Friday, February 29, 2008

Responding to Foggy Bloggom

In latest issue of The National Interest, I have a small response to David Frum's "Foggy Bloggom" essay (see my initial reaction here) in which point out a few empirical problems with Frum's essay:

In his essay, Frum suggests that bloggers are “pretty much the opposite” of the foreign-policy community, which “insists upon formal credentials, either academic or bureaucratic.” It is puzzling, then, that the first four bloggers quoted in Frum’s essay possess the very credentials that the foreign-policy community extols. Duncan “Atrios” Black holds a PhD in economics from an Ivy League institution. Matthew Yglesias is a Harvard graduate writing for the Atlantic. Steven Clemons is the director of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation. Glenn Greenwald is a Salon columnist and a partner in a DC law firm. Pajama-wearing stereotypes to the contrary, most influential bloggers possess the elite credentials necessary to crack the foreign-policy community.
Read he whole thing -- Megan McArdle has a response letter as well.

Publicly defending the credentials of Atrios, Matt Yglesias, Glenn Greenwald and Steve Clemons leaves me in a grumpy mood, so blogging will be light for the rest of the day.

posted by Dan at 11:03 AM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)



Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The netroots vs. the foreign policy community... sort of

David Frum writes a broadside on the netroots vs. the foreign policy community in The National Interest. Here's how it starts:

My name is David Frum, and I am a blogger. Every day I post some hundreds of words of commentary at the National Review website—often (to fulfill the cliché) while still wearing my pajamas. But I am also a proud, suit-wearing member of the foreign-policy community, with my very own office in a think tank to prove it.

There is no avoiding the sad truth that my two communities despise each other.

The foreign-policy community (henceforward, “FPC”) values moderation of views and modulation of tone. It insists upon formal credentials, either academic or bureaucratic (ideally both). It respects seniority, defers to office, mistrusts overt self-promotion and is easily offended by discourtesy.

As for the bloggers—well, they’re pretty much the opposite, aren’t they?

You can imagine the response this is going to generate.

I'll have more to say about this later, but for now I'd make two points. First, if the netroots can get past their own spittle, they will see the grace note Frum closes his essay with:

[T]he spread of education and the improvement of communications have raised the level of debate. The populist protesters of 2007 are far more informed and far more sophisticated than their predecessors of 1973, who were in turn a major improvement over those of 1950, 1935 and 1920. And the foreign-policy community that guided U.S. foreign affairs in the 1990s was a much larger and more diverse group than the corresponding elites that wielded power in the quiet days of the 1950s, who were in turn a less cloistered club than that of the 1920s.

It is, as was famously predicted by Yeats, a widening gyre. And it can safely be predicted that when today’s controversies simmer down, and the blogging energy turns to health care or climate change or issues as yet unforeseen, the “foreign-policy community” that reassumes its former ascendancy will likewise be an expanded and enlarged community. The expertise and sophistication of the FPC at its best will always be needed by a country whose natural tendencies are inward-looking and isolationist. And that expertise and sophistication can only be enhanced when today’s FPC is reinforced, as surely it will be, by young people who gained their first introduction to foreign affairs when they were inspired by 9/11 to join the military or enter academia or learn a foreign language…or (why not?) start a blog.

Second, contra Frum's essay, there's really a three-way debate going on, between netroots activists, neoconservatives, and foreign policy experts -- and part of the debate is whether the latter two groups are really fused into one.

More on this later. For now, comment away!

UPDATE: On the other hand, it's not like progressives aren't capable of netroot criticism. Consider this statement from a press release I was sent:

"In this age of blogs, bumper stickers, and soundbites, we made a bet that there was still a need and place for the kind of deep, considered thinking about serious issues that our journal has produced, " said Andrei Cherny, co-editor and co-founder of Democracy. "This award shows that a DailyKos may have its place, but a quarterly journal of ideas can make a real impact in the 21st century."

posted by Dan at 11:16 AM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)



Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Blackmail plays no role whatsoever in this post

All readers of this blog would make my life considerably easier if you were to click over to the Best Podcast category for the 2007 Weblog Awards and voted for EconTalk.

That is all.

posted by Dan at 07:20 PM | Trackbacks (0)



Wednesday, October 31, 2007

My all-time top five blog posts

Brad DeLong nominates his top five weblog posts ever, and is gracious enough to include this post among them.

This got me to thinking about Matt Yglesias' initial point -- there are so many newcomers to the blogosphere that, "the aggregate audience for blog commentary is enormously larger than it was a few years ago, so it's quite possible that there are people reading this blog right now who have never heard of of the classic[s]..."

So, without further ado, here are my top five, in chronological order:

1) Jacob Levy, "Political Theory and Political Philosophy."

2) Jack Balkin, "What I learned about blogging in a year."

3) Belle Waring, "If Wishes Were Horses, Beggars Would Ride -- A Pony!"

4) Scott Eric Kaufman, "My Morning: A Play in One Uncomfortable Act."

5) Megan McArdle, "Full Disclosure....."

Longtime readers are warmly encouraged to proffer their faves in the comments.

posted by Dan at 12:55 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)



Thursday, October 25, 2007

Gonna be a fun hotel jihad

Note to self: never, ever deny Megan McArdle a bed.

posted by Dan at 04:51 PM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)



Thursday, October 4, 2007

For every op-ed action, there is an out-of-proportion blogosphere reaction

Intentionally or not, Roger Cohen has some fun with the netroots in his New York Times column today:

A few years back, at the height of the jingoistic post-9/11 wave, the dirtiest word in the American political lexicon was “liberal.” Everyone from President Bush to Ann Coulter was using it to denote wimplike, Volvo-driving softies too spineless for dangerous times and too given to speaking French....

[A]s America bumped down to earth, “liberal” lost the mantle of political insult most foul. Its place was taken by the pervasive, glib “neocon.”....

What’s a neocon? A liberal “mugged by reality,” Irving Kristol said. The reality in question, back then, was communism-as-evil, the centrality of military force, the indispensability of the American idea and much else. But that’s ancient history. The neocons are the guys who gave us the Iraq war.

They’re the guys who, in the words of leftist commentator and blogger Matthew Yglesias, “believe that America should coercively dominate the world through military force” and “believe in a dogmatic form of American exceptionalism” and “favor the creation of a U.S.-dominated ‘universal empire.’ ”

But the term, in these Walt-Mearsheimered days, often denotes more than that. Neocon, for many, has become shorthand for neocon-Zionist conspiracy, whatever that may be, although probably involving some combination of plans to exploit Iraqi oil, bomb Iran and apply U.S. power to Israel’s benefit.

Beyond that, neocon has morphed into an all-purpose insult for anyone who still believes that American power is inextricable from global stability and still thinks the muscular anti-totalitarian U.S. interventionism that brought down Slobodan Milosevic has a place, and still argues, like Christopher Hitchens, that ousting Saddam Hussein put the United States “on the right side of history.”

In short, neoconitis, a condition as rampant as liberal-lampooning a few years back, has left scant room for liberal hawks....

Democrats have learned from their nuance-free bludgeoning by Republicans in the 2004 election, and they’re reciprocating. I’ll see your “liberal” with a “neocon” — and truth be damned.

This has prompted some acerbic replies. Here's one example:
I assure you, we liberals are smart enough to know that [Paul] Berman is not Wolfowitz. No one, except for you, Berman, and other liberal hawks is confused about this (and Feith, but he's confused about everything). Certainly your critics aren't, because if they were, you'd give an example, and you don't....

No, Roger, I honestly don't think you're a neocon. I just think you're a goddammed fool.

And you're a fool who still doesn't understand that only incompetents who rose to unimaginable power, like Bush and Rumsfeld, would ever have thought the invasion of Iraq was a good idea in the first place.

Meanwhile, Yglesias doesn't seem thrilled with being quoted in the New York Times:
I'm not sure if I'm meant to be included within the scope of those nameless Jew-haters who appear to be criticizing an ideological movement of the American right while actually criticizing a shadowy Zionist conspiracy, but if you're interested in the post from which Cohen drew those quotations, it's here and you'll see that neither Israel nor Zionism actually comes up.

Um... OK, a few things:
1) Seriously, how do netroots types attain this level of cognitive dissonance? Perhaps Digby Tristero has not conflated liberal hawks with neoconservatives, but is he seriously suggesting that no one else hasperformed this rhetorical trick?

2) In his response, Yglesias seems to be purposefully misreading Cohen's essay to infer that he's being lumped together with "Jew-haters." It seems pretty clear to me that Cohen is transitioning from Yglesias to others in the paragraph break.

3) Why should the netroots be upset about Cohen's argument? Everything from Crashing The Gate onwards has been about how the left should appropriate the tactics of the right, because it was politically effective. Isn't this tactic exactly what Cohen is describing?

posted by Dan at 10:43 AM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)



Friday, September 28, 2007

Blogging scholarship available

The Daniel Kovach Scholarship Foundation is giving away $10,000 to a blogger this year:

Do you maintain a weblog and attend college? Would you like $10,000 to help pay for books, tuition, or other living costs? If so, read on.

We're giving away $10,000 this year to a college student who blogs. The Blogging Scholarship is awarded annually.

Go check it out. And I suspect they're more reliable than other scholarship programs.

posted by Dan at 07:34 AM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)



Thursday, September 20, 2007

Your must-read sentence for today

Garance Franke-Ruta, "Fred Thompson vs. Teh Sexy":

[T]he idea that Thompson is some kind of swoon-inducing example of mature masculinity strikes me as a classic example of how straight men are completely unable to assess each other’s visual appeal.
Be sure to check out the entire post -- there are useful visual aids.

posted by Dan at 10:33 AM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)



Monday, September 10, 2007

We have met the Internet and it is us

In a New York Times story about Second Life, Shira Boss notes familiar parallels between the real and the virtual:

When people are given the opportunity to create a fantasy world, they can and do defy the laws of gravity (you can fly in Second Life), but not of economics or human nature. Players in this digital, global game don’t have to work, but many do. They don’t need to change clothes, fix their hair, or buy and furnish a home, but many do. They don’t need to have drinks in their hands at the virtual bar, but they buy cocktails anyway, just to look right, to feel comfortable.

Second Life residents find ways to make money so they can spend it to do things, look impressive, and get more stuff, even if it’s made only of pixels. In a place where people should never have to clean out their closets, some end up devoting hours to organizing their things, purging, even holding yard sales.

“Why can’t we break away from a consumerist, appearance-oriented culture?” said Nick Yee, who has studied the sociology of virtual worlds and recently received a doctorate in communication from Stanford. “What does Second Life say about us, that we trade our consumerist-oriented culture for one that’s even worse?”

I'd say that last quote says more about Yee than about the people he's wailing about. That said, OxBlog's Taylor Owen has a decent answer:
One thing is becoming increasingly clear though, "second life" is a misnomer. The internet is not an alternative to life, it is life. It is us, in all our complexity, madness and brilliance, out in the open for all to see, critique and engage.

posted by Dan at 05:04 PM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)



Thursday, August 23, 2007

Children under 17 must read this blog accompanied by an adult

So much for this being a family blog:

Mingle2

This rating was determined based on the presence of the following words: drugs (6 times) hell (3 times) and porn (1 time).

Hat tip: that unspeakably dirty Opinio Juris blog.

posted by Dan at 11:33 AM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)



Tuesday, August 14, 2007

In your face, Milwaukee!!

In the Boston Globe, Chris Reidy reports that Boston is a good fit for your humble blogger:

Boston has long been viewed as the land of the bean and the cod -- and now the Hub may also be the land of the blog.

According to OutsideIn.com, a website that tracks neighborhood blogging, Boston was the "bloggiest city" in America for the two-month period it examined, March and April.

Behind Boston were Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Washington, D.C.

OutsideIn.com said it tracks blogging activity in about 60 urban areas. It based its rankings on a "blogging quotient" that factored in a metropolitan area's population with the number of blog posts tied to specific locations.

By that measure, Greater Boston had 89 posts per 100,000 residents, edging out Greater Philadelphia, which had 88 posts.

Surprisingly, perhaps, such well-wired places as San Francisco and Seattle were farther down the list.

Why was Greater Boston number one? Outsidein.com's chief executive, Steven Berlin Johnson, offered this theory: Blogs thrive where locals are wired, well-educated, and obsessed with politics, a topic that inspires bloggers to vent their opinions.

Another possibility: east coast cities like Boston and Philly have more people who find time to blog while goofing off at their place of work.

[Which is something you never do, right?--ed. Uh... right!!]

posted by Dan at 08:32 AM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)



Thursday, June 21, 2007

Name this blog phenomenon!

Apparently the Encyclopedia Brittanica now has a blog. Michael Gorman is using it to harumph at the myriad ways in which the Internet has destroyed all that is great and good in scholarship and high culture. His first post opens with "The life of the mind in our society suffers, in many ways, from an increase in credulity and an associated flight from expertise." You get the drift -- this is not the first time Gorman has done this.

Over at Inside Higher Ed, Scott McLemee critiques Gorman's critique. He closes with this point:

What really bothers the neo-Luddite quasi-Mandarin is not the rise of digitality, as such. The problem actually comes from “the diminished sacredness of authority,” as Edward Shils once put it, “the reduction in the awe it evokes and in the charisma attributed to it.”

But it’s not that all cultural authority or critical intelligence, as such, are vanishing. Rather, new kinds are taking shape. The resulting situation is difficult and sometimes unpleasant. But it is not exactly new. Such wrenching moments have come repeatedly over the past 500 years, and muddling through the turmoil does not seem to be getting any easier.

Plowing similar ground, Henry Farrell asks:
I can see why the Encyclopedia Britannica has an urgent interest in pushing this line, but I don’t understand why the intellectual standards of argument among its appointed critics is so low (and they aren’t an aberration; I understand that they’ve made somewhat of an effort to publicize these pieces and get them talked about).
To answer Farrell's question, you need to recognize the phenomenon of Bigthink Online Criticism (BOC), which proceeds as follows:
1) Pre-existing cultural institution finds itself under threat of being ignored/devalued/losing cultural cachet in relation to online substitutes;

2) To stave off irrelevance, said institution commissions BOC essay;

3) BOC essay, to roil the waters, overstates to a greater or lesser degree the various flaws that online substitutes possess;

4) BOC essay is posted on the net, while various online and offline commentators are alerted to its presence;

5) Online community reacts with outrage, linking and critiquing the BOC essay repeatedly, making it the topic du jour.

6) For a brief moment, declining cultural institution staves off slide towards irrelevance.

7) The more Manichean the BOC, the longer the boomlet of attention.

I humbly request my readers to name this gambit.

UPDATE: Brittanica's Tom Panelas e-mails the following:

If nothing else you should be aware of the fact that Gorman's posts are part of a larger forum on the Web 2.0 movement generally, and that it includes people who disagree sharply with him, such as Clay Shirky, danah boyd, and Matthew Battles, as well as others who disagree with him by degree, such as Nicholas Carr. If you and Henry think Britannica is "pushing a line" by publishing Gorman's opinions under his name on our blog, it follows then that we are also pushing the lines of these other people. Since Clay Shirky's posts, among other things, have some strong criticisms of Britannica, we are therefore pushing criticism of ourselves. What our motives for this might be I’ll leave it to you to divine, but you might consider an alternative explanation: that we’re simply having a debate among people with different views.

By the way, if you really think the intellectual standards are low, please take a look at what Shirky, Battles, and Carr have written. (danah hasn’t posted yet; she’ll be with us next week.) If, after that, you still think the level of discourse is substandard, please feel free to raise it by adding your own comments.

posted by Dan at 03:16 PM | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (0)



Friday, June 15, 2007

The massive disincentive to blog about Israel/Palestine

The following is a typical e-mail I've received in the wake of posting about Norman Finkelstein:

Anyone questioning the intellectual scholarship of Mr. Finkelstein really needs help. to simply say that he is accomplished does not do service to his record of superior scholarship which is there for everyone to see. Were he not a critic of Zionism he would be feted from on high for his academic achievements. I was not surprised that a Catholic Priest made a mealy mouth decision not to grant tenure on such a political decision and then lied in my opinion making matters even more suspicious by saying that ouside influence had no...who makes up these lies? Father H.'s phone lines are still blazing with threats from ADL Mr. D., Foxman, et.al. considering the Blackmail that Zionism has put on the Catholic Church for their so-called non assistance to the Jews in peril and their perceived coziness with the Nazis during the second W.W. However the Zionist have no quarter from which to truly attack Finkelstein on and they are now in helter skelter mode drunkenly flailing at any thing that Finkelsteins, ala J. Carter. Finally for the record and for sometime now ANTI-SEMITISM has not intimidated the investigators or human beings from observing what Israel is doing in Palestine and condemning them for what it is, genocide. a legitimate personage has "pulled the covers" off that cat(Zionism/Racism)and Zionist apologist are schreeeching to high heaven at being exposed. Dan's bullshit piece about Finkelstein is just another attempt at cover. he admits that he dosen't know what he's talking about when it comes to Finkelstein. I suspect that he really does but has no response to the truth thats printable. If he believed that Finkelstein got a raw deal then he should have stated that instead of listing all the negatives in his text about Finkelstein which makes Dan suspect to the reader. Israels murderous policy of theft of land,lies,targeted killings,walls, racist highways,killing of international observers,and unjust occupation against the Palestinian(short list) People is an international crime in the exact same way that the German Administration under Adolph Hitler and what he did to European Jewry was a crime. Liars such as Dershowitz and loonies such as David Horowitz only expose the Israeli desperate attempt to promote transparent false propaganda. The arrogance of how one should criticize newish people what words one can say and not say is a first in the history of mankind and will not stand. And now comes Dan, with a kinder gentler "objective" detachment The People of the world are united in their condemnation of Zionist blackmail by accusatory designation and use of the term anti-semitism to try and stop the debate concerning the Palestinian genocide committed by Israel since 1948 and continuing. The truth will be told whether Zionist like the way it is told to them or not. The world must unite to bring all the mass killers from the U.S. and Israel to the world court of Justice for their mortal sins against humanity.

posted by Dan at 09:37 PM | Comments (20) | Trackbacks (0)



Thursday, May 31, 2007

Blogging as an intervening variable for stupidity

Jonathan Saltzman has a front-pager in the Boston Globe about an unusual court case in which blogging factored into the denouement:

It was a Perry Mason moment updated for the Internet age.

As Ivy League-educated pediatrician Robert P. Lindeman sat on the stand in Suffolk Superior Court this month, defending himself in a malpractice suit involving the death of a 12-year-old patient, the opposing counsel startled him with a question.

Was Lindeman Flea?

Flea, jurors in the case didn't know, was the screen name for a blogger who had written often and at length about a trial remarkably similar to the one that was going on in the courtroom that day.

In his blog, Flea had ridiculed the plaintiff's case and the plaintiff's lawyer. He had revealed the defense strategy. He had accused members of the jury of dozing.

With the jury looking on in puzzlement, Lindeman admitted that he was, in fact, Flea.

The next morning, on May 15, he agreed to pay what members of Boston's tight-knit legal community describe as a substantial settlement -- case closed.

The case is a startling illustration of how blogging, already implicated in destroying friendships and ruining job prospects, could interfere in other important arenas. Lawyers in Massachusetts and elsewhere, some of whom downloaded Flea's observations and posted them on their websites, said the case has also prompted them to warn clients that blogs can come back to haunt them.

Still, Andrew C. Meyer Jr., a well known Boston personal injury lawyer who followed the case, said he had never heard of a defendant blogging during a trial.

"Most of us investigate whatever prior writings our clients might have had, so they are not exposed to their inconsistencies in their testimony," said Meyer, who has begun warning clients against the practice. "But it's impossible to do if you don't know that your client is blogging under an assumed name."

Saltzman suggests that thiscase is indicative of how blogs can impact, you know, real life. And there's a grain of truth to this charge. Reading on, however, one begins to wonder if blogs are not the cause per se, but rather one of many enablers for people with poor impulse control:
Lindeman, a graduate of Yale University and Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons, is board-certified in general pediatrics and pediatric pulmonary medicine, according to the Natick Pediatrics website.

In recent years, he has shared his medical views on local television news programs, on the "Manic Mommies" podcast produced by two Ashland mothers, and in magazines.

He is also the author of drfleablog, in which he calls himself Flea and identifies himself only as a pediatrician in the Northeast. A flea, he told the Globe this year, is what surgeons called pediatricians in training. The Globe's medical blog, White Coat Notes, has occasionally included links to Lindeman's blog, which he has recently taken down.

Mulvey, who said she only learned of the blog a couple weeks before the trial, said after reading scores of back postings that it was controversial yet intellectually stimulating.

Over the past year, Lindeman increasingly used it to rail against the malpractice suit....

Shortly before the end of his second day on the witness stand, while focusing on Lindeman's views of a pediatric textbook, Mulvey asked him whether he had a medical blog, she recalled. He said he did. Then she asked him if he was Flea. He said he was.

The exchange may have been lost on jurors, but Meyer said Mulvey had telegraphed that she was ready to share Lindeman's blog -- containing his unvarnished views of lawyers, jurors, and the legal process -- with the jury.

The next day, the case was settled.

So, lessons learned:
1) If you're a defendant in a court case, try not to blog about it;

2) Blogs don't hurt people. Poor impulse control hurts people.

More blog reaction from Suburban Guerilla, Michael Froomkin, and HubBlog.

[Might there be more of a correlation than you're letting on? Perhaps people with poor impulse control are more likely to blog?--ed. There's something to this, but blogs are merely one of many new forms of personal expression available to people. If the blog is not the outlet, perhaps the MySpace page, or the podcast, or the YouTube moment will be. Still, I leave this possibility to commenters -- who clearly have no problems with impulse control.]

posted by Dan at 09:28 AM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)



Monday, May 21, 2007

Name this law!

Critic Richard Schickel clearly thinks his life is too boring:

Let me put this bluntly, in language even a busy blogger can understand: Criticism — and its humble cousin, reviewing — is not a democratic activity. It is, or should be, an elite enterprise, ideally undertaken by individuals who bring something to the party beyond their hasty, instinctive opinions of a book (or any other cultural object). It is work that requires disciplined taste, historical and theoretical knowledge and a fairly deep sense of the author's (or filmmaker's or painter's) entire body of work, among other qualities.
Mark Kleiman does the public service of critiquing Schickel's critique. In the process, he names a law that I had heretofore simple called the Law of Crap:
All of this reminds me of Sturgeon's Law, named for the great SF writer Theodore Sturgeon, who was supposedly accosted at a Greenwich Village literary party by someone who said to him (I'm quoting from memory), "Sturgeon, how can you stand to publish in those science fiction magazines? Ninety-five percent of the stuff in them is crap." To which Sturgeon calmly replied, "Ninety-five percent of everything is crap."
That said, I do find it extremely ironic that Schickel's essay -- essentially a critique of the literary blogosphere -- fails to follow its own dictum. His piece provides zero evidence that he has either the training or the experience to perform this critical task (this is not to say Schickel is a bad film critic; on blogs, however, he is clearly a victim of Sturgeon's Law).

There's a small part of me that wishes media critics would abide by Schickel's stringent criteria before tackling the blogosphere, as it would make posts like this irrelevant. However, as Matthew Yglesias points out, this is not a likely outcome:

Strident blog-haters seem to me to mostly discover blogs by reading a random sample of blogs that have recent posted hostile things about something the discoverer wrote. Naturally, one's tendency is to find such fare uncongenial, and even if you richly deserve the criticism the odds favor many of your critics being genuinely not worth reading. Under the circumstances, it's easy to convince yourself that the whole thing deserves to be tuned out. This, though, is obviously the wrong way to go about things. One doesn't learn the day's news by looking at a random assortment of "newspaper articles" drawn from wherever; as with anything, you need to know what you're doing for it to be worthwhile.
Indeed.

[What's the deal with this post title?--ed. Here's a blog law that's worth naming: the phenomenon of reading something that warrants a blog post, procrastinating the actual writing, and then discovering that some other blogger has managed to post your precise feelings on the matter.]

posted by Dan at 03:22 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)



Friday, May 18, 2007

This whole scholar-blogger thing... in Eph form!

Cathleen McCarthy has an article in the latest Williams Alumni Review about academics who blog. I'm profiled, along with Williams political science professors Marc Lynch and Sam Crane.

posted by Dan at 08:51 AM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)



Thursday, May 10, 2007

The New York Times looks deep into my blogging soul

Natasha Singer has a story in the NYT Styles section about blogs critical of the beauty-industrial complex. This is the lead paragraph:

Most bloggers have never met a beauty product or treatment they didn’t love. The fill their columns with wildly enthusiastic prose about the latest blush, the newest procedure or research that they laud as cutting-edge.
This is just so true. Why, only yesterday James Joyner and I were getting facials and talking about how Glenn Reynolds was using this awesome new foundation that really brought out his cheekbones (but what is the deal with this fashion choice?).

Then it was off to a manny-peddy with Kevin Drum, who scored some cutting-edge Clinique products gratis because of his constant beauty blogging (though, man, could Drum be any bitchier about Andrew Sullivan's fashion choices?).

While we were waiting for our nails to dry, we regaled each other with the great Megan McArdle-Virginia Postrel blog feud over the best nail polish to wear when appearing on a Sunday morning talk show (let's face it, they're both just jealous of Laura McKenna's flaming red hair and Ann Althouse's age-defying skin cream).

Of course, my day was ruined when Jacob Levy came in to get some fancy-schmancy new chest waxing procedure. Whenever I bump into Jacob at the beauty parlor, he lords it over me how he has a named chair even though he's three years younger than me. It kills me that he looks ten years younger because of those killer highlights in his beard.

The New York Times: your infallible guide to the soul of the blogosphere.

posted by Dan at 08:14 AM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (1)



Thursday, May 3, 2007

Well, I'm glad that hiatus is over

After a short, four-year hiatus, Brink Lindsey is back and blogging. Go check him out.

posted by Dan at 11:21 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)



Monday, April 9, 2007

It's just the 19th nervous breakdown about the blogosphere

Brad Stone has a front-page story in the New York Times about the the fact that the some people display bad manners in the blogosphere:

Is it too late to bring civility to the Web?

The conversational free-for-all on the Internet known as the blogosphere can be a prickly and unpleasant place. Now, a few high-profile figures in high-tech are proposing a blogger code of conduct to clean up the quality of online discourse.

Last week, Tim O’Reilly, a conference promoter and book publisher who is credited with coining the term Web 2.0, began working with Jimmy Wales, creator of the communal online encyclopedia Wikipedia, to create a set of guidelines to shape online discussion and debate.

Chief among the recommendations is that bloggers consider banning anonymous comments left by visitors to their pages and be able to delete threatening or libelous comments without facing cries of censorship.

A recent outbreak of antagonism among several prominent bloggers “gives us an opportunity to change the level of expectations that people have about what’s acceptable online,” said Mr. O’Reilly, who posted the preliminary recommendations last week on his company blog (radar.oreilly.com). Mr. Wales then put the proposed guidelines on his company’s site (blogging.wikia.com), and is now soliciting comments in the hope of creating consensus around what constitutes civil behavior online.

You can take a peek at the proposed code of conduct by clicking here. Comment away there or here. I hereby predict it will go nowhere -- I'm certainly not going to be banning anonymous comments anytime soon.

The one fascinating thing about Stone's story is what's not in it. Despite endless complaints about rising partisanship in the blogosphere, no example was given of declining civility in the political blogosphere. That doesn't mean it's not happening, of course, but it's still surpring that Stone failed to offer up such an example.

UPDATE: Katherine Mangu-Ward has an interesting take over at Hit & Run.

posted by Dan at 08:11 AM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)



Thursday, April 5, 2007

Blogging vs. vlogging

Garance Franke-Ruta posts her thoughts on the matter:

The biggest difference between consuming vlogging, which I do rarely, and consuming blogging, which I do continually, is that you can get the compressed product of a great deal of time and thought on a blog, but not in a vlog. For example, if I spend six hours on a blog item, or even just one, that a reader can consume in five minutes, they are getting the benefits of all the time and effort I put into it. But a five minute vlog will most likely provide only my thoughts as they exist in real time, or perhaps even only a note of skepticism as conveyed by a raised eyebrow, and no articulated thoughts at all. Five minutes with a blog can yield you six hours with a mind, but five minutes with a vlog will usually get you five minutes with a mind, or, sometimes, a face. The overall number of thoughts consumers will imbibe per minute is much lower on vlogs than on blogs.

What vlogging provides that blogging doesn’t is great entertainment value, and the satisfaction of our need, as visual creatures, to have something to look at.

I wouldn't disagree with Garance so much as suggest that she's leaving something out of the equation -- I suspect most people consume blogs very differently from vlogs. To consume a blog you actually need to read it, which implies that you've given it top priority among the things your conscious mind is processing at that moment. Vlogs, on the other hand, can be consumed more passively. Yes, you can watch your screen as a bloggingheads segment plays. And, certainly, there are small snippets of video that will command one's full attention. On the whole, however people will treat a vlog the same way they treat the television or the radio -- it can be on in the background while the consumer is consuming other things.

UPDATE: Kevin Drum thinks I have it ass-backwards. Andrew Sullivan has a fine collection of links.

posted by Dan at 01:43 PM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)



Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Score one point for Cass Sunstein

One of the arguments that Cass Sunstein makes in republic.com is that the Internet allows people to filter their information flows so that they buttress to their prior ideological beliefs. Blogs call this "cocooning." The extent to which this effect is more concentrated in online activity than offline activity is open to debate, but it's an interresting argument.

I believe Ann Althouse's divalog exchange with Garance Franke-Ruta on bloggingheads.tv qualifies as a data point for Sunstein's argument. Click here to see the video, in which I think it's safe to say that Ann gets angry.

That's not the main point of this post, however. Compare and contrast the comments on Ann's words and behavior at the bloggingheads site with the reactions at Althouse's blog post. Everyone watched the same video -- but the reactions are very, very different (on the backstory for what sparked this in the first place, click here).

[You're treading on veeeerrrry dangerous ground here!--ed. Oh, relax.]

UPDATE: In comments here, Althouse points out one source for this disparity in comments: "I moderate and delete really insulting comments on my blog. That's skewing that data." I hope it's not skewing it too much.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Lots and lots of blog reactions -- and Franke-Ruta posts her take here. One additional note -- if you watch the video, I think it's clear that Garance was genuinely startled by Ann's anger. This has the effect of making Ann's outburst seem... disproportionate. In fairness to Althouse, however, it should be pointed out that when taping a bloggingheads segment, the participants cannot see each other. I suspect if Ann had been able to see Garance, her reaction might have been different.

posted by Dan at 09:13 AM | Comments (29) | Trackbacks (0)



Saturday, February 10, 2007

It's easy to get old in the blogosphere

In the past few days, both Henry Farrell and Eugene Volokh have observed that the old, gray blogosphere ain't what it used to be.

Henry first:

I was somewhat bemused to see a whopping big advertisement on the back of the bus in front of me for The Hill’s Pundit Blog... It made me feel pretty weird; it’s a very different blogosphere to the one that I started off in (I suspect the disconnect for the real old-timers is even bigger).
As for a real old-timer, there's Eugene "My Finger Is Well Off the Pulse of the Blogosphere" Volokh, who observes the lack of reaction to an op-ed he had penned:
I had expected there'd be more attention from various blogs and radio programs that often cover radical Islam and the law. I figured the case that my story had uncovered had it all: The First Amendment; jihadism; parental rights; child welfare. Yet I've had much less original posts yield much more interest among blogs and radio programs, especially conservative ones.

.... I wonder: Did I misjudge the likely interest? Did I just not publicize the story enough? Should I have taken heroic measures to keep Anna Nicole Smith alive for several more days? What can I do in the future to try to draw more attention to such matters?

My example of wondering whether the blogosphere has passed me by has been the kerfuffle involving two bloggers for John Edwards that was reported in the New York Times and Time this week.

For the record, my take is pretty much in accord wth this Obsidian Wings post, but that's not the point -- the point is that, as much as I used to care about these intersections between the blogosphere and the real world, I can't get worked up about this kind of thing anymore. Who cares about campaign bloggers? They are little more than good PR stylists.

If you don't believe me, check out this Amanda Marcotte post on Edwards' health plan -- turns out she's happy that Paul Krugman likes it. Well, blow me down!

Perhaps the old fogies in the blogosphere get that way because, well, we stop taking the whole megillah so seriously. And we can't take it seriously because, well, this isn't our primary means of employment and never will be.

Once the blogosphere is run by sufficient numbers of people who are paid to blog, us enlightened amateurs just look semi-pro.

UPDATE: Just when I think the blogosphere has passed me by, I get this e-mail:

On Jewcy's blog, the Daily Shvitz, we run a periodic feature called Movable Snipe, wherein two writers spend a week reading and tweaking or adulating five blogs of our choosing. The good news is, we've chosen your blog for this week... This means either valentines or vivisections, depending on how our Snipers react to your content and, well, general demeanor.

Your Snipers will be Michael Helke, the book editor of Stop Smiling magazine, and Fiona Maazel, formerly the managing editor of the Paris Review.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Hmmm.... maybe this is really a "lump of creativity" problem. Or it's a "hatred of phones" issue.

posted by Dan at 09:30 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (2)



Thursday, January 25, 2007

Back in the day, they didn't have blogging scholarships

Student-bloggers, take note -- there's now a Political Blogging Scholarship:

Do you maintain a political weblog and attend college? Would you like $2,000 to help pay for books, tuition, or other living costs? If so, read on.

We're giving away $2,000 this year to a college student who blogs about politics. Our scholarship is awarded annually.

Click here to find out all the details. I do like this description of what the winner and losers get:
The Winner Gets:
  • $2,000 immediately disbursed for their college expenses
  • Bragging rights
  • Admiration from fellow bloggers
  • Popularity
  • To write an acceptance speech consisted of 1000 words or less, which will be posted on this page....
  • What Happens to the Losers? Concession Speech!
  • In a written concession speech consisting of 350 words or less, the losers can say whatever they wish…completely unedited and uncensored. We will post the speeches on this page as we receive them.
  • [The kids today, with their podcasts and their American Idol idolatry..... we didn't have blogging scholarships when we started out, did we?--ed] Yes, but they also don't have annoying editorial voices either.

    posted by Dan at 10:22 AM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)



    Wednesday, December 13, 2006

    Separated at birth?

    Matthew Yglesias, meet Xavier von Erck.... or do you already know each other????!!!!:

    yglesias.jpg

    vonerck.jpg

    UPDATE: Attack of the killer Yglesias!!

    posted by Dan at 05:03 PM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)



    Sunday, December 3, 2006

    We've got blog, blog, blog, blog, blog, blog, spam, and blog

    So I see that the second-most interesting article about blogs in the New York Times today got a lot of attention. That would be K. Daniel Glober's op-ed on the increased linkages between bloggers and political candidates:

    The Netroots.” “People Power.” “Crashing the Gate.” The lingo of liberal Web bloggers bespeaks contempt for the political establishment. The same disdain is apparent among many bloggers on the right, who argued passionately for a change in the slate of House Republican leaders — and who wallowed in woe-is-the-party pity when the establishment ignored them.

    You might think that with the kind of rhetoric bloggers regularly muster against politicians, they would never work for them. But you would be wrong.

    Over the past few years, bloggers have won millions of fans by speaking truth to power — even the powers in their own parties — and presenting a fresh, outsider perspective. They are the pamphleteers of the 21st century, revolutionary “citizen journalists” motivated by personal idealism and an unwavering confidence that they can reform American politics.

    But this year, candidates across the country found plenty of outsiders ready and willing to move inside their campaigns. Candidates hired some bloggers to blog and paid others consulting fees for Internet strategy advice or more traditional campaign tasks like opposition research....

    The trend seems certain to continue in 2008. Potential presidential hopefuls like Hillary Rodham Clinton and John McCain already are paying big-name bloggers as consultants, and Julie Fanselow of Red State Rebels said on her blog she would entertain job offers from Howard Dean, Barack Obama, John Edwards or Al Gore.

    “This intersection isn’t going away,” Jerome Armstrong of MyDD, an elite blogger hired by campaigns, wrote earlier this year, “and I hope more and more bloggers are able to work to influence how campaigns are run.”

    Here is a listing of some of the most influential bloggers who went to work for campaigns this year, what they were paid according to campaign disclosure documents, and praiseworthy posts about their employers or critical ones of their employers’ opponents.

    As William Beutler points out, this op-ed has not had the best of reactions in the blogosphere -- in large part because the piece could give the impression that some campaign bloggers did not act up to the Times' ethical standards.

    Me,I just yawned, and recalled what I wrote about this six months ago:

    What's going on is not illegal, or even out of the ordinary in Washington, DC. It's politics as usual. The only reason the story is noteworthy is because bloggers... have persistently said that they and theirs -- a.k.a., the netroots -- are not about politics as usual.

    Over time, however, that claim looks less and less viable. The question is whether bloggers... find that their legions of readers are turned off by these kind of revelations, or whether they comfortably adjust into being middleweight power brokers....

    In other words, the gates have been crashed.

    Now, the most interesting story about blogs in the NYT today was Clive Thompson's cover story in the magazine about how blogs and wikis could prove useful structures for intelligence analysis:
    [T]hroughout the intelligence community, spies are beginning to wonder why their technology has fallen so far behind — and talk among themselves about how to catch up. Some of the country’s most senior intelligence thinkers have joined the discussion, and surprisingly, many of them believe the answer may lie in the interactive tools the world’s teenagers are using to pass around YouTube videos and bicker online about their favorite bands. Billions of dollars’ worth of ultrasecret data networks couldn’t help spies piece together the clues to the worst terrorist plot ever. So perhaps, they argue, it’ s time to try something radically different. Could blogs and wikis prevent the next 9/11?....

    Intelligence heads wanted to try to find some new answers to this problem. So the C.I.A. set up a competition, later taken over by the D.N.I., called the Galileo Awards: any employee at any intelligence agency could submit an essay describing a new idea to improve information sharing, and the best ones would win a prize. The first essay selected was by Calvin Andrus, chief technology officer of the Center for Mission Innovation at the C.I.A. In his essay, “The Wiki and the Blog: Toward a Complex Adaptive Intelligence Community,” Andrus posed a deceptively simple question: How did the Internet become so useful in helping people find information?

    Andrus argued that the real power of the Internet comes from the boom in self-publishing: everyday people surging online to impart their thoughts and views. He was particularly intrigued by Wikipedia, the “reader-authored” encyclopedia, where anyone can edit an entry or create a new one without seeking permission from Wikipedia’s owners. This open-door policy, as Andrus noted, allows Wikipedia to cover new subjects quickly. The day of the London terrorist bombings, Andrus visited Wikipedia and noticed that barely minutes after the attacks, someone had posted a page describing them. Over the next hour, other contributors — some physically in London, with access to on-the-spot details — began adding more information and correcting inaccurate news reports. “You could just sit there and hit refresh, refresh, refresh, and get a sort of ticker-tape experience,” Andrus told me. What most impressed Andrus was Wikipedia’s self-governing nature. No central editor decreed what subjects would be covered. Individuals simply wrote pages on subjects that interested them — and then like-minded readers would add new facts or fix errors. Blogs, Andrus noted, had the same effect: they leveraged the wisdom of the crowd. When a blogger finds an interesting tidbit of news, he posts a link to it, along with a bit of commentary. Then other bloggers find that link and, if they agree it’s an interesting news item, post their own links pointing to it. This produces a cascade effect. Whatever the first blogger pointed toward can quickly amass so many links pointing in its direction that it rockets to worldwide notoriety in a matter of hours.

    Spies, Andrus theorized, could take advantage of these rapid, self-organizing effects. If analysts and agents were encouraged to post personal blogs and wikis on Intelink — linking to their favorite analyst reports or the news bulletins they considered important — then mob intelligence would take over. In the traditional cold-war spy bureaucracy, an analyst’s report lived or died by the whims of the hierarchy. If he was in the right place on the totem pole, his report on Soviet missiles could be pushed up higher; if a supervisor chose to ignore it, the report essentially vanished. Blogs and wikis, in contrast, work democratically. Pieces of intel would receive attention merely because other analysts found them interesting. This grass-roots process, Andrus argued, suited the modern intelligence challenge of sifting through thousands of disparate clues: if a fact or observation struck a chord with enough analysts, it would snowball into popularity, no matter what their supervisors thought.

    Clearly there are downsides as well, and Thompson discusses most of them in the story.

    posted by Dan at 08:17 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)



    Monday, November 6, 2006

    Does Google-bombing matter for elections?

    Tom Zeller's column in the New York Times today focuses on liberal efforts to Google-bomb vulnerable Republican candidates. Zeller reports that the effort has been successful:

    A GOOGLE bomb — which some Web gurus have suggested is perhaps better called a link bomb, in that it affects most search engines — has typically been thought of as something between a prank and a form of protest. The idea is to select a certain search term or phrase (“borrowed time,” for example), and then try to force a certain Web site (say, the Pentagon’s official Donald H. Rumsfeld profile) to appear at or near the top of a search engine’s results whenever that term is queried....

    To the extent that the public consciousness is now just as likely to be reached through a computer screen as a television, the idea that passionate sorts would engage in computer-ready actions should come as no surprise.

    And yet many people were shocked by the revelation two weeks ago that left-leaning bloggers were trying to drop a Google bomb on the campaigns of dozens of Republican candidates — not least because its bellicose promise seemed to throw into question the very integrity of search engine results.

    This took link bombing to a new level. The key phrases targeted were the names of the Republican candidates themselves. The goal was to tweak things so that searching for “Clay Shaw,” the Republican representative from Florida, for example, would return — high in the results — a news article, preselected from a relatively mainstream publication, detailing some negative aspect of the candidate’s record. This was repeated for 50 or so candidates.

    Did it work? The short answer is yes — somewhat. The folks at MyDD.com, where it all began, have been tracking the progress quite out in the open at mydd.com/tag/googlebomb. It’s worth a visit for people of all political persuasions, if only to catch a glimpse of the future of political strategizing.

    The latest MyDD update suggests that the netroots have managed to push their preferred link (an unfavorable news story about the candidate in question) into the top 10 links for more than 50 candidates.

    So, clearly, political Google-bombing has achieved its short-term goal of pushing particular stories into prominence.

    That said, the Luddite in me remains convinced that this will actually have absolutely zero effect on the election. For this to work, you need to believe that undecideds are going to actively search for candidates on the web before making their vote, and in the process stumble across the unflattering story. This is possible in theory, but in practice my hunch is that the people more likely to use the Internet to acquire information on political candidates are more likely to have made their voting decisions already -- and hence the Google-bombing effect would be too late.

    Or, to be more flip about it, James Joyner characterizes how these kinds of plans usually end:

    Step Four: Sharks with lay-zers on their foreheads.

    Step Five: Take over world.

    Caveat: my analysis is predicated on an assumption that voters who use the Internet to access political information are more eager for that info, more politically committed, and therefore more likely to commit to a position earlier. I'll grant that there miight be eaknesses in this causal chain.

    And, to be fair, a less stringent version of the Google-bomb hypothesis is that a few undecideds stumble across the Google-bombed story, and then e-mail it to everyone they know, creating a viral effect. This is the topic du jour in David Carr's NYT column:

    Ken Avidor would not seem to constitute much of a threat to the Republican Party. A Minnesota graphic artist with no official political role, he is a self-described Luddite and a bit of a wonk with an interest in arcane transportation issues.

    But last month, Mr. Avidor, a Democrat, managed to capture some video in which Michele Bachmann, a Republican candidate running for election to the United States House of Representatives from Minnesota’s Sixth District, suggested that, after some fasting and praying, not only had God told her to become a tax attorney, he had called her to run for Congress. And now that the election was near, God was “focused like a laser beam, in his reasoning, on this race.”

    In the parlance of politics, Ms. Bachmann was “speaking to the room,” in this case, a group at the Living Word Christian Center in Brooklyn Center, Minn. The speech was Webcast live by the church group, allowing Mr. Avidor to use a video camera he borrowed from his 17-year-old daughter to capture the shaky but discernible video off his computer monitor. He then used a three-year-old Mac to edit the piece and then forward it to, well, the world at large.

    The video on YouTube and Mr. Avidor’s video blog (michelebachmannmovies.blogspot.com), was picked up by other bloggers and eventually, The Star Tribune, the daily newspaper in Minneapolis. Ms. Bachmann’s opponents did everything they could to circulate the video and put her in a position of explaining God’s unpaid consulting role in her campaign.

    People in the elections business often say that the most powerful form of endorsement, next to meeting and being actually impressed by a candidate, is the recommendation of a trusted friend.

    In this election, YouTube, with its extant social networks and the ability to forward a video clip and a comment with a flick of the mouse, has become a source of viral work-of-mouth. As a result, a disruptive technology that was supposed to upend a half-century-old distribution model of television is having a fairly disruptive effect on politics as well.


    posted by Dan at 09:08 AM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)



    Sunday, October 22, 2006

    Maybe blogs and diplomacy don't mix too well

    The chief United Nations envoy for Sudan has been kicked out of the country because of what he's said on his blog. Warren Hoge explains in the New York Times:

    Sudan’s government ordered the chief United Nations envoy out of the country today, saying he was an enemy of the country and its armed forces.

    Secretary General Kofi Annan said that he was reviewing the letter from the Khartoum government and had requested the envoy, Jan Pronk, to return to New York for “consultations.”

    The Sudanese order said he had to leave by Wednesday. United Nations officials confirmed he would depart before then.

    Mr. Pronk, a blunt-spoken former Dutch cabinet minister, has been outspoken in reporting on the killings, rapes and other atrocities in Darfur, the region in the western part of Sudan where 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million have been driven from their homes.

    He has become increasingly pointed in his comments because of the rise in violence across the area despite a May peace accord between the Sudanese government and a major rebel group, and because of the government’s refusal to grant permission for a new United Nations force to take over peacekeeping in the country from the overstretched African Union.

    Mr. Pronk is known as a forceful presence at the United Nations from his frequent appearances before the Security Council, where he characteristically delivers unflinching accounts of the continuing mayhem and political breakdowns in Sudan in a rhetorical style that includes finger-jabbing and dramatic pauses for emphasis.

    Sudan’s action against him was apparently provoked by an entry he made in his personal blog — www.janpronk.nl — last weekend that said Sudan’s armed forces had suffered two major defeats with extensive casualties against rebels in Darfur in the past six weeks. He also reported that generals had been cashiered, that morale had sunk and that the government had collaborated with the feared Janjaweed Arab militias, which are held responsible for pillaging villages and killing and raping their residents.

    The Sudanese armed forces on Thursday cited the blog entry in calling Mr. Pronk a threat to national security and asking that he be expelled.

    The fact that one of its top officials has put sensitive findings in a personal blog has embarrassed the United Nations and put its officials in an awkward position. When the matter arose Friday, United Nations officials resisted rebuking Mr. Pronk for the practice for fear that it would appear to be a vote of no confidence in the mission, rather than just in his professional lapse.

    Questioned repeatedly on Friday over whether the United Nations stood by the statements in Mr. Pronk’s blog, Stéphane Dujarric, Mr. Annan’s spokesman, said, “Those views are expressed by Pronk, are his personal views.”

    Mr. Dujarric indicated that this was not the first time a problem with Mr. Pronk’s blog had come up. “There have been a number of discussions with Mr. Pronk regarding his blog and the expectation of all staff members to exercise proper judgment in what they write in their blogs,” he said.

    Here's the relevant section of Pronk's blog that raised the ire of the Sudanese government:
    [The Sudanese Armed Forces] has lost two major battles, last month in Umm Sidir and this week in Karakaya. The losses seem to have been very high. Reports speak about hundreds of casualties in each of the two battles with many wounded and many taken as prisoner. The morale in the Government army in North Darfur has gone down. Some generals have been sacked; soldiers have refused to fight. The Government has responded by directing more troops and equipment from elsewhere to the region and by mobilizing Arab militia. This is a dangerous development. Security Council Resolutions which forbid armed mobilization are being violated. The use of militia with ties with the Janjaweed recalls the events in 2003 and 2004. During that period of the conflict systematic militia attacks, supported or at least allowed by the SAF, led to atrocious crimes.
    I confess to mixed feelings about all of this.

    On the one hand, it seems morally repugnant to blame Pronk for writing a blog that exposes Sudanese duplicity and moral depravity. Later in his story, Hoge observes, "commenting on the international campaign that has arisen to try to end the violence in Darfur, [Sudan’s president Omar Hassan al-Bashir] said, 'Those who made the publicity, who mobilized the people, invariably are Jewish organizations.'" And as the Independent points out: "Observers says Pronk's direct style may have been a contributing factor in naming him the UN envoy to Sudan. He is often credited with keeping the crisis there high on the international agenda." It certainly seems like diplomats are shooting their mouths off with increasing regularity these days.

    And yet, I'm pretty sure that one of the primary jobs of a diplomat is not to needlessly piss off an actor who has a seat at the negotiation table. By blogging about such a sensitive matter, Pronk gift-wrapped the Sudanese an excuse to expel him and delay dealing with the United Nations Security Council. How does this help anyone in Darfur?

    This is not an issue to which I've paid a great deal of attention, so I'm issuing a bleg: for those who have been keeping tabs on Darfur, was Plonk's blog post a necessary or counterproductive action?

    There are certain jobs that would not seem to agree with blogging at all, and being a diplomat might be one of them.

    posted by Dan at 09:11 PM | Comments (7) | Trackbacks (0)



    Friday, October 20, 2006

    Why Nancy Pelosi is the cure for all that ails us

    My latest diavlog -- with the lovely Ann Althouse -- is up and running over at bloggingheads.tv. Among the topics discussed:

    1) Why everything Hugo Chavez touches turns to ashes (SIDE NOTE: How bad is Chavez's streak? He's losing to bloggers!!);

    2) How free should free speech be on campus?

    3) Is reality TV like virtual reality?

    4) Blogging tips from Ann and Dan!! and,

    5) Why I think Nancy Pelosi will solve all our social ills.

    Am I serious about Pelosi? You'll have to click and see!!

    Among the exciting visual changes -- I move to a comfy chair and change my beverage of choice.

    I might add that Professor Althouse, who is a generation older than I, looks about five years my junior in the video. No wonder she's constantly getting her picture taken for brochures.

    posted by Dan at 10:44 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)



    Wednesday, October 18, 2006

    From now on, when you hear "Drezner," think of strength, security... and minty freshness!!

    Stephen Bainbridge has decided that he needs to rebrand his blog:

    After three years of blogging, it's time to do a major rethink. With the blogging "market" increasingly crowded, the model of an eclectic, general interest blog is a less viable one. Perhaps more importantly, I'm just getting tired of the punditry style of blogging. I'm not enjoying writing that style as much; for that matter, I'm not enjoying reading other punditry blogs very much these days....

    [A]s far as day-to-day blogging goes, I've pretty much decided to rebrand ProfessorBainbridge.com by repositioning it as what it started out to be; namely, a niche blog focused on business law and economics. So I'll be taking a brief hiatus while I start the rebranding process.

    I've always admired Bainbridge's blog, but this last sentence led to a Scrubs-like daydream:
    BAINBRIDGE: So I'm thinking of doing more niche-blogging in business law and economics.

    BLOG CONSULTANT: Sure, that's a direction you could go, absolutely. But can I just say three little words to you? Desperate Housewives blog. Our research shows that academics flock to blogs where the writer links to attractive pop culture celebrities while talking about them in an intellectual way. It's a whole Whore of Mensa kind of thing.

    BAINBRIDGE: But my expertise is in business law -- I don't want that kind of image.

    CONSULTANT: Well, I can see you're not really serious about this re-branding concept. I am so leaking this meeting to Variety! (leaves, slams door)

    Seriously, for me, half of the fun of this blog is that I can talk about anything that comes into my head. Any thoughts I had to branding the blog disappear when I flash back to some advice Eszter Hargittai once gave me when I was thinking about bringing in guest-bloggers, which went something like: "Your blog is an expression of your identity -- why would you want to dilute or confine it?"

    On the other hand, maybe I'm not taking this seriously enough. Writing in to Bainbridge, Bruce Bartlett adds:

    I know that there are many blogs I used to read regularly that I now seldom read. The growth of partisanship is part of the reason, but there has also been a decline in substantive discussion.... The reason is simple: it’s hard work to be substantive. After a few months of blogging, most bloggers simply use up their substantive knowledge and must either rehash old hash or venture into areas where their knowledge is lacking.

    I think we are overdue for a shake-out among bloggers. There are too many with too little to say. But until there is enough money to attract people who will consistently make the effort to be substantive, I think there is going to be a problem.

    To mildly disagree with Bruce two posts in a row, I don't think he's got the whole story. Sure, some blogs burn out and fade away, while others become pale imitations of what they once were. Rather than think of these kind of inexorable trends, however, I suspect that blogs, like much of life, are cyclical. Attentive readers can surely point to days or weeks where it's clear that blogging has not been at the top of my priority list. This doesn't mean that I'm fading away... it (hopefully) means I'm acquiring new forms of substantive knowledge that trickle down onto the blog. That or I'm tickling my children.

    Blogging doesn't get old for me because the world stays interesting. Taxes on virtual reality? Hugo Chavez suffering yet another diplomatic reversal? Mel Gibson following the path I've laid before him? I'm there!!

    That said, maybe I'm wrong. A (dangeous) question to readers: which blogs do you think started out great but have devolved?

    posted by Dan at 08:47 PM | Comments (7) | Trackbacks (0)



    Tuesday, September 5, 2006

    Blogging's become respectable... what a drag

    From today's Hotline Blogometer:

    Looking at the top 10 most trafficked blogs, only DailyKos, Crooks and Liars, Michelle Malkin, and Instapundit started out as lone blogger-hobbyists. The other 6 (including The Huffington Post, The Corner, and Think Progress) are either planned business enterprises, outgrowths of existing MSM pubs, or online presences of otherwise established orgs. Many may have a romantic ideal of bloggers as loners mashing away at a keypad in their pajamas, but the biggest and best blogs all feature intelligent professionals, often with advanced degrees, commenting on issues at least tangentially related to their field of expertise. As these enterprises gain in influence and profitability, should we really be that surprised as they become more professional as well?
    As one of those intelligent professionals with advanced degrees, my only regret is that I'm going to have to hear endless laments about how blogging was so much better during the early years... when it was about the music.

    UPDATE: More evidence of blogger professionalization (link via ISN's blog).

    posted by Dan at 02:15 PM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)




    The most blog-friendly country in Europe

    Here's a question: blogs have had the greatest political impact in which country in Europe?

    Answer after the jump....

    According to the Financial Times' Martin Arnold, the answer is... France:

    Next year's French presidential elections will be the first to take place since blogging caught the public imagination.

    With surveys showing the French are among Europe's the most active readers of blogs, the ruling UMP party for the first time invited 12 of the country's leading blogs to attend its youth convention in Marseilles as part of the press corps.

    The UMP's move is a sign that France is catching up with the US, where bloggers have been attending Republican and Democratic party conventions for years.

    "A big population of French people only get their news via the internet, so we wanted to reach them, as well as to create some excitement around the youth convention," says Thierry Solère, head of internet strategy at the UMP.

    Loïc Le Meur, author of one of France's best-known blogs - www.loiclemeur.com - says: "They have really created a buzz in the blogosphere. It is really very clever, as they have understood that they can reach several million people through us."....

    Last year campaigners in favour of the European constitution were caught out by the No campaign's domination of the online debate ahead of the French referendum that rejected the treaty.

    It has since become de rigueur for presidential candidates on left and right to start a blog. Ségolène Royal, the favourite to be the Socialist presidential candidate, has invited readers to submit ideas for a manifesto-style book she is publishing online....

    France has stolen a march on the rest of Europe in the blogosphère. More than 4.5m people have created a blog in France, or 18 per cent of the 26.9m people who have an internet connection, according to a study published last week by Ipsos.

    While 36 per cent of internet users visited blogs in France, this figure was only 24 per cent in the UK, 18 per cent in Italy and 9 per cent in Germany, according to a study in June by Média-métrie. France's blogging boom is being driven by the young: 80 per cent of French blogs were created by people aged 25 or under.

    Question to readers -- why France?

    posted by Dan at 10:54 AM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)



    Friday, August 25, 2006

    Thoughts on Iran and oil

    That's what you will hear me pontificate about in PJM's Blog Week in Review podcast. The other participant was Gerard Van Der Leun.

    Go check it out.

    posted by Dan at 01:18 PM | Comments (7) | Trackbacks (0)



    Wednesday, August 16, 2006

    New blogger on the scene!!

    Reuters reports about a new and exciting blogger:

    Iran's president has launched a Web log, using his first entry to recount his poor upbringing and ask visitors to the site if they think the United States and Israel want to start a new world war.

    Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose speeches are riddled with anti-U.S. rhetoric, also described how he was angered by American meddling in Iran even when he was at elementary school.

    Ahmadinejad swept to a surprise victory in last year's presidential race by promising the country's poor a fairer share of Iran's oil wealth and emphasizing his own humble origins that led many to vote for him as an "outsider" to Iran's ruling elite.

    "During the era that ... living in a city was perfection, I was born in a poor family in a remote village," he wrote in a blog dated Friday, after opening with Islamic greetings.

    Here's a link to Ahmadinejad's first post, which ends by confessing, "I will continue this topic later on as it took long in the beginning. From now onwards, I will try to make it shorter and simpler."

    To which I can only say, as a fellow blogger, good God, yes.

    The blog is worth checking out for Ahmadinejad's... interesting interpretation of the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomenei's post-revolution strategy of political inclusion.

    Surprisingly, Ahmadinejad's poll shows a bare majority disagreeing with the contention that "the US and Israeli intention and goal by attacking Lebanon is pulling the trigger for another word (sic) war."

    posted by Dan at 03:52 PM | Comments (7) | Trackbacks (0)



    Monday, August 7, 2006

    Faked Reuters photos -- open thread
    doctored.jpg

    Comment away on the Reuters decision to withdraw all photographs by a Lebanese freelancer because he doctored his photographs to make Israeli bombing damage appear worse than it actually was -- and the role the right-wing blogosphere played in this decision.

    I confess to actual shock -- I thought this kind of thing only happened when O.J. Simpson was arrested.

    Two more serious thoughts:

    1) Is this the tip of the iceberg or merely an isolated incident? If the former, how much misperception does such photo doctoring create about the current conflict?

    2) To what extent will examples like this cause supporters of Israel to discount all mainstream media accounts of the damage in Lebanon.

    posted by Dan at 07:28 PM | Comments (36) | Trackbacks (0)



    Friday, July 28, 2006

    My diavlog debut

    For months, nay, years, the hard-working staff here at danieldrezner.com has begged yours truly to start paying them join the vlogging revolution.

    Your humble blogger has finally made the plunge... on bloggingheads.tv. To see me debate Nonzero author Robert Wright on the Middle East, Doha, the clash of civilizations, "progressive realism," and sportswriting, click here.

    posted by Dan at 11:56 AM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)



    Thursday, July 20, 2006

    Why oh why is the press so thick-headed about blogs?

    I don't normally like to rant against the mainstream media, but their coverage of this Pew survey of bloggers borders on the bizarre.

    The survey found that the overwhelming majority of people who blog do so for non-political reasons -- they function primarily as online personal diaries.

    This would certainly be earth-shattering news -- if it was four years ago. Consider this Perseus report from the Paleolithic era of blogging -- October 2003:

    When you say "blog" most people think of the most popular weblogs, which are often updated multiple times a day and which by definition have tens of thousands of daily readers. These make up the tip of a very deep iceberg: prominently visible, but not characteristic of the iceberg as a whole.

    What is below the water line are the literally millions of blogs that are rarely pointed to by others, since they are only of interest to the family, friends, fellow students and co-workers of their teenage and 20-something bloggers. Think of them as blogs for nanoaudiences....

    Blogging is many things, yet the typical blog is written by a teenage girl who uses it twice a month to update her friends and classmates on happenings in her life. It will be written very informally (often in "unicase": long stretches of lowercase with ALL CAPS used for emphasis) with slang spellings, yet will not be as informal as instant messaging conversations (which are riddled with typos and abbreviations). Underneath the iceberg, blogging is a social phenomenon: persistent messaging for young adults.

    While Pew might reached the conclusion that most bloggers are not political after using sophisticated polling techniques, this is not a new finding (see Mystery Pollster on the methodology). It's merely a confirmation of what prior, less well-funded studies have found.

    Nevertheless, media outlets have framed the story in interesting ways. Consider the BBC:

    Bloggers who say their writings are a form of journalism are in the minority, despite the hype, two surveys reveal.

    A study by social networking site MSN Spaces found that nearly 60% of people in the UK use blogs as an online diary.

    "Citizen journalists" are increasingly dominating the headlines for reporting events using online tools like blogs.

    A second survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that 65% of people in the US who write a blog also do not consider their work journalism.

    Or Information Week:
    The majority of bloggers prefer to write about themselves and share their digital creations than to discuss politics or technology, a survey released Wednesday showed.

    While high-traffic "A-list" bloggers who discuss topics covered by traditional media get most of the publicity, the fact is blogging in general is more of a personal experience, the Pew Internet & American Life Project said. More than three fourths of bloggers surveyed said they blog to document their own experiences and share them with others. More than six in 10 said they blog to share practical knowledge or skills with others.

    "Blogs are as individual as the people who keep them, but this survey shows that most bloggers are primarily interested in creative, personal expression," Amanda Lenhart, senior research specialist at Pew, said in a statement.

    Or Sci-Tech Today:
    The media tends to focus on a small subset of well-known "A-list" sites that receive a high volume of visitors. These blogs tend to focus on politics or other hot button topics such as technology. For these bloggers, a blog is more than just a hobby, it is a job.

    However, according to the survey, the majority of bloggers, 76 percent, said the reason they have a blog is to record their personal experiences and share them with others, and 64 percent reported that they wanted to share their knowledge and skills with others.

    Most bloggers said the write about a myriad of different topics, but about 37 percent focus on "my life and experiences", with only 11 percent of bloggers said they concentrate on politics and the government, and 4 percent blog about technology. A scant 7 percent of respondents focus on entertainment and 6 percent use their blog to discuss sports. And, just 34 percent of bloggers look at blogging as a form of journalism.

    Finally, there's Slate's Jack Shafer:
    Pew's blogging masses couldn't be more different than the American A-listers. Most A-listers are men over 30; have published before; are in it primarily to change public opinions and not to share their experiences; know only a fraction of their readers; and don't conceal their identities....

    I'm not disparaging bloggers, so please don't treat me to a high-tech lynching. But this study shows that at this early point in the blog era, the great mass of bloggers aren't set on replacing reporters. The top 100 or top 1,000 may consider themselves "citizen journalists" of one sort or another, but the survey finds that 65 percent of bloggers don't consider their output journalism at all. They're just expressing themselves in a leisurely fashion, inspired by a personal experience (78 percent, says the survey), and their blogs are a "hobby" or "something I do, but not something I spend a lot of time on" (84 percent).

    Again, I'm not disparaging hobbies or navel-gazing: I have hobbies I can bore you with, and I navel-gaze. But the Pew report indicates that only a tiny fraction of current bloggers have any ambition to fulfill the blogs über alles designs some media theorists plotted for them.

    Shafer's story illustrates what has changed in the past three years, and it's not the blogosphere -- it's the mainstream media's fear of the blogosphere (which is one reason why blogs have been declared to be passé so many times this past year). If the Pew survey suggests that not all bloggers are Army-of-David wannabe journalists, then that's the angle that should be reported.

    Now, I am resolutely not a blog triumphalist, and do not think that blogs will supplant mainstream media outlets. However, in the spirit of contrarianism, let me offer two cautionary warnings to the journalists out there who might be reassured by these numbers.

    First, it doesn't matter if an overwhelming majority of blogs do not focus on politics and government -- what matters is that there are a huge number of blogs out there and a fraction of them do focus on matters of interest to political journalists. If the Pew survey is accurate, then eleven percent of twelve million bloggers -- more than 1.3 million Americans -- have blogs that focus on the politics. Most of them probably aren't that good -- but I could say the same of many newspapers as well. The point is, 1.3 million is still a pretty large number.

    Second, as an A-list [No--ed.] B-list [No-ed.] C-list [In the interest of not embarrassing you further, I'l let it pass--ed.], it's worth remembering that what motivates bloggers changes over time. Most A-list bloggers, when they started their blogs, were also "primarily interested in creative, personal expression." The motivations can change once an audience starts to grow, however.

    I eagerly await the Pew survey on commenters.

    posted by Dan at 05:57 PM | Comments (11) | Trackbacks (0)



    Thursday, June 29, 2006

    Pssst.... want to listen to a podcast?
    Did the New York Times endanger national security by publicizing the existence of the US government’s SWIFT program, designed to track the funding of international terrorists? Or was the news organization simply an agent of the public’s right and need to know the actions of the US Government?
    You can hear my (muddled) take on this question in Pajamas Media Blog Week in Review, which I taped with Austin Bay, Eric Umansky, and La Shawn Barber. Other topic discussed include the Bus Uncle.
    posted by Dan at 11:05 PM | Comments (12) | Trackbacks (0)



    Monday, June 26, 2006

    The blogosphere, R.I.P.--- wait, this sounds familiar

    Less than six months ago I observed that many media outlets seemed to be burying the blogosphere. Maybe it's a cyclical thing, but blogs are being buried... again.

    There was the whole TNR-Kos debate, but that's so last week. As an bizarre offshoot of that dogpile, there is Lee Siegel's badly written and badly reasoned rant over at TNR. Siegel says in his first post that "The blogosphere's fanaticism is, in many ways, the triumph of a lack of focus." Er, in my book, the one thing fanatics don't lack is focus. That's without trying to deconstruct the "fascism with a Microsoft face" metaphor. Siegel doesn't help matters in his follow-up post.

    A more interesting critique comes from Alan Jacobs in Christianity Today:

    Whatever one thinks about the structure of the internet as a whole, it is becoming increasingly clear that the particular architecture of the blogosphere is the chief impediment to its becoming a place where new ideas can be deployed, tested, and developed. Take, for instance, the problem of comments.

    The industry-standard blog architecture calls for something like this: a main area on the page where the blogger's own posts are presented, with the newest post at the top of the page; then, at the left or right or both, various supplements: links to other sites, personal information about the blogger, and so on. At the bottom of each post will be the hyperlinked word "comments," usually followed by a parenthesis indicating the number of responses to the post: click on the word and you get to see all those comments. That's where the real conversation is supposed to take place. And sometimes it does; but often it doesn't—or rather, the conversation just gets started and then peters out before it can really become productive. And this happens not because of inertia, but largely because the anatomy of a blog makes a serious conversation all but impossible....

    Architecture is of course not everything here; human nature is at work too. I think first of the extraordinary anger that seems to be more present in the blogosphere than in everyday life. Debate after debate—on almost every site I visit, including the ones devoted to Christianity—either escalates from rational discourse into sneering and name-calling or just bypasses reason altogether and starts with the abuse.

    Partly this derives from the anonymity of blog comments: people rarely identify themselves by their real names, and the email addresses that they sometimes provide rarely give clues about their identity: a person who is safe from substantive reprisals is probably more easily tempted to express rage. Also—and this is a problem especially on the political blogs—commenters can find themselves confronted with very different beliefs than the ones they encounter in everyday life, where they often are able to select their own society. A right-winger wandering into a comment thread on Dailykos.com is likely to get a serious douse of vitriol for his or her trouble; ditto a liberal who plunges into the icy waters of No Left Turns. And the anonymous habitués of a given site are unlikely to show much courtesy to the uninvited guest....

    Blogs remain great for news: political, technological, artistic, whatever. And they provide a very rich environment in which news (or rather "news") can be tested and evaluated and revised, as we have seen repeatedly, from cnn's firing of Eason Jordan to the discrediting of Dan Rather's story on President Bush's National Guard service. But as vehicles for the development of ideas they are woefully deficient and will necessarily remain so unless they develop an architecture that is less bound by the demands of urgency—or unless more smart people refuse the dominant architecture. Even on a site with the brainpower of Crooked Timber, what happens more often than not—indeed, what happens so often that I've taken the site from my rss reader and only check it once or twice a month—is the conversion of really good scholars into really lousy journalists. With few exceptions, posts at the "academic" or "intellectual" blogs I used to frequent have become the brief and cursory announcement of opinions, not the free explorations of new and dynamic thinking.

    Jacobs has a point about the architecture -- though I would say that the spammers have feasted on the architecture much more than the trolls.

    On the development of ideas, Jacobs is both right and wrong. Of course blogs are imperfect vehicles for the long-form development of ideas. However, they are a great place for the germination of ideas. Most of them might be bad ideas, but occasionally I'll come up with something in a blog post that ripens into something even better in a different format.

    A final point, before I undoubtedly have to dredge up this topic six months from now. It it just me, or does much of the critical curdling towards the blogosphere evoke how intellectuals of the fifties turned against television? Elite critics went from praising the educational possibilities of the medium to complaining about the "vast wasteland" of television. Perhaps blogs, like TV, will never live up to the hype that was churned out in its technological infancy. However, no one today would think of bashing television as a medium when the variety of programming is so diverse.

    Why, then, do critics fall into this trap when they talk about blogs?

    posted by Dan at 11:11 PM | Comments (14) | Trackbacks (0)



    Wednesday, June 21, 2006

    Now the circle of co-optation is complete

    Way back in August 2004, Henry Farrell and I wrote the following:

    We predict that as blogs become a more established feature on the political landscape, politicians and other interested parties will become more adept at responding to them, and, where they believe it necessary, co-opting them. To the extent that blogs become more politically influential, we may expect them to become more directly integrated into ‘politics as usual,’ losing some of their flavor of novelty and immediacy in the process.
    That pretty much sums up what's happening with the allegations of "blogola" -- excessive chumminess betweek Markos Moulitsas, Jerome Armstrong and whoever hires Armstrong as a political consultant.

    For links on what's happening, see Mickey Kaus, James Joyner, NRO's Jim Geraghty, Ann Althouse, and Jason Zengerle at TNR's The Plank (this post about Kos' marketing power is particularly interesting). UPDATE: Thanks to Bob McManus for providing links to the left half of the blogosphere -- Ezra Klein, Max Sawicky, Stirling Newberry, Duncan Black, and Kos himself (see this Kos post on Zengerle's Plank posts as well).

    Read all the links. What's going on is not illegal, or even out of the ordinary in Washington, DC. It's politics as usual. The only reason the story is noteworthy is because bloggers like Kos have persistently said that they and theirs -- a.k.a., the netroots -- are not about politics as usual.

    Over time, however, that claim looks less and less viable. The question is whether bloggers like Kos find that their legions of readers are turned off by these kind of revelations, or whether they comfortably adjust into being middleweight power brokers.

    UPDATE: Commenters seem to be very upset that I'm accusing Moulitsas and Armstrong of corruption. I find this puzzling since I specifically did not do that. All I'm saying is that as Armstrong and Moulitsas rub elbows with powerful Democrats on a repeated basis, it becomes tougher and tougher for them to play the role of independent outsiders without a stake in the system. As Markos himself points out:

    I have friends that work or are closely allied with every single 2008 candidate. I have friends working in every single high-profile Senate race this fall. And at the DCCC, DSCC and DNC. Fact is, in this biz, I've made a s***load of great friends. And I won't tell them to f*** off because they work for a campaign. In fact, I ENCOURAGE my friends to work for campaigns. It's -- gasp! -- a good thing.
    Garance Franke-Ruta makes this same point in Tapped. In other words, the gates have been crashed.

    This is pretty much what Henry and I predicted, and it's coming to fruition (and it's certainly not limited to the left half, either).

    posted by Dan at 11:10 PM | Comments (28) | Trackbacks (0)



    Wednesday, June 14, 2006

    Mnew blog

    Seth Mnookin has started up a blog on his web site that's worth checking out if you like the Boston Red Sox, baseball in general, and savvy media criticism.

    [Besides you, who's interested in that stuff?--ed. Um... I'm guessing David Pinto, Bill Simmons, and maybe Mickey Kaus if he likes baseball. That's at least three. It's a trend, then!!--ed.]

    UPDATE: In other blog news, Matthew Yglesias is clearly making a buck off of his blogging and discovers to his irritation that he has to pay the government some of it.

    posted by Dan at 01:51 PM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)



    Wednesday, May 31, 2006

    Your memorable phrase for today
    [N]obody wants to see a forty year old woman licking salt off a guy's neck and coughing up big phlegm balls from the smokes.
    You'll have to click over to Laura McKenna to see it in context.
    posted by Dan at 09:59 AM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)



    Tuesday, May 9, 2006

    Who's the least trusted of them all?

    BBC and Reuters commissioned a poll of 10 countries to find out how much media sources are trusted. One finding that was consistent across countries stood out:

    National TV was the most trusted news source overall (trusted by 82%, with 16% not trusting it) - followed by national/regional newspapers (75% vs 19%), local newspapers (69% vs 23%), public radio (67% vs 18%), and international satellite TV (56% vs 19%). Internet blogs were the least trusted source (25% vs 23%) – with one in two unable to say whether they trusted them.

    posted by Dan at 12:23 PM | Comments (12) | Trackbacks (0)



    Thursday, May 4, 2006

    New bipartisan foreign policy blog

    I'm very, very, very close to finishing some time-consuming copyediting, so posting will be light in the next 24 hours.

    In the meantime, go check out the Partnership for a Secure America's new foreign policy blog, Across the Aisle. I don't know all of the contributors, but I know enough of them to have confidence in the quality of output.

    I particularly like this post by Chip Andreae that carefully delimits the kind of bipartisanship the Partnership is talking about:

    [I]n spite of the growing need for true and uniting leadership to emerge from Capitol Hill, we must be conscious enough of why we demand bipartisan efforts to reject the recent political phenomenon that occurred during the DP World deal: bipartisanship for its own sake.

    The events surrounding the attempt of Dubai Ports World to obtain ownership of several major US ports need no review. From a political perspective, the only point I want to raise is how quickly and seamlessly Democrats and Republicans banned together to strike down an otherwise legitimate business deal. Contrary to what some believe, this movement did nothing to indicate that Washington is still capable of interjecting a thoughtful, factual debate on foreign policy or any other issue. Rather, it only served to reflect the very worst in bipartisan consensus in that it lowered the threshold of leadership to the point that both parties sought merely to respond to a base protectionist view.

    Back, now, to the why. With bipartisanship – I mean true bipartisanship – our country has an unlimited, unfiltered source of ideas from which to choose the best and brightest. But if we get too caught up in party lines, the number of ideas and opinions starts to diminish until we’re back down to two: Dems vs Reps. The problem with bipartisanship for its own sake is that it results in a scenario much closer to the latter than the former. In the paradigm of Dubai ports, the party lines were less visible, but not to facilitate meaningful debate (excepting the efforts of the Administration and a few senators) and diverse opinions. Rather, so many of the politicos used bipartisan efforts as a bandwagon to carry them as far from the President as possible. In other words, they only wanted to be bipartisan because that looked better to the American public than what was really happening. This preempted much of the discussion on important related issues like Dubai’s potential role in the War on Terror, or the US’s military presence in the Middle East (including countries other than Iraq).

    Washington politicians now find themselves with something they may never see again…a second chance. A UAE company named Dubai International Capital is in the process of purchasing a British Defense group with US security connections. Sound familiar? It should. The deal went through a 45-day review by CFIUS, after which President Bush signed off on it. Thus far, there has been little outcry from either side of the aisle. My hope is that this reflects the true bipartisan spirit – one that sets a stage for Democrats and Republicans to discuss the important issues of foreign investment in the US, and the inevitable repercussions manifested in US investment abroad.

    posted by Dan at 02:27 PM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)



    Wednesday, March 15, 2006

    Now the circle is almost complete....

    I'm just gonna reprint this UPI report in its entirety and not say anything:

    "Sex and the City" star Sarah Jessica Parker and "Jack & Bobby" writer Vanessa Taylor are developing a new HBO comedy based on "Washingtonienne."

    Parker and Taylor will executive produce the half-hour comedy based on the steamy novel by Jessica Cutler, Daily Variety reported Wednesday. Cutler will act as a consultant to the project.

    Parker is not expected to appear on the show, the first from her Pretty Matches Productions, Variety said.

    Although the show is in its very early stages, Taylor told Variety to expect "a morally ambiguous" and "controversial character."

    [You're really not going to say anything?--ed. Nothing.... except to ponder when Ana Marie Cox's novel will get optioned into a TV movie starring Alicia Witt. Then thecircle will be truly complete.]

    posted by Dan at 09:35 PM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)



    Wednesday, March 8, 2006

    Virginia Postrel is my hero

    Click here and here for why.

    And it's nice to see that her writing talents are also getting their due.

    posted by Dan at 09:14 AM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)



    Friday, March 3, 2006

    Most interesting sentence of the day
    I haven’t encountered any awkward situations yet running around public bathrooms snapping photos, but I can imagine eventually I may get some curious glances.
    Eszter Hargittai at Crooked Timber. You'll have to click on the link to see her perfectly innocent explanation.
    posted by Dan at 09:35 AM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)



    Wednesday, February 22, 2006

    David Ignatius makes me so mad!!!

    David Ignatius' column in today's Washington Post echoes some recent speculation about why globalization hasn't led to the kind of moderate, secular modernization predicted by the likes of Tom Friedman and other Davos men:

    So why does the world feel so chaotic? Why is there a growing sense that, as Francis Fukuyama put it in a provocative essay in last Sunday's New York Times Magazine, "More democracy will mean more alienation, radicalization and -- yes, unfortunately -- terrorism"?....

    A second explanation of the connectedness paradox comes from Charles M. McLean, who runs a trend-analysis company called Denver Research Group Inc. (I wrote a 2004 column called "Google With Judgment" that explained how his company samples thousands of online sources to assess where global opinion is heading.) I asked McLean last week if he could explain the latest explosion of rage in our connected world -- namely the violent Islamic reaction to Danish cartoon images of the prophet Muhammad.

    McLean argues that the Internet is a "rage enabler." By providing instant, persistent, real-time stimuli, the new technology takes anger to a higher level. "Rage needs to be fed or stimulated continually to build or maintain it," he explains. The Internet provides that instantaneous, persistent poke in the eye. What's more, it provides an environment in which enraged people can gather at cause-centered Web sites and make themselves even angrier. The technology, McLean notes, "eliminates the opportunity for filtering or rage-dissipating communications to intrude." I think McLean is right. And you don't have to travel to Cairo to see how the Internet fuels rage and poisons reasoned debate. Just take a tour of the American blogosphere.

    Wait a minute -- I thought blogs were dead. How can they be passe and a conduit for rage? Huh? HUH??!!

    What the f@#$ does Ignatius know about blogs???!!! He's just a card-carrying member of the ELITE MAINSTREAM MEDIA!! ATTICA!!! ATTICA!!!!!

    OK, got that out of my system.

    I see the point that Ignatius and Fukuyama are trying to make -- that democratization creates real short-term problems by allowing radicals to take over governments. However, as I've said repeatedly, unless radical or revolutionary groups succeed at making the trains run on time, these groups (and blogs) become discredited and illegitimate over time. More generally:

    [I]lliberal democracies are [not] necessarily better for world politics than slowly reforming authoritarian states are. But they are not necessarily worse, either. It's more a question of timing -- illiberal states that become democratic are more likely to have problems sooner rather than later, while authoritarian states that are slowly democratizing are likely to have problems later rather than sooner.
    Fukuyama and Ignatius are correct to raise the short-term problems that come with globalization and democratization -- but they're wrong not to stress the long-term advantages that come along as well.

    posted by Dan at 12:42 PM | Comments (9) | Trackbacks (0)



    Sunday, February 19, 2006

    The blogosphere, R.I.P. (2002-2006)

    Well, it's time for me to pack it in -- blogs are finished, kaput, history.

    How do I know this? Why, I've been reading what the media has said about it this month. They're doomed economically -- Slate's Daniel Gross says, "as businesses, blogs may have peaked. There are troubling signs—akin to the 1999 warnings about the Internet bubble—that suggest blogs have just hit their top."

    Gross is just following up on a New York cover story by Clive Thompson, in which it turns out that it's difficult to eke out a living from blogging:

    By all appearances, the blog boom is the most democratized revolution in media ever. Starting a blog is ridiculously cheap; indeed, blogging software and hosting can be had for free online. There are also easy-to-use ad services that, for a small fee, will place advertisements from major corporations on blogs, then mail the blogger his profits. Blogging, therefore, should be the purest meritocracy there is. It doesn’t matter if you’re a nobody from the sticks or a well-connected Harvard grad. If you launch a witty blog in a sexy niche, if you’re good at scrounging for news nuggets, and if you’re dedicated enough to post around the clock—well, there’s nothing separating you from the big successful bloggers, right? I can do that.

    In theory, sure. But if you talk to many of today’s bloggers, they’ll complain that the game seems fixed. They’ve targeted one of the more lucrative niches—gossip or politics or gadgets (or sex, of course)—yet they cannot reach anywhere close to the size of the existing big blogs. It’s as if there were an A-list of a few extremely lucky, well-trafficked blogs—then hordes of people stuck on the B-list or C-list, also-rans who can’t figure out why their audiences stay so comparatively puny no matter how hard they work. “It just seems like it’s a big in-party,” one blogger complained to me.

    Read the whole thing -- there's some interesting confusion by either Thompson or Clay Shirky between power law distributions and cascade effects.

    [OK, so maybe blogs can't rake in the big bucks -- they're still fun, right? They're a political force, right?--ed.] No, I'm afraid that the media has determined that neither assertion is true. The Financial Times' Trevor Butterworth says that blogs are culturally passé:

    [A]s with any revolution, we must ask whether we are being sold a naked emperor. Is blogging really an information revolution? Is it about to drive the mainstream news media into oblivion? Or is it just another crock of virtual gold - a meretricious equivalent of all those noisy internet start-ups that were going to build a brave “new economy” a few years ago?

    Shouldn’t we just be a tiny bit sceptical of another information revolution following on so fast from the last one - especially as this time round no one is even pretending to be getting rich? Isn’t the problem of the media right now that we barely have time to read a newspaper, let alone traverse the thoughts of a million bloggers?....

    Blogging - if you will forgive the cartoon philosophising - brought the European Enlightenment to the US. Each blogger was his, or her, own printing press, spontaneously exercising their freedom to criticise. Which is great. But along the way, opinion became the new pornography on the internet.

    The historical lesson here is one of cyclical rebellion at the US media for being staid, dull and closed off to change. Indeed, the underground press of the 1960s was described in almost identical terms as blogging is today. “The loudest voice heard in America these days,” said the radical journalist Andrew Kopkind in 1967, is the sound of insurgents chiselling away at establishments.”

    The present round of chiselling may feel exciting and radically new - 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....

    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.

    Butterworth is so convinced the blogosphere is passé, he's... er... set up a blog to handle the feedback.

    Similarly, over at AlterNet, Lackshmi Cahudhry despairs about the inequality, corporatization, and general whiteness of the blogosphere:

    As blogs have grown in popularity -- at the rate of more than one new blog per second -- they've begun to lose their vanguard edge. The very institutions that political bloggers often criticize have begun to adopt the platform, with corporate executives, media personalities, porn stars, lawyers and PR strategists all jumping into the fray. That may be why Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, the founder and primary voice of Daily Kos, thinks the word "blog" is beginning to outlive its usefulness. "A blog is merely a publishing tool, and like a tool, it can be used in any number of ways," he says....

    The past two years have also marked the emergence of a close relationship between top bloggers and politicians in Washington. A number of them -- for example, Jesse Taylor at Pandagon, Tim Tagaris of SwingStateProject, Stoller and Armstrong -- have been hired as campaign consultants. Others act as unofficial advisers to top politicos like Rep. Rahm Emmanuel (D-Ill.), who holds conference calls with preeminent bloggers to talk strategy. When the Senate Democrats invite Moulitsas to offer his personal views on netroots strategy -- treating him, as a Washington Monthly profile describes, "a kind of part-time sage, an affiliate member" -- the perks of success become difficult to deny.

    Armstrong sees the rise of the blogger-guru -- or "strategic adviser," as he puts it -- as a positive development. Better to hire a blogger who is personally committed to the Democratic cause than a D.C.-based mercenary who makes money irrespective of who wins.

    But the fact that nearly all these "advisers" are drawn from a close-knit and mostly homogenous group can make them appear as just a new boys' club, albeit one with better intentions and more engaged politics. Aside from notable exceptions like Moulitsas, who is part-Salvadoran, and a handful of lesser-known women who belong to group blogs, top progressive bloggers tend to be young, well-educated, middle class, male and white....

    The Washington Monthly profile of Moulitsas included a revealing quote, in which he expressed disappointment at not being able to fulfill his dream of making it big in the tech industry back in 1998: "Maybe at some time, Silicon Valley really was this democratic ideal where the guy with the best idea made a billion dollars, but by the time I got there at least, it was just like anything else -- a bunch of rich kids who knew each other running around and it all depended on who you knew."

    The danger is that many may come to feel the same way about the blogosphere in the coming years.

    So everyone go home -- blog are economically unviable, culturally spent, politically unequal, and in the end amount to nothing more than the lame afterbirth of the dot-com boom and bust....

    Hey, what are you doing here? I thought I told you to go home. Ah, maybe you clicked through to see if, perchance, I was being sarcastic.

    Well, yes and no. You can condense all the linked stories into a few central themes:

    1) Not a lot of people will make a living off of blogging;

    2) Power laws create an unequal structure in the blogosphere that gives power to those at the top of the pyramid -- the linkers rather than the thinkers, as it were;

    3) Blogs will become co-opted by the mainstream media.

    4) There are inherent constraints on the influence of blogs.

    Well, all of this is very original. Oh, wait....

    All of these articles do a decent job of puncturing the "blog triumphalist balloon" -- it's just that a lot of bloggers have been stomping on that balloon for years now. The key question to ask about blogs is the counterfactual -- do any of these writers truly believe that the information ecosystem would be more democratic, more entrepreneurial, or more culturally interesting if blogs did not exist?

    In this way, these stories are correct in asserting that blogs are a synecdoche for the Internet as a whole -- they don't quite live up to the hype, but then again, the hype is so damn impressive that even if they live up to some of it, we should be impressed.

    Hey, mainstream media types, I'll cut you a deal -- I will never say that the blogosphere is a harbinger of egalitarian democracy if you acknowledge that blogs, flawed though they may be, nudge the information ecosystem in many constructive ways.

    Now, seriously, go home.

    UPDATE: Further evidence that the blogosphere has died -- William Safire has a column on its jargon in the New York Times Magazine.

    posted by Dan at 12:11 AM | Comments (27) | Trackbacks (0)



    Sunday, February 5, 2006

    A correction and apology to Tom Friedman

    A week or so ago I referenced a David Rothkopf blog post from Davos about a Tom Friedman faux pas. It turns out the post was in error. I'll just reprint what Rothkopf e-mailed me:

    Several elements of this Davos Diary were picked up and run in other places, which is gratifying. However, in one instance, it is embarassing. In the item on the panel on Middle East nuclear proliferation chaired by Tom Friedman of the New York Times, it suggests that Friedman made a statement that suggested that none of the nations in the area should have nuclear weapons and that this was a source of embarassment re: Pakistan's Pervez Musharraf, who was on the panel and whose nation does. Had the entry stated that it was Afghanistan's President Karzai who made the statement, it would have been accurate. That is what I intended to write and what my brain actually recalls having written. Being as how it was the truth and all. If it came out of my head otherwise or was somehow altered along the way, I apologize. Readers of the blog may recall I sustained several blows to the head along the way and anything is possible. Suffice it to say, Friedman ran the panel wonderfully with a light and informed touch and Karzai's misstatement was humorous and even he responded to his error with somewhat more grace than I have responded to this one.
    Apologies to Friedman for propagating the original error.

    posted by Dan at 04:32 PM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)



    Monday, January 30, 2006

    What is it that blogs do?

    There's been another spasm of output on whether the blogosphere does anything better or different than the mediasphere.

    Arnold Kiling believes that blogs function well as a distributor of information across the ideological spectrum:

    Certain information is more valuable to me than it is to others. We can represent this concept by thinking of everyone as being located at different points on a circle. The points closest to you in the circle are people with similar interests. They might be workers in nearby cubicles, or they could be people located at a great physical distance but working in the same field.

    I live in the economics neighborhood of the circle. My neighbor to the left is Brad, and my neighbor to the right is Virginia. All communication is via blog.

    Every day, each of us receives new information. Think of this as news, or as a flash of inspiration. I post my new information to my blog. This information has value that consists of two random components. One component is its general value--which is equal for everyone on the circle. The other component is local value, which means that the farther it gets from me, the lower its value becomes. However, I only observe the total value of a piece of information to me. It is impossible for me to distinguish between the two components, so I do not know who else might be interested in the information.

    I also read my neighbor's blogs. I evaluate each piece of information that I find on Virginia's blog. If its value to me exceeds some threshold value, then I link to it, which makes it available to Brad. If its value does not exceed the threshold, then I do not link to it. In this way, I act as a filter of information moving from right to left. I also do the same thing with information moving from left to right.

    This filtering process makes all of us more efficient.

    Meanwhile, Henry Farrell thinks the importance of blogs is not just as a provider of information, but as part of a conversation -- a fact that journalists have yet to comprehend:
    The point is that they have very different – and clashing – notions of where authority and responsibility come from. Each newspaper article has the form of a discrete statement, which is supposed to be as authoritative as possible on its own ground. Each blogpost has the form of an intervention in an ongoing conversation – the blogger’s authority rests in part on her willingness to respond to others and engage in argument with them. A blogger who doesn’t respond to good counter-arguments is being irresponsible (of course many bloggers are irresponsible in this way; there isn’t much in the way of formal policing of this norm). These forms of authority are difficult to reconcile with each other, because the latter in large part undermines the former. If journalists start systematically responding to their critics, and getting drawn into conversations about whether or not they were right when they made a particular claim, then they’re effectively admitting that the articles they have written aren’t all that authoritative in the first place. They’re subject to debate and to revision. Thus, in part, the tendency for journalists like Jack Shafer to dismiss criticism from bloggers and their commenters as “organized riots” and lynch mobs. It’s a fundamental threat to their notions of where journalistic authority comes from.
    Shafer, meanwhile, has a column in Slate suggesting that while journalists might not get the conversational aspect of bloggers, they do recognize the existential threat posed by the blogosphere:
    Like the long-gone typesetters, today's newspaper guild members believe that their job is somehow their "property," and that no amateur can step in to perform their difficult and arduous tasks. On one level, they're right. John Q. Blogger can't fly to Baghdad or Bosnia and do the work of a John F. Burns. But what a lot of guild members miss is that not everybody wants to read John F. Burns, not everybody who wants to read about Baghdad is going to demand coverage of the quality he produces, and not everybody wants Baghdad coverage, period. If you loosely define journalism as words and graphics about current events deliverable on tight deadline to a mass audience, the price of entry into the craft has dropped to a few hundred dollars. Hell, I can remember renting an IBM Selectric for $100 a month in the late 1970s just to make my freelance articles look more "professional" to my editors.

    So, when newspaper reporters bellyache about shoot-from-the-hip bloggers who don't fully investigate the paper trail before writing a story or double-check their facts before posting, they're telling a valuable truth. Bad bloggers are almost as bad as bad journalists. But the prospect of a million amateurs doing something akin to their job unsettles the guild, making it feel like Maytag's factory rats whose jobs were poached by low-paid Chinese labor.

    It's not just the best of the blogosphere drawing away big audiences that the guild need worry about. If Chris Anderson's Long Tail intuitions are right, the worst of the blogosphere—if it's big enough—presents just as much (or more) competition. Michael Kinsley made me laugh a decade ago when he argued against Web populists replacing professional writers, saying that when he goes to a restaurant, he wants the chef to cook his entree, not the guy sitting at the next table. I'm not laughing anymore: When there are millions of aspiring chefs in the room willing to make your dinner for free, a least a hundred of them are likely to deal a good meal. Mainstream publishers no longer have a lock on the means of production, making the future of reading and viewing anybody's game. To submit a tortured analogy, it's like the Roman Catholic Church after Gutenberg. Soon, everyone starts thinking he's a priest.

    posted by Dan at 09:24 AM | Comments (7) | Trackbacks (0)



    Wednesday, January 18, 2006

    Drezner's Third Law of Blog Motion

    Every vituperative blogger will generate a blog reaction of equal and opposite rhetorical strength.

    [With profuse apologies to Sir Isaac Newton--ed.]

    UPDATE: In the interest of preventing a similar kind of reaction to this blog, do check out this post as well.

    posted by Dan at 11:37 PM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)



    Tuesday, December 6, 2005

    I'll be on the radio tonight

    From 9-11 this evening I'll be one of the guests on Extension 720 with Milt Rosenberg on WGN Radio this evening. The other guests will be the lovely and talented Eszter Hargittai and fellow U of C blogger Sean Carroll from Cosmic Variance.

    [So whatcha gonna talk about?--ed. According to Milt's blog, "[they] will discuss their forays into blogging, examine blogs as a cultural phenomenon, and relate how their blogs have influenced their life and our world." Draw your own conclusions. UPDATE: Sean's conclusions: "the view of the blogosphere we'll be offering will doubtless be narrow and unrepresentative, but fascinating nonetheless." How can you pass that up?]

    posted by Dan at 04:47 PM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)



    Tuesday, November 29, 2005

    Who needs experts?

    Louis Menand has a glowing review in the New Yorker of Philip Tetlock's latest opus, Expert Political Judgment: How Good Is It? How Can We Know?. Some highlights:

    It is the somewhat gratifying lesson of Philip Tetlock’s new book... that people who make prediction their business—people who appear as experts on television, get quoted in newspaper articles, advise governments and businesses, and participate in punditry roundtables—are no better than the rest of us. When they’re wrong, they’re rarely held accountable, and they rarely admit it, either. They insist that they were just off on timing, or blindsided by an improbable event, or almost right, or wrong for the right reasons. They have the same repertoire of self-justifications that everyone has, and are no more inclined than anyone else to revise their beliefs about the way the world works, or ought to work, just because they made a mistake. No one is paying you for your gratuitous opinions about other people, but the experts are being paid, and Tetlock claims that the better known and more frequently quoted they are, the less reliable their guesses about the future are likely to be. The accuracy of an expert’s predictions actually has an inverse relationship to his or her self-confidence, renown, and, beyond a certain point, depth of knowledge. People who follow current events by reading the papers and newsmagazines regularly can guess what is likely to happen about as accurately as the specialists whom the papers quote. Our system of expertise is completely inside out: it rewards bad judgments over good ones....

    Tetlock also found that specialists are not significantly more reliable than non-specialists in guessing what is going to happen in the region they study. Knowing a little might make someone a more reliable forecaster, but Tetlock found that knowing a lot can actually make a person less reliable. “We reach the point of diminishing marginal predictive returns for knowledge disconcertingly quickly,” he reports. “In this age of academic hyperspecialization, there is no reason for supposing that contributors to top journals—distinguished political scientists, area study specialists, economists, and so on—are any better than journalists or attentive readers of the New York Times in ‘reading’ emerging situations.” And the more famous the forecaster the more overblown the forecasts. “Experts in demand,” Tetlock says, “were more overconfident than their colleagues who eked out existences far from the limelight.”...

    The experts’ trouble in Tetlock’s study is exactly the trouble that all human beings have: we fall in love with our hunches, and we really, really hate to be wrong....

    The expert-prediction game is not much different. When television pundits make predictions, the more ingenious their forecasts the greater their cachet. An arresting new prediction means that the expert has discovered a set of interlocking causes that no one else has spotted, and that could lead to an outcome that the conventional wisdom is ignoring. On shows like “The McLaughlin Group,” these experts never lose their reputations, or their jobs, because long shots are their business. More serious commentators differ from the pundits only in the degree of showmanship. These serious experts—the think tankers and area-studies professors—are not entirely out to entertain, but they are a little out to entertain, and both their status as experts and their appeal as performers require them to predict futures that are not obvious to the viewer. The producer of the show does not want you and me to sit there listening to an expert and thinking, I could have said that. The expert also suffers from knowing too much: the more facts an expert has, the more information is available to be enlisted in support of his or her pet theories, and the more chains of causation he or she can find beguiling. This helps explain why specialists fail to outguess non-specialists. The odds tend to be with the obvious.

    There are intriguing implications for understanding world politics that deserves a post of their own, but suffice it to say that Tetlock's findings will probably warm the cockles of every political blogger out there.

    posted by Dan at 10:41 PM | Comments (12) | Trackbacks (0)



    Friday, November 18, 2005

    So I see there's an article in Slate....

    You know you've reached a new and bizarre degree of "fame" when you read an article that features you prominently.... even though you were never contacted by the author prior to publication.

    I'm talking about Robert Boynton's article in Slate on the perils and promise of scholar-bloggers. A few corrections and clarifications for those wandering over here from that story.

    First, let me stress yet again that I have never said that the blog cost me tenure. My information on this front is imperfect, but rest assured that whenever more than twenty senior academics are meeting about anything, there are myriad, obscure, and frequently bizarre factors involved in any decision. Click here for more about that.

    Second, although it's a great ending for Boynton's essay, the Fletcher School did not find out about my tenure denial from the blog. That said, a lot of other places did find out that way, and I did get a very healthy number of queries through the blog.

    Third, I agree with Eric Alterman that having three Stanford degrees and a forthcoming Princeton University Press book is "good, but hardly sufficient" for tenure at the University of Chicago. In my own defense, though, I have a wee bit more than that under my scholarly belt.

    I am grateful to Boynton for the kind words in this paragraph:

    in another sense, academic blogging represents the fruition, not a betrayal, of the university's ideals. One might argue that blogging is in fact the very embodiment of what the political philosopher Michael Oakeshott once called "The Conversation of Mankind"--an endless, thoroughly democratic dialogue about the best ideas and artifacts of our culture. Drezner's blog, for example, is hardly of the "This is what I did today..." variety. Rather, he usually writes about globalization and political economy--the very subjects on which he publishes in prestigious, peer-reviewed presses and journals. If his prose style in the blog is more engaging than that of the typical academic's, the thinking behind it is no less rigorous or intelligent.

    Boynton goes on to point out the basic conundrum of how to count blogging -- even if the output is high quality, what is the external and replicable measurement through which this is assessed?

    Ann Althouse, Orin Kerr, and John Hawks (whose blog was mentioned but not linked to in the story -- what's up with that?) have further thoughts. Hawks makes an interesting point here:

    Should blogging count in some way? I don't know. I think my blogging makes me a better researcher. If I'm right, it has its own rewards. And I don't think that any blog post approximates a review article in any way -- if they did, they would be a lot less interesting!

    But the cumulative whole is greater than any single review article. And I would say that a sizable number of my posts are "worth" more than a book review, which would get counted in a minor way. It would be nice if the choice between different forms of productivity did not involve such a stark difference.

    Let me suggest that there are two issues that are conflated in the story. First, there is the idea of a blog as an output for public discourse, a la op-eds and the like. On that score, blogging counts as a form of service and not much else.

    Second, there is the idea that academic blogs facilitate better scholarship by encouraging online interactions about research ideas. Take, for example, this exchange between Marc Lynch, myself, and others about whether international relations theory is slighting the study of Al Qaeda, or this exchange between Erik Gartzke and R.J. Rummel about the root causes of the liberal democratic capitalist peace. Even better, the private responses I received to a post on trade-related intellectual property rights facilitated my own research efforts in that area. This sort of thing happens off-line as well, but the blog format is exceedingly well-suited for enhancing and expanding this kind of interaction. In this sense, blogs may very well supplant the old practice of having exchanges of letters in journals.

    Should it count for anything? As Hawks points out, it should lead to better research anyway, which should get recognized by the traditional standards.

    So I'm pretty sure that the contribution of blogs to academic output can be measured using pre-existing standards -- with one exception and one caveat. The exception is that maybe the whole of an academic blog is greater than the sum of its parts. Precisely because a blog can contribute to public discourse, scholarly research, and teaching pedagogy at the same time, it encourages a greater mkix of ideas and information than would otherwise be possible. Whether this is true I will leave for the commenters.

    The caveat is that even if blogging can be counted via conventional means, there is no indication that academic units will do so. As I've said before, academics are a very conservative bunch in many ways, so the idea that blogs should count for a plus will take a long time to seep in. For the present moment, my hope is that blogs do not count against you.

    posted by Dan at 10:24 AM | Comments (9) | Trackbacks (0)



    Tuesday, November 15, 2005

    A weird week in the blogosphere

    So there's been some positive developments for the credibility of bloggers. For example, Andrew Sullivan announced that he will be moving his blog to Time's website. Congrats to Andrew.

    In other positive blog news, Harvard history graduate student Rebecca Anne Goetz has an excellent essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education about the synergies between blogging and the academy:

    Academic bloggers who write about research and teaching are thinking very seriously about their vocation and they are engaging with their colleagues about how to do it right.

    Academics who blog and assemble carnivals can perform thought experiments and try out ideas quickly without going through the conventional publications or conference process. They can also comment on areas outside of their expertise or current research. If they like, and I've been known to do this myself, they can be a bit silly on their blogs too, letting off steam at the end of a long week.

    In short, I find that blogging makes my work better. What isn't to like about that?

    It's certainly a nice counterpoint to Ivan Tribble. And Goetz has useful follow-up links at her own blog as well.

    On the other hand, there's also a lot of weird blogosphere versions of those multiple car accidents that you think are just horrible but can't help looking at anyway.

    I don't want to call any more attention to them than already exists, so I'll just tell you to click over to this Rob Capriccioso story at Inside Higher Ed on one ugly academic blog brawl, [UPDATE: Tim Burke has the best assessment of this particular brouhaha] and this New York Times column by David Carr about what happens when Gawker gawks at the wrong topic. And then go take a shower.

    Oh, and I'll state for the record that I'm less than thrilled with the decision by Pajamas Media to have Judy Miller give the keynote address at the big launch. I'm even less thrilled to have to agree with Kos that this is not an auspicious beginning.

    posted by Dan at 10:31 AM | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (0)



    Friday, November 11, 2005

    Maybe AOL could buy me a Prius... coated in platinum

    Inspired by the AOL takeover of Weblogs, Inc., I decided to take the "How Much is Your Blog Worth" test.

    Here's what I found out:


    My blog is worth $307,109.76.
    How much is your blog worth?

    Woo-hoo!! Priuses for everyone!! I'm richer than the New York Times!!

    [Er, this site suggests that your blog's actual annual value is really closer to $4966.88--ed. I knew the dot-com bubble would eventually catch up to me.]

    Props to Mickey Kaus for all of the links.

    posted by Dan at 06:16 PM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)



    Tuesday, November 8, 2005

    How hard is it to use a f#$%ing footnote?

    Apparently, U.S. Representative Sherrod Brown sent a letter to Mike DeWine regarding the Samuel Alito nomination, and the letter essentially copied a Nathan Newman post about Alito's take on labor rights. Brown's staff admitted to Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter Stephen Koff that "90 percent of what Brown, an Avon Democrat, wrote in his letter was lifted from an Internet posting by a blogger."

    I'm quoted by Koff in the story:

    While the line dividing politicians and online political commentary sometimes seems fuzzy, University of Chicago political scientist Daniel Drezner, himself a blogger and co-editor of a forthcoming book on politics and blogging, says Brown went "outside the bounds."

    He compared it with Sen. Joe Biden, the Delaware Democrat who dropped out of the 1988 presidential race after it was learned he plagiarized part of a stump speech.

    "It strikes me as pretty much the same thing," Drezner said. "It's plagiarism."

    Brown's office acknowledged that it should not have used Newman's words without giving him credit. Spokeswoman Joanna Kuebler said she found Newman's work when researching labor issues. Brown's legislative staff confirmed its accuracy, and Brown then signed the staff-prepared letter, Kuebler said.

    "We should have cited it, and we didn't," Kuebler said.

    Ordinarily I woldn't post about this -- I've reached the point where I'm bored with my own media whoredom. However, this story has some lefty bloggers very annoyed -- including Newman:

    Did the Plain Dealer do an in depth analysis of Alito's labor record in response?

    No, they created a bullshit meta-story that was of such supposed breaking news value that they couldn't wait for me to get back from my mini-honeymoon to get my reaction.

    Duncan "Atrios" Black -- who works at Media Matters, mind you, concurs:

    Genuine plagiarism in this context is lifting out paragraphs of unique prose, not culling some information from a blog post.

    While I have some sympathy with the idea of reporters focusing on actual policy substance, this is still a completely valid story. Consider this section of Koff's story and compare it with Black's defiinition of plagiarism:

    For instance, Newman, an attorney and labor and community activist, posted this on his blog Nov. 1: "What is striking about Alito is that he is so hostile even to the basic rights of workers to have a day in court, much less interpreting the law in their favor."

    Brown's letter merely changed the last clause so the sentence read, "What is striking about Alito is that he is so hostile even to the basic rights of workers to have a day in court, not to mention interpreting the law against them."

    Brown's letter cited details of 13 rulings by Alito, who in early 2006 will face confirmation hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The problem is, Brown's descriptions in 12 of the cases were almost verbatim what Newman wrote on his blog.

    This is a case of sloppy staff work in Brown's office and not much more -- but it's still a screw-up, which explains why Brown's office immediately copped to the miscue.

    In NRO, Jonah Goldberg notes the special irony of Brown's mistake:

    [T]here's a special irony here. I think all reasonable people can agree that plagiarism is a theft of intellectual property. Well, I did a very quick Nexis search and it seems Sherrod Brown's been out front in opposing trade deals because they don't provide enough protections for intellectual property.

    UPDATE: Brown has sent another letter to DeWine acknowledging the failure to cite Newman. However, the press release accompanying the letter asserts that, "In coordination with an Ohio newspaper article published Tuesday, DeWine's staff dismissed concerns expressed by Brown in the Nov. 4 letter, instead focusing on citation errors." (emphasis added)

    That's an interesting word choice -- Brown is clearly implying that DeWine's staff engineered the story in the first place. I have no idea if this is true or not -- but I'd like to hear of any evidence Brown has to back this up.

    posted by Dan at 04:02 PM | Comments (23) | Trackbacks (0)



    Friday, October 21, 2005

    Looks like I'm not getting the Prius

    So I've agreed to join my own blogger cabal -- Pajamas Media.

    [So what does this mean for your average reader. Wait, screw them, what does this mean for me?!--ed. Not much, really. In a few weeks/months, you'll be redirected from this URL to another one -- but this bookmark will still be valid. There will probably be a few more ads along the right-hand side -- the whole point of this idea is to pool together multiple sites to generate larger traffic for advertisers. That's about it. And me?--ed. You're still on the payroll.]

    Here's my profile over at their site. Money quote: "My plan is to retire in three years based on this. I was specifically promised lots of cash and a Toyota Prius." UPDATE: Roger Simon sets me straight on the compensation.

    [Hey, wasn't Pajamas Media co-conceived by Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs?--ed. Why yes, yes it is. I disagree a fair amount with Charles -- but then again, I disagree with David Corn a fair amount too, and he's involved as well. Any good classical liberal would want this kind of disagreement--it would be like one syndicated columnist caring about who else is covered by the syndicate. Besides, I don't think there's going to be a huge overlap in readership. According to this LGF commenter, "sagely and even-handedly pondering all sides of an issue of grave geo-political importance is not what makes an exciting blog." So much for the Prius!--ed.]

    posted by Dan at 05:07 PM | Comments (19) | Trackbacks (0)



    Thursday, September 22, 2005

    A genuine blogging perk

    Lomgtime readers of danieldrezner.com are aware of my fondness for mocking goofy blogging perks.

    However, Glenn Reynolds posts about a really sweet perk:

    The PR folks for the forthcoming Joss Whedon (Buffy, Angel, etc.) science fiction movie Serenity are inviting bloggers to advance screenings. (List of cities here via an Excel document that didn't quite format right, but it's legible). It's free, and all they ask is that you blog something, good or bad, about it. If you're interested, email 'em at rsvp@gracehillmedia.com and they'll put you on the list.

    Glenn's Excel spreadsheet is pretty hard to read -- better yet, click over to Townhall.com's Blogger Screening page (link via the very shiny Alina Stefanescu)

    As for why Serenity is worth seeing, click here.

    [Won't real members of the media giggle that you're at the screening?--ed. As a member of Chicago's media elite, I expet them to respect my authoriti, thank you very much.]

    UPDATE: The people at Grace Hill Media have been kind enough to e-mail me Serenity's synopsis so I don't have to:

    Joss Whedon, the Oscarź - and Emmy - nominated writer/director responsible for the worldwide television phenomena of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE, ANGEL and FIREFLY, now applies his trademark compassion and wit to a small band of galactic outcasts 500 years in the future in his feature film directorial debut, Serenity. The film centers around Captain Malcolm Reynolds, a hardened veteran (on the losing side) of a galactic civil war, who now ekes out a living pulling off small crimes and transport-for-hire aboard his ship, Serenity. He leads a small, eclectic crew who are the closest thing he has left to family –squabbling, insubordinate and undyingly loyal.

    posted by Dan at 01:23 PM | Comments (12) | Trackbacks (2)



    Tuesday, September 13, 2005

    Is George Will reading Megan McArdle?

    Megan McArdle, "The poor really are different," Asymmetrical Information, September 9, 2005:

    If poor people did just four things, the poverty rate would be a fraction of what it currently is. Those four things are:

    1) Finish high school
    2) Get married before having children
    3) Have no more than two children
    4) Work full time

    These are things that 99% of middle class people take as due course.

    George Will, "A Poverty of Thought," Washington Post, September 13, 2005.

    [T]hree not-at-all recondite rules for avoiding poverty: Graduate from high school, don't have a baby until you are married, don't marry while you are a teenager. Among people who obey those rules, poverty is minimal.

    What's interesting is that McArdle and Will end up at somewhat different places with the same basic starting point.

    Other reads relevant to this conversation for today: Jon Hilsenrath's Wall Street Journal piece on what economists think about rebuilding New Orleans. Money quote from urban economist Ed Glaeser: "Given just how much, on a per capita basis, it would take to rebuild New Orleans to its former glory, lots of residents would be much [better off] with $10,000 and a bus ticket to Houston."

    Then there are these Washington Post poll numbers:

    Attitudes toward Bush and the government's overall response to Hurricane Katrina fracture along clear racial lines. Nearly three in four whites doubted the federal government would have responded more quickly to those trapped in New Orleans if they had been wealthier and white rather than poorer and black, the poll found. But an equal share of blacks disagreed, saying help would have come sooner if the victims had been more affluent whites.

    More than six in 10 blacks -- 63 percent -- said the problems with the hurricane relief effort are an indication of continuing racial inequity in this country, a view rejected by more than seven in 10 whites, according to the poll.

    posted by Dan at 01:04 PM | Comments (20) | Trackbacks (0)



    Tuesday, September 6, 2005

    The revenge of ham radio

    Among those debating the relative influence of the blogosphere in American politics, the facile question has always een whether blogs will become "talk radio or ham radio?" The obvious implication is that talk radio is now a permanent feature of the media ecosystem that covers politics, while ham radio was a fad that remains sustained only be true enthusiasts. Blog enthusiasts tend to favor the former comparison over the latter.

    After reading this Wall Street Journal story by Christopher Rhoads on what ham radio has done in the wake of Katrina, perhaps the blogosphere should become more comfortable with the latter comparison as well:

    With Hurricane Katrina having knocked out nearly all the high-end emergency communications gear, 911 centers, cellphone towers and normal fixed phone lines in its path, ham-radio operators have begun to fill the information vacuum. "Right now, 99.9% of normal communications in the affected region is nonexistent," says David Gore, the man operating the ham radio in the Monroe shelter. "That's where we come in."

    In an age of high-tech, real-time gadgetry, it's the decidedly unsexy ham radio -- whose technology has changed little since World War II -- that is in high demand in ravaged New Orleans and environs. The Red Cross issued a request for about 500 amateur radio operators -- known as "hams" -- for the 260 shelters it is erecting in the area. The American Radio Relay League, a national association of ham-radio operators, has been deluged with requests to find people in the region. The U.S. Coast Guard is looking for hams to help with its relief efforts.

    Ham radios, battery operated, work well when others don't in part because they are simple. Each operator acts as his own base station, requiring only his radio and about 50 feet of fence wire to transmit messages thousands of miles. Ham radios can send messages on multiple channels and in myriad ways, including Morse code, microwave frequencies and even email.

    Then there are the ham-radio operators themselves, a band of radio enthusiasts who spend hours jabbering with each other even during normal times. They are often the first to get messages in and out of disaster areas, in part because they are everywhere. (The ARRL estimates there are 250,000 licensed hams in the U.S.) Sometimes they are the only source of information in the first hours following a disaster. "No matter how good the homeland-security system is, it will be overwhelmed," says Thomas Leggett, a retired mill worker manning a ham radio in the operations center here. "You don't hear about us, but we are there."

    posted by Dan at 10:48 AM | Trackbacks (0)



    Wednesday, August 31, 2005

    Racking up those blogging perks

    Since I've started blogging, there is no doubt that I've received an increased number of free books. Yesterday I received three -- one on education reform, one on why Europe will run the 21st century, and galleys on why emerging democracies are more war-prone than other kinds of governments.

    However, those paled beside the following e-mail:

    My name is ------ and on behalf of Simon & Schuster I'm currently helping spread the word about Pamela Anderson's latest work, Star Struck. I noticed that "pop culture" was part of your weblog's repetoire and thought your site's target audience would really get a kick out of this book. Would you be interested in receiving a free copy of a Pam's book in exchange for a piece on your site? Maybe several copies for a contest?

    You may want to write a review about the book, hold a book contest, write a small blurb and feature it somewhere on your site, or something along those line (if you come up with another idea, please let me know.) In return for your kindness and help, I will happily send you a copy.

    I knew blogging about Anderson's first novel would pay off!! Take that, Michiko Kakutani!!

    Readers are invited to think of an appropriate contest.

    posted by Dan at 10:46 AM | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (1)



    Sunday, August 21, 2005

    Media Wars, Episode II: The Media Strikes Back

    Three weeks after Judge Richard Posner's disquisition on the media in the New York Times Book Review, the responses are in.

    The NYT Book Review publishes five letters, including Eric Alterman, Bill Moyers, and NYT Executive Editor Bill Keller. Posner chose not to respond, which is a bit surprising, since the letters all have their flaws.

    Let's take Keller for an example:

    The saddest thing is that Judge Posner's market determinism leaves no room for the other dynamics I've witnessed in my 35 years in newspapers: the idealism of reporters who think they can make the world better, the intellectual satisfaction of puzzling through a complicated issue, the competitive gratification of being first to discover a buried story, the pride in striving to uphold a professional code of fair play, the quest for peer recognition and, yes, the feedback from attentive and thoughtful readers. He makes no allowance for the possibility that conscientious reporters and editors are capable of setting aside their personal beliefs or standing up to their advertisers (and the prejudices of their readers) to do work they believe in.

    Would he be so cynical about a world he actually knows? Is the behavior of the American judiciary explainable purely as a response to economic self-interest? Should we assume that all judicial rulings are panderings, either to the voting public or to the executives who hand out judicial appointments? Or should we allow that reverence for the law, a respect for how democracy functions, a sense of fairness, the satisfaction of a well-reasoned argument — judgment — have some relevance to how judges behave?

    I'm not sure I completely buy Posner's original thesis, but this response by Keller is cartoonish and uninformed. Of course journalists can write stories contrary to their personal prejudices -- one of Posner's points in the initial review was that market competition forces journalists to put aside their prior beliefs. As to whether media is capable of "standing up to their advertisers (and the prejudices of their readers)," I'm pretty sure that Posner's theory would allow for this possibility -- but it's always the exception and never the rule. Posner's trying to explain the overall trend, not the exceptions.

    Oh, and I'm pretty sure Posner would be eminently comfortable with theories that postulate "the behavior of the American judiciary [is] explainable purely as a response to economic self-interest?" There's a small-but-emerging literature in political science about explaining opportunistic behavior among judges -- click here for one example.

    How do I know that Posner would be comfortable with this argument? See Richard A. Posner, "What Do Judges Maximize? (The Same Thing Everybody Else Does)," Supreme Court Economic Review, vol. 3 (1995), pp. 1-28.

    posted by Dan at 09:10 AM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (3)



    Tuesday, August 9, 2005

    Your new blog for the day

    Through rigorous market surveys, the hard working staff here at danieldrezner.com knows that its readership wants to find blogs discussing foreign aid and economic development. [Well, that and the occasional mention of Salma Hayek--ed]

    Without further ado, click over to Private Sector Development Blog, an inelegantly-named but interesting read by Tim Harford and Pablo Halkyard, two economists at the World Bank's International Finance Corporation (that's the bank with the Bank that lends to private sector entities).

    This post links to a new study on health care in India that concludes:

    [T]he gap between what doctors do and what they know responds to incentives: Doctors in the fee-for-service private sector are closer in practice to their knowledge frontier than those in the fixed-salary public sector. Under-qualified private sector doctors, even though they know less, provide better care on average than their better-qualified counterparts in the public sector. These results indicate that to improve medical services, at least for poor people, there should be greater emphasis on changing the incentives of public providers rather than increasing provider competence through training.

    Go check out the blog.

    posted by Dan at 05:08 PM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)



    Wednesday, August 3, 2005

    "Where do you find the time to blog?"

    This is the question I field the most when the topic of blogging comes up at cocktail parties and BBQs.

    The answer is embedded in this CNN story:

    Broadband Internet surfers in North America watch two fewer hours of television per week than do those without Internet access, while those using a dial-up connection watch 1.5 fewer hours of TV.

    The data come from a Forrester Research study released Tuesday that uses what it calls the longest-running survey of its kind, counting nearly 69,000 people in the U.S. and Canada as participants.

    Broadband Internet users watch just 12 hours of TV per week, compared with 14 hours for those who are offline, according to the study, "The State of Consumers and Technology: Benchmark 2005."

    The Forrester page is of little use for those of us who aren't Forrester clients, but if you click on the video, you learn an interesting fact: according to their survey, only 2% of households in the United States read a blog once a week.

    I should note that my lovely wife has a different answer to the title question -- "it's the time he would otherwise have used to pick up his socks."

    posted by Dan at 04:56 PM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)



    Thursday, July 21, 2005

    Online screw-ups affecting the workplace -- continued

    The theme of posting one's thoughts online deleteriously affecting one's worklife continues apace -- first graduate students, then nannies, and now... shudder... adjunct university professors.

    Joe Strupp explains for Editor & Publisher:

    A former Boston Herald sports writer, who was laid off in May as part of a string of newsroom cutbacks, now has lost his part-time teaching job at Boston University after posting Web comments about a student, which described her as "incredibly hot."

    Michael Gee, an 18-year veteran of the Herald, confirmed the incident, but declined comment to E&P Friday. Bob Zelnick, chair of the B.U. journalism department, said he heard about Gee's posting on Wednesday from a university publicist, who had received a phone call about it from a blogger....

    The comments, which appeared on www.sportsjournalists.com, but were later removed, included the following: "Today was my first day teaching course 308/722 at the Boston University Dept. of Jounralis (sic). There are six students, most of whom are probably smarter than me, but they DON'T READ THE PAPER!!! Not the Globe, Times, Herald or Wall Street Journal. I can shame them into reading, I guess, but why are they taking the course if they don't like to read.

    "But I digress. Now here's the nub of my issue. Of my six students, one (the smartest, wouldn't you know it?) is incredibly hot. If you've ever been to Israel, she's got the sloe eyes and bitchin' bod of the true Sabra. It was all I could do to remember the other five students. I sense danger, Will Robinson."

    Word of Gee's firing, and a copy of his posting, first appeared on www.bostonsportsmedia.net.

    Via Over at CNET's new and interesting workplace blog, Paul Festa thinks this is another example of bloggers gone wild -- however, as David Scott points out:

    For those wondering, sportsjournalists.com, in a nutshell, is a place where sports desk editors, as well as sportswriters and others, vent over how crummy this paper or that columnist is. It’s also a networking spot to get info on the latest openings and movement at papers across the country. Like most message boards, it serves a purpose and then serves the fellowship of the miserable even more.

    Strictly speaking, Gee wasn't blogging -- furthermore, it was a blogger who apparently called him out.

    [And would you have done the same thing if you had read Gee's post?--ed. Given that Gee posted this in a public forum, yep, you betcha. Er, haven't you occasionally evinced an ocular interest in the fairer sex on this blog?--ed. It's one thing to point out that a public figure has pleasing features when. in part, that's why they are public figures -- it's another thing entirely to publicly make the same point about someone over whom you hold an authority relationship. There are certain bright lines in my job, and that's one of them.]

    posted by Dan at 12:33 AM | Comments (19) | Trackbacks (0)



    Tuesday, July 19, 2005

    Your surreal online moment for today

    In the middle of an online Q&A on CAFTA with U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman -- run by the White House, no less -- the following exchange took place:

    Andrew, from Salem, Oregon writes:
    Being the Trade Representative for the United States of America, would you trade a 1909 Honus Wagner for a Yogi Berra Baseball Greats Holo Card issued by Kellogs in the 80's?

    Rob Portman
    Is this a trick question? I’m a big fan of Yogi’s, but the answer is no, not a chance. Now do you feel better about me negotiating trade agreements?


    posted by Dan at 12:07 AM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)



    Monday, July 18, 2005

    Rashomon in the nanny world

    Continuing the theme of the professional downsides of blogging, Helanie Olen had a piece in yesterday's New York Times about firing her nanny because ofher blog:

    Our former nanny, a 26-year-old former teacher with excellent references, liked to touch her breasts while reading The New Yorker and often woke her lovers in the night by biting them. She took sleeping pills, joked about offbeat erotic fantasies involving Tucker Carlson and determined she'd had more female sexual partners than her boyfriend.

    How do I know these things? I read her blog.

    She hadn't been with us long when we found out about her online diary. All she'd revealed previously about her private life were the bare-bones details of the occasional date or argument with her landlord and her hopes of attending graduate school in the fall.

    Yet within two months of my starting to read her entries our entire relationship unraveled. Not only were there things I didn't want to know about the person who was watching my children, it turned out her online revelations brought feelings of mine to the surface I'd just as soon not have to face as well.

    The ex-nanny posts her rebuttal, naturally, on her blog, which starts off as follows:

    If you have come to this little blog today looking for prurient details of a "nanny gone wild" and another "nanny diary" detailing the sordid life of a family she works for, I am very sorry to disappoint you. Contrary to an essay published in the Style section of the NYTIMES, I am not a pill popping alcoholic who has promiscuous sex and cares nothing for the children for whom she works with. Nope. If you look carefully through my archives, instead you will find a young woman in her mid-twenties who decided to work as a nanny for a year while she prepared to enter the next phase of her professional life; namely the life of an academic pursuing a PhD in English Literature specifically focusing on the Late Victorian novel. But for those of you who dont want to comb through the archives, I will offer a refutation of the salacious, malicious, and really quite silly essay written by Ms. Olen.

    I'd tell you to read the whole thing, but it is very, very long. Bitch Ph.D., who knows the blogger in question, posts her own thoughts on the matter:

    In the end, of course, Olen's essay really isn't about [the nanny]; it's about Olen. She wanted her nanny to take care of her children, but it seems she also expected her nanny to take care of her.

    UPDATE: Click here if you're wondering what ancient Chinese Philosophers would make of this issue.

    posted by Dan at 09:56 AM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)



    Friday, July 15, 2005

    The media in the year 2014....

    Click here for one possible future.

    I, for one, welcome our new GoogleZon overlords.... I think.

    posted by Dan at 11:55 AM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)



    Saturday, July 2, 2005

    Daniel W. Drezner -- the magazine?

    Hey, if ESPN can do it, why not the hardworking staff at danieldrezner.com?

    If you're wondering what the heck I'm talking about, click over to James "Outside the Beltway" Joyner for some background about the FEC's slow-motion investigation of how to regulate the blogosphere. Anticipating the inevitable FEC screw-up, some bloggers, like Bill Hobbs, have decided to simultaneously a) retiring from blogging, and b) declare themselves to be "online daily interactive magazine(s) of news and commentary."

    Over at Captain's Quarters, Ed Morrissey is valiantly resisting this trend, stating:

    I will not allow the FEC to chase me from my rights as an independent voice in politics to write what I please and to post what I want based on a silly bit of nomenclature. I understand what... members of the, er, "online magazine community" mean to say with these statements, but I won't surrender to the bureaucrats an inch when it comes to my right to speak my mind. I don't plan on playing silly name games with those who plan on regulating speech for our own good. All that does is play into their strategy of twisting words and meanings until nothing means what it says any more.

    I won't do it. I won't play along. I won't even do it as a protest, as these bloggers obviously mean it to be.

    Ed makes an excellent point. However, Duncan "Atrios" Black makes a persuasive argument about joining the online magazine community:

    Since I ceased being a blogger an hour or so ago and became the publisher/editor/chief political correspondent/cat photographer/scifi critic/media critic/missing persons expert/blogger ethics expert/janitor for an exciting new online magazine, my life has truly been transformed. I discovered, in my coupon clipping box, a deed for a 6000 sq. ft. Nantucket cabin. I've been to 17 parties hosted by the charming and delightful Sally Quinn. I've played Bridge with Nedra Pickler, and twister with Candy Crowley and Jeff Greenfield. I've convened 38 panels on blogger ethics, something I never managed to do when I was actually a blogger. My debut appearance on Meet the Press will happen this Sunday.

    Make it twister with Salma Hayek, and this would be the easiest call in blog history.

    Decisions, decisions.... I will humbly leave it to my readers to decide for me.

    And, no, there would be no swimsuit issue.

    posted by Dan at 05:33 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)



    Wednesday, June 15, 2005

    It's a strange day in the blogosphere....

    Matthew Yglesias agrees with John Derbyshire about the fallout of Michael Jackson's trial.

    I agree with Derbyshire about the fallout from the results of Terry Schiavo autopsy.

    And Ana Marie Cox agrees with Derbyshire about homosexuality -- no, just kidding on that last one.

    But Wonkette does factor into the general cultural weirdness of my day by contributing "Wonkette on Wonkette" for the University of Chicago Magazine -- in which I discovered the following:

    [M]y first significant paycheck came from—believe it or not—Hustler, for a story of mine they published in Barely Legal magazine. I wrote it because a friend of mine was interested in getting actual women (as opposed to men pretending to write as women) writing for them. I wrote under the pseudonym Ana Marie Dix.

    After all this, hearing that Katie Holmes will convert to Scientology really doesn't faze me that much (though if you are still fazed, click here).

    posted by Dan at 03:32 PM | Comments (11) | Trackbacks (2)



    Thursday, May 26, 2005

    What to read about the blogosphere today

    Two outstanding contributions about the way the blogosphere works:

    1) Eszter Hargittai posts a summary of her research into the viability of Cass Sunstein's republic.com hypothesis -- that the Internet fosters cyberbalkanization -- by analyzing link structures in the political blogosphere. Her preliminary findings:

    Overall, it would be incorrect to conclude that liberal bloggers are ignoring conservative bloggers or vice versa. Certainly, liberal bloggers are more likely to address liberal bloggers and conservative bloggers are more likely to link to conservative bloggers. But people from both groups are certainly reading across the ideological divide to some extent.

    Two other interesting findings: balkanization is not increasing over time, and -- sorry, I can't resist this one -- "We found that about half of the [cross-ideological] links represent what we classify as strawman arguments. The liberal bloggers in our sample are more likely to engage in such cross-linking than the conservative bloggers."

    2) Carl Bialik has a great piece in the Wall Street Journal (no subscription required) that looks behind the numbers floated around with regard to the number of blogs out there and how blog traffic is measured. These paragraphs might make some blog triumphalists pause a bit before declaring the death of dead tree media:

    Advertisers may not be happy with [standard blog counters], since they count total visits, and not the "unique visitor" figure that is the standard currency for many kinds of online advertising (advertisers don't want to pay twice to reach the same reader). "That's a big issue," Henry Copeland, founder of Blogads.com, told me at a conference last week. "We're very aware that's a flawed number."

    ...ComScore Media Metrix and Neilsen//NetRatings are the sources most often used by online advertisers to track unique visitors. Neither tracks blogs as a matter of course, though comScore did look up traffic for 13 prominent blogs in April, upon my request (I picked ones from the top of the various rankings). Just five met the company's minimum threshold for statistical significance of about 150,000 monthly visitors. Media and gossip site Gawker had the most, with 304,000 unique visitors. The others that cleared the cut: Defamer (287,000), Boing Boing (250,000), Daily Kos (212,000) and Gizmodo (209,000). Among those that didn't were prominent political blogs Instapundit, Power Line and Eschaton. (I asked NetRatings about the same 13 blogs, and it had reportable data only for Defamer, Daily Kos, Boing Boing and Gizmodo -- and the sample sizes didn't meet standards for statistical significance.)

    ComScore and NetRatings both recruit panels of online users who agree to install software that monitors their behavior. The companies use sampling techniques similar to those of political pollsters.

    By point of comparison, comScore says the New York Times's Web site had 29.8 million unique visitors in April.

    posted by Dan at 11:29 AM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)



    Tuesday, May 24, 2005

    Some fine blogging going on this week!

    Three great things to peruse in the blogosphere:

    1) Crooked Timber has arranged a blog roundtable to discuss Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner's Freakonomics (which is one of my books on the month). Contributors include the regulars at Crooked Timber, as well as Marginal Revolution's Tyler Cowen and the Financial Times' Tim Harford.

    If nothing else the critiques have certainly impressed Levitt :

    I’m not sure whether it says more about my own shortcomings, or the quality of these five commentaries above on Freakonomics, that I gained a great deal of self-awareness from reading them. It was a surprising reaction for me. There have been many published reviews of Freakonomics, and not one of them has given me the slightest insight into myself. Strangely, though, I felt like I understand my own motivations and goals better than I did a few hours ago.

    2) I didn't think there was anything more to mine out of the Newsweek affair, but Virginia Postrel proves me wrong. This point is particularly trenchant:

    While many Americans believe it's wrong to shock and humiliate Muslim prisoners by violating their religious taboos, very, very few Americans--mostly Muslims, of course--would themselves be horrified by the mere idea of flushing a Koran. And that, I think, is the real bias of the Newsweek report. American reporters, whether secular or religious, simply don't feel instinctive rage at the idea of Koran desecration and, hence, don't expect such reports to generate riots. Diversifying reporting staffs to include more red state types couldn't change that bias. By Western standards, it is, after all, completely idiotic--not to mention highly immoral--to kill people over the treatment of an inanimate object, however disrepectful the symbolism....

    With its Western biases, Newsweek thought it was writing about allegations of prisoner abuse, a human rights issue. Its overseas audience had a different reading. The differences between us and them really are bigger than the differences between us and us.

    3) Greg Djerejian, back to blogging at Belgravia Dispatch, riffs on a New York Times op-ed by Egyptian scholar and democracy activist Saad Eddin Ibrahim that argues moderate Islamist parties in the Middle East might follow the path that Christian Democrats took in Western Europe.

    Djerejian's takeaway point:

    I believe the Middle East may have passed a tipping point with peoples increasingly demanding political breathing space. We are seeing it in Kuwait, in Lebanon, in Syria, in Egypt, in Iraq, in Iran, in Bahrain. Just about everywhere, really. It is the dominant narrative at this juncture. What responsible actors in the U.S. must do is figure out how best to maximize the chances of these trends taking root over the long-term and in a manner beneficial to the U.S. national interest. We should not recoil in fear, for instance, whenever we hear the word Islamists. If moderate Islamists were to take control in certain countries (though I think their popularity is often overstated) and guide stable polities, this will prove better than secular butchers like Saddam. We must be careful, however, to ensure that foreign influence is wielded in a manner calibrated to not lead to nationalist backlashes or radical Islamist reaction.

    This is why B.D. is so sensitive to tales of torture, of denigration of Islamic tenets in detainee treatment, and so on. This is not born of squeamishness; but of realism. An important element in securing a long term victory in this struggle against extremist terror is denying the enemy propaganda tools. Where are our fluent Arabic speakers on al-Arabiya explaining what legal reasons compelled us after 9/11 to have a detention center in Guantanamo for fanatical al-Qaeda detainees? Where are our spokesmen apologizing for the death of detainees in Bagram and Abu Ghraib who perished under U.S. custody? Loudly, repeatedly, in Arabic?.... Is it just me, or are we behind in getting these messages out? If so, why?

    Read the whole thing.... especially if you've seen the movie Battle of Algiers.

    posted by Dan at 11:47 PM | Comments (23) | Trackbacks (0)




    The Hotline focuses on.... me

    The National Journal's Hotline has a new blog feature called Blogometer. It's like Slate's blog feature, but longer and with more links.

    You can check out today's feature by clicking here -- there's a Q&A with yours truly at the end, in which I reveal my daily blog reads, and also confess a wistful nostalgia for This Week with David Brinkley.

    posted by Dan at 11:25 AM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)



    Tuesday, May 17, 2005

    The NYT op-ed shakedown

    I don't have a great deal to offer on the New York Times' decision to charge for some its content (including the op-ed page) starting in September that Virginia Postrel and Matthew Yglesias haven't already made.

    I do, however, have a research question that I bet some communications grad student has written a paper about -- to what extent does having a fee-for-content regime inhibit a web site's popularity/traffic/links? For example, most people I know consider the reportage of the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times are papers of comparable quality (or maybe the Journal has a slight lead). However, the Times has an Alexa traffic rank of 107, while the Journal has a traffic rank of 540. Even USA Today, an inferior newspaper to the Journal, has a higher Alexa traffic rank. So it looks like free news sites attract a higher traffic level even if the quality of information is not as good.

    I'm sure someone out there has done a more systematic study of this question. Please post a link to useful research if you can find it.

    UPDATE: Hmm.... Mickey Kaus suggests that maybe I've been too hasty in judging the New York Times proposal.

    posted by Dan at 02:35 PM | Comments (16) | Trackbacks (1)



    Sunday, May 15, 2005

    Hello, bemused New York Times readers

    I'd like to thank Suzanne Nossel and David Greeberg for holding down the fort here at danieldrezner.com while I was away at my brother's wedding. Contrary to David's fears, their tag-team of insightful and provocative posts kept my traffic levels at very respectable levels. UPDATE: You can read David's final thoughts by clicking here.

    Furthermore, I see that David made the most of his experience by writing about his guest-blogging stint in the New York Times.

    "You should have a blog."

    Apparently I push my opinions on my friends rather aggressively, because I often hear this remark.

    Last week, I had my chance. My wife and I agreed to be "guest bloggers" - the online equivalent of what David Brenner used to do for Johnny Carson - for Dan Drezner, a political scientist at the University of Chicago, who runs a popular libertarian-conservative blog, DanielDrezner.com.

    How hard could blogging be? You roll out of bed, turn on your computer, scan the headlines, think up some clever analysis while brushing your teeth, type it onto your site and you're off.

    But as I discovered, blogging is no longer for amateurs or the faint of heart. Blogging - if it's done well - has evolved into an all-consuming art....

    I did have sympathy for the audience. They expected their usual diet of conservative commentary. Instead, they got a liberal foreign policy expert (Suzanne) and a liberal historian linking to Arts & Letters Daily (aldaily.com) and the History News Network (hnn.us).

    One Dreznerite vilified me for linking to a piece by the liberal journalist Joe Conason ("Why on earth would you think that gutter-dwelling hack would have any credibility on this blog?").

    At one point, Dan took time out from real surfing in Hawaii to post a note informing readers that he had two liberals subbing for him. He must have been watching the train wreck on his beloved blog with horror....

    I wasn't the only newcomer to blogging last week. On the ballyhooed "Huffington Post," Gary Hart, Walter Cronkite and David Mamet dipped their toes in the blogosphere as well.

    I don't know how they'll fare, but I doubt that celebrity will attract readers for long. To succeed in blogging you need to understand it's a craft, with its own tricks of the trade. You need a thick skin. And you must put your life on hold to feed an electronic black hole.

    What else did I learn by sitting in for Dan Drezner? That I'm not cut out for blogging.

    Some reactions to this piece from Ann Althouse, Sheila O'Malley, Bill Quick, QandO, Steven Taylor, Tom Maguire, and Pejman Yousefzadeh. My own jet-lagged thoughts:

    1) Some useful links: Here's my explanation for why I invited Greenberg and Nossel to guest-blog. Click here to read Greenberg's Yalta article in Slate, and here to read Greenberg's follow-on post which contains the "moral cretin" comment. Having been in Hawaii and blissfully oblivious to the whole speech, I'm not prepared to comment on it one way or another -- but go read my colleague Jacob Levy's rejoinder to Greenberg and other critics of the Yalta reference in The New Republic Online.

    2) For the record: I checked in on the blog/e-mail only once while in Maui (David, I was snorkeling, not surfing), and posted the public service message because I received a few e-mails from readers who were confused about exactly who was blogging. UPDATE: CNN got confused too.

    3) My lovely wife, after reading Greenberg's essay, turned to me and asked puzzledly, "there are Dreznerites?" I'll leave it to the commenters themselves to answer that question [If the answer is yes, could you ask them if they'd be interested in buying wildly overpriced danieldrezner.com merchandise?--ed.]

    4) I hate to break it to Greenberg, but in my writing experience, the worst invective I've ever received hasn't been from blogging, but from.... this Slate essay on Bush's management of foreign policy. Click here for some of the more amusing responses.

    5) And c'mon, David -- my readers are quite familiar with Arts & Letters Daily and the History News Network (neither of which to my knowledge has an explicit or implicit political bias). And I've had a few conservatives question whether I provide a "usual diet of conservative commentary" in my posts (again, see that Slate piece of mine).

    5) Finally, I would encourage David not to give up on blogging for the wrong reasons. I agree that blogging is a craft, but not one that requires hobbyhorses, shticks or catchphrases. In my experience, successful political/policy blogging does require an unusual mix of skills:

    a) The self-confidence to post about anything and everything;

    b) The willingness to post admissions of error after screwing up;

    c) Having the courage to walk away from a half-baked post when you recognize that your thoughts are too inchoate to press "Publish.";

    d) A very, very good internal editing mechanism [Thank you!--ed];

    e) A recognition that blogging is like almost everything else in life -- a skill that improves with plenty of practice;

    g) A saintly spouse.

    Of course, Greenberg is a fellow untenured academic, which presents some perfectly valid reasons for not blogging -- but that's the topic of another post entirely.

    LAST UPDATE: Suzanne Nossel posts her thoughts about blogging at danieldrezner.com here. And David Greenberg has asked me to pass on the following missive (after the jump):

    I’ve just found a free moment. Because you said you’d be back Monday [It's true, I did--DD], I thought I’d do a final post today (Sunday). I was planning to flag the Times piece and say thanks and farewell. But now you’re back before I made my final post. So I was wondering if you might put up a few last thoughts from me. (In fact, please include this graf, because I want readers to know I meant to notify them of the Times piece.) So herewith:

    (1) A big, big thanks again to you and to your readers. (“Dreznerites” was Suzanne’s coinage, meant as a term of endearment.) For all the harried moments I focused on in my Times piece, I really had a lot of fun doing it. Of course, I know full well that your readers aren’t monolithically conservative, or disproportionately mean-spirited; those were just the ones who chose to mix it up with me -- as is their prerogative, nay, their duty. Above all I was grateful for not just your readers’ indulgence but for their intelligent comments. As with the Yalta piece, they led me to clarify my arguments.

    (2) I hope you and your readers realize that the Times piece was meant above all as a statement of my newfound appreciation for what blogging entails. I think reader Dustin Ryan Ridgeway is right to say that other bloggers’ commentary may have colored the reception of my piece. [He has a point--Glenn Reynolds took the story in the vein Greenberg intended--DD.] My god, I certainly wasn’t trying to “sniff condescendingly,” as another reader put it. My key point in the Times piece: good blogging “requires as much talent as sculpting a magazine feature or a taut op-ed piece.” I meant that sincerely.

    (3) We may differ on the precise ingredients that make a good blog. But I should make clear that I don’t see hobbyhorses, schticks or catchphrases as bad at all. I like these things! Also, like you, I found that having a saintly spouse came in handy.

    (4) I think most readers did appreciate that my Times piece was tongue-in-cheek. But for those who didn’t: No, I wasn’t really all that shaken by Dan’s quite sensible “public service message.” Nor did I really presume readers ignorant of my favorite sites -- though I own up to ignorance of a lot of blogs out there. And I’m a bit thicker skinned than perhaps I suggested (talk about schtick!). Sorry if my humor was lost on some.

    (5) I certainly did not wish to imply that harsh discourse exists only in the blogosphere. The Internet as a whole facilitates hasty and intemperate posting and e-mailing -- something we’ve known since those discussions of “flaming” ten years ago. Slate constantly struggles to maintain a high-quality “Fray” that balances civility with freewheeling debates. And as I wanted to say in my Times piece (lines were cut for space): talk-radio and shout-TV, not to mention many of the books dominating the best-seller lists these days, prove that no medium has a monopoly on shrillness.

    (6) Your own jet-lagged, tossed-off thoughts are remarkably eloquent and sharp. Another reason I admire you and other top bloggers. It really is hard to do well.

    So -- and I think I can speak for Suzanne on this last note -- thanks again, and farewell. I hope to see you in bricks-and-mortar land sometime. And if you need a tenure letter, I’m there.

    Warmest regards,

    David

    All emphases in original.

    posted by Dan at 11:29 AM | Comments (30) | Trackbacks (3)



    Thursday, May 5, 2005

    Raking in the big blog bucks

    Glenn Reynolds and Roger L. Simon speculate about the big bucks that could be blowing towards the blogosphere's.

    I too, am feeling the warm rush of riches being thrown my way. Why, less than ten minues ago, I received the following e-mail from someone at the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles:

    I like your blog. It has great information,
    good stories and lively conversation. We are re-launching our web site with
    brand new interactive features such as our Jewish LA Guide-- a one-stop web
    hub for all of our visitors’ Jewish needs.

    To promote and increase traffic to the site, we are sponsoring a give away
    of an Apple IPod during the month of June 2005. The winner will be picked
    at random on July 1, 2005. We would like you to consider posting a link to
    our site or pasting the PR piece below on your blog. I know our site will
    interest many of your visitors, and nothing will catch their eye faster than
    a free IPod. As a thank you, we will send you a $10 gift certificate to
    Starbucks
    . (emphasis added).

    That's right..... ten dollars. [Sounds better if you say it like Dr. Evil--ed.].

    I can already envision being part of Mickey Kaus's tax position!

    posted by Dan at 05:13 PM | Comments (11) | Trackbacks (1)



    Wednesday, May 4, 2005

    An exemplar case of blog influence?

    One of the problems in studying the political influence of blogs is trying to tease out the precise causal mechanism. How is it possible to show that without the blogosphere, a political event would have ended differently? This problem is compounded by the fact that blogs often will be writing about a newsbreaking event as it happens. Researchers can conflate activity with influence -- i.e., because people are blogging about something, they must have affected the outcom (compare and contrast Ed Morrissey's take on the Eason Jordan scandal versus my own take).

    However, I think NRO's Byron York has come up with an exemplar example of the influence of Daily Kos -- with regard to the John Bolton confirmation:

    When Melody Townsel, the Texas woman who claims that U.N.-ambassador nominee John Bolton chased her through a Moscow hotel, throwing things at her and "behaving like a madman," first tried to tell her story to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the committee showed no interest. It was only after she turned to the influential far-Left website DailyKos that Democrats on the committee realized Townsel might be a powerful weapon in their campaign to defeat the Bolton nomination.

    Read the whole thing (thanks to alert reader R.H. for the link).

    posted by Dan at 03:11 PM | Comments (25) | Trackbacks (1)



    Friday, April 29, 2005

    Some changes are coming on Internet ads

    The Economist has an interesting story on how the evolution of Internet advertising. Here's how it opens:

    This year the combined advertising revenues of Google and Yahoo! will rival the combined prime-time ad revenues of America’s three big television networks, ABC, CBS and NBC, predicts Advertising Age. It will, says the trade magazine, represent a “watershed moment” in the evolution of the internet as an advertising medium. A 30-second prime-time TV ad was once considered the most effective—and the most expensive—form of advertising. But that was before the internet got going. And this week online advertising made another leap forward.

    This latest innovation comes from Google, which has begun testing a new auction-based service for display advertising. Both Google and Yahoo! make most of their money from advertising. Auctioning keyword search-terms, which deliver sponsored links to advertisers’ websites, has proved to be particularly lucrative. And advertisers like paid-search because, unlike TV, they only pay for results: they are charged when someone clicks on one of their links.

    Read the whole thing to see how Google is revamping its AdSense feature.

    This segues nicely into a Mickey Kaus report on a potential change in how ads will be gathered on the blogosphere:

    Roger L. Simon and Marc Danziger announced the formation of a new network of bloggers, including some big ones (e.g. Instapundit). They want Lexus ads! And they claim to have the unique eyeballs and high-end demographics necessary to get them. ... This is a potentially big deal....

    L.A. Voice provides more details:

    Simon and Danziger have formed "Pajamas Media," an effort to lay some serious pipe to help the blogging community sell ads en masse to big clients like GM and Amex and ultimately, help the partnership earn enough money to fund a global network of paid newsbloggers - a sort of new-age Associated Press.

    Danziger (a new-media architect from way back) is working on step one - the development of mechanisms for distributing big-ticket ads to hundreds of participating blogs so that advertisers can reach the blogs' cumulative millions of daily unique users. Meanwhile, Simon dreams of tying together bloggers in every corner of the globe whose local savvy and grasp of the language and politics of their regions will basically beat the holy hell out of any foreign correspondents.

    Both say they want to beat the [L.A.] Times.

    Danziger's plan is a good one, provided he can get a solid sales force and reliable tech: it was only a matter of time before someone began to actually build what the blogosphere's been projecting and dreaming of for several years now - a fat pipe for ad money. The ad market is poised to tap into the smart, passionate and micro-targetable audiences of blogs. If Pajamas Media builds the engine correctly (I talked with Danziger for a bit and it certainly sounds like it will) then there's some good cash to be made.

    Simon's plan is a lot more amorphous - a worldwide network of pundit/reporters whose local smarts and compelling voices beat the news organizations in the ground war and everyone in the battle for mindshare - but it needs a hell of a lot more development. There's a vast gap between responsible reporting and passionate blogging, particularly when the blogosphere, by and large, does most of its reporting by standing on the work already done by the world's, um, reporters.

    As someone with more than a passing interest in this proposal, I'm curious to hear from readers whether they think either or both aspects of the Pajamas Media proposal will fly.

    FULL DISLOSURE: I've been contacted about participating in the proposed syndicate.

    UPDATE: Roger L. Simon has a post providing some more explanation -- and an open invitation for other bloggers to join in.

    Meanwhile, Marc Danziger provides a lot more explanation in this post -- including his take on the future of newspapers and blogs:

    I think that newspapers - as a model for the kind of legacy information middleman that makes up the media industry - are badly wounded, but I doubt that they will die.

    But they will go from the 93% of the market for written news - and more important for a certain class of advertising - that they once owned to, say 50 - 60%. And more, they will lose the ability to set prices for advertising in the market, which will make the business model for the newspaper much, much tougher....

    Blogs will become another media channel. It will happen in part as top bloggers become media figures themselves (and vice versa); as media companies create or sponsor blogs; as blogs intertwine with 'tentpole' media properties that are somehow related to them (www.cooksillustrated.com and food blogs; www.vivid.com and sex blogs; and so on).

    But the heart of the blogosphere will be the emergent, fast-changing, unstructured (formally, anyway) world of blogs as we know them.

    And the questions will be how to build useful interfaces between that world and the highly structured world of advertisers, media consumers, and blog novices while respecting the dynamic nature of the blogs themselves.

    Both links via Pieter Dorsman. And go click on Tim Oren's thoughts as well.

    ANOTHER UPDATE: Looks like Joshua Micah Marshall is also adding some bells and (foreign policy) whistles to Talking Points Memo.

    posted by Dan at 10:25 AM | Comments (9) | Trackbacks (2)



    Friday, April 8, 2005

    I didn't think this was possible...

    John Holbo posts an amusing paean to... comment spam.

    Here's how it starts:

    Do you know what’s interesting about comment spam? Nothing, of course. But consider this. No piece of comment spam has ever been able to mimic a human convincingly. It tries, but comment spam is like the aliens among us. They look like us, dress like us 
 but they also eat the houseplants. In obedience to the iron genre trope that there must be some obvious failure of mimicry that gives away this sinister presence. To read comment spam is to come to awareness that these creatures have travelled a long way to get to our little blue marble floating in space (whether they come in peace, or to breed with the ladies, or because their home planet is tragically polluted.)

    Read the whole thing.

    Refreshingly, after repeated waves of comment spam last fall, I've had to deal with far fewer attempts since the election. The most clever spam effort I've seen simply copied a prior comment from the thread, with the desired URL replacing commenter's e-mail and URL. This is dangerous, because unless the blogger is paying attention it just looks like a random double comment.

    posted by Dan at 02:47 PM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)



    Tuesday, March 22, 2005

    Liveblogging the Brookings event

    Click here to watch the live webcast of the Brookings Institution panel, "The Impact of the New Media." I'll be liveblogging this event, and to make life easier for the Brookings tech people, newer comments will be higher than the older ones. UPDATE: Now that it's over, I actually prefer doing it with newer comments below rather than above, so I've reconfigured it.

    Let the liveblogging.... begin!!!
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    9:40 AM: OK, let's see.... coffee in mug, pajamas on body [He's liveblogging from home, thank you very much!!--ed.], editor now locked in closet [Mmmmmph!--ed.], earphones plugged in and on head to better hear the webcast, and a feeling of eager excitement that I've beaten my fellow livebloggers to the first post.... yes, yes, I believe I offically am a complete dweeb.

    Still fifteen minutes to the Brooking panel itself... there needs to be a word for that soft murmur of voices that precedes any C-SPAN-like event. Readers are encouraged to post posibilities. 9:55 AM: A danieldrezner.com exclusive -- MUST CREDIT DANIELDREZNER.COM. Ana Marie Cox has chosen the teal shirt for today. That's teal, people. UPDATE: I'm informed that it's green... must be the camera.

    10:02 AM: What, they haven't started yet? This would never happen at a University of Chicago faculty meeting!!!

    10:07 AM: Let the games begin!!

    10:10 AM: Interesting... Dionne points out that Atrios, Kos, Marshall, and Yglesias were invited to live-blog as well but declined... one wonders if this ties into this paper's observation that liberals are also less likely to link to each other. [UPDATE: to be fair, Marshall had a very important engagement this weekend.] Dionne also tries to roil waters by characterizing bloggers as "parasitic" on mainstream media. I prefer the word "symbiotic."

    10:15 AM: So Cox is high on Robitussin... again. "Do bloggers make mistakes?" Cox says (paraphrasing), "Duh, yes, but since blogs aren't really a primary source of news, it's not as catastrophic as the MSM believes." Which is true -- but another difference is that bloggers can quickly correct factual errors.

    10:20 AM: Shafer approvingly cites Jay Rosen's characterization of blogs as "distributed journalism."

    10:23 AM: Jodie T. Allen confesses to being a "web addict"; earlier Shafer states that many journalists Technorati themselves to see who's commenting on their writings.

    10:27 AM: Allen makes a shrewd point about the faltering economic model of newspapers... and it's not just bloggers that are threatening them. She frets about the closing of overseas bureaus, which could lead to a decline in factual reporting, because "opinions are a lot cheaper than facts." However, here's the thing -- bloggers often function as superb stringers. The tsunami disaster allowed many bloggers to provide on-the-spot reporting from a breaking news event. Of more concern is whether bloggers would be able to match reporters in reporting on, say, opaque givernments.

    10:30 AM: "Blogging is traditional; podcasting is new media" Sigh.... Mickey Kaus is right--we've jumped the shark.

    10:31 AM: Dionne is weirdly.... sexy when he reads AndrewSullivan.com. Not that there's anything wrong with that!!

    10:32 AM: Hmmm..... Sullivan has the sniffles, Ana Marie Cox has the sniffles.... no, let's not go there.

    10:34 AM: Ah, real news -- Sullivan says that as he grew more critical of the administration, his fundraising drives produced lower yields -- from $80,000 to $20,000 to $12,000. This is something I'd like to see the panelists discuss -- to what extent will the lure of large sums of money (by blogger standards) act as an ideological straight-jacket for prominent bloggers?

    10:38 AM: You know Internet journalism is getting old when Shafer and Sullivan reminisce about the good old days of... 1996.

    10:40 AM: Sullivan makes a key point -- for bloggers to be effective, they must be "pariahs." The fact is, the medisphere can be a clubby place, both within itself and between reporters and politicos. Will bloggers get sucked into this vortex as well?

    10:41 AM: Cox uses the phrase "circle jerk" at Brookings.... somewhere, Richard Nixon's ghost is wondering why he ever thought of firebombing the place.

    10:43 AM: Hey, E.J.!! The problem with Kos was not that he raised money for Dems, it was that he took money for consulting for Dems as well..... though I do believe this particular kerfuffle was overblown, since he admitted this from day one.

    10:48 AM: "People are still fact-oriented," according to Allen -- even among Deaniacs.

    10:50 AM: FYI, here are the specific links to other livebloggers: Ruy Teixeira, Ed Morrissey, and Laura Rozen; Trevino and Cole appear to be MIA. UPDATE: Here's Cole's post -- Trevino never bothered to post.

    10:52: Someone who works for the Center for Public Integrity says that many blogs promote slander and libel.,.. as opposed to the Center for Public Integrity, which never issues misleading press releases. Seriously, Shafer and Cox shoot this down pretty effectively -- because there are costs to royally screwing things up.

    10:58 AM: Dionne points out that blogs can foster the spread of rumor and slander faster than traditional media... except that blogs also make this spread much more transparent. The counterfactual is not just traditional media, but the spread of urban legends via private e-mails and listservers. The best example of this was the claim that the exit polls were correct and Kerry really won the election. Without blogs and other Internet media, this rumor would have just festered -- because of blogs, these accusations got quickly aired and quickly falsified.

    11:00 AM: Sullivan points out that bloggers are much harsher to each other than to any public figure -- I have no idea what he's talking about. UPDATE: Dionne mentions this comment -- I am so inside the Beltway right now. Now I have to go and buy one of those Blackberry thingmabobs.

    11:02 AM: Props to the guy who called the comments section of blogs a "cacophony of crap" -- you know he'd been up all night honing that phrase. Seriously, I do think there's a scaling problem with comments section -- the bigger the blog, the greater the percentage of crap. Fortunately, I don't have to worry about this.

    11:07: What does it say that I'm an avid blog-readers and writer, but any discussion of talk radio and the fairness doctrine puts me to sleep? In other news, it appears to be standing room only in the room. And let's have a shout-out to those twentysomething interns who have to get those mikes to the people in the room!!

    11:11 AM: Sullivan said, "hetero".... heh.

    11:15 AM: Cox thinks it's useless to distinguish between "media" and "journalism." I'd rephrase -- there is a difference between journalism reporting and commentary, and blogs overwhelmingly (but not exclusively) practice the latter.

    11:18 AM: Sullivan thinks there should be no schools for journalists, and that the "interns of the future" are those who are writing blogs in college. Matthew Yglesias has no idea what Sullivan's talking about.

    11:24 AM: Ratner is harping on the economics of journalism, and asking whether bloggers will reduce the ability of media institutions to invest in reporting. I understand ratner's concern, but it seems to me this applies more to investigative journalism than most other sections of the media. For example, does journalism really have a comparative advantage over an expert blogger when a think tank or a research institute, for example, issues a press release?

    11:27 AM: Sullivan points out that bloggers provide hyperlinked footnotes, which the New York Times op-ed page does not.

    11;28 AM: A questioner asks what happens if a blogger receives an e-mail informing them that they're wrong? In my case it depends on whether the e-mailer has their facts correct as well. I've found that about two-thirds of the time the dispute is more over my interpretation of facts rather than the facts themselves. The others -- hell, yes, I'll post a correction. I'm not thrilled about it, but it's happened enough so that I'm used to it.

    11:30 AM: Sullivan says blogs are a new form of literature. Great -- I want my own Pulitzer Prize now, dammit!!

    11:33 AM: Sullivan has blog insurance??!!!

    11:34 AM: Click here to see Ryan Sager's New York Post column discussing the Pew sponsorship of research into campaign finance reform that the panelists are discussing. Key section:

    The tape — of a conference held at USC's Annenberg School for Communication in March of 2004 — shows Treglia expounding to a gathering of academics, experts and journalists (none of whom, apparently, ever wrote about Treglia's remarks) on just how Pew and other left-wing foundations plotted to create a fake grassroots movement to hoodwink Congress.

    "I'm going to tell you a story that I've never told any reporter," Treglia says on the tape. "Now that I'm several months away from Pew and we have campaign-finance reform, I can tell this story."

    That story in brief:

    Charged with promoting campaign-finance reform when he joined Pew in the mid-1990s, Treglia came up with a three-pronged strategy: 1) pursue an expansive agenda through incremental reforms, 2) pay for a handful of "experts" all over the country with foundation money and 3) create fake business, minority and religious groups to pound the table for reform.

    "The target audience for all this activity was 535 people in Washington," Treglia says — 100 in the Senate, 435 in the House. "The idea was to create an impression that a mass movement was afoot — that everywhere they looked, in academic institutions, in the business community, in religious groups, in ethnic groups, everywhere, people were talking about reform."


    11:40 AM: Nell Minow (sp?) asks two good questions: a) Whether the blogs can do anything that adds value in discussing the Schiavo case; and b) the dearth of women plitical bloggers with lots o' traffic and links.

    On the first point, I do think that bloggers serve two useful purposes -- a barometer of public opinion, and an opportunity to discuss specific issues raised by this case -- the legal and medical questions.

    On the second point, I'm working on a large post which I'll inflict on people later in the week.

    11:51 AM: Ruy has the best one-sentence summary of the event: "an interesting but not cutting-edge event."

    11:54 AM: On the role of blogs elsewhere, do be sure to check out my Foreign Policy essay with Henry Farrell, "Web of Influence." Sullivan is correct that blogs can be a subversive tool in repressive societies -- but authoritarian governments are learning how to respond with brutal but appallingly effective tactics (link via Glenn Reynolds)

    11:56 AM: Allen says opinion journalism are like "thumb-sucking," and that women don't like the taste of their thumbs. Must.... resist.... savage mockery of metaphor.

    11:58 AM: Dionne gets the first Nazi reference in -- and after an hour and fift-eight minutes of discusion about blogs. That has to be a record for the longest period of time before Godwin's Law kicks in.

    12:03 PM: Ana Marie Cox bravely calls for a moratorium of panels on blogs.... oh, sure, now that she's hit her premier frequent-flyer status via blog conferences, she wants to shut down the ravy train.

    12:06 PM: That's a wrap.... and thank God, because I desperately need to go to the bathroom.


    LAST UPDATE: Here's a link to the full transcript.

    posted by Dan at 09:47 AM | Comments (13) | Trackbacks (4)



    Monday, March 21, 2005

    How I'm spending tomorrow morning

    What better way to spend a Tuesday morning (10-12 Eastern time) that to liveblog a Brookings Institution panel!!

    [Was that, like, a real question or a rhetorical one? Because with the right person, I can think of an infinite combination of activities that might be superior--ed. It was a rhetorical question.]

    Here's the deal:

    Newspaper readership and television audiences are on the decline while the popularity of blogs and online news sources has steadily increased. The landscape of the American media is indisputably changing.

    At this Brookings briefing, members of the "new" and "old" media will weigh in on the ever-evolving role of the press and the future of journalism. The discussion will focus on new mediums and practices in journalism and what impact these have had—and will continue to have—on the role and credibility of the traditional American media. In keeping with the spirit of this event, the discussion will be webcast and will be "live-blogged" by several prominent bloggers. Panelists will take questions from the audience and via e-mail following their remarks.

    The panelists include Jodie T. Allen (Senior Editor, Pew Research Center), Ana Marie Cox (Wonkette.com), Ellen Ratner (White House Correspondent, Talk Radio News Service), Jack Shafer (Editor-at-Large, Slate), and Andrew Sullivan

    The livebloggers other than myself are Juan Cole (Informed Comment), Ed Morrissey (Captain's Quarters), Laura Rozen (War and Piece), Ruy Teixeira (Donkey Rising), and Josh Trevino (Redstate.org).

    Be sure to tune in tomorrow.

    UPDATE: My live-blogging post is here.

    posted by Dan at 06:35 PM | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (0)



    Saturday, March 12, 2005

    What to read on the blogosphere

    In honor of my trip to New Orleans to talk about blogs at the Public Choice Society meetings, here's what I'm going to be thinking about for the next 24 hours:

    1) Gallup has a new poll on blog readership entitled, "Blogs Not Yet in the Media Big Leagues." It opens:

    Three-quarters of the U.S. public uses the Internet at work, school, or home, but only one in four Americans are either very familiar or somewhat familiar with blogs (the shortened form of the original "Web logs"). More than half, 56%, have no knowledge of them. Even among Internet users, only 32% are very or somewhat familiar with blogs.

    More to the point, fewer than one in six Americans (15%) read blogs regularly (at least a few times a month). Just 12% of Americans read blogs dealing specifically with politics this often. Among Internet users, the numbers are similarly low: 19% and 15%, respectively....

    According to a December 2004 Gallup Poll, the percentage of Americans getting their news on a daily basis from the mainstream media is 51% for local television news, 44% for local newspapers, 39% for cable news networks, 36% for the nightly broadcast network news, and 21% for radio talk shows. By contrast, only 3% of Americans say they read Internet blogs every day, and just 2% read politics-focused blogs daily.

    Mystery Pollster deconstructs the poll, pointing out:

    No, the collective reach of blogs is nowhere near that of television or print media, but focusing on the relatively small percentages misses the rapidly growing influence of the blog readership in absolute terms. The 12% that say they read political blogs at least a few times a month amount to roughly 26 million Americans. That may not make blogs a "dominant" news source, but one American in ten ads up to a lot of influence.

    It's also worth comparing and contrasting the Gallup poll with the BlogAds survey.

    2) Lada Adamic and Natalie Glance, "The Political Blogosphere and the 2004 U.S. Election: Divided They Blog." The abstract:

    In this paper, we study the linking patterns and discussion topics of political bloggers. Our aim is to measure the degree of interaction between liberal and conservative blogs, and to uncover any differences in the structure of the two communities. Specifically, we analyze the posts of 40 “A-list” blogs over the period of two months preceding the U.S. Presidential Election of 2004, to study how often they referred to one another and to quantify the overlap in the topics they discussed, both within the liberal and conservative communities, and also across communities. We also study a single day snapshot of over 1,000 political blogs. This snapshot captures blogrolls (the list of links to other blogs frequently found in sidebars), and presents a more static picture of a broader blogosphere. Most significantly, we find differences in the behavior of liberal and conservative blogs, with conservative blogs linking to each other more frequently and in a denser pattern.

    Jerome Armstrong takes this information and concludes, "there's just a lot more coordination through linking among Republican than there has been with Democratic bloggers, at least on the surface of particular URL's." Which suggests to me he didn't actually read the paper, since on p. 10 the authors reject this hypothesis:

    Once we remove from our analysis all URLs pointing to political blogs, the liberal and conservative blogs both had an average similarity of 0.083 and 0.087, a difference that is not statistically significant. These results suggest that Although conservative bloggers tend to more actively comment on one another’s posts, this behavior is not accompanied by a greater uniformity in other online content they link to....

    Conservative television programs and conservative talk radio have sometimes been perceived to be acting as an echo chamber for Republican talking points. However, we did not find evidence for this in conservative blogs.

    Kevin Drum has a better summary, and highlights this interesting finding:

    Notice the overall pattern: Democrats are the ones more often cited by right-leaning bloggers, while Republicans are more often mentioned by left-leaning bloggers....These statistics indicate that our A-list political bloggers, like mainstream journalists (and like most of us) support their positions by criticizing those of the political figures they dislike.

    [So does this mean that Cass Sunstein's thesis about cyberbalkanization is correct?--ed. Not necessarily, for a couple of reasons. First, the authors admit that, "we did not gather the URLs of libertarian, independent, or moderate blogs," though admittedly they are smaller in number. More importantly, the authors collected this data in the run-up to the 2004 election -- an easy case for partisanship if there ever was one.

    Oh, and a quick tip of the cap to Adamic and Glance for the citation to Drezner and Farrell.

    3) As evidence against cyberbalkanization, click over to this petition from bloggers to the Federal Elections Commission. For even better evidence, go sign it.

    posted by Dan at 12:45 AM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (2)



    Monday, March 7, 2005

    Bad news or really bad news for newspapers?

    Is print dying? A Pew Internet survey of how Americans got their information during the 2004 campaign suggests that maybe the answer is yes. Anick Jesdanun explains for the Associated Press:

    Reliance on the Internet for political news during last year's presidential campaign grew sixfold from 1996, while the influence of newspapers dropped sharply, according to a study issued Sunday.
    Eighteen percent of American adults cited the Internet as one of their two main sources of news about the presidential races, compared with 3% in 1996. The reliance on television grew slightly to 78%, up from 72%.

    Meanwhile, the influence of newspapers dropped to 39% last year, from 60% in 1996, according to the joint, telephone-based survey from the Pew Research Center for The People and the Press and the Pew Internet and American Life Project.

    Nonetheless, Americans who got campaign news over the Internet were more likely to visit sites of major news organizations like CNN and The New York Times (43 percent) rather than Internet-only resources such as candidate Web sites and Web journals, known as blogs (24 percent).

    Twenty-eight percent said they primarily used news pages of America Online, Yahoo and other online services, which carry dispatches from traditional news sources like The Associated Press and Reuters.

    "It's a channel difference not a substantive difference," said Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet group and author of the study. "Newspaper executives probably now have to think of themselves less as newspaper people and more as content people."

    ....Fifty-eight percent of political news users cited convenience as their main reason for using the Internet. This group was more likely to use the Internet sites of traditional news organizations or online services.

    But one-third of political news consumers cited a belief that they did not get all the news and information they wanted from papers and television, and another 11% said the Web had information not available elsewhere. These individuals were more likely to visit blogs or campaign sites for information.

    And blogs, Rainie said, likely had an indirect influence on what campaigns talked about and what news organizations covered.

    Click here for Editor & Publisher's take on the report. I'm not sure how much newspapers should be panicking in terms of content -- what appears to be happening is that many people have substituted an online version of their newspaper for the print version. Nevertheless, the secular decline is evident, which should scare the business side of the press. The fact that many people are reading even online newspapers through the editorial filter of either an online news page or a blog is what should rattle editors.

    The actual Pew study can be found here -- and here's a link to Michael Cornfield's analysis of the Internet's effect on the 2004 election. Key paragraph:

    The numbers of American citizens who turn to the internet for campaign politics may dip in 2005 and the off-year election in 2006, in the absence of a presidential election. But a return to pre-2000 or even pre-2002 levels of engagement seems unlikely. As broadband connections proliferate and hum, the old mass audience for campaigns is being transformed into a collection of interconnected and overlapping audiences (global, national, partisan, group, issue-based, candidate-centered). Each online audience has a larger potential for activism than its offline counterparts simply because it has more communications and persuasion tools to exploit. This transformation makes life in the public arena more complex.

    Developing....

    posted by Dan at 06:17 PM | Comments (12) | Trackbacks (0)



    Thursday, February 24, 2005

    Call me "Dr. Dre" from now on

    Josh Levin compares rappers to bloggers in Slate:

    Essentially, blogging is sampling plus a new riff. Political bloggers take a story in the news, rip out a few chunks, and type out a few comments. Rap songs use the same recipe: Dig through a crate of records, slice out a high hat and a bass line, and lay a new vocal track on top. Of course, the molecular structure of dead-tree journalism and classic rock is filthy with other people's research and other people's chord progressions. But in newspaper writing and rock music, the end goal is the appearance of originality—to make the product look seamless by hiding your many small thefts. For rappers and bloggers, each theft is worth celebrating, another loose item to slap onto the collage.

    Rap music and blogging are populist, low-cost-of-entry communication forms that reward self-obsessed types who love writing in first person. Maybe that's why both won so many converts so quickly. If you want to become MC I'm Good at Rapping, all you have to do is rustle up a microphone and a sampler. If you want to blog as AngryVeganCatholicGOPMom, bring a computer, an Internet connection, a working knowledge of Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V, and a whole lot of spare time.

    Although bloggers and rappers are free to write about whatever they damn well please, they mostly talk to each other and about each other. That's partly because it's so easy to communicate with your fellow working professionals. If Nas disses you for not having a moustache, it's easy enough to come right back and tell him you slept with the mother of his child. When Markos from Daily Kos offhandedly admits that he doesn't read many books, Little Green Footballs steps up to hammer the softball.

    But rappers' and bloggers' self-importance also has something to do with the supremely annoying righteousness that rides along with those who believe they're overturned the archaic forms of expression favored by The Man—that is, whitey and/or the mainstream media. Ninety percent of rap lyrics are self-congratulatory rhymes about how great the rapper is at rapping, the towering difficulties of succeeding in the rap game, or the lameness of wanksta rivals. Blogging is a circle jerk that never stops circling: links to posts by other bloggers, following links to newspaper stories about bloggers, following wonderment at the corruptions and complacency of old-fashioned, credentialed journalism.

    Sampling, cutting, pasting, and then writing a few short words of commentary? That b**ch Levin don't know what the f*** he's talking about. [Fo'shizzle!--ed.]

    [Did Levin get the "circle jerk" meme from Bill Keller--ed. Beats me. Speaking of Keller, however, Jeff Jarvis has posted his ongoing correspondence with the New York Times Executive Editor. Oh, and Slate has added a new feature, Today's Blogs -- which appears to be a useful compliment to their equally useful Today's Papers feature.]

    UPDATE: South Knox Bubba has his own retort to Slate.

    posted by Dan at 01:55 PM | Comments (16) | Trackbacks (1)



    Monday, February 21, 2005

    Bill Keller on the blogosphere

    New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller has been quite chatty about the blogosphere as of late. According to this report by Amanda Erickson in the Columbia Spectator:

    Keller also sees “blogging,” or online writing that blurs news and commentary, as a mixed blessing. While he celebrated the blogger’s ability to uncover breaking news, he noted that a blog’s inherent bias might be detrimental to the reader. “A blog is still a view of the world through a pinhole,” he said, noting that it can sometimes fall as low as being a “one man circle jerk.”

    “There is a pressure to feel well informed without ever confronting an opinion that confronts your prejudices,” he said of blog readers.

    Link via Mickey Kaus.

    Wow, sounds like this Keller guy is a bit of an anti-blog jerk. Wait, it gets worse -- in an open letter to Jeff Jarvis he says that, "bloggers... are paranoid, propagandistic, unreliable, hate-filled, self-indulgent, self-important and humorless." (link via Glenn Reynolds.)

    Now, before anyone gets too upset, bear in mind that the quote I just generated from Keller's letter is not really consistent with the overall tone of his snarky but friendly exchange with Jarvis. Read the whole letter. Let's put that quote in context now:

    Can I just state something for the record? While we probably have our differences on the role of the MSM (btw, I personally favor "elite media," at least as it pertains to the NYT) I would like to make clear that I consider blogs relevant and important. I do not hold them in disdain, as you imply. I won't risk embarrassing my favorite bloggers by identifying them (except to say that buzzmachine is bookmarked in my office and at home) but I find the best of them to be a source of provocative insights, first-hand witness, original analysis, rollicking argument and occasional revelation. As I'm sure you will agree, you can also find bloggers who are paranoid, propagandistic, unreliable, hate-filled, self-indulgent, self-important and humorless. (Just like people!)

    Sounds correct to me -- I might add that if you take "cable television" or "talk radio" as a media category, the comment still holds.

    What's interesting about these different Keller episodes is that the Columbia Spectator reporter probably took just the juiciest bit from Keller's comments regardless of whether they were consistent with the overall tenor of his remarks -- whereas Jarvis ("mediaman by day, blogboy by night") reprinted all of Keller's comments, allowing one to judge Keller's argument in toto.

    Oddly enough, this is undoubtedly one trait that good bloggers share with the New York Times. The Times, as the "paper of record," was very good about printing the full text of important documents and speeches before there was a world wide web. The best bloggers, through hyperlinks, can engage in a similar practice when parsing out someone's comments.

    Just a thought.

    posted by Dan at 11:40 PM | Comments (7) | Trackbacks (1)



    Friday, February 18, 2005

    Regarding Eason Jordan

    There's been a lot of chest-thumping in the blogosphere -- and a lot of hand-wringing in the mediasphere -- about Eason Jordan's resignation from CNN.

    Most of this debate is on whether Jordan's blog-fueled exit is good or bad. For me, there's another question -- did the blogosphere really force him out?

    I ask this after reading Ed Morrissey's timeline of Jordangate in the Weekly Standard. Assuming that Morrissey's account is accurate, then the media heat on Jordan was never particularly strong -- and it was dying down the day before he left CNN. Consider this section of Morrissey's article:

    On Thursday, February 10, two national news organizations finally covered the story, but only to declare it overblown. The New York Times posted a wire-service story late in the evening to its Thursday edition, while the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed by Bret Stephens. While he acknowledged that Jordan had used "defamatory innuendo," Stephens wound up decrying the bloggers:

    There is an Easongate.com Web site, on which more than 1,000 petitioners demand that Mr. Jordan release a transcript of his remarks--made recently in Davos--by Feb. 15 or, in the manner of Saddam Hussein, face serious consequences. Sean Hannity and the usual Internet suspects have all weighed in. So has Michelle Malkin, who sits suspended somewhere between meltdown and release.

    There's a reason the hounds are baying. Already they have feasted on the juicy entrails of Dan Rather. Mr. Jordan, whose previous offenses (other than the general tenor of CNN coverage) include a New York Times op-ed explaining why access is a more important news value than truth, was bound to be their next target. And if Mr. Jordan has now made a defamatory and unsubstantiated allegation against U.S. forces, well then . . . open the gates.

    The strange and unexpected turn from the Journal signaled what should have been the end of the story, at least as far as the national media were concerned. The controversy seemed about to fade off the media's radar screens altogether--until Jordan suddenly resigned his position at CNN around 6:00 p.m. on Friday, February 11. (emphasis added)

    In a blog post on the same topic, Morrissey again complains about the lack of media attention to this story:

    Not only did the blogswarm find damning information which the national media could have used all along, but we repeatedly sent the information in e-mails to key people in the media. Instead of acknowledging that function and assimilating the information, the media has circled the wagons around the myth that Eason Jordan simply committed a slip of the tongue at Davos, rather than the documented string of slanders and ethical lapses stretching over more than a decade.

    So Morrissey acknowledges that the story was starting to lose steam the day before Jordan left, and that the mainstream media seemed disinclined to pursue the story any further. If the MSM was either not paying much attention or playing down the scandal, why did Jordan choose to resign when he did?

    There are three possibilities:

    1) The mobilized blogosphere is now so powerful that it no longer needs media attention to affect real change;

    2) Jordan knew he would be toast if the videotaped version of his Davos remarks went public, knew the tape would eventually get out, and so chose to leave before things got really ugly;

    3) Jordan resigned for reasons mostly unrelated to his Davos comments, but the blog stuff provided good cover for CNN to push him out.

    I just don't think (1) is true -- if it is, it certainly violates the argument that Henry Farrell and I have made about when blogs are influential. (2) might be correct -- see Rebecca MacKinnon on this point -- but based on what both Stephens and David Gergen have said, I'm dubious about the tape being that damaging. [But Morrissey points out that what he said at Davos fits a larger pattern--ed. Yes, but Morrissey also laments the fact that this was not reported in the MSM beyond the original Guardian story from last November.]

    Which leads me to (3). It's telling that Katherine Q. Seelye's New York Times account observes, "Some of those most familiar with Mr. Jordan's situation emphasized, in interviews over the weekend, that his resignation should not be read solely as a function of the heat that CNN had been receiving on the Internet, where thousands of messages, many of them from conservatives, had been posted." And, as Mickey Kaus points out, Howard Kurtz's first-draft version of what happened provided an alternative explanation. Check out this Keith Olbermann post as well.

    Unlike Michelle Malkin, I haven't called anyone to check out this hypothesis -- this is only me spitballing. But something ain't right here.

    I'm curious what others think -- and I'm particularly curious what the higher-ups at CNN think.

    posted by Dan at 05:21 PM | Comments (19) | Trackbacks (0)




    Hail Hitler -- Ted Hitler, that is

    The Daily Show with Jon Stewart had a piece on bloggers by Stephen Colbert Ted Hitler last night. Click here to see the full clip -- and to understand the title of this post. Best line: "They have no credibility -- all they have is facts." Actually, I'd restate things a bit. Blogs have a desire to highlight neglected facts, and a willingness to acknowledge when they've posted factual mistakes. [UPDATE: to clarify, most bloggers including myself aren't thrilled to post corrections -- but the norm of admitting error as quickly as possible might be more entrenched in the blogosphere than in the mediasphere.]

    The eerie thing is that Colbert's closing statement is precisely the point that Henry Farrell and I make in our predictions for the future of the blogosphere. To quote Colbert:

    With legitimacy, the bloggers get a seat at the table, and with that comes access, status, money, and power -- and iif there's anything we've learned about the mainstream media, that breeds complacency.

    We wrote:

    We predict that as blogs become a more established feature on the political landscape, politicians and other interested parties will become more adept at responding to them, and, where they believe it necessary, co-opting them. To the extent that blogs become more politically influential, we may expect them to become more directly integrated into ‘politics as usual,’ losing some of their flavor of novelty and immediacy in the process.

    It's really depressing that The Daily Show is not just funnier that I am -- they are better at stating the more substantive point about bloggers.

    posted by Dan at 12:51 PM | Comments (14) | Trackbacks (0)



    Wednesday, February 16, 2005

    There's the Planet Earth, and then there's Tulsa World

    Via James Joyner, I see that the lawyers at Tulsa World have apparently lost their senses in dealing with a blogger named Michael Bates.

    Click here and read the whole sordid story.

    My favorite part is the claim by Tulsa World's lawyers in the letter sent to Bates that he "inappropriately linked [Bates'] website to Tulsa World content."

    Man, imagine how inappropriate it would be to link to the e-mail of the good people who run Tulsa World.

    posted by Dan at 10:23 AM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)



    Tuesday, February 15, 2005

    "Confessions of a scholar-blogger"

    That's the title of a short essay I wrote for the University of Chicago Magazine, the U of C's alumni magazine. Here's the opening and closing paragraphs:

    Since becoming an assistant professor, I have authored one book, edited another, and published a respectable quantity of scholarly articles. And yet I can say with a fair degree of certainty that if you added up the number of people who have read any and all of these works, it would probably be less than the number of hits I receive daily on my Web log—an online journal I’ve kept for the last two-and-a-half years. That fact simultaneously exhilarates and appalls me....

    Will I still be blogging in five years? I honestly don’t know, but my suspicion is that if I do, there will be plenty of sabbaticals thrown in. One undeniable effect of having a successful blog is the inculcation of a sense of duty to keep up regular posts. Even the thought of blogging on a regular basis for half a decade exhausts me. However, the thought of not blogging about the interesting ideas or information that comes my way bothers me even more.

    Thanks to Mary Ruth Yoe for her crisp editing -- and thanks to Jacob Levy for coining the term "scholar-blogger" in the first place.

    You should check out the rest of the magazine's contents -- as I've noted in the past, it's consistently interesting and informative. For example, check out Sharla Stewart's article on Richard Thaler and the rise of behavioral economics. Stewart has a good track record in writing about the social sciences -- her essay on the "perestroika" movement two years ago remains the single-best thing I've read on the subject.

    And be sure to check out UChiblogo -- the magazine's weblog. This post recaps Francis Fukuyama's lecture from last week looking back on "The End of History?"

    posted by Dan at 12:56 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (1)



    Sunday, January 16, 2005

    Hey, in Philadelphia, I'm a law professor!!

    Frank Wilson has a review of Hugh Hewitt's Blog: Understanding the Information Reformation That's Changing Your World in today's Philadelphia Inquirer. This paragraph jumped out at me:

    Hewitt notes that while it was left-of-center bloggers Atrios (Philadelphian Duncan Black) and Joshua Micah Marshall who got the anti-Lott swarm buzzing, it was conservative bloggers - notably the chameleonic Andrew Sullivan, whose coloration at the time was deemed conservative, and Republican law professor Daniel Drezner - who brought it to critical mass. On the other hand, during the Raines swarm, Marshall mentioned the affair only once.

    Y'know, if I was earning the same salary as a law professor, I wouldn't complain.

    UPDATE: Thanks to Warren Dodson for pointing out that Wilson was merely repeating what Hewitt wrote in Blog on p. 11: "Daniel Drezner, a University of Chicago law professor and uber-blogger, called for Lott's resignation on Saturday . . . ."

    I'll take the mis-designation in return for being called an uber-blogger. Hmmm.... note to self: contact Marvel Comics about new superhero idea.....

    posted by Dan at 07:20 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)



    Wednesday, January 12, 2005

    Regarding Dan Rather and Armstrong Williams

    I've been remiss in not posting about the Rathergate Commission report as well as the Armstrong Williams scandal. Fortunately, Kathleen Parker's syndicated column sums up my thoughts on both matters pretty well -- so go check out her argument (Jeff Jarvis too -- though that's always a good recommendation).

    Oh, except for this part of Parker's essay:

    What happened with Williams affects all of us in the business, as we share the same precious real estate and public trust. To readers seeing columnists clustered together on a page, we appear to be members of the same club. Increasingly, however, commentators are products of think tanks or politics--or renegade blond prosecutors--which can be problematic, but not always bad.

    Many of these people, including Williams, can bring unique insights and experiences to the debate. The same is true of the new media genre known as blogs, in which citizen journalists post news links and commentary on the Web, often shadowing the mainstream media, challenging and fact-checking, as well as influencing outcomes in politics and government.

    They are a formidable and welcome force, but as non-journalists in the institutional sense, they're accountable to no one. Therein shines the little light we can find among these dark tales of the fallen.

    For all their flaws, mainstream (institutional) journalists are accountable where others are not. When they mess up, consequences are real and ruthless, as Williams and the CBS folks can attest. That much consumers can rely upon. (emphasis added)

    In one sense Parker is correct -- if a blogger just screws up, nothing prevents that blogger from continuing to post. However, without acknowledging mistakes, that blogger is suddenly going to have a lot fewer readers than before -- and that is a formidable constraint. The mainstream media can experience this problem as well, but not as powerfully. In part that's because a blogger is the sole content provider for his or her blog, whereas a columnist -- or even an anchorman -- is only a cog in a larger media machine.

    The key is that bolded part about "acknowledging mistakes" -- and this is one area where the blogosphere has an advantage. Ironically, because bloggers tend to screw up on a regular basis, it is far easier for us to admit error. Journalists are probably more diligent at fact-checking, and probably make fewer mistakes overall. But they do make them. Because these mistakes are more infrequent, and because accuracy is a slightly more precious currency in the mediasphere than the blogosphere, they will resist admissions of error -- compounding the original problem.

    This dynamic is reflected in RatherGate. The telling section in the CBS report is how producer Mary Mapes, Rather, et al reacted after their report was challenged. They dug in their heels and engaged in even more distorted reporting in an attempt to defend the veracity of their documentation (check out p. 183 of the report, for example).

    posted by Dan at 05:14 PM | Comments (20) | Trackbacks (0)



    Friday, January 7, 2005

    There really is a blog about everything

    With Robert Zoellick's move to the State Department, the number of possible candidates for World Bank President declines by one.

    I would now blog more about this kind of rumor mill -- except there is already a blog devoted solely to this topic. So I'm outsourcing speculation to that site.

    This leads me to this Leonard Witt post about the structure of the blogosphere. It's really an exchange between Jeff Jarvis and Lewis Friedland over whether the blogosphere amounts to anything new. Friedland is skeptical:

    Blogs like everything else on the net are subject to certain laws of exponential traffic, sometimes called Power Laws. And while there may be 1.65 million Blogs out there that are semi-active, there are a very tiny, tiny handful of those notes that are actually read. And they in fact do control traffic, that's the way traffic on the net works. And to say that because anybody can be a publisher that that opens up a broad range of voices is a delusion really. Yes, new voices will enter the mainstream consistently but they will not be trafficked to simply because they are smart and clever. Some will, but and this is my third and final point, much of the traffic on the net when you start investigating the structure of the Blogosphere and the structure of the net very much represented the horserace political commentary of much of the mainstream media. It’s clever, it’s more up to date, it has more voice, there's more opinion, its sharper; but if you look at the Blogosphere as a whole with some important exceptions much of what it consists of is a lot of he-said, she-said political commentary that is not any different what you would find on the cable news networks.

    Click on the link to see Jarvis' response, which I agree with. Basically, it boils down to the notion that there are mass audiences and there are niche audiences -- and different blogs feed different types of audiences. For each audience, a skewed distribution of traffic and links exists -- but just because a blogger doesn't generate Glenn Reynolds' kind of traffic does not automatically render them unimportant.

    The fact that David Stevens and Alex Wilks decided to set up a blog devoted exclusively to the search for a new World Bank President -- which, let's face it, is not on most people's radar screen -- is a point for Jarvis.

    Anyway, click over there to get and give the best dirt on possible candidates and their odds.

    posted by Dan at 05:28 PM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)



    Thursday, January 6, 2005

    So you want to influence public opinion....

    If you had an idea and wanted to insert it into the national debate, where would you publish it? In other words, what are the most influential media outlets in the United States?

    Almost a decade ago, I had a conversation about this topic with someone who had served in the government at a pretty high level and was clearly on his way up the media ladder. His response was that on foreign policy questions, there were only four outlets that mattered: Foreign Affairs, the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal. Which I've used as a rule of thumb.

    Turns out that Erdos & Morgan conduct an annual survey on this kind of question -- although it deals with influence writ large rather than specifically influencing foreign policy. Last month the 2004-5 results were released -- and the Council on Foreign Relations is very excited about it:

    Foreign Affairs has been ranked the most influential media outlet in the United States, according to a new study of U.S. opinion leaders conducted by Erdos & Morgan, the premier business-to-business research firm. The findings place Foreign Affairs ahead of all other magazines and newspapers - including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The Economist - as well as all broadcast media....

    The Erdos & Morgan 2004-2005 survey represents the views of over 450,000 American thought leaders who shape policy and opinion in the public and private sectors. It is the best-known and most widely used survey of opinion leaders in the United States, and documents where they get the information they use in their work.

    Here's the top 10:

    Foreign Affairs
    CQ Weekly
    The New York Times
    The Wall Street Journal
    The Economist
    Harvard Business Review
    The Washington Post
    The New York Times Sunday Edition
    The New England Journal of Medicine
    Science

    A few things worth noting:

    1) I'm surprised that no broadcast media cracked the top 10.

    2) One wonders how individual blogs would do if they were added to the survey (I'm assuming they weren't, since this is targeted at large-scale advertisers. If Henry Copeland is smart, though, he'd pay to see that some blogs were added to the list). I doubt they would crack the top 10 -- but I could see one or two of them cracking the top 25.

    UPDATE: Someone has e-mailed me this press release in which the New York Times makes similar claims to Foreign Affairs. However, read this comment -- which suggests that basically the NYT and Foreign Affairs are using slightly different interpretations of "influence" -- and both publications have some substantive claim to this mantle.

    posted by Dan at 05:58 PM | Comments (14) | Trackbacks (3)



    Friday, December 3, 2004

    It's the 2004 Weblog Awards!!

    I urge any and all readers to click over to the 2004 Weblog Awards and vote among the myriad categories. Unbeknownst to me -- thanks to R.H. for the link -- I see that I'm nominated for "Best of the Top 100 Blogs".

    So... vote for me, dammit!! I've never won one of these awards, and if at all possible I'd like to avoid becoming the Harold Stassen of the blogosphere. And, looking at the voting to date, I appear to be getting my ass kicked. UPDATE: Ah, now I see why I'm getting my ass kicked -- Megan McArdle is playing dirty -- really, really dirty.

    Logicians among the readership are invited to reconcile the conundrum of how the Best of the Top 100 Blogs would not therefore better than the Best Overall Blog -- since all of them are Top 100 blogs.

    posted by Dan at 05:54 PM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)



    Thursday, December 2, 2004

    More than just a trend?

    A year ago, lexicographers said that blogs were hip and trendy. Now the Associated Press reports the following:

    The most requested online definition this year was "blog" - a word not even yet officially in the dictionary, Merriam-Webster says.

    Editors had planned to include "blog" - the short term for Web log - in the 2005 annual update of both the print and online versions of Merriam-Webster's 11th Collegiate Dictionary, said Arthur Bicknell, spokesman for the dictionary publisher.

    But in face of demand, the company quickly added an early definition to some of its online sites, defining "blog" as "a Web site that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks provided by the writer."

    Typically, it takes about 20 years of usage for a word to become prominent enough to merit a place in an abridged dictionary. Some Internet terms and new diseases, such as AIDS and SARS, have made it in a fraction of that time.

    "Blog" began appearing in newspapers and magazines in 1999, according to the publisher's records. Merriam's lexicographers suspect the prominence blogs attained during the presidential campaigns and conventions this year sent people scrambling for a definition.

    Link via Tom Sullivan. From an international relations perspective, I'm intrigued to see that "sovereignty" came in ninth by their metric of popularity.

    UPDATE: If Microsoft has its way, you will become one with the blog.

    posted by Dan at 12:03 PM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)



    Tuesday, November 16, 2004

    Oh, yes, there are costs to blogging

    This week's blog casualties:

    1) A Delta flight attendant was fired for posting mildly risqué photos of herself in her Delta uniform on her blog.

    2) An NBA owner was fined for making disparaging comments about the NBA on his blog.

    Not quite as bad as the Iranians, of course.

    posted by Dan at 11:16 PM | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (1)



    Tuesday, November 9, 2004

    The Iranian Internet crackdown

    Alas, this section got cut from the conclusion of "Web of Influence":

    Authoritarian states that seek to censor the Internet can easily censor blogs. Ironically, blogs are nearly as easy to block as to create. Governments can stymie their citizens’ access to a large fraction of the blogosphere by filtering out standardized blog URLs such as Blogger or Typepad. China has on occasion blocked all blogs based at blogger.com, blogs.com, and typepad.com... wherever Internet content is restricted, so are bloggers.

    Unfortunately, as my co-author Henry Farrell points out, this point can now be seen in Iran. Nazila Fathi reported on it yesterday in the New York Times:

    Iran has continued its crackdown on journalists, with two arrests in the past week, and has moved against pro-democracy Web sites, blocking hundreds of sites in recent months and making several arrests....

    As part of its crackdown, the government has blocked hundreds of political sites and Web logs. Three major pro-democracy Web sites that support President Mohammad Khatami were blocked in August.

    A university in Orumieh in northwestern Iran shut down its Internet lab, contending that students had repeatedly browsed on indecent Web sites.

    The crackdown suggests that hard-liners are determined to curtail freedom in cyberspace. Many rights advocates had turned to the Internet after the judiciary shut down more than 100 pro-democracy newspapers and journals in recent years.

    The number of Internet users in Iran has soared in the last four years, to 4.8 million from 250,000. As many as 100,000 Web logs operate, and some of them are political.

    The move to block Web sites has the support of a senior cleric, Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi, who declared in September in the hard-line daily newspaper Kayhan that Web sites should be blocked if they "insult sacred concepts of Islam, the Prophet and Imams," or "publish harmful and deviated beliefs to promote atheism or promote sinister books."

    Jeff Jarvis argues that, "They [the mullahs] will fail. This can't be stopped now."

    For reasons laid out here (see p. 488-490) and here, I am more pessimistic.

    UPDATE: For some more background on this crackdown, which has been going on for the past few months, check out this Hossein Derakhshan post from two months ago (link via Rebecca MacKinnon) as well as this Human Rights Watch press release from last month.

    posted by Dan at 04:08 PM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (4)



    Sunday, September 26, 2004

    The New York Times Magazine discovers that bloggers are geeks

    The teaser for Matthew Klam's cover story on political bloggers:

    The bloggers covering the presidential race are maverick, funny, mostly partisan and always hypercaffeinated. Are they ruining political journalism or recharging it?

    That's a great question, but Klam doesn't answer it in the article -- in fact, I'm not even sure he addresses it.

    Instead, Klam has written a piece on how, regardless of ideology, topic of interest, or writing style, all bloggers share a common trait -- they're geeks. [Surely not Wonkette?--ed. Click here for her dirty little secret (link via Mark Blumenthal).] By geek, I mean that they have an unusually strong appetite for information that the rest of humanity might find.... a tad dry. Geeks are also acutely conscious of the pre-existing social hierarchy, and have a strong sense of unease about their place in that hierarchy.

    Klm's essay is essentially a profile of Josh Marshall, Ana Marie Cox, and Markos Moulitsas -- all of whom are successful bloggers, and all of whom aspire to be more than successful bloggers.

    So, while I learned little that would be useful for my research on blogs and politics, I did pick up the following tidbits of information:

    1) The Pandagon bloggers get chicks -- a fact that they're Jesse Taylor is chivalrously mute about it in their his own blogging of the article (Ezra Klein, on the other hand, surrendered to his inner Fonzie). This is from Klam's opening:

    The Tank was just one small room, with theater lights on the ceiling and picture windows that looked out on the parking garage across 42nd Street. Free raw carrots and radishes sat in a cardboard box on a table by the door, alongside a pile of glazed doughnuts and all the coffee you could drink. The place was crowded. Everyone was sitting, staring at their laptops, at bridge tables or completely sacked out on couches. Markos Moulitsas, who runs the blog Daily Kos, at dailykos.com, was slouched in the corner of one squashed-down couch in shorts and a T-shirt, his computer on his lap, one of the keys snapped off his keyboard. He's a small guy with short brown hair who could pass for 15. Duncan Black of the blog Eschaton, who goes by the name Atrios, sat at the other end of the couch, staring out the window. On the table set up behind them, Jerome Armstrong of MyDD worked sweatily. Jesse and Ezra, whose blog is called Pandagon, were lying with two cute women in tank tops -- Ezra's girlfriend Kate and Zoe of Gadflyer -- on futon beds that had been placed on the tiny stage of the performance space. Their computers and wireless mice and some carrots and radishes and paper plates with Chinese dumplings were scattered between them. A month ago, at the Democratic convention, Zoe had accidentally spilled a big cup of 7-Up on Jesse's computer, killing it. She and Jesse now looked as if they might be dating.

    Congratulations to Jesse and Ezra for emerging from this story with a semblence of their dignity intact.

    2) Ana Marie Cox looks good drinking a martini, is overly infatuated with MTV, and doesn't get paid a whole hell of a lot to be Wonkette.

    3) Somewhere in the back parts of his closet, Joshua Micah Marshall has a set of Vulcan ears and a Klingon dictionary:

    In Boston, the day before the convention started and after a long, glittering night following the Wonkette to fancy parties, I came back late and found Josh Marshall in my hotel room, lying sideways on a cot, blogging. He was drinking a Diet Coke, his face illuminated by the glow of his laptop, legs crossed, socked feet hanging off the edge. Earlier in the day, when he mentioned that his hotel reservation didn't start until Monday, I had offered to share my room with him for the night....

    In my room in Boston, he had a little hotel ice bucket by his side with two more Diet Cokes in it, and he finished them off before bedtime. It was late, and I was tired and he was disoriented, trying to blog under such circumstances, but before we turned off the lights he wanted to show me his Talking Points Memo ID, which resembled a press badge. He wondered if I thought it looked real. The credentials we would all be receiving the next day didn't require any press badge, but staff reporters of actual news organizations always seem to have separate institutional ID's, thick plastic magnetized deals that can open locked doors. Working off the model of a friend's ID, Marshall had, using his girlfriend's computer and photo printer, made a sober little knockoff, including his picture (in coat and tie), an expiration date and an explanation of company policy: should the company's only employee be terminated, the badge would become the property of Talking Points Memo. He laminated it at Kinko's. He had also brought his own lanyard (each media empire has its own necklace strings) and his own little plastic badge holder. I told him it looked completely legit.

    Your humble blogger is very glad that he's sufficiently below the radar that Klam found it unnecessary to profile him. I susect this is how Klam's first psragraph would have gone:

    Daniel Drezner typed furiously on his Dell laptop -- a particularly impressive feat given that Drezner uses only two fingers to type. With his right foot, he slowly rocked a car seat containing his youngest child, Lauren, only a few weeks old and currently dozing off. With all the successes Drezner has reaped from his blogging, I sense he had hoped he'd be exempted from some child care duties during this election season. This unspoken argument has had no effect on his wife Erika, who was taking a much-needed nap. Success in blogging seems to have had little effect on Drezner's domestic responsibilities.

    UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds collects blogosphere responses. I'm particularly amused that both the left and the right halves of the blogosphere are pissed off about Klam's essay.

    I have to think that Klam must be ticked off at the Times headline writers -- they badly mischaracterized the tenor of Klam's essay, which is far more anthropological than political in nature.

    posted by Dan at 12:29 PM | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (3)



    Friday, September 24, 2004

    Do blogs penetrate the campaign cocoon?

    Jay Rosen has a must-read post that relates a Philip Gourevitch lecture on what it's like to cover a presidential campaign. Gourevitch comes across as the grown-up version of the Lindsey Lohan character in Mean Girls, applying his strengths as a foreign correspondent to a new situation: "The presidential campaign as a foreign country visited for the first time by our correspondent."

    The two parts I found particularly informative:

    "A presidential election is a like a gigantic moving television show," he said. It is the extreme opposite of an overlooked event.

    The show takes place inside a bubble, which is a security perimeter overseen by the Secret Service. The bubble is a physical thing: a threshold your body crosses. If you are part of the traveling press corps, sticking with the candidate through the swing states, then you have to be swept--screened for weapons and explosives--or you cannot be on the bus. If you go outside the bubble for any reason, you become a security risk until you are screened again by hand....

    "Right there they have you," Gourevitch told our crowd of about 50 journalism students and faculty. "Outside the bubble you cannot go because then you're dirty again and have to be checked by the Secret Service." Under these conditions, he said, "no spontaneous reporting is possible."

    You cannot jump into the crowd with an audio recorder and find out why those people were chanting what they were chanting before they were shown away by security guards. Accepting this limitation--a big one--becomes part of the bubble.

    While it's tough for the press to leave that bubble, it's becoming easier for outside information to enter it:

    Gourevitch joins the bus, and trudges through the morning's events. Nothing but photo ops and words heard a hundred times that week. There's a break and he pulls out his notebook. Then he realizes not a single thing happened that is worth writing down. But the other reporters have opened their laptops and they are springing into action. They found nothing to write down either. They're checking emails, pagers, and the Net because they "receive" the campaign that way. The bubble is made of data too.

    A trail of meaninglessly scripted events is taken for granted, the emptiness at each stop is tolerated, in part because things crackle and hop so much in the information sphere.

    I wonder if blogs are part of what these journalists check.

    Read the whole thing -- and then go read the debate between Glenn Reynolds and Virginia Postrel over whether blogs focus too much on media criticism. This point by Postrel rings true:

    Many of the best policy blogs have almost no media criticism, nor do they go looking for political scalps. They don't even constantly write about the superiority of blogs. That's why you almost never read about them. Reporters and media critics are bored, bored, bored by the very sort of discourse they claim to support (a lesson I learned the hard way in 10 long years as the editor of Reason). They, and presumably their readers, want conflict, scandal, name-calling, and some sex and religion to heighten the combustible mix. Plus journalists, like other people, love to read about themselves and people they know.

    UPDATE: For more on the metaphysics of media coverage, check out John Holbo's marathon post on the topic.

    posted by Dan at 01:11 AM | Comments (25) | Trackbacks (1)



    Wednesday, September 15, 2004

    Orin Kerr pages the right half of the blogosphere

    Astute readers may have observed that I have refrained from posting about Swift Boats, Kitty Kelley, typewriter fonts et al.

    While I certainly understand why the rest of the blogosphere is exercised about this stuff, Orin Kerr says what I've been thinking:

    [L]et me see if I understand things correctly. A presidential election is less than two months away, and there is a war going on right now in Iraq. The war in Iraq raises profound questions about United States policy with regard to the Muslim world for decades to come. But instead of debating the war that is going on right now, we're debating the war records of the two candidates from more than three decades ago. Wait, no, that's too direct: we're debating one network's story about one candidate's war record from three decades ago. Wait, maybe that's too direct, too: we're debating the fonts on different typewriters that may or may not have been used to write a memo that led to a story about one candidate's war record from three decades ago. Yeah, that's pretty much it.

    C'mon, folks: don't we have more important things to blog about?

    Now, I take Ramesh Ponnuru's point that bloggers don't have an obligation to do anything -- though that is one reason why some journalists don't like them. And readers should feel free to post comments here on why they disagree or agree with Orin or why these matters are vitally important questions before the republic compared to Iraq or Russia. Really, post away.

    But this is the first and last post you will read at danieldrezner.com about this subject. Because substantively,* I just don't care about any of it -- which is why I feel no desire to write about it.

    My one and only political response to all of this stuff is very simple, and echoies Lawrence Lessig: does anyone seriously believe that this election should be decided by what either candidate did more than thirty years ago?

    *For the blog paper Henry Farrell and I are writing, I'll confess to some interest in the role blogs have played in framing these stories.

    UPDATE: TMH reminds me why I like my comments section, as he makes a decent point:

    [O]ther issues, such as Iraq, are clearly more important, but (a) bloggers have less ability to influence them and less incentive to “cover” every development there, (b) most people have already long since made up their minds about the big issues and (c) most undecided Presidential voters don’t seem to care much about them. For better or worse, the thinking seems to be that “undecideds” can more easily be swayed about candidates’ biographies than about the issues. Hence, the re-fighting of the Vietnam War this campaign season.

    I don't buy (c) for a minute, but (a) and (b) have some traction.

    Check out Baseball Crank, who makes similar points.

    On the other hand... those who take the blogosphere as able to influence the media should read Telis Demos' TNR Online piece and ask whether blogs have been consistent in their media critique (though see David Adesnik's critique as well). [UPDATE: Hey, whaddaya know, bloggers have at this -- except that it turns out Demos' story was the one with factual errors. See Stuart Buck and Brian Carnell on this point (hat tip to Crow Blog for the links)]

    Oh, and one final point: this post certainly shouldn't be interpreted as a defense of CBS. This Josh Marshall post -- which offers an interpretation that's most favorable to their reporting -- sums it up. "GotterDannerung" indeed.

    ANOTHER UPDATE: Orin Kerr responds to his critics. The key part:

    My sense is that bloggers are embracing Memogate to the exclusion of other things, as if it were an enormous relief to be able to lose ourselves in the story. The story lets the right half of the blogosphere feast on some of its favorite themes: damn that liberal media, blogosphere to the rescue, etc. Don't get me wrong, those are good themes. But at some point the hearty appetite begins to look like escapism. And I think we've reached that point, if not passed it long ago.

    Jonah Goldberg is worth reading on this as well. As is Jeff Jarvis.

    posted by Dan at 05:35 PM | Comments (64) | Trackbacks (2)



    Friday, September 10, 2004

    Blog quote of the day

    As I'm catching up on the blogosphere, I see that Matthew Yglesias has shut off comments, and that Steven Den Beste has hung up his blog spikes.

    For someone who's never been particularly spare in his prose, Den Beste comes up with a very pithy closing line about blogging:

    I've learned something interesting: if you give away ice cream, eventually a lot of people will complain about the flavors, and others will complain that you aren't also giving away syrup and whipped cream and nuts.

    posted by Dan at 02:51 PM | Comments (18) | Trackbacks (1)



    Tuesday, September 7, 2004

    Another comparative advantage of the blogosphere?

    I've been remiss in not congratulating Kevin Drum for his first book review for the New York Times. He deftly critiques Arthus Schlesinger Jr.'s War and the American Presidency -- even though Kevin is undoubtedly sympathetic to Schlesinger's argument. Go give it a read.

    As I was reading it, it occurred to me that Drum's review was probably enhanced by his blogger origins. Why? Because Kevin, unlike many other possible reviewers, was probably not concerned with ingratiating himself with Schlesinger. Which is why bloggers might be the best critics of them all. Bloggers, as the gatecrashers of the commetariat, are less constrained by personal or professional ties from providing honest appraisals. This is not to accuse non-bloggers of acting in an opportunistic fashion -- rather, it's simply more difficult, even at a subconscious level, to speak truth to power when you know what you'll say will hurt someone's feelings.

    [So why does the post title have a question mark?--ed. Because some bloggers are not exactly gatecrashers. Read this Josh Marshall post, for example, and imagine him writing the same review Kevin Drum wrote about Schlesinger's book. But you liked that anecdote!--ed. True, but my current point is that the more bloggers are emeshed within the mediasphere -- myself included -- the more we face the same set of implicit personal and professional constraints that others "inside the tent" currently face.]

    posted by Dan at 10:31 PM | Comments (9) | Trackbacks (0)



    Thursday, August 26, 2004

    Lazy media stereotype continued

    Kevin Canfield of the Newark Journal News thinks that op-ed columnists are overrated blowhards (link via NRO's The Corner):

    Op-ed columnists are the self-assured know-it-alls of the political media. Shrugging off impartiality and other journalistic creeds in favor of partisan swagger, D.C.-centric op-ed columnists wield their various points of view with a degree of confidence known only to true believers.

    Oh, wait, I got that wrong -- replace "op-ed columnist" with "blogger" and then you get Canfield's lead paragraph.

    My point here is not (only) to pick on Canfield -- the substance of his story is to discuss the limits of the blogosphere's influence -- but rather to re-emphasize a point I made when George Packer's blog essay came out: "conduct a mental experiment -- replace the word 'blogosphere' with 'New York Times op-ed columnists' or 'David Broder. See if the criticism[s]... still hold up."

    Also, it's not like there aren't theories out there explaining how blogs influence politics.

    posted by Dan at 04:29 PM | Comments (9) | Trackbacks (2)



    Saturday, August 21, 2004

    A multiple choice question for my readers

    Lawrence Krubner left a comment on this Brad DeLong post that rings partially true to me:

    When I look back at my past blogrolls and I see how many of my once favorite weblogs are now defunct, it strikes me that weblogs have a shorter life-span that even teenage rock-bands. There's been about 80% turnover among my once favorite weblogs, and yet I've only had a blogroll for 2 years. It seems to me all weblogs go down one of three paths: 1.) They end. 2.) They don't end, but the author becomes comfortable taking breaks of a month or two (both Virginia Postrel and Christina Wodtke took month long breaks when they were in the final stages of the various books they've each written). 3.) They don't end, but become group weblogs. Tom Tomorrow, Chris Bertram, Eugene Volkoh, and Harry Hatchet all gave up on go-it-alone weblogs and then either joined group weblogs (Crooked Timber for Chris Bertram) or invited other writers to write on their site. Becoming a group weblog has the same result for each individual writer: it becomes easier for them to take month-long breaks.

    This strikes me as something of an exaggeration -- most of the blogs I originally put on the blogrolll are still quite active.

    However.... for professional and personal reasons that will soon become apparent, I may be facing one of Krubner's three options relatively soon. Option one seems too radical, and I doubt I'll be pursuing it. So I have a question for my readers -- would you prefer irregular blogging from me alone -- Ă  la the great Virginia Postrel -- or having danieldrezner.com expand into drezner&company.com?

    I await your input.

    UPDATE: Thanks for all the input!! I'll be reaching my decision soon.

    posted by Dan at 09:49 PM | Comments (76) | Trackbacks (2)



    Thursday, August 19, 2004

    Happy blogiversary to Eric Zorn!!

    Eric Zorn, a columnist at the Chicago Tribune, has been blogging for a year now. His column in today's Trib reflects on the past year:

    Skeptics wondered if I'd lost my mind.

    A year ago this week when I launched the Tribune's first daily Web log, they pointed out I was signing on to do lots of extra work that would reach, at best, a small fraction of those who see this column, that my new-media experiment was going to stumble over the barriers of old-media conventions and that the project was going to haunt my every waking hour.

    They said I was jumping down from my perch and turning myself into just another bloviator in the unregulated, highly idiosyncratic and often preposterously self-indulgent crowd of bloggers.

    I answered that blogs are a hot medium with nearly endless opportunities for columnists who want to incubate, tease and follow up on ideas that may not fit into the allotted daily rectangle. I'll have a blast and we'll make it work somehow.

    It turned out everyone was right.

    Read the whole thing. Jeff Jarvis is quoted, and he expands on his thoughts in this post, which closes:

    In the end, blogging is just a tool -- history's easiest publishing tool connected to the world via history's best communications network. How can we not all use it?

    UPDATE: Henry Copeland has some useful thoughts on this.

    posted by Dan at 04:21 PM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (1)



    Thursday, August 5, 2004

    Blogs threaten national security

    Well, some of them do -- according to The Onion.

    Or, is this just a power play by the CIA? You be the judge.

    Incidentally, if you go to the blog site mentioned in the Onion story, you get a brand-new "squatter" blog set up by Andy Nores Nelson. This entry is pretty funny, though.

    posted by Dan at 11:38 AM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (1)



    Thursday, July 29, 2004

    My last metablogging post for a while

    I know I've been blogging about blogging too much as of late -- but I can't resist these two links.

    The first is Fafblog's "interview" with Wolf Blitzer. For those of you sick to death of the convention blogfest, this is the link for you. This is from the opening paragraph:

    Here at the convention there isn't that much to do right now other than eat tiny quiches an finger sammiches an hang out at panels drinkin wine but we're still havin an ok time with that. Me an Giblets have been hangin out at such panels as "Blogging: Transforming the Medium of Media" an "Blogging: A Radical New Media of Blogging" an "Blogging: Blog Media Bloggity Blog Media Bla-blog" where we have lent our expert advice to confused broadcast journalists whose minds are dazzled by the oh so confusin world of computer wizardry.

    It's a damn good thing Henry and I changed our paper title, because our first choice was "Blogging: Blog Media Bloggity Blog Media Bla-blog."

    More seriously, Jonathan Chait has a great TNR Online essay about why he's covering the convention from home (alas, subscriber only free link for everyone!!). Chait makes a great point how and why the conventional wisdom among journalists about what makes great journalism is heavily skewed:

    But what's so bad about sitting around? You can learn a lot sitting behind a desk, mining the papers for interesting factual nuggets, reading political commentary from every perspective, poring through books and reports, and using the Nexis database to compile enormous stacks of newspaper stories. Most journalists scorn this kind of research because they're obsessed with uncovering new facts, not synthesizing them....

    Part of the problem is that journalism terminology glorifies "shoe-leather reporting," whereby you pound the pavement so often you wear out the soles of your shoes. Yet there's no widely used term of approbation for the other kind of reporting. For this very reason, my New Republic colleague Franklin Foer and I decided a few years ago to coin a phrase: ass-welt reporting. It means you've sat in your chair for so long reading books and documents that you've worn a welt the shape of your backside into your chair. I'm not saying that every news story could be reported without leaving one's desk. (Bernstein: "Woodward, look! I found a clip from 1971 in which President Nixon tells the Omaha World-Herald he plans to order his goons to break into Democratic headquarters in the Watergate Hotel!" Woodward: "I'll cancel that meeting with Deep Throat.") I'm simply saying that, sometimes, laziness can be the better part of valor.

    Not only is this true, it's the best refutation of Alex S. Jones' tired tirade against bloggers. Jones complains that:

    [B]loggers, with few exceptions, don't add reporting to the personal views they post online, and they see journalism as bound by norms and standards that they reject. That encourages these common attributes of the blogosphere: vulgarity, scorching insults, bitter denunciations, one-sided arguments, erroneous assertions and the array of qualities that might be expected from a blustering know-it-all in a bar.

    The best bloggers link to opposing views, excel at Chait's "ass-welt reporting," and perform Google and Nexis searches ad nauseum.

    As Chait points out, reporting is about more than shoe leather, it's about decent research skills -- a fact one would have expected the director of the Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy to comprehend. Instead, Jones seems to have divined all of his knowledge about blogs from reading Matt Drudge and Wonkette.

    It's a shame he didn't do more research for his op-ed.

    A BELATED POSTCRIPT: Many of the commenters to this post have defended either Drudge or Wonkette, assuming that I was attacking them. That wasn't my intent, as I consume both of them on a regular basis. My point was that most bloggers do not provide the same type of content as either Cox or Drudge. Jones (or blog-grouch Tom MacPhail) would have had a leg to stand on if the rest of the blogosphere was akin to either of these sites. In moderation, however, both of them serve a useful purpose.

    posted by Dan at 12:13 PM | Comments (14) | Trackbacks (1)



    Monday, July 26, 2004

    A hypothesis about blog coverage

    The extent to which the mainstream media has simultaneously embraced and covered the blog phenomenon for the Democratic National Convention has overwhelmed even a skeptic like Josh Marshall:

    I buzzed by the MSNBC convention coverage site (probably through the ad link they're running on this and other blogs) and was flabbergasted to see that they've absorbed the blogging model to something like a mind-bending degree....

    I've never been much for the blog triumphalism that seems always to be so much a part of the blog universe. Blogs make up a small, specialized niche within the interdependent media ecosystem -- mainly not producers but primary or usually secondary consumers -- like small field mice, ferrets, or bats.

    When I see the mainest of mainstream outfits buying into the concept or the model I really don't know what to think. The best way I can describe my reaction is some mix of puzzlement and incredulity.

    Indeed, the Jennifer Lee has a story in the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal has gone all out -- it's topic A of John Fund's column; Carl Bialik and Elizabeth Weinstein provide an exhaustive report on the convention bloggers, and I just got a call from another WSJ reporter for another story.

    Even though I've written about the ever-increasing connections between the blogosphere and mediasphere, I must also confess surprise at the intensity of coverage over the past few days. What's going on?

    Here's a quick-and-dirty hypothesis -- the media abhors a news vacuum, and a nominating conventions is one whopper of a news vacuum. There are no real surprises awaiting reporters in either Boston this week or New York come Labor Day. The only moderately interesting question this week is how well Edwards and Kerry deliver their speeches. Even that's not news as much as interpretation.

    This is a perfect scenario for the media to increase their coverage of blogs. They are an undeniably new facet of convention coverage, which makes them news. They're a process story rather than a substance story, which the media likes to write about. Finally, one of the blogosphere's comparative advantage is real-time snarky responses and interpretations of media events.

    Just a thought.

    UPDATE: David Adesnik reinforces the point Henry Farrell and I have made about the skewed distribution of the blogosphere:

    I've also noticed that the same few bloggers are getting all of the attention. Since one of them is Patrick Belton, I think that's just great. But it means that other blogs are getting left out and that journalists are limiting their own supply of information. For example, all but one of the bloggers mentioned in Howard Kurtz's convention-blogging round-up also get mentioned or quoted in Jenny 8-ball's round-up at the NYT.

    And here's a subsciption-only link to the Christopher Conkey story in Tuesday's Wall Street Journal.

    LAST UPDATE: Lindsay Beyerstein at Majkthise offers another excellent hypothesis explaining media coverage of convention bloggers:

    I would also argue that media are primarily fascinated by the credentialling of bloggers, rather than the medium itself. Extending press credentials to non-journalists is a bold move by mainstream political parties. Effectively, the subjects of news unilaterally expanded the media by extending access.

    Journalists see themselves as professionals. Self-regulation is one of the distinctive features of a profession. Just as doctors reserve the right to decide who can practice medicine, many journalists feel entitled to decide who gets to make the news.

    posted by Dan at 01:43 PM | Comments (7) | Trackbacks (5)



    Sunday, July 25, 2004

    Blogs are feeling the convention love

    A while back I was ambivalent about bloggers covering the conventions. As the Dems converge in Boston, however, I must confess to a surprising giddiness about the role that blogs and bloggers have earned for this election season [You're just happy because this provides more fodder for your blog paper--ed. Hey, I'm rarely on top of a trend. Let me savor this!] Consider the following:

    1) MSNBC's Hardball has set up their own weblog called HardBlogger. So far the posts have been mixed. In Andrea Mitchell's first post, she recounts her experiences at past conventions, concluding with, "the biggest 'get' of my last Democratic convention. Not former presidents, governors or senators, but Sarah Jessica Parker, on the convention floor." Now that's hard-hitting journalism!

    On the other hand, this David Shuster post does contain some good inside info on what speakers see when they're at the podium.

    2) Not to be outdone, CNN has teamed with Technorati to provide "real-time analysis of the political blogosphere," as David Sifry phrases it. Here's a link to CNN's press release.

    3) MTV has also decided to co-opt the bloggers by hiring Ana Marie Cox -- a.k.a., Wonkette -- to cover the convention. MTV says "her 'unabashed style and irreverence' will galvanize young voters," according to the Washington Post's Reliable Sources. Cox posts her own thoughts on the matter here. Me, I'll have to tune in just to see whether Ana Marie can get through four days without saying "a**-f***ing" on basic cable.

    4) Finally there are the credentialed convention bloggers themselves. Dave Winer has set up a special site for the DNC Convention Bloggers. The Los Angeles Times has a story on the bloggers who thought they got credentials but then had them yanked (link via Glenn Reynolds). Kevin Drum astutely observes about the article, "I think it's a milestone: a story related to blogging that's not about the phenomenon of blogging itself and that just assumes you know what a blog is."

    The Democratic National Committee has set up their own blog called Boston Party. Even the old-school Associated Press has brought out legendary reporter Walter Mears to help blog the convention (link via Eric Schnure)

    I'll close with Patrick Belton's proclamation at OxBlog:

    The 2004 conventions will be remembered as the conventions of the blog; just like the 1952 Republican convention was the convention of the television, and the 1924 conventions were the conventions of the radio. Each symbolised the rise of a new technology to mediate between the political space of the public square and the personal, domestic space in people's living rooms, bedrooms, and kitchen counters.

    That's probably a bit too triumphalist for me -- but then again, with the nets embracing the blogosphere for its form and content, even I'm feeling a bit triumphalist today.

    [I notice you're not going to be Mr. Media Whore for the upcoming week. What does this mixture of political conventions and blogging mean for you?--ed. It is because of what the Lord did for ME when I came out of Egypt oh, sorry, wrong answer. First, notice that I'm getting quite the ad clientele -- MSNBC is just the latest. Second, I'll be making my own small contribution to The New Republic's convention coverage next week.]

    UPDATE: Howard Kurtz has a round-up of convention bloggers in his Media Notes Extra column. And John McCormack talks about blogs forming a "para-media" in the Chicago Tribune. Kurtz reports this Oscar-the-Grouch quote:

    University of Missouri journalism professor Tom McPhail told USA Today that bloggers "are certainly not committed to being objective. They thrive on rumor and innuendo" and "should be put in a different category, like 'pretend' journalists."

    Blogs are not objective? Someone alert Daniel Okrent, stat!! And some convention blogger better score an interview with Sarah Jessica Parker -- it's the only way blogs will be taken seriously by the mediasphere!

    posted by Dan at 11:39 AM | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (6)



    Tuesday, July 20, 2004

    Hitting the big time

    Hmmm... maybe there is a financial future in blogging.

    When big budget movies start advertising on your blog (see the ad for The Manchurian Candidate remake on your right), you know the media market has changed.

    Ah, but will danieldrezner.com ever hit the "big four" from Jerry Maguire --"shoe, car, clothing-line, soft-drink. The four jewels of the celebrity endorsement dollar."?

    [Are those four really the appropriate "big" products for the blogosphere?--ed. No, the four jewels of the blogosphere would probably be search engines, newspapers, films, and glossy magazines. Readers are invited to suggest their "big four."]

    UPDATE: Ask and you shall receive!! See the brand-new New Yorker ad on the right!!

    posted by Dan at 10:03 AM | Comments (11) | Trackbacks (1)



    Monday, July 12, 2004

    (Some) bloggers get (a little bit) rich

    Maureen Ryan reports in the Chicago Tribune that bloggers are starting to rake in the bucks:

    A year ago, blogger Glenn Reynolds joked to the Tribune that he was making "burger-flipping" wages from the trickle of funds readers donated to his popular Web site, Instapundit.com.

    These days, Reynolds can afford to order steak. Since he began accepting advertisements on his site five months ago, Instapundit.com has been bringing in several thousand dollars a month.

    It's starting to look as if bloggers can make a living from their sites, thanks to an advertising boom. Companies who want to reach specific consumers -- current-events mavens, conservative PhDs, cell phone fanatics -- are hooking up with blogs that can deliver those eyeballs. Some politically oriented blogs are also riding an election-year advertising wave, but industry experts expect the trend to last well beyond November....

    "It's really just taken off the last few months," says John Hawkins of RightWingNews.com, a Blogads client who says he cracked $1,000 in monthly ad profits for the first time in June.

    Advertisers have started to realize that some of their most well-heeled customers spend a decent chunk of their Web time reading such blogs as the politically obsessed Eschaton (atrios.blogspot.com), the Washington, D.C., gossip site Wonkette.com and the cell-phone fanatic blog HowardForums.com.

    Blogads offers ad rates tied to its clients' Internet traffic -- the more visitors, the higher the rate for an ad on that site. Given that some sites have been running as many as 15 ads at a time, a little back-of-an-envelope math shows that several of Blogads' top clients are likely clearing as much as $3,000-$5,000 a month.

    That's a nice chunk of change for bloggers, especially the ones who would like to make blogging a full-time job.

    But is this burgeoning advertising boom -- and it is a boom, since the top premium ad on Escaton cost $100 per month a year a go and $2,500 per month today -- built to last?

    I will leave that question for my readers to discuss. However, Ryan reviews the various demographic surveys suggesting that the blog demographic is a lucrative and well-connected one:

    "Every week for the last year, I had at least one advertiser say to me, `Who reads these things?'" says Henry Copeland, the founder of Blogads. "I wanted them to see for themselves that it's not just unemployed teenagers."

    Far from it. In May, Copeland created a demographic survey and asked several of his blogging clients to alert their readers to it. Copeland had hoped that 10,000 blog readers would volunteer to click on the survey and answer its questions, but more than 17,000 did so.

    And though the survey isn't a scientifically accurate sampling of blog readers, the folks who filled out the form appear to be a mature, well-heeled group. Sixty percent of the Blogads respondents said they are more than 30 years old, and almost 40 percent reported they have a household income of more than $90,000.

    Perhaps most important to advertisers, half of those who took the Blogads survey said that over the last six months they spent more than $50 online for books and more than $500 for plane tickets; 25 percent spent between $100-$500 on electronics via the Web.

    A May poll of 20,000 readers of Talking Points Memo -- a different survey conducted independently of the Blogads poll -- reveals a similar level of prosperity. Forty-five percent of TPM's survey respondents said they have advanced degrees, and 52 percent claimed incomes of more than $75,000 a year.

    That said, one should bear in mind that Ryan is really talking about the peak bloggers at this point. If John Hawkins is raking in $1,000 a month, that's great, but that's not a huge sum of money. [What about you?--ed. I bring in far less than Hawkins -- but I won't deny that it's gratifying to actually earn money from this little venture.] At this point, maybe 5-10 bloggers can earn a decent living from blogging. It's nice that there's a new job category for the BLS and IRS to consider, but we're not talking about a huge economic impact here.

    posted by Dan at 09:56 AM | Comments (7) | Trackbacks (3)



    Tuesday, July 6, 2004

    Is civility an endangered species in the blogosphere?

    There's been a lot of chatter as of late about the civility of bloggers and the people who comment on them. A few weeks ago, Matthew Yglesias argued that bloggers had an incentive to behave badly:

    The trouble is that when you write something really good, in the sense of being sober, on-point, factual, and tightly argued, your targets would do well to simply ignore you. And so they do. Maybe a person or two will recommend the story to their friends, but basically it vanished into the HTML ether. Something sloppy, offensive, over-the-top, or in some minor way inaccurate, by contrast, will provoke a flood of responses. If you're lucky, those responses will, themselves, be someone sloppy, and folks start defending you. Then you find yourself in the midst of a minor contretemps, and everyone gets more readers.

    Brad DeLong concurs. Laura at Apartment 11D is similarly disgusted with bad big blogger behavior:

    [A] nasty side effect of blogging is that hit counts can go to your head. Occasionally, hit counts can inflate egos creating not only the so-called pundits, but a hundred little bullies. Blogs are not soap boxes for speaking your mind, because bloggers don’t have to respond to hecklers in the audience. Blog readers don’t have the opportunity to hear responses to posts and weigh differing points of view. The heckler has been effectively silenced.

    More recently, concerns have been raised about the comments on popular blogs as well. Billmon recently shut down comments at Whiskey Bar; The Command Post has done the same. Commenting on this -- as well as his own difficulties with impolite posters -- Kevin Drum observes:

    I get questions about the vitriolic tone of the comment section here with some regularity, and my answer is usually the same: there's just not much that I can do about it. True, I can ban people, but that works only if they have a fixed IP address, which these days most people don't. What's more, if the ban fails, the recipient is often pissed off enough to try even harder to make a pain in the ass out of himself.

    It's also true that the problem is exponential. A year ago I got 10-20 comments on each post and had no trolls. As a result, the conversation was relatively civil. Today I get 100+ comments per post and the site has at least half a dozen trolls whose only love in life (as near as I can tell) is to start flame wars. The result is a melee....

    I don't have any plans to either get rid of comments or to moderate them, at least for now. But as more and more blogs cross the 10-20,000 reader mark, which is where comment sections seem to break down, I wonder if comments will increasingly become a thing of the past in the upper reaches of the blogosphere.

    Kevin is not the only one to observe this degenerative phenomenon. James Joyner points out the following:

    Certainly, there’s value in interaction with readers. Unfortunately, there seems to be a strange variation on the Gas Law with regard to blog comments: As blog readership expands, the quality of comments declines geometrically. When OTB had 500 readers a day, the vast majority of the comments—whether from people who agreed or disagreed with me—were quite good. With readership in the 5000-10,000 range, most comments are crap. Reading—let alone policing—the comments gets to be more trouble than it’s worth.

    A few weeks ago, Glenn Reynolds made a similar point:

    [A]s Eugene Volokh noted in a discussion of this topic a while back (read it, as I agree entirely and he said it better than I could, as usual), the worst part isn't the flaming by people who don't agree with you, it's the nasty comments by people who generally agree with you....

    Some blogs, like Daniel Drezner's or Roger Simon's seem to avoid that problem most of the time, but I think it's a scaling issue -- up to a certain level of traffic it feels like a conversation, past that it degenerates into USENET. At any rate, I'd rather blog than deal with comments.

    The other problem, which I've seen both at blogs I agree with and blogs I don't, is that bloggers can be captured by their commenters. It's immediate feedback, and it's interesting (it's about you!) and I can imagine it could become addictive. My impression is that often, instead of serving as a corrective to errors, comment sections tend to lure bloggers farther in the direction they already lean. Anyway, I worry about that.

    Eerily enough, now Roger is having difficulties with commenters.

    With such an impressive consensus, it is very tempting to just shrug one's shoulders and accept that there is a rhetorical version of Gresham's Law in the blogosphere. It is undoubtedly true that in the short run, provocative, vitriolic, and/or sloppy writing -- by either bloggers or commenters -- can attract attention, whereas closely reasoned analysis sometimes falls by the wayside. The fact that so many top-notch bloggers have made similar observation about the correlation between hit counts and trolls is indeed disturbing.

    However, I remain stubbornly optimistic on this front for five reasons:*

    1) In the long run, reputation matters. Sure, being a bombthrower can attract attention -- but it's hard to do successfully over a prolonged period of time. Inevitably this kind of ranting leads to major as well as minor missteps. Once a commentator commits a major rhetorical gaffe or colossal misstatement of fact, it becomes impossible to take them seriously. Which is why it's so easy to discount the statements of Ann Coulter, Noam Chomsky, Pat Robertson, or Michael Moore.

    2) Technology can help as well as hinder. I've raved about MT-Blacklist before for blocking spam, but an unanticipated bonus has been the ease with which I can delete any comment. Blacklist rebuilds my site much more quickly than MT -- so it's been far easier to prune away comments now than before.

    3) Commenters usually follow the blogger's lead. Whenever I use profanity in my posts, the language in the comments inevitably becomes coarser. This works in reverse, however -- the more civil my posts, the better the tone of the comments. In this respect, the presence of comments has affected me in one way -- I'm much more polite on the blog now than I used to be.

    4) Compared to academia, this is a tea party. Another blogger once asked me whether I felt "surprised at the angry tone of the comments your readers leave... It can be odd to be shouted down on your own website."

    Look, I'm an academic, and this stuff is nothing. I've attended seminars where the paper presenter ran out of the room because s/he was crying. I've presented papers that have been likened to poor undergratuate theses. I've had papers rejected by top journals because they were "narrow and without much theoretical interest." I've heard cruelties uttered that will be burned in people's psyches until the day they die. In other words, I'm used to a pretty high standard of criticism. Compared to that, a line like "Hey, Drezner, let's outsource your job, you f***ing a@#hole!" -- or letters like these -- just come off as histrionic nonsense.

    5) Don't forget the benefits. Laura at Apartment 11D and Henry Farrell both point out the social value-added of blogs. Henry gets at something with this comment:

    The most attractive ideal for the blogosphere that I’ve come across is in sociologist Richard Sennett’s brilliant, frustrating shaggy-dog of a book, The Fall of Public Man. Sennett is writing about the eighteenth century coffee-house as a place where people could escape from their private lives, reinventing themselves, and engaging in good conversation with others, regardless of their background or their everyday selves....

    Like Sennett’s patronizers of coffee shops, bloggers don’t usually know each other before they start blogging, so that it’s quite easy for them to reinvent themselves if they like, and indeed to invent a pseudonym, or pseudonyms to disguise their real identity completely. This has its downside - some bloggers take it as license for offensive behaviour - but in general, if you don’t like a blog, you can simply stop reading it, or linking to it. The blogosphere seems less to me like a close-knit community (there isn’t much in the way of shared values, and only a bare minimum of shared norms), and more like a city neighborhood. An active, vibrant neighborhood when things are working; one with dog-turds littering the pavement when they’re not.

    Eszter Hargittai has more on this.

    As for comments, sure, the trolls can be annoying. However, they usually don't crowd out the good. For example, check out the comments to this post about rethinking the National Guard and Reserves. This is an issue on which I know only the broad contours -- and thanks to the informed comments (click here, here, here, and here for just a few examples) I know a lot more about the subject than I used to. For me, that benefit outweighs the occasional irritations that come from blogging.

    *Two caveats. First, I don't have the traffic that Kevin, Glenn, Andrew, James or Michelle have. The scale factor is undeniable. Second, from now until November, extreme partisanship is going to be contributing factor to the level of discourse across the blogosphere.

    UPDATE: CalGal poses a fair question in the comments:

    If you can delete any comment you want, then how can you honestly declare that the comments are reflective of your reputation? An edited comments section is "letters to the editor" with you, the editor, deciding what feedback is worthy of your publication.

    When you're at the point of blessing your software for making it easy to purge comments, it's time to get rid of comments entirely.

    Actually, I'm blessing the software because without it, deleting a comment takes 10 minutes of rebuilding; without it, it takes 10 seconds. In a world with spam, that's not a minor convenience, it's a major one.

    This does not mean that I delete a lot of comments, however -- you can read my criteria here. At this point, I'd say I delete maybe one comment a week that's not either spam or an accidental double post. I don't think that translates into a "letter to the editor" section.

    posted by Dan at 05:29 PM | Comments (164) | Trackbacks (29)



    Friday, July 2, 2004

    The most profitable blog in history

    Until recently, Jessica Cutler was an undeniably attractive twentysomething staffer for Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio). For most of the month of May, Cutler blogged anonymously as Washingtonienne. The posts mostly recounted various alleged trysts with various men -- some of them involved money changing hands -- some of whom were allegedly high-ranking administration officials.

    In late May, DeWine fired Cutler from her $25,000 position for "unacceptable use of Senate computers," and Cutler stopped blogging. The Washington Post's Richard Leiby and (the undeniably attractive) Wonkette covered this in detail at the time.

    Yesterday, the New York Times reported the following:

    Ms. Cutler has taken what, for generations of young women who have become involved with the powerful, has been the next logical step. She has become a writer. Yesterday she sold a novel based on her exploits to HyperionDisney (Walt). Her agent, Michael Carlisle of Carlisle & Company, said the price was "a substantial six figures," and Hyperion would not be more specific. Not only did he sell her novel, he said, but she will also pose nude for the November issue of Playboy. Ms. Cutler's novel will be called "The Washingtonienne," after the name of her blog. Mr. Carlisle said that Ms. Cutler would not speak to the press until the book was published, perhaps a year from now.

    Wonkette has more dirt:

    About that Washingtonienne book deal: We hear the bidding started Tuesday at $75K, based on a 25 page proposal (described as "pretty f***ing twisted"). A dozen houses went for it, and she wound up with a cool $300-f***ing-000.

    So, basically, Cutler got a $300,000 return on approximately two weeks worth of blogging.

    Readers are invited to suggest ways for other bloggers to make that kind of scratch involving blogging that do not involve a) cheating on spouses; or b) committing a felony.

    posted by Dan at 06:34 PM | Comments (23) | Trackbacks (2)



    Tuesday, June 22, 2004

    Respect Eugene Volokh's authority!!

    Kudos to Eugene Volokh for his latest coups:

    1) Prompting Will Saletan at Slate to respond to Volokh's criticism of Slate's Kerryism feature:

    Eugene Volokh, gets the joke and doesn't like it. "Another possibility is that 'Kerryisms' has evolved into an attempt to show simply that Kerry uses a lot of qualifiers, instead of giving very simple answers," Volokh writes. "But often, as in this case, the right answer isn't simple. It's actually not terribly complex, but it's not one-word simple. Is it really good to fault a politician for refusing to oversimplify?"

    That's a good and fair question. I prefer to let each reader decide for herself, case by case.

    2) Eugene has secured the services of University of Chicago law professor Cass Sunstein as a guest-blogger for the Conspiracy (here's a link to Sunstein's first post)

    Cass, Jacob, myself -- Eugene has now managed to have 10% of the poli sci faculty at the University of Chicago blog for him.

    posted by Dan at 11:07 PM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)



    Monday, June 21, 2004

    The blogging of the convention

    The Associated Press reports that the Democrats will offer media credentials to "a handful of bloggers" at this year's convention in Boston. Andrew Sullivan is unimpressed at the opportunity:

    For my part, I think bloggers could make more of a statement by not going to these elaborate infomercials. All they are are schmooze-fests for journalists, pundits and political types and then many layers of corrupting parties for donors. The only political importance is as television shows, and you can better understand that by, er, watching television.

    Andrew is largely correct -- the conventions because of their effect on the television audience. That said, I don't think this is an either/or kind of situation. I'm happy some bloggers will be inside the tent, as it were -- mostly because I'm betting that they'll be able to provide the kind of "local color" that can seem blasé to the veteran journalist. Bloggers also shouldn't care about whether such anecdotes offend the sensitivities of the powerful and the privileged. Plus, bloggers can also report on an issue that mainstream journalists would be reluctant to cover --how mainstream journalists behave at these shindigs.

    Incidentally, I got a call last week from a Washington Post writer asking me if I'd be attending. I patiently explained that my wife is not keen for me to go to Boston and/or New York on our own dime just because the political parties might let me through the front door.

    posted by Dan at 12:44 PM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (2)



    Thursday, June 17, 2004

    Suggest a guest-blogger for danieldrezner.com!!

    Josh Marshall is taking a vacation, but not before dropping a coy reference to a journalistic venture "that I and several colleagues have been working on a story that, if and when it comes to fruition --- and I’m confident it shall --- should shuffle the tectonic plates under that capital city where I normally hang my hat."

    More intriguingly, Marshall will be having a guest blogger at Talking Points Memo [UPDATE: Marshall made a fine choice in TNR's Spencer Ackerman.] Which got me to thinking that even though I often fill in as a guest-blogger for the Higher Beings of the Blogosphere, I haven't had a guest blogger here at danieldrezner.com -- with the singular and laudatory exception of my wife.

    Due to some impending events that will become public in due course, I may need the services of a guest-blogger or two in the coming months. I've thought on occasion about who could be able to fulfill my mandate of "politics, economics, globalization, academia, pop culture... all from an untenured perspective"? All too often I draw a blank.

    Sooooo..... readers are hereby invited to submit suggestions -- from the blogosphere or the scholarly community -- as possible short-term substitutes (for those shy academics in the audience who are interested but would rather not post that fact on the blog, contact me directly).

    posted by Dan at 11:46 AM | Comments (37) | Trackbacks (1)




    It's not easy keeping up with the Oxbloggers

    I see that Josh Chafetz has published his first essay in the New York Times Book Review this past Sunday.

    David Adesnik's praise to the contrary, we here at danieldrezner.com often feel powerless in the wake of the Oxbloggers' relentless stream of publications. It's not just their ability to publish in so many tony outlets -- it's the fact that they're more than a decade younger than me and publishing in so many tony outlets. Just who do these young whippersnappers think they are, writing such high-quality copy on such a regular basis?

    [Is it because they haven't completed a Ph.D. yet and therefore haven't had their writing skills crushed into a sticky paste?--ed. From an epistemological standpoint, that's a nonfalsifiable hypothesis and lacks any counterfactual analysis. Thank you for proving my point--ed.]

    But today the advantage is mine. My review of Niall Ferguson's Colossus: The Price of America's Empire is on page D7 of today's Wall Street Journal. You can see the online version by clicking here. Here's the part of the book that I found most interesting:

    What comes through most clearly in his account is that the troubles in Iraq are hardly unique. Empire, even the American kind, has always involved moral quandaries, confused planning and shifting tactics. About a century ago, there was enthusiasm over the U.S. victory in the Philippines, a distant theater in the Spanish-American war. The enthusiasm was soon tempered, though, by the news that American military officials "had ordered the summary execution of Filipino prisoners."

    In the case of Japan, one of the architects of the country's postwar constitution admitted: "I had no knowledge whatsoever about Japan's history or culture or myths." In the case of Germany, Gen. Lucius Clay, the military governor of the U.S.-administered zone, planned to cut his staff by half in the six months following V-E day and to transfer power to a civilian government by July 1946. He did neither, of course. But in the end, America's "empire by improvisation," as Mr. Ferguson calls it, worked well because the Cold War required the U.S. to stay in those two countries indefinitely.

    The ball's in your court, Oxblog... oh yes, the ball is most definitely in your court.

    [Ummm... didn't Adesnik and Chafetz already publish something in the Wall Street Journal?--ed. Arrggh!! I'd have a greater sense of self-esteem if it wasn't for those meddling kids!!]

    posted by Dan at 11:20 AM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (2)



    Tuesday, June 15, 2004

    Tim Berners-Lee finally makes a buck

    Victoria Shannon has a nice story in the International Herald Tribune about how the inventor of the World Wide Web is finally reaping some rewards from his marvelous invention:

    If Tim Berners-Lee had decided to patent his idea in 1989, the Internet would be a different place.

    Instead, the World Wide Web became free to anyone who could make use of it. Many of those who did became rich: Jeff Bezos (Amazon.com), Jerry Yang (Yahoo), Pierre Omidyar (eBay) and Marc Andreessen (Netscape).

    But not Berners-Lee, 49, a British scientist working at a Geneva research lab at the time.

    That is why some people think it is fitting - or about time - that he finally becomes wealthy, with the award Tuesday of the world's largest technology prize, the Millennium Technology Prize from the Finnish Technology Award Foundation. The E1 million, or $1.2 million, prize for outstanding technological achievements that raised the quality of life is supported by the Finnish government and private contributors.

    "It was a very nice surprise," Berners-Lee said in an interview Sunday as three days of ceremonies began here....

    Because he and his colleague, Robert Cailliau, a Belgian, insisted on a license-free technology, today a Gateway computer with a Linux operating system and a browser made by Netscape can see the same Web page as any other personal computer, system software or Internet browser.

    If his then-employer, CERN, the European Particle Physics Laboratory in Geneva, had sought royalties, Berners-Lee believes the world would have 16 different "webs" on the Internet today.

    "Goodness knows, there were plenty of hypertext systems before that didn't interoperate," Berners-Lee said. "There would have been a CERN Web, a Microsoft one, there would have been a Digital one, Apple's HyperCard would have started reaching out Internet roots. And all of these things would have been incompatible."

    Software patenting today, Berners-Lee says, has run amok.

    Read the rest of the article to find out why.

    We here at danieldrezner.com salute Mr. Berners-Lee for finally making a profit off of the Internet.

    posted by Dan at 05:56 PM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (1)



    Wednesday, June 9, 2004

    Matt Stoller, tendentious liberal

    Matt Stoller has a post over at Blogging of the President entitled, "Daniel Drezner, The Mediocre Reasonable Conservative." I'm going to reprint the bulk of it here so no one can claim anything was taken out of context:

    It really does seem like there are no grown-ups in the Republican Party anymore. There are just infants who don't throw tantrums and get tenure because of it.

    I speak, of course, of Daniel Drezner and his cowardly ilk. The guy's dishonesty and defensiveness has been amply demonstrated [See my response to the linked post here--D.D.], and since the Iraq tar baby happened he's turned almost exclusively towards talking about outsourcing. This is an evasive escape hatch if I've ever seen one.

    Now he's defending the anti-semitic attacks on George Soros:

    As Stephen Bainbridge points out, there's some evidence to support Blankley's claim that Soros accused the Jews of fomenting anti-Semitism...

    I've concluded that Soros is a political loon of the first order. It is ridiculously easy to attack George Soros without ever discussing his religion.

    Two points on this. One, the attacks on Soros were anti-semitic, and ignoring this piece of the pie is to ignore the hate-filled mess that is the modern GOP. Drezner's point is that an attack on his religion is analytically unnecessary - what about the fact that it's really a bad thing to say, and what that fact says about the attackers? Two, calling a serious thinker on international politics a 'loon' without evidence is tantamount to intellectual cheating. I don't care how often you're published in the New Republic, this is not respectable discourse, this is the aiding and abetting of toxic politics.

    This is not surprising, because it's what Drezner and other desperately pathetic 'moderates' do all the time. [See my response to the linked post here--D.D.] First, they join in the catcalls and jeer at liberals for being unserious. Then, as the bad news trickle in, they moderately distance themselves both from the Democrats and the extreme Republicans. As the bad news gets worse, they continue to act appalled at the level of political discourse, without pointing fingers at the people whose motivations they completely misinterpretted and whitewashed. Finally, they ignore the situation and pronounce themselves independent, with both sides meriting disdain and maybe Bush their vote. At no point is their a glimmer of recognition that they were seriously, disastrously, horrifically wrong, and that lots of people are dead because of it. Nor do they realize that they are wrong because the people they rely on are far far more extreme than they are believe.

    These guys are like the business elite who dealt with Hitler, hoping they could control him because they held the money. Drezner thinks he has good ideas and speaks at academic conferences, so he bears no responsibility for policing his own side. 'I don't have a side', he'd probably jeer back, 'Neither candidate represents my viewpoint'. Yes, you do have a side, professor, and it isn't just that you advised the original Bush/Cheney campaign. When you say that 'first-rate political loon' and holocaust survivor George Soros has accused the jews of fomenting anti-semitism, you've picked your side.

    Wow -- how to respond:

    1) Yep, it's true -- I was clearly defending "the anti-semitic attacks on George Soros" when I said in the post Matt linked to that I thought Tony Blankley excelled at "saying unbelievably stupid things," or when I said "Blankley is clearly an ass. As a Jew, I find that last bolded sentence repugnant" or when I approvingly linked to Eugene Volokh's post on why Blankley's statement was anti-Semitic.

    It's a good thing Matt wasn't selective in how he quoted the post, or someone might have gotten the wrong impression.

    2) As for the charge that I've neglected Iraq as difficulties have mounted -- once again I'll plead guilty to Stoller's charge. I've only discussed the mistakes made in Iraq here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here over the past six weeks.

    3) Stoller has a fair point in stating that "calling a serious thinker on international politics a 'loon' without evidence is tantamount to intellectual cheating." Of course, I think have a fair point in saying that Soros is not a serious thinker on international politics. Part of the reason I didn't go further into thoughts on Soros is that they're going to appear in another venue. However, if Stoller wants some evidence, here's a brief snippet from my forthcoming review of The Bubble of American Diplomacy:

    The most obvious example of Soros’ inconsistencies comes on the question of whether the war on terrorism is really a war or a law-enforcement operation. He starts out by saying that it should be the latter (p. 26): “We need detective work, good intelligence, and cooperation from the public, not military action.” A scant 16 pages later, however, he allows that, “The invasion of Afghanistan was justified by its role as the home base of Al Qaeda.”

    The Bubble of American Diplomacy is riddled with assertions that are either wrong or contradicted a few pages later. For example, on pages 59-60, Soros makes the jaw-dropping claim that compared to nation-building in Iraq, “conditions were much more favorable in Afghanistan.” Clearly, neither country is a walk in the park when it comes to statebuilding. That said, on what possible basis can Soros claim that a country with one-third the per capita income, one-tenth the amount of paved roads, three times the infant mortality rate, and double the number of primary languages and ethnicities than Iraq is a better candidate for nation-building?

    4) Finally, for someone who gets outraged at offensive and anti-Semitic rhetoric (a truly bold position), I'm not sure whether it's rhetorically useful for Stoller to say I'm "cowardly" or compare me with "the business elite who dealt with Hitler." After reading that latter point in particular, my first reaction was, "gee, Matt Stoller is an anti-Semitic schmuck." My second reaction is the title of this post.

    Stoller would probably label this post as "defensive" -- because it is. I have no qualms labeling his original his post as "dishonest."

    UPDATE: Stoller has another post up on this, as well as this comment to this post. Shorter Stoller:

    1) "Frankly, what I said was inappropriately written in anger and just based on the tone probably deserved a lot less effort than he gave it."

    2) "[Calling Soros a "loon"] set me off. Calling someone insane who is clearly not to score political points is central to this mindset."

    3) "The problem as I see it is the essential unwillingness of someone like Drezner to admit what he knows is true - Iraq is an attempt at empire perpetrated by deeply illiberal individuals."

    My short responses:

    1) Don't worry Matt -- I won't be devoting much time or effort to your prose in the future.

    2) For the record, George Soros is clearly not insane, and I apologize if I gave that impression (thouh I don't think I did). He's accomplished many great things as a philanthropist. But even he describes his political views as "rabid." When they're not that, they're banal. If Stoller wants to take Soros seriously, fine -- that's his waste of time.

    3) Oh, please -- an empire that sent in fewer troops than was necessary? An administration that now seems hell-bent on getting out of the country? Where's your evidence for empire?

    posted by Dan at 05:08 PM | Comments (112) | Trackbacks (4)



    Saturday, June 5, 2004

    I can feel my chin growing already

    My pathetic quest to become the Jay Leno of the blogosphere continues [Leno? LENO??!! You mean Letterman, right?--ed. No, I mean Jay Leno's guest host phase. However, Bryan Curtis argues in Slate that even Letterman is trying to be Leno now.]

    I've guest-posted at the Volokh Conspiracy and Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish. And now, just to confirm the rumors, I'm taking over Glenn Reynolds' MSNBC blog for this week.

    [So who's next?--ed. Look into the computer screen, Mickey Kaus. You're getting very sleepy. Very sleepy indeed......]

    posted by Dan at 05:47 PM | Trackbacks (0)




    A retraction

    Jack Shafer has a Slate piece pointing out that while the New York Times and 60 Minutes have issued retractions for stories about Iraqi WMD programs that leaned too heavily on Iraqi defectors provided by Ahmad Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress, other media outlets have not been as forthcoming:

    It's not like the Times and 60 Minutes were the only media outlets to have showcased dubious defectors' tales. The journalistic community has known for almost three months, thanks to a Knight Ridder Washington Bureau story, that the INC claimed to have placed its "product" in 108 articles and broadcasts between October 2001 and May 2002.

    The Great 108 list is a who's who of American and world media: The Times, the Washington Post, CNN, the Weekly Standard, the Associated Press, Fox News Channel, Agence France-Presse, the Economist, and more. While a spot on the list doesn't necessarily mean the named news organization swallowed INC swill whole, it indicates that the New York Times wasn't the only one with an unacknowledged INC problem....

    The rotten truth is that media organizations are better at correcting trivial errors of fact—proper spellings of last names, for example—than they are at fixing a botched story....

    Individual journalists are a lot like doctors, lawyers, and pilots in that they hate to admit they were wrong no matter what the facts are. Institutionally, publications avoid massive mea culpas out of fear of feeding libel suits. Call them on their hypocrisy for expecting government and business to admit errors while they stay silent and journalists will tell you that nobody wants an annotated and corrected version of yesterday's news. They want today's news. (Oh, sure they do! That's why we're currently wading through 10 million column inches of recycled D-Day copy.) Or they'll dodge the question, saying there's no convenient place in the newspaper for monumental rehashes. Or they'll say, let the ombudsman do it in his Sunday column. Or correct errors in the corrections box.

    The good folks that put a fresh copy of danieldrezner.com on your computer screen every day have no fear of admitting error -- mostly because we're so used to screwing up. So, let me apologize/retract this April 21, 2003 post about Iraqi WMD that relied too heavily on reporting by the New York Times' Judith Miller -- who, as it turned out, relied way too heavily on Chalabi and his defectors. The story I linked to in that post was one of the stories the Times has since retracted.

    Sorry.

    posted by Dan at 04:58 PM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)



    Wednesday, May 26, 2004

    I am not a blogaholic, I am not a blogaholic....

    Occasionally, I wonder if I devote too much time to the blog. Comparing how I spent my anniversary (not a lot of blogging) the opening of this Katie Hafner story in the New York Times does make me think that if I do have a problem, at least it's somewhat underc control by comparison:

    To celebrate four years of marriage, Richard Wiggins and his wife, Judy Matthews, recently spent a week in Key West, Fla. Early on the morning of their anniversary, Ms. Matthews heard her husband get up and go into the bathroom. He stayed there for a long time.

    "I didn't hear any water running, so I wondered what was going on," Ms. Matthews said. When she knocked on the door, she found him seated with his laptop balanced on his knees, typing into his Web log, a collection of observations about the technical world, over a wireless link.

    Ah, for the good old days, when a man would steal away to his computer to download pornography.

    Read the whole article, by the way -- my favorite passage was, "A few blogs have thousands of readers, but never have so many people written so much to be read by so few." And Jeff Jarvis has a nice defense of duty and blogging.

    posted by Dan at 08:55 PM | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (3)



    Sunday, May 23, 2004

    So who are you?

    Henry Copeland has posted some preliminary results from his survey of blog readers that I linked to last week. He got a decent sample size -- 17,159 respondents.

    Among the more interesting findings:

    This survey shows that blog readers are older and more affluent than most optimistic guestimates: 61% of blog readers responding to the survey are over 30, and 75% make more than $45,000 a year....

    They are also far more male -- 79%! -- than I expected, versus 56% of NYTimes.com's readers.

    The political breakdown is also interesting:

    Democrats -- 40.2%
    Republicans -- 22.5%
    Independents -- 20.2%
    Libertarians -- 11.3%

    Comment away....

    posted by Dan at 06:27 PM | Comments (14) | Trackbacks (0)



    Wednesday, May 19, 2004

    Go take a survey!!

    If you have a second [Of course they have a second -- otherwise they wouldn't be wasting their time reading your blog, dumbass!--ed.] please click over to BlogAds survey of reader demographics. There are a total of 22 questions, so it should be pretty painless. Be sure to answer "drezner" for question 22. And please answer by 9:00 p.m. Eastern time this (Wednesday) evening.

    This is a win-win kind of deal. The more reader info BlogAds gets, the better they'll be able to solicit advertisers. The more of my readers who fill out the survey, the more accurate my information, which means better posts and more targeted ads for y'all.

    I'm also asking you to respond because some of the questions would provide useful evidence for the blog paper I'm co-authoring with Henry Farrell.

    It would also mean that during those ultracompetitive blogger sweeps periods, I won't have to resort to cheap or desperate ratings ploys to attract more readers like I've done before on occasion [Er, there is no such thing as sweeps in the blogosphere--ed. You mean there's no reason for me to link to Jennifer Garner pics on occasion? I didn't say there was no reason to do that--ed.]

    posted by Dan at 11:19 AM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)



    Sunday, May 9, 2004

    The political science of blogs

    David Adesnik has a marathon-length post on moderating a Harvard panel with a Boston Globe journalist and discussing what he's learned via blogging. He concludes:

    The question I was left asking myself after the debate was what questions I might have asked if I had been in the audience but hadn't been a blogger. Probably exactly the same ones that the actual audience asked. They were intelligent. They solicited important information from the guest. But from the perspective of a blogger-slash-backseat journalist, they seemed so elementary. And that made me realize just how much I had learned by spending a couple of hours a day on this website for the last eighteen months

    It also made me realize how specialized and pedantic bloggers' media criticism is. Even the most intelligent "normal" people out there have only the vaguest sense of how bloggers read the newspaper. Much like scholars, bloggers tend to think of their analytical methods as being a secret treasure, while critics think of them as the product of some kind of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Yet in contrast to scholars, bloggers are rapidly winning bigger and bigger audiences.

    Bloggers are also getting the attention of those they criticize. In contrast, politicians ignore what political scientists write (while obsessing about the media)....

    The final thought I had about today's discussion was that if I can look back on myself from two years and say "Oh my God, I can't believe how ignorant I was!", who might look at me now and say "Oh my God, I can't believe how ignorant he is!"

    Oh my God, I can't believe how ignorant Davi--- just kidding.

    More seriously, David has hit on one of the reasons I've given for blogging -- it can command immediate attention in a way that an article in either International Organization or the American Journal of Political Science cannot. Score one for blogging.

    And yet -- there are two important caveats to David's thesis that blogging is more influential than political science. The first is that it may be that either activity is a necessary but not sufficient condition for influencing the body politic. Using myself as an example -- I got my gig at TNR Online because they liked the style and content of the blog. But, they also liked the fact that I was a professor of political science. My academic credentials probably opened a few doors that have been more difficult to open for a Kevin Drum or a Steven Den Beste.

    The second caveat is that, while many political scientists yearn for "policy relevance," it comes in different forms. One way is to become a public intellectual/media whore and directly address one's fellow citizens. There are other, more permanent ways, however. John Maynard Keynes once observed that, "Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist." A good political scientist can have that kind of long-run influence as well. I doubt that politicians ever listened to what E.E. Schattschneider, David Mayhew, Hans Morgenthau, or Graham Allison said on a day-to-day basis -- but the political world they live in was partily constructed by their ideas.

    posted by Dan at 01:53 AM | Comments (9) | Trackbacks (1)



    Wednesday, May 5, 2004

    Behold my mighty marginal influence

    John Hawkins of Right Wing News has used Alexa to compile a list of "The Top 125 Political Websites On The Net." John Hinderaker estimates there are 35 blogs on the list.

    Yours truly is there at #119, but I suspect that if the various blogs that reside at Blogspot were disaggregated, I'd fall off that list pretty fast.

    Until then, I'll just use my lofty perch to advance the forces of good -- or try to get a BMW. I haven't made my mind up yet on this one.

    posted by Dan at 04:53 PM | Comments (9) | Trackbacks (0)



    Wednesday, April 14, 2004

    Amazon.com vs. the blogosphere

    James Marcus, a former senior editor for Amazon.com, has an amusing essay in the Washington Post on the varying quality of Amazon's customer reviews:

    Imagine that you're circulating from room to room at an enormous cocktail party, with millions of guests, eavesdropping. Undoubtedly you will be treated to some gems, some brilliant bits of repartee, the occasional burst of intellectual fireworks. Most of what you hear, however, will be pretty mundane, given the law of averages and the general human tendency to lose track of our thoughts halfway to completing them. Well, the same rule applies to customer reviews, both at Amazon and elsewhere. There's plenty of wheat amid the chaff -- but there's lots of chaff, acres and acres of it, much of it lacking coherence, clarity, charity and punctuation. In a sense, it's now the audience, not the editor, shouldering the burden of culling out the good stuff. Whether this represents a seismic shift in the cultural terrain or merely a fresh division of labor remains to be seen.

    If only there were some way to combine the speed and democracy of the Web with the more meditative character of traditional criticism. Oh wait, there already is: blogging. In some cases the convergence is quite literal -- witness the case of Terry Teachout, reviewing for such Bronze Age bastions as the Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and Commentary with his left hand while blogging like mad with his right at his site, www.artsjournal.com/aboutlastnight. But even those bloggers who never venture into print have something in common with their opposite numbers in the traditional media: a name to besmirch, a reputation to smudge. It keeps them honest in a way that anonymous, duck-and-cover reviewing never can. It also encourages a kind of snarky civility, very welcome in our polarized era.

    This may change, of course, as the blogosphere moves further into the mainstream. Already there are turf wars, low-level spats. No doubt a pecking order will gradually materialize, since even cyberspace operates according to the familiar logic of Animal Farm: All bloggers are created equal, but some are more equal than others. There will be stars, contract players, boffo traffic numbers. There will be a proliferation of advertising on the most visible sites -- there is already, in fact -- and a defiant tug-of-war between the early bloggers and their entrepreneurial successors.

    Here's a provocative thought -- does Marcus' assessment of Amazon's customer reviews also apply to the comments posted on blogs? Because bloggers lack the administrative resources/capabilities of Amazon.com, will this lead to the end of comment features over time?

    I'll be further amused to see the customer comments on Marcus' forthcoming book, Amazonia: Five Years at the Epicenter of the Dot.Com Juggernaut

    posted by Dan at 06:45 PM | Comments (16) | Trackbacks (2)



    Tuesday, March 16, 2004

    Thanks, but no thanks

    Via Glenn Reynolds, I see another ranking of blogger influence. This one claims to rank order "[t]he most influential reporters and bloggers on the web."

    The good news -- I come in at #15. Wow -- this and the Library of Congress in less than 24 hours!

    The bad news -- According to this ranking system, David Brooks comes in at #20, Tom Friedman comes in at #40, David Broder at #57, and George Will at #172. Fareed Zakaria is not among the top 200.

    In other words, I'm fairly certain that the methodology used to compile this list is horses--t. [What if you're wrong?--ed. Then I'll magnanimously offer to trade places with Tom, Fareed, George, or either David -- because I'm that kind of guy.]

    UPDATE: After informing my lovely wife Erika of this ranking page, she queried, "I didn't know your Mom had a web site."

    ANOTHER UPDATE: Kudos to Philippe Lourier for responding to semi-constructive criticism and taking the responses in stride.

    posted by Dan at 01:14 AM | Comments (16) | Trackbacks (1)



    Thursday, March 11, 2004

    Blogs, politics, and gender

    Henry Farrell argues that during the current campaign season, blogs will funnel more money to Democrats than Republicans. His reasoning:

    Regardless of whether the blogosphere tilts left or tilts right (your guess is as good as mine), the most-read blogs on the liberal-left side of the spectrum are much more closely aligned with the Democratic party apparatus than the blogs on the right are with the Republican machine. They also have the precedent of MoveOn, and of the Dean movement to build on. Rightbloggers, even the ones who support the administration, tend to self-identify as libertarians rather than Republicans, and maintain a little distance from the formal aspects of the Republican party.

    Meanwhile, the political part blogosphere apparently does share one common trait -- gender. Brian Montopoli at CJR's Campaign Desk writes:

    Women are responsible for as little as four percent of political blogs -- "sites devoted to politics, current events, foreign policy, and various ongoing wars" -- according to the National Institute for Technology and Liberal Education (NITLE).

    When it comes to politics and campaign commentary, in other words, the blogosphere looks a little like your high school chess club: Even though everyone's invited to join, you could be forgiven for thinking that someone posted a "No Girls Allowed" sign on the classroom door.

    Just for the record, I was not part of the chess club when I was in high school -- my captaincy of the math team took up far too much of my time.

    More seriously, Montopoli seems to go a bit off the rails at the end:

    If you accept the premise of the blogosphere as a true meritocracy, a place where our intellectual (and emotional) impulses can flourish unchecked, then you're buying into the concept of the blog world as a window into human nature. If that's the case, the blogosphere -- with perhaps just four percent female participation in poliblogs -- shows us that while women are just as interested as men in spouting off, they're fundamentally less interested than men in spouting off about politics.

    But if the blogosphere comes freighted with the same cultural considerations and institutional biases that weigh down the rest of the world, then blogs offer us no more window into our natural inclinations than the mainstream media -- and the blogosphere's claim to be the great equalizer is nothing more than the emperor's newest clothes.

    (link via here).

    A follow-up question -- what about the readers of political blogs? Do they skew disproportionately male as well? That seems to be the (unfortunate) case among my commenters. [Maybe that's because they don't like posts like this one?--ed. I'll grant that as a possibility -- but I have yet to receive a single complaint on that front.]

    Let me know what you think.

    UPDATE: Megan McArdle, Amanda Butler, and Laura at Apt. 11D weigh in on the gender question.

    posted by Dan at 12:47 AM | Comments (41) | Trackbacks (7)



    Friday, March 5, 2004

    A message from the editors at Foreign Policy

    The managing editor of Foreign Policy sent me an e-mail yesterday regarding the Huntington kerfuffle. I just wanted to pass this part of the message along to the myriad contributors to danieldrezner.com's discussion threads:

    Some of my colleagues and I think that comments by people on your blog are, by and large, some of the most interesting and thoughtful i've seen anywhere online on this debate.

    Savor the praise.

    posted by Dan at 01:11 PM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)



    Friday, February 13, 2004

    To post or not to post

    Mark Kleiman believes that it was in "extreme bad taste" for me to post on the Kerry business:

    So far only Drezner and some of the British papers, among the non-sleazaloid media, have picked this up. No self-respecting media outlet should be prepared to take this sort of unsourced second-hand sludge and run with it. We don't even know the name of the woman he's supposed to have been dating, making the story completely impossible to check.

    Some readers agree.

    First off -- Mark's facts are wrong. By the time I got around to posting on it, I'd seen blogposts from DailyKos, Atrios, Instapundit, and Andrew Sullivan, about the story. According to Jonah Goldberg, this allegation was first posted by a Wesley Clark blogger last week.

    Mark is also incorrect is saying that the Drudge Report and the National Enquirer story about Kerry are talking about the same thing. See John Hawkins on this.

    Second, I linked and quoted the DailyKos post at greater length, in large part because Kos' points on this were way more specific than Drudge's. He also confirmed that Wes Clark made statement about the Kerry situation to reporters. As I said before, what interests me is how the story got to Drudge. If it's from Clark, it would appear to fit in with this characterization of generals who fail at politics.

    I'll close with Andrew Sullivan's point on this, because it's true:

    [T]he internet has ended any semblance of a barrier between respectable news and gossip. Once Drudge has posted, the story is public. This is an awful development, but it is real. I should also say: I know of no hard evidence that this rumor is even faintly true. But true or not, if the Republicans planted it, they should be excoriated. If a rival Democratic candidate did, ditto.

    UPDATE: Tim Noah has the full list of rationales -- mine are #3 and #8.

    posted by Dan at 09:04 AM | Comments (18) | Trackbacks (0)



    Saturday, February 7, 2004

    For Chicago readers only

    The Chicago chapter of the Nathan Hale Foreign Policy Society -- devoted to discussing foreign policy topics in, "as bipartisan, idealistic, and nuanced fashion as possible," will be meeting a 7:00 PM Sunday evening at Cosi. The address is 116 S. Michigan Avenue. That's roughly across the street from the lovely Art Institute of Chicago. Make a day of it!!

    This first meeting of the Chicago chapter will be led by Will Baude. The topic is Homeland Security:

    1. What do we assess is knowable vis-a-vis the threat?
    2. What does the homeland security community need to look like to 'deter, defend and defeat'?
    3. Where do we go from here?

    Click here for suggested readings.

    posted by Dan at 11:33 PM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)




    Blogging for dollars

    John Hawkins provides a run-down on possible ways that bloggers can make a buck off their blogs. There's an excellent discussion of all the possible revenue streams, but his first point is the most salient: "if your primary motivation is to make money, don't bother with blogging."

    James Joyner adds: "The short answer is to either 1) become Andrew Sullivan or 2) forget about it."

    [Hey, you became Andrew Sullivan for a spell. You should be set!--ed. I've been less aggressive on this front than I could be -- mostly because the opportunity costs of caring outweigh the paltry amounts I suspect such efforts would generate. The Amazon click-throughs do generate enough money to pay for the site, however.]

    posted by Dan at 10:55 AM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (3)



    Sunday, January 25, 2004

    The blogging of the President

    Christopher Lydon will be hosting a radio show on NPR tonight from 9:00 PM to 11:00 PM (Eastern Time) entitled "The Blogging of the President." Of course, there's an associated blog. Here are links to multiple posts about tonight's show -- which has an impressive line-up of commentators from both the blogosphere (Andrew Sullivan, Jeff Jarvis, Atrios, Joshua Micah Marshall) and the mediasphere (Gary Hart, Kevin Phillips, Richard Reeves).

    To listen in online, go to Minnesota Public Radio's home page.

    For background reading, check out this AP story on blogs and campaigns from earlier this week, and today's essay about political "cyberbalkanization" from the New York Times.

    UPDATE: A few thoughts having just listened to the broadcast:

    1) Christopher Lyudon is just a font of adjectives. My favorite for describing the blogosphere was "yeasty."

    2) Great (paraphrased) exchange between Jeff Jarvis and Frank Rich:

    JARVIS: Frank, I'd like to see you have a blog.

    RICH: I can't -- I want to have a life!!

    3) Jeff Jarvis also had the best line of the evening: "Bloggers don't replace reporters; bloggers replace editors."

    4) Where the hell were Gary Hart and Kevin Phillips? [UPDATE: According to this post, "We can't get through to Gary Hart's number." I have that problem too.]

    5) Atrios and Sullivan had a yeasty exchange towards the end. Andrew made the point that he was willing to criticize his own side of the political spectrum, whereas Atrios would not do the same on the left. Atrios replied that simply wasn't true, and it was clear Andrew had not read his blog. Sullivan asked Atrios to cite an episode when he had criticized someone on the left. Atrios paused and said, "Well, I can't think of think of one right now."

    6) Scrappleface posted the following headline to a Blogging of the President real-time entry: "Public Radio Show Talks about People Who Write About What's Written About People Who Do Little Else But Talk."

    7) A final substantive critique of the show -- Neither Lydon nor any of his guests made the crucial distinction between campaign blogs and independent political blogs. The former might be more prone than the latter to the cocooning phenomenon discussed on the show.

    FINAL UPDATE: On a related subject, Billmon privides an exhaustive report on a Davos Economic Forum panel on the relationship between the blogosphere and the mediasphere.

    posted by Dan at 01:08 PM | Comments (11) | Trackbacks (1)



    Tuesday, January 20, 2004

    Vote early, vote often

    Thanks to all who nominated my lovely wife's essay, "My Life as a Blog Widow" for the Best Article or Essay About Weblogs category. She thinks it's way cool.

    [Why can't she speak for herself?--ed. She's afraid of the expectations game. One post, one Bloggie nomination -- that's a tough ratio to maintain.]

    Go vote for her -- you have until 10:00 PM EST on Saturday, January 31!

    posted by Dan at 02:58 PM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)



    Saturday, January 17, 2004

    Andrew Sullivan server update

    I've received numerous e-mails asking me if, as a former guest-blogger, I can access Andrew Sullivan's site. I just tried, got something that said, "andrewsullican.com (sic) click". I clicked with some apprehension, but was able to access the site with no difficulties -- his last post was a response to Josh Marshall's defense of Clark.

    According to Andrew -- via Glenn Reynolds -- this is a server problem. I experienced similar difficulties when I was doing the guest stint earlier this month, so I can certainly empathize. Andrew, you're welcome to guest-post here while the problem is being fixed!! [Big man!--ed. Hey, it's the least I could do.]

    UPDATE: The Daily Dish is back online -- with an apology from Sullivan.

    [On a separate matter, that's the second post in a row in which you've mention this Clark business without addressing it head-on. What gives?--ed. I haven't read enough to comment with confidence. From what I have read, it seems clear that Drudge ginned up a Clark quote through an improper use of ellipses. Does that mean Clark can't be criticized on foreign policy?--ed. Hell, no -- I argued two weeks ago that compared to Howard Dean he was getting a free ride on this issue. Steve Sachs has more on this.]

    posted by Dan at 11:35 AM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)



    Friday, January 16, 2004

    Who wants a grant? Me!! ME!!

    The Columbia Journalism Review has set up a new blog, CampaignDesk.org, to cover the press covering the 2004 campaign. Here's something from the the introductory post:

    In 2004, the Web makes it possible to analyze and criticize press coverage in real time, so that suggestions for improved coverage might actually be heeded, and incorporated into campaign coverage, while the campaign is still under way.

    Thanks to generous funding from foundations -- mainly the Rockefeller Family Fund, the Revson Foundation, and the Open Society Institute -- we have set up a campaign press criticism "war room" here at the Journalism School, with the beginnings of a full-time professional staff of seven that will monitor as much of the campaign coverage as possible, and write about it here.

    Wait a minute -- there are grants to be had for doing this??!! Why the hell didn't anyone tell me? The Columbia School of Journalism can just waltz in, rake in the cash, and set up some fantsy-pants blog? [Well, they do have reputation and experience, and they seem to be all over this Drudge/Clark business--ed. Yeah, so were Robert Tagorda and Mark Kleiman, and they were grant-free! Give me them plus James Joyner, Jeff Jarvis, Josh Marshall, and Noam Scheiber (who's read on Gephardt's chances seems dead-on to me), and I'll kick their a--- I think it's time for your nap--ed.]

    posted by Dan at 08:41 PM | Comments (9) | Trackbacks (2)



    Friday, January 9, 2004

    A small request

    Via Josh Chafetz, I see that the 2004 Weblog Awards are accepting nominations.

    Now, my small request is not to ask you to nominate this blog for any awards. But, I see that one of the categories is "Best article or essay about weblogs."

    For that category, I humbly request you submit Erika Drezner's "My Life as a Blog Widow." Judging from some of the reaction it has received, I think it's touched a deeper chord than many of the press articles on the phenomenon.

    Here endeth the request.

    posted by Dan at 03:15 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)



    Wednesday, December 31, 2003

    Really, I'm not being lazy

    For those wondering if I'm slacking off from posting on the Daily Dish -- Blogger has crashed.

    I'm shocked to report this fact.

    UPDATE: Something screwy is still going on, but I've found a way around the problem.

    posted by Dan at 12:19 PM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)



    Tuesday, December 30, 2003

    Blogger weirdness

    If I go to http://andrewsullivan.com, I get the site as most recently updated. If I go to http://www.andrewsullivan.com, it looks like I haven't done any posting since yesterday afternoon.

    Tech types -- any explanation?

    UPDATE: OK, this is apparently a function of a change in servers. Thanks to all for responding -- especially Mark Petrovic.

    posted by Dan at 12:03 PM | Comments (11) | Trackbacks (0)



    Sunday, December 28, 2003

    And now for something completely different...

    I will be guest-blogging at the Daily Dish for the next week. That's right, I'm stepping up from Playful Primate to Higher Being, baby!! [I'm moving up too?--ed. Not so much.]

    Does that mean no new content on this blog until 2004? Not exactly.

    Inspired by Slate's Diary series, ESPN's "This is Sportscenter" documentary from the summer, and the stereotype of bloggers as "self-important," I'll be posting here on the behind-the-scenes thinking that go into guest-blogging. Why did I post on this topic but not that topic? What's it like to have the big megaphone? And other sorts of flotsam and jetsam that run through my brain when I'm blogging.

    Think of it as if VH1 did a Behind the Blog episode -- it would be just like Behind the Music without the groupies, bimbos, boy toys, massive drug use, fisticuffs, arrests, and downward arc to the narrative (I hope).

    In other words, more like C-SPAN's Booknotes.

    Be warned -- musings like these can be scary to the naked eye.

    But it's all worth it -- to the ten or so of you who care about such things.

    posted by Dan at 03:06 PM | Comments (21) | Trackbacks (8)



    Friday, December 26, 2003

    I feel trendy, oh so trendy...

    The web site yourDictionary.com announces its top ten words of 2003:

    "This year the Iraqi War has dominated the English language as it has dominated the news," said Robert Beard, CEO of yourDictionary.

    According to Paul JJ Payack, Chairman of the company, "Embedded was the best word to distill the events of an extraordinary year into 8 simple letters." (emphasis added)

    yourDictionary doesn't seem too thrilled with its number two word: "Blog: Web logs have come of age and, regrettably, this lexical mutation with them."

    UPDATE: Editor & Publisher doesn't seem too thrilled with blogs either (link via Glenn Reynolds):

    Blah, blah, Blogs: Probably the most hyped online development in 2003 (along with growth in site registration), but will these self-important online journals actually change the way newspapers do journalism on the Web?

    posted by Dan at 11:09 PM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)



    Tuesday, December 9, 2003

    Boomshock has moved

    Robert Tagorda finally had it with Blogger and has moved into much sleeker digs at his new home.

    His latest post is a good take on how the media can twist official reports in a lot of different ways. In this case the report in UN predictions of population growth. Go check it out.

    UPDATE: More on the population report from Eugene Volokh and Juan Non-Volokh, who suggests that this should force a revision of existing environmental forecasts.

    posted by Dan at 05:45 PM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)



    Friday, December 5, 2003

    A (modest) step up from the Grammys



    2003 Weblog Awards

    Polling for the 2003 Weblog Awards has started over at Wizbang. Remember, if you don't go over and vote.... er.... well, nothing happens, exactly, except that you can't complain about who wins.

    I'd been informed that I was actually nominated for something, so I clicked over to check out the myriad categories.

    One question -- logically, how is it possible for Virginia Postrel to be nominated for Best Overall Blog, but not for Best Female Authored Blog? [What business is it of yours?--ed. Check out thethis map! I'm just sticking up for my country.]

    posted by Dan at 03:11 PM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)



    Tuesday, November 25, 2003

    All Things Considered on blogging

    Last night NPR’s All Things Considered ran a story last night about how campaign blogs and “independent” blogs (their choice of words) will affect the 2004 election and politics more generally. Their abstract says:

    Online web logs are a resource for political junkies of every political bent. Candidates blog, their campaigns blog, volunteers blog, and countless observers blog, too. It remains to be seen how the political blogs will influence the campaign process.

    You can listen to it here. Having already heard it, I have two thoughts:

  • Never have I heard a voice drip with more condescension than when the NPR announcer provides the lead-in with the opening sentence, “John Kerry has a blog.” As part of a transcript, the line reads as neutral as the color beige. On air, the tone of voice says, “let’s see how bemused I can sound about this phenomenon that may be important in the future but as of now is still insignificant enough to be mocked.” [Maybe he was being condescending about Kerry and not blogs!—ed. Hmmm
. That could be a possibility, with poll numbers like this.]

  • I like Josh Marshall’s point (about 3:20 into the piece) about “choice audiences.” That’ll have to go into the blog paper.
  • Tomorrow morning on WBEZ’s Eight Forty-Eight program (which airs from 9:30 AM to 10:00 AM Chicago time), I will be commenting on blogs as a new media form. Blogs will be discussed, however.

    posted by Dan at 09:39 PM | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (0)



    Monday, November 17, 2003

    Suggestion box

    I won't be able to access the Internet again until I get home. While you're waiting for more high-quality DanielDrezner.com output, feel free to post a comment saying what you'd like to see me blog more about.

    UPDATE: After a very pleasant but all-too-brief lunch with Josh Chafetz in London, I'm not back in Chicago. Regular blogging to commence soon.

    posted by Dan at 06:41 AM | Comments (59) | Trackbacks (0)



    Wednesday, November 5, 2003

    Blogosphere norms 1, legal wrangling 0

    In the conclusion to the Atrios-Donald Luskin dust-up from last week, both Atrios and Donald Luskin have posted a joint statement on their blogs. The key thing is that Luskin has "retracting his demand letter."

    Good for both of them. It's refreshing to see that informal norms of civility can surmount the urge to legalize disputes.

    I only wish that Luskin had come to this conclusion earlier. In his puursuit of Krugman at all costs, he contributes to a situation that Eric Alterman's arguments in the Nation acquire a whiff of plausibility:

    Conservatives, and some not so conservatives, are testing out a new thesis in their effort to shut out ideas that make them uncomfortable: Any attempt to analyze the origins of a distasteful phenomenon is tantamount to endorsing it. Whether the problem is global terrorism or anti-Semitism, the message is the same. "It's bad. It must be condemned. That's all we need to know."

    Now, Alterman conveniently omits the following facts:

  • Many on the right (ahem, cough) critiqued Krugman's piece on substantive grounds;

  • Many on the right -- including contributors to NRO's The Corner -- attacked Luskin for going too far.
  • However, because Alterman could point to Luskin as evidence for his broad swipe, he could safely ignore the more substantive critiques.

    Alterman link via Andrew Sullivan, who points out at least one absurdity in the article.

    posted by Dan at 03:34 PM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)



    Thursday, October 30, 2003

    Catching up on my correspondence

    Two quick notes for today (go read this Mark Kleiman post for some background):

    Dear Atrios,

    What I said last week about anonymous blogging?

    I take it back.

    Sincerely,

    Daniel W. Drezner

    Next letter:

    Dear Donald Luskin,

    I have certainly expressed misgivings about Paul Krugman's punditry in the past. I can certainly sympathize with some of your critiques. Hey, I've even linked to some of them.

    But dude, you need to chill. Legal action and the blogosphere do not mix well. At this point, your criticisms of Krugman are so over-the-top that they are counterproductive. Take a day off. Get some perspective.

    Sincerely,

    Daniel W. Drezner

    P.S. I've glanced through your blog. Intellectually, yes, you're stalking Paul Krugman.

    That's stalking!! STALKING, STALKING, STALKING!!!

    Kevin Drum, Armed Liberal, Brad DeLong, Andrew Sullivan, and Glenn Reynolds also weigh in. Actually, a lot of bloggers weigh in. Atrios follows up here, here, and most amusingly, here.

    UPDATE: NRO's Jonathan Adler, Robert George, and Jonah Goldberg weigh in on Luskin's behavior. I agree wholeheartedly with George:

    Wasn't Don paying attention during the Fox News v. Franken debacle? There's nothing worse than when someone who has a certain amount of success by sharing his opinions in a forceful, straightforward, manner, then running to the lawyers when he feels like he's getting tweaked himself.... Luskin['s] action can't help but garner sympathy for Atrios/Eschaton -- particularly in the blogosphere -- regardless of where someone falls on the political spectrum.

    Goldberg tries to explain Luskin's actions as a result of being new to the medium:

    I feel for the guy. Yes, he was wrong to start Litigating the Eschaton -- which, still, isn't as bad as immanentizing it. But it seems to me he made a classic new-to-the-web blunder. This sort of thing happens when you're new to the hurly-burly argy-bargy of the interent and you think you have to take every little thing seriously....

    The ironic thing is that Krugman himself is a great example of this sort of thin-skinnedness. Remember how he freaked out about Andrew Sullivan's criticism, talking about his site like it was some sort of neo-Nazi compound?

    Goldberg is right about Krugman but dead wrong about Luskin. He's not new to the web. In fact, today is the one-year anniversary of Luskin's blog. In terms of the blogosphere, that's a pretty long time to be around. Long enough to know the very simple rules of the game -- no tears, no legal action.

    posted by Dan at 12:47 AM | Comments (14) | Trackbacks (2)




    Camille Paglia's grandstanding narcissism

    Camille Paglia's latest interview in Salon must be consumed in its entirety to appreciate the title of this post.

    At one point, she characterizes Maureen Dowd as "that catty, third-rate, wannabe sorority queen." I can't read that without a chuckle, because Camille Paglia is Maureen Dowd gone to grad school.

    I mean that with all its positive and negative implications. Paglia's rants are riveting when she talks about celebrity. When she talks about politics the first two adjectives that come to mind are "inane" and "dyspeptic."

    Oh, and here's her take on blogs:

    The Web has also dealt a fatal blow to the culture of stardom because isolated types can now instantly express and exhibit their conflicts and find fellow sufferers around the world through the Web. But e-mail is evanescent. And the blog form is, in my view, the decadence of the Web. I don't see blogs as a new frontier but as a falling backwards into word-centric print journalism -- words, words, words!....

    Blog reading for me is like going down to the cellar amid shelves and shelves of musty books that you're condemned to turn the pages of. Bad prose, endless reams of bad prose! There's a lack of discipline, a feeling that anything that crosses one's mind is important or interesting to others. People say that the best part about writing a blog is that there's no editing -- it's free speech without institutional control. Well, sure, but writing isn't masturbation -- you've got to self-edit.

    Now and then one sees the claim that Kausfiles was the first blog. I beg to differ: I happen to feel that my Salon column was the first true blog. My columns had punch and on-rushing velocity. They weren't this dreary meta-commentary, where there's a blizzard of fussy, detached sections nattering on obscurely about other bloggers or media moguls and Washington bureaucrats. I took hits at media excesses, but I directly commented on major issues and personalities in politics and pop culture.

    If bloggers want to break out of their ghetto, they've got to acquire a sense of drama and theater as well as a flair for language. Why else should anyone read them? And the Web in my view is a visual medium -- I don't log on to be trapped on a muddy page crammed with indigestible prose....

    No major figure has emerged yet from the blogs -- Andrew Sullivan was already an established writer before he started his. A blog should sound conversational and be an antidote to the inept writing in most of today's glossy magazines. (emphasis added)

    It is truly breathtaking to see someone take down the genre she claims to have invented. Paglia joins Darrell Hammond as the only people to successfully mimic Al Gore. Or, to use the pungent prose Paglia prefers:

    [W]ho needs to be desirable to others when you've got a big fat love affair with yourself to tend to.... Maybe that wasn't writing as masturbation, but I think it at least qualifies as a dry hump.

    Heh.

    UPDATE: Mickey Kaus and Andrew Sullivan offer their takes on the Paglia interview.

    posted by Dan at 12:03 AM | Comments (12) | Trackbacks (0)



    Wednesday, October 22, 2003

    Should I take this as a compliment?

    There's been a rash of denial of service (DoS) attacks on various blogs. Andrew Sullivan and Roger Simon believes these were conscious attacks on warblogs. Joe Katzman has a thorough discussion of this over at Winds of Change.

    Since I was among those who experienced a series of blog outages over the past 72 hours, I guess I should take this as a compliment. The thing is, I might just be an example of collateral damage. I've noticed that whenever InstaPundit faces a DoS attack, so do Calpundit and myself. I wouldn't exactly label Kevin Drum as a warblogger, so this might just be the result of all three of us using the same hosting service.

    Anyway, as Will Baude noticed, when this site was down, I had no backup site -- unlike Glenn Reynolds or Pejman Yousefzadeh.

    So, from now on, if a DoS attack incapacitates this blog for longer than 24 hours, you can find me at my old Blogger site. The address is: http://drezner.blogspot.com. For those who really need a daily dose of Drezner [You poor sods--ed.], bookmark the backup.

    posted by Dan at 04:26 PM | Comments (13) | Trackbacks (0)



    Tuesday, October 21, 2003

    An apology to Gregg Easterbrook

    In my last post on Gregg Easterbrook, I quoted what I thought was an e-mail sent by him to other bloggers that was posted in The Power Line.

    I've been informed by both Brad DeLong and Gregg Easterbrook that the e-mail was a fake, so I'm crossed it out from my post.

    My apologies for getting suckered. It was a disservice to you, the readers, as well as to Easterbrook. Gregg's cool with it -- as he put it in an e-mail, it's "the nature of a new medium." For those readers who prowl other blogs, if you see it there, let the blogger know it's a fake.

    We'll return to our regularly scheduled blogging tomorrow.

    UPDATE: See the comment below by John Hinderaker of the Power Line. All I can say is that I'm going on what DeLong and Easterbrook have told me via e-mail.

    posted by Dan at 10:02 PM | Comments (12) | Trackbacks (1)



    Monday, October 20, 2003

    Last thoughts on Easterbrook

    The New Republic's editors have just posted their response to the Easterbrook donnybrook. Worth a read. A key paragraph:

    But, while we understand the outrage that Easterbrook's comment has caused, we are concerned also about the brutality of some of the criticism. There is another, important side to this story. We have known Easterbrook for many years, and we wish to say without doubt or hesitation that he is not an anti-Semite. Indeed, he is a person of high integrity. He has written prolifically and thoughtfully and with great erudition on many subjects, including science, the environment, politics, and religion; and the moral sensibility that appears in his writings is that of tolerance and open-mindedness. The many editors and writers who have worked with him over the decades of his career--at Time, Newsweek, The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, and The Washington Monthly, to name but a few--can all attest not only to his talent, but to his character. A good individual said a bad thing. Sometimes this happens. (Sometimes a bad individual says a good thing.) When it happens, he must credibly express his regret, and his understanding of how he erred. This Easterbrook has done. We have seen too many reputations unjustly ruined by media inquisitions and the vituperative politics of ethnic insult in America. We hope that the firmness with which Easterbrook's awful remark has been judged will be attended by fairness in the consideration of his character and his career. What he wrote last week is the terrible exception, not the terrible rule.

    Mickey Kaus' post on the subject strikes a similar tone:

    I've known Gregg Easterbrook since 1979, when he was hired as a fellow editor at The Washington Monthly. He's not remotely an anti-Semite, as his colleagues from the The New Republic have attested, nor have I ever heard him express a bigoted thought in the 24 years I've known him. He's one of the smartest people I've ever met, and he's produced some of the best journalism I've ever read, and he's extremely funny (as his ESPN readers know)--yet he also has a slightly clumsy, emotional, well-meaning earnestness about him. That may be part of what got him into trouble. But the easiest thing to to say about the Easterblogg controversy is that this wasn't a case of the mask slipping to reveal a writer's previously concealed, ugly thoughts (despite Roger Simon's reasonable suspicions). Forget that idea.

    Finally, The Power Line reprints an e-mail from Easterbrook that is making the rounds of the blogosphere. [UPDATE: Easterbrook says this e-mail is not genuine. See this post for more.] Some of the disconcerting sections:

    Yesterday I was told to expect to be fired by ESPN. It hasn't happened yet, but seems likely [he has since been fired by ESPN]. Friday the top officers of ESPN refused several orders from Michael Eisner, the head of Disney, that I be fired. By the end of the day it seemed likely they would give in....

    Yesterday I was told by an ally within Disney corporate that Eisner has assigned people to try to destroy the book [The Progress Paradox: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse] -- to get Time to drop the serial, to keep me off interview shows, even to get Random House to kill the book. In a published body of work that now extends to millions of words, I have written three foolish and wrong sentences. Now I've not only lost reputation and half my income (ESPN): what matters to me most in all the world, my book writing, is in jeopardy at the worst possible time. And I'm up against one of the richest, most vindictive men in the world. (emphasis added)

    As I've said before, Easterbrook must bear the costs of exercising his right to free speech. However, if this is true, then Eisner is enggaging in mass overkill.

    UPDATE: Eugene Volokh gets a response to his letter from ESPN. Go read it for a concrete example of the term "Orwellian."

    posted by Dan at 06:17 PM | Comments (41) | Trackbacks (1)



    Saturday, October 18, 2003

    Gregg Easterbrook, anti-semitism, and ESPN

    Despite yesterday's post about the Malaysian Prime Minister's graceless remarks, I don't blog all that much about anti-Semitism. Alas, this will have to be the second post in the last 48 hours on the subject.

    I just learned about the accusations of anti-Semitism against Gregg Easterbrook for his tirade against Miramax, Quentin Tarantino, and "Kill Bill" on his TNR blog.

    Having read the controversial post, I concluded:

  • Easterbrook has clearly never seen Reservoir Dogs;
  • Easterbrook did not "get" Scream;
  • Easterbrook's final two grafs -- the source of all of the controversey -- was a bizarre and offensive rant extraneous to the rest of his misguided post;

    After reading his apology, my conclusions are slightly more charitable than Virginia Postrel's.

    What genuinely puzzles me is that Easterbrook is hardly a novice in his writings on religion. He is, however, a novice blogger, which might be the best explanation. Andrew Sullivan phrases it nicely in his Inside Dish:

    Blogging is, indeed, a high-wire act. Looking back, I write about a quarter of a million words a year. The notion that I will not write something dumb, offensive or simply foolish from time to time is absurd. Of course I will. Writing is about being human. And blogging is perhaps one of the least protected, most human forms of writing we have yet discovered. It's like speaking on air, live. Yes, bloggers should take criticism. But they should be judged on the totality of their work, not their occasional screw-ups.

    Welcome to the blogosphere, Gregg. You jumped in at the deep end.

    Eric Alterman makes a similar argument:

    Action frequently gets the better of thought. Gregg could have used an editor before he wrote those silly words, but apparently he didn’t have one. He is, as he said, willing to defend the thoughts behind his anti-Semitic-sounding post, but not the words themselves.

    Many bloggers could and should say the same, but don’t do so often enough.

    [Easterbrook should have taken your advice!--ed. Well, that post also recommended blogging about religion, so maybe he did.]

    As a big fan of Easterbrook's writings in general, and his Tuesday Morning Quarterback column for ESPN in particular, I've never come across anything else in his voluminous set of writings that even hinted at anti-Semitism. When someone without a track record of these utterances apologizes, I tend to think that's the end of it.

    However, according to Roger Simon, Easterbrook has been fired from ESPN for what he wrote on his blog. Glenn Reynolds has a collection of responses across the blogosphere, as well as ESPN.com's Orwellian response. Meryl Yourish -- who has been unrelenting in flogging Easterbrook for his screw-up -- thinks ESPN has screwed up.

    I tend to agree. This situation is not analagous to Rush Limbaugh's. Easterbrook's gaffe does not appear to have been on ESPN, and he's apologized. Limbaugh made his statements on ESPN, did not really apologize, and then refused to appear on Sportscenter to defend himself.

    [A side note: the above graf is based on Glenn Reynolds assertion that this decision was, "especially bizarre given that the whole flap was about something that wasn't even published at ESPN." I'm not completely sure that's true -- a lot of Easterbrook's initial posts at Easterblogg appeared in his Tuesday Morning Quarterback posts. However, since ESPN has erased all of his posts, I can't check on my own and will assume that what Reynolds says is true. UPDATE: I just found the cached version of the last two TMQ columns at Google -- and "Kill Bill" is not mentioned in either of them.]

    Think ESPN screwed up? Let them know about it.

  • posted by Dan at 10:06 PM | Comments (31) | Trackbacks (5)



    Tuesday, September 30, 2003

    Crescat Sententia has moved

    Will Baude, Amanda Butler, and the rest of the gang have some fancy new digs -- there are gargoyles and props from Richard Posner!!

    Go check it out.

    posted by Dan at 11:02 AM | Trackbacks (0)



    Friday, September 26, 2003

    DanielDrezner.com gets results from Eric Zorn!!

    In a previous post on j-blogs, I wrote:

    I agree that it's a shame that Weintraub's blog is being muffled -- but I also think that this incident is endemic to the unstable nature of the j-blog phenomenon. [How do you know -- you're not a journalist!!--ed. Call it my "right now" take. But I may be wrong. Eric Zorn, I'm looking in your direction to correct me if I am] And I'm not sure that anything can be done about it.

    In response, Eric has written an excellent blog post. You should read the whole thing, but Zorn provides a new and interesting analogy on how editors should think of j-blogs:

    In reality, what needs to emerge here if the j-blog isn't going to die at birth, is an understanding on the part of editors and readers that, procedurally, a blog is much more like an appearance on a TV panel program or talk-radio show than it is a fully sanctioned, completely vetted declaration in cold type.

    My fellow columnists and I frequently appear on radio and television and offer live (and in many cases broadcast on the internet), unedited statements under the color of our publications. Several Tribune staffers even have their own radio shows. We give speeches. We respond to e-mail and letters in writing. We give interviews to the New York Times.

    And almost never is the substance and wording of such communication approved in advance by minders or editors....

    The difference is that media consumers intuitively understand the difference between a published thought and one that's shouted at Bill O'Reilly. And they don't -- yet-- intuitively understand where a thought published on the web log fits into that spectrum.

    Because we in the institutional media don't understand and can't agree on it yet.

    The reason why l'affaire Bee seems so pivotal to so many in the blogging world is that the controversy is pushing us toward formalizing such understandings and agreements at a time when many of us -- me included and especially -- are still exploring and experimenting in this format.

    And if we're too cautious in our conclusions, we risk losing a marvelous opportunity in what I remain convinced will be an increasingly important medium in the coming decades.

    Really, I'm serious, read the whole thing.

    posted by Dan at 04:04 PM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)



    Tuesday, September 23, 2003

    The Sacramento Bee responds

    At least one reader responded to my suggestion [You mean my suggestion--ed. It's all good] on how to respond to the Sacramento Bee's ombudsman Tony Marcano's distaste for letting Daniel Weintraub's blog go unedited -- they e-mailed Marcano.

    To which the ombudsman replied:

    My policy is to ignore readers who feel it necessary to resort to insults. There will be no further responses from this office to your e-mails.

    I'm not going to reprint the reader's entire e-mail to the ombudsman, but the only thing in it that was remotely close to insulting was the final question: "When did the the Bee turn so gutless?"

    Now I'll admit that I probably wouldn't have phrased it that harshly, but given that the ombudsman's job is to hear complaints, doesn't this response suggest someone too thin-skinned for the job?

    Undeterred, our trusty reader pressed forward in his search for a response. He finally succeeded in getting a real reply from David Holwerk, who is Weintraub's editor. Here's his reply:

    As the guy who edits Dan Weintraub's column and his blog items, I have to say I disagree with your contention that it is "crystal clear to all readers that Weintraub speaks for himself in his blog." My experience is that many readers regard the blog and all of our on-line content as an extension of The Bee.

    My aim as Dan's editor is not to change his opinions or alter his viewpoints, but to make sure that his blog items are clearly written and adequately explained and do not engender reactions he does not intend. That is what editors do. If they do that well, they can actually make writers more effective. That's what I and other editors at The Bee try to do every day. You can judge for yourself to what degree we succeed.

    This is a pretty decent response in my book. Good editors deal with good writers by improving the form of the writing so that the content is clear. I'm not a regular reader of Weintraub's blog, so only time will tell if this is what actually happens. As a statement of what an editor does, however, Holwerk's reply sounds like a promising start.

    Of course, Mickey Kaus has his own thoughts on the matter:

    Weintraub is a Bee editorial-page employee, not a news employee. Apparently the news side of the Bee has never liked his blog, for some obvious reasons--e.g. he's been beating the pants off them. His provocative anti-Bustamante comments were enough to trigger a newsroom-led bureaucratic Thermidor. (It was as if he was criticizing affirmative action!) Executive editor Rick Rodriguez says "folks on the staff brought" the issue to him after Weintraub's posting. They "wanted to know if it was edited," he says, though he adds he suspects they mainly wanted to "yell at some editors" about it. Rodriguez volunteers the ethnic makeup of the angry newsroom "folks": "Some were Latino, some Anglo, some black." The result was a review of Weintraub's status. "Our policy at the Bee is that everything's edited," Rodriguez declares.

    Hmmmm.... given that the Bee's editorial staff also has created their own group blog, this may be a case of newsroom subcultures clashing.

    Definitely click on the Kaus link, by the way. It's a long and information-rich post.

    posted by Dan at 09:44 PM | Comments (14) | Trackbacks (5)



    Monday, September 22, 2003

    The unstable equilibrium of j-blogs

    The Sacramento Bee has decided to "edit" Daniel Weintraub's blog. According to their ombudsman:

    Weintraub wrote that Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante "certainly owed his elevation to the job of Assembly speaker to his ethnic background and to the support he received from fellow Latinos. If his name had been Charles Bustmont rather than Cruz Bustamante, he would have finished his legislative career as an anonymous back-bencher."

    Further, he alleged, "it's indisputably true that the Legislature's Latino Caucus advocates policies that are destructive to their own people and to greater California, in the name of ethnic unity." The caucus protested in a letter to Bee Publisher Janis Besler Heaphy.

    Make what you will of Weintraub's statement, and of the caucus' protests. No matter what I or anyone else thinks, he has every right to analyze the political scene and reach those conclusions. But no newspaper should publish an analysis without an editor's review. That doesn't necessarily mean that Weintraub's blog should have been reworded, but an editor should at least have had the opportunity to question his conclusions.

    Since these incidents came to light, The Bee has instituted some reforms. Weintraub's blog now goes to the editorial page editor or his deputy before it's posted on sacbee.com. Editors will not be allowed to write items for the Web without another editor's review.

    This has prompted much gnashing of teeth across the blogosphere. The usual suspects -- Mickey Kaus, Glenn Reynolds, and Robert Tagorda -- are all over it. Kaus does the best job of identifying the problem with the Bee's "reform":

    So now readers of Weintraub's blog are not getting his unfiltered, up-to-the-moment thoughts. They're getting the thoughts that are approved by an editor--an editor who is now well aware of how sensitive the Bee is to complaints from powerful constituencies. ... Or some powerful constituencies, at least.... The whole point of blogging is that you get someone's take right now, when it can make a difference. What if Weintraub has a good idea at 7:30 P.M. and the editors have gone home? By the time they come back in the next day to "review" his idea, history may have moved on--the idea will be stale, even if it might have actually made a difference if it had been posted in time.... As long as nobody's libeled, why not publish analyses without an editor's review?

    That's a lovely sentiment, but my strong suspicion is that newspaper editors will be congenitally incapable of following through on it. Editors, like many managers, tend towards risk-averse behavior. Editing a blog lowers the probability of stepping into an unwanted controversy, while allowing a journalist to roam unfettered in the blogosphere has little upside.

    I agree that it's a shame that Weintraub's blog is being muffled -- but I also think that this incident is endemic to the unstable nature of the j-blog phenomenon. [How do you know -- you're not a journalist!!--ed. Call it my "right now" take. But I may be wrong. Eric Zorn, I'm looking in your direction to correct me if I am] And I'm not sure that anything can be done about it.

    [What if bloggers and their readers e-mailed the Bee's ombudsman to point out that controversy swings both ways?--ed. What a subversive thought!! And you, an editor no less!!]

    UPDATE: Well, it does appear as if bloggers have the power to get sportswriters fired at the Sacramento Bee (link via David Pinto).

    posted by Dan at 11:32 AM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (3)



    Wednesday, September 17, 2003

    More blogging advice

    In the wake of the advice I gave to new bloggers last week, several others have posted some valuable advice that's worth clicking on:

    1) Electric Venom offers her top ten lessons after six months of blogging. Numbers nine, six, and five seem particularly relevant, but her #1 lesson is the most important:

    If it's not fun, don't do it. But if you enjoy it, if it really adds something to your life, then don't let anyone's opinions or personal issues or downright nastiness stop you from pursuing it. Just blog.

    By the way, after reading some self-descriptions by Electric Venom, let me just say I'm reeeaaalllyyy glad she doesn't think I'm stupid.

    2) Wizbang offers some advice on how to get an Instalanche. He makes a very important point on Glenn Reynolds' role in the blogosphere:

    Contrary to what you may have been led to believe InstaPundit actually links to more new bloggers than any of the other major sites.

    One other comment if you read his post: Kevin is probably the first person alive to believe I have "a cool last name." [UPDATE: Amish Tech Support offers a different route to attract Glenn's attention. And Instapundit gives his own take]

    3) John Scalzi offers some thoughts about the enterprise -- which is a professional gig for him -- after five years of blogging (link via Matthew Yglesias). Two comments of his stood out in particular:

  • Paid bloggers are a vanishingly small percentage of the entire blogging population, and will almost certainly continue to be so. I would suspect at this point in time, there may be 100 to 200 people around the world who take home significant pay from blogging ("significant" being defined as "you can actually pay bills with it"). There are probably a million people who blog. Even if the number of paid bloggers expands tenfold in the next year (and why not?), that's still a 1000-to-1 ratio of amateur to paid.

  • The number of "big" bloggers has expanded, and the diversity of the "big" bloggers is fabulous. But if you rented a convention hall for all the bloggers who get more than 5,000 unique visitors a day, you'd have a big, empty convention hall and a small clot of guys near the punch bowl, talking about the Dean campaign and shuffling their feet.
  • Heh.

    posted by Dan at 09:36 PM | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (2)




    Academic freedom and blogs

    Earlier this month, Indiana University professor Eric Rasmusen got into some hot water with with his blog. He wrote a post asserting that homosexuals should not be put in positions of moral leadership over children because, "I think they are attracted to people under age 18 more than heterosexual males are..."

    Needless to say, this prompted some hostile reactions, which trickled up to Rasmusen's dean in the business school. There was then a discussion between Rasmusen and his dean about whether the blog should be moved off IU's server. Rasmusen volunteered to move it himself, and did so until his dean informed him that the blog did not violate policy, at which point Rasmusen moved back. During this brouhaha, there was some debate in the blogosphere about the relative merits of online academic freedom. But with the dean's decision, things were dying down.

    Today, however, IU Chancellor Sharon Brehm upped the ante by arguing that the university needs to revisit it's policy of supporting blogs. Press reports are here and here. Rasmusen reprints the entirety of Brehm's comments (and his response) on his blog. Here's an excerpt of the chancellor's comments:

    The postings on this website have created the difficult challenge of affirming the right to speak, even when we deplore the speech itself. As hard as this is, it is the only way to maintain our liberty. It's easy to defend freedom of speech when we agree with or don't care about the speech itself. Only when the speech offends us, do we realize the strength and courage of those who wrote the first amendment and all those after them who have affirmed and upheld it.

    In exercising my freedom to speak against Professor Rasmusen's statements, I also provide the opportunity for others to agree or disagree with my views.

    There is, however, another more general issue that President Daleke [President of the Bloomington Faculty Council] and I have discussed at some length. We agree that it would be useful to ask the UFC [University Faculty Council] to review the current policies, practices, guidelines, costs, and benefits of "Mypage," the UITS service for personal Web pages. It seems to us that, as a community of scholars and students, it is crucial to think through the role of these personal web pages in our communal and intellectual life.

    I'd like to close with a quote that I found while working on this statement for this meeting: "But the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth; if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error." John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 1859.

    My thoughts on this are pretty simple:

    If Brehm really read what she said -- and what Mill said -- then there is no need for a review. The "role of these personal web pages in our communal and intellectual life" is to promote the free and full expression of ideas by professors and students alike. As Mill himself would point out, the cure for promulgated ideas that are believed to be offensive or wrong is more speech, not less.

    Brehm exercised that right and encouraged others to do the same -- in, among other formats, on blogs. What need there is for a review beyond that is truly beyond me.

    [Wait, wait, you forgot the ritual denunciation of Rasmusen's views on homosexuality.--ed. That's completely irrelevant to this question. As an aside, however, it's worth highlighting a fact that Louis Menand pointed out in The Metaphysical Club. One of the triggering events for the emergence of academic freedom was when a Stanford University professor was fired for making a speech that contradicted co-founder Jane Stanford's views on the matter. The professor made a eugenicist argument against Asian immigration.]

    posted by Dan at 03:09 PM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (4)



    Friday, September 12, 2003

    Advice to new bloggers

    Given my one-year anniversary, I thought I'd offer a few bits of advice on how to succeed in the blogosphere beyond what I wrote here and here:

    1) Unsure about starting a blog? What do you have to lose? It takes ten minutes and zero dollars to set up a blog on Blogger. [UPDATE: Blogger just announced that they are adding most of their Blogger Pro features into their regular Blogger program, so now you get even more for nothing.] The real question is, why not start a blog? At worst, you'll run out of things to say in two weeks and delete it. Trust me, if my brother can blog, anyone can.

    2) If you decide you like blogging, then switch to Moveable Type: Boy, have I been converted. I didn't know what I was missing until I made the switch. Comparing MT to any version of Blogger is like comparing any BMW to a Saturn. Yes, the latter is a fine car (I own one), but the former is much more fun. [What about Typepad?--ed. Never used it, so I can't comment. However, Tom Maguire just switched over, so it must have some virtues.]

    3) Think quality over quantity. Yes, some bloggers have the ability to post in triple figures per day at a consistently high level. You, like me, are probably not one of those people. In baseball terms, you don't have to swing at every pitch -- wait for an issue or idea that's right over the plate.

    4) You can still edit your text once it's posted. Blog enthusiasts repeatedly emphasize that the blogosphere's comparative advantage is the lack of editors. That's true as far as it goes, but that doesn't mean that once you've posted something it's sacrosanct. In the hour after I initially post something, I will often revise it, to clean up typos, correct my grammar, add relevant links, and bulk up my arguments with more detailed arguments or supporting facts (within reason). Yes, there are no outside editors in the blogosphere, but the best bloggers have well-honed internal editing systems -- and they use them on a regular basis.

    5) Write about religion. Or better yet, Harry Potter and religion. Forget Britney Spears -- it's religious controversy that sells. Well, that plus Harry Potter; I have a healthy new respect for the legions of online Harry Potter fans that came swarming to my site after the leading Harry Potter blog, The Leaky Cauldron, linked to my post on the subject.

    posted by Dan at 12:47 PM | Comments (32) | Trackbacks (16)



    Tuesday, September 9, 2003

    Links for the day

    Will Saletan and Andrew Sullivan are having a debate on Bush's Sunday speech and whether Operation Iraqi Freedom is integral to the war on terror. As loyal readers are aware, I'm mostly on Saletan's side here, but not completely.

    Tacitus has a post on South Korea's quasi-delusional behavior vis-Ă -vis North Korea -- something I wrote about here (link via InstaPundit).

    The Chicago Tribune has a good front-pager on U.S. efforts to build a modern highway between Kabul and Kandahar. According to the story, the effort has already reduced the travelling time between the two cities from two days to ten hours. When it's finished, the time will be shaved to six hours.

    Oh, and everyone at OxBlog seems to have stopped moving around and started posting again. Always worth a read.

    posted by Dan at 11:39 AM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)