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December 31, 2009

A new year’s resolution: Be a bigger a-hole

I got an email yesterday from someone who was irritated that she couldn’t get a quick read on who I am, what this blog is about, how non-credible I am, etc. She did eventually find the “Disclosure” button that does a bunch of that work, but she would have preferred that I follow the Web convention of displaying an “About me” link. I replied that I’m a little shy, and that I don’t want to use credentials to influence credibility (although I of course do that all the time — I don’t scratch “Harvard” off my business card, for example).

Well, she’s right. I’m putting an About Me link, which will lead to the Disclosure page. It’s a convenience for the reader and it’s a convention for Web pages. And profile pages do tell us something about the person, even if it’s not always what the person thinks.

I’m also going to try to be less shy about posting links to things I’ve written elsewhere on the Web. For example, here’s a list of the columns I’ve written for KMWorld, and when the new one comes out, I’m going to blog it. That’s not too pushy, is it? After all, having a blog is already an assertion that you think someone somewhere might want to read what you wrote.

I may also blog links to interviews with me as they show up. I rarely do that because it seems like bragging. But, if I were a reader of this blog — and I probably wouldn’t be — I might also want quick pointers to places where the writer of this blog is not fully in control of what he says. So, I’m going to try to force myself to blog those links.

Now, if you don’t mind my taking a step out of my awkward little me-centric universe: May you all have happy, healthy, and productive new years!


August 5, 2009

Media Cloud unclouds media

The NY Times has a terrific article about Media Cloud, a Berkman Center project (hats off to Ethan Zuckerman, Yochai Benkler, Hal Roberts, among others) that will let researchers track the actual movement of ideas through the mediasphere and blogosphere.

Data about concepts! What a concept!

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July 25, 2009

Dan Gillmor’s early blogs found

Scott Rosenberg posts the happy news that Rudolf Ammann has found Dan Gillmor’s missing early bloggage for the San Jose Mercury News.

Scott includes a link to Dan’s first post, in 1999. Here are some snippets:

I’ve been thinking about the new ways of journalism, namely the ways the Internet is imposing on all of us. Internet Time has compressed the lives of all kinds of people in all kinds of businesses, and journalism is no exception. In fact, it may be one of the businesses most affected in the long run, both in the opportunities the Net creates and the threat it represents.

So I’m trying one of those new forms. It’s called a “weblog” — and it’s a combination of styles that could exist only on the Web. Text, pictures, hyperlinks and, soon, audio and video are all part of this new form, and I can’t wait to start experimenting with it.

Why do I like weblogs? Because the best ones are windows into the Web, various topics and people’s minds. Rather than trying to describe the form, let me show you several of the weblogs I look at daily (or even more frequently):

There’s nobody I admire more than Dan, for his integrity and his prescience.

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July 19, 2009

The Berkman bloggers feed

Like a fool, until Rebecca Tabasky told me, I didn’t realize that the Berkman Center aggregates blog posts from its fellows and friends and makes them available here.

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June 23, 2009

Isenberg on the WSJ on Iran on Nokia

David Isenberg questions the veracity of the Wall Street Journal’s report about Iran using Nokia equipment to do deep packet inspection. Interesting on its own and also as yet another example of smart bloggers raising journalism’s bar.

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June 17, 2009

Testing Apture

I just upgraded WordPress (well, BradSucks actually did it for me. Thanks, Brad!) and while I (um, he) was at it, I upgraded to the latest version of Apture. Apture lets you overload a link with whole bunches of information that pop up when a user clicks on it. The new version lets you add the Apture links while you are typing into WordPress’s “Add New Post” edit box, as I’m currently doing. This is more convenient than having to go back through your post to add the Apture links, but, more important, links added while in the edit box get saved locally. So, if Apture should — perish the thought! — someday perish, the links will still work. (If you add more than one destination to an Apture link, as I did for the BradSucks link, only the first one is saved locally, which is a very reasonable solution.)

Apture is free to sites with fewer than 5M page views. The new version also lets you add your own sources of links, in addition to coming loaded with Wikipedia, Flickr, Yahoo search (because Google search doesn’t have the API Apture needs) and a bunch of others.


June 4, 2009

White House bloggers get names

The bloggers who write the posts at the White House blog now are putting their names on their posts. I think this is a terrific move.

As I posted a couple of weeks ago, my interest isn’t in accountability. On the contrary. Usually, we think that along the Continuum of Responsibility, putting your name to something will push you toward the Staying In Line side, while being anonymous lets you run toward the Recklessness goal post. But, it doesn’t always work that way. At a site like, the anonymity of bloggers reinforced the notion that the blog is a faceless voice of authority, with an adjoining door to the Office of Press Releases. I’m hoping that now that the bloggers are signing their posts, they will feel free-er to speak in their own voices, and present shades of view that are a bit more off-angle, and thus more interesting than the Official View. That’s already been true of the posts of the guest bloggers on the site. Now I hope the official bloggers will feel ok about occasionally saying “OMG!!!! I CAN’T BELIEVE I’M IN THE WHITE HOUSE!!!!!!” except maybe a little more constructively and definitely with the caps only implied.

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May 21, 2009 vs. Wired.mag, out loud

There’s a really interesting discussion going on at BoingBoing gadgets about the relationship between Wired Magazine and Chris Anderson, the editor of the mag, who turned it off its path of Rich Nerd Fetishism, and has made it interesting and important again, is diving in. It’s great to see this sort of discussion done in public.

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May 16, 2009 Give your bloggers’ names!

The blog continues to improve, by which I mean it’s getting less like the glass-topped version of White House press releases. But it’s missing a big opportunity by keeping the blog posts anonymous.

The White House bloggers seem quite aware that a press release isn’t a post and are trying to create a difference between the two. For instance, the blogger begins the post on President Obama’s speech on credit card reform with a friendly paragraph about the citizen who introduced him. It’s not much and it’s still directly tied to the President’s remarks, but that paragraph doesn’t read like a press release or like a speech. And, that post ends with the blogger’s evaluation of the President’s proposal: “Long overdue.” That last phrase, expressing some personal enthusiasm, is uncalled for, and thus is refreshing, for blogging is a medium for the uncalled and the uncalled-for. (Which is why I love it.)

Still, it’s hard to see how the posts can blow past this minimal level of bloggishness…unless and until the bloggers start signing them.

The problem, I believe, is that the bloggers feel (and are made to feel) the awful weight of speaking for the White House. Their posts come straight from the offices behind the long lawn and the pillared portico. In some weird, ineffable way, they represent the building, its inhabitants, and its policies, just as press releases do. Press releases have authority because they’re not an individual expression. They have authority because they are unsigned and thus speak for the institution itself. Blog posts come from the same building, and, if they’re unsigned, maybe they’re supposed to have similar authority, except written in a slangier style. So, we don’t yet know exactly what to make of these unsigned posts. And neither do the bloggers, I think. It’s too new and it’s too weird.

But, if the bloggers signed their posts, it would instantly become clear that bloggers are not speaking for the institution of the White House the way press releases do. We would have something — the bloggers — that stands between the posts and the awesomeness of the White House. That would create just enough room for the bloggers to express something other than the Official View. They would be freed to make the White House blog far more interesting, relevant, human, and central to the Administration’s mission than even the most neatly typed press releases ever could be.

Already most of the bloggiest posts at come from guest bloggers who are named and identified by their position. They feel free-er to speak for themselves and as themselves, in their own voice. Now, I don’t expect the official White House bloggers to speak for themselves exactly. They are partisans and employees; they work for the White House because they love President Obama. But, if they signed their names, they could speak more as themselves.

This might let them do more of what the White House blog needs to do, in my opinion. For example, I’d like to read a White House blogger explaining the President’s decision to try some Guantanamo prisoners using the military tribunals President Bush created. White House communications officials probably consider it bad politics to acknowledge the controversy by issuing a defense. But bloggers write about what’s interesting, and hearing a spirited, partisan justification would be helpful, and encouraging. I personally think that Pres. Obama probably has good reasons for his decision in this matter, but the “good politics” of official communications are too timid. I want to hear a blogger on the topic. And I would love to learn to go to the White House blog first on questions such as this. And isn’t that where the White House would like me first to go?

Bloggers with names are the best way to interrupt the direct circuit from politics to official public expression. That would put people in the middle…which is exactly where we want them. [Tags: ]

Posted in slightly improved form at HuffingtonPost and TechPresident.


May 7, 2009

Stars and Stripes: Blogs away! (OR: The great default switch)

According to Stars and Stripes, military service people are being enabled and encouraged to blog. That military blogging is going on is hardly news, but the degree to which it’s being embraced is remarkable.

It’s part of the Great Default Switch we’re living through in everything from privacy to “piracy.” Where the military default was security and secrecy, now the “Why not?” is becoming “Sure, go ahead — talk and be social.” Within limits, of course. But the news isn’t the blogging and isn’t the limits. It’s the change in defaults.

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