Ton of Bricks vs. Bloggers

Two awful stories prove that things are still bad for bloggers in oppressive countries. First, Yahoo. (And really, how could it not start with Yahoo?)

Speaking with VOA’s Mandarin Service Wednesday after arriving in Washington, Yu Ling said Chinese police arrested her husband, Wang Xiaoning, partly because Yahoo’s Hong Kong office gave Chinese authorities information about his e-mail accounts. (Voice of America, via Valleywag)

To my knowledge, Wang is not a blogger. But Yahoo is the same company that rushed to the “aid” of the Chinese government to secure a long prison term for another journalist, Shi Tao, who was a blogger.

Second, here’s an email I got from Amr Gharbeia in Egypt, in its entirety.


I am getting confirmations that there is a lawsuit against the government to block twenty-one websites and blogs, including my own.

The lawsuit is started by Abdelfattah Mourad, one of Egypt’s most senior judges–and head of the Alexandria Appeal Court, where imprisoned blogger AbdolKareem Nabil Soliman’s case is heard next week. The judge is a self-claimed authority in internet issues. I was excited by the fact that he started a blog a while ago, and wrote him asking if he would mind me writing a review for a book he published recently on “the scientific and legal foundations of blogs”. He did not mind, until I published the thing. He obviously has copied tens of pages from the recent report by the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information on Internet freedoms in the Arab world. I noticed this only because some of the figures and estimations were taken from an interview with me. He did this without citation, except for one link to Initiative for an Open Arab Internet in the endnotes, while putting footnotes to other books he wrote on text that he has not written.

Three things prove it is not a mistake: 1) he copied at least two other bloggers with no referencing at all; 2) he changed parts in the text copied from the report to mean the opposite, for example to indicate that Tunisia is a nice, liberal and progressive country; and 3) he published at the front and back pages of his book several warnings against plagiarism, and referred to laws, religions and scientific research methods. He does not allow anyone to cite anything more than two lines from his writings, and in the book he warns against bloggers who violate copyrights, associates them with international terrorism and other things, and claims he has written a reference on
scientific methodology. To top it all, he annexes ready-to-fill complaint forms against bloggers who publish pornography (fitting someone’s head over a naked body, an imaginary case with no history in Egypt’s blogs) and publicizing news that could tarnish the country’s reputation.

I do not really care much for copy rights, and think they are over-rated and keep knowledge, medicine, and soon genetically-engineered food from the world’s poorest, and I would not have written anything if this was another blogger, or a journalist, or even a university professor. What worries me, however, is that this is a judge whose ruling cannot be appealed. He can silence, imprison or execute people, and he oversees our elections.

Once the blogs are found offensive by the court, then in light of the Egyptian’s regime reputation, it is automatic to prosecute the bloggers. This is an early warning. We are still gathering information, and HRInfo should be making a release and starting procedure Saturday next. Hossam elHamalawy is posting in English. Follow him for updates.


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New Committee to Protect Bloggers Archives

Update: The site is down for good.


We have a new location for the Committee to Protect Bloggers’ archive.

Thanks to Civiblog for their previous hosting. Even as an archive (there is just as much abuse of bloggers going on around the world as there ever was, if not more) we go over Blogware’s limits so often that we felt it would be practical to make the change.

We have yet to copy over the blogroll, which we really hope to do. The list of threatened and imprisoned bloggers were mostly links to the original posts about them on the Civiblog blog. In fact, I’m not sure that it’s even possible to copy the blogroll over, period, though I hope so since I think it would be a powerful resource. At any rate, I have copied the titles and names from the original Committee to Protect Bloggers blogroll over onto this post so at least they would be there for people to refer to and research.

And special thanks to Dr. Mike who did the copy-over.

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Latest News: The Blogs Must Be Crazy, etc.

  1. I’m readying myself to go out to Washington D.C. and speak to C.I.A. and State Department intelligence types at the Meridian House about blogging and democracy. My point of view? It’s a good idea. I should slap something together so as to not be completely unprepared. I’m thinking along the lines of a bunch of foul-mouthed revolutionary puppets doing skits about blogging.
  2. We did our first podcast over at Blogswana, which we’re calling “The Blogs Must Be Crazy.”
  3. It’s an adjustment not to be running the Committee to Protect Bloggers anymore. The host, Civiblog, restored the site’s posts temporarily, but they’re down again. Hard to complain since I’m not keeping it current, though I think it’s not a bad resource even if it’s not being updated. I get frustrated, though, each time there’s a new arrest of a blogger somewhere. Global Voices Online is planning an advocacy arm. They’re certainly competent. I hope their sense of diplomacy doesn’t keep them from the bold moves that are sometimes necessary to attract attention to the plight of these bloggers.
  4. Finally, I’m working Petia Maximova and her intrepid band as the writer for a documentary on the Gypsies of Granada, Spain, something I’ve long been interested in. I’m excited about the possibilities. The people involved seem very energetic and Petia has good film connections, so we’ll see what happens. She’s in Granada now and will hopefully meet up with my old friend Manolin, a Gypsy, and Sokari, a Nigerian blogger living in Granada now whom I know through Global Voices. If you’re in Granada and would like to meet her for a drink, let me know and I’ll pass your contact information along.

That’s all for now.

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A collective conscience for the wired world

Since the op-ed I was invited to write by Canada’s National Post is no longer accessible, I am republishing it here. This draft is not as tight as the published version, but it will have to do.

A Collective Conscience for the Wired World

On February 22, in a closed “revolutionary court” in Iran, Arash Sigarchi was sentenced to fourteen years in prison. In addition to being a journalist, Sigarchi is a blogger. A blog, for those who have not heard, short for “web log,” is nothing more than an online journal. On his blog, Mr. Sigarchi protested the months-long crackdown by the Iranian government on bloggers, online and print journalists.

The cover charges of which this secret tribunal found Sigarchi guilty included, untenably, espionage and, weirdly, insulting Iran’s leaders. His real crime was speaking his mind, not just to other Iranians, but to the world at large via his blog and by agreeing to interviews with BBC’s Persian service and Radio Farda. Sigarchi is not alone. Fellow blogger Mojtaba Saminejad was recently rearrested after failing to pay his doubled bail. And today, blogger Mohamad Reza Nasab Abdolahi was sentenced to six months in prison under the same charges.

The Iranian government is currently the most zealous persecutor of bloggers in the world. One reason for this, aside from the obvious distaste of all despotic governments for unfettered speech, is that Farsi, or Persian, the language of Iran, is the fourth most popular language in the blogosphere. Iranians, with their long history of intellectual achievement and worldliness, have taken to blogging like few other nations. After Iranian-Canadian Hossein Derakhshan authored the first Persian-language blogging software in November of 2001, blogging was a fait accompli in Iran.

But blogging is growing like mad around the world, matching and perhaps even surpassing the steep adoption rate of other influential online communications technologies. When I first researched the number of blogs, in late December, the blog search engine Technorati counted 5.4 million. Today they count 7.3 million. And the more bloggers there are, the more conflicts will arise.

Blogging is antithetical to government control of speech. Blogging is easy to do, with free or cheap software and hosting services providing the bulk of what’s needed. It provides the thrill of speaking your mind without censure. The culture of the blogosphere, as the world of blogs has come to be known, is one of radical re-contextualization. Quoting, linking, footnoting, commenting all help to rapidly pass on information. As blogging grows, more countries will begin to clamp down on them, just as they already clamp down on journalists, contributors to online bulletin boards and editors of non-blog websites.

Because Iran is currently the most egregious oppressors of bloggers, the Committee to Protect Bloggers mounted a campaign to free Mojtaba and Arash. Free Mojtaba and Arash Day took place on February 22. We encouraged bloggers around the world to dedicate their blogs to their two imprisoned brothers in Iran. Thousands of bloggers downloaded banners, or made their own; splashed only the words “Free Mojtaba and Arash” across their blogs or blogged on the detentions at length. Hundreds left comments on our site and on others’. Iranian bloggers showed up by the hundreds, at one point making up 12% of our visitors. From February 21 to February 23, our site received over 20,000 unique visitors. Google now lists 11,000 sites that mention us and Technorati counts 1,300 links to our site. Bellwether blogs like InstaPundit and the Daily Kos promoted the day, and it was covered by American public radio, the BBC, CNET and other mainstream media.

In the middle of the day on February 22, we received notice that Arash had been convicted and sentenced to 14 years in prison. It was disheartening news, to say the least. The timing of the announcement by the Iranian government could hardly have been accidental. I believe the intention was to rob a worldwide, grassroots, cross-cultural groundswell of its momentum. Needless to say, it did not work. Nor did the charge that we are an “American” group. (American in this case meaning government-run.) Bloggers are not like other groups. They cannot be hierarchized. The blogosphere is a constantly changing, self-correcting system. Trying to cow bloggers is like trying to herd cats or squash water.

Bloggers are now a force in civil society, much as they have become a force in the world of journalism. Now that bloggers have awakened to both their power and their responsibility, they will clamp down like pit bulls and replicate like Cerebrus.

Nothing can be done now without this linked network, this worldwide organic supercomputer-with-a-soul, from spotting it, spelling it and passing it on. I hardly mean to say, as the Constable so unfortunately did, “A very little little let us do. And all is done.” Eliminating the ability of repressive governments to silence its people is a perpetual process, not a goal to be quickly achieved, not even in the accelerated world of the 21st century. Bloggers are just one more force against which governments living in perpetual fear of their own people will have to struggle. But we’re an unconquerable force: We’re legion, we’re everywhere, and we’re spoiling for a fight.

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Egyptian Torturers Have Arrested Another Blogger

Now that I don’t have to be politic, having given up on the Committee to Protect Bloggers, I am free to ask: What in G-d’s name is wrong with these witless fucks?

Here’s Sandmonkey’s post, complete and unedited.

It’s War

As you can read here Alaa has been arrested , and the situation is turning bleaker by the minute. Given what the egyptian police is like , and how they wanted to hurt Alaa for quite a while now, I don’t think it’s wise to wait until they decide what THEY want to do with him. The fight should start immedietly.

The contact information for the Egyptian embassy is below:
The Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt
3521 International Ct. NW
Washington DC 20008
Phone (202) 895 5400
Fax (202) 244 5131
(202) 244 4319

E-mail them, send them letters, harrass them. The last time you did that we got Abdel Karim released. I am not joking when I tell you that I had information from a source inside that this is the only reason they released him. Too much pressure by the average american and european. The egyptian government is cowardly, they will sucumb to pressure. Tell them that you find his detainment and arrest unacceptable. That you will not set foot in this country, and will tell every friend of yours never to visit Egypt, unless Alaa and the other detainees are released immedietly. That a government that throws people in jail for freedom of speech is not one that will get your money. Tell everyone you know and spread the word. In the words of Tigerhawk: Release the Hounds.

Links to this: InstaPundit , Tigerhawk , Proteinwisdom , Sabbah , Captain’s Quarters

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The Committee to Protect Bloggers Says Goodbye

Sixteen months ago I founded the Committee to Protect Bloggers. The Committee acted as a clearing house for information on threatened bloggers and advocated for their lives, liberty and freedom of expression. In the time since, the Committee helped to raise the public profile of bloggers in repressive regimes through coordinated online action, press outreach, petition campaigns and so on. According to Intelliseek’s Blogpulse service, our online campaign “Free Mojtaba and Arash Day” was the fifth most linked-to blog post of the year.

Our efforts were followed not just by bloggers but by mainstream media as well. We were interviewed, sourced and written about by the Christian Science Monitor, Village Voice, PRI’s The World, BBC News Online, BBC Radio 5, Oakland Tribune, Newsday, Philadelphia Inquirer, Sacramento Bee, National Law Review, Slate, American Bar Association Journal, American Journalism Review, the Associated Press, Overseas Press Club of America, Wall Street Journal, Libération, Foreign Policy, La Voz de Galicia, Washington Post and others. I was invited to write op-eds by the Los Angeles Times, Canada’s National Post and CNET’s

Our actions, including online actions, petition campaigns and press appeals, contributed to the pressure exerted on the Iranian government. This, in turn, led to the dropping of capital charges against reformist blogger Mojtaba Saminejad and to the release on bail of Arash Sigarchi. Similar pressure led to the outright release of Bahraini blogger Ali Abdulemam, the release of Egyptian ant-fundamentalist blogger Abdolkarim Nabil Seliman and various other significant actions. In addition to this sort of pressure we have also advocated on behalf of expatriate bloggers in immigration actions and paired another up with an attorney from a Nobel Prize-winning public interest law firm. Bloggers from Malaysia and Syria contacted us first when they discovered they were due to be interrogated by their respective security services.

Recently, after a lengthy application process, we were finally awarded the status of a tax-exempt nonprofit corporation by the United States Internal Revenue Service. Unfortunately, despite repeated appeals for funding and help, neither was forthcoming in the necessary volume to continue the activities of the Committee. People vote for what they value with their wallets first and their asses second and we lost both polls. It is a reality of life that I can no longer work for the Committee to Protect Bloggers as an unpaid full-time volunteer. So, though it pains me to do it, I have called an end to the Committee in its current incarnation.

Every day working for the Committee I learned more and more about a complex world, and there is an ever-increasing amount to learn and to report on as both the number and activity of bloggers increases and the attempts to silence them keep pace. There are more opportunities to take advantage of and more challenges to face. I have met a number of excellent people through CPB who have made my life more interesting. I have been lucky, for example, to receive advice and support from Ammar Abdulhamid of the Brookings Institution and the Tharwa Project and from Jesse Sage of the American Anti-Slavery Group. I have been grateful for the interest and occasional efforts of bloggers and other interested citizens from around the world.

I am, however, more worried than ever that free speech is less and less a priority for the overwhelming majority of the world’s citizens. And it is hardly evil governments alone who oppose free speech. In the western world the self-congratulatory adolescents of the political left vie with the frothing troglodytes of the right wing to see who can give more empty lip service to free speech while denying it to their enemies. In the developing world, religious extremists use blogs to amplify their bile against the culture that produced the very machines and programs they use to do so.

I am glad to see some organizations finally advocating for bloggers, as well as continuing to act against censorship and filtering. Most of the individuals involved in these organizations have more experience than I do and all of the organizations have greater resources. Let’s hope they stay alert to the tendency of all large organizations to drift toward self-justification, turf wars and political expediency and continue to pay attention to the rights of the people they exist to defend. Even when they don’t agree with them. Especially when they don’t.

The Committee to Protect Bloggers was an experiment, to see what bloggers could do on their own to help themselves. Not a lot, it turns out, and not for long. But a little, and for a while. It will be interesting to see what the future will bring.

Although the Committee to Protect Bloggers is done, the legal organization behind is not. That organization has already created several independent projects and has begun a new one.

First of all, check out Blogswana, an AIDS-focused citizen journalism undertaking in Botswana. It is an attempt to put into practice the other truth about blogging that I have come to, that bloggers, in order to avoid devolving into irrelevancy, are going to have to get off their asses and into the world.

Completed projects include Enough is Enough, the Zimbabwe democracy super-blog (now edited by The Zimbabwean Pundit); and the BlogSafer wiki with its anonymous blogging guides in English, Chinese, Persian and Arabic (funded by Spirit of America).

Links to all projects will be available here on Morpheme Tales.

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Merry Christmas & Happy Hannukah

Since I’ve started blogging and especially since I’ve started the Committee to Protect Bloggers, my internationalist inclinations have been gratified manyfold over the last year. I regularly read and correspond with Muslims, Buddhists, atheists, Jews and G-d knows what else, with extreme conservatives of all stripes, with socialists, libertarians and Greens. (Horror of horrors, probably even with members of the CDU, Republican Party and Likud!)

I’ve always been a Pollyanna. A sullen, belligerent, depressed Pollyanna quick with the fists, but a Pollyanna nonetheless. The blogosphere (I still want to kill myself every time I use that toad of a neologism) is so full of decent people it makes me sick. People with great passion, great respect, great love for humanity, for the world and faith, or at least hope, in the future. WTF? When I read through my aggregator today the two posts wishing me Merry Christmas were from an American Jew and a Palestinian Muslim.

I can’t thank you jerks enough for proving in public the math I’ve done for years in private: the world is at its best when we talk across borders, with respect but without timidity. In 2006 let’s keep calling a spade a spade. (or a 锹 or a лопата or a cosse or a 삽 or a forcella…)

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Global Voices Online 2005 London Summit—Another Voice

I was unable to attend the London Summit for Global Voices on December 10, unfortunately. I was finishing up the SoA Anonymous Blogging Guides and shepherding the Committee to Protect Bloggers through the last hairpin turn of its tax-exempt nonprofit corporation status application.

Nevertheless, since I’ve been a longtime supporter and tangentially involved, I wanted to register my opinion on some of the issues addressed at the summit. For those who don’t know, Global Voices, a project out of Harvard University’s Berkman Center, is an interesting undertaking. It’s rather like an international blog aggregator with annotations; it’s something like an old-fashioned international news magazine. It has been around for a little better than a year now and in that time has had a profound influence on the notion of what a blog’s good for and who writes them. One of the founders described it as a “citizen media” site, making a distinction between it and “citizen journalism.” I think of it as an online magazine whose primary topic is the global conversation.

Best just to look at it, though.

I read the entirety of the sixty-page live blog from the summit. My comments are in order. (My quotations take the liberty of correcting what look to be typos and misspellings, and writing out abbreviations, but refer to the original if you have any doubt. I’ll quote them and then attribute where possible.)

One of the things we want to cover going forward is how we might expand the regional editors, if we want to do that; how bloggers might be different in editorial structure; how it might be different and how pro journalists work. (Rebecca MacKinnon, one of the founders and American blogger at Rconversation)

The editors are, I think, just that, editors. They are journalists, of a sort, whose beat is the conversation or conversations going on in their coverage area. To think of it like that it may provide a sense of orientation to the role.

Africa has been presented in such a negative way in the past 10 years; the blogosphere has presented a different side of Africa. There are Africans talking about positive things; about — even when you talk about crises; that it’s done in a positive way… us speaking for ourselves. Another positive thing: when I joined in October, I wasn’t aware of all the blogs out there; and there was one, an American’s blog, saying where are all the women bloggers? and I responded saying ‘where are all the African women? I went out looking for them… I was amazed at how many there were that I didn’t know about. That’s been an important opportunity. (Sokari Ekine, Kenyan blogger at Black Looks)

One thing that both journalism and history writings often lack is a sense of things on the ground: What’s it look like there? What’s it sound like? How do people think about what’s going on? To listen to the bureaucrats and rocks stars, Africa is one gigantic symptom in need of medicine that can only be provided by… well, bureaucrats and rock stars. Once of the benefits of reading blogs is to get a more accurate view of things apparently far removed from your immediate reality. The notion that the only resource available to Africans is rubber trees and diamonds is given the lie by African bloggers.

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. Or, on the other hand, to find them and point them out. That is another the regional editors could do.

Much is made of the “blogging vs. journalism” argument. We believe there can and must be room for both in this world, and that the world will be better for having both. (Intro)

I think the distinction of “citizen media” (which includes opinion, conversation and personal experience) from “citizen journalism” is important. However, I often find myself wishing a GVO blogger had gone out and interviewed a politician or public figure or people on the streets or had pulled documents. I don’t think GVO should try to force bloggers into a journalistic mold. However, some access to journalistic experience and tools would provide the means to make additional distinctions. According to Jeff Ooi, the Malaysian bloggers have had good success with simple fact checking. Perhaps regional editors in different areas who have come up with various solutions to some of these issues might write on them at length for the benefit of the other editors, and for bloggers all around.

I started with Reuters bringing global material to a consumer audience. This is an area where many networks in the US have dropped the ball on recently. There is a good fit with Global Voices, which has a similar interest to Reuters in bringing international news to a US audience. (Dean Wright, Reuters)

In an earlier post here, I mentioned that excessive pursuit of 80s junk bonds / 90s internet IPO style profits, occasioned by the corporate buy-up of individual media properties, has left us with a media incapable of good global news gathering, with very few exceptions, which may include Reuters. The urge to get something for nothing fires the boilers of much of the traditional media in terms of bloggers. As useful as bloggers are for both people staying informed and for the media keeping its head above water, I think GVO should be cool-headed about cooperation with the media. How many musicians in SROs wish they had been a little less grateful for the attentions of record companies?

We weren’t the [original sources] but we were trusted and could point them…if you want to call it activism, sort of like a movement – it could happen in next to no time at all. (Dina Mehta, Indian blogger at Conversations with Dina)

Here’s an interesting question: Does GVO consist of citizen media, activists, journalists, or all three? Do we need to make a distinction? Certainly activists and the traditional media have radically different agendas. Can you be part of the citizen media and be both? Is it simply a matter of making sure you “show your work”? There’s a lot of talk regarding citizen journalism about revealing one’s biases, something bloggers in the U.S. at least encourage traditional journalists to do. But how can we map every line of force that makes us who we are? Should we have to? I have no pat answers to these questions, but I think they need to be considered. In the meantime, would some sort of guideline be in order?

I’ve noticed since I started rounding up the Caribbean for Global Voices, that people start to change things; since they know that I’ll ink to them if they cover certain things that alone has shifted things. (Georgia Popplewell, blogger and podcaster from the Antilles, at Caribbean Free Radio)

In this respect, bloggers are journalists. Journalists are constantly on the sell, whether freelancers or staffers. They’re selling the story to their editor, their editors are selling it to their editors, those folks are selling it to the public. What winds up happening is that sometimes stories of marginal worth are filtered out. But what happens just as often is that stories get spiked in favor of the “top ten” or the more lurid. I think GVO editors have an obligation to make certain that the full range of stories from their areas are being told. This is no easy feat, but it’s integral.

If you have an agenda and strong opinion, you’ll just find something to confirm your opinion. I’m trying to get around that; it’s very hard. (Lisa Goldman, Israeli blogger at On The Face)

It’s great if you feel your opinions are being given no credence in the world at large to find people who think as you do. However as a GVO regional editor, I think Lisa has it spot on. You simply must include divergent opinions. That’s not to say you need to engage in the increasingly useless he said-she said that is one of the logical fallacies of the traditional press. I think you can include without endorsing or without implying that each opinion has the same weight of fact or common sense or adoption by people in the area. And I think there is a place for opinion in a GVO round-up. By opinion I mean a mediating voice saying, “All this notwithstanding, I (Lisa or Haitham or Sokari, etc.) believe X is most likely.” After all, there is a comment section, right?

“How do we make sure people trust what we’re doing? As we try to call attention… perhaps making sure we’re not calling attention to false voices/disinformation. Also, what is the responsibility of bloggers?” (RM)

Trust your readers. I cannot emphasize this enough. When people read John Burns, as an example, sure, they probably give him some credence because of his association with the New York Times (for those whom the NYT is considered credible, at any rate; probably a smaller number now than in previous years). But I think most do so because of the inherent believability of his reports. Reading him over time people build up a sense of trust. To me there is no real difference between “John Burns” (who, for all I know, is actually Ambrosia FitzSimmons-Smythe) and “Zimpundit” (who, for all I know, is actually John Burns).

My point is: Trust your readers. And to do that, of course, you have to listen to them. GVO is fast becoming a brand in much the same way (though hopefully with fewer instances of post-holing) that NYT is a brand. The GVO regional editors need to use the full arsenal of their brains, not least when listening to the reaction of their readers.

The blogosphere will arrive at the same time as traditional media. So we now have an opportunity to build completely fused media. (John West—sorry, don’t know who he is.)

This is intriguing. For some reason it worries me a bit. One of the reasons that traditional media has responded with some scrambling to blogging and other citizen media is that it provides a healthy threat to the same-old-same-old. I have a hard time believing that a for-profit organization, especially a media one, is going to do anything in this profit-driven era that is not directly traceable to an increase in profit (as illustrated on a spreadsheet somewhere, perhaps in Hell). Will it give the illusion of feedback without any of the messy top-of-the-lungs vitality of blogging? I don’t have the answer to that. (I know. I’m as shocked as you.)

We’re at a point where we can shape the future. One of the reasons I’m here instead of at my old job is I believe we [can do this]. (RM)

Can I get a amen?

You have to recognize that I’m learning, you’re learning. (David Sasaki, Americas editor for GVO, has the decency, self-respect and common sense to be from the Pacific Northwest, a blogger (residing in Mexico) at oso, moreno, abogado)

GVO can’t be afraid to take chances. Chances sometimes result in mistakes. People learn from mistakes. They’re embarrassing and sometimes damaging. They should be avoided when unnecessary and embraced when necessary. GVO is based at a large American educational establishment, a place where a drive for consensus can sometimes result in timiditiy. Most people out there blogging whom GVO rounds up are not in that place. They’re out in some pretty wild and wooly areas on the verges, margins and borders of communication. (That’s right. I got a thesaurus.) It’s important not to neglect to synch up with these people.

One thing we need as journalists, other than more hugs, is training. One of the question’s I always have, using a blog in the newsroom: how do I know I can trust that? Interesting b/c it’s something journalists learn in journalism school; you have to face this every day when standing in front of a person, to look at a thousand non-verbal cues; and those cues exist on blogs too. You live in the blogosphere, so you know these things…you know what [the cues] are… What would be a tremendous resource for journalists who are getting started…– it’s all in the journalists judgment on what they should rely and on what they shouldn’t — would be if you could put together an guide on all these things that you just know that we couldn’t be expected to. (Brendan Greeley, journalist, editor of the U.S. Public Radio Exchange blog)

Putting up an “approved by GVO” badge creates a whole slough of problems. I don’t think that’s a great idea, to do it officially. Guides are fine. I’ve written (or edited rather) my share. But I think primarily it’s going to be experience reading them that will do the trick for journalists; they’re readers too, after all. I wonder if a training session on how to read and use blogs as a journalist might be more useful than a guide. I mean, a guide’s fine, but I bet there are a lot of people who attended the London summit who learned as much about a person in an hour over dinner than 10 hours reading their blog.

What I ask my colleagues to do is, “take out ‘blogger’ and put in ‘first-person eyewitness’…”and they’re a lot more comfortable with that. (DW)

This is a very good point, and meshes well with the notion of citizen media.

Part of the problem we’re confronted with jointly, is how to build more really vibrant, dynamic blogospheres. If our whole job is to point to conversations, we need them to take place. (Ethan Zuckerman, cofounder of GVO and American blogger at My Heart’s in Accra)

Regarding this point, and several made later about blogging penetration, why not ask the regional editors to secure volunteers and arrange trips to the countryside, or wherever blogging has yet to catch on? These traveling bloggers could act as an ambassadorial deputation from the blogosphere? Each area they visit will have different concerns. Perhaps some funding could be found to provide traveling money and set up some of these areas with needed tech a la Geekcorps. (Blogcorps?)

There was this dinner I was at with Roba and Haitham in Amman; everyone was saying, this is great; we all know each other, we’re excited, but we’re all from West Amman. So how do we make this broader? (EZ)

I presume West Amman is the tony part of town. And that points out an interesting, and to some extent neglected question: How can GVO promote and involve not just “other cultures” (than North American and Western European) in blogging, but other cultures within those cultures, such as ethnic and religious minorities and the poor (sometimes one and the same). This is exceedingly important, I think. If you don’t see to these people, find some way to bring them aboard, it’s all well-heeled Americans talking to well-padded Jordanians talking to well-funded Malaysians. It’s better than nothing but it’s a far cry from good enough. GVO editors need to get out and get people other than their peers blogging. Perhaps in certain cases they can invite these computerless bloggers over to use their tech? Perhaps they can go out in the community and interview 10 people each, every week, for a year—people who are different from them in economic level, religion, ethnicity, gender, politics—and post each week to a blog designed for that purpose.

Sometimes I think there’s too much concern over how ‘transformative’ blogging can be for Kenya or for politics; I look at it on an individual basis – what does it mean for someone who didn’t have this space before to have this space suddenly? (Ory Okolloh, GVO regional editor and Kenyan blogger at Kenyan Pundit)

Should we try to be focusing on making people have political and social blogs, and less personal blogs? (EZ)

Hell no.

GVO needs to honor the different ways in which people use blogging and other elements of citizen media. There’s nothing dishonorable about kitty-blogging. (Personally, I think kitties are adorable and anyone who doesn’t is welcome to a taste of my Ham-Sized Whirling Fists of Kitten-Lovin’ Fury.™*) I would rather read an honest, creative, passionate blog about kitties than a clanking robot of a blog about a country’s politics written as though for penance.

Also, force-feeding “what’s good for you” to bloggers who love their kitties is like the kind of fantastically unsuccessful top-down “aid” that has been given in places like Africa. GVO has to balance a top-down approach (all the bloggers who’re very familiar with how to blog and what blogging can do sharing) with a bottoms-up approach (I love kitties, damn it and that’s what I want to blog about!).

(*I’m kidding. I love you all very much and I wouldn’t hurt a fly.)

“A surplus of bloggers and shortage of blogees.” How can we direct the national attention to blogs that are consistent, accurate, thoughtful, and useful? (GP)

Man this is a good question. You know what? I don’t have an answer. (Get used to it people!) But I’ll give it some thought.

There are very true life experiencs out there, waiting to be translated. (Shahram Kholdi, Iranian blogger, resident in U.K. who blogs at S’Can-Iranic)

A-freaking-men, brother. Let’s not ever forget our humanity in this discussion. (“Comfort the afflicted and keep them from harm / let the aged be protected and the infants be strong—Go for it!)

The blogosphere has more than just regional blogospheres. (D. ?)

I don’t necessarily think rotating regional bloggers around makes a lot of sense. However, the addition of subject editors might be very useful. The mere fact that there are only regional bloggers implies that GVO is built like the foreign bureau of a news organization. But like any good medium, the blogosphere has info on—say it with me—kitties, and wine and beer and the punky rocky music the kids go all gaga for, and gardening, international trade, transportation, cryptography, charismatic megafauna, meteorology, logistics and Andalucian agronomy. Why not assign editors to find that information and point to it?

There’s a really interesting idea that’s part of this – that a Chinese Global Voices might not just be translations of what’s on the English Global Voices, but also news and tools and discussions specific to the Chinese blogosphere. (EZ)

There is no substitute for figuring it out yourself, for being given the tools and translating something yourself. But people can’t do this for everything. I think a combination of some straight translations and some tools would be optimal. The idea that Pat Hall suggests for a “translate this” tab is great. Machine-translations are sucky, but sometimes you want to know at least the gist of something right now, something you might not take the trouble to come back to. So I’m not sure machine translations should be pitched out, as faulty as they are.

It seems it would make sense for a community to use the model and initiate it themselves and officiate it rather than being all under the Global Voices hosted site. (RM)

Whether it’s the dream of a translation service that works within it or a Global Voices Español; the weight is on your shoulders. We can find ways to collaborate, to cooperate, to give feedback. It’s also an invitation from everybody here to use this as a platform. (EZ)

I wonder how much would happen without the GVO imprimatur? And of those undertakings, how many would find fuel to continue on for an appreciable length? Something to consider. Part of the pay-off for some GVO-allied bloggers may be the international attention and the unspoken stamp of approval. On the other hand, I think you also need to be careful how much you agree to “collaborate, to cooperate.” It may imply a closer relationship than you can actually provide.

Also, b/c the Global Voices blog isn’t interesting to me, recently… it’s full of
reporting, regional reporting they’re important, but not interesting to read.
I’d suggest moving this kind of regular reporting to another part; not the main
part of the page; and only have interesting writing, posts on the page that
would be great. (Hossein Derakhshan, Iranian-Canadian blogger at Editor: Myself)

It seems to me that GVO has done a great job among bloggers. It seems that they are likely to continue to do that job, to add elements and experiments and personnel. But without readers who aren’t involved it will turn into poetry. I mean that it will only be read by the producers. It has to be relevant or useful to people outside the pale in order to truly be that something new we all want it to. An effort should be made to make GVO a part of every child’s healthy breakfast.

Take money from right-wingers provided that you pursue the transparency you’re talking about… I don’t see the problem there; if it’s visible, if it’s disclosed… let people make their own decisions. I don’t agree with them on much, but let’s hear what they want to say. (Dan Gillmor, American blogger at Bayosphere)

There’s a tipping point in an undertaking like this after which the “liberal” label is stuck on for good. I would probably be more likely called a liberal than anything else. But I’m not. I’m independent. If Global Voices condemns one political stripe as unworthy of being listened to, why wouldn’t it find another to dismiss? If the leadership changes will it be all Little Green Footballs all the time? The reductionism that’s plagued American political life for the last years should be denied entry. If that upsets some people, so be it. There are many citizen media organizations expressly designed for people who pop a gasket anytime they’re contradicted. Let people who refuse to dirty themselves with argument or who can’t do so while retaining an elemental human dignity and respect look elsewhere.


One thing I forgot to mention, until I was reminded by Rebecca’s post, is that there was relatively little mention made of the threats to bloggers working under repressive regimes. The dangers these bloggers struggle with are real and mounting. Just ask Mojtaba or Omid. As politically sensitive as these matters are, they should be part of the mix. If every blogger associated with GVO were to take an active interest in this aspect of international blogging, it could only help.

Here are a few really interesting ideas that I was turned on to by Rebecca’s and Ethan’s posts:

Lucy Hooberman’s pledge on Pledgebank to “mentor a minimum of two people in the developing world in the area of my skills base and expertise (media, communications, broadcasting, democratic media building, participatory media, community video). ” This is an excellent idea. Please consider signing on.

The Global Voices post-summit brainstorm wiki. For those who think I just made up that phrase, it’s a website we can all edit, about what international blogging should be about, specifically as it relates to the Global Voices experiment.

Farid Pouya’s Blogologue project. Blogologue is “a place where bloggers from different countries communicate and exchange ideas about one or several topics. Probably a first Bloglogue section will be launched on Globalvoices where American bloggers & Iranian bloggers share their ideas about hot topics: Iran nuclear crisis, Democracy in US and so on. If you know American bloggers who are interested about Iran please let me know: faridpouya(at)gmail(dot)com” My fellow Americans, do not quail before Farid, denizen of the axis of evil though he may be. For, lo!, thou shalt open up thy pie hole and let fly!

To quote from one of my favorite movies, “I, for one, am very interested… to see… what’s going to happen next.”

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