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June 30, 2005

Dinner with Loic

I got to have dinner with Loic Le Meur tonight. As you know, Loic is a serial entrepreneur and the head of Europe for Six Apart (=TypePad, Movable Type, LiveJournal). We went to a brasserie where I had a delicious salad — why does French lettuce taste so much better than American? — an omelet, liberte frite, and a fantastic tarte. But, most of all I got to talk with Loic for three hours. We talked about why there are an incredible three million bloggers in France, what people on the Net have in common, whether American waiters mean it when they ask how you like the food, and lots more.

I would never have met Loic if we weren’t bloggers. And we were friends before we met because we are bloggers. [Technorati tag:]

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Dutch blogging and PR confab

This morning I was part of a two-hour panel discussion sponsored by Edelman PR on the effect of blogging on business. Also on the panel: Fiona McDonnell of Forrester Research, Peter Olsthoorn, a journalist, and Richard Edelman, CEO of guess what company. About 50 business people and journalists showed up.

I went first and talked for about 15 mins on what blogs aren’t: Bloggers are not journalists (by and large). Blogs aren’t a medium any more than conversations are a medium. The long tail isn’t straight; it’s knotted with links and conversations. We don’t just talk about our cats, but if our cats are interesting to us, then why wouldn’t we write about them? There is no one definition of blogs, but I find it useful to pay attention to: 1. The way blogs are our selves in the new public of the Web; 2. The way the fallibility of blogs creates intimacy; 3. The fact that blogs are conversational in ways that the mass media simply can’t be. Finally, blogging is not a fad.

Fiona presented the result of Forrester’s studies showing that the influence of the Net is continuing to increase and that we trust other people like ourselves more than we trust authorities. (This finding is consonant with Edelman’s “trust index.”) Then Peter gave a journalist’s view, worrying about the unreliability of blogs as they gain influence. We hadn’t seen each other’s slides beforehand, and his final one flat out disagreed with my final one; his said “Journalism is for real. Blogging is hype.” (That’s a paraphrase.) What can I say? Peter is a very smart guy with a lot of experience as a journalist, and we disagree. Then Richard talked about how the rise of blogging in particular and the Web in general is changing the practice of PR. He is encouraging clients to blog, and writes his own here. (Disclosure: I am a consultant to Edelman PR.)

Afterwards Richard and I flew to Paris where tomorrow we have a similar session, moderated by no less than Loic Le Meur. Immediately after that, I fly home. I love Paris and wish I had more than an hour of free time here, but I am very ready to be home for a looong time…

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Gary Turner’s Webmaster Traffic Art

Gary presents the first known instance of this nascent art form.

Thank goodness Gary hasn’t turned his genius to evil. [Technorati tags: ]

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African bloggers blogging about Live 8

From Rebecca MacKinnon:

On Global Voices, Ethan Zuckerman has a roundup of African blogger reaction to Live8: http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/globalvoices/?p=263

Ethan adds his own two cents on his own blog here: http://www.ethanzuckerman.com/blog/?p=98

[Technorati tags: ]

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June 29, 2005

Sticky eyeballs

I’m in Amsterdam today and half of tomorrow, talking at meetings set up by Edelman PR, to whom I consult. I had the afternoon off, so after falling into a state of unconsciousness deeper than that of the mattress on which I lay, I set out with nothing but a map and zero sense of direction.

I walked into the center of the city and then came back out and went to the Rijksmuseum for an hour. Most of it is closed for renovation, so they’ve concentrated the masterpieces into about ten rooms. Astounding. Too much. I had the sense that I could see the paint run backwards into the puddles of color on a palette, and then I simply could not imagine how the process ran forwards. I could almost hear the suck and pop as my attention pulled from one painting and attached to the next.

And I had an experience I never had before. There was a landscape — I amazingly didn’t bring a pen with me so I don’t remember who painted it — that wasn’t particularly attractive to me. It was somewhat washed out, perhaps by time but perhaps on purpose. An oak tree twisted itself up from a hill against a low Netherlands landscape and miles of gray clouds. The craft of the painting didn’t particularly strike me — I’m a sucker for craft — yet I felt a yearning to be on that hill on that bleak day. I actually felt sad that I couldn’t be there. The painting made me homesick for a landscape I’ve never been centuries before I was born. [Technorati tag:]


Alert reader Peter Dawson figured out that it’s “Landscape with Two Oaks” (1641) by Jan van Goyen.

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Explosion on Mars Puzzles Editors

You know how early on in cheesy sci fi movies they would casually show a small article in the newspaper like “Explosion on Mars Surprises Scientists” that foreshadows the disaster that is about to impend? A couple of days ago, I saw a headline like that: Reuters wants to become a front line news source, rather than simply having its content used by other newspapers. (I tried to find the article today but try searching on “Reuters” at Google News.)

So, imagine that we — you and me, sister — have access to this miscellanized news content. Who needs the NY Times editorial judgment to tell us what’s important when we can filter it for one another? Or let me get a mix filtered by the NY Times’ judgment with a heavy dose of the interests of Ethan Zuckerman, Rebecca MacKinnon, AKMA, The Kenyan Pundit, Zephyr Teachout and Susan Crawford. Then throw in the stories that have caught the eye of The Daily Show staff writers, Michael Moore, Andrew Sullivan, Ken Mehlman, Powerline, Isaac Mao and Esther Dyson’s mailing list…just for starters.

It’s not just, as Dan Gillmor famously says, “My readers know more than I do.” We readers, clumped into knots of interest, also are better judges of what matters to us. Put that together with an explosion on Mars, and you’ve got the fleet of flying saucers just about to enter our atmosphere. (Early saucer sightings: Rojo and NewsILike.com [Technorati tags: ]

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June 28, 2005

Assessing conversations

A teacher who heard my talk at the NECC last night has sent me an email wondering how teachers (pre-college) can “evaluate and assess the level of student contributions to conversations.” No fair disputing his premise that he has to assign grades, because we’re talking about a public school system under increasing back-asswards demands for more and more “accountability” and testing. So, given that he has to give grades, if he moves more to a conversational model, how can assess students’ participation? Do you know of any interesting approaches to this?

Thanks. [Technorati tag:]

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Italian translation of Small Pieces for Kids

Alberto Mucignat has translated the kids version of Small Pieces Loosely Joined into Italian, and has posted it into a wiki. Thanks! [Technorati tag:]

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Blog Live8

One.org is giving away 50 backstage press passes to bloggers. Dave Sifry explains how you enter the drawing, as do Joe Trippi and Powerline. [Technorati tag:]

(Get your own Live 8 graphic like the one above here.)

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Lumberjerk Rule of (Swollen) Thumb #423

My brother and I are known to our family as “The Lumberjerks” not so much because we can’t drive a nail straight but because of the throroughness of our lack of familiarity with the basic properties of three dimensional space.

As I was constructing a simple set of bookshelves today, I discovered the following Lumberjerk principle: When fastening an object, every additional screw you put in increases the probability that you have positioned the object in the wrong place. [Technorati tag:]

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