December 5, 2006
Followup to "Why Newt Is Right"
Well, there seems to be quite a bit of misunderstanding of my last article in TCSDaily. I'll lay the blame for this solely at my own feet, since I'm the one who did all the writing.
The article is titled, "Why Newt Is Right," and if I could have added a subtitle, it would have been, "To worry about a catastrophic attack." It seems instead that many people added their own subtitle, something like, "To restrict free speech."
Arguing in favor of restricting free speech was not my intent. Aside from poor writing on my part, that it was nonetheless taken that way may show just what problems await us as the war continues.
For example, blogger Glenn Greenwald took special umbrage to the piece:
In a TCS Daily column this week entitled "Why Newt is Right," Josh Manchester talked about all the bad things that would happen in the event that a nuclear bomb were detonated in Long Beach, California, and then expressly urged measures for "physically stopping or legally outlawing the ideas behind radicalism"Like I said, this is my fault for writing poorly. When read in context, this sentence was meant to show an alternative strategy to restricting free speech:
An offensive yet superficially benign way to accomplish some of these same goals might be to begin a cultural war against extremism. In addition to physically stopping or legally outlawing the ideas behind radicalism, such a campaign might seek to propagate competing memes, which appeal to the same core demographic that is apt to become extremists.I should have written, "instead of" where I did write "in addition to."
Let me elaborate upon this, since I obviously did a poor job in the article: Rather than merely restricting speech, as many would assume is what I was talking about, why not create competing ideas, and discredit those that appeal so strongly to the core demographic (young men) who are drawn to terrorism? In order to do this, I think many of the same things Newt mentioned would be necessary: technologies to disrupt and track extremist websites. As I tried to say in the piece, to merely restrict such websites is a defensive method.
To take an example: outlawing a website only gives it a sort of cache within the world of rebellious extremists. But a lampooning of extremist ideas in a comedic fashion, in a cultural manner that appeals to the demographic of extremism, would be much more valuable, and probably more successful in the long run.
For the benefits of monitoring terror sites instead of shutting them down, see this backgrounder by the Council on Foreign Relations.
Also, I don't think it's clear that Newt wants to restrict free speech. Instead, he was merely noting that the pursuit of terrorists and stopping attacks is going to require "a serious debate about the first amendment," and that it is better to have this debate now to "develop the appropriate rules of engagement." I don't think it's a straight leap from that to detention camps, and a police state, as the left seems to assume. I can't speak for Newt, but what I was more concerned with is things that we can do now that will serve the purpose of both preventing an attack and preserving the government. To me, this includes civil liberties. In fact, it's not just to me. I used the examples of the nuclear strategists Fred Ikle and Philip Bobbitt in the article. One of Bobbitt's pet peeves is that as of today there is no legal mechanism in place to quickly reconstitute the House of Representatives should a majority of its members be killed or incapacitated in an attack (the Senate does not have this problem, as replacement Senators can be appointed by governors). I'm no legal expert, but I believe that the only way to restaff the House of Representatives is to hold new elections. Even if these are scheduled to take place a few months after an attack, those months are likely to be when crucial decisions need to be made by the House, and when crucial oversight needs to take place as well.
In short, ask yourself: is the United States less or more secure in its freedoms if a plan exists to quickly reconstitute the House of Representatives after a catastrophic attack?
You might say that such measures are how the Nazis rose to power. I'd argue that "stockpiling laws" such as Bobbitt has advocated, is meant to stop such a nightmare scenario from occuring.
This in fact is the entire thrust of Fred Ikle's new book. It's no accident that it's called "Annihilation From Within." Here's an excerpt from the book's website:
Our greatest threat is a cunning tyrant gaining possession of a few weapons of mass destruction. His purpose would not be to destroy landmarks, highjack airplanes, or attack railroad stations. He would annihilate a nation's government from within and assume dictatorial power. The twentieth century offers vivid examples of tyrants who have exploited major national disasters by rallying violent followers and intimidating an entire nation.Frankly, Ikle is advocating a series of measures to prevent this from happening, not a series of measures that would make it more likely. If you need more evidence, I'll go get my copy and quote some more.
To be clear as well, just so I'm not misunderstood, neither Bobbitt nor Ikle argues for restrictions on speech.
Now Newt is a different story. As I tried to argue in the article, he's right to be concerned with the same issues as Bobbitt and Ikle. I think he's right to raise the questions of undermining terrorist communications as well.
If Al Qaeda were a state -- Qaedastan -- where we could clearly locate them, is there any doubt we would have destroyed their command and control infrastructure long ago?
The problem is that Al Qaeda, or jihad, or extremism, or however it can be identified, is not a state. It is more like a virus. It's command and control infrastructure is highly diffuse and a lot of it is located in cyberspace. To stem recruitment, I think we should offer counternarratives and competing memes. Newt thinks we should shut down recruiting websites.
Whichever of us you agree with, the point is that we are both concerned with preventing another attack. Newt is asking for a dialogue about free speech in order to figure out how to stop terrorism from spreading through the internet. To merely demonize him as wishing to restrict speech is to deny the very dialogue that he seeks.
I'm a blogger. I can appreciate the beauty of free speech. In a post a long time ago I once told "the troglodyte FEC bureaucrats and their draconian moronic henchmen in the court system" that "You can have my blog when you pry it out of my cold dead hands."
At the same time, as a blogger, I'm pretty in tune with the power of the internet to organize people and ideas. Jihad can use this power just as well as Josh.
I guess all of this debate swirls from the fact that cyberspace is both speech and a place. It's probably the one true commons in the world today.
Well, I hope that helps somewhat. Again, I wish I could have been clearer in my article.
November 30, 2006
Interview at the D-Ring
The proprietor of the D-Ring blog has seen fit to do a quick interview with me. If you're interested, read it here.
November 28, 2006
I've been meaning to add Herschel Smith's Captain's Journal for a couple of weeks. Mr. Smith's son is in Iraq as a Marine officer, if memory serves, and his blog is extremely detailed. Check it out.
Best and Worst of Blog Design, 2006
Forrester Research has completed a small study into blog design. The Executive Summary reads like this:
Forrester evaluated the customer experience of 16 blogs written by executives of large U.S. companies, corporate product and branding teams, newspaper journalists, and today's most popular professional bloggers. While product/brand teams fared best, not one blog passed our usability tests, and even the best blogs we looked at had major flaws. To encourage new users to become regular readers, blog owners should leverage existing web design best practices that make content and functionality easy to find and consume and follow emerging blog guidelines that help users feel more comfortable participating in online conversations.The only political blog in their study is DailyKos.
The entire study is here, for those who'd like to download it and read it [I don't think I'm infringing on any copyright laws by hosting it, but if so, I'll remove if necessary.] [UPDATE: I've removed the report temporarily due to concern that posting it may violate Forrester's licensing agreements.]
Well, one best practice mentioned is to have a comment policy, so that novice users can know how to comment, how the info is used, etc. That's something I should do, I suppose.
Another of their beefs is that bloggers frequently use blog-specific terminology. I think I do an ok job on that one. The only such terms I use regularly are the "hat-tip", which means basically to give a quick nod to another blogger who drew your attention to something.
Another of their criticisms is that content is only organized chronologically. Well, I have a search function in the sidebar, and a list of tags that let people find content on the topic of their choice. It's true though that the primary organizing feature is date. I think this has more to do with the limitations of blogging software than anything else. If I wanted to organize things in a different fashion, I would have no idea how to do so. Perhaps this is a good critique for corporate blogs, who presumably have programmers or the budgets to hire them, but for little ole Chester, not so much.
This brings me to what is a tangential insight in the study, but was most interesting to me: it notes that only 7% of internet users read a blog more than once a week. Now that is something!
One of the big problems with blogging is the "echo-chamber" phenomenon. It's not only hard to describe, but it's very hard to quantify. Well, let me be precise: it's only a problem if you care about who is reading your work.
I've characterized my own desire to blog as being one of an intense desire to know what is happening in the war and to understand it. But I'd be more than a little dishonest with myself if I didn't admit that part of that is knowing that my musings have an impact on other people. I don't get super worked up about traffic statistics and whatnot, but it is nice to know that someone out there is reading and perhaps gaining some value from my work.
The idea that only 7% of internet users read blogs more than once a week cements in my mind what I think is one of the problems: bloggers (at least the crowd I run in) have a tendency to think that their topics are life and death matters of import to the country. But when you think about it, if only a very small number of people are reading, or caring, then your topic is really of no more influence than that of, say, home-schooling, or baseball-card collecting, or amateur poetry. In other words, you're just another community, an internet tribe, whose passion happens to be national security.
The flip side of the coin is to ask: well, who are those 7% of readers? Maybe they are decisionmakers or key influencers. Maybe even though not that many people read, their impact is greater than their numbers would indicate.
It's a valid argument and goes to show once again how hard it is to quantify the echo chamber.
Take this blog, for example. According to Alexa's web-tracking services, The Adventures of Chester is the 995,365th most read website on the internet. Alexa indicates that this is the ranking for the last 3 months. In the last week, though, this blog has been the 334,702nd most read website. That's quite a shift. Also, about 5 out of every 1 million internet users on the planet have visited here. But what does that mean?
Maybe it helps to look at a few others. Instapundit is number 9,236 over the last three months, and about 200 out of every million users have visited his site. TCSDaily, where I write a column is # 35,672. The Drudge Report is # 404. Google is number 3.
The idea of the long tail is that there are little content niches that may have a small following, but it's a following nonetheless. Even if only a handful of people listen to a certain band or buy a certain book, costs are such that the artist or author can still make a profit from that handful.
But perhaps the blogosphere is differently constructed. I'm quite certain I'm way down on the long end of the long tail when it comes to the internet. Yet occasionally traffic spikes, and something I've written receives credence for a much larger audience. Perhaps the trick is not to track the blogs, which are progenitors of memes, but to track the memes themselves. Some companies, like Technorati, attempt this, but I think they have a long way to go. There's a big difference between noting what people are talking about and tracking the development and mutations of a meme over its lifecycle.
Hugh Hewitt has used the term "mindshare" to describe what it is that content providers are competing for. Perhaps that has some merit, but in order to quantify it, one would have to know the size of the total. I don't think anyone does.
Well, I'll leave you with all of that and get back to regular stuff. Make of this post what you will.
November 8, 2006
Help Bill Roggio Go To Iraq
What's going to happen in Iraq? Bill Roggio wants to know. So he's going.
Hello, everyone. I am planning an embed to Iraq in the next three to four weeks. My goal is to embed with the Army in Baghdad and the Marines Ramadi. These two cities are the flash points in Iraq.Follow the link to donate to Bill. He's already embedded once each in Iraq and Afghanistan and did a great job.
If you are not already aware, I have devoted all of my time and energy to this endeavor. This is my full-time job. I need your support to make this happen.
I believe this war is too important for me to sit back and let others do the work. I learned early on that our greatest deficiencies in this war are partisan free reporting, education on the nature of our enemy, and honest, informed reporting on how our troops are doing on the ground. Currently, there are 11 embedded reporters in Iraq, while the United States has over 150,000 troops in country.
I really need your help to keep this project going. Please support this embed by donating via PayPal.
Or, if you wish to send a check, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you an address.
Additionally, if you would like to donate a specific item, such as life insurance, an airline ticket or camera, email me and we can discuss the options.
Thank you as always for your support.
October 26, 2006
Does Max Boot read blogs?
Sending mercenaries to Africa isn't politically correct. But it would be a lot more useful than sending more aid money that will be wasted or passing ineffectual resolutions that will be ignored.This was a topic that was broached here at Adventures back in May of this year. Let Blackwater Loose in Darfur was prompted by a report in the Boston Globe that Blackwater had volunteered to go to Africa and stop Darfur's genocide, provided someone would pay them. Here was my take then:
The essential problem is unique to the international system: horrific events, like genocide, which occur within the boundaries of a given state, are seen as being within the sovereign bounds of that state, and the territorial sovereignty of any given state, in our current system, is sacrosanct. Only the society of states, embodied in a number of international institutions, can choose to violate that precious sovereignty. Cries of "Never again" then seem to pale so long as that which prompts them is confined to one state. Intrastate genocide becomes, ironically, a sort of externality of the international system.All of this is especially relevant to the previous post, The Autumn of the Patriarch, which wondered where all these "proxyized" forms of warfare are headed.
October 17, 2006
Banned Blogs Update
Belmont Club has more information on the reports that the Department of the Interior is blocking blogs such as his, and this one. Apparently, the concern is that employees will post comments to such sites while at work.
One of the problems is that the word "blog" is now no longer really descriptive. This site is technically a blog, but so are about a zillion or so on myspace. But it's safe to say that the content here is a little different. A new vocabulary is required . . .
October 11, 2006
Are you reading a banned blog?
Gates of Vienna received an email from a reader today to the effect that the Department of the Interior had blocked Gates from their servers. After further investigation, it seems quite a few blogs were blocked, this one among them. Here's the list of blocked blogs:
Cox and Forkum
Gates of Vienna
Little Green Footballs
Michael J. Totten
Rantings of a Sandmonkey
Roger L. Simon
The Adventures of Chester
The American Thinker
The Belmont Club
The Doctor is In
What a triumph! I have a mere iota of the traffic of the rest of those blogs! To be mentioned in the same breath with them should boost these Adventures to the heights of the blogerati!! My scheme of hacking the Interior Dept has worked!! Now, if only the State Department's firewalls weren't so darn difficult to break . . .
Seriously though, rumor has it that Bill Roggio's blog is banned in Pakistan. Now that's good PR.
October 10, 2006
Welcome to Jack Kelly Readers
If you're visiting this blog for the first time after reading about it in Jack Kelly's recent column, welcome! Feel free to look around or send me an email. The address is in the sidebar.
October 9, 2006
Carolina FreedomNet Report
Well, this weekend found me in Greensboro at Carolina FreedomNet 2006, which was a great event. The John Locke Foundation was a great host, and the participating bloggers were all very interesting folks. I encourage visits to their own sites:
Scott Johnson of Power Line hardly needs any introduction: Power Line was at the very center of the controversy over Dan Rather's faked National Guard memos in 2004. Scott was a very unassuming and couteous guy, a real pleasure to meet.
In his lunchtime address, Scott Johnson mentioned the similarities between the pamphleteers of the pre-Revolutionary period in America and blogging today. Strangely, he did so by quoting the book The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution. Strange because I did so myself in 2005, also in reference to a blog conference. I guess it shows that great minds think alike!
I won't do a comprehensive overview of the content of the conference, but I will be doing a post or piece about it a bit later. One conversation in particular was very thought-provoking.
October 4, 2006
Well, it's Wednesday, also known as "Winds Day." So head over to Winds of Change and see my latest post, Apocalypse Everywhere. Feel free to comment either there or here.
October 3, 2006
Don't Forget CarolinaFreedomNet 2006!
Coming up this weekend: Carolina FreedomNet2006, where I'll be a panelist, along with a number of other bloggers from both within NC and without. The keynote speaker will be Scott Johnson of Powerline. The price is a reasonable $25. Come one, come all!
(I guess I should note that none of that $25 goes to me; it just pays for all the logistics.)
September 27, 2006
Michael Yon Names Names
Michael Yon, the retired Green Beret who embedded for months with US forces in Iraq, pulls no punches in this email dispatch he just sent to his mailing list:
Pajamas Media recently reported that there are only 9 embedded reporters in Iraq . Many are blaming this on the media, and while I can never be called an apologist for mainstream media, I can say with certainty that the United States military is censoring.Them's fighting words! Yon has huge credibility on issues like this. It seems he would not easily risk it.
It remains unclear if this is a general policy, though there are recent inquiries to the office of the Secretary of Defense. I await response. Or, perhaps, the censorship is merely the policy of ******* who is responsible for operations involving embeds. ******** is said to be the most quoted man in Iraq . I've learned to trust nothing he says. I do know for a fact that ******* has been untruthful with the media. If ******* calls me on this, I'll take the time to prove it.
While sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, sisters, brothers and friends, fight and die in Iraq and Afghanistan, the military apparently is preventing journalists from telling the story. They attempt to deflect accusations of censorship by allowing in just enough reporters to appear transparent.
UPDATE: After noting Belmont Club's post on Yon's email, which notes that it has not been verified as actually coming from Yon, I've removed the name that Yon mentions in the email. It should not have been included in the first place.
September 25, 2006
A few additions to the blogroll:
Arts and Letters Daily is a great little compendium of all sorts of one-off news and in-depth pieces from a humanities perspective, but usually very relevant to life.
The Christian Science Monitor usually has excellent coverage of a variety of issues.
The Australian is a good news source from down under.
USCavOnpoint offers articles about military strategy and counterterrorism.
September 1, 2006
Here's some good fuel for the fire from the past few days:
Kobayashi Maru recently considered if there might be any internal contradictions within Islamism/Islamic fascism.
Westhawk thinks that the Mahdi militia has stumbled into an unwise battle.
Publius Pundit recently traveled all over Belarus, Eastern Europe's last dictatorship, and offers his refllections. He's trying the travel-the-world-and-write-about-it model of blogging popularized by Bill Roggio, Michael Yon, and Michael Totten, so slip a few dollars his way if you like his work.
August 30, 2006
Carolina FreedomNet 2006
I've been invited to be a panelist at the upcoming conference Carolina FreedomNet 2006, which will be held in Greensboro on October 7th. See the link for details. A number of other local Carolina bloggers will be present, and the keynote remarks will be made by Scott Johnson of Power Line. Looks to be great fun and the cost to the public is only $25! That's a steal compared to other conferences I've seen or attended.
July 30, 2006
I've just updated my blogroll. Most regular newspapers have been dropped because people know where to find those already.
Here are some new additions:
The Speculist: Great blog about the future.
Westhawk is a great blog about strategy and warfare. Go check it out. The author is also a Marine officer now in the private sector.
OPFOR is another great milblog and has all sorts of interesting stuff.
Asia Times Online is an interesting source of opinion that is almost always different from that read in US media outlets.
Kingdom of Chaos is a great blog by El Jefe Maximo, a frequent commenter here and one of the few of my readers who've I've actually met in the flesh!
PrairiePundit is another frequent commenter and his blog has some great stuff too. And I've met him too!
Instapundit.com hardly needs any introduction.
RAND is one of the oldest thinktanks in the world. There's all kinds of interesting publications to be found there.
And finally, Pajamas Media is one of the few companies actually trying to make a business model out of the blogosphere. There are news and links galore there, and the site has more than proved its worth since the Israeli-Hezbollah War started.
July 19, 2006
Attribution would be nice once in a while
Today, the Washington Post publishes a predictable piece filled with anti-Bush animus, also with the title "The Guns of July," written by Harold Meyerson. Here tis.
At least when I get ideas from somewhere else, I'm kind enough to mention so. Nah. I'm sure it's a coincidence. Well, if the term enters popular lexicon, at least I'll have a story to tell at cocktail parties. A friend once tried to meet girls by telling them he invented the phrase "Pardon my French."
June 30, 2006
Some things to note for weekend thinking:
1. The Guardian reports that:
The intelligence agencies have warned ministers that Iran could launch terrorist attacks against British targets if the row over its controversial nuclear programme escalates, it was disclosed today.That's something to keep in mind. The same article notes:
The parliamentary intelligence and security committee - which oversees the work of the agencies - said the possibility of Iranian state-sponsored terrorism was now considered one of the main threats facing the UK.
"There is increasing international tension over Iran's nuclear programme and backing of groups such as Lebanese Hezbollah," the committee said in its annual report.
"There is a possibility of an increased threat to UK interests from Iranian state-sponsored terrorism should the diplomatic situation deteriorate."
The report also revealed that MI5, the security service, was expanding so rapidly in order to meet the threat of terrorism in the UK that it had outgrown its London headquarters building.Wow. That is amazing. MI-5 is the agency that will be infiltrating or surveiling any homegrown terror cells or organizations. Good to see that they are taking things seriously across the pond.
Thames House at Westminster is expected to have exhausted its capacity by October. The committee said another building had been found to provide additional accommodation - but its identity was censored out on security grounds.
MI5 staff numbers are now expected to grow by over 50% over the next three years, with over half its resources now devoted to counter-terrorism.
2. That article was via RegimeChangeIran, which is asking for your help. Gary Metz, aka Dr. Zin, is requesting donations for "several campaigns to take this work to the next level." Look for more info there soon. He's also asking for volunteers. Sounds like he has something up his sleeve . . . RegimeChangeIran is a great site, so consider supporting him.
3. Finally, while we're in an altruistic mood, Robert Mayer of Publiuspundit sends this:
I have decided to try the path of Michael Totten sans the Middle East. I will be writing pieces from places like Honduras (one of the darkest corners in Latin America), Catalunya (which voted for large autonomy from Spain), The Netherlands (where the government has collapsed over the Ayaan Hirsi Ali affair), Switzerland (an overlooked and extremely interesting country), and the Czech Republic (home of the original velvet revolution that people talk so much about). Most of my reporting will be from Latin America and eventually Eastern Europe, someday moving on to other regions.His first post is here. Check it out and if you like it hit his tipjar.
April 18, 2006
Bloggers as news-fixated mavens
Some time ago, I ran across what might be called an obituary for bloggers in the Financial Times. Here are some of the takeaway lines:
. . . but blogging in the US is not reflective of the kind of deep social and political change that lay behind the alternative press in the 1960s. Instead, its dependency on old media for its material brings to mind Swift’s fleas sucking upon other fleas “ad infinitum”: somewhere there has to be a host for feeding to begin. That blogs will one day rule the media world is a triumph of optimism over parasitism . . .Well that was quite a buzzkill. But it seems to make a number of assumptions about blogging that perhaps aren't quite true: that bloggers are seeking careers as bloggers, and aren't just enjoying themselves; that the infinitessimally short half-life of a blog post renders it meaningless in the grand scheme of things (even more so than journalism); that if blogs don't replace traditional journalism, they have failed, and so forth . . .
. . . Blogging will no doubt always have a place as an underground medium in closed societies; but for those in the west trying to blog their way into viable businesses, the economics are daunting . . .
. . . The dismal traffic numbers also point to another little trade secret of the blogosphere, and one missed by Judge Posner and all the other blog-evangelists when they extol the idea that blogging allows thousands of Tom Paines to bloom. As Ana Marie Cox says: “When people talk about the liberation of the armchair pajamas media, they tend to turn a blind eye to the fact that the voices with the loudest volume in the blogosphere definitely belong to people who have experience writing. They don’t have to be experienced journalists necessarily, but they write - part of their professional life is to communicate clearly in written words.”
. . . Which brings us to the spectre haunting the blogosphere - tedium. If the pornography of opinion doesn’t leave you longing for an eroticism of fact, the vast wasteland of verbiage produced by the relentless nature of blogging is the single greatest impediment to its seriousness as a medium . . .
. . . And that, in the end, is the dismal fate of blogging: it renders the word even more evanescent than journalism; yoked, as bloggers are, to the unending cycle of news and the need to post four or five times a day, five days a week, 50 weeks of the year, blogging is the closest literary culture has come to instant obsolescence. No Modern Library edition of the great polemicists of the blogosphere to yellow on the shelf; nothing but a virtual tomb for a billion posts - a choric song of the word-weary bloggers, forlorn mariners forever posting on the slumberless seas of news.
To the economic criticism, I'd say this: thus far, in most, if not all cases, I think bloggers have made money almost tangentially to the actual work of blogging. Making money is in other words, not the raison d^etre of most blogs, but make a little of it many do, often without trying too much, or at all. There aren't many other human activities where financial rewards (however modest) can be gained from decidedly unfinancial pursuits (readers are welcome to submit counterexamples). When I was on a panel about blogging in New York last fall, I knew what all the journos wanted to know: were any of us making any dough or not? Although it's a faux pas to discuss such things, I told them that with little effort whatsoever I'd made around $2000 in a year from all sources (Amazon links, Google Ads, BlogAds, and donations), which I considered to be not so bad for a hobby. Compare it to baseball card collecting, or hot air ballooning, or bowling if you like. Mrs. Chester is a soon-to-be MD and devours her US Weekly every week. Celebrity trivia is her escape. Mine is thinking about the big stuff. I've never taken out a single ad, and as far as I know, few bloggers have. If Pajamas Media is doing financially well, then that speaks very highly of the medium: have they even placed a single ad on, say, AOL?
But beyond all those petty economic considerations, I think the idea that bloggers will fail unless they replace newspapers is ill-conceived. Those searching for signs of that outcome will certainly be disappointed. No, something else is happening . . . but what?
Glenn Reynolds points to a Guardian article which notes something curious, since as we've read above, blogs have already peaked:
Bloggers and internet pundits are exerting a "disproportionately large influence" on society, according to a report by a technology research company. Its study suggests that although "active" web users make up only a small proportion of Europe's online population, they are increasingly dominating public conversations and creating business trends . . .How to square this with the Financial Times piece above?
Although unprompted contributors are generally younger and more vocal than the wider online population, they are increasingly important as opinion formers and trend-setters. Mr Smith says businesses, media organisations and advertisers reading blogs should be wary of making assumptions about their wider significance, but that their muscle cannot be ignored.
The immensely popular book The Tipping Point identifies three types of people who are necessary for ideas to spread: salesmen, connectors, and mavens. Salesmen are, well, good at selling a given idea. Connectors are people who know a variety of other people, disproportionate to the rest of the population. Think of that one person in your workplace who knows everyone, or the friend you have who has always been good at networking and is never shy to meet new people and make the most tenuous of encounters last -- these are connectors. According to Malcolm Gladwell, the author, mavens are those who by nature are very opinionated about everything. They hold strong opinions about the big, the small, the great events of the day, and even the trivial. According to Gladwell, ideas begin to spread when mavens recommend them because regular folk know that a maven has special knowledge of his topic(s). (Ideas also spread when salesmen sell them or when connectors spread them.)
A maven may be opinionated and knowledgable about many things or only a few things. He might be a crank or a busybody, or a pleasant fellow who just loves to talk about one certain thing. Those around him know him as a maven. Gladwell's example is of the day he spends with a certain professor at the Univ. of Texas business school, who has recommendations on what restaurant they should visit, asks the waiter to move them to a better table, and if memory serves, gives recommendations on automobiles to Gladwell during their lunch.
A long time ago, I read an inflight magazine article about the Weather Channel. The network had done detailed marketing research into its audience. It found that a large number of viewers just wanted to know about the weather in their area -- while they got ready for work or school, for example. Another very large number were
curious to know what the weather was like in areas where they had family or close friends. But the largest group by far fell into a category that they called "weather-fixated." They just loved watching the weather channel and learning about weather in all its forms. They were weather fixated.
Bloggers are news-fixated mavens. This explains our outsized influence on the rest of the world. The vast majority of people don't visit RealClearPolitics or Instapundit 20 times a day, or keep track of the intricacies of whatever it is that we keep track of. Mrs. Chester and I have this conversation a lot: most people just don't care that much about all this stuff. They just live their lives -- quite happily -- and only delve into current events occasionally, or with the shallowest sustained involvement. There's nothing wrong with this. They aren't mavens.
I'd say bloggers represent the 2% of the population who are news-fixated mavens. Blog readers who don't write themselves are perhaps another 10-20%. They are much better informed than the rest of the public and pride themselves on it. And when the rest of the uninterested public needs an opinion, they turn to those who pride themselves on their opinions.
It's no wonder then that blogs are having an unusual impact upon opinions and opinion-making. If you know of this crazy guy who always thinks and reads and writes about cauliflower, 99% of the time you are going to ignore him. But if there ever comes a time when you desperately, urgently need detailed information about cauliflower, then you certainly know where to find him.
My hypothesis is that a similar dynamic is at work with the blogosphere.
I once had a boss at work -- you know, the kind of guy who skims USA Today every morning for five minutes -- come up to my cube and ask me what I thought about Iraq. As I explained it to Bill Roggio in an email later, I gave my boss the "10-minute Western Anbar treatment." Not sure if he walked away informed, confused, or just thinking, "wow, I won't make that mistake again." But if he ever needs to know more, he knows where to find me.
January 11, 2006
Executive Summary & Future Research Opportunity?
[Scroll to the bottom of this post for the Executive Summary of the Oxford & York Conference, "Media and Technology in the Age of the Blogger," which I attended in New York in October.]
I'm starting a new book:
Bernard Bailyn, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, winner of the Pulitzer and Bancroft Prizes, 1967. From the forward:
This book has developed from a study that was first undertaken a number of years ago, when Howard Mumford Jones, then Editor-in-Chief of the John Harvard Library, invited me to prepare a collection of pamphlets of the American Revolution for publication in that series . . .And from the preface:
. . . The pamphlets include all sorts of writings -- treatises on political theory, essays on history, political arguments, sermons, correspondence, poems -- and they display all sorts of literary devices. But for all their variety they have in common one distinctive characteristic: they are, to an unusual degree explanatory. They reveal not merely positions taken but the reasons why positions were taken; they reveal motive and understanding: the assumptions, beliefs, and ideas -- the articulated world view -- that lay behind the manifest events of the time. As a result, I found myself, as I read through these many documents, studying not simply a particular medium of publication but, through these documents, nothing less than the ideological origins of the American Revolution.
Study of the pamphlets confirmed my rather old-fashioned view that the American Revolution was above all else an ideological, constitutional, political struggle, and not primarily a controversy between social groups undertaken to force changes in the organization of society of the economy.
. . . the spokesmen of the Revolution -- the pamphleteers, essayists, and miscellaneous commentators -- were not philosophers and they did not form a detached intelligentsia. They were active politicians, merchants, lawyers, plantation owners, and preachers, and they were not attempting to align their thought with that of major figures in the history of political philosophy whom modern scholars would declare to have been seminal . . . They would have been surprised to hear that they had fallen into so neat a pattern in the history of political thought. They believed that any political system, certainly all republics, had to be based in some significant degree on virtue, but they had no illusions about the virtue of ordinary people, and all of them believed in the basic value of personal property, its preservation and the fostering of economic growth. They were both "civic humanists" and "liberals," though with different emphases at different times and in different circumstances. And indeed it is the flexibility of their ideas, the complex variations that could be harmoniously composed on the main themes, that has proven the most impressive product of the later studies of Revolutionary ideology.
For those who are interested, here's a PDF Executive Summary from the conference I attended in October, "Media and Technology in the Age of the Blogger". It's about 700kb, which will eat up my bandwidth, so first come, first served, until I start running out of my monthly quota. Then I'll be happy to forward it to anyone who requests by email. I think it's a great document, summing up the gist of each panel, and the major themes in each, very well:
This is my first PDF, so if it doesn't work . . . I'll have to give it another shot.
UPDATE: Thanks to Sparky at Developer Food for letting me use his site and bandwidth to continue hosting this document.
November 19, 2005
ThreatsWatch.Org Goes Live!
ThreatsWatch.Org, a new kind of information service and information company, founded by Bill Roggio of The Fourth Rail, Marvin Hutchens of Little Red Blog, and Steve Schippert of The Word Unheard, has gone live. Go check it out.
I know these three have worked very long and very hard to kick this new organization off -- I also know that Bill's imminent departure to Iraq has thrown some kinks in their plans. But I think the site looks great. I'm adding it to my blogroll and can't wait to see what they do with it.
November 6, 2005
New additions to the Blogroll & Reading Links
New additions, which I've been reading periodically for months:
Also, here's some good stuff:
1. The Atlantic Monthly carries an interview with Robert Kaplan, Warriors for Good.
2. ZenPundit has loads of stuff about the Paris riots, or French Intifadah, whichever you prefer.
4. Baggage Claim: The Myth of Suitcase Nukes was in Opinionjournal.com last Monday and though I've printed all 9 pages of it, and haven't read it yet, I bet many of you would like to see it. So check it out.
5. On the bookshelf: I'm currently reading this:
and man is it good. Stasists, reactionaries, technocrats and dynamists. Which are you? I'll post a full review when done.
6. I just finished this:
and it was phenomenal. I've read three old Robert Littell spy novels this year and every one has been a treat. I'm scared to read too many more because I don't want to run out. Each one is like a little morsel meant to be savored. Full or intrigue, backstabbing, and of course interesting trysts and tete-a-tetes. Littell makes his characters all too real and all too human.
November 2, 2005
Conference Notes 4
A big issue that was raised to Roger Simon in his keynote address as the recent conference in New York was whether PajamasMedia would provide liability insurance to its bloggers, or indemnify its advertisers. I wasn't sure how to take these: on the one hand, I thought they played rather well into conceptions more about bloggers as journalists or reporters -- and therefore having a possibility of getting things wrong and getting sued -- than of what I perceive to be more the reality: bloggers are opinion-makers, who observe the stories of journalists and then comment upon them.
digg is a pretty cool site that lets you submit links, and those that get the highest number of "diggs" from other users rise to the front page. I wish they had an open-source version of this software -- I'd love to use it for an idea I've had since March. If anyone out there with some programming skills might be interested in spitballing a little on this, please email me.
October 27, 2005
Conference Report #2
[I'm going to write a little at a time about the recent Media, Communications & Technology in the Age of the Blogger conference. So, a post here and there about it over the next few days -- with two caveats: first, I'm not a reporter and though I write a lot and interpret quite a bit, I don't report on actual events very often, so if something needs clarification or even correcting, please let me know. Second, I'm still in New York til Sunday and plan to see the City a bit with Mrs. Chester. So, I won't be doing any super long posts . . . but of course will pick up in full on Monday.]
The morning panel featured two news executives, one from the Financial Times, and one from Reuters and two music executives. I thought that one of the more intriguing things to come out of the panel was to be found in the comments of Robin Johnson, who heads Financial Times - Americas. He mentioned the phenomenon of the wisdom of crowds, how the aggregate is smarter than any one expert, and the relationship between this concept and the "blogosphere" as a social phenomenon.
This was very interesting to me. Over the past few weeks, I've become enamored of prediction markets -- markets in event futures. These allow people to bet -- er, invest -- in the yes or no outcome of a given event. If you were around during the period when I live-blogged the Iraqi Constitutional Referendum for example, you may remember frequent references to the futures market for the referendum outcome, at the time found at Intrade Trading Exchange. The whole idea is that a market in a given idea is, at any point, smarter than any one person. As the blogosphere explodes, and all "new media" explode, and the whole world becomes more fragmented, I would be surprised if more technologies designed to track various forms of public sentiment don't become available. There's an interesting tangent to be discussed there about democracy in general: if tools to track public sentiment proliferate -- and are much more complex than the mere poll -- then how will this affect the process, or even conception of representative government? I think that could be a sleeper issue in all of this . . .
Mr. Johnson also focused on the importance of new technologies to tag data, to find metadata, to search for links between data, and to contextualize data; he was talking about news specifically, but made the point that such technologies could be spread to other forms of data as well. Now this was very interesting because of its similarities to the kinds of technologies that In-Q-Tel is funding. In-Q-Tel is a public-private venture capital fund, created by the government specifically to fund technology companies that offer promising tools to the US intelligence community. Here's how they describe themselves:
In-Q-Tel was established in 1999 as an independent, private, not-for-profit company to help the CIA and the greater US Intelligence Community (IC) to identify, acquire, and deploy cutting-edge technologies. In-Q-Tel's open and entrepreneurial venture capital model gives it the agility - lacking within traditional government contracting approaches - to help the IC benefit from the rapid pace of change in information technology and other emerging technology fields.Ever heard of Google Maps? Before Google bought it, it was called Keyhole. Going to www.keyhole.com now redirects to Google Earth. But both Google companies use the mapping technology of Keyhole. Well, Keyhole was initially funded by In-Q-Tel, for obvious reasons -- the role of mapping and imagery in intelligence collection needs no explanation.
In-Q-Tel's mission is to deliver leading-edge capabilities to the CIA and the IC by investing in the development of promising technologies. Because early-stage technologies are often unproven, In-Q-Tel takes the calculated risks necessary to develop, prove, and deliver them to the Intelligence Community.
Getting back to the point, the kinds of technologies that In-Q-Tel seems to be interested in funding seem highly related to the kinds of needs for search, tagging, link analysis, etc that are likely to grow in the consumer market and in the news and information industries as well. Here's what In-Q-Tel lists as its focuses:
Knowledge ManagementI can't imagine how most of those ideas would not be relevant to the media business . . . and at the same time, as another participant noted, it's kind of "spooky" to think about.
Search and Discovery
Security and Privacy
Distributed Data Collection
and Geospatial Technology.
Well, I'll offer some more thoughts tomorrow . . .
Well, the conference concluded today and was fascinating . . . I'll have more to write later tonight and over the next few days. Lots of material . . .
October 26, 2005
Media, Communications and Technology in the Age of the Blogger
This evening marked the opening of the conference I'm attending in New York. Roger L. Simon of Pajamas Media gave the introductory remarks and I have some notes from his talk. I'll have to just toss them out there for now, then do some follow-up later:
"Rather and CBS were big jerks. That's not to say we aren't jerks. We are. But now we're jerks with a company."
Some things he revealed:
The new launch of Pajamas Media, with a new name, will be November 16th, in New York, at the Rainbow Room. One of the big speakers will be Judith Miller.
Pajamas has hired Princeton Research to do a lot of polling on how Americans feel about politics. Many of the results are surprising, but he wouldn't reveal any for now.
Pajamas plans to offer both live news feeds and a "best of the blogs" type of content. They plan to use a model of "editorial selection" of posts -- not editing actual content.
The place where Roger really thinks new media is headed is: "plastics."
Just kidding. Actually, video. They think video-casting or v-blogging is the wave of the future.
He said that between the mainstream media, bloggers, TV, podcasting, video, etc, that what would result is the emergence of true talent, as the cream rises to the top.
I'll have to sum up more of the crowd reaction later, but it was significant: lots of very detailed questions. All told, a great start to an interesting gathering.
October 19, 2005
Kinds of Blogging "Actors"
In preparation for the New Media & Entertainment Summit I'm attending next week, I did a little noodling on what kinds of "actors" there are out here in the free market that is the blogosphere. Not all are blogs per se, but still can be characterized as "new media." So here's some thoughts:
The on the ground reporter, living off donations & grants: Michael Yon
A free-lance reporter who has snagged complete corporate sponsorship: Kevin Sites in the Hot Zone From Yahoo! News
A network of blogs, each with varying content, organized from the bottom up (and a work in progress): Pajamas Media in Transition - Information Site
News & opinion aggregation with some commentary: RealClearPolitics
News aggregation on a very focused topic, with no commentary: Iraq Elections newswire
Pick a blog, any blog: any of a number of quality, consistent bloggers, who write about whatever strikes their fancies, but which generally fall into a handful of main categories. Here's a couple: Cella's Review, Gates of Vienna, The Belmont Club.
Kind of like blogging, but more about info aggregation: About.com
The anchor/master of ceremonies: Instapundit.com
What other forms of new internet media am I missing? A commenter the other day brought up forums as something he likes to visit. I don't visit many of these, but perhaps this is a good one [ht: the indispensible ZenPundit, who is like an extension of my own consciousness] Small Wars Council. Are there other forms of new internet media that you use that I've skipped over? I know my categories above sort of paper over things a bit, and probably create some false boundaries too, and reflect largely what I read myself -- someone who's totally into cooking would use completely different examples -- but it seems like a good start.
UPDATE: Of course, someone did a study once and found that, what -- 95%? -- of blogs are personal journals read by very few folks. Here's one that seems rather popular, which I just discovered in the Truth Laid Bear stats.
October 16, 2005
Discussion: Media, Communications and Technology in the Age of the Blogger
Loyal Readers, as I've mentioned before, in a couple of weeks' time, I'll be participating in the conference, "Media, Communication and Technology in the Age of the Blogger," to be held in New York October 26th and 27th.
Here's the conference website. Looks like it will be a lot of fun, and I sure am humbled to be invited. If all works out, I plan to live-blog a bit while there, which is super exciting cause I've never blogged anything on location before.
A discussion topic: what do all you readers out there think of the blogging phenomenon? where is it headed? what keeps you reading? if you were a blogger, how would you try to make a living? or would you keep it as a hobby and not sully yourself with mammon? I've, of course, got strong opinions about all of these things, but I'd love to hear what all of you think.
What will the future of media be? How can an old media company change itself for the better to keep ahead of things? I'm sure all of these things will be topics of much conversation at the conference and I think they make for a fun discussion.
What do you think?
September 22, 2005
Blog Interview: Arthur Chrenkoff
Arthur Chrenkoff is a man who needs no introduction. He is an Australian blogger who pioneered the Good News From Iraq series. Just today, The Boston Globe did a great story on the success of this series. Arthur has now had to hang up his keyboard for professional reasons, but his series has spawned a new website altogether, Good News from the Front, which aims to carry the torch.
I wanted to know more about him, and Arthur was kind enough to agree to an interview with me. So here it is, conducted by email from Texas to Australia:
CHESTER: First, the basics: how old are you, and in what industry do you work?
CHRENKOFF: 33, politics (if politics can be called an industry!).
CHESTER: What was it like to grow up in Poland?
CHRENKOFF: Interesting. As P J O’Rourke wrote about Eastern European communism when he visited Poland in 1986, a year before I left: “Communism doesn’t really starve or execute that many people. Mostly it just bores them to death.” So my childhood was not one of gulags and mass graves, but more of decay and frustration. Still, living in a country where telling a joke can lose you a job, and where you have to queue up for hours to buy toilet paper, has been an invaluable learning experience – it made me deeply appreciate democracy, freedom and free market; things that too many people in the West take for granted.
CHESTER: Where were you educated, in Poland, Australia, or elsewhere? What did you study and why?
CHRENKOFF: I went to primary school in Krakow, Poland – it has a Pol Potesque name Primary School Number 1. Then I went to high school and university in Brisbane, Australia. I’ve done Batchelor of Arts, majoring in Government (International Relations), Bachelor of Laws, and then, for the fun of it, PhD in law. Still asking myself that “why?” question.
CHESTER: When did you learn English? Growing up in Poland, or since moving to Australia?
CHRENKOFF: Before I came to Australia I knew maybe 100 English words and some very basic grammar. It was a steep learning curve for the first few months Down Under. It helped – immensely – that I have always loved reading, so I just switched from Polish to English language books. It did wonders for my vocabulary, but nothing for my accent.
CHESTER: Before starting blogging, had you written a lot? For newspapers, or opinion pieces or other stuff?
CHRENKOFF: Not really – at least nothing mainstream. I have written a lot for various small party political publications. Blogging was a revelation, because it suddenly allowed me to write to the whole world, not just to a handful of people in Queensland.
CHESTER: Are you a “man of letters” or maybe as a blogger, a “man of emails?”
CHRENKOFF: I would be, if I had time. I’m amazed at all the famous people in the past, including famous politicians, who somehow managed, on top of their very busy schedules, to leave us volumes upon volumes of private correspondence. How did they manage? All my emails consist of single sentences.
CHESTER: You’ve posted links to your fiction on your blog. Do you see a future in writing?
CHRENKOFF: It would be nice, but the odds of an unknown having his or her first novel published are similar to those of being struck by lightning. Maybe not quite, but in the United States for every one thousand manuscripts, only two ever end up as books. So unless you’re already quite famous in another field and have sufficient name recognition (like, for example, Newt Gingrich or Tara Moss), the publishers are very reluctant to risk touching you.
CHESTER: Why did you move to Australia? Have you had other significant experiences overseas?
CHRENKOFF: My family left Poland in 1987, two years “before the wall came down”, but to us on the inside it certainly did not look like anything would change anytime soon, so my parents, like millions before them, made the decision to seek a better future elsewhere. We lived for sixteen months in Italy while waiting to come to Australia, which was a great experience.
CHESTER: Any observations on life in Australia? Why is it good, or not good, or different than you imagined it would be, for better or worse?
CHRENKOFF: Great. We’ve had family in Australia, so I must have been the only child in Poland who could draw the map of Australia, divide it into states and put all the capital cities in correct places. So, I knew what the expect. I love my hometown Brisbane, and the whole south east corner of Queensland. It’s a bit of a cross between California and Florida, undergoing a huge population growth (Brisbane will triple in size over the next twenty years, from 1 to 3 million people) and a related growth in opportunities.
CHESTER: You’ve written about “post-totalitarianism disorder” in its relation to Afghanistan and Iraq. What is this and did you ever suffer from this same disorder in Poland?
CHRENKOFF: Post-totalitarian stress disorder is a mental and spiritual condition afflicting most if not all of those who had to live under a dictatorship and now have to adjust themselves to a free society. Totalitarian life engenders certain habits and thought processes, such as hostility to the state and the authorities, distrust and lack of cooperation with fellow citizens, loss of personal initiative, etc. All this means that even once you change the society’s hardware – the institutions - the software obstinately remaining inside people’s heads and hearts will make the transition a difficult and frustrating process. And it’s the same the world over, whether it’s Iraq and Afghanistan, or Poland and Cambodia – so yes, even I am not immune in some respects.
CHESTER: Do you return to Poland frequently? What is life like there now as opposed to when you were there last?
CHRENKOFF: I’ve only been back twice, ten years after I left for about a month, and more recently for a few days. I try to keep in touch with the family though. There is no doubt that the transition to democracy and free market was quite painful, and that it will take decades before Poland catches up to Western European living standards, but the changes have been immense and largely for the better. Still, there is a lot of impatience and frustration among the people right now, but unfortunately there aren’t any magic solutions.
CHESTER: How did you become a conservative?
CHRENKOFF: I was always a conservative to the extent of being strongly anti-totalitarian, but way back in 1993, three books made me a “movement” conservative: P J O’Rourke’s “Holidays in Hell”, Michael Medved’s “Hollywood versus America” and William A Rusher’s “The Rise of the Right”. I read them and I thought: this is my home, these are my people.
CHESTER: Let’s talk about the war for a bit. How do you see it progressing? What’s your opinion? Are you optimistic?
CHRENKOFF: Overall, the war is going well, but it’s going to be a long one, which is why all the people who think it’s a disaster because four years on Osama is still at large and Iraq is not Vermont should take a cold shower – and stay there. That’s another good thing about having grown up in a country like Poland – it gives you a historical perspective and the understanding that most processes last longer than a news cycle, that there will be ups and downs, two steps forward and one step back, one step forward and two steps back – but the struggle will go on.
CHESTER: How do you feel about jihad in Southeast Asia? Is it on the rise? Is it a future battleground?
CHRENKOFF: There’s ongoing violence in southern Thailand and in the Philippines, and Jemaah Islamiah has got a strong presence in Indonesia, as evident from the Bali bombing in 2002 and the more recent attack on the Australian embassy in Jakarta. That’s the bad news. The good news is that Muslim societies in Southeast Asia are generally quite moderate, and radicals enjoy limited electoral appeal. Of course, you don’t need to be a mass movement to cause trouble, but a resurrected Caliphate in the region is not a widely popular vision.
CHESTER: How did the “Good News In Iraq” and “Good News in Afghanistan” series get started? How did you get picked up by Opinionjournal.com?
CHRENKOFF: One day I simply got sick of continuous barrage of bad news and thought to myself – surely, logic alone would suggest that there must be some good things happening; so where are they? And I started looking around the internet. A few hours later I had the core of the first round-up, which I updated over the next few days and then published. Some of the stories were from the mainstream media, but often overlooked in the rush of bad news (a terrorist attack usually gets covered by hundreds of media outlets, a comparable piece of good news by only half a dozen of sources), some of it was from the authorities and the NGOs and didn’t even get into the media in the first place. So I quickly realized that there was indeed a lot of good news coming out, but the reporting was so diffuse that it simply wasn’t having much impact on the public.
As for “The Opinion Journal”, it was a simple case of “link whoring” known to every blogger. I sent James Taranto links to the first two round-ups and he included them in his daily “Best of the Web” segmeny. Upon the third or fourth time, he emailed back saying: it doesn’t make much sense me just linking to your stuff – why don’t we publish a complete round-up instead? And the rest is history.
CHESTER: What do you think are the obstacles to getting the good news out?
CHRENKOFF: Partly, it’s an institutional bias in favor of bad news, the proverbial “if it bleeds, it leads” newsroom attitude. Whether it’s Boston or Baghdad, the media prefers to report on violence, crime, corruption, and controversy because it seems more newsworthy and more serious than good news. But there is clearly an ideological bias – whether against the United States, against any Republican administration, against a forceful foreign policy, or against the military. There are also more innocent explanations – ignorance, as well as logistical problems – reports quite often simply are not in the right place at the right time to report on positive developments.
CHESTER: Have you read any constructive criticism of your Good News efforts from the left? Has anyone offered some sort of insight that made you change the content, focus, or something else about it? Or has it all been silently received on the left? I'm sure you've received lots of emails about it . . .
CHRENKOFF: Plenty of criticsim but nothing that made me change my direction. The critics don't seem to have read very carefully what I've written – I never claimed that that bad things are not happening or that all is well is Iraq, and I never made claims that the good news I pull together outweighs all the bad news - that's a decision for the readers to make, but they can only make that sort of an informed decision after they have in front of them both sides of the story. There is a widespread feeling on the left that to report bad news is a duty, but to report good news is propaganda.
CHESTER: If you were in charge of public affairs at the Pentagon, how would you do the job? What would you do differently than is being done today?
CHRENKOFF: It’s a tough one, because large sections of the public, and most of the media, are pretty skeptical of the military authorities and their message. So from one point of view, Pentagon could do ten times as much as it’s currently doing, and do it in ten different ways, but the media filter would still find ways to ignore or downplay the message.
On the other hand, embedding journalists is one of the best media strategies around. During the initial stages of war, almost 800 journalists were attached to various military units; now it’s only 30. Living and working alongside the troops gives journalists an invaluable perspective - a much better understanding of all the realities as well as of the people. Not only is it a useful counterbalance to the usually uninformed and dismissive reporting of military matters, but it also gets the reporters to where the action is. The media have missed out on so many good news stories – of security successes, of reconstruction, of winning hearts and minds – because they simply weren’t there “at the coalface” with the troops.
Also, if the mainstream media is part of the problem and not the solution, than you should diversify and try to utilize the new media to get the message across – talk radio, blogs, etc.
CHESTER: What’s the future of all this – the media that is? Papers, journalists, blogs, TV – the whole shooting match. Where will it all be in 5 or 10 years?
CHRENKOFF: Ah, if I knew the answer I would be a very rich man – in 5 or 10 years.
CHESTER: Have you ever been to the US? You are certainly welcome in Texas anytime.
CHRENKOFF: No, but would love to one day, and even better, to take a few months off and drive across the country from east to west. Texas, of course, would be on my route.
CHESTER: Thanks very much for your time!
CHRENKOFF: Pleasure – thanks for having me.
June 25, 2005
MAKE: A new magazine subscription
The first issue has an interesting article noting that the time is coming for do-it-yourself vehicles, and then the author goes on to compare different vehicle platforms that might make good "open-source" automobile bases. He ends with this interesting note:
A true people's car is doable. It just needs a Linus Torvalds (or maybe 20) and a user community. But before we throw down our Linux boxes to save the world with a publicly built 100 mpg tank, here's the biggest catch: legislation and registration. Most kit cars fly under the radar because the are registered as the original vehicle of the chassis "donor". A recent Californian bill allows for "special Construction" vehicles, but it's limited to 500 per year, and the demand already exceeds the allotment.This got me to thinking of the similarities between the regulatory issues mentioned and those of the FEC's would-be regulation of political speech on the internet (see all the special commentary on this topic at RedState.org).
Unless a new popular donor chassis is appropriated from industry, a group or organization would have to agree on a chassis/body and have it crash tested. This is an expensive process, but NOT IMPOSSIBLE.
If the do-it-yourself trend is on the rise, then it seems that one of two possibilities will occur with regard to the resulting regulation of "do-it-yourself" activities and commerce: either the regulations that restrict human behavior will become increasingly complicated, abundant, impenetrable and asinine. or they will be swept away as fed-up DIY'ers grow in political power and lobby their politicians to repeal them.
There is a whole host of issues that this applies to: the regulation of blogging, and build-at-home cars being but the tip of the iceberg. I don't know how it will play out, but I have a feeling that increasingly complicated regulations will also have an increasing number of loopholes to exploit, such that the sum total effect of such regulations might be negligible -- though they'll certainly piss off a large number of innovative and creative people in the process.
Woe be unto the government at whatever level that tries to cut off human creativity.
As I've said before, the state is welcome to regulate my blog when they pry it from my cold dead hands.
Incidentally, MAKE is a great magazine, whether you are the tinkering kind or not. Even though my tinkering is limited to the blog-and-html-kind (do-it-yourself opinions, I suppose), it still gives me a good feeling to know that I can flip open the magazine and learn how to make an aerial camera from a kite and a disposable Kodak. This would be a great magazine to have lying around if you have kids that like to tinker too, I imagine.
May 5, 2005
The Blogosphere Triumphs Again!
This is very cool. Last week I mentioned the raging yet informed and civil debate taking place between Dadmanly, a conservative serving in Iraq, and Liberal Avenger, a leftie who opposes the war. Well, now they've teamed up and started a new blog just so they can continue debating each other: Debate Space
Actual informed debate, without shouting, roundtables, pundits, or commercials.
March 4, 2005
Well folks, I'm back after a bit of an unintended hiatus. Work's been killer, a visit from the in-laws happened, a few things around the house for Mrs. Chester needed attending. You know. Life. There is more in heaven and earth than is dreamt of in your blogosphere, Horatio. A word of caution: work will be picking up again soon, and there is a good chance I will shortly begin one or two significant non-work projects, neither of which I can speak about here except to say that one is very very blog-centric, and the other is very, very war-centric. And that's all I'm at liberty to say for now . . .
Note: I'm about to shorten the Newswire on this page to just the top story, but you can still access the rest if you click through.
So, since most everyone else is revving up to defend all of blogdom from the troglodyte FEC bureaucrats and their draconian moronic henchmen in the court system, I'm going to make the next post about the two most under-reported, or at least under-considered stories of the week.
And, if this whole thing about the coming crackdown on blogging, and the absolute inane silliness that it will feature does in fact come to pass, I have but one thing to say to the FEC:
You can have my blog when you pry it out of my cold dead hands.
Soon after the conflict began, at the request of the Anglo-Celtic leaders, the ladies of the settlement hastily made a flag to fly over the cannon. The flag featured a white ground with a black cannon in the center, and the motto "Come and take it!" above and below.]In fact, I have created a special page here at The Adventures of Chester, just to entice the FEC to regulate, fine, suppress or arrest me.
This page will remain in place indefinitely.
February 17, 2005
The next time I update my blogroll, it will definitely include this one: Publius Pundit - Blogging the democratic revolution. This blog is dedicated to "finding stories and commentary from news sources and blogs from all over the world relating to the progress of free, democratic elections. It encourages its readers and other bloggers to submit relevant links for posting, as this aims to be a blog that networks many specialized blogs in a common cause." Looks like great work there so far. Publius has a great international blogroll too.
February 16, 2005
"Blog" mentioned on Senate floor for first time in history today
Sen John Cornyn (R-TX) (hat-tip: PoliPundit):
THE NEWS MEDIA, OF COURSE, IS THE MAIN WAY THAT PEOPLE GET INFORMATION ABOUT GOVERNMENT. THE MEDIA PUSHES GOVERNMENT ENTITIES AND ELECTED OFFICIALS, BUREAUCRATS AND AGENCIES TO RELEASE INFORMATION THE PEOPLE HAVE THE RIGHT TO KNOW. OCCASIONALLY EXPOSING WASTE, FRAUD, AND ABUSE, AND HOPEFULLY MORE OFTEN THAN THAT, LETTING THE AMERICAN PEOPLE KNOW WHAT A GOOD JOB THEIR PUBLIC OFFICIALS ARE DOING.I presume wasn't yelling, by the way. The transcript is just in all caps.
BUT WE'VE ALSO SEEN IN RECENT YEARS THE EXPANSION OF OTHER OUTLETS FOR SHARING INFORMATION OUTSIDE THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA, TO ONLINE COMMUNITIES, DISCUSSION GROUPS AND BLOGS.
I BELIEVE ALL THESE OUTLETS ARE -- CAN AND DO CONTRIBUTE TO THE HEALTH OF OUR POLITICAL DEMOCRACY. BUT LET ME MAKE THIS CLEAR, MR. PRESIDENT, THIS IS NOT JUST A BILL FOR THE MEDIA, LEST ANYBODY BE CONFUSED. THIS IS A BILL THAT WILL BENEFIT EVERY MAN, WOMAN AND CHILD IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA WHO CARES ABOUT THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, CARES ABOUT HOW THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT OPERATES, AND ULTIMATELY CARES ABOUT THE SUCCESS OF THIS GREAT DEMOCRACY.
The Major Media Continues to Show Itself as a Large Slow-moving Oaf Around Blogs. You Just Can't Make This Stuff Up
For every good sign that major media won't die a horrible death like this:
“Connected” will respond directly to viewers’ comments and questions, and provide the experts and analysis to help viewers get the questions they ask answered. Reagan and Crowley will also contribute blogs to their website, Connected.MSNBC.com; the site will feature guest blogs, video blogs and citizen journalists, who will be featured on the site and on-air.There is an equally disturbing one like this[Truly a must read. Check out the whole thing.]:
NOTE to those of you who normally skip the Tulsa stuff here: Please read this entry. This is not just about the sordid little world of Tulsa politics. This is the old media trying to intimidate their critics in the new media into silence. It has repercussions for any blogger engaged in media criticism. It strikes at the heart of what blogs do. I'd appreciate your help in putting the blogosphere's spotlight of shame on this legal threat.Hat-tip to Daniel Drezner yet again, who is so kind as to provide a link to the email address of the Tulsa World.
By the way, USMC_Vet over at The Word Unheard plans to offer a critique of the new MSNBC show shortly, I believe ("Psst! USMC_Vet! Wake up! I'm sending traffic your way!")
Personally, I just set TiVo to record the show. Looks to be a creative attempt to incorporate blogs into major media. Worth a shot and kudos to MSNBC for doing it first. Anyone see footage of Judy Woodruff talking to Howie Kurtz about the blogosphere recently? Judy looked like she had just heard of the word "blog" in her briefing notes before going on the air. [Sigh] I should expect more out of a fellow Blue Devil and Duke trustee emerita.
February 2, 2005
"Taking Kos Seriously"
The Weekly Standard's Daily Standard today carriesthis piece, by Dean Barnett, who notes the popularity of the liberal blog, The Daily Kos, and notes the ascendancy of both the blog and Kos himself in Democratic circles.
More recently Senator Barbara Boxer, sent a fawning note thanking the Daily Kos community for its support in her courageous and lonely efforts to speak truth to power. She fondly recalled a chat she had with two Kos contributors and concluded by proclaiming: "I look forward to future interactions with the Daily Kos community. I hope to have the time to drop by here and participate in the discussion from time to time--I value your input, and I thank you for caring so much about the future of our country."
Yes, Kos is definitely on a roll. This week, under the headline "They Finally Fear Us," Kos excerpted a Los Angeles Times story which reported that in spite of some unease with the idea of a Dean chairmanship, prominent Democrats were loath to speak out against the Vermont governor, lest they enrage the increasingly powerful lobby of Internet activists personified and led by Kos. As Kos astutely summarized the situation, the Internet activists are in the process of achieving parity with special interest groups like NARAL, the unions, and the NAACP. What he doesn't point out is that those groups for the most part maxed out long ago in terms of power and influence. The Kos community is still in its infancy.
In recent days, Kos has begun suggesting that someone challenge conservative Democrat Joe Lieberman in the 2006 Democratic primary. Given Kos's recent successes, Lieberman would be wise to not take this threat lightly.
Many in the conservative blogosphere have been quick to label Kos a "moon bat" because of his unforgiving left-wing politics and his strident tone. Kos in turn dismisses these critics as "wing nuts." (Who says dialogue in the blogosphere isn't edifying?) This kind of juvenile give and take, however, obscures the vital fact that Moulitsas leads an influential movement, a movement whose influence is likely to grow even larger.
Whether or not that's good for the Democratic party remains to be seen.
February 1, 2005
The Blogosphere is Moving on Up
In today's Current News Service, also known as "The Early Bird," (accessible to active and reserve members of DoD) there appears amongst the regular news and opinion pieces from the major dailies, this solitary post from Alaa, an Iraqi blogger, who authors The Mesopotamian:
Greetings Friends,This is great news for the blogosphere. Seems like a great idea for the Early Bird to cover blogger opinion. Interesting that they chose an Iraqi for the first. Alaa is a good blogger. Who else will they cover?
I bow in respect and awe to the men and women of our people who, armed only with faith and hope are going to the polls under the very real threats of being blown to pieces. These are the real braves; not the miserable creatures of hate who are attacking one of the noblest things that has ever happened to us. Have you ever seen anything like this? Iraq will be O.K. with so many brave people, it will certainly O.K.; I can say no more just now; I am just filled with pride and moved beyond words. People are turning up not only under the present threat to polling stations but also under future threats to themselves and their families; yet they are coming, and keep coming. Behold the Iraqi people; now you know their true metal. We shall never forget the meanness of these bas…s. After this is over there will be no let up, they must be wiped out. It is our duty and the duty of every decent human to make sure this vermin is no more and that no more innocent decent people are victimized.
My condolences to the Great American people for the tragic recent losses of soldiers. The blood of Iraqis and Americans is being shed on the soil of Mesopotamia; a baptism with blood. A baptism of a lasting friendship and alliance, for many years to come, through thick and thin, we shall never forget the brave soldiers fallen while defending our freedom and future.
This is a very hurried message, while we are witnessing something quite extraordinary. I myself have voted and so did members of my family. Thank God for giving us the chance.
Salaam for now
A withdrawal of some earlier criticism of the Early Bird, back in November, from this post might even be in order:
The Early Bird has made two changes:Last week, by the way, one of Wretchard's posts made it into RealClearPolitics. The blending of blogging and traditional media continues afoot . . .
1. The Main edition is now available 7 days a week.
2. The Supplemental edition has been scrapped completely.
While making the Main edition available on weekends is nice, I think scrapping the Supplement is a mistake. The Main edition is filled with stories from the major newspapers -- NY Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles, etc. These papers make up around 60-70% of the content of the Main edition. The Supplement on the other hand always had stories from local papers, foreign papers, and not just papers, but magazines and journals as well. The Supplement also carried stories that were behind-the-scenes and more in-depth, as opposed to the headline-grabbing stuff you see in the Main edition. The result is that the stories in the Main edition are nearly always told from the same angle or reporting slant, whereas those in the Supplement were varied and much more interesting (I once read a translated interview with Donald Rumsfeld from the French press in the Supplement -- very enlightening). The bottom line is that the Supplement was an outstanding repository of open-source news about defense issues, whereas the Main edition is just a wave-top view of current headlines, with all of the predictable left-media spin.
I know this is irrelevant to many of my readers, but you never know who in the Pentagon might read my blog. Maybe they'll change their minds.
January 31, 2005
DeepBlog.com: An Easy Guide & Portal to Great Blogs is a great new place to find all kinds of blogs.
January 30, 2005
Great Political Cartoon Site
Day By Day by Chris Muir is a political cartoon site. It is awesome. Check out today's cartoon and some of the past work. Great stuff. Be sure to move your cursor over the blog title too.
January 28, 2005
A new milblog: "I Should Have Stayed Home"
A new milblog has appeared and gotten some good coverage this week. I Should Have Stayed Home... is authored by two individuals working in Baghdad who give little personal info about themselves:
Two guys working in Iraq doing their best to clue you in on the ground truth.From the content of their posts, they seem to be in a bodyguard role, possibly contracted or US Special Forces. Very interesting on-the-ground info from each. Check it out. [hat-tip: Mudville Gazette]