Misc. links, half price. Get them before they start to smell.

I’ve been remiss in my blogging lately, an unfortunate consequence of too much travel and too many realworld demands. So I’ve missed a couple of interesting stories, each of which would be worth a post had I the time to write one. So instead, a multi-topic roundup of things I’ve wanted to blog and failed to…

– I’ve been enjoying the comments I’ve received from friends on my photo post from Pittsfield. I’m glad that saying some harsh things about a city that I love dearly has prompted some discussion. And I’m especially glad that it’s inspired some friends to write on related topics. Blair Benjamin, a classmate of mine at Williams and now a pillar of the local community development scene, offers his own thoughts about New England milltowns, filtered through the lens of poetry and literature. He’s caused me to add at least two books to the vast pile beside my bed… (I’m vaguely terrified that the post I made on Pittsfield is now the #6 match for a search for “Pittsfiled MA” on Google. Why am I guessing this won’t make me very popular with the local tourist bureau?)

– JD Lasica and Dan Gillmor have launched a new project, “The Principles of Citizen Journalism“. It’s a set of “screencasts, slide shows, podcasts, tutorials, tip sheets and interviews with thought leaders in citizen media”, including yours truly. I don’t really remember what I told JD the last time he pointed a videocamera at me, so I am looking forward to seeing that video as well. This is one of the many resources that Dan and his friends at the Center for Citizen Media will be providing over the next few years – it looks like a fantastic set of resources for people interested in using their online writing as a space for reliable, verifiable journalism.

– On the subject of blogging and standards… I have very little useful to add to the discussions about “mean kids” and the malicious posts that caused Kathy Sierra so much pain. Like many bloggers, I got called by different international media networks for my “take” on the situation – unlike David Weinberger, who got pinned down by CNN, I fled the country and avoided being interviewed on a subject that I don’t know a ton about. David’s post about his interview experience, and the tricky balance between condemning cyberbullying and supporting the possibility of anonymous speech online reveals just how tricky these issues can be. Yes, people take advantage of anonymity to do hateful, stupid things. But eliminating anonymity isn’t the way to go – it’s just too important for whistleblowers, dissidents and other people we need to hear from.

I’m glad that Andy Carvin is organizing a “Stop Cyberbullying” day, but I think that bullying and abuse are part of our online culture, and one of the uglier legacies of a technology that’s both tried to urge people to “own their own words” while making it possible to hide behind a screen. I’m also interested to learn more about Alan Herrell, who is friends with my friend Doc Searls and has written a letter to Doc distancing himself from the abusive comments, offering the explanation that his machine was hacked and his identity stolen to abuse Kathy. This is a very interesting development in the history of identity theft – people spend a great deal of time and energy developing their online persona and reputation – the idea of having one’s machine compromised and posting comments or posts that I’d not want to be associated with gives me a bit of a chill.

Andrew Heavens has joined an exclusive club in Ethiopia – the group of blogs banned within that nation. Andrew has been very careful to be fair and neutral on his blog, in no small part because he’s a working journalist in Addis Ababa, but he’s finally stepped outside the lines somehow. He seems refreshingly unconcerned, mentioning, “…it was getting a bit embarrassing being the only one left behind.” Andrew’s blog is still very much worth reading – via Tor, perhaps if you’re in Addis. His recent coverage of an Ethiopian woman attacked with acid by a spurned lover is a very powerful and important piece of journalism.

– My friend Andrew Young has a great piece in Slate on human rights video and YouTube. Andrew’s story could serve as a manifesto for what we’ve tried to do with the Global Voices/WITNESS video hub and what WITNESS will go on to do with their own site. Worth reading for anyone interested in how citizen media can lead towards real political change.

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2 Responses to Misc. links, half price. Get them before they start to smell.

  1. quixote says:

    being interviewed on a subject that I don’t know a ton about

    I think that bullying and abuse are part of our online culture

    the idea of having one’s machine compromised and posting comments or posts that I’d not want to be associated with gives me a bit of a chill.

    Ethan, I know it’s a bit nasty to throw someone’s words back at him/her, but, honestly….

    First, the “not knowing about the subject.” There’s nothing wrong with not knowing, but there is something wrong with not knowing how immense a gift that is. There’s a whole universe you haven’t been bothered with, but it’s important to understand the universe before saying it’s not (enough of) a bother.

    Which is what comes second: cyberbullying is part of the culture and free speech is more important. No. Not because free speech is less important, but because bullying, cyber- government, or otherwise, is NOT FREE SPEECH. What’s going on is hate speech. Hate speech isn’t and shouldn’t be free. But that fact isn’t sufficiently recognized because the large majority of people writing about it are in the fortunate position of not having to deal with it personally.

    If the distinction is recognized, the problems regarding speech and anonymity also melt away. We can protect both, and stop tolerating specific threats against people (yes, I do mean deleting comments, posts, and articles that contain them). Even the most extreme viewpoints can be expressed without threatening anyone with harm. Free speech and anonymity can be entirely protected without allowing blatant hate speech.

    The last point, about having identity usurped, is something that’s all too real for all of us. The creepiness of that doesn’t seem to be as hard to see. So I’ve included it to make it easier to measure the difference in visibility between “my” problems, and those cloaked in the “Somebody Else’s Problem” field.

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