Ethan Zuckerman’s online home, since 2003

“Blogging” Davos

My friend Bruno Giussani has just made me feel better that I didn’t receive an invitation to the World Economic Forum in Davos this year. (Of course, remembering that the last time I went to Davos, I paid $250 a night to stay in a room in a hospital 3km from the center of town because all the rooms in town were booked also makes me feel better about missing this meeting.)

The WEF has been trumpeting their group blog, Forumblog, which advertises, “Every participant of the Annual Meeting – ranging from business leaders to political leaders, heads of NGOs, religious leaders, academics and journalists – will be asked to join the Forum blog.” While this is true, Bruno points out that they won’t be able to post to the blog without their contribution being manually added to the blog by one of the blog’s four editors. The editors explain that, “Opinions will not be censored, however posts that do not abide by these guidelines will not be published, particularly those that do not conform to the on/off the record policy.”

The on/off the record policy is particularly interesting. Of the dozens of venues for meetings at Davos, only three are “on the record” spaces. (It would be fairly absurd to declare these spaces off the record, as what happens in these rooms is broadcast on hotel rooms across town, offering the intriguing possibility of blogging Davos from your room. If you’re lucky enough to get a room.) In the other rooms, “You can report on the tenor of the debate, but you must not quote participants directly. If, however, you receive their subsequent permission you may quote them.”

These rules aren’t new. And they make some sense – the idea behind Davos is that it gives public figures a chance to think through complex issues without being quite as careful in their wording as they would be if all statements were on the record. But they make it difficult to blog from Davos. Two years ago, I did my best to blog following these rules… and generally discovered that I was being far, far more careful than I normally was. (As a result, I was even more boring than I usually am.) I can only imagine how careful I’d be if my posts needed to be cleared by a WEF editor before going live.

Certainly some good blogging will take place at WEF, probably on blogs other than the official WEF blog. But I share Bruno’s question – how exactly is this project a blog? Because it’s based on Moveable Type? I find it hard to believe that anything written for submission to WEF editors by a public figure isn’t going to be as carefully vetted as a press release. And reading a collection of press releases from Davos attendees doesn’t strike me as a real good time.

11 Responses to ““Blogging” Davos”

  1. John Powers says:

    You aren’t usually boring!

    Maybe not a blog, but this experiment seems worthwhile to me. It will be interesting to see how fast the comments are shut off. I hope that’s done with some hesitation.

    Recently when the Washington Post started a Maryland blog the comments got on a roll critical of the Post ombudsman Howell. The comments were removed and put back again. The Post I suppose learned something about “a public face” on the Internet. That lesson is a hard one to understand, but really interesting in its implications. This blog thing may be more interesting than you suspect.

  2. Doll says:

    To me you are not boring. I enjoy here.

  3. Niti bhan says:

    I understand what you are saying, but keep in mind that you are an experienced blogger, with one foot in the blogosphere and it’s currents. Let’s look at this from a different angle for a moment,

    this is Davos blogging. The WEF (almost a freudian WTF there, ooops :) but seriously, do these people blog? I doubt if they do, for the most part, or read them as regularly as you or others in the blogosphere. The very fact that they are making this step, to me, at least, is extremely important towards the eventual integration of blogs, their power to permit a conversation and to put forth an opinion to the wider world etc etc (broad generalization here of course, and far better articulated by others). Sure the rules and regulations seem a little daunting to those of us who are accustomed to free wheeling our way through our posts, but for the most part, as you rightly noted, most of these leaders have never made a statement in public that was not vetted by umpteenth layers of legal and other departments of their organizations and countries. I see this at least as a major step in the right direction, like they came to the party, even if they’re hanging out by the wall and not ready to hit the dance floor.

    this year Davos is talking about Design and Creativity, that’s another big step forward (ok, that’s very subjective for that is my area of interest) but all of these, imho,point towards a ‘loosening up’ of the suits.

    I agree with John Power’s point – This blog thing may be more interesting than you suspect.

  4. How does one get invited to Davos anyway?

  5. Ethan says:

    Niti, John – I appreciate the optimism about the Davos blog – I hope you guys are right and that we’ll see some actual unvetted opinions on it. I have my doubts, but it would be fun to be proved wrong. Blogging’s not really new to Davos – Dave Winer blogged it as much as four years ago, Joi Ito three years ago, and there was a whole posse of us with laptops two years ago. What would really excite me would be WEF giving everyone their own blog and aggregating those results, allowing people to post before, during and after the summit. But perhaps that will happen next year if this year goes well.

    Cyrus, I got invited a couple of years back as part of a WEF program called “Global Leaders for Tomorrow”. Basically, it was a bunch of cool people under 40 who otherwise wouldn’t make it to Davos. They ended the program and replaced it with one called “Young Global Leaders” – it’s unclear to me what the actual difference between the programs are, but most of the folks I was friendly with as GLTs aren’t YGLs, and I’m still just getting to meet YGLs…

  6. Anita13 says:

    Hi!!! I’m Polish and I think you’re the best. You’re writing about important things. You’re good men who worried about other people. Brawo!!!

  7. Gillian says:

    I’ve been invited by the BBC online to blog from Davos and the Forum wants to publish what I am sending to the BBC. I am not allowed to post directly in either case but the BBC indicates they arent intending to censor unless I libel someone…The rules on the Davos blog are another kettle of fish. We’ll see how it goes. I am not an experienced blogger, having done it only once before when I went to Sierra Leone with Angelina Jolie for our human rights work. You can find it at http://www.witness.org somewhere…

  8. Ethan says:

    Gillian – I’m thrilled you’re going to be there and looking forward to reading what you’re writing for the Beeb – thought you did a great job blogging the Jolie trip.

  9. Bruno says:

    On the issue of the WEF letting the “Global Leaders for Tomorrow” aside and creating the “Young Global Leaders” group, see this post by Martin Varsavsky:
    http://english.martinvarsavsky.net/general/klaus-schwabs-glt.html#more

  10. rony says:

    nice posting (from one media hacker to another) – the WEF blogging this year is a bit funny with all of the rules, but I am amazed that they went this way and didn’t just shut it all down.

    -r

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