Scripting News for 1/1/2007

Good morning, and good new year! 

Sylvia: “Professions I just wish didn’t exist then, now and forever are monks, nuns, priests, policemen, soldiers, high school vice principals, animal psychologists, prison guards, and executioners.” 

Yes, indeed, Barak Obama is a smoker.  

Adam Curry thinks the Saddam execution is a shark-jump moment for MSM. I don’t know that the cell phone camera guy wasn’t part of the official coverage. Maybe the Iraqi govt understands Youtube, they probably do. And Russert and Stephanopoulos had both watched the unofficial tape before the Sunday morning talk shows, so MSM was definitely in the loop. Don’t count them out yet, the new channel works for all journos, not just bloggers.  

A random fact I learned recently after working through the HBO series Rome — the term caesar applied to all rulers of Rome. It was a title, not a name. And then I learned that the German kaiser and the Russian tsar were both derived from caesar.  

Do I dare admit that I’ve seen the great movie Idiocracy? Nahhh. I haven’t seen it. But if I had, I would say the funniest part is where the Carls Jr vending machine mouths off at a customer. Doc Searls would just love it. Totally.  

The News Hounds guy is back. But he won’t be watching Fox anymore. Ouch. :-( 

The unedited voice of a person 

People use blogs primarily to discuss one question — what is a blog? The discussion will continue as long as there are blogs.

It’s no different from other media, all they ever talk about is what they are. We got dinged by the NY Times because all bloggers talked about at the DNC was other bloggers. But what were they busy doing — talking about other reporters, except when they were talking about bloggers — talking about bloggers. :-)

Nothing wrong with it.

In the early days we joked that they were watching us watch them watch us watch them. And so on.

In 2003, when I was beginning my stint as a fellow at Berkman Center, since I was going to be doing stuff with blogs, I felt it necessary to start by explaining what makes a blog a blog, and I concluded it wasn’t so much the form, although most blogs seem to follow a similar form, nor was it the content, rather it was the voice.

If it was one voice, unedited, not determined by group-think — then it was a blog, no matter what form it took. If it was the result of group-think, with lots of ass-covering and offense avoiding, then it’s not. Things like spelling and grammatic errors were okay, in fact they helped convince one that it was unedited. (Dogma 2000 expressed this very concisely.)

Do comments make it a blog? Do the lack of comments make it not a blog? Well actually, my opinion is different from many, but it still is my opinion that it does not follow that a blog must have comments, in fact, to the extent that comments interfere with the natural expression of the unedited voice of an individual, comments may act to make something not a blog.

We already had mail lists before we had blogs. The whole notion that blogs should evolve to become mail lists seems to waste the blogs. Comments are very much mail-list-like things. A few voices can drown out all others. The cool thing about blogs is that while they may be quiet, and it may be hard to find what you’re looking for, at least you can say what you think without being shouted down. This makes it possible for unpopular ideas to be expressed. And if you know history, the most important ideas often are the unpopular ones.

Me, I like diversity of opinion. I learn from the extremes. You think evolution is a liberal plot? Okay, I disagree, but I think you should have the right to say it, and further you should have a place to say it. You think global warming is a lie? Speak your mind brother. You thought the war in Iraq was a bad idea? Thank god you had a place you could say that. That’s what’s important about blogs, not that people can comment on your ideas. As long as they can start their own blog, there will be no shortage of places to comment. What there is always a shortage of, however, is courage to say the exceptional thing, to be an individual, to stand up for your beliefs, even if they aren’t popular.

I sat next to Steven Levy the other night at dinner in NY. He volunteered that in his whole career he had never written a word that wasn’t approved of by someone else, until he started a blog. I applaud him for crossing the line. I give him a lot of credit for writing without a safety net. It really is different. Comments wouldn’t make the difference, what makes the difference is standing alone, with your ideas out there, with no one else to fault for those ideas. They are your responsibility, and yours alone.

For me, the big rush came when I started publishing DaveNet essays in late 1994. I would revise and edit, for an hour maybe more, before hitting the Send button. Once I did that, there was no turning back. The idea was out there, with my name on it. All the disclaimers (I called the essays “Amusing rants from Dave Winer’s desktop”) wouldn’t help, if the ideas were bad, they were mine. But if they were good, they were mine too. That’s what makes something blog-like, imho.

New Year inventory 

Reading Grace Davis’s first post of 2007 reminded me to note that 2006 was a very good year in my family. Everyone who was alive at the end of last year is still with us at the beginning of this one, although my dad, who I still call The Miracle Man, gave cause for concern in the spring. We all seem to be getting on better too, though slowly — that’s something else to be grateful for.

I just bought $500 of new clothes at the Gap on the web, a nice way to begin a new year, I think. I’m always resolved to do better, so to make resolutions at the beginning of the year seems like more of the same. Indulging and celebrating, now that’s different. And buying stuff after Christmas means you get much more bang for the buck.

What I might have said to Suze Orman 

On the flight back from NY I sat in the same row as TV celebrity Suze Orman. I was in a window seat, and she was in the other window seat, so I didn’t get a chance to talk with her.

If I had had the chance, here’s what I might have said…

First, of course, I’ve watched your show, and I admire your chutzpah, but I gotta say, I’m (obviously) a man and I don’t think you treat men very well on your show. Myself, I do pretty well with finances. The only debt I have is a mortgage, for its tax benefits, I could afford to pay it off. I have always been a saver, haven’t been in debt since my late 20s (I’m in my early 50s now) and I have health insurance, and home owner’s insurance. I’ve never mooched off women. I’m pretty responsible, I even quit smoking and stayed quit. And I don’t like the way you treat men on your show.

Yeah, after saying that, I would have been happy to sit next to this person for six-plus hours on a flight from NY to SF. Not. :-)

So another thing I’m grateful for is that I wasn’t seated next to Suze Orman.

PS: Speaking of smoking, I heard that Barak Obama is a smoker?

11 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Hieronymous Coward on January 1, 2007 at 2:32 pm

    Darn right re comments. Most of the early blogs had no comments e.g. for the longest time, Blogger blogs had no comments (which is why services like Haloscan exist today). I forget if EditThisPage had them. That didn’t take away the charm from the first blogs.

    Reply

  2. Whenever I hear someone talk about voice in a blog, I remember the first time the (then few) Bay Area food bloggers got together (for a dinner, naturally). I think it was my wife who made the observation that “the bloggers all looked like their blogs.” You could almost name the bloggers without being introduced–tone and opinions (and areas of expertise) identified each. And it’s certainly the case that my professional food writing does not always sound like me in the way OWF does–though in part that’s because I’m writing for a different audience and within a different editorial tone.

    Reply

  3. I think to a large extent the market (i.e. blog readers) will continue to be the driving deciders when it comes to what constitutes a blog. Comments certainly don’t make or break a blog.

    Reply

  4. Rose Bowl announcer talking about bloggers?

    TV on in the background. Last couple of minutes of the Rose Bowl. I thought I heard the announcers say something about “the bloggers will be out” if Michigan loses. Did I hear that correctly?

    I have no doubt there are a shit-load of fan blogs for every college and pro team, so I’m not sure why I would be surprised the subject would be mentioned in the broadcast. Can any of you sports fans enlighten me on this? Have bloggers become enough of a factor they get mentioned in such high-profile broadcasts?

    Reply

  5. A random fact I learned recently after working through the HBO series Rome — the term caesar applied to all rulers of Rome. It was a title, not a name.

    Well, not exactly :-)

    The term was originally a name. The Roman Republic was overthrown by an ambitious general, Gaius Julius Caesar. Roman names had three parts — the praenomen, or individual’s name; the nomen, or family name; and the cognomen, used to distinguish branches within a family tree. The first emperor’s name, therefore, could be interpreted as “Gaius, of the Caesarian branch of the Julii family”. Gaius Julius Caesar is the person who is generally referred to today as “Caesar”.

    It was common in Roman politics for leaders to adopt their proteges into their family; this was seen as cementing the bond between the two men. When Caesar was assassinated, his will specified that his primary heir was to be his great-nephew, Gaius Octavius (commonly referred to today as “Octavian”), who was the son of his sister’s daughter. The will also adopted Octavian into the Julii family.

    After Gaius Octavius won the civil war to determine who would succeed Caesar, he took the name Caesar Augustus, to emphasize both his (tenuous) family connection to the original emperor, and his position as the undisputed “first citizen” of Rome.

    The next few emperors were all descendants of Caesar Augustus, so they carried the family name “Caesar” by right. By the time someone from outside the Augustan family line reached the imperial throne, Caesars had been running Rome for decades, so it was natural for non-Julian emperors to take up the name to try to connect themselves to the “founding dynasty”. And so did “Caesar” pass from a family name into the official title of the Roman Emperor.

    Reply

  6. If you like Rome you should check out the History Channel’s ‘Engineering an Empire.’ It is a great show.

    Reply

  7. Did anyone notice the caption on Wolf Blitzers situation room blip for a segment on Bin-Laden later in his show?

    It said, “where’s Obama”, against a picture of Bin-Laden. And no apology came through the show, though the next blip said, where’s Bin-Laden.

    MSM editorial accuracy? Bah Humbug.

    Reply

  8. My wife and I just saw “Children of Men” the other night and were really moved — even though it is sort of sci-fi, I think, for us, it brought weight to to the whole iraq thing (and the ‘safe distance’ we experience as Americans) than anything else we’ve seen in quite some time.

    Your post about the movie prompted me to pass it along — given the themes you write about you might find it interesting.

    Reply

  9. Dave, regarding your blogging/comments views…

    …I don’t argue. I don’t even like confrontation. I avoid having to defend my thoughts and opinions to even my closest friends and colleagues for fear of not being able to justify them.

    Are my ideas wacky? No. Are they controversial? Sometimes. But put me in front of someone and ask me to justify my position face to face and I melt like the horrible dirty spring snow.

    Blogging though gives me feel a sense of freedom.

    I can put my opinion out there, however misguided and wrong it may be. If someone comments – great. If someone disagrees, great. it doesn’t me no harm and if anything encourages me to respond.

    I don’t blog for comments but people’s response to my opinions are, for me, a fundamental part of the conversation that blogging brings to my life (god it makes me sound like a no-friends loner!!).

    How many times have people complained that email and the internet is one-way traffic? I think we should embrace comments as core to the blogging experience.

    Reply

  10. Is it better when a blog’s comments are links to other blogs? sure.
    But that’s not always the case, so comments are still useful:

    http://dotmad.blogspot.com/2007/07/joel-spolsky-thinks-blog-comments-are.html

    Reply

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