January 20, 2005

"WebCred" Conference, and why it matters

The issues surrounding the "Webcred" Harvard conference continue to ferment (see also my earlier "Blogging, Journalism, Credibility" post, and to be fair, a conference FAQ).

One of my enduring frustrations in dealing with many people at the Berkman Center. is that they operate within an extremely insular bubble of enormous privilege, protection, and power. They just don't seem to take into account the damage the "H-bomb" (Harvard) can do to civilians, and how people can get hurt by their actions. Even if it wasn't malicious, even if it was just careless, or alternately do-what-you-have-to-do, that's small comfort to those on the receiving end of maltreatment. (disclosure/disclaimer: See the story of the Mike Godwin / Greplaw attacks for reasons I speak from experience here).

I've seen an amazing amount of cluelessness, including wonder that anyone could worry about negative aspects, as well as not do backflips that there's boy-oh-boy an IRC channel and a webcast (aren't you super-excited right there? You can follow along with the performers, and they might even acknowledge questions from the audience, if it's something they find worthy, wow wow, are we interactive yet?).

Consider: This is how Zephyr Teachout starts her infamous blog post discussing the Howard Dean campaign's arrangement with consultants who also had blogs (my emphasis):

"[Note: this post was written in anticipation of a conference next week on ethics, blogging, and journalism]"

That post created a significant political story. And the Webcred conference's publicity for it was the source of the eventual mass-media smears, per Ed Cone (my emphasis):

And over at Kos, they're wondering how the WSJ found out about this story in the first place, and they manage to trace it to my link to Zephyr and links from Instapundit and Jarvis. But they miss the first step: I read it on the Harvard conference blog.

Jerome Armstrong really got smeared by this whole thing, and he's pissed. I should have been clearer on his role in my original link to Zephyr's post, and I apologize for not doing it right.

Note, to forestall a distraction, the effect does not necessarily require saying "This is true". Rather, it's in an implication "This is worthwhile, this is important, this should be given your attention, etc.". However, in context, that's very, very close to "This is true", (though not absolutely identical) and the differences are much smaller than the overall connection. The issue is the power to focus attention on a statement, to give it a platform where it will be widely echoed and heard.

After the role the Harvard conference just played in getting those activists very widely and publicly smeared, the "little people" shouldn't have to explain over and over why it matters. It's a testament to the strength of the bubble that this point will not be grasped.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in journo , webcred | on January 20, 2005 09:19 AM (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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