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

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24 September 2004

Search Engine Watch publishes a good roundup of the latest coverage of flaws and bias in the way Google News’s automated news gathering works in practice. They link to a New Scientist article revealing “Google China has suppressed links to ‘forbidden’ news”:http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99996426 on the grounds that:

“In order to create the best possible news search experience for our users, we sometimes decide not to include some sites, for a variety of reasons. These sources were not included because their sites are inaccessible.”

. It’s an explanation but not really a justification…

27 July 2004

O’Reilly’s Digital Democracy Teach-In at the “O’Reilly Emerging Technology conference”:http://www.oreillynet.com/et2004/ is available in a “variety of audio formats”:http://www.archive.org/audio/audio-details-db.php?collectionid=digidemo2004-gatekeepers&collection=conference_proceedings via “Archive.org”:http://www.archive.org/audio/etree.php along with a few other conferences (mostly to do with technology).

I must confess the main reason I found it useful to listen to is that it renewed my passion for my subject by reminding me how much of what is said about (for example) the democratic importance of blogging I disagree with and would like to properly test empirically.

On the other hand the keynote speech at ETech by “Marc Smith”:http://research.microsoft.com/~masmith/ (a sociologist at Microsoft best known for “studying usenet”:http://netscan.research.microsoft.com/Static/Default.asp was “fascinating”:http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/a/network/2004/02/11/etech_keynotes.html – “audio here”:http://www.archive.org/audio/audio-details-db.php?collection=conference_proceedings&collectionid=etech2004-smith.

22 July 2004

“Henry Farrell”:http://www.henryfarrell.net/ and “Daniel Drezner”:http://www.danieldrezner.com/blog/ have published a first draft of a paper on politics and blogs on Crooked Timber. It includes some analysis of the link distribution of such sites and also, crucially, acknowledges the importance of the early blogger journalists as a way to legitimise the blogosphere for ‘mainstream’ journalists to use it. It includes a survey of American journalists (including elite journalists) indicating which weblogs they read (more on that survey “here”:http://www.danieldrezner.com/archives/001321.html and raw data “here”:http://www.danieldrezner.com/research/Blogsurveypublic.xls.

It would be interesting to know what the power positions of the respondents were within their news organizations…

There were some minor nits I picked in a comment to the Crooked Timber posting but otherwise I think it’s shaping up to be a valuable contribution to the debate about political weblogs.

16 July 2004

My supervisors have been active in the “CRIS”:http://www.crisinfo.org/ ( Communication Rights in the Information Society) programme and have called my attention to its work. On this year’s CRIS agenda is:

The CRIS Global Governance Project, sponsored by the Ford Foundation. The project’s aim is to support the emergence at national level of the concept of communication rights … advocacy on governance issues including civil society participation in governance structures… and in various global governance fora.

If you’re an academic interested in the connection between media participation and civil society take a look and join in!

19 June 2004

Ethan Zuckerman “posts”:http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/ethan/2004/06/13#a222 about a thought-provoking lecture by “Guido Sohne”:http://sohne.net/ on the limitations of open source development in Africa. It’s worth reading his whole post but I will just note that Guido suggests open source development is limited in Africa because African programmers are too busy trying to earn a basic living to donate their time to creating open source code. Similarly, providing free wireless Internet access as many are doing as a volunteer effort around the developed world is much more difficult when the cost of providing that access relative to income is much higher in Africa.

In other words a lot of the benevolence we often take for granted online and consider part of the Internet culture actually relies on a certain economic base where programmers have free time and energy to work on projects they consider worthwhile and bandwidth and computing resources are ‘too cheap to meter’.

For a more optimistic view check out Dan Gillmor’s eJournal – Open Source a No-Brainer for Developing World.

Thanks to “Boingboing”:http://boingboing.net/2003_09_01_archive.html#106356200472733745 for the latter link

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…

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.

22 May 2004

According to “CNET”:http://news.com.com/2100-1034_3-5193926.html?tag=nefd.lede The Mayor of Salt Lake City declined to provide support for a plan for an open broadband network infrastructure in the city, saying:

“I just don’t see the social good in using taxpayer money to fund a network that provides more television and bandwidth for illegally downloading files”

Fortunately here in the UK things policy makers are somewhat more receptive…
Thanks to Werblog and “BoingBoing”:http://www.boingboing.net/2004/04/20/mayor_of_salt_lake_c.html for the links.

14 May 2004

American NPR radio show The Connection interviews George Packer, who recently “criticised blogging”:http://www.motherjones.com/commentary/columns/2004/05/04_200.html in Mother Jones. Alas it isn’t really a very interesting article or programme. To summarise:
_George_: Political weblogs are addictive but offer little substance – they just offer opinions about opinions off the top of the authors’ heads without editing, thoughtfulness or useful additional evidence.
_Bloggers_: That’s not always true – check out these sites
_George_: Well, OK – some blogs are useful, but most are time wasting.

See “here”:http://www.technorati.com/cosmos/search.html?rank=&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.motherjones.com%2Fcommentary%2Fcolumns%2F2004%2F05%2F04_200.html&sub=Go%21 for lots more blog commentary about George’s Mother Jones piece (much of which seems to unwittingly support his thesis).

11 May 2004

You’d think from all the discussion about blogging being a highly interactive community activity from “Joi Ito”:http://joi.ito.com/static/emergentdemocracy.html, “Jim Moore”:http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/people/jmoore/secondsuperpower.html, “Ross Mayfield”:http://www.socialtext.net/mayfield/index.cgi?social_network_dynamics_and_participatory_politics and others that “Blogger”:http://www.blogger.com/, one of the most popular weblog services, would have been supporting the ability to comment for a long time now. But of course it hasn’t been – until now.

Of course a dedicated blogger could always add the facility to comment to their site using an external add-on but how many would? Well, apparently not many. Overall, “less than half”:http://www.ics.uci.edu/%7Ejpd/classes/ics234cw04/herring.pdf of people have comments turned on in their weblogs and this largely depends on what the default setting for the software provided is (and the number of comments actually made on most weblogs is low to none).

Anyhow, let’s not be too churlish – the latest revision of Blogger does add some good features – it even adds one or two things I can’t get through Moveable Type (as standard) yet – the ability to email a posting to your blog for example, and the creation of a standardised ‘blogger profile’ page. It’s just a pity it only offers Atom, not RSS feeds, and doesn’t support the absolutely vital feature of categories (see below this post and the list of categories I provide on the right).

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