My Big Blogging Questions

In a couple of hours I’ll be moderating a panel entitled “Alternative Media: Attack of the Blogs.” Since my panel (Kim Spencer of LinkTV, Declan McCullagh of News.com and the Politech discussion list, and tech journalist/blogger Andy Ihnatko) appears to be brilliant, I’ll generally stay in the background and let them to all the talking.

However, I have a few big questions up my sleeve to get the discussion rolling…
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FastCompany: Business Blogs Taking Off

More news from the corporate blogging frontier:

The latest issue of FastCompany magazine includes a great article by Jena McGregor, It’s a Blog World After All. One thing I love about this article is that she offers a diverse collection of examples – both in terms of company types, and in terms of how they’re using weblogs internally and externally.

I’ve added this article to my list of corporate blogging resources. Here are a few of my favorite highlights…
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TrackBack’s Unique Content Potential

UPDATE FEB. 24: I’ve jotted down some thoughts on how news sites might use TrackBacks in Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits blog and also here.

Those of you who read weblogs often have probably seen the term TrackBack – an automatic way for your Web site or blog to notify other sites or blogs whenever you link to them on your site. TrackBack is a built-in feature of many popular blogging tools, including Movable Type (the blog software that CONTENTIOUS uses).

TrackBack brings its own level of context to the world of blogs. In short, it enhances the ability for bloggers and their audiences to have (and to follow) something resembling a conversation that ranges across the pages of many blogs.

Recently, Phil Long published an excellent article in the online magazine Syllabus which explains what’s unique about the collective content created by TrackBacks. See “TrackBack: Where Blogs Learn Their Places.”

Here’s one thing about that article which really caught my attention…
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Today’s Blog-Hopping

When I catch up on my favorite weblogs, I tend to blog-hop – that is, I follow links from one blog entry to another, with related side-trips to various articles, sites, discussion forums, and more. Often, I find that the process of blog-hopping provides a rich context that’s ultimately more intriguing and rewarding than the individual entries I’m reading.

Blog-hopping is both an art and a skill. This May 2002 entry on blog-hopping from Amidst a Tangled Web explains more about how it can work.

Here’s how my blog-hopping went this morning, and ended up taking me around the world, to Iran…
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Persuading Bosses to Allow Blogs

Apparently, last month Microsoft fired “long-term temporary” employee Michael Hanscom for an entry Hanscom made to his personal weblog about some new Macintosh computers arriving at Microsoft, and that also mentioned some information about the layout of the Microsoft campus. Microsoft deemed the campus information to be some kind of security breach, and let Hanscom go. (Here’s Hanscom’s entry describing his firing.)

In response to this, the folks at Blogger have posted some pretty good advice on How Not to Get Fired Because of Your Blog.

My only quibble with Blogger’s advice is their suggestion to modify an anti-blog corporate culture by distributing The Cluetrain Manifesto. I know this book and site are very popular in some segments of the business world, but I honestly think Cluetrain is not the best choice to try to persuade fiercely anti-blog, total-control-over-all-communication types of managers and executives. It’s way too flip and rabid for their tastes.

I’ve got a better idea, I think….
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CJR Tackles Weblogs

The current issue of Columbia Journalism Review offers what appears to be an excellent special package of stories on the current state of alternative media, “The New Alternatives.” Figuring prominently in this media scene are news weblogs. I’ve only just begun reading the series, but it looks pretty good, I’ll be blogging more on it later.

In the package’s lead story, “Blogworld and Its Gravity,” writer Matt Welch asks, “So what have [weblogs] contributed to journalism? Four things: personality, eyewitness testimony, editorial filtering, and uncounted gigabytes of new knowledge.”

And Jeff Jarvis, longtime journalist and now CEO of Advance.net (the Internet wing of Conde Nast), is quoted as elaborating that weblogs are popular because, “…they have something to say. In a media world that’s otherwise leached of opinions and life, there’s so much life in them.”

I couldn’t agree more! For all their shortcomings, despite the wide variable of content quality in weblogs, they bring back the individual human voice to media. The personal voice.

While the age of mass media brought valuable standards of quality and accuracy to the news business, it also in large measure drained the news of personal insight and, impact. It also sharply narrowed the range of perspectives offered, to the point that it was possible to forget that the news is actually about people.

Anyway, read the CJR series. I’m going to keep reading it. Way to go, CJR!

Credibility and the Blogger-Journalist Spectrum

Frankly, for years now I’ve been fairly annoyed at the attitude I get from many of my colleagues from mainstream media. These are the journalists, editors, and publishers who blithely dismiss online or independent journalism as inherently lacking in credibility. Not only is that belief inaccurate and counterproductive, it’s shortsighted.

I’d like to call to your attention a fabulous posting in one of my very favorite Weblogs, Phil Wolff’s A Klog Apart. Check out the Oct. 17, 2003 entry, How Much of a Journalist Are You, Blogger?, in which he discusses the kinds of standards which lend credibility to news reporting, regardless of who’s doing the reporting.

I’m pretty opinionated on the matter of credibility among online publishers. I’ve long held that the credibility of news and commentary stems not from the nature of the publisher but rather from intent, knowledge, and skill. I believe that independent publishers (online and elsewhere) and other types of organizations (such as companies or advocacy groups) can provide news and comment that is as valuable – sometimes even more valuable – than what comes out of many established news organizations. Wolff sets a fine example in this regard.
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Signs and Sense

I’m just back from a few days of vacation, following the SEJ conference. Had an interesting experience on the way home, driving solo across Colorado. I stopped at a Starbucks in Frisco, CO, and quickly realized that the guy behind the counter was deaf. Fortunately, a year or so ago, I’d attended an American Sign Language (ASL) class taught by my friend Steve DiCesare (a talented musician and ASL instructor).

It turned out that Steve’s most important point about ASL is true: It’s generally less important that you know the precise sign, and more important that you communicate visibly with your whole body and face. Here’s what I mean:
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