… My heart’s in Accra Ethan Zuckerman’s online home, since 2003

July 28, 2006

Hopes and fears before the DRC elections

Filed under: Africa,Blogs and bloggers,Uncategorized — Ethan @ 12:04 pm

My friend Sokari Ekine has an excellent overview of the situation in the DRC leading up to Sunday’s elections. She points out the complexities of the situation: less violence than anyone expected, perhaps due to the presence of 17,000 UN troops, but real concerns that some sectors of Congolese society will view the results as legitimate.

Some of the most concerning violence has centered around Jean-Pierre Bemba, one of the 33 presidential candidates in a race likely to go to Joseph Kabila, the incumbent interim President. Bemba’s party headquarters suffered a suspicious fire – some speculation ties the fire to French jets flying above Kinshasa, part of the multinational peacekeeping force. Clashes between Bemba’s supporters and police have been deadly, and observers report that Bemba’s supporters – who’ve allegedly been involved in rebel activity in the CAR – are armed with Kalishnakovs and RPGs.

One narrative of the elections in DRC is a hopeful one – a nation, torn apart by corruption and international war will be transformed by democratic elections, will see support from the global community, and will emerge as a stable, democratic heart to a rising African continent. The fact that 25 million people – more than half the population of the country – have registered to vote is an amazing achievement given the logistical obstacles to holding elections in a country almost the size of Europe with very few roads.

Another narrative is more complicated, skeptical and worrisome. It suggests that the election in fait accompli for Kabila, the coronation of a leader who originally took power as the son of an assasinated leader. The presence of UN and French troops legitimate the transition, which is likely to have some major electoral problems: possible fraud due to the massive overprinting of ballots, the influence of bordering and regional powers on the elections, widespread accusation of abuse of state power on Kabila’s part to ensure his election. Paule Bouvier and Pierre Englebert take this stance in an article on foreignpolicy.com: “In short, the DRC is likely to revert to the predatory and personal rule that has characterized so much of its history. National elections after decades of warfare and autocratic rule should be a momentous time in a country’s history; in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, they will mean more of the same.”

The cynic in me tends to side with the second view, with one caveat: if DRC became a rallying point for international attention and involvement, I think the slide into “big-man” kleptocracy could be combatted. Elections in DRC should be a hopeful moment for the whole world – the chance for a nation whose instability has helped perpetuate conflicts all over the continent to move towards stability and prosperity. If global attention, assistance and aid flooded to DRC the way it did to South Africa whith the end of Apartheid, is it possible that the “more of the same” narrative could be avoided? Or is that hope – the hope for attention and aid to Congo – roughly as unlikely as hoping that Kabila will be a fraction of the leader Mandela was?

July 10, 2006

Credit Where Credit’s Due

Filed under: Africa,Developing world,Geekery,ICT4D,Uncategorized — Ethan @ 9:55 pm

Dear readers,

I could use your help.

Every so often, someone asks me to nominate smart people to speak at a conference, win a prize, or generally get some sort of public recognition. I know a lot of people who do amazing things and deserve to be more widely known, so I’m often able to make these suggestions just by fipping through my Rolodex. But it occurs to me that there are at least as many cool people I don’t know about as those I do know about, if not vastly more.

I need to nominate three cool people for an honor… about which I can’t say very much, except that this honor would be a very, very nice thing to win. I’m looking for:

– People who live and work in the developing world
– Who do innovative work in information technology or online media
– Who’ve already had some measurable success (results, not just ideas)
– Who have big, big ideas that they need recognition and publicity to bring into being
– Who haven’t yet been widely recognized for their work.

In other words, suggesting I nominate Bono, Nicholas Negroponte or Angelina Jolie isn’t very helpful. More helpful is helping me find people like Dwayne Bailey, who does brilliant work on localizing open source software with Translate.org.za and is now working in cooperation with Khmer.OS to build a tool for translation of software anywhere in the world.

Anyone who fits these criteria and who you think deserves recognition? Let me know – much appreciated.

April 18, 2006

Kunda Dixit on internet publishing in Nepal

Filed under: Blogs and bloggers,Developing world,Media,Uncategorized — Ethan @ 10:11 pm

Kunda Dixit, the publisher of the Nepali Times, mentions that it’s an appropriate time for him to be speaking at this conference, “as my country is in flames.” He notes that it’s a bit embarrasing that he was able to leave Nepal – “Anyone who is anyone is being arrested these days in Nepal.” He wonders if Roby is right and his feminine-sounding first name has helped protect him.

Since February 1st, 2005, Nepal has been in a state of emergency. The King sacked the prime minister and started an information blackout, which focused especially on the news media. Community radio, a major source of information for most Nepalese, was shut down for four months. The King’s spokesmen made the absurd assertion, “Nowhhere in the world is FM radio used to broadcast news”.

As a newspaper, Nepali Times faced classic censorship tactics – Kunda shows us his newspaper, heavily censored by government authorities. They chose to run their stories with big, empty whitespaces so people would know the words had been removed – the government demanded they not run whitespace, so they ran later editions with those parts of the story filled with gibberish. It’s sometimes better to ridicule the government, Kunda argues, that confronting them directly.

In the spirit of ridicule, radio stations began singing the news (because music is legal on FM, while news is not…) or holding their “broadcasts” in the street, reading the news to crowds that would gather.

While Kunda is optimistic about the Internet’s role in opening up Nepal’s information environment, he’s cautious as well. The net can mobilize the diaspora, can let the world know what’s happening locally, and can reach a new, younger audience. And it’s virtually impossible for the government to shut down. On the other hand, it doesn’t make any money for the Nepali Times – it’s purely a PR and activist project for the paper – and online publishing has major credibility issues, as many people abuse online spaces to publish false information. Furthermore, while it’s very difficult to shut down net access as a whole, individual ISPs are vulnerable chokepoints within Nepal.

Other posts from FEAC 2006:

February 4, 2006

The end of an era

Filed under: Developing world,Uncategorized — Ethan @ 7:39 pm

This makes me a little sad – Western Union is no longer providing telegram delivery services. In the era of mobile phones and email, telegrams are more than a little old-fashioned and I suspect very few people will miss their disappearance.

Despite the fact that I’ve been using email since 1989, I’m one of Western Union’s few remaining telegram customers. For the last couple of years, Western Union has offered a web-based telegram service – fill in a form online, enter a credit card number and your telegram’s delivered within a day. I use telegrams to get concerns to senators and congresspeople – a congressman might get hundreds of paper letters and thousands of emails a day, but not many telegrams, which get hand delivered to congressional offices. Because they’re not cheap – about $20 – it’s also a way of letting politicians know you care sufficiently about an issue that you’re willing to spend money. (American Telegram offers a service specifically to deliver telegrams to politicians, but it’s signifcantly more expensive. Perhaps I’ll just send flowers in the future.)

For decades, Western Union has made money sending a different kind of information through the wires – financial transfers, which now represent the vast majority of their income. Unfortunately, they tend to charge extortionate rates to workers who are sending small amounts of money back to their families in developing nations. I have high hopes that some technological innovation will make expensive remittance services look as primitive in the near future as telegrams do in an Internet era.

December 8, 2005

Maidan and the Revolutionary Internet in Ukraine

Filed under: Berkman,Blogs and bloggers,Developing world,Uncategorized — Ethan @ 10:31 am

Andrij “Andy” Ihnatov is the president of Ukranian non-governmental organization Maidan International, a key player in the Ukranian Orange Revolution. Started in 2002, Maidan is one of two key political websites in Ukraine. And Andy tells us that the other key site – Ukrainska Pravda – was one of the proximate causes of the Orange Revolution.

As Andy puts it, “2002 is the year the Ukranian transition to democracy stalled”. The government became increasingly corrupt and less transparent. And media was increasingly either censored by the government or self-censored – “media was operating in a mode so as not to outrage the government”. With rare exceptions, there was very little investigative journalism, especially journalism willing to challenge the government.

One exception to this was Ukrainska Pravda, a group website led by independent journalist George Gongadze. Gongadze attracted the attention of Leonid Kuchma’s government by publishing a story about a referendum that was fraudulently amended, giving increased powers to a centralized government. As Andy puts it, “The website was only being read by a few thousand people in the country. Marginal. But it became a daily newspaper for President Kuchma.”

In September 2002, Gongadze disappeared and was later found dead, and beheaded. Evidence pointed to government involvement and the government found itself involved in “Kutchma-Gate” as the government was questioned regarding their role in the death of Gongadze.

As the scandal broke, Ukrainska Pravda found itself as the leading political site in the country, and the cybercafes were packed with people looking for alternative sources of information.

Maidan grew out of a movement – “Ukraine without Kuchma” – that was born, in part, in reaction to the killing of Gongadze. Maidan served as the information arm of the movement, maintaining a group weblog with 70 volunteer authors that helped spread information from different parts of the country and mobilize protests against the Kuchma government.

In a nod to Zephyr Teachout, who’s organized today’s meeting, Andy mentioned that the Ukranians were closely watching the Howard Dean campaign, MoveOn.org and other US attempts that were attempting to use the net to mobilize political dissent.

Kuchma’s government tried to respond to online activism, attempting to take over an online forum – “Talks” – by posting hundreds of irrelavent, off-topic messages. It worked, briefly, but the forum responded by starting to moderate those discussions.

While Internet penetration was low in the Ukraine during the Orange revolution – perhaps 3-4% – the users of the net were largely influencers – journalists, government employees, people who worked with international agencies. Stefan Iwaskewycz, a Ukranian American blogger spent time in a rural village in Ukraine during the Orange Revolution points out that the Internet connected to an existing information network. Small villages in the Ukraine have small newspapers that are often better trusted than national newspapers, which are sometimes seen as propoganda organs. If a single journalist associated with that local newspaper was able to get access to the Internet, that information could be disemminated to rural communities.

Maidan continues its work in Ukraine after the revolution and has been organizing online campaigns and protests about police corruption and about zoning. In both cases, Maidan is soliciting complaints online and using their visibility to force ministers to take them seriously – in the case of zoning services, a local governor has taken to responding to complaints on TV as well as online.

Jeremy Drucker from Transitions Online (a fantastic source of information about countries of the former Soviet Union), points out that Ukraine was not a totalitarian state, but one with political debate and dissention, even if there were strong restrictions on media. It might be unrealistic to expect the Internet to have as transformative effect on a fully closed state, like Belarus.

I find myself wondering if there’s an Internet and politics “sweet spot” – nations where there’s some openness and debate, but real constraints on what can and can’t be said, where the Internet is an especially effective disruptive tool for democracy. In mature democracies, we might not expect the Internet to be a profound force for change as there are so many other ways to disseminate fact and opinion. In nations where control over information is quite thorough, net usage is almost always heavily controlled, meaning it’s less likely to act as a transformative force. In nations that are somewhere between – in nations like Ukraine – access to information worldwide and the ability to amplify it may well be able to be a major force for social change.


A side note: Andy mentioned a site – 3dway.org – is one of the few sites effectively publishing indepedent information from Belarus. According to the Maidan site, some of the organizers of Third Way have been having major difficulties with the Belarussian KGB as a result of their site.

October 28, 2005

Lakoff speaks at Williams

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ethan @ 1:22 pm

Despite living twenty minutes drive from Williams College, and my pattern of getting my coffee and mail in Williamstown, I rarely come to Williams to attend academic lectures. It’s just habit – Harvard is where I go for lectures, while Williamstown is where I have coffee. But brilliant people come through my alma mater all the time and I generally ignore them.

A good friend mentioned on his blog that George Lakoff was speaking at Williams and I managed to drag myself off my snow-covered mountaintop to hear hear the talk… I’ve read enough short pieces by Lakoff that I tend to assume that I know what he’s all about. But hearing 20 quick talks at Pop!Tech went a long way towards reminding me that there’s something useful about hearing someone summarize the core of their theory in half an hour, an hour or ninety minutes. And hey, the World Series ended in four games.

Lakoff spoke for almost two hours in a packed hall, taking ninety minutes to get through his argument before accepting questions from the assembled students and townspeople. The opening chunk of the talk was one that most progressives have heard ad infinitum over the past few years: in the early 1970s, conservatives created a powerful idea and message machine (inspired, Lakoff says, by a memo from Lewis Powell, who later became a Supreme Cort justice) designed to take control of universities, the media and political discourse as a whole for conservatives. Through the creation of business professorships and conservative institutes at universities, numerous well-funded thinktanks and speakers bureaus, which Lakoff asserts book 80% of the “talking heads” on television, conservatives managed to turn “liberal” into a dirty word.

Lakoff asserts that this process has been succesful not just because substantial sums – perhaps $400 million a year – have been spent on the process. After all, progressives have also spent money on thinktanks, talking heads and media presence. Lakoff believes that conservatives have mastered the art of “framing” ideas – using carefully crafted language to move debates from the world of rational argument, to the world of “common sense”. Lakoff gives the (now classic) example of a press release issued by Karen Hughes on the first day of the George W. Bush presidency, which introduced the term “tax relief”. The phrase, repeated relentlessly by the White House, implies a “conceptual frame”. For there to be relief, there has to be an affliction, an afflicted party and someone to relieve that affliction.

Lakoff believes that the repetition of framing terms causes physical changes in the brain of listeners, the literal rewiring of synapses. It’s not brainwashing, as it’s not done under duress: “It’s not illegal, just smart.” Frames, he argues, define common sense. Facts that don’t fit existing frames are ignored or explained away: “If the facts don’t fit the fram, the facts bounce off”. To illustrate this, he points to a study suggesting that 80% of Bush supporters believe that Saddam Hussein was involved with the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

As Lakoff began to draw a distinction between surface frames – careful wording around concepts – and “deep frames”, the talk moved beyond what I’d gotten from reviews of “Don’t Think of an Elephant” and other pop characterizations of his work. Lakoff talked about his literal incomprehension of Dan Quayle’s 1992 acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, and of the 1994 Contract with America. He understood the words and parsed the sentences, but says he literally couldn’t understand how the phrases fit together logically. What hold together promises to get rid of abortion, install the flat tax, make sure people can own guns, and stop environmental regulation?

To his credit, Lakoff then tried to figure out what held his (diametrically opposed) views together and discovered that he couldn’t construct a coherent category… which has a special irony, as Lakoff wrote the book – Women, Fire and Dangerous Things – often used to teach categorization to cognitive scientists and linguists.

Working on an insight from a student paper, Lakoff explored the idea that discourse about nations is usually framed in terms about families – we “send our sons and daughters to war”, we have “founding fathers”, whether in the US or “Mother Russia”. He started developing an argument that conservative thought is based on the “deep frame” of the “strict father” family, while progressive thought is based on the “nurturing parents” family.

Trying this argument out at a linguistics conference where two conservative Christian friends were participants, Lakoff got the surprising feedback: “Haven’t you read Dobson?” The Dobson in question is Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, and an enormously popular author and columnist who writes on everything from politics to religion to childrearing. Reading Dobson’s child-rearing guide, “Dare to Discipline”, Lakoff felt like he discovered the essense of the conservative deep frame:

– It’s evil out there. Dad protects you from evil. Mom can’t. The world is competitive, and Dad’s role is to win those competitions and provide for the family.

– Kids are born bad – they don’t neccesarily do right and avoid wrong. They need to be disciplined by a strict father to do the right thing.

– Discipline needs to be painful enough to make children want to avoid punishment and discipline themselves. Morality is the disciplined obedience to the strict father.

– Prosperity and morality are linked. If you’re not prosperous, you’re insufficiently discipled, not moral enough to follow the rules. You deserve your poverty.

– If a child is well disciplined, the father will not have to interfere as an adult. And if the child is undiscipled, the father should turn the child out at 18, letting him sink or swim.

(A reminder – I’m doing my best to summarize Lakoff’s talk, not neccesarily endorsing this characterization of Dobson’s work. And I’m certainly not endorsing Dobson’s work either. My opinions on all of this comes at the end of the blog post…)

Examining the social and political implications of this frame, Lakoff concludes that in this worldview, social programs are evil because they create dependency, and eliminate discipline. As a result, they should be eliminated. Furthermore, the correlation between morality and power points to a reinforcement of traditional hierarchies – parent above children, Western above non-Western countries, straight above gay, christian above non-christian, white above non-white. Lakoff advises us that he develops this analysis at some length in his recent book, “Moral Politics”.

In contrast to the strict father model, Lakoff believes that progressives have their own model based on the idea of two equally reponsible, nurturing parents. In this model, the focus is on caring for the child, being responsible for her welfare, and responsible for yourself so you can continue to caretake and nurture. This set of ideas – care for others, be responsible for yourself, be responsible for others – is the heart of the progressive frame.

The implications of this frame: Nurturing parents want to protect their children against crime, drugs, dangerous chemicals, smoking, car crashes, etc. – protection of the environment, of laborers, of consumers is a major progressive theme. Parents want their children to be treated fairly, which leads to a focus on the progressive themes of fairness and equality. Nurturing parents want their children to be fulfilled, which means progressives need to focus on opportunity and general prosperity.

Unfortunately, Lakoff argues, most progressives can’t tell you there core values. Instead, progressives attempt to argue with facts, which Lakoff believes is a losing strategy. Lakoff unpacks arguments from conservatives and progressives about reforming social security. The conservative arguments, he says, have no facts attached to them – they’re a list of values and principles: Individual initiative made the country great. Free market capitalism is the engine of prosperity. Pull yourself up by bootstraps. Government is the problem. You can spend your money better than the government can.

Progressives respond with a complex, nuanced argument about a $1.5 trillion dollar trust fund which fully funds social security until 2042 or maybe 2052 then funds it at 80% but would fund it fully with 3% economic growth or a lower cap on benefits and…

His point? The progressives may be right, but they don’t win any arguments, as facts bounce off of frames when they don’t fit. To win these arguments, progressives need to get better at appealing to voters in terms of trust, authenticity, and values. Progressives need to let go of the rationalist fantasy that people make decisions based on rational thought and analysis of facts.

Instead of working in terms of frames, Democrats are working from polls – they poll to discover the most important issues, then craft rational policy responses to those issues. But since the issues have been framed by conservatives, the policies proposed move inexorably rightwards… and since the deep frame has been defined by the conservatives, progressives are always going to appear weaker on the deep values than the conservatives are.

So what should progressives do? Lakoff closes by talking first about Katrina, which he sees as a missed opportunity for Democrats and by the Terry Schiavo case, which he sees as a Republican misstep. He argues that Democrats had a perfect opportunity to demonstrate that the conservative “sink or swim” mentality towards the environment, public infrastructure, job creation and disaster relief, led to a situation where many people were left on their rooftops, wonderinf if they would literally sink or swim. And he argues that the conservatives violated their own playbook on the Schiavo case, making voters deeply uncomfortable with the idea that the government might intervene in intensely personal family health matters.

Lakoff’s next steps in all of this – start a thinktank, the Rockridge Institute, which will work on creating an alternative messaging system (which sounds very much like MeetUp.org) and a progressive playbook, which articulates a “consistent, positive vision of what it means to be progressive.” In this respect, he seems to be consciously echoing the playbook conservative organizer Frank Luntz has been arming his foot soldiers with.


Moving from reportage to my reaction:

Lakoff’s an impressive speaker. It’s extremely difficult to give a compelling speech for 90 minutes – trust me on this one. And it’s extremely difficult to do it without visual aids or, apparently, without notes. At the end of the two hour event, I found myself with pages and pages of notes (the long summary above doesn’t cover half a dozen things Lakoff detailed in the talk) and the general sense that what Lakoff said made a great deal of sense.

It wasn’t until I started driving home that I started realizing parts of the argument I was uncomfortable with and questions I wanted to ask Lakoff, or someone who’s read him more closely than I have.

Is the metaphor of nation as family an inescapable, essential one, or is it just the one that’s dominated our discourse for the last few decades (or, perhaps, centuries?) It makes me uncomfortable that the two models he outlines would map so neatly to the two parties that dominate American politics. If the family metaphor, and the two perspectives on family he articulates are somehow essential, does it neccesarily imply oppositional, two party politics? Is politics neccesarily binary? (Lakoff stated that 35-40% of Americans are progressives, 35-40% are conservatives, and the remaining 20-30% are some of each – sounds pretty binary to me.)

This concerns me because the family metaphor does a lousy job of addressing some of the issues I’m most passionate about – international development, fair trade, responsible globalization, preservation and melding of global culture. Family metaphors are essentially local, about the nurting or disciplining of those closest to you – my contention is that global challenges today require profound empathy and concern for people far away from you physically, and that in our globally interconnected world, everything’s more local than we think. My focus on these issues tends to put me in opposition to my fellow progressives on certain types of issues (trade, especially) and led me at some point to declare myself a “pro-globalization progressive”. Is it possible to advocate for those core values of global citizenship and cultural exchange from the perspective of a nurturing family?

My second set of concerns has to do with my contention that Lakoff’s focus is more tactical than substantial. He was very careful to state that people were misinterpreting him when they asked for slogans to sell existing policies – his point is that we need to communicate our deep frame, our progressive values, rather than just selling policies. But while I’m much more comfortable with the progressive value frame over the conservative value frame, I’m not convinced that either camp has the right answers to complex questions like the ones raised in my previous post (How do we help Africa simultaneously develop economically while maintaining a functioning health system, and address the issue of a nursing and doctor shortage in rural America?)

Some of my more political progressive friends are convinced that the key is to win back one or more branches of government so that we can advance ideas that are bound to work better than what currently passes for political thinking in America – we could push for energy independence, universal healthcare, improvements in public education. While I certainly can’t argue with that, there are other problems where I’m not convinced the progressives are all right and the conservatives are all wrong, and I’d greatly prefer a world in which both sides of the ideological aisle are working together on some of these issues.

I’ve been frustrated the extent to which progressives seem to be apeing conservative strategies to try to win back power. I think Lakoff’s core idea – that we need to articulate a progressive valueset – is a worthwhile one. But I worry that it’s easy to focus on building competitive institutions – thinktanks, a political playbook, a network for disseminating messages – and not actually take on the challenge of solving some of the problems we don’t have easy answers for.

September 6, 2005

Katrina PeopleFinder

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ethan @ 12:12 pm

Thanks to everyone who’s offered help on the Katrina PeopleFinder project. As of this morning, more than 68,000 records had been created in the database by over 2,100 volunteers – this is an amazing example of people’s willingness to lend a hand if given an opportunity to do so. (Check the progress of the effort on posts here.)

I’ve had to step back from the project and get back to “ordinary” life – fortunately David Geilhufe, who’s organized the effort from the start, was able to find great volunteers to take over the technical side of the effort. If you’re interested in helping out, entering data or on the programming side of things, don’t email me, please – visit the wiki to learn how to do data entry, or post on this page to volunteer your PHP/Perl skills at scraping bulletin boards to create new assignments.

September 5, 2005

Update on Katrina Data Entry

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ethan @ 11:51 am

We got amazing turnout of data entry volunteers yesterday afternoon. At one point, we likely had about 100 people entering data simultaneoulsy. That was a good and bad thing – the server running the database crashed under the load, and we had to take the whole process offline for several hours.

We came back up again around 10PM EDT last night and a large amount of data entry was done overnight. The interface to enter data now lives on my server (which appears to be handling the load comfortably… so far!) and the backend now lives on servers provided by the folks at salesforce.com. (I could probably use a mirror or two if anyone wants to mirror the HTML data entry page. Let me know.)

At present, we are able to enter data, but not retrieve it. Salesforce will be bringing an interface to search the data live in the next day or two (as I was just reminded, it _is_ a holiday weekend.) Until that’s up, there’s no way to retrieve the data or correct previously entered data.

We could use volunteers to claim more chunks of data and do data entry. To find out what’s needed, please go to the wiki – read the instructions and get involved, if you’re able to. Thanks!

September 2, 2005

Relief Efforts

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ethan @ 10:28 am

My friend Andy Carvin is organizing International Blogging for Disaster Relief Day today, encouraging bloggers around the world to link to and discuss disaster relief efforts, not just on the US gulf coast, but around the world: efforts to rebuild houses in tsunami-affected areas, to shelter African immigrants in Paris who lost their homes in apartment fires, to help Iraqi families who lost loved ones in Wednesday’s tragic events. He’s asking as many people as possible to address these issues and so that Technorati can collect and index them.

My friend Brendan Greeley is organizing a small, but very important, relief effort in Lake Providence, Louisiana. One of the poorest communities in the United States, Lake Providence is being overwhelmed by refugees from New Orleans. Brendan and others are raising money to help feed and shelter these refugees and transfer them to shelters in Monroe, Louisiana. Brendan has a personal connection to the area and will be heading down this weekend, bringing funds he’s able to collect via PayPal – I’ve just supported the cause and know that Brendan will get funds to people who need them. To support the effort, go here and click the donate button on the upper right of the page. (Thanks, JYoung, for asking me to clarify where to donate…)

Update: Friend Hanne Blank is raising money for hurricane relief by selling back copies of her books – primarily collections of erotica. She’s calling the effort “Sexual Healing”, and will be donating the receipts to the Red Cross. They’re going fast, so act now if you want some erotica with your relief efforts.

August 31, 2005

Happy 3108!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ethan @ 12:14 am

Israeli blogger Nir Ofir had an excellent idea about two months ago. Squinting at his screen a little bit, he decided the number 3108 (31/08, or August 31st in almost every country but the US) looked a lot like the word “blog”. So he invited bloggers around the world to join him in an exciting project, World Blog Day:

In one long moment on August 31st, bloggers from all over the world will post a recommendation of 5 new Blogs, Preferably, Blogs different from their own culture, point of view and attitude. On this day, blog surfers will find themselves leaping and discovering new, unknown Blogs, celebrating the discovery of new people and new bloggers.

As you might imagine, this is a project I’m a big fan of. As someone who’s spent a good chunk of my blogging career linking to world bloggers, on this blog, on Global Voices, BlogAfrica and the BridgeBlog Index, I’m at a bit of a loss to what to do for World Blog Day. Linking to great blogs from around the globe doesn’t seem like enough of a stretch if I’m trying to break my ordinary patterns.

If I want to feature perspectives you usually don’t see on this blog, should I reach out and link to Windows enthusiasts? Republicans? Yankees fans? (Okay, Stuart’s blog is in there because I admire and respect him. The Yankees and Windows blogs? Not so much…)

To make sure I’m really reaching out and including blogs I wouldn’t normally link to, I thought I’d spend the evening of August 30th looking at blogs and websites from Moldova, a country I know basically nothing about. I’ve read Tony Hawks’ very funny “Playing the Moldovans at Tennis”, where the British author, on a bet, travels to Moldova and defeats each member of the Moldovan national football team at tennis… but I can’t say the book did a great deal to enlighten me about Moldovan politics or national character.

It sounds like any investigation of Moldovan internet culture has to begin with Alexandru Culiuc. According to his profile on OurNet, a Moldovan homepage hosting site (which he evidently founded), Alexandru’s site is:

[a] personal blog covering economic development, public policy, education abroad, photography, IT and e-development. Alexander is the creator of OurNet, founder of Design.md, advanced amateur photographer, and is currently studying international economic development at Harvard.

You better believe I’ll be looking for Alexandru around Cambridge, if only so he can translate his blog for me. (It’s in Romanian. Moldovans appear to blog in Romanian, Russian and English.) But I don’t need to speak Romanian to understand his photography, which is beautiful.

The young blogger behind Area51 offers a year-long journal of his final year in high school, in a series of zipped text files. I’ve been focused on his collection of poetry – “Organized Rhyme” – in Romanian, Russian, and English. I’m very fond of “Trippin’ – To Kiev and Back”

Stardust is a Moldovan DJ, dedicated to “developing club culture in Moldova”. I’ve not been able to download his mp3 files, but I look forward to encountering him and his DJ friends in Chisinau sometime soon.

Barishev Roman is a formidable photographer, with a surrealist touch and an excellent sense for composition. A native of Kishinev (Chisinau, I assume), his works are shown throughout the capital city.

A final site from Moldova – a collection of Murphy’s Laws in Romanian.

Happy , everyone!

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