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Friday, December 30, 2005

The Podcast Shaking Up French Politics

Nicolas Sarkozy, the law-and-order Interior Minister who wants to be France's next President, rarely passes up a chance to speak before an audience. So when Loïc Le Meur, one of the country's most widely read bloggers, proposed doing a podcast interview with Sarkozy, the answer was mais, oui.

Arab Minister of Interior, video podcasted. this will never happen in the arab world

we have to learn. i can not image this to happen in the Arab world


It is the first time ever in France a politician of this rank or Minister is podcasted.

Business Week just wrote a nice article about it: "The Podcast shaking up French Politics"

Blogs offer taste of war in Iraq

By Kevin Anderson

US soldiers on patrol in Iraq
Soldiers' blogs are opening up a new window on warfare

The war in Vietnam is often referred to as the first war on television, and the wars in Afghanistan and now in Iraq will be known as the first wars to be blogged.

A new generation of soldier bloggers in the US, known as milbloggers, are both fighting in the field and writing about their experiences.

It is opening up a new window on modern warfare and is creating a new genre of war-time writing.

However, some of these pioneering frontline bloggers fear that the golden age of milblogging has already passed as military officials begin to clamp down on the unfettered online writing.

Rise of the milblogger

The first milblogs appeared in late 2002, according to Matt, the author of the popular BlackFive blog.

Greyhawk, an active duty serviceman currently stationed in Germany and the anonymous writer behind the Mudville Gazette blog, coined the term milblog and started making contacts with other servicemen and women who blogged.

Christmas party in Baghdad
Many blog to keep their families and friends appraised of their life in a war zone, others do it as an exercise of reflection, and others are just great writers looking for an outlet for their thoughts and feelings
Matt, BlackFive blogger
Greyhawk started commenting himself on blogs in late 2002, and then started the Mudville Gazette when he found out how easy it is to blog.

"For years I'd seen others 'speak for the troops', or choose which actual voices would be heard," he said, and wanted to communicate the thoughts of "one GI in an interesting time - the build-up to the war in Iraq".

"I don't claim to speak for anyone but myself, but there's the appeal of blogging. I don't need anyone to speak for me," he said.

Greyhawk and other early pioneers like Lt Smash, Sergeant Hook and Sergeant Stryker have inspired hundreds of soldiers, pilots, marines and sailors to blog around the world.

He keeps a web ring of milbloggers, which links to about 400 active milblogs.

War diaries

Many of the milbloggers began writing to counter what they see as an anti-war, anti-Bush administration bias in the media.

But milbloggers write for different reasons, says Matt of Blackfive.

"Many blog to keep their families and friends appraised of their life in a war zone, others do it as an exercise of reflection, and others are just great writers looking for an outlet for their thoughts and feelings," he said.

CJ Graham decided to publish a war journal he kept in Iraq online only earlier this year.

Writing was really therapy and allowed me to tell about how the conflict made me feel, not just fighting but the politics and opposition movement that made the war an anti-president issue
Brian Kennedy, aka Howdy
"I did it to inform the public about what was really happening in Iraq because it was my belief (and still is) that the media isn't doing a good job of being unbiased in its reporting," he said.

But he had other reasons as well.

He decided to keep a journal while he was fighting in Iraq because he grew up reading his grandfather's diary from World War II.

He did not blog when he was there. Internet access was not available to his unit as they fought their way north.

"I didn't have the time either as I was lucky to work less than 18 hours a day. Anything left over was dedicated to eating and sleeping," he said.

However, he wrote detailed entries on his laptop and then decided to publish them in a blog when he returned.

Brian Kennedy, aka Howdy, is a Marine and has done two tours of duty in Iraq as the pilot of an AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter gunship.

He and fellow pilot, Hurl, decided to write a blog during their recent tour after learning about them from conservative commentator and blogger Hugh Hewitt.

"Writing was really therapy and allowed me to tell about how the conflict made me feel, not just fighting but the politics and opposition movement that made the war an anti-president issue," he said.

"I felt less guilt and less stress the more I wrote," he said. He even wrote about returning in July from Iraq to face a divorce.

Communication clampdown

It has given rise to some of the most riveting writing about the war.

Milbloggers Jason Christopher Hartley, author of Just Another Soldier, and Colby Buzzell, author of My War: Killing Time in Iraq, have already gone on to write books based on their blogs and their time in Iraq.

What comes through often is an unfiltered, unsanitised view of war not from embedded reporters or press conferences in the rear but from the frontline fighters themselves.

It has also led to some bloggers being disciplined for releasing sensitive information or breaking other military rules in their blogs.

Greyhawk advises fellow milbloggers to think how a post will be received by his or her mother, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Osama bin Laden.

"Not everyone can approach a keyboard with that kind of responsibility over their heads," he said.

A very small number have been shut down, but he said even more milbloggers have simply stopped due to operational security concerns.

Brian Kennedy hopes that service members are allowed to continue to blog as a link back to family and friends.

But he adds: "I can see where the military will need to at the very least 'regulate' the information."

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

10 Questions with Joshua Porter

10 Questions with Joshua Porter
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Well it’s Monday Morning and that means it times for the first 10 questions segment of the week. This week I am starting off with a bang. I have Joshua Porter from bokardo.com and a member of the Web 2.0 Workgroup in the spotlight.It seems like every interview I have done in the last week has gotten better and better and this one is no exception to that trend.

How long have you been blogging and why did you start blogging?

I’ve been blogging for about 5 years. I created the current incarnation of Bokardo.com, which has morphed into talking about designing for Web 2.0, in 2003.

Part of the reason why I started blogging is the same reason that a lot of people start writing: self-validation and peer-validation. One thing that I think we all want is to have our ideas validated, and getting them into words on a screen or page is the best way to do that.

The other part of the reason was practice. I’ve always had a really hard time in the writing classes that I’ve taken, as I’m easily distracted and refuse to write about stuff I’m not interested in. But I really wanted to learn how to write well and any good book on the subject will say that the best way to become a writer is to write each and every day. And blogging is a great way to get yourself writing because it creates artificial demand. We delude ourselves into thinking the world is out there just waiting for our next blog post, and so we write. But in reality if we dropped off the face of the earth we would simply lay at the bottom of the feed list, and only one or two people would notice.

What has changed since you started blogging?

Many things. First, there are many more bloggers out there writing. Second, many of them are now in this to make money. Third, RSS has come into the picture. These things combine for some interesting results.

The positive outcome of these things is that we’re having many more, deeper conversations. That’s great, and we can increasingly find people with similar interests as us. For example, I can go online each and every day and find someone talking about very specific things, like how to model human attention in web applications, for example, which very few people were talking about 5 years ago. Specialization, and thus knowledge, is accelerating. Also, people are really making money now, whether it’s from new jobs they get as a result of their blog or advertising they put on it. I would like to think that at the end of the day the deluge of content is making us smarter. Just imagine how much more access to ideas we have than any age of mankind, ever. We need to appreciate that.

But there are certainly downsides. First, our attention is completely fractured. RSS gives us efficiency of attention on any one web site, driving the time we spend on that site closer to zero. But then it enables us to fracture it again by multiplying the smaller amount of time by many more sites than before. So we’re making increasing demands on our attention. Second, the drive for monetizing blogs has really hurt some of the content producers out there. You’ll see a lot of posts by bloggers who just want to get atop the attention heap again without really adding any value to an existing idea. It’s like waving to strangers.

Also, we see a lot of blogging “networks” spring up in the hope of monetization, and this concerns me a little. It concerns me because it will eventually take power away from individual bloggers and put it into the hands of the networks, who aren’t adding any value on their own except publicity. Over time, we will come to resent them just as we resent music labels, movie studios, and other networks that do the same thing in other industries. And if those networks are in it for advertising, then you can forget long, thoughtful posts on a subject. It’s not long before posts become short, shock value pieces created to serve up pageviews and Google Adsense Ads. I’ve known several bloggers who have gone that route, and now they’re writing junk and getting paid measly for it.

What is the most enjoyable aspect of your blogging efforts?

The most enjoyable aspect is when I can articulate something such that I cannot improve it. This happens rarely, but it’s certainly worth waiting for.

To you what is the most important aspect of a person’s blog?

The most important aspect of a person’s blog is the extent to which it represents a person’s true feelings on a subject. In other words, how honest it is. I’m tired of blogs written solely for marketing purposes or for hyping something. But that’s not to say that corporate blogs are necessarily bad. I’ve been impressed with the O’Reilly Radar blog as a blog that serves a marketing purpose but does so as a conversation, not as a one-way spiel.

Why do you think blogging is so disruptive?

Blogging is disruptive because it gives everyone a voice on relatively equal footing. If you have a strong voice, you will eventually be heard. And when people are heard, disruptions occur naturally.

What blogs are on your daily reading list?

Well, I closely follow a group I’m involved in, the Web 2.0 Workgroup, as the members tend to write thoughtful, relevant posts on new issues in technology. I also read the Gillmor Gang folks, including Steve Gillmor, Doc Searls, and Jon Udell. Those guys are way out ahead of the curve, and always have something interesting to say. It’s like sitting in a barbershop of old men drinking beers. If you listen long enough you start to learn stuff without realizing it.

And then a whole raft of designers, including Molly Holzschlag, Eric Meyer, and Jeffrey Zeldman.

More and more, though, I’m finding newer voices in the field that don’t have the name of the above folks, but who I learn just as much from, if not more. People like Kathy Sierra and Thomas Vander Wal fit into this category.

Where do you see blogging in say 5 years?

I see blogging as the primary means of communication between companies and individuals. I see blogging as related more to a person’s Identity than it is now. I think that our blogs will be our life portfolio, not just an artistic or professional one. I see blogs becoming a store of our personal data, with which we perform transactions, be it with our financial information, our likes/dislikes, any other personal information. I see blogs as the start to personal web services, with HTML being the first, RSS being the second, and countless others thereafter.

Blogging will be even more powerful in 5 years than it is now. It’s still in its infancy.

What effect will blogging have on what people currently call “mainstream media’ in say 5 or 10 years?

The shakedown is happening now. In addition to creating a lot of new great writers, blogging will force the great writers out there, many of whom are being paid by newspapers and other MSM, to become bloggers and sit down in the muck with the rest of us. I have great contempt for those people who try to make a clear distinction between MSM writers and bloggers, talking about bloggers in their pajamas or the “cult of mediocrity”. The truth is, we’re all mediocre, and we all have something important to say if given the chance.

There is very little difference between bloggers and MSM writers. If you’ve got an audience, you’re the media.

Blogging has become a powerhouse in the last 2 years why do you think that happened?

Because once we are part of the conversation, we expect to continue to be part of it.

What advice would you give someone who is just starting out blogging?

Blogging is a relationship. It starts out like a first date, with both parties being nervous as hell. You’re worried about what you might say, even though the other person is willing to give you a listen. If you move to a second date, then good. But don’t get worried if it fizzles on the first. Your success will happen when you aren’t waiting for it, just like you find someone when you aren’t looking.

Don’t talk too much about yourself, don’t be too cocky, and try to ask good questions and learn about the person you’re talking with. Don’t rush to judgment of whether they’ll be there for you or not. You can’t tell until you’ve been out on a few dates. Much of what you say won’t get a response, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t listening.

It’s what you do when you’re sick, unshowered, and on the wrong side of the bed that makes your average. It’s the average that counts.

Blog, Blogger, Blogging, Bokardo, Doc Searls, Eric Meyer, Jeffery Zeldman, Jon Udell, Joshua Porter, Kathy Sierra, Molly Holzchlag, Steve Gillmor, Thomas Vander Wal, Web 2.0 Workgroup
This entry was posted on Monday, December 19th

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

2005 Weblog Awards

Best Arab Blogs

Iraq The Model
35.69 % (3602)

The Religious Policeman
3.11 % (314)

Secret Dubai
0.79 % (80)

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Making Technorati easier to use

Technorati, the blog search engine, has launched what founder Dave Sifry calls -- I'd say with some justification -- "a whole raft of improvements and tweaks."

We just rolled out a whole raft of improvements and tweaks that are built to make Technorati easier to use and easier to understand. A few things that we rolled out:

1) Charts. Get live, updated charts on what people are saying about stuff you care about, like this, which shows a chart of the mentions of "King Kong":

2) Improved extracts. We've worked hard to make the information in the extract that we present to you much more understandable, so that you'll be able to make a better choice before clicking through to get to the source post. Here's an extract from a vanity search:

Dan Gillmor's eJournal

Starting in 2006, I'll be putting together a nonprofit Center for Citizen Media. The goals are to study, encourage and help enable the emergent grassroots media sphere, with a major focus on citizen journalism.

I'm thrilled and honored that the center will be affiliated with two superb universities in a bi-coastal partnership.

  • Here on the Pacific Rim, where I live, the center will collaborate with the University of California, Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism. As an I.F. Stone Teaching Fellow, I'll do a class next fall, and my principal physical office will be at Berkeley as well.
  • Our Atlantic-facing partner is the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University Law School, where I'll be a Research Fellow. I'll visit there regularly -- at least once a month -- to work with other fellows, faculty and students.

We also plan to sponsor regular gatherings at both locations (and, I hope, elsewhere in my travels) for people interested in citizen journalism.

Why do this? We need a thriving media and journalism ecosystem. We need what big institutions do so well, but we also need the bottom-up -- or, more accurately, edge-in -- knowledge and ideas of what I've called the "former audience" that has become a vital part of the system. I'm also anxious to see that it's done honorably and in a way that helps foster a truly informed citizenry. I think I can help.

This is a nonpartisan initative. I aim to help anyone, regardless of political views, who has a constructive project and who is interested in expanding the reach of citizen media in an principled way.

The center will live virtually at citmedia.org. I'll be posting more details there in the relatively near future.

Gillmor putting together a Center for Citizen Media

"Starting in 2006, I'll be putting together a nonprofit Center for Citizen Media. The goals are to study, encourage and help enable the emergent grassroots media sphere, with a major focus on citizen journalism," writes Dan Gillmor.

"Here on the Pacific Rim, where I live, the center will collaborate with the University of California, Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism. As an I.F. Stone Teaching Fellow, I'll do a class next fall, and my principal physical office will be at Berkeley as well. Our Atlantic-facing partner is the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University Law School, where I'll be a Research Fellow. I'll visit there regularly -- at least once a month -- to work with other fellows, faculty and students."

It's not clear what, if anything, happens to Gillmor's Bayosphere, a Bay-area citizen journalism site.

Starting in 2006, I'll be putting together a nonprofit Center for Citizen Media. The goals are to study, encourage and help enable the emergent grassroots media sphere, with a major focus on citizen journalism.

I'm thrilled and honored that the center will be affiliated with two superb universities in a bi-coastal partnership.

  • Here on the Pacific Rim, where I live, the center will collaborate with the University of California, Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism. As an I.F. Stone Teaching Fellow, I'll do a class next fall, and my principal physical office will be at Berkeley as well.
  • Our Atlantic-facing partner is the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University Law School, where I'll be a Research Fellow. I'll visit there regularly -- at least once a month -- to work with other fellows, faculty and students.

We also plan to sponsor regular gatherings at both locations (and, I hope, elsewhere in my travels) for people interested in citizen journalism.

Why do this? We need a thriving media and journalism ecosystem. We need what big institutions do so well, but we also need the bottom-up -- or, more accurately, edge-in -- knowledge and ideas of what I've called the "former audience" that has become a vital part of the system. I'm also anxious to see that it's done honorably and in a way that helps foster a truly informed citizenry. I think I can help.

This is a nonpartisan initative. I aim to help anyone, regardless of political views, who has a constructive project and who is interested in expanding the reach of citizen media in an principled way.

The center will live virtually at citmedia.org. I'll be posting more details there in the relatively near future.

Towards a two-tier internet

The egalitarian nature of the internet is under threat, argues internet law professor Michael Geist.

Vonage Voip display in Best Buy
Services offering calls over the internet could be disadvantaged
Internet service providers (ISPs) always seem to get the first call when a problem arises on the internet.

Lawmakers want them to assist with investigations into cyber crime, parents want them to filter out harmful content, consumers want them to stop spam, and copyright holders want them to curtail infringement.

Despite the urge to hold providers accountable for such activities, the ISP community has been remarkably successful in maintaining a position of neutrality, the digital successor, in spirit and often in fact, to the common carrier phone company.

Adopting this approach has required strict adherence to a cardinal rule often referred to as "network neutrality." This principle holds that ISPs transport bits of data without discrimination, preference, or regard for content.

The network neutrality principle has served ISPs, internet firms and internet users well. It has enabled ISPs to plausibly argue that they function much like common carriers and therefore should be exempt from liability for the content that passes through their systems.

Websites, e-commerce companies, and other innovators have also relied on network neutrality, secure in the knowledge that the network treats all companies, whether big or small, equally. That approach enables those with the best products and services, not the deepest pockets, to emerge as the market winners.

Internet users have similarly benefited from the network neutrality principle. They enjoy access to greater choice in goods, services, and content regardless of which ISP they use.

While ISPs may compete based on price, service, or speed, they have not significantly differentiated their services based on availability of internet content or applications, which remains the same for all.

In short, network neutrality has enabled ISPs to invest heavily in new infrastructure, fostered greater competition and innovation, and provided all internet users with equal access to a dizzying array of content.

Challenges ahead

Notwithstanding its benefits, in recent months ISPs have begun to chip away at the principle, shifting toward a two-tiered internet that would enable them to prioritise their own network traffic over that of their competitors.

Recent developments in the US and Canada suggest that ISPs may go even further in developing a two-tiered internet that differentiates between different types of services and content
Michael Geist, University of Ottawa
The two-tiered approach is taking shape in various forms in different parts of the world.

In the developing world, where there is frequently limited telecommunications competition, many countries have begun blocking internet telephony services in order to protect the incumbent telecoms provider.

This approach, which has occurred in countries such as Panama, Oman, United Arab Emirates, and Mexico, reduces competitive choices for telecommunications services and cuts off consumers from one of the fastest growing segments of the internet.

In Europe, some ISPs have similarly begun to block access to internet telephony services. For example, this summer reports from Germany indicated that Vodafone had begun to block Voice over IP (Voip) traffic, treating the popular Skype program as "inappropriate content."

European ISPs have also faced mounting pressure to block access to peer-to-peer systems such as BitTorrent, which are widely used to share both authorised and unauthorised content.

The MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) and the IFPI (International Federation of the Phonographic Industry) are pushing European ISPs to implement filtering technology to block services and sites that the associations believe are "substantially dedicated to illegal file sharing or download services".

In fact, the content industries have even suggested that European ISPs limit the amount of bandwidth that can be used by consumers.

Issues of priorities

Recent developments in the US and Canada suggest that ISPs may go even further in developing a two-tiered internet that differentiates between different types of services and content.

North American ISPs have also begun to use their network position to unfairly disadvantage internet telephony competition. For example, Canadian cable provider Shaw now offers a premium Voip service that promises to prioritise internet telephony traffic for a monthly fee.

The potential implications of such a service are obvious. The use of competing services will require a supplemental fee, while Shaw will be free to waive the charge for its own service.

In the US, earlier this year at least one ISP briefly blocked competing internet telephony traffic until the Federal Communications Commission ordered it to cease the practice.

While ISPs once avoided content intervention, even that now seems possible. This summer, Telus, another Canadian ISP, blocked access to a pro-union website named Voices For Change during a contentious labour dispute.

The company has since indicated that it was a one-time event, though in the process it also blocked more than 600 additional websites from the U.S. and Australia hosted at the same IP address.

Alarm bells

Canadian customers of Rogers, Canada's largest cable ISP, have speculated for months that the company has begun to block access to BitTorrent as well as the downloading of podcasts from services such as iTunes.

While Rogers initially denied the charges, it now acknowledges that it uses "traffic shaping" to prioritise certain online activity. As a result, applications that Rogers deems to be a lower priority may cease to function effectively.

Moreover, blocking services, websites, and certain applications may not be the end game. Some ISPs see the potential for greater revenue by charging websites or services for priority access to their customers.

In the US, BellSouth Chief Technology Officer executive William L Smith, recently mused about the potential to charge a premium to websites for prioritisation downloading, noting that Yahoo could pay to load faster than Google.

Reports last week indicated that BellSouth and AT&T are now lobbying the US Congress for the right to create a two-tiered internet, where their own internet services would be transmitted faster and more efficiently than those of their competitors.

These developments should send alarm bells to internet companies, users, and regulators worldwide.

While prioritising websites or applications may hold some economic promise, the lack of broadband competition and insufficient transparency surrounding these actions will rightly lead to growing calls for regulatory reform that grants legal protection for the principle of network neutrality.

Michael Geist holds the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

LesBlogs conference videos are online

Why do I love online publishing?

A really nice reading.
'Why do I love online publishing?'
What makes this medium so special?
What keeps us coming back to it each day? Website publishers and editors respond.

By Robert Niles

Here's why I do: As an American, I feel so fortunate to be alive at a time when, 200-some years after the ratification of the First Amendment to our nation's Constitution, the people of this country finally have a medium at their disposal which allows any person to speak and be heard by a global audience. If freedom of the press belongs to those who own one, now, we all do. And the world, ultimately, will be the better for it.
Unfortunately, the Internet is also being used by those who favor schmoozing the wealthy and well-connected at the expense of promoting the welfare of all fellow citizens. I love that the Internet allows the rest of us a powerful collective voice with which to give all readers an alternative to such smarmy propaganda. Now it is up to us to be smarter, sharper and louder than ever when using this medium during the year to come.
And, now, in alphabetical order...
Len ApcarLen Apcar is Editor in Chief of The New York Times on the WebWhat I love the most is the challenge of trying to figure out how a great news organization like The New York Times can succeed in a big way on the Web. It is a daunting task trying to help lead a transformation from a newsroom focused on producing a daily newspaper to becoming a successful online publisher. But I believe it is important that the Web offer a wide array of content including news and enterprise from the nation's leading newsrooms.
Bob CauthornRobert Cauthorn is the former vice president of digital media at the San Francisco Chronicle
What do I love about it? What keeps bringing me back?
That's really simple: the readers. And really, the whole community. Online publishing brings you so close to the readers that they become part of every breath. And that's one of the greatest feelings in all of publishing.
The readers constantly amaze me with their insights, appetites, intelligence and sheer sense of fun. You learn from them, whether it's active contact via e-mail or forums or blogs, or from somewhat passive instruction like the contents of your Web logs.
The readers are there when you wake up in the morning and when go to bed at night. They're passionate. Poetic. Weird, too. Knowing that you're locked in the hot little tango with your readers is the greatest feeling in the world. And when your readers become writers too, it's all the better.
What's next is juicy too. Until now we haven't really seen an engaged local advertising community to match the engaged readership. A big part of the next wave of development will focus on changing that.
When we see local advertisers as densely involved as local readers, well, this will be a splendid day. Not just because it will be nice for revenues, but because it means we're well and completely part of the fabric of life in our community.
Pete CliftonPete Clifton is the head of BBC News Interactive
The deadlines never end, there is always a story breaking and a race to be first. You can't beat that buzz - and there are countless readers out there who want to help us with our coverage. That makes it even more intoxicating.
Graham HillGraham Hill manages TreeHugger.com. (I found him via Nick Denton of Gawker Media.)
Things I find rewarding about blogging:
Comments from strangers. From someone's comment, realizing that we are affecting the way people see the world and giving them hope.
Lots of stats. Something about being able to measure your progress in so many ways makes running a blog quite addictive (pageviews, links to you, unique visitors,ranking compared to other sites etc.). They say "what gets measured gets done" and in my case at least, it certainly keeps me motivated.
It's pioneering still. It's exciting as it still feels like pioneering days, where everything is changing all the time and we're all making up the rules as we go along. the rapid rate of change keeps my restless self happy. It feels similar to 95/96, a time that I found very exciting.
Power moving to the consumer. I love that we can see the power shifting from the company to the consumer. The days of powerful PR and controlling a company's image are being left behind. There's something exciting (and a little scary) about the new transparency. My hope is that it helps people to make the right decisions as they realize that doing the right thing will bring them consumers and that cover-ups are no longer possible if they are doing anything shifty.
The world is flat. Love that little guys with great products, e.g. my friend Shayne with the solar backpack (voltaicsystems.com) are getting tons of play in the media due to the power of blogs. I hope that this means that small businesses with great products can be more competitive with larger businesses than before. This is great for all of us as it ups the competition.
Instant Gratification. I love that you can come up with an editorial idea and then implement it really quickly and see the results. It keeps running a blog extremely creative, which I love.
Craig NewmarkCraig Newmark is the founder of Craigslist.org
Online, everyone has a voice, and the simpler blogging tools makes the 'net everyone's printing press ... and tools are being developed to let the cream rise to the top, to address the obvious problem.
Chris NolanChris Nolan is the Editor of Spot-on.com
What do I love about Web publishing?
Man, that's a little bit like asking a kid why he likes a candy store. But I'll try and contain myself.
For long-time reporters like me, working on-line offers a chance to get back to what this business should be about: Good reporting and great writing that presents new ideas in thoughtful and interesting ways to interested and committed readers.
Inexpensive publishing tools like Moveable Type, inexpensive "broadcast" support like that offered by our friends at Feedburner, the growing strength of on-line ad networks for small publishers - combined with the support and interest of larger, established "brand" sites on the Web - is going to make it possible for real reporters to get great stories and publish them to larger and larger audiences.
This is an exciting time to be working online. Anyone who's still turning up their nose at what we're doing is missing the most fun we're going to have in the news business for a long, long time.
Denise PolverineDenise Polverine is the Editor-in-Chief of Cleveland.com
I often tell people that I feel like I won the lottery when I became the Editor-in-Chief of Cleveland.com. It is exciting, immediate, experimental at times, industry-changing and adventurous. Publishing on the Web combines the best of all mediums; print, radio, TV, online, wireless and those yet to be discovered. We learned earlier this year when Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast, that the Internet and the information it distributes can be life-altering and frankly, life-saving. I get to work closely with my talented editorial staff here, the leaders at Advance Internet and the amazing Plain Dealer editors who are embracing new technology and ideas. I have been at Cleveland.com for nearly nine years, almost since the beginning of this company and people ask me if I ever think of leaving. No way. When you wake up each day and think of new things to try, new ways to interact, new ways to engage people and can actually make those ideas reality, it's a good job. It keeps me energized and keeps me coming back each day.
Lisa StoneLisa Stone blogs at Surfette and is the originator of the BlogHer conference
I love the conversation. It's not like people just started talking about events in their world because blogging and social media tools were developed. These conversations are eternal. But they used to exist far away from printing presses and control rooms. Now these stories have a permanent, virtual seat at the coffee house, the water cooler and the kitchen counter. All we newsies need to know is how to join the discussion.
So, let's join the discussion. What do you love about online publishing? Click the button below to have your turn.

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Internet Filtering in Morocco

Morocco puts US censorship busting site Anonymizer.com on its black list
The Moroccan government has blocked US website Anonymizer.com that allows Internet-users to get round censorship, days after Reporters Without Borders recommended its use to access Sahrawi websites.
These websites, promoting independence for Western Sahara, have been censored since the beginning of December.
Reporters Without Borders released a handbook for bloggers and cyberdissidents in September 2005, containing advice on a number of technical methods of circumventing Internet filtering.
Access to Sahrawi sites blocked within Morocco
Reporters Without Borders today condemned the censorship of many websites supporting the Polisario Front’s struggle for Sahrawi independence, such as Arso.org, which have been made inaccessible within Morocco.
Calling on the Moroccan authorities to stop blocking access to sites dealing with Western Sahara, the organisation said : “It should not be possible to take a decision to filter a website without a fair trial taking place first. Banning an online publication simply on the basis of an administrative decision is a serious violation of free expression.”
Reporters Without Borders has verified that the arso.org, cahiersdusahara.com, cahiersdusahara.com, wsahara.net and spsrasd.info websites have all been rendered inaccessible in Morocco since 21 November. These sites all criticise Morocco’s control of Western Sahara and encourage protests, but they do not call for violence.
A “connection failure” type of error message is displayed when someone tries to access one of these sites. The decision to block may have been taken by the communication ministry, which is responsible for censorship, or the interior ministry, while monitors the Sahrawi problem. Local sources said the filtering can nonetheless be easily sidestepped by using an online proxy such as www.anonymizer.com.
ARSO - the Free and Legitimate Referendum in Western Sahara Support Association - carried photos on its website in September that showed Sahrawi prisoners being held in extremely harsh condition in the prison in El Ayoum, the territory’s main city. The local state prosecutor reacted by ordering an investigation with the aim of “exposing all those implicated in this vile act that jeopardises the reputation of the prison where the inmates are held.”
Western Sahara was annexed by Morocco in 1975 and the Polisario Front wants it to be independent. The situation in the territory is extremely tense, with frequent clashes between the population and the security forces.

the Internet in Morocco

Les indicateurs d’internet au Maroc(15/12/2005)

Le marché marocain d’internet enregistre une forte dynamique de croissance aussi bien au niveau des utilisateurs que de l’infrastructure. Menara publie les principaux indicateurs du marché.
Indicateurs sur les internautes
· Plus de 4 millions d’internautes au Maroc· 226.000 accès internet, tout fournisseur d’accès confondu dont près de 90% via ADSL· 90% des internautes accèdent à internet à partir d’un cybercafé à des tarifs qui varient entre 3 et 5 DH/h· 3.000 cybercafés répartis à travers le Royaume· 190.000 ménages connectés à internet· Plus de 40.000 entreprises connectés à internet· 38% des entreprises disposent d’un site Web
Nom de domaine :18.000 noms de domaines, toute extension confondue (.ma, .com, .net, .org)
Bande passante :
· La bande passante qui relie le Maroc au nœud international d’internet a atteint en décembre 7,1 Go. Pour la première fois, le Maroc dispose au sein de cette capacité d’une ligne « unique » de 2,5 Go.· Le trafic internet représente actuellement plus de 2/3 du trafic global international· 95% du trafic des internautes au Maroc est orienté vers l’international· Comparatif bande passante :o Au Maroc : 7,1 Goo En Tunisie : 155 Mbps o En Egypte : 1.800 Mbps
Indicateurs sur l'ADSL· Taux de couverture 96,5% (ce taux indique le pourcentage de lignes fixes pouvant desservir l’ADSL.· 90% des accès internet au Maroc sont en · Capacité des lignes ADSL : 470.000· Les tarifs de l’ADSL ont enregistré une baisse moyenne de l’ordre de 32% sur 2005· Nouvelle offre de 2 et 4 Mbps ADSL à partir de janvier 2006· Date clé de développement de l’ADSL au Maroc : *Novembre 2003 : lancement ADSL limité *Mars 2004 : lancement ADSL illimité *Juin 2004 : lancement de l’ADSL pro *Novembre 2004 : lancement de l’ADSL Wifi
Trafic sur le portail Menara (novembre 2005) :
· 30 millions de pages vues· 4 millions de visites mensuellesData Center de Maroc Telecom : (centre d’hébergement d’IAM)
· 300.000 boîtes e-mail· 4.000 sites web· 47 millions de pages vues par mois· 10 millions de e-mails par moisComparatif Maroc et autres pays
· Au Maroc, nous avons 11,4 utilisateurs pour 100 habitants· Moyenne européenne : 48,5 utilisateurs pour 100 habitants· Moyenne Afrique : 6,7 utilisateurs pour 100 habitants· Nombre accès ADSL : * Accès ADSL au Maroc : 204.000 accès * Accès ADSL en Afrique du Sud : 100.000 accès * Accès ADSL en Tunisie : 10.000 accès * Accès ADSL en Egypte : 45.000 accès
Principaux projets 2006 :
· Lancement d’une offre de téléphonie sur IP· Une offre de TV sur ADSL
Rachid Jankari

Anonymizer.com is blocked in Morocco

[Jankari: J’ai fais ce matin le test du proxy Web www.anonymizer.com. Il ne s’affiche pas sur mon ordinateur. S’agit-il d’une nouvelle censure après les sites du Polisario ? La situation d'internet au Maroc devient de plus en plus préoccupante".

Monday, December 19, 2005

Will podcasting bring Democracy to the Arab world?

I think yes.


Napsterization.org was created as a resource to understand the napsterization by digital media of analog, old economy institutions, frameworks and media.
It is an academic exercise, a opportunity to understand how many people use digital media, a meeting place for people to connect over their experiences with digital media, and a place for others to learn about these issues. This site is also a repository of stories on positive uses of peer-to-peer file sharing as well as a resource of information supporting these principles
Napsterization is a term that comes up repeatedly in everyday usage by those talking about the disintermediation of incumbent media and businesses, systems and people's understanding of culture and information, social networks, political institutions and journalism. But with disintermediation in hierarchical systems by the digital, the interconnectedness of the network also grows. Napsterization encompasses all of these phenomena.

17,5 million French know what a blog is. What about the Arab world

Today, Mediametrie-Nielsen announced the very first survey of blogs, which they have done using a software-spy (with the user agreement !) on 8000 computers around France. They compare the data collected using a phone survey of 12 000 people...
If you speak French, I podcasted the Internet head of Mediametrie, François-Xavier Hussherr.
Here are the numbers in October 05:
-73% of French internet users know what a blog is, 9 web user on 10 of 15-24 age know blogs.
-blogs are read by 3 web users on 10, or 6,7 million french, or 28% of French internet users -1 on 10 have created a blog or 2 271 000 french people or 9,3% french internet users
-8 bloggers on 10 are less than 24 years old.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

French Blogers on the BBC

Blogging is really IN in France.

My thesis is that phen has to do with the Frecnh political culture.

We are waiting for empirical evidence to support this.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

World Is Shaped by Media: Khaled

DUBAI, 6 December 2005 — Highlighting the role of media in a world that is being transformed into a borderless small village, Asir Governor Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, chairman of the Arab Thought Foundation, said the media today shapes the world’s cultural and political and social orientation in the inaugural address at the fourth annual conference of the Arab Thought Foundation yesterday in Dubai.
Over a thousand participants from around the world are here to take part in the event whose theme is the “Arab and World Media: Getting it right.” The first of the two-day conference covered a wide range of topics regarding the role of the media, changes in the media and future challenges for the media. The conference had panel discussions, breakout sessions on specific issues and spotlight interviews with leading Arab personalities. The first day program left the audience asking for more.
Held under the auspices of Sheikh Mohammad ibn Rashid Al-Maktoum, crown prince of Dubai and minister of defense of United Arab Emirates, and in the presence of Jordan Queen Rania, the conference has gathered some of the highly respected and prominent Arab and international personalities and top journalists from 56 different countries. Prince Khaled said in his opening address that the issue of coverage and truth in Arab media is very important because it influences perceptions and decisions. He hoped that the Arab media would take this opportunity to build a better system of cooperation and dialogue, to learn from new technologies in the field and to ask foreign media to be more objective in its coverage.
Prince Khaled also raised some questions that were to be discussed during the conference, including whether the increasing number of Arab media outlets are doing their job in educating the Arab public and holding to Arab traditions or are they simply copying and promoting Western values and images. He also asked whether these outlets are able to introduce a new Arab message and convey it to others or are the Arabs still talking among themselves and whether they have succeeded in overcoming useless arguments and move to a more advanced stage of understanding.
Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said in his address that the role of Arabs is under threat of vanishing. Moussa urged that we need to think of our presence in a collective international mind, while warning against the exaggerations and lies in the media about Arabs. Moussa said we have to analyze the lies and come up with recommendations and ideas to help us face the situation with efficiency, while adding that we do have to accept ‘objective’ criticism to improve ourselves.
We face a lot of challenges — reforms, development, real democratization and religion, social and political issues and globalization. We need to understand them. We have started to address these, he said.
The first six breakout sessions of the day covered inside media coverage in Damascus, Cairo and Washington as well as such interesting topics as journalists in the line of fire, censorship and what’s next for radio. With the current situation in Syria, the Damascus session naturally brought in points about political challenges for Syria and the media. The journalists in the line of fire session was exciting, as it highlighted the dangers reporters face in Iraq and other war zones in accessing information. The session on censorship was also saw keen discussions, as it brought up points on the types of censorship and how reporters can get around censorship.
A point was made about how media does not need protection anymore; it is the people who need protection from media’s biased and self-serving coverage.
The first panel session on World Press: Power shifts and flash points was moderated by Arab News editor in chief, Khaled Almaeena. It set the tone for the conference as the panelists tried to answer some thought-provoking questions on how media influences people’s views and how it is influenced, the standards of professionalism, truth vs. respect of authority, reporting vs. analyzing, privatization vs. government subsidy and the issue of objectivity.
Abdul Rahman Al-Rashid, general manager of Al-Arabiya and one of the panelists, told Arab News that standards, journalistic professionalism and credibility is determined by the upper managers and editors.
This panel discussion was followed by an interesting interview of Prince Alwaleed ibn Talal, chairman of Kingdom Holdings, which owns a number of media outlets including some American channels that are perceived to be biased. The prince expressed his views on the Arab and American media and said that instead of complaining Arabs should take a more proactive role in changing things in the media regarding them.
“We can change the view of the Westerners but the effort should be made from our side. In line with this aim, two institutions have been set up at the Georgetown University and Harvard University which will focus on Arab studies and which can contribute to changing the Arab stereotype,” said Prince Alwaleed.
Questioned on the role of media in Iraq, Prince Alwaleed said that the US seems to be imposing the so called ‘democracy’ in Iraq by supporting numerous TV channels and newspapers. He said that this reflects the fact that the US does not really understand Iraq.
Prince Alwaleed said that there are too many voices quarreling in the form of more than 20 TV Channels and 100s of tabloids in Iraq. This, he said, goes against perpetuating stability in the country at the moment.
Another vibrant panel discussion came after lunch on what determines page one news. Editors of Arab and foreign newspapers exchanged views on the factors, obstacles and process of deciding on the front-page news stories and coverage. This was followed by another panel discussion on reporting on political Islam where the panelists differed on whether Islamic movements in the Middle East are receiving adequate coverage and what kind of coverage are they receiving.
Meanwhile, the panelists also pointed out to internal and external pressures in covering Islamic groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and what guarantees do reporters have on their safety in their pursuit of covering these groups.
This was followed by a very intense and moving interview of Saad Hariri, member of Lebanese Parliament, whose father’s murder turned a new page in Lebanon’s history. A full audience listened to Hariri’s vision of a peaceful and prosperous Lebanon in continuation of Rafik Hariri’s legacy. He emphasized on the need for an international tribunal in the prosecution of his father’s killers and a democratic independent Lebanon for all Lebanese.
Finally, there were breakout sessions on inside media coverage in Riyadh, Palestine and Beijing and three specific issues on youth media, the roots of prejudice and citizen journalism, a discussion on how bloggers and the Internet are changing traditional newsrooms and challenging policymakers.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Arab Attitudes Towards Media

Arab Attitudes Towards Political and Social Issues, Foreign Policy and the Media
A Public Opinion Poll conducted jointly by Professor Shibley Telhami, Anwar Sadat Chair for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland and Zogby International
Countries included in poll: Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and United Arab Emirates. Polls were conducted in October 2005.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Politics and Blogging in Egypt

Egypt: Elections ends and moreFinally the elections of the People’s Assembly (the lower house of the Egyptian Parliament) are over. With a bloody end and surprising results, that would probably heat the political debate in Egypt for the next five years.

Summary and results

With a 26% voter turn out and out of the 444 contested seats, Mubarak’s National Democratic Party (NDP) secured the majority (77%) of seats in the Parliament. The Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan) gained a surprising 20% of the seats and the secular opposition and independents were heavily defeated and only secured the remaining few seats. President Mubarak appointed 10 members, among them 5 women and 5 Christians as they are remarkably under represented in this term. There are still 12 seats to be decided.

Only 33% of the candidates running as NDP won, the remaining were independents who ran against NDP candidates but rejoined the party as soon as they won.

On another side a total of eleven persons died, more than 600 injured and around 1300 of the Ikhwan were detained.

The final day of the elections

The re-run of the third stage being the bloodiest of all, 8 died and 500 injured. War like scenes were shown on TV and other media.

Baheyya says:

As many feared, the last day of voting today saw security forces intensifying their use of violence against voters to thwart any further gains by opposition candidates, especially the Muslim Brothers. Security forces did not confine themselves to blockading roads and closing off polling stations, but fired tear gas and rubber bullets into crowds of voters.

Baheyya also posts lots of photos of the Intifada like scenes.

Sandmonkey posts lots of photos too.

Tunisie Blog Awards 2005

Le règlement

Processus :
En deux phases :

Phase 1
Soumissions de blogs (et articles) pour chaque catégorie.
Les blogueurs, et lecteurs, peuvent soumettre des blogs dans chaque catégorie. Un blogueur peut soumettre son propre blog dans une ouplusieurs catégories. Un blog peut etre soumis dans plusieurs catégories.
Les propositions dans chaque catégorie sont soumis sous forme de commentaires.
Afin de pouvoir soumettre des propositions, tout utilisateur doit s’inscrire au préalable sur le site des Tunisie Blog Awards. Si vous êtes déjà inscrit, vous devez vous loguer sur le site.

Les blogs de membres du jury ne seront pas comptabilisés lors de la sélection des meilleurs blogs.

Phase 2
Les 5 blogs (ou articles) les plus proposés dans chaque catégorie (dans la phase 1) sont sélectionnés pour la phase finale. En cas d’égalité dans le nombre de propositions, le jury tranche.

Le jury peut décider de ne pas sélectionner un blog s’il estime que le contenu de ce blog ne correspond pas à la catégorie dans laquelle il a été proposé.

D’une part les blogueurs (et lecteurs) votent pour leurs blogs préférés dans chaque catégorie. Le vote consiste simplement à selectionner un seul blog dans chaque catégorie.

D’autre part, chaque membre du jury classe les blogs de chaque catégorie du premier au cinquieme.

Les blogs qui ont reçu le plus de votes du public dans leurs catégories reçoivent le prix du public.
Les blogs qui ont reçu le plus de votes des membres du jury dans leurs catégories reçoivent le prix du jury.

- phase 1 : du 12 au 18 décembre
- phase 2 : du 19 au 25 décembre
- résultats : le lundi 26 décembre

Les propositions sont fermées.

The peer review between Encyclopaedia Britannica and Wikipedia

The peer review

We chose 50 entries from the websites of Wikipedia and the Encyclopaedia Britannica on subjects that represented a broad range of scientific disciplines. All entries were chosen to be approximately the same length in both encyclopaedias. In a small number of cases some material, such as reference lists, was removed to make the lengths of the entries more similar.

Each pair of entries was sent to an expert for peer review. The reviewers, who were not told which article was which, were asked to look for three types of inaccuracy: factual errors, critical omissions and misleading statements. A total of 42 useable reviews were returned. These were examined by Nature’s news reporters, who tallied the total inaccuracies for each entry.

Post-Conference: Taking our ideas forward

The world of bloggin and Wikkis.

Global Voices Summit: Emergence of a Conversation Community

Orygv05bybethkanter (photo by Beth Kanter)

Thanks to everybody who participated - both in person and online to make our Global Voices London Summit such a stunning success!

The conversation was so intense that few people noticed a movie star sitting quietly in the back of the room, listening intently to what bloggers from around the world had to say.

A full, real-time transcript of the meeting has been posted on the GV05 Conference Blog, courtesy of SJ Klein (who typed), Angelo Embuldeniya (who posted and edited) and others who helped.

Tharumgv05bycaribbeanfreephoto(photo by Georgia Popplewell

MP3 audio files of the full meeting will be posted soon. Brendan Greeley of Radio Open Source and Ben Walker of the Theory of Everything also conducted some wonderful one-on-one interviews with many of the bloggers present. We hope to post those as podcasts over the coming week or two.

Meanwhile, the blog posts about the conference - by people in the room as well as by people who followed the discussion online - are popping up like mushrooms around

the web. You can track them on Del.icio.us, on Blogpulse, the Technorati “globalvoices” tag, the Technorati “global voices” search, and on Flickr.

As many pointed out, one day was too short. It was really just the beginning of a conversation that needs to continue over coming year. We have three main online spaces in which to continue this conversation:

Ethangv05byenda(Photo by Enda)

The e-mail list-serv: This will be used as a place to start conversations, make announcements and provoke discussions which can be continued on:

The post-conference brainstorm wiki: I have created several links for subjects people clearly have an issue in pursuing: translation, “bloglogue”, outreach, etc. Feel free to add more. When you add major ideas or want to get discussion going on these pages, please send and email to the list and ask everybody to join you there.

IRC: The globalvoices IRC is open 24/7 at irc://irc.freenode.net/#globalvoices If you haven’t been there before, click here for instructions on how to get on it. People can email the list and schedule “meeting times” to discuss specific issues, then post the transcript and follow-up summary notes on the wiki so we have a record of what was discussed and planned.

Gvwidebyenda(Photo by Enda)

Above all, the important point here is that Global Voices will become what the community makes of it. GV’s future is not within the control of me, or Ethan, or our Regional Editors, or the Berkman Center Reuters, or any of our other sponsors or funders. We are really just trying to facilitate, support, enable, and draw attention to the conversations people want to have. The more initiative you as a community member take in shaping and contributing to GV, the more it will become what you want it to be.

Coming out of the 2005 Summit, it appears that commitment to our core mission - enabling and amplifying voices that otherwise wouldn’t be heard - remains strong. But I learned something important on Saturday: Global Voices really is a Conversation Community, not a media organization in any sense that a conventional journalist or editor would recognize. GV exists as much to serve the interests of the contributors and their blogging communities as it does for our “viewers” or “users.” People may look at the website, hear about its 300,000 viewers per month, and think of GV as another form of media in the conventional producer-to-audience relationship. But that is to miss out on a great deal. Here’s how I break things down, at least initially:


As Ethan points out, when this group of amazing people start to interact with one another, powerful things happen. Like a soul-searching dialogue between a Palestinian-born and Israeli blogger. These are two very influential voices in their communities. The fact that they have established a personal relationship will have long-lasting, positive impact on a lot of people who do not blog and who do not read GV.

As Curt Hopkins points out, powerful things can also happen when bloggers from vastly different parts of the world interact, even when their communities are not in conflict. Curt writes:

Global Voices Online (GVO) should encourage more conversations between groups that are not commonly seen as conversing. The Chileans and the Chinese, say. There is an implicit notion that a Chinese blogger involved with GVO and a Chilean who is involved may speak to one another via GVO. But what about encouraging direct, back-channel conversations, events, conferences, online actions? GVO is primarily a facilitator. It should attempt to facilitate these conversations overtly, then step out of the way.

I agree. We should help to enable conversations beyond the exchanges begun at or through GV.


In some countries (but not in others where it’s too politically dangerous) people want tools like Pledgebank that can help them take action on issues they have been passionately blogging about. In other countries, the act of merely speaking is tremendously courageous. We must continue to support bloggers in such countries with the tools (like Ethan’s anonymous blogging guide) that can enable them to continue speaking out despite governments’ efforts to stop them.


Bloggers recognize they are early-adopting elites - and that the conversations happening on the blogs in most countries are not representative of the population as a whole. There was great interest expressed on Saturday in doing outreach to communities that currently have some internet access but are not currently blogging. People feel the need for better training materials and guidelines for outreach so that they can spread the blogging gospel more easily and efficiently.

There is also a recognition that many people simply are never going to blog, but may be talking online in other ways. Offline speech in lectures, on radio call-in shows, etc., should also be collected and connected somehow. Farid Pouya hopes to develop his bloglogue idea toward this end. We need a lot more discussion of how discussions on blogs can better interact with conversations going on in otuer mediums.

Maybe in the third world where a lot more people access talk radio than the internet, Radio Open Source can be used as a model for how you get offline people interacting in conversations with online people?


As somebody pointed out, the most difficult barriers to communication between people are not national borders but language. How can GV help break down the barriers? Does the answer lie with some distributed translation system like Blogamundo or with various non-English versions of GV - which don’t just translate GV material but which would aggregate content from a particular language’s blogosphere, then make perhaps highlights available for translation and summary into English and other widely-spoken languages beyond the original?


A number of people, especially several bloggers observing the proceedings from afar, expressed cynicism and skepticism about the fact that Reuters sponsored the conference and will sponsor parts of GV, and that we may be on the verge of turning ourselves into some kind of cheap stringer network. I think the discussion above shows this is not the case. Reuters will certainly gain new information and perspectives by being connected to the Global Voices conversation. It will also be able to offer its audience the ability to connect to that conversation, and I hope also to join the conversation. In exchange for this Reuters is giving us some modest financial support. I personally feel this is a fair exchange that will enable us to do more towards accomplishing the goals articulated above, and which is intended to benefit members of the community. I would not be in favor of the partnership if I didn’t feel strongly that the people who will benefit the most from it will be bloggers themselves. (UPDATE/NOTE: I should also point out that we also get support from other institutions such as the MacArthur Foundation. The partnership with Reuters does not prevent the interaction of our community members with other media organizations. GV members have been appearing with growing frequency on the BBC, for instance, and there is no reason why that shouldn’t continue.)


Put it this way: for a conventional media organization, “content” is the end goal and “content creation” is the primary activity. For a Conversation Community like Global Voices, “content” and “content creation” are means to a larger end: conversation and dialogue. The first step towards conversation is having one’s voice heard around the discussion table. By linking to people’s blogs, our editors and contributors are in effect inviting people to the discussion table and moderating the conversation.

Nobody has ever done this before, so we’re sure to make lots of mistakes. You don’t learn any other way. In the coming year we will be working to figure out how best to bring more people to the conversation table, how to ensure that their voices are heard and not drowned out, how best to structure the conversations so that they can be meaningful, and how to maximize the impact of these conversations. It’s an exciting project. Please help us figure it out!

Rebecca MacKinnon

Found in translation

The Global Voices conference called to mind a United Nations of blogging: there was a Cambodian sitting next to an Iranian sitting next to an Indian sitting next to a Kenyan sitting next to Richard Dreyfuss.

No one batted an eyelid at the presence of the Oscar-winning actor at a summit about the global communications revolution the internet has sparked. It was hard, however, to work out whether this was because few of the international participants knew who he was or because everyone was more interested in hearing how blogging has spawned a whole new generation of citizen journalists whose voices provide an alternative commentary to mainstream newspapers and broadcasters.

This was no ordinary technology conference: it dispensed with the ego-boosting keynote speeches and elaborately choreographed question-and-answer sessions, relying instead on nothing more elaborate than a microphone shuttled from person to person as the debate flowed among the 80 or so bloggers and journalists present, as well as those joining in virtually via a webcast and a chatroom.

Everyone had a story to tell. The Iranians Farid Pouya and Shahram Kholdi described how all types of people, from homosexuals using pseudonyms to write about their personal lives to pro-Islamic republic Hezbollah supporters, have latched on to blogs as a tool for self-expression.

In China, where a new blog is created every two seconds, photographs of a series of mine disasters have appeared on blogs in defiance of the straitjacketed mainstream media, commented blogger Kevin Wen.

And Dina Mehta, from Mumbai, explained how a blog set up in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami prompted hundreds of offers of help from people around the globe and published SMS messages and calls for help from people in the affected areas.

"It was one of my experiences that changed my life," she said. "It wasn't the television telling you what was going on in some other part of the world; it was real voices."

Global Voices Online, set up 12 months ago to offer an online guide to international blogs beyond North America and western Europe, is sponsored by the Berkman Centre for Internet and Society at Harvard's law school. The not-for-profit team of volunteer blogger-contributors from around the globe tracks the growing community of "bridge bloggers" - people who are writing about their country or region to a global audience, usually in English - and summarise the debates taking place within their own blogging communities.

And it's working: the Global Voices website has grown at a phenomenal rate, and is now getting 300,000 visitors a month. A year into the project, Global Voices contributors are considering where to go next. Should the organisation become a kind of alternative world news agency? How should blogging be encouraged in countries that lack a free press? Should the site be translated into other languages? Which bloggers provide trusted sources of information.

Accessibility was key, said Neha Viswanathan, Global Voices' South Asia editor. She warned against alienating newcomers to blogging with "geek talk" - the kind of technical jargon that can dominate such gatherings. "I swear it can sound like a different language altogether," she said.

The mainstream media has helped to bring blogging to a wider audience and bring new bloggers into the fold. Judging from the number of bloggers-turned-journalists and journalists-turned- bloggers at the conference, a symbiotic relationship was beginning to blossom between citizen and mainstream media, said Dean Wright, senior vice president of the conference's sponsor, Reuters.

"It's difficult, as a mainstream journalist, to report all sides of the story when you are just parachuting into a country; with bloggers, we can report many sides of an issue. This contributes to the conversation the world has with each other," he said.

Tel Aviv-based Lisa Goldman writes for Global Voices Online about Middle East blogs. She said the diverse range of authentic Israeli and Palestinian voices she tries to reflect can sound like a cacophony: "There's a long way to go before people start listening to the other side," she said. "And when bloggers do challenge the status quo, unlike journalists, they don't have any protection or backup.

The Nigerian blogger Sokari Ekine said: "Every time you press the send button, you set yourself up for some very negative responses. You can feel very isolated." Conferences such as these help to counter that isolation and vulnerability.

As Global Voices Online's co-founder, Ethan Zuckerman, one of the few Americans in the room, said as the bloggers began to pack away their laptops, ready to continue the discussion in a London bar: "We're no longer lost in translation."

And where does a Hollywood actor fit into this global conversation? Dreyfuss just seemed to be there to listen. "I am interested in the aspects of information dissemination and how people listen," he said. "The issue is not about free speech, but about how we hear it."

The seemingly retired Hollywood actor said he was a visiting fellow at St Anthony's College, Oxford, and was working there on a project about the teaching of democracy in US public schools. No word, though, on whether he has set up a blog yet.

Internet encyclopaedias go head to head

Jimmy Wales started the Internet-based Wikipedia. Click here to hear him talk about our article, and click here to see our list of peer-reviewed encyclopedia entries.


One of the extraordinary stories of the Internet age is that of Wikipedia, a free online encyclopaedia that anyone can edit. This radical and rapidly growing publication, which includes close to 4 million entries, is now a much-used resource. But it is also controversial: if anyone can edit entries, how do users know if Wikipedia is as accurate as established sources such as Encyclopaedia Britannica?

Several recent cases have highlighted the potential problems. One article was revealed as falsely suggesting that a former assistant to US Senator Robert Kennedy may have been involved in his assassination. And podcasting pioneer Adam Curry has been accused of editing the entry on podcasting to remove references to competitors' work. Curry says he merely thought he was making the entry more accurate.

However, an expert-led investigation carried out by Nature — the first to use peer review to compare Wikipedia and Britannica's coverage of science — suggests that such high-profile examples are the exception rather than the rule.

The exercise revealed numerous errors in both encyclopaedias, but among 42 entries tested, the difference in accuracy was not particularly great: the average science entry in Wikipedia contained around four inaccuracies; Britannica, about three.

Considering how Wikipedia articles are written, that result might seem surprising. A solar physicist could, for example, work on the entry on the Sun, but would have the same status as a contributor without an academic background. Disputes about content are usually resolved by discussion among users.

But Jimmy Wales, co-founder of Wikipedia and president of the encyclopaedia's parent organization, the Wikimedia Foundation of St Petersburg, Florida, says the finding shows the potential of Wikipedia. "I'm pleased," he says. "Our goal is to get to Britannica quality, or better."

Wikipedia is growing fast. The encyclopaedia has added 3.7 million articles in 200 languages since it was founded in 2001. The English version has more than 45,000 registered users, and added about 1,500 new articles every day of October 2005. Wikipedia has become the 37th most visited website, according to Alexa, a web ranking service.

But critics have raised concerns about the site's increasing influence, questioning whether multiple, unpaid editors can match paid professionals for accuracy. Writing in the online magazine TCS last year, former Britannica editor Robert McHenry declared one Wikipedia entry — on US founding father Alexander Hamilton — as "what might be expected of a high-school student". Opening up the editing process to all, regardless of expertise, means that reliability can never be ensured, he concluded.

Yet Nature's investigation suggests that Britannica's advantage may not be great, at least when it comes to science entries. In the study, entries were chosen from the websites of Wikipedia and Encyclopaedia Britannica on a broad range of scientific disciplines and sent to a relevant expert for peer review. Each reviewer examined the entry on a single subject from the two encyclopaedias; they were not told which article came from which encyclopaedia. A total of 42 usable reviews were returned out of 50 sent out, and were then examined by Nature's news team.

Only eight serious errors, such as misinterpretations of important concepts, were detected in the pairs of articles reviewed, four from each encyclopaedia. But reviewers also found many factual errors, omissions or misleading statements: 162 and 123 in Wikipedia and Britannica, respectively.

Kurt Jansson (left), president of Wikimedia Deutschland, displays a list of 10,000 Wikipedia authors; Wikipedia's entry on global warming has been a source of contention for its contributors.

Editors at Britannica would not discuss the findings, but say their own studies of Wikipedia have uncovered numerous flaws. "We have nothing against Wikipedia," says Tom Panelas, director of corporate communications at the company's headquarters in Chicago. "But it is not the case that errors creep in on an occasional basis or that a couple of articles are poorly written. There are lots of articles in that condition. They need a good editor."

Several Nature reviewers agreed with Panelas' point on readability, commenting that the Wikipedia article they reviewed was poorly structured and confusing. This criticism is common among information scientists, who also point to other problems with article quality, such as undue prominence given to controversial scientific theories. But Michael Twidale, an information scientist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, says that Wikipedia's strongest suit is the speed at which it can updated, a factor not considered by Nature's reviewers.

"People will find it shocking to see how many errors there are in Britannica," Twidale adds. "Print encyclopaedias are often set up as the gold standards of information quality against which the failings of faster or cheaper resources can be compared. These findings remind us that we have an 18-carat standard, not a 24-carat one."

The most error-strewn article, that on Dmitry Mendeleev, co-creator of the periodic table, illustrates this. Michael Gordin, a science historian at Princeton University who wrote a 2004 book on Mendeleev, identified 19 errors in Wikipedia and 8 in Britannica. These range from minor mistakes, such as describing Mendeleev as the 14th child in his family when he was the 13th, to more significant inaccuracies. Wikipedia, for example, incorrectly describes how Mendeleev's work relates to that of British chemist John Dalton. "Who wrote this stuff?" asked another reviewer. "Do they bother to check with experts?"

But to improve Wikipedia, Wales is not so much interested in checking articles with experts as getting them to write the articles in the first place.

As well as comparing the two encyclopaedias, Nature surveyed more than 1,000 Nature authors and found that although more than 70% had heard of Wikipedia and 17% of those consulted it on a weekly basis, less than 10% help to update it. The steady trickle of scientists who have contributed to articles describe the experience as rewarding, if occasionally frustrating (see 'Challenges of being a Wikipedian').

Greater involvement by scientists would lead to a "multiplier effect", says Wales. Most entries are edited by enthusiasts, and the addition of a researcher can boost article quality hugely. "Experts can help write specifics in a nuanced way," he says.

Wales also plans to introduce a 'stable' version of each entry. Once an article reaches a specific quality threshold it will be tagged as stable. Further edits will be made to a separate 'live' version that would replace the stable version when deemed to be a significant improvement. One method for determining that threshold, where users rate article quality, will be trialled early next year.

Wikipedia survives research test

The free online resource Wikipedia is about as accurate on science as the Encyclopedia Britannica, a study shows.

The British journal Nature examined a range of scientific entries on both works of reference and found few differences in accuracy.

Wikipedia is produced by volunteers, who add entries and edit any page.

But it has been criticised for the correctness of entries, most recently over the biography of prominent US journalist John Seigenthaler.

Open approach

Wikipedia was founded in 2001 and has since grown to more than 1.8 million articles in 200 languages. Some 800,000 entries are in English.

It is based on wikis, open-source software which lets anyone fiddle with a webpage, anyone reading a subject entry can disagree, edit, add, delete, or replace the entry.

It relies on 13,000 volunteer contributors, many of whom are experts in a particular field, to edit previously submitted articles.

In order to test its reliability, Nature conducted a peer review of scientific entries on Wikipedia and the well-established Encyclopedia Britannica.

The reviewers were asked to check for errors, but were not told about the source of the information.

"Only eight serious errors, such as misinterpretations of important concepts, were detected in the pairs of articles reviewed, four from each encyclopedia," reported Nature.

"But reviewers also found many factual errors, omissions or misleading statements: 162 and 123 in Wikipedia and Britannica, respectively."

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales welcomed the study.

"We're hoping it will focus people's attention on the overall level of our work, which is pretty good," he said.

Writing style

Nature said its reviewers found that Wikipedia entries were often poorly structured and confused.

The Encyclopedia Britannica declined to comment directly on the findings.

But a spokesman highlighted the quality of the entries on the free resource.

"But it is not the case that errors creep in on an occasional basis or that a couple of articles are poorly written," Tom Panelas, director of corporate communications is quoted as saying in Nature.

"There are lots of articles in that condition. They need a good editor."

Wikipedia came under fire earlier this month from prominent US journalist John Seigenthaler.

The founding editorial director of USA Today attacked a Wikipedia entry that incorrectly named him as a suspect in the assassinations of president John F Kennedy and his brother, Robert.

Wikipedia has responded to the criticisms by tightening up procedures.

Next month it plans to begin testing a new mechanism for reviewing the accuracy of its articles.

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