Monday, March 28, 2005

Beyond the blogging vs. journalism question

Are bloggers journalists?

This is the wrong question.

According to blogger and social networks researcher Danah Boyd the blogger vs. journalist debate is a dead end street:

"I think that the question needs to be shifted. We need to stop asking if bloggers are ournalists and start asking if journalism can occur on blogs? People didn't used to think that journalism could occur on radio or on TV. And there's no doubt that the medium changed the practice. But we all recognize these venues as legitimate sources of news. In a society of corrupt media, a shift in media is actually quite appreciated and should not be oppressed simply because it does not yet have legitimacy or because its legitimacy is not associated with any corporation's credentials. "
A recent panel at South by Southwest Interactive Media Festival explored the issue in more depth and here are some of the results of their Blogging Vs. Journalism panels:

"Beginning on February 14 and extending though the end of the month, uber-blogger Jeff Jarvis and New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller engaged in a lively e-mail discussion about the the ongoing love / hate relationship between mainstream media and participatory journalism. At one point, Jarvis remarked: "Are blogs an echo chamber? On the edges, they are. But there is a vast middle ground of people who are neither red nor blue and defy such simplistic media categorization. We are who we are and our blogs represent us. Also note that we link to those with whom we disagree so we can disagree. That cacophony of voices and viewpoints seems so unruly to those of us who've made our living ordering the world for print. But the noise is good. It's democratic." Meanwhile, Keller eventually countered "It's striking that there seems to be no end to any argument in your world. Every grievance is recycled endlessly, not necessarily spiraling up to a higher level of enlightenment but starting over and over from scratch. It's 'Groundhog Day.'" What are your thoughts on the virtual conversation between these two? What does it say about the escalating power of blogs that the Executive Editor of the nation's top newspaper would devote so much time to this dialogue with Jarvis? How can the mainstream media change to become more relevant to those who get the bulk of their news via blogs? Is the relationship between bloggers and journalists inherently antagonistic, or are these two groups complementary? What worries you more -- the lack of traditional standards of journalism in the blog world, or the corporate ownership of the mainstream media?"
Further Reading:

- The New Blogocracy by Danah Boyd from Salon- Demeaning bloggers: NYTimes is running scared - from Many2Many
Further Reading:

- The New Blogocracy by Danah Boyd from Salon- Demeaning bloggers: NYTimes is running scared - from Many2Many

- Wikipedia's history of blogs
- Rebecca Blood's Weblogs: a history and perspective
(note: Blood is considered one of the foremost world authorities on blogging. Any journalist reading this who plans on writing an article about blogs or blogging should read Blood's history before consulting interview subjects).

Friday, March 25, 2005

Be the media at Ourmedia

For the past week I have been exploring the brand new open-source media community
Ourmedia and, from what I've seen so far, I really like it. It's an exciting blend of open source/user-contributed forums and filesharing, community, social networking software (SNS), archive and media resource.Ourmedia features all the bells and whistles of social software (i.e., layered profiles, buddy lists, etc) and participatory media (i.e., blogging and file sharing features) but for the purposes of sharing, archiving and building community (sans proprietary TOS).

Everything is still very alpha and a little buggy but largely operational. I haven't spent enough time to provide a proper review but I did want to say I really dig it so far and encourage others to go and explore. Here's what Ourmedia is

"Ourmedia is a global community and learning center where you can gain visibility for our works of personal media. We'll host your media forever — for free.

Video blogs, photo albums, home movies, podcasting, digital art, documentary journalism, home-brew political ads, music videos, audio interviews, digital storytelling, children's tales, Flash animations, student films, mash-ups — all kinds of digital works have begun to flourish as the Internet rises up alongside big media as a place where we’ll gather to inform, entertain and astound each other.

Ourmedia is several things in one.
We are:

An open-source project built and staffed by volunteers A destination Web site that freely hosts grassroots video, audio, music, photos, text and public domain works

A community space to share and discuss personal media

A learning toolkit to help our members create rich and compelling worksAn archive so that these works can be preserved for the ages

A clearinghouse that allows anyone to search for licensed video, audio or music, download it and remix it, with proper attribution. Legally."
Is this you? If so, I encourage you to go and check it out. If you really dig it, build a profile and upload some content!

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The trap of corpspeak

"Corporations do not speak in the same voice as [the] new networked conversations. To their intended online audiences, companies sound hollow, flat, literally inhuman. In just a few more years, the current homogenized 'voice' of business - the sound of mission statements and brochures - will seem as contrived and artificial as the language of the 18th century French court. Already, companies that speak in the language of the pitch, the dog-and-pony show, are no longer speaking to anyone."
- The Cluetrain Manifesto (Theses 14-16)

Try this. Go to the biggest and most corporate site you can find and cut and paste their "about" page into a document. Rewrite the section in a language and style appropriate to one or more of the following:

- Cowboys

- A gardener
- The Dalai Lama
- An environmentalist
- A ten year old
- A grandparent

How did the message change when you imagined a different kind of audience? Now take the best elements of each and look at the new "about". Does it sound more human? More interesting?

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Show us, don't tell us you're the expert

A funny person is funny.
They convey this by making you laugh.
They don't say "I'm funny".

The same logic should apply to how you position yourself or your product in the world. You don't tell people how smart, or funny or talented you are. You show it. Like the writer's golden rule "
Show don't tell".

Thanks to blogs, there is an opportunity for those of us who are genuinely expert at something to show and prove our expertise and be judged according to the merit and quality of our work. We don't need to rely on advertising alone to tell the world what we've got to offer - we offer it.

Blogs are good news for people who really are experts in a particular field or subject matter but bad news for those who aren't paying attention to changing trends or developments in their field. This is a really important distinction if you're a vocational student and you're paying thousands of dollars to learn about the most current applications and strategies from cutting edge professionals.

Leading academics, technologists, politicians, and CEOs are sharing their wisdom and cutting edge smarts through their personal or group blogs. These people know and believe in the truth of 'show dont' tell'. So do their students, peers and clients.

Design and "internet guns for hire" are proving their expertise with their Rodcorp blog. I found this blog while surfing through the unbiased and very democratic feed, which ranks new web content by popularity and freshness. The piece that brought me to their blog is called "How we work". The post is an overview of the different working styles and habits of well known authors, artists and experts from a variety of fields. From their description:

"We're interested in the habits, rituals and small (and occasionally big) methods people and teams use to get their work done. And in the specific anecdotes and the way people describe their own relationship to their own work. Here's a list of some stories and habits. Not sure it is actually useful for anything. Do any patterns emerge across stories, other than the obvious stories of super-focus, super-dedication?"
With this post and their excellent examples, Rodcorp conveys to me that: a) they are genuinely interested in process; and b) they are willing to invest and share their knowledge base. Whether I'm a client or a prospective client or just a passing reader I'll remember this site because they've offered me a bit of knowledge that I found useful. This useful knowledge is a freebie, a value-add they've offered via their blog. I like content I can use. And I'll go back to their site again and recommend it to others.

This is possibly the best kind of advertising you could ask for - to show your knowledge and have others circulate your message for free. Before you know it, word will get round that you offer something special and that you're tuned into trends people are invested in.

So whether you're an emerging professional, an instructor or a CEO, a blog is your chance to show what you know and our turn to say "prove it".

Friday, March 18, 2005

Can't afford the cool conferences? Read presenter blogs

If you really want to know what's happening in the tech, design and new media world one of the best ways to find out is to attend conferences. Unfortunately, for students (and many freelancers like myself) the cost is too prohibitive. Thanks to the knowledge sharing that participatory media (i.e., blogs) enables it's possible to get that insider information - for free.

These days, most of the stuff that gets talked about at the big conferences like SIGGRAPH, SXSW, Etcon and Toronto's own FITC finds its way online and into blogs, wiki's, magazines, interviews and developer sites. It's not as fun as actually attending the conferences but it's a form of access to the information you need as an emerging interactive professional.

For example, I just found this blog post about a presentation at SXSW that speaks to the kind of small team projects at Signal vs. Noise (via

"Here’s a PDF of my March 12th How to Make Big Things Happen with Small Teams presentation from SxSW 2005 (plus reviews/notes from attendees including Khoi Vinh’s thoughful The New New Methodology article at Subtraction). If you were in the
, find yourself and make a Flickr note. Thanks again to Hugh Forrest for asking me to be a part of SxSW this year."

Writer and gaming expert Clickable Culture's Tony Walsh attended the 2005 South by Southwest interactive festival, in Austin, Texas. He appeared as a panelist in a discussion about "Journalism and Blogging About Online Worlds. Walsh published all of his notes from both his own panel and those he attended on his blog in a special report section devoted to the conference.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Creating an online social network around your work

So you're getting a killer skillset and you've built a homepage, what next?

I'm sure you've heard the old cliche 'it's not what you know but who you know'. Well, it's not a cliche for nothing.

Who you "know" and who you are is especially important in new media where companies can be as small as 4-8 people - the right fit means everything in a small company.

So how do you get to know people in the industry while you're still a student? How do you get advice from these people if you don't have access? How do you stand out from the crowd? How do you present yourself and your goals to the world?

Thanks to the internet, you can start right now.

Getting connected

I found this out once I started really taking part in online life by joining a private virtual community. In fact, many of my first professional opportunities were the product of social networking that began while I was still in school. Thanks to my active online life I quickly found mentors, friends and connections who have been invaluable to my direction as an interactive writer - and as a person.

Online social networking software (SNS) like Orkut, Ryze, Linkedin and others you can start building an identity for yourself around your interests, skills and professional goals. For those of you who are creating more creative projects there is CBC's ZeD, which offers budding writers, filmmakers, animators and artists to share their work with other creatives around the world (and if you do something really amazing you might even find yourself featured on their show).

French blogtrepreneur Loic Le Meur explains the power of online reputation and how to secure a viable network:

"Build your virtual identity, fast.

I know most of you know all the below already, I just tried to put together what was online reputation for the beginner in blogging.

The two main trends of the Internet 2.0 are blogging and social software. Beware, in this Internet everybody knows more and more about you. There is less and less privacy.
Here some the components of your virtual identity as I see it: -Google your name. If you have never written anything on the Internet, other people may have done it (press, bloggers, etc).

Check what is there, more and more people will check that before or after meeting you, to get a sense of your reputation -Become a member of
Linked In. Thousands of people in the world every day are joining it. You do not care ? Well, I guess you should because they start talking to their network more than you do and have quicker connections to the people that matter to what they are doing. They will go faster than you with these connections. They will also know better than you who they should work with or hire and as important as that, who they should definitely not trust, because there will be always a friend a click away to tell them not to work with somebody they had troubles with."
Loic should know. He's one of the most connected professionals in the online world. Remember his advice and act on it!

Reputation is everything

After a few years of trying on my own to make connections - through work, friends and online participation I found Loic's advice and joined Linkedin. It wasn't instant success but quickly found myself establishing connections I might not ordinarily had found - and I've also had job offers.

Once I started working I wanted to further establish my online reputation by asking my professional clients for public endorsements for my work. Their profiles link to mine and so it's easy for prospective clients or employers to verify that these people are, in fact, the people who gave you the endorsement. Their profiles link to their work history and their own online network. Your prospective client or partner can look up your endorser and check out their information. Once you've established a strong network you'll find that you receive many invitations from other professionals seeking to connect with the people in your network.


So you've found an online network, gotten some good advice and made some connections. What about the real life? What about that first interview?

New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell explains why personality matters and what an interview really tells an employer:

"It is a truism of the new economy that the ultimate success of any enterprise lies with the quality of the people it hires. At many technology companies, employees are asked to all but live at the office, in conditions of intimacy that would have been unthinkable a generation ago. The artifacts of the prototypical Silicon Valley office--the videogames, the espresso bar, the bunk beds, the basketball hoops--are the elements of the rec room, not the workplace. And in the rec room you want to play only with your friends. But how do you find out who your friends are?Today, recruiters canvas the country for résumés. They analyze employment histories and their competitors' staff listings. They call references, and then do what I did with Nolan Myers: sit down with a perfect stranger for an hour and a half and attempt to draw conclusions about that stranger's intelligence and personality. The job interview has become one of the central conventions of the modern economy. But what, exactly, can you know about a stranger after sitting down and talking with him for an hour?"

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

The "paid-for content" debate: will online writers cash in?

Sogole Honarvar of The Online Journalism Review blog weighs in on the debate over "paid content":

"The age-old tension of free vs. paid-for content online is up for questioning again, as The New York Times explores the profitability of print newspapers who offer free online content. The main source of Web editions' revenues come from online advertising, which news publishers fear will decline if they begin to charge access fees. Newspaper publishers with a Web presence also fear that mandated subscription fees will fail in a world where users expect free content. "A big part of the motivation for newspapers to
charge for their online content is not the revenue it will generate, but the revenue it will save, by slowing the erosion of their print subscriptions," said Colby Atwood, vice president of
Borrell Associates, Inc., a media research firm. "We're in the midst of
a long and painful transition.""

So, dear online writer (and reader), where do you stand on paid-for content?

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Online writer profile: Robert Kerr

From Centennial College News:

"How far would you go to find the right career? International student Robert Kerr uprooted himself from his Cambridge, England, home to teach English in Japan, then came to Canada to study Online Writing and Information Design at Centennial College. After travelling most of the way around the globe, Kerr is confident he's made the right move.

“I was looking to study something a little bit unique,” recalls Kerr, 25. He came to that life-altering conclusion after he attended a documentary film festival in Toronto. It prompted him to contemplate journalism, but didn't like the idea of returning to school for two or more years. “I chose Centennial's online writing program because it prepares you for journalism but focuses on storytelling.”"