Weblog on the Internet and public policy, journalism, virtual community, and more from David Brake, a Canadian academic, consultant and journalist

Archive forJune, 2004 | back to home

9 June 2004

The 4290 inhabitants of a bunch of really isolated islands off the coast of Scotland were given computers and Internet access through some government programme. Then a few months later the BBC turned up and tried to encourage them to produce weblogs.

Well, after a couple of ill-attended meetings and promotion in the local media, altogether 72 people had created blogs by the end of six months (of those, only eight have been “updated within the last week”:http://www.bbc.co.uk/scotland/whereilive/westernhighlandsandislands/islandblogging/bloggers/). Of course part of the relatively low takeup might be to do with the fact that the BBC blogs were hosted by the BBC and were pre-moderated – you’d post something and it would take a day to be approved! Not surprisingly (since these people live in pretty close contact with their neighbours) none of the weblogs tried to be controversial in their communities or political – instead they tended to concentrate on mundane day to day community events.

I spoke to the man from the BBC (Richard Holmes) after his presentation at “NotCon”:http://www.notcon04.com/ and he said that some of the community leaders on the island did take up blogging early on but abandoned it and that those who kept blogging were a cross-section of the community. I hope some more in-depth studies have been done on this experiment and I will be interested to see how many of the people who were started off blogging carry on doing it once the BBC stops the experiment (due to finish this month).

It’s interesting to me that even with 100% access and encouragement in the end only .1% of the islands’ population ended up blogging regularly. I wish I had been there to gather some ethnographic detail that would explain why (though I have a few guesses).

8 June 2004
Filed under:E-democracy,Net politics at9:53 am

Will Davies gave a talk at “NotCon”:http://www.notcon04.com/ on the need for a sociological view of the Internet among Internet activists that everyone with any interest in the politics of the Internet should take a look at it. I wished I had been together enough to present something at NotCon myself but Will’s presentation covered much the same ground as I would have and with great clarity and insight (you don’t have to be a sociologist to follow it!).

The full text of his talk (more or less) in Word format is “here”:http://www.theisociety.net/archives/Notcon%206th%20June%202004%20-%20will%20davies.doc

P.S. I just discovered there’s a “NotCon Topic Exchange channel”:http://topicexchange.com/t/notcom/ so if you’re posting NotCon-related stuff try using it so others can follow along…

7 June 2004

TheyWorkForYou.com, launched yesterday at “NotCon”:http://notcon04.com/ is a great example of barn-building by the energetic community of public-spirited, capable, policy wonk/tech geeks here in the UK. It takes the speeches in Parliament and breaks them down by speaker allowing things like commenting to or linking to specific passages and monitoring what a member of parliament says about a subject. It also includes lots of useful links to data about each MP like what organizations are paying them to consult for them.

Cory “called it”:http://www.boingboing.net/2004/06/06/theyworkforyou_fines.html the ‘finest advocacy web-app in the world’. I wouldn’t go that far. It doesn’t really demystify the political process here in the UK – it doesn’t explain what the connection is between the speeches in Parliament and what gets done (if indeed there is one) so it is likely still to appeal most to policy wonks and it doesn’t cover select committees where (I gather) a lot of what parliamentary power is left is exercised. Nonetheless considering the fact it was coded by a small team in their spare time it’s pretty impressive. Definitely worth a look if you are interested in tracking UK politics.

Best of all, the whole project is open source and they encourage feedback and creative re-use of their work so if you want to help them build more features or want to take the framework and apply it to (for example) the European parliament, the House of Lords or the workings of your local council you are encouraged to do so.

6 June 2004

I have been rather jealous to read about all the net-related conferences in the US I have had to miss but NotCon in London made up a lot of ground for me – it was the most stimulating nine hours I have spent in ages. I’ll post more about it over the next week I am sure, meanwhile here are few pretty dreadful (but quickly uploaded!) “pictures from the event”:http://community.webshots.com/album/150042801KUvpqS.

I’m sure there will be lots more “weblog postings about NotCon”:http://www.technorati.com/cosmos/search.html?rank=&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.xcom2002.com%2Fnc04%2F&sub=Go%21 (or “here”:http://www.technorati.com/cosmos/search.html?rank=&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.notcon04.com%2F&sub=Go%21) as soon as the rest of the bloggers get home and start chatting about it.

Filed under:Academia,Best of blog.org,Weblogs at10:08 am

“Alex Halavais”:http://alex.halavais.net/ has tried to produce a ranking of

5 June 2004
Filed under:Digital TV,Gadgets,Useful web resources at11:00 am

The Lifeview TV Walker is a mobile phone sized TV tuner that connects to a laptop. It works with all three television standards and lets you record TV to your hard disk. It’s a cool idea but I don’t know I would be willing to put up with bad reception and limited number of channels now that I have digital TV at home. And I don’t travel that much anyway.

4 June 2004
Filed under:Academia,Weblogs at10:48 am

American academic trade publication The Chronicle featured an article last year about Scholars Who Blog. As you might expect, those who do it often find it rewarding: Blogging ‘has some of the best aspects of peer review built into it,’ Jacob Levy wrote in a “post about blogging”:http://jacobtlevy.blogspot.com/2002_09_01_jacobtlevy_archive.html#81283697. Scholars’ entries ‘are instantly monitored and responded to by others as well-informed as they are.’ Interestingly, the article claims:

“To a remarkable degree, blogs also appear to bring full professors, adjuncts, and students onto a level field. With no evident condescension, senior faculty bloggers routinely link to the political-affairs blog maintained by Matthew Yglesias, a senior at Harvard University.”

It certainly isn’t just faculty producing interesting stuff – I was impressed recently when I came across “Read Me”:http://journalism.nyu.edu/pubzone/ReadMe/ – which turned out to be produced by students in the Department of Journalism at New York University.

It seems to me the UK is far behind the US when it comes to the amount of academic blogging going on (see “PhDWeblogs”:http://www.phdweblogs.net/ for evidence – if it is working). I wonder if it is the speed of diffusion of technology, cultural differences between the US and the UK or attitudes to technology or self-disclosure here that make the difference?

3 June 2004
Filed under:Humour & Entertainment at11:28 am

Check this out.
Thanks Tara for providing me with this transient amusement….

2 June 2004

A month ago I put my two cents into the discussion going on “here”:http://www2.iro.umontreal.ca/~paquetse/cgi-bin/om.cgi?Research_Blogs/Self-Organizing_Directory_Development about what an ideal database of research weblogs would look like. Lots of interesting ideas on the page but I don’t know, alas, if any development is actually going ahead. I wish I had the expertise to do something myself. Maybe someone will pick up the ball during the summer break?

See this page for more postings about weblog metadata.

1 June 2004

Sébastien Paquet has “written a paper”:http://radio.weblogs.com/0110772/2004/04/21.html#a1548 about the usefulness of “Internet Topic Exchange”:http://topicexchange.com/ – a rather nifty web service that lets several people with weblogs that handle trackback group their postings together by subject.

It’s a little hard to explain – for example, I create a ‘UK Media Studies’ topic exchange page, then every time I make a post that relates to that topic I add a trackback link to that page (just as if it was a weblog). Other people do likewise. Instead of checking all of their weblogs for new postings I can just check that subject page. Take a look at this “weblog research”:http://topicexchange.com/t/weblog_research/ topic exchange to see how it’s done.

Thanks to Lilia Efimova for the link.

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