, culminating with emergency rallies across the country on Wednesday, April 27, at 5 PM (or earlier in a few cities).

This is an “all hands on deck” moment, and we need everyone to turn out and be counted.

> Find a rally on your area

Comments (0) • Posted to PoliticsTechnology by Rob at 5:11 pm

Virginia Governor

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 ®

Comments (0) • Posted to PoliticsBlogosphereTechnology by Rob at 9:54 am

Sunday, April 24th, 2005

Aerial Photos of the University of Michigan

With all the excitement surrounding satellite and aerial photography sparked by Google Maps, I thought it might be a good time to point out that the University of Michigan Plant Extensions Department has a number of aerial photos on the web here. To view them all, click on the different parts of the campus on the left, or check out this directory.

As best as I can tell the photos were taken at least 2 years ago in the fall. I like this photo because you can see people sunbathing on the Diag.

The image above is from Microsoft’s TerraServer. See it on Flickr to view notes or add comments.

Comments (0) • Posted to University of MichiganPhotosTechnology by Rob at 7:42 pm

Friday, April 22nd, 2005

Politicians on Flickr

I just stumbled across the first politician account on I’ve seen - Evan Bayh. I expect by 2006 this type of thing will be de rigueur for candidates, the same that happened with Friendster/TheFaceBook profiles for presidential candidates in 2004. What other celebrity/politician profiles are there on Flickr? Leave a comment.

Comments (0) • Posted to PoliticsTechnology by Rob at 9:19 pm

Monday, April 18th, 2005

Comments on the Independent

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 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, 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” 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 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 to keep the list up to date. If all of this weren’t enough, 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

Comments (1) • Posted to BlogosphereTechnology by Rob at 11:15 pm

Monday, April 11th, 2005

Tips for Posting Events on

After introducing an events calendar which draws from the free community events website, 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

Comments (2) • Posted to BlogosphereTechnology by Rob at 10:02 pm

New Blog

My friend Scott has abandoned his Master of None blog and started up, where he has already drawn some attention for a Starbucks internet gag. Go check out his site!

Comments (1) • Posted to Ann ArborBlogosphereTechnology by Rob at 4:22 pm

Tuesday, March 29th, 2005

DCist Comments

“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 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 ( … collect tidbits of political and cultural arcana.” - Washingtonian Magazine

Comments (0) • Posted to Washington D.C.BlogosphereTechnology by Rob at 12:52 pm

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2005

A New Use for Flickr

Obtaining photocopies at an official historical archive can be difficult. They usually charge per copy, and sometimes require you have them make the copies, which is time consuming. In some archives photocopies are sometimes prohibited, which makes transcribing documents a tedious prospect. However, many archives will allow digital photography of their holdings - but the problem is then what to do with the photos. They don’t print very well, and you can’t read the text well if you shrink it down to view or distribute on the web. The answer? The photo sharing site Flickr - where I can post comments, make available full versions of the images for those that are interested, and even categorize them with multiple keywords.

> See historical documents on the U-M secret society Michigamua
> My Michigamua primer
> All major entries on Michigamua

Comments (0) • Posted to MichigamuaHistoryPhotosTechnology by Rob at 1:10 am

Monday, March 21st, 2005

Social Networking for U-M Graduates

The University of Michigan Alumni Association is offering alumni who are not members of the alumni association a free 30-day trial of their online social networking tool, InCircle. Developed by people connected to Stanford University, InCircle works something like Friendster or TheFaceBook, but is designed for groups of alumni. (InCircle is a product of the Affinity Engines company) Currently, aside from the free 30-day trial, the Alumni Association is requiring you join their group to use the service. I believe they should allow ALL alumni to join the service and provide extra services to Alumni Association members, since having a critical mass of participants is critical for these things to be a success. I think if they provide limited, free accounts to everyone, in the end they would attract far more people to the association than requiring you join up front. The popular alumni networking company classmates has chosen this tactic: giving everyone free accounts, but allowing subscribers to get more functionality and information from the system.

As part of their effort to boost membership they’re also giving away iPods and t-shirts to some people who use the system before June 30.

> Are you a member? View my inCircle profile page.

Comments (3) • Posted to University of MichiganTechnology by Rob at 10:42 am

Thursday, March 17th, 2005

Newspaper Journalists Allergic to URLs!

The Post had an interesting profile of Maryland artist Frank Warren (whose website I wrote about on DCist in February) even mentioning that he displays his “Postsecret” postcards “on his PostSecret Web site. But they don’t include the URL. ( or They’ve done this before, and it mystifies me - granted, you can simply type “Postsecret” into google and find the site very easily, but I’m not sure why they wouldn’t include the extra 14 characters and make it as easy as possible. Are they afraid their readers will discover this internet that is providing them all their secrets?

Comments (2) • Posted to Washington D.C.Technology by Rob at 2:37 pm

Tuesday, March 15th, 2005

Site Redesign

Ok, you are required to post a comment to this one, I have forgotten if they work! I have added a fourth column to the design with my photos. Too much? Just right? I was worried my events were getting buried.

The many colors of the GU:
At first it was an ugly blue
Then this rather sophisticated green
Then a “garish” pink
Finally a black and white and grey design

Comments (5) • Posted to Site AnnouncementsTechnology by Rob at 10:27 pm

Blogosphere Shows Explosive Growth

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.

Comments (0) • Posted to BlogosphereTechnology by Rob at 9:06 pm

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.

Comments (0) • Posted to BlogosphereTechnology by Rob at 12:54 pm

Saturday, February 26th, 2005

My Profiles

incircle (U-M)

Comments (0) • Posted to Site AnnouncementsTechnology by Rob at 2:09 am

Thursday, February 17th, 2005

A D.C. Blogging Scandal and Blogging Best Practices

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.

Comments (2) • Posted to Washington D.C.BlogosphereTechnology by Rob at 4:34 pm

Thursday, January 27th, 2005

Blogs in Historical Perspective

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. …

> USA Today: “Chill, blogophiles; you’re not the first to do what you’re doing” (via CyberJournalist)

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.

Comments (0) • Posted to HistoryBlogosphereTechnology by Rob at 12:31 am

Tuesday, December 21st, 2004

On Technology and Plagerism

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.

Comments (0) • Posted to BooksPoliticsHistoryBlogosphereTechnology by Rob at 6:51 pm

Tuesday, December 14th, 2004

I’m still working on straightening out my AOL Instant Messenger name, so in the interim my new name is RobGoodspeed

Comments (0) • Posted to Site AnnouncementsTechnology by Rob at 4:18 pm

Google to Digitize the University of Michigan Library

Google has announced today a program to digitize the libraries of four major research universities: Harvard, Stanford, Michigan and Oxford in England. Only Standford and Michigan have thus far agreed to have their entire collections scanned - for Michigan, that means over 7.4 million volumes. Google expects to finish scanning the Michigan collection in 6 years. Books whose copyrights have expired will be completely available online for free through Google’s search engine, and works under copyright will still be searchable, although only small excerpts will be available.

The University of Michigan has further revealed: “Google began discussing this project with the University of Michigan Library in 2002. U-M served as the premiere testing site for Google’s non-destructive scanning technology. The digitization workflow was also first implemented at the University of Michigan.”

Google founder Larry Page is a Michigan graduate.

I wonder, if Google plans to scan 1 million books per year at their peak at the University, where in Ann Arbor do they plan to set up shop?

> UM PR: “Google/U-M project opens the way to universal access to information”
> AP: “Google to Scan Books From Big Libraries”
> W. Post: “Google to Digitize Some Library Collections”
> Michigan Daily: “Google to digitize ‘U’ libraries”

Comments (1) • Posted to University of MichiganBooksHistoryTechnology by Rob at 1:03 pm

Friday, December 10th, 2004

My AIM Account Disabled

My AOL Instant Messenger Account (RobGoodsp) has been temporarily disabled (it says my login has been ‘blocked’), apparently due to a technical snafu. Please use email to get in touch with me: rob.goodspeed (at)

This article on eWeek says the problem may take until Monday to sort out:

America Online Inc. has confirmed that it mistakenly deactivated a number of AOL Instant Messenger accounts this week as part of its regular cycle of opening unused screen names to new users.

AOL, whose instant messaging service is among the most widely used worldwide, had begun releasing screen names that had gone unused when it snarled the accounts of some active users in the process, an AOL spokeswoman confirmed to The Dulles, Va., company is working to restore the mistakenly turned-off accounts by Monday. …

It occurs to me - does anyone know any easy-to-use alternatives to IM? Is such a thing as open source, peer-to-peer messaging possible without learning arcane codes?

Comments (0) • Posted to Technology by Rob at 2:41 pm

Wednesday, June 9th, 2004

Get Gmail!

If you would like a Google Gmail account contact me at rob.goodspeed (at) Update: I have given out all the invitations I have, thanks for your interest! If you still need one, check out the gmail swap website.

Update (6/8/05): I have lots of invitations, drop me a line for a free account! 2+ gigabytes of storage.

Comments (0) • Posted to Technology by Rob at 12:49 pm Edit This