October 04, 2003

BloggerCon, or BlatherOn?

[Taking a break from why-I-can't-publish-censorware-research...]

I've been blogged-down in the past few days, attending or watching BloggerCon events. I think I'm too cynical for Dave Winer. I hate to be so much of an Eeyore, but the deja-vu was extremely strong.

I remember, I remember / The glorious bubble days / When all the net was floating / in a frothy heady haze. (apologies to Thomas Hood)
I've had no trouble with Big Questions, e.g. What Is Blogging. It's frequent writing, no less and no more. BloggerCon is a type of writer's convention, about the process of writing, writer's markets, and some tools which are good for supporting reading and writing.

That's nice. I like it, though I wouldn't pay $500 and fly across the country to attend such a convention. But if it's down the street from me, great.

However, sessions are larded with so much hype that it's almost painful. I lived the blather of the Internet Revolution. And I found out, very personally, how mistaken it was. Now I get to see evangelists and sensation-mongers do it all over again.

It's fine and dandy to be a well-off professional discussing writing about your job, or maybe having writing as your job, and meeting with people like you. Very cool, very fun, great parties. Being in a bubble is delicious.

But this is not going to revolutionize politics, overthrow journalism as we know it, or change the world into cyber-utopia. One of the most wince-worthy moments was when Dave Winer proposed giving every voter (in New Hampshire?) a blog. I couldn't help thinking, he's gone beyond the cliche of throwing money at a social problem. Now it's not even throwing money, he's throwing blogs at a social problem. I suppose that's the sort of thing one does as an evangelist. And maybe I'll get slammed since I'm such a wet-blanket. But having heard the optimism all before, way before, and seen what happened to it, I can't buy into it again (sigh, I'd probably do better if I could).

Update: I highly recommend Lis Riba's Essay on this topic. Says much I wanted to say in addition, but haven't.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in cyberblather | on October 04, 2003 11:59 PM (Infothought permalink) | Followups
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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I agree with a lot of this. I don't think blogging is going to revolutionize politics or solve social problems.

I do thin, however, that blogging, or a variation of it, really will fulfil the internet's promise of turning journalism on its head. And, if every there was something which needed turning it's journalism.

We are beginning to see the signs already. First, there are now independent ways of checking big media and haveing people pay attention. Second, commentary is no longer the sole preserve of media owners and their friends. Third, while there are thousands of blogs which really are about "what I fed my cat this morning", there are hundreds which are, like this one, focused on issues the blogger actually knows something about. And, like this one, they are independent voices which are cited and used by people who would not normally have any access to the sorts of specialist information available.

This is a revolution from the ground up. And it is very early days. I don't think blogging is a bubble - there is, after all - no money in it. But, over time a lot of new voices will be heard above the chatter. This can't help but be a good thing.

Posted by: Jay Currie at October 5, 2003 02:19 AM

No. Almost nobody reads my blog. It has a readership comparable to one (1) Slashdot comment.

That is the flaw. Many writers != many readers.

The whole series I've done on the N2H2 PR in the past days in a case in point. In terms of audience readership, it was a joke.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at October 5, 2003 02:43 AM

Actually Seth, it is just the sort of material which of great interest to a very small group of people.

"When I first circumvented the encryption of N2H2's blacklist, I was amazed at how much of it was junk and duplications and obvious errors. Just full of garbage. Logically, what do they care? Who is looking?! They have an incentive to add as much as possible, for PR puffery (a blacklist zillions long). It was very evident that there were silly keywords being used to blacklist sites."

This message underscores everything I have been saying at my library filter blog - which I damn well have to update about now - about the need for transparency in any proposed library filter. And, if you look at the ALA press release after its meeting on a response to the CIPA decision you see the idea of transparency being adopted.

Indirectly, you are forcing the filter companies to either come clean or write off the library market. No small thing.

Posted by: Jay Currie at October 8, 2003 05:14 PM

The idea of "transparency" is a very old one. I can recall discussions of it from 1997. It's one of the very first things which will be said in response to secret blacklists - "Oh, secret blacklists? Let's have Open Censorware!". Then one has to explain the problems with that idea, the blacklist is too big for anyone to examine, companies with secret blacklists have SUED over exposure, etc.

Doing another round of calls for "transparency" in 2003 helps nobody. I mean, it's not a wrong thing, but I don't see evidence it's a very useful thing.

I cannot counter, e.g. N2H2's marketing about why their censorware is so great - for the simple reason that nobody HEARS me in comparison, if nothing else. That's the rebuttal of the blogging-blather.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at October 9, 2003 02:37 PM