How to preach the (We)Blogging Gospel

How to preach the (We)Blogging Gospel

Interesting Harvard Gazette piece about Dave Winer’s evangelising within Harvard. Dave is very good at explaining what a weblog is — and isn’t. Quote:

“A blog is like a personal newspaper,” says Winer. “It’s sort of publishing on a small scale.” Blogs are generally chronological, updated regularly with the most recent posting at the top, and relative: “You’re often writing about something other people have written,” he says. A recent post on Scripting News, for instance, refers readers to The Crimson’s article describing Dean Harry Lewis’ efforts to crack down on students caught sharing copyrighted songs and movies online, as well as to Palfrey’s blog that comments on that matter. Palfrey’s blog, in turn, points readers to resources for copyright law.

A blog is not, Winer is quick to note, a mail list or a discussion group, where many parties can participate equally. Indeed, he says, this autonomy of voice gives blogs what he feels is a distinct advantage.

“Mail lists often grind to a halt because they have to get consensus. Blogs don’t have to get consensus,” he says. “The magic of a Weblog is that it can move.” Indeed, Winer’s and other Weblogs are unabashedly personal in their editorializing, commenting without abandon on everything from technology-related rulings to new products to Boston’s harsh “spring” weather.

“It really is what a personal Web site is in 2003,” says Winer.

John Palfrey (also from the Berkman Center) has added his own distinctive take on this, citing historian Bernard Bailyn.:

“The American Revolution, Bailyn tells us, was really about the preservation of political liberty.  Blogs, no doubt, are about the preservation of political liberty in the online environment, in a digital era.  Rick’s analogy rings true to me, given a recent experience testifying against the mini-DMCA proposed in Massachusetts.  In a centuries-old hearing room, dozens of technologists had come to testify against a lousy bill, with one special interest lobbyist representing the other side.  How did the techies know to show up in that hearing room off Nurse’s Hall?  They read today’s online pamphlets, just as our forebears read paper pamphlets.  The spirit, it seems to me, is precisely the same.  Blogs are just faster, more powerful, with greater reach.  We should learn how to use them, yet better — not just in Massachusetts, either, but in other states and in the world at large.  It’s no time to claim victory, of course, but rather to celebrate a new means of political organizing and figuring out how to put it to yet greater use.

Prof. Bailyn was on the committee that reviewed my work as an undergraduate in History and Literature and grilled me at my orals.  He is a so-called University Professor, which is probably Harvard’s highest honor; it means, some say, that he’s so smart that he can teach in any discipline.  He is a giant of an historian and a wonderful man.  To be able to claim him on our side would be quite a coup.  Perhaps we should invite him to one of Dave’s blogging sessions here at the Berkman Center on Thursday nights.”