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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13 May 2004

It was interesting to see so many bloggers f2f though it wasn’t exactly a random sample either of the population or even (I suspect) of bloggers. The “gathering”:http://joi.ito.com/joiwiki/LoicLondonMay04 was about 90% male and mostly in the Internet/IT industries.

One of the interesting things about blogging that I was aware of but this brought into focus is the existence of an important group of blog enablers – people who aren’t prominent bloggers themselves but who develop the services or support others’ services without payment because they can. Public-spirited people like “Bruce”:http://www.growf.org/ who helps out the “NTK”:http://ntk.net/ gang and Tom who set up and runs “bbCity”:http://www.bbcity.co.uk/. I also met “Anders”:http://www.jacobsen.no/anders/blog/ (who will have more pictures from the event on his “photo blog”:http://www.extrospection.com/) and Annie who runs a weblog (and a site) all about “London Underground”:http://london-underground.blogspot.com/ but not from a trainspottery perspective.

See “here”:http://www.technorati.com/cosmos/search.html?rank=&url=http%3A%2F%2Fjoi.ito.com%2Fjoiwiki%2FLoicLondonMay04&sub=Go%21 for more postings from other London bloggers about the gathering as they happen.

I have a few (very poor quality) pix “here”:http://community.webshots.com/album/142686002dtOLws.

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).

29 April 2004

Harald has been using it for a while and while I have long been skeptical of the benefits and uses of this software I have finally let curiosity get the better of me. So if you know me and you’re on “Orkut”:http://www.orkut.com/ (the Google-owned social software site), look me up. It seems already “I am connected to 244374 people through 1 friend”. I think this reflects the rather tenuous idea they have of connection rather more than it reflects any real godlike social status!

21 April 2004

It’s in the planning stages (see “this wiki”:http://joi.ito.com/joiwiki/LoicLondonMay04) but seems to be settling around the evening of May 12th. It looks as if there’ll be at least 50 people coming, including quite a few of the people on “my blogroll”:http://www.bloglines.com/public/derb/. I’ll be there – especially if it’s at a Japanese restaurant…

Thanks to Boing Boing for the link.

(If you like this you may also want to check out “Notcon”:http://blog.org/archives/cat_net_politics.html#001081)

5 April 2004

I’d like to collect a selection of weblogging “manifestos” containing descriptions of what weblogging is supposed to be “for” and who webloggers are (not statistical surveys, but people’s views). I sense that there is a growing self-awareness from “a list” bloggers and an emergent notion of what weblogging is supposed to be about but I would like to trace its roots. Can any of my readers suggest a good way of collecting and analysing what has been said in a way that is ‘unbiased’?

I want to write about the documents I have found wearing my academic hat so I can’t just say ‘here are some interesting links that I found’ – I have to be able to claim that these are in some way representative – or preferably that these are the most influential. I tried typing ‘weblog manifesto’ into various weblogging search engines and didn’t get much back that was useful. Googling for ‘weblog manifesto’ found some interesting stuff (a “commercial blogging manifesto”:http://radio.weblogs.com/0001011/2003/02/26.html and a “Draft Manifesto for the Role of Weblogs in the Larger Society”:http://www.thesentimentalist.com/archives/000076.html), but I sense that the links I found were not the most influential either. I didn’t find the paper on “Emergent Democracy”:http://joi.ito.com/static/emergentdemocracy.html that way for example – and I imagine it has been influential (or at least the views of its writers have been). I would be interested in the most important “old media” writers about weblogging as well. Any ideas?

31 March 2004

It’s nice to see someone trying to do something a little experimental to help people get an overview of the messages on the message boards they use.

They say initial feedback has been positive – hard to tell whether that is just because people react well when researchers pay attention to them but they intend to continue keeping an eye on the experiment.

I hope it is successful – we need new “blue sky” thinking to make online communities more approachable and useful – and I hope if it is useful they release the enabling software into the public domain.

The paper about the research is hereRehman Mohamed is one of the researchers.

Thanks to Mathemagenic for the link.

30 March 2004

The New Republic has published a story “dictatorship.com”:http://www.tnr.com/docprint.mhtml?i=20040405&s=kurlantzick040504 pooh poohing the notion that access to the Internet in a nation can help to undermine dictatorships. Needless to say this was like a red rag to a bull for some of the more Internet-philic – “Jeff Jarvis”:http://www.buzzmachine.com/archives/2004_03_27.html#about calls the piece, “load of naysaying, stick-in-the-sludge, cynical, behind-the-times, underreported, snotty crap“.

Though Jeff is right to pour scorn on TNR’s occaisional recycling of un-researched prejudices like the assertion that the Internet “lends itself to individual rather than communal activities”, I have to say I think TNR’s article is on the whole a welcome corrective to the kind of utopian thinking often espoused by online pundits and the furious reaction to the piece only reinforces this view. That’s not to say that the Internet does not have a potential role in the growth of civil society – of course it can be helpful. But to say as Jeff Jarvis does that, “In the last century, Coke meant freedom. In this century, the Internet means freedom” is to indulge in knee jerk technological determinism that overlooks the vital importance of the social context of technology use.

Also see an “earlier blog entry”:http://blog.org/archives/cat_academia.html#000758 of mine on an excellent book on the Internet in authoritarian regimes cited in the TNR piece.

29 March 2004

A recent blog survey on Expectations of Privacy and Accountability from Fernanda Viégas at the “MIT’s media lab”:http://web.media.mit.edu/. The results found were interesting but I found one of the asides in the report interesting as well, for a different reason. Ninety percent of those blogging in their (admittedly biased) sample have better than a high school education but the report begins by being critical of the notion that weblogging is “a marginal activity restricted to the technically savvy”?

16 March 2004

I’m coming to this one a little late – Wired reports that according to HP researchers, the most popular weblogs aren’t necessarily the ones that come up with the interesting new ideas first:

topics would often appear on a few relatively unknown blogs days before they appeared on more popular sites.

and often bloggers fail to mention the sources of their ideas:

when an idea infected at least 10 blogs, 70 percent of the blogs did not provide links back to another blog that had previously mentioned the idea.

You can try out the software that they used to do the research – the “Blog Epidemic Analyzer”:http://www-idl.hpl.hp.com/blogstuff/index.html

If you want to read their (pre-print) paper about their results it’s “here”:http://www.hpl.hp.com/shl/papers/blogs/blogspace-draft.pdf and there’s a thread about their work on “Slashdot”:http://slashdot.org/articles/04/03/05/152244.shtml though before you read it you should probably read the researcher’s own “comment”:http://www-idl.hpl.hp.com/blogstuff/faq.html#10 on that thread.

11 March 2004
Filed under:Virtual Communities,Weblogs at10:53 am

Will Davies “questions the blogosphere gift economy”:http://www.theisociety.net/archives/001145.html, suggesting that some people use that gift economy to benefit themselves – a charge levelled by others earlier against virtual community boosters like Howard. Personally I don’t see the problem – if people choose to give out valuable information for their own altruistic reasons and others take that information and use it for self-interested reasons that doesn’t invalidate the original motivation. But perhaps I have misunderstood Will’s post which was more in the nature of a provocation than an argument.

David Wilcox responds to this with a long interesting post containing this key observation:

Media, politicians and think tanks get locked into self-regarding loops paying too little attention to enlightening wider publics. Blogs could be a way to break into this… citizens’ self-publishing and all that. But not if the ethos becomes just as self regarding, with bloggers mainly writing about other bloggers. It is a bit scary, I suspect, for most people to start blogging, and so they look around to take comfort from others doing the same thing. If you want links and mentions – easiest from other blogs – you can easily fall into following the prevailing ethos.

For a lighter look at blogosphere cliques, see this humorous “Village Voice piece”:http://www.villagevoice.com/issues/0409/essay.php.

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