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Shout outs… and what I’ve learned about blogging

Two of the bloggers I respect the most, Browfemipower and Nubian from blac(k)ademic, both of whom participated in the 2006 Allied Media Conference, have both moved their blogspot blogs to their own, self-hosted sites. That’s awesome.

It affirms a piece of advice I’ve shared with a couple of friends who recently started blogging: omnicrisis, and Zapagringo: start out with an independent url. It only costs $9 from godaddy.com, which offers free redirects. That way, when you’re ready to leave your mass-host behind, you will already have a separate identity. And you won’t be advertising your host as much in the meantime.

I haven’t been blogging for very long, though I have been supporting online journalism for quite a while through Indymedia (global, US, and NYC) and such. Before this blog, I was a writer for RNCwatch and CounterRecruiter.net (thanks to Mike Burke) but those were issue blogs, which is kind of different than finding a personal voice. Nevertheless, I’ve learned a few things and the first is that you share what you know as soon as possible because if you hold onto your knowledge it will just become outdated.

In addition to those two points – independent urls and say it now – here are some other things I was told or learned myself:

  1. your voice is more unique than you think (Steve)
  2. self-promotion (it is America, after all)
    - syndication (as through Indyblogs, NYC IMC, Philly IMC, and Philly Future)
    - linking: give and ye shall receive (remember to link to your own previous posts)
    - commenting: same thing; comments on a blog are like testimonials on Friendster
    - email. Some people send out a first notice to all of their contacts right away. I would wait until you’ve been at it for a while. Then send out a link to a particularly hot post and let people find the other good stuff on your site. If there is a person or group/listserv you want to read a particular article, send it out just to them.
  3. regular readers will use RSS readers, so make sure your feed(s) are easy to find
  4. post at least once a week (Sascha); don’t be afraid to take a break, but then get back into it
  5. work on multiple posts at the same time, save drafts
  6. if you finish a post after noon, save it and publish it in the morning
  7. you already write more than you think; turn your IM chats or your email exchanges or your drunken rants into posts
  8. do something to stand out and stay on target (Jed)
  9. having an independent host is easier than you think (Steve)
  10. having a platform of any kind obligates you to speak out on the most pressing issues of the day
  11. don’t be afraid to say something that’s been said, especially if you were the one who said it; repetition is the lifeblood of blogging (but give credit with links, especially if you were the one who said it)
  12. the digitization of the public sphere is the new jim crow (Antwuan, Brownfemipower)

Building on that last point, it’s important to support other people finding their own voice and platform. If all you see around you is dudes starting up blogs, you gotta do something about that. Don’t censor yourself. As I used to say when people complained that too much of Indymedia’s content was from the US, don’t push for less of the content you don’t want, push for more of the content you do want. In the scheme of things, we’re all still censored compared to corporate media and wealthy people.

On the other hand, some people might actually have something better or just different to do, even if they’re good writers, like Kat and Hannah. (I love it when they do post, though.) If blogging doesn’t float your boat or serve your long-term interests, I understand why you wouldn’t bother. So don’t push anyone too hard to do it.

But when someone does get started, give whatever support you can. I don’t get much traffic (maybe 50 visitors a day on average and 35-40 feeds), but every bit helps. So here are some more shoutouts:

  • Becca writing about her life and her work at ILSR, including our collaborations on municipal wireless
  • Kate, from whom I have already learned so much about Irish American politics
  • and blixx, sharing his DJ sets, recipes, and thoughts on the wars

I think all three of them started using WordPress on my recommendation and I stand behind that. I’ve used Typepad, though not as an owner or administrator. Blogspot blogs all look the same to me, with the white on black. I like WordPress. It’s the newest, seems to promote popular control of the platform (if not open source in general), and has a very friendly interface. It’s easy to find your syndication feed, and they even make it easy to have feeds for different categories. I’ve encountered some bugs, but mostly all the functions are smooth.

I saw presentations from Blogspot, Typepad, and WordPress at the Webzine 2005 conference, all of whom gave me Indymedia flashbacks by saying they wanted to make it possible for the whole world to publish to the Internet. There are also Friendster, MySpace, and LiveJournal blogs, but those platforms all seem to want to be bigger than the sum of its users.

I got the best vibe from Matt‘s presentation (Matt is the lead developer of WordPress) and they were offering beta access to their then-new hosted service, so I signed up. I didn’t do much with it until the National Summit for Community Wireless, when Steve gave me some encouragement and I realized I knew some things about Philly’s plans that no one else knew and that this very specific community was interested in.

It’s been fun to write more, especially with the encouragement of friends like Ibrahim, Chris, Hannah and especially Kat. Thanks!!!

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A much-needed Party of Pirates

Here’s a fun thing to cheer up your Monday: a new political party is in formation in the United States. The Pirate Party of the United States is part of an international response to the crackdown on the sharing of intellectual and creative products.

I wrote about this issue briefly in June, but the main catalyst for the Pirate Party was the US-MPAA-backed Swedish raid on the file-sharing site The Pirate Bay back in the spring. Support for piracy and filesharing was already very high in Sweden – the Pirate Party already existed there – but this gave it a huge boost.

Apparently, the barriers to entry for a political party are very low in Sweden and the Pirate Party seems to be on the verge of actually capturing seats in the parliament, which could give it some leverage in shaping the government there.

They’ve also inspired allies to launch parties in Belgium, France, and Italy. There is also an international pro-piracy lobby.

The situation is very different in the US, of course, where third parties are relegated to the margins. It makes one question if that is the best way to build a movement around this issue here. On the other hand, one can imagine how this issue could energize young people here the way it does in Sweden.

The Bush administration is moving in the opposite direction, towards a more repressive online environment. Congress recently ratified the Convention on Cybercrime, a really bad treaty that basically requires the US to enforce other countries’ Internet laws. They’re on the verge of passing DOPA, the Deleting Online Predators Act, which would ban social networking sites (as defined by the FCC) in schools and libraries. These changes are in addition to the corporate-sponsored closing of the Internet that we know of as the loss of net neutrality.

The Pirate Party is focused on copyright reform, privacy, and net neutrality. This has the potential to be a very popular and radical undertaking if they can articulate their message in a plain and compelling way. It’s not easy and I don’t have any reason to assume that they will be able to do this, but I find an issue-based party more compelling than, for example, the Green Party, which just wants to be more progressive in general than the Democrats. I think issue-based third parties have historically had more impact on US politics, too.

Defending the Internet might just be enough to get this party off the ground – at least in Second Life.

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It’s not about you, Star

There was a spike in traffic to the most heavily-trafficked post on my blog a few days ago. Star, whose given name is Troi Torain, was back in the news: a judge more or less let him off on charges of child endangerment and weapon possession. (They’ll be dropped in six months.)

Now it looks like Star is trying to keep it personal by suing the Councilman that brought his verbal assault to light. I’d prefer he sue Clear Channel, just come out and say they hired him to do a job and he did it.

Council Member Liu, for his part, is mixing it up, calling him both a pedophile and a stooge. (See the press release below.) I hope at his press conference later today he mentions Clear Channel in some context other than “Mr. Torain was subsequently terminated by…”

The No Hate Radio comment engine is still up. Fill it out if you support license redistribution as a step towards remedying the problem of corporate content and Clear Channel’s concentration of over 1300 licenses.

*** Media Advisory *************************************************
TROI TORAIN TO FILE FEDERAL LAWSUIT AGAINST CM LIU;
CM LIU TO AWAIT PAPERS AT CITY HALL;
CM Liu: “He’s Still a Pedophile Loser Radio Stooge”
**********************************************

CITY HALL, NY – Troi Torain, disk jockey fired from Power 105 radio, will file a lawsuit tomorrow against Council Member John Liu in United States District Court, Southern District of New York.

CM Liu will wait to be served with the lawsuit on the steps of City Hall tomorrow at 11:00 am.

CM Liu stated: “It’s great that this guy is now going after me instead of little girls. However, suing me doesn’t change the fact that he’s still a pedophile loser radio stooge. If this can help him with his self-esteem issues, then I’m happy to oblige.”

Over a five day period this May, Mr. Torain produced and broadcast comments over public airwaves expressing his desire to have sex with, ejaculate on, and urinate on a four-year-old girl. Mr. Torain also offered a large cash bounty to anyone with information about the girl’s school. Mr. Torain was subsequently terminated by Clear Channel on May 10th and then arrested by the NYPD’s Hate Crime Unit on May 12th.

See more of my articles on Clear Channel.

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The challenge of connecting ownership and content in an age of television on the Internet

I’ve been hearing more and more calls for a progressive framework for fighting indecency. This task will be more challenging in an era of TV on the Internet.

The government-directed, censorship-based approach moves us away from our goal of community-defined media. And it won’t work to pretend like there is no such thing as offensive content.

A recent article in The New Yorker on the spate of shootings in front of the Emmis Communications office put the blame on hip hop. There are plenty of reasons to take the writer to task, as other bloggers have done; New Yorker authors are more at home among the Pashtun than African Americans. I bring it up to say that this blame-the-individual approach is exactly what we were trying to avoid when we put out the No Hate Radio call, but it’s exactly what we’ll get if we don’t connect bad corporate content with bad corporate ownership.

On the Australian “Big Brother” show, which is broadcast 24/7 on the Internet when not airing on television, two men sexually assaulted a woman on the show. One man reportedly held the woman down while the other man rubbed his groin in her face. Though the men were booted, it seems like this is only slightly further than the show normally goes.

This strikes me as another example of the corporate media using violent sexism to gain attention. The response from the conservative government there has been to call for the show’s removal from television, even though the incident was broadcast on the Internet.

As broadcasters increasingly use it to distribute video, the Internet may become a place of greater regulation, with more restrictions on content. Without a connection between content and ownership, the burden of meeting that regulation could quash user-generated and community-based content. (Despite the knee-jerk perception that large corporations always want to de-regulate, they often favor complex regulations as a barrier to entry when faced with small-time competitors.)

That sort of regulation is in fact being proposed in Europe right now. As part of the EU’s “TV without frontiers” directive, the European Commission has suggested it would standardize regulation across all media for TV and “TV-like services.” (Check out the directive [pdf] and the accompanying press release. Read commentary with plenty of links from 463, which also tipped me off to the Aussie Big Brother brouhaha, and a summary from the free marketeers at the Progress and Freedom Foundation.)

In the US, the FCC already restricts the promotion of websites during children’s programming based on the commercial content of the sites (sales or advertising). That kind of direct connection between a broadcast TV show and web content makes sense to me, even if it’s not the kind of community accountability I would prefer.

However, it will get a lot more difficult to make that connection as the lines separating television and Internet and cell phones disappear. It’s one thing for the government to assert authority over your content if you’re using public airwaves or even rights of way; it’s another if you are just another video service provider on the Internet. (Remember, the open Internet is about having a level playing field among producers and disconnecting ownership of infrastructure from ownership of content.)

There is a wide open space on the other side of this technological revolution. That’s why we need to develop our own framework for content-regulation that meshes with our values and goals.

One approach that I know is wrong is combing air tapes for dirty words, which I recently learned the FCC has begun doing (thanks, Nan!). They’re going over sports broadcasts listening for curse words from enthusiastic fans. That’s just more random censorship.

It’s also a step towards ending live broadcasts. Interestingly, the EU directive seems to distinguish between “linear” and “non-linear” television, which could have the same effect. New regulations in Venezuela are also chilling live broadcasts. That’s not the future I want.

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