A Hard Day’s Crash

The unthinkable happened — a power outage crashed the civilities hard drive this weekend. I had two systems on the same UPS, and there wasn’t enough time to properly shut down Civilities. The casualty is on its way to CBL.

Part 3: TimesSelectors and TimesRejectors

In part 1, found that the number of blog references to the Top 7 Times columnists had likely dropped by 20% against their pundit peers. That’s not a bad number considering, that new data from shows that Op-Ed readership a month ago (before TimesSelect ended) was 45% of what it is today.

Meet the Punditsphere

Our interest is the influence of the New York Times columnists. Let us propose that they inhabit not just the blogosphere, but the punditsphere, comprising the top political columnists of the day. The blogosphere at large links to the much smaller punditsphere with much more concentration than the other way around. Combined, the pundits receive a fraction of the total references or links on any given day, but because the pundits individually get the most links, people pay them the most attention. It is within the punditsphere that the Times columnists compete especially for attention.

How to send news tips in Boston?

In Unread Alerts, I suggest that anybody with a cell phone ought to know the contact points for their local news organizations. Finding the contact information is a different maze on each site.

Unread alerts– why not to depend on Twitter for breaking news

In Glenview, Illinois Saturday night, a teenager pulled a disoriented women from a car that was stuck on the railroad tracks moments before an Amtrak train barrelled into it. The only reason I heard about this was because an eyewitness, David Armano, had reported via the Twitter service, which meant that he sent via his mobile phone to his network of friends; one friend forwarded it to Doc Searls, who declared on his blog Sunday morning:  "Citizen journal breaks a heroic news story."

Constructive Activism, Part VI: The Messengers

At the start of this series, I mentioned the “pinball nature of news” in expressing how I heard about Alaa. Of course, it’s not really random when we walk through the connections. Here they are:

Constructive Activism, Part III: Google Ad Sensibility

Ethan Zuckerman, founder of the Global Voices project and longtime blogger on Africa and development issues, had considered the use of Google AdWords for awareness campaigns in a post some 18 months ago. Several aid NGOs have been buying AdWords– ads that would show up based on a given search term– for different countries, so he wondered what it would really cost to enter this market. By getting involved with the campaign for Alaa through this series (see previous part), I set myself to find out.

Constructive Activism, Part I: Freedom Isn’t Free

Regrettably, I do not have a channel tuned to alerts about human rights violations; so I rely on the pinball nature of news to get them to me. Normally one could find them through the blogs, though, I remain overwhelmed by the overall mundanity have stopped reading many of them regularly. Only by the grace of perusing Seth Finkelstein’s Infothought last week did I learn about the jailing of Egyptian blogger Alaa Ahmed Seif Al Islam.

Alaa had won an award last November by Reporters Without Borders for his Drupal site, an aggregator Egyptian blogs. He was participating in ongoing protests for an independent judiciary, when he was arrested along ten others; Now a mighty wind had blown across the the plains of the blogosphere to raise support for one of their own. The wind also carried seeds of activism: as a protest measure, bloggers were invited to link to the new Free Alaa website, but using the link text Egypt. Doing so, on a massive scale, was supposed to effect a googlebombing.

Encountering Rankism

It was eleven months ago that I published the New Gatekeepers series. I’m still learning. Just last Friday, Elisa Cooper of Berkeley, CA, posted a comment informing me about the concept of rankism, and its supporting website, Breaking Ranks. The concept Rankism has been coined by Robert Fuller, a past Professor of Physics at Columbia and President of Oberlin College. He had come to realize that all of our old scourges of racism, sexism, anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry had a common root– an -ism called rankism— but it was not until he left academia that the idea coalesced. He told Publishers Weekly: "Lacking the protection of title and status in the years after Oberlin, I experienced what it’s like to be taken for a nobody."

List in Transition — Top "Ecosystem" blogs 2003 and 2006

I thought I’d put together a bit of a teaser here for the upcoming series about the meme of “Shirky’s Power Law” (it’s already at 5,000 words in draft). Three years ago, Clay Shirky and Jason Kottke independently looked at some of the top weblog rankings and concluded that they reflected a power law distributed. Shirky used the data from the “Truth Laid Bear” list, which has been declining in relevance ever since. Kottke, on the other hand, used data from Technorati, which only launched a few months earlier and has been on the ascendence.

But being as I’m writing about Shirky, I thought I’d look at the ol’ bear’s list before it goes into permanent hiberation.

Negotiating for your Social Data

This essay defines the concept of social data within social media software systems and issues a call for users to recognize its need to be made available for public research.

…though it does have its own special power

The following statement appeared in a leaked memo from a Deputy Managing Editor of the most obsessed-about newspaper in the country:

"People can use it any way they want to. It has no inherent ethical or moral quality, though it does have its own special power."

I invite you to come up with a possible explanation of what "it" is:

a) Wikipedia
b) a blog
c) a Colt .45
d) the new Oral-B computerized toothbrush
e) the 82nd Airborne Division

Schooled ya: Community Journalism Still Too Static

In researching Maynard’s Radio Needs a Boost, I wondered how community journalism stacked up against traditional journalism in reporting and amplifying. If community journalism missing clear and present stories like this one, and is content in its own static, than it has a long ways to go.


Schooled ya: Maynard’s Radio Station Needs a Boost

For community journalism, there’s no easier story to carry than the one I’m about to describe. The ol’ “Mainstream Media” broke it first. Now we would expect the blogs to enter stage front and take the case, maybe organize some advocacy journalism. Heard of made-for-TV? This one’s made-for-blogs: it’s got an underdog community media effort against an out-of-town one trying to push it out. The Maynard (MA) High School radio station is about to lose its license to a California-based religious broadcaster which has been scouring up licenses nationwide, with the FCC’s neutral approach enabling it.

The New Gatekeepers: The Corrections

Last spring, I spent several weeks, and many hours at a time, putting together an essay which ultimately comprised eight parts and 14,000 words, titled The New Gatekeepers. One of the main themes was analyzing the architecture of the blogosphere, which I observed had stressed “immediacy over thoroughness.” I developed the argument that if we wanted a system to promote different values– favoring throughness over immediacy– we would have develop a different technology to do that. I had hoped to start that here on Civilities. Unfortunately, my argument has been undermined by my having rushed the writing and editing of some of the series. There are five glaring problems which I wish to address.

Trust in Gatekeepers

Reading Civilities, one might get the impression that I have no respect for the work that Harvard’s does (I happen to have sympathy for Seth Finkelstein’s case), or respect for the “A-List Gatekeepers” (Mike Sanders does not say that, though he uses that quoted phrase), or even respect for women bloggers (Shelley Powers lumped me in with some alpha-bloggers, and later modified that, downgrading me from an onion to a scallion.)

Let me correct those mis-impressions which I’ve just made for myself:

The New Gatekeepers: Reactions

Here’s a summary of reactions to The New Gatekeepers series– and some brief responses back from me. Also see reactions froom delicious as well as Technorati.

February 11, 2006: The number-one ranked site for "The New Gatekeepers" is no longer this series but a thousand-word essay with that title that Tristan Louis posted last Friday. I have a lot of respect for Tristan as a guy who has contributed a lot of critical thinking and original research on Internet and media over years. And we correspond somewhat, not as much as I do with Seth, but I would have figured that he might have Googled the title, to see whether it has an active promoter of it. Dave Rogers was first to comment to Tristan’s piece, sending him the link to this series.

The New Gatekeepers, Part 8: The Future

This piece brings the New Gatekeepers series to a close. I sketched out a future vision in the previous part, which I believe could happen, sometime. In the meanwhile, I will write about the future as it has happened over the past four months.

The New Gatekeepers, Part 7: Solutions

This is an addendum to the New Gatekeepers series (formally, part 7). In the series, particularly part 4, I described that the need for gatekeepers is a result of discursive postings; in order to minimize the influence of gatekeepers, we need aggregatable declarations.

The New Gatekeepers, Part 6: A Summary

Before I get to the solutions, I’ll spend some time summarizing what has been discussed in The New Gatekeepers series, this being part 6.

People around the world have discovered their voices, and enjoy seeing their work published online for others to read. The tools they use are quite often blogs, and thus they call themselves bloggers. And by the bubble of blogging, the format been hyped as a panacea for solving the problems of the media, of business, or organizations. It just doesn’t follow.

The New Gatekeepers, Part 5: The Problem of Crowds

Fifth in the series on The New Gatekeepers.

It’s been over two weeks since the that last part of this series. This gap in time can be partly rationalized by my hoping to build up some anticipation for this next part. We’re going to look at epidemics, cascades and the problem of crowds.

The New Gatekeepers, Part 4: The Alternative

Fourth in the series on The New Gatekeepers.

A wonderful set of coincidences happened this weekend; I decided to take a break from writing, and then a beautiful woman flew into town and we happened to met, and we decided to go out Saturday night. Pretty quickly I had to find something to go see and a restaurant to dine in. Your dividend from all of this, dear reader, is an illustration about the different circumstances where gatekeepers are necessary or not: from theater shows to dining options.

The New Gatekeepers, Part 3: Their Values

Third in the series on The New Gatekeepers.


There are a number of values associated with, and celebrated in, the blogosphere: Freedom. Anonymity. Immediacy. Talking. Breadth. Ego. Involvement. Serendipity. But we may view them in different light when we consider what values they displace:

The Wayward Blogs

In the last 4 months, I’ve written 60 articles. These fifteen are ones that I feel follow the style of Liebling. After the first piece, a rather sober analysis about media mistrust, I started diving headfirst into news stories. I looked at why stories broke they way they did. Like Liebling, I avoided jumping to the conclusion that some all-powerful conspiracy was to blame; instead these stories represent cirumstances where average people just ambled along, sticking with old habits, making simple mistakes, not listening to others. And it’s not just the press that’s wayward these days; it’s the new blog-press, too.

The New Gatekeepers, Part 2: Who They Are

…where I learned just who the new gatekeepers were, and why people are suspicious of their roles.

Second in the series on The New Gatekeepers.

The Tipster Network

Proposing a scaleable solution for sending tips to publishers.

Last month, I wrote that publications, traditional and online, have a primary responsibility to demonstrate that they are responsive to their readers, and that a majority of the questions along these lines should be concerned with how they handle tips. This month Jay Rosen recognized the problem in the midst of a PressThink discussion and spelled out some guidelines for sending in tips (e.g., “Write a post in PressThink’s major areas of interest that gets other people talking, and makes an original point or two.”) This is a good start. Here’s a longer proposal for how it can be done that meets goals of accountability and fairness.

Promoting Women Bloggers: Less Talk and More Action

Why it took over two years of conversations to get to this point; Why it's important; What can be done; Where we should go from here.

Promoting Women Bloggers: A Timeline of Relevant Discussions

A review of Internet discussions over the last two years regarding promoting women’s voices in blogging. This is not a complete list, but a spotlight on some of the more well-known participants and discussions. This was part of the analysis Promoting Women Bloggers.

Harvard BloJo Confabs: The Reviews Are In

There was another “BloJo” confab last week up here at Harvard, officially titled Whose News, but from all outward appearances, it looked like BloJo Redux. That’s Blo for Bloggers and Jo for Journalists, and while we’re at it. Re for Rehash, and Dux for quack quack. This time, the meeting of the minds sponsored by the Media Center at the American Press Institute and hosted at the Nieman Foundation. I was curious whether I missed anything. So, it turns out, were the attendees.

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