Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sat 5 Nov 05 19:19
Amen! Over the last couple of weeks. I've spoken to a PR class, a PR professional association, and a conference on the "blogging enterprise." Advertising, PR, and business people are catching on and starting to think of the implications of new media paradigms. Based on your focused thinking about blogs of late, what would you say to those folks? How can they expect to be effected?
Jamais Cascio, WorldChanger (cascio) Sat 5 Nov 05 22:48
David, you make a good case that political blogging undercuts the traditional role of establishment pundit. But how does the role of (say) a Kos or a Glenn Reynolds (or even a Cory Doctorow or Xeni Jardin) differ from those establishment types? Or is the true power of blogging the so-called "long tail," where the people and perspectives that couldn't gain a big enough audience in a mass medium like TV can thrive with a smaller -- but potentially influential -- audience? (I suppose I'm asking a leading question here...) How much would you say that the bloggers you've encountered see themselves as "influencers" vs. "filters?" (And pardon me if my participation here tends to be spotty -- I'm taking a stab at the "start blogging, then write a book" path, and it *is* pretty hard...)
David Kline (dkline) Sun 6 Nov 05 09:36
I want to get to your questions, but it may take a few hours as I'm rushing about this morning. In the meantime, I want to hide three posts. The first is a piece in today's NY Times about an influential anonymous young lawyer whose blogging efforts helped her literally stay sane and overcome depression and insomnia. The second is a review of my book in today's New York Post written by Hugh Hewitt -- a "competing" author of a blog book. The third is a review of my book in today's Washington Times by Clive Davis.
David Kline (dkline) Sun 6 Nov 05 09:37
David Kline (dkline) Sun 6 Nov 05 09:38
David Kline (dkline) Sun 6 Nov 05 09:39
David Kline (dkline) Sun 6 Nov 05 09:40
Type O 29, for example, to read post #29.
David Kline (dkline) Sun 6 Nov 05 09:49
Ohmygod, a third review today -- this one from the Philadelphia Enquirer. I won't hide this one as it's shorter: Posted on Sun, Nov. 06, 2005 [spacer.gif] Bloggers call their new format a revolution, but is it really? By Carlin Romano Inquirer Book Critic blog! By David Kline and Dan Burstein CDS Books. 402 pp. $24.95 Life imposes limits. You'll never sample every three-star restaurant. You'll never read every astonishing book. You'll never visit every beguiling country. So many possibilities, so little life expectancy. Much of the noise about blogging starts from a shaky premise on the other side. Thanks to that neat Pyra Labs software, the "blog"- defined by Merriam-Webster as "a Web site that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments and often hyperlinks" - sparks the fantasy of accessing what everybody thinks about everything. In the utopian blogosphere of the future, a free press will belong to everyone because, to upend A.J. Liebling's famous insight, everyone will own one. Like all technological true believers, blogo-lutionaries swamp us with numbers. Technorati, the blog search engine, promises to hurtle through 20.6 million to check whether anyone glossed your immortal midnight thought. Popular bloggers like Wonkette win top-dollar book contracts faster than MSM journalists, though the notion that readers want to buy strung-together blogger copy between covers remains unproven. Survey research trumpets rising "hits" (though not, of course, "misses"-folks who might be reading but aren't because they don't like a site). Maintaining an agnostic stance outside the bloggerati thus begins to seem retrograde, like not packing a state-of-the-art cell phone that, with upgrade, might someday fold out into a car. So blog! comes at a good time. We need an overview that keeps the hype in perspective. David Kline, a journalist and consultant, and Dan Burstein, a venture capitalist and specialist in new technology, hardly count as neutral bystanders. Both see blogging as revolutionary, a communications milestone comparable to the invention of printing. Unapologetic enthusiasts, they sometimes read the present back into the past to a silly degree, as when Burstein dubs the Talmudic tradition "proto-blogging," or calls Leonardo's diaries "the greatest unpublished blog of all time." But they're also savvy, sensible survivors of previous bubbles of irrational exuberance, from the dot-com bust to the faded mantra of early Net visionaries like John Perry Barlow that the Net would resist corporate exploitation. Kline and Burstein dub their approach "real-world futurism." They're excited by blogging, but alert to market-driven puff. As a result, blog! - an anthology that mixes smart previously published pieces with interviews on its subject and guiding essays by the pair - provides a sophisticated intro to a new container of writing that resembles its predecessors, but also counts as an advance. The pieces remind us of already familiar ways bloggers make a difference. They're a "fifth estate" watchdog of the institutional press and politics. They inject irreverent attitudes and street talk into media. They build niche communities - mini-publics with shared interests. They supply news from hard-to-cover places such as Iran. They restore "the lost voice of the ordinary citizen in our culture." Across the book's three sections- "Politics and Policy," "Business and Economics," and "Media and Culture" - Kline and Burstein zoom in on social barriers weakened by blogs. Kline's essay "The Voice of the Customer," for instance, gives a focused analysis of how blogs close gaps between customers and producers, teaching the latter "what to make" as well as "how to sell." Ranging over different sorts of blogs, Kline and Burstein note trends. Corporate America's effort to commercialize the blogosphere is now in overdrive. Blogs are spreading globally, not just here. When bloggers join together to platform wares, the results look like traditional media such as newspapers. Perhaps most important, core truths keeps popping up on the road to "Blog Nirvana." Quality matters. Lazy bloggers lack audience. Navel-gazing doesn't sell. Flat writers blog to themselves. Bores continue to bore when blogging. Ephemera in pixels remains ephemera. Shoot back two months on most blogs, and see what you can bear to read. A hot blog provides what top writing always offers-voice, information, insight. Content trumps form. The good news? Our limited choice of what to read keeps growing. The old news? The more writing containers change, the more they stay the same. ______________________________________________________________________________ __ Contact book critic Carlin Romano at 215-854-5615 or email@example.com. Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/carlinromano. _____________________________________________________________________________ © 2005 Philadelphia Inquirer and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved. http://www.philly.com
Sharon Brogan (sbmontana) Sun 6 Nov 05 11:47
Wow, David -- a good day!
David Kline (dkline) Sun 6 Nov 05 19:10
Yep, a good. day. Three favorable reviews is more than I hoped for.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sun 6 Nov 05 20:21
Just a reminder that a couple of questions are hanging in the air. And for those of you who're reading this but aren't members of the WELL, I should remind you to send comments and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ari Davidow (ari) Mon 7 Nov 05 06:59
I am really enjoying the book, although it's too bad that the politics section came first - addicted to serial reading I had to read that part first before getting to the sections that are probably going to be more relevant to what I do and how I use blogs. A quick question, though. It's very neat that we have tools that help put more words on the web more quickly. But it isn't clear to me yet how blogs better enable organizing or community-building. On the one hand, just getting the word out can be a good thing (and finding the word, once out, in google or on technorati, obviously helps like minds find each other). But what then? I'm thinking of a conversation last night with my stepson about how one organizes generally apathetic college students and wondering if blogging is part of how he pulls people in and keeps them focused and committed. I have a lot of thoughts on this, myself, but wonder how others see this issue. I am also mindful that a public conversation, via blog, doesn't necessarily go beyond the narcissim of a small group of people talking to themselves.
David Kline (dkline) Mon 7 Nov 05 13:25
Okay, I'll take a stab at some of these tough questions. Remember, though, that the phenomenon of blogging -- and our understanding of it -- is still early and evolving. 1) Blogging and PR/advertising/corporate communications. Basically, I think corporate communicators of all types still don't get what bl,ogging is all about. Historically, their job has always been message control, and in this era -- the first time in business history that companies have direct contact with customers -- PR has got to be about listening to and learning from and then co-creating the message with the customers. A recent study by Technorati and Edelman PR showed, in fact, that communications professionals are, despite a lot of hype, still sitting on the sidelines won dering how to do work that goes against the grain of ev erything they've ever learned. According to a press release about the study: "The online survey polled 821 bloggers and found that half wrote about a company or product at least once a week. When asked how they would like a company to contact them, only 2% said they didn't want companies to do so. A majority of respondents favored a personalized e-mail. "But only 16% of bloggers, however, reported that companies or their PR firms generally attempt to interact with them in a personalized manner, and only 21% reported at least weekly correspondence from companies or their PR representatives. And they reported much of the contact as a simple press release." You can't send press releases to bloggers. You have to develop individual relationships with them. Listen to them. Learn from them. And together discuss what might be a good story idea to pursue. Bottom line, I think blogging is going to be tough love for businesses. 2) Is a pundit like DailyKos different from a pundit like Novak? Yes, but I'm not sure exactly how. I mean, bloggers can and do have influence, sometimes national influence. But generally-speaking in terms of trust and credibility, bloggers are still mostly on the periphery of national discourse. That's not necessarily a bad thing, because power itself (or at least some forms of it) are also moving away from the center to the periphery. But I think it would be a mistake for non-professional citizen journalists (and pundits) to see themselves as supplanting or even replacing the mainstream media. That won't happen, at least in any near future. Instead, they should see themselves as complementing the MSM. As for the notion of the long tail, I don't see blogging's influence as confined solely to smaller audiences. But that said, even in the realm of the long tail, I don't think it's clear how blogger influence will manifest itself. Studies show that one passionate person talking about politics to his friends and family can have more influence on their voting decisions than millions of dollars of TV political ads, so I guess that's a good sign about bloggers' potential for influence. There's also the question of whether or not the myriad streams of public opinion that don't fit neatly into either the Democrat or GOP platforms can be mobilized and directed towards the formation of third political parties. I think it's possible, in similar fashion to the way Amazon has shown that sales of non-bestseller books that can't get shelf space in Barnes & Noble can collectively surpass those of the top-selling books. 3) How are blogs collective organizers? As I wrote in my book: "Political blogs, after all, are not just political persuaders, they are also (in Lenin's famous description of the political newspaper) "collective organizers." As the rather prescient young communist wrote in 1903, 14 years before his followers seized state power and founded the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics: " [A political newspaper] may be likened to the scaffolding round a building under construction , which marks the contours of the structure and facilitates communication between the builders, enabling them to distribute the work and to view the common results achieved by their organized labor." "And so it is with political blogs. For if the short-lived presidential candidacy of Howard Dean proves anything, it's that political bloggers can mobilize and unite large groups of citizens in ways that make insurgent candidates more viable -- and that erode Big Money and top-down party control not only of candidate selection but of the issues that drive campaigns." Blogs don't just spur debate. They also create communities of interest (political or otherwise). And when directed towards concrete goals and action, they've already shown themselves to be potent organizing tools. Their strength is that they tend to rally and mobilize the activists and influencers. But that's also been their weakness (at least in the 2004 election) -- i.e., they have tended to be not very effective (so far) in crossing the red state-blue state divide (as <jonl> put it in his interview in my book) to reach out to uncommitted independent voters. Hopefully that will change. You need activists to win elections. But activists alone can't do it. I'll be very very happy the day some blog or group of blogs really begin listening to and reaching out to middle of the road voters with insight and understanding. Again, we're still at a very early stage.
David Kline (dkline) Mon 7 Nov 05 13:32
Just to add to the idea of blogs as collective organizers, we should remember that in the 2004 election they helped raise many millions of dollars from small contributors, and mobilized tens of thousands of people to walk the precincts for candidates. They also brought about the downfall of Trent Lott and Ed Schrock and Dan Rather. Not bad for a few citizen pundits blogging in their pajamas.
nape fest (zorca) Mon 7 Nov 05 14:30
i'm finding blogs useful for keeping up with current topics. memeorandum and blogpulse and technorati all providing nice pointers. but i'm wondering how we'll mine blogs for past content? how we'll follow threads of thought even within a single blog? tags seem to help some, but this remains the biggest stumbling block for me. how do you think this might play out over time?
David Kline (dkline) Mon 7 Nov 05 15:18
I haven't a clue, truthfully. But someone is going to have to come up with better info management and contextualization tools.
nape fest (zorca) Mon 7 Nov 05 15:30
Sharon Brogan (sbmontana) Mon 7 Nov 05 15:36
Adagio Tea did a very nice promotion using blogs -- they offered free products to bloggers for a mention, no matter what the mention said. I did a "self-serving tea post" and got a nice package in the mail. Of course, this will only work for businesses that have good products, and it turned out that Adagio has nice tea and nice tea makers. I was pleased, then, to do a positive review. I would never have sampled their products without the freebie, so we both benefited from the promotion. Adagio determined what was in the package according to Google rank, which seems sensible -- assuming higher ranked blogs have more readers. I'm surprised I've not seen other businesses doing something like this. I know that the big blogs get this kind of attention, but I would think businesses could benefit even more from "the long tail", which I am on.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 7 Nov 05 17:03
Marqui paid bloggers (myself included) to blog about their content management system, with no restrictions on what we could say. I think most of us spent more energy on making sure we were transparent about the sponsorship and clear that it wasn't having an impact on our assessment of the product. It was controversial; some said that we were damaging our credibility as bloggers (but my readers didn't complain). It was an interesting experiment. David, Kos may differ from Novak because he's hosting a community of bloggers and encouraging them to take the stage. I think the community is the draw, not Moulitsas himself.
Nancy White (choco) Tue 8 Nov 05 08:37
Two great streams here that interest me: the community building and the information stream management. David, you wrote: >Blogs don't just spur debate. They also create communities of interest (political or otherwise). And when directed towards concrete goals and action, they've already shown themselves to be potent organizing tools. I sense a lot of interest in using blogs to create or nurture existing communities of interest, but find that they serve a particular type of people well, and not others. So when thinking about using a blog to organize some task work, it works for those who read/skim/scan and aggregate what they need for action. People who are online often and have the sorts of schedules and styles that lend themselves to reading blogs. Then there are the people who log on once a day or twice a week, for whom this online scan/read/write/act is not the habit. Most groups have people of both types (and everything in between.) What sorts of examples have you or others seen that bridge this stylistic and practice gap? I can offer some real world cases if that helps.
David Kline (dkline) Tue 8 Nov 05 08:55
I'm not sure the gap can or should be bridged, anymore than the gap between most of us and those few of our friends who read everything about, say, the best stereo systems or PC gear, can be bridged. In the real world, we all have "influencers" in our lives -- people we go to for advice when it comes time to buy a PC or a car. In the online world, those people are the bloggers. They influence us. Or maybe I'm not clear what you're talking about.
Nancy White (choco) Tue 8 Nov 05 09:15
Slipped... ok, let me be clearer. If a group wanted to use blogs as a knowledge sharing tool within their organization, can they make enough inroads to be worth the time they take to create and read? What is the tipping point in terms of adoption, or the warning signs in terms of resistence? And I mean this in terms of adoption because people find utility, not because they are forced to do it. BTW, have you talked to the folks at the Michael Smith Genome Institute in Vancouver BC where they run their business via blogs and rss feeds from all their research outputs?? The second query is related -- information filtering and overload. On one had, blogs represent information filtered through people, so theoretically if we follow people who are good filters, we have already moved closer to an info overload solution. So 3 questions (oh, I may be getting abusive here!): 1) How have any of you successfully conveyed this benefit to a somewhat skeptical audience? I am working with a group of 7 international NGOs working on a share project. I suggested blogs as a way to keep each other in the loop. The comeback was "we don't have time to read blogs." Clearly I did an awful job of presenting the ideas. Any suggestions? 2) What is the easiest transition to using a blog reading tool you have observed? Any organizational adoption patterns or have they all been strictly individual. (Both courses seem viable.) 3) Any particularly successful knowledge sharing practices in using blogs within an org or group? I'm getting to nitty gritty adoption issues here. I see a great opportunity, but not sure how to "get" to it. Am I making any sense?
Ari Davidow (ari) Tue 8 Nov 05 09:49
Something that I've noticed positively at work is the way that people have taken to the bloggish function on an online project management tool called "basecamp". There are tools in the application to note "to dos" and calendar items, but I have noticed that if I use the "message" feature as I would a blog - noting items of interest, approaching milestones, project questions - I get very good feedback, both in terms of replies to those messages and via private e-mail. There does seem to be something compelling about the simplicity of blogs: relatively narrow focus (as very different from an online message board), ease of posting and commenting, that makes it easier to engage people than with many tools. It's also easier to track blogs than e-mail. The latter gets lost, filtered, whatever. Blogs are not only independent of e-mail, but you can track new items using an RSS aggregator. But beyond repeating the Dean campaign experience (as I read, and as you repeated), it still isn't clear to me how one explains using a blog to nascent community organizers. Maybe that's because it's like shaving: once you've offered the basic description about soaping the face and applying the razor, it's up to the person with the stubble to get a feel for how to avoid nicks and remove the stubble. These may also be the wrong questions for this discussion: In your book you are interviewing people and reporting on a phenomenon and a toolset, which gives the book a wonderful sense of breadth. The book isn't about "how to", it's about "this is what other people are saying and doing with this tool".
David Kline (dkline) Tue 8 Nov 05 12:12
> I am working with a group of 7 > international NGOs working on a share project. I suggested blogs as a > way to keep each other in the loop. The comeback was "we don't have > time to read blogs." Ask them how much time they spend reading, answering, forwarding and copying emails to everyone in the project. A blog would eliminate most of that grunt work.
David Kline (dkline) Tue 8 Nov 05 12:18
> it still isn't clear to me how one explains using a blog > to nascent community organizers. Way back in pre-history when I was a radical activist, we had a lefty newspaper that we used as a "collective organizer." We wrote articles about issues and personalities of concern to our target audience, and recruited "worker journalists" to contribute articles of their own. It proved to be quite an effective organizing and recruitment tool. In fact, its usefulness as a tactic was limited only by the fact that the ideology we were promoting was politically bankrupt, inhumane, and antithetical to the core beliefs of any decent society. But other than that, it was a winner!
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