Live from New Haven…
Friday, November 22nd, 2002
6.45 AM Heading down to Yale shortly lugging the laptop. So far, I’ve identified the women of KitchenCabinet as co-bloggers. Will Hylton bring his laptop? I love daily journalism: thinking fast, typing hard — sometimes vice versa — pumping out paragraphs that entwine with events and advance the debate. This will be my first experience reporting live online and I find the prospect scintillating.
12.00PM Had lunch at the Yankee Doodle Diner, just got wired here in room 127 at the Law School.
Looks like Jeff Jarvis, Tim Schnabel, Rory Perry, KitchenCabinet, Denise Howell and the folks at LawMeme are blogging the event. Also Glenn Reynolds and this guy. Subverting the blog meme of subversion, Glenn Reynolds and Jeff Jarvis are wearing suits. (Jeff said he had cked for Glenn’s advice.)
12.30 Glenn: “Technology is one of the things that makes us human.” A form of human play. The Internet is a big playground for people like me. “I’ve sold not one but two CDs to people in Iraq.” This play is something as valuable as any of the economic aspects of the Internet.
[These are often paraphrases, unless direct quotation marks. Assume elipses between many sentences.]
Deconstructs Cass Sunstein’s arguments about web as fragmenter. National Review does link to people who agree to them. EXCEPT when you go to the blog parts of those sites. Much more linking with people they disagree with. Hypothesis: weblogs as a result actually link to more people they disagree with than people they agree with. More cross linking. Blogs have answered Sunstiens chief concern. As James Lileks says, newspaper is a lecture, the web is a conversation.
“Is this just a flash in the pan?” Perhaps. Notes turnover of bloggers. Some people on extended hiatus. On the other hand new ones springing up all the time. What makes him confident: blogs are cheap, they are “thin media” as Nick Denton calls them. (Thin media was in fact a term I coined after Nick launched Gizmodo and called it “lean media.”)
My revenues aren’t much, but my costs are a lot lower than big media. Blogging is really cheap. Spends $36 a month on his hosting.
Half the journalists who interview me ask with disturbing intensity : will you make money with this? I think because they’d like to quit their jobs. I’m a law professor and we’re not especially good at making money. So I’m a bad model.
We won’t see weblogs replace big media. “We will see the growth of weblogs and other thin media that are partially competive and partially symbiotic with big media.”
Some blogs within big media are bad, the blogging equivalent of those communist rock bands. Big media weblogs are more in that category.
The killer app for big media is hard news — reporting. [I disagree — there is no major press here today. There is no major press at most important events, since there is one reporter for every 100,000 citizens. Many big events are “big” only because the press shows up.]
Weblogs are not to be as good as big media in the gathering of hard news. Possible to imagine a distributed news organization like Slashdot. Don’t see that happening any time soon. And not sure you’d have done anything particularly new: you would have reinvented the New York Times. Weblogs are journalism. “If I write something bad about a public figure, the odds that I will get an e-mail from that person are HUGE.”
I had no marketing plan, no business plan, no investors. I e-mailed a few people and word spread. … I was hoping to get a couple high quality readers… It does help your credibility with your students. It has affected my views on some subjects… made me a bit less of an advocate of web privacy. Referer IDs are important for understanding who is talking about you.
Most academics think that most people who aren’t academics are dumb. When you get a lot of traffic and a lot of e-mail, you learn how smart people are out there. I have correspondents who do all kinds of things — truck drivers, insurance salesmen — and they are damn smart. That is an experience that would be good for more academics to have.
The principle of Napster is very much alive.”
Q: Hypercaffienated, I blurt question that boils down to this: “Does big media really have a lock on reporting? Are there any print reporters here today? A whole lot of news goes uncovered, and news gets less coverage every day as big media consolidates.” (Here’s a photo of Glenn listening to me stammer.)
Jeff Jarvis great point: Nano media is the future. Great local blogging is key. Blogs can provide news that big media can’t touch. Hard news is commodity — we don’t need an extra reporter at a press confernce in Washington.
Glenn: I’m a law professor. If anything, I’m a good protype of how you could get a lot of traffic and make money or not lose a lot of money.
I try to get around. If I spent five minutes a day reading all the links on my page, I’d spend the whole day online. Glenn has libel insurance.
Bloggers are like roaches. For every one you kill, 1000 more will replace him. … For individual bloggers it is an issue. But in many ways I think bloggers are more
After writing about Scientology, John Hiler says he got a call from Scientology Media Director. “Has cast a chill over my writing. I’m less likely to write exposes . Everytime I write a post, I get deluged by e-mails from Scientology and former Scientologists. If you put yourself out there, you get all these e-mails from people.
Glenn — I’ve gotten nothing on that. The Star Trek fans are far more aggressive.
Audience member: Why fewer “left” blogs? Glenn sketches hypotheses a) Limbaugh thesis: the left is less articulate b) Internet is more liberatarian and rationalistic in its style of debate, left is more communitarian and emotional c) blogs and big media in a feedback loop. Since big media leans left, so blogs lean right. People say they are tired of shouting at the TV, so started a blog.
Ever the pop-culture maven,Jeff notes: “The Q&A is what you’d expect from bloggers: not Q&A but A&A&Q&A&Q: dialogue among bloggers.”
1.30 Jenny Levine reads more than 170 sites in her RSS aggregator. For those of us who live and die by our news aggregator, the missing piece is mobility. We can’t take it with us. “Reading RSS on PDA with wireless is the ultimate in shifted information.” She’s very excited about this.
Denise Howell: When I started a year ago, hard to find expert law bloggers. Today, the numbers are staggering. Blogs are great for marketing. Commit no random acts of lunch. Much better than e-mail newsletters. As Glenn said, blogs are cheap. They are powerful and efficient. Accomplish each of these marketing goals. (?) When a person in need of legal information they can get information that is current, categorized. It’s a powerful tool, we’ll see more and more of that in law firms trying to start. Building trust is also important. Eric’s taxonomy of trust: you are who say you are, you do what you say you do. Over time, weblogs accomplish this. Letting outsiders look under the hood of your organization. Even if the firms haven’t adopted it, sooner or later the firms are going to become proactive. The ones that do realize that will start to realize a competitive edge in the legal marketing arena. The undeniable value of having Google like you. Frequent updates and inbound links. “Lawyers guide to marketing on the Internet” — good ABA book. Other aspects deeply interrelated. K-management. Personal and professional development. [I’ve got a bunch of lawyer friends who cringe when I mention blogs. Gotta send them Denise’s URL again.]
Ernie Miller: good point contrasting academic emphasis on sharing versus law firm’s traditional information possessiveness.
Donna Wentworth — first ever public speach — why do blogs matter for education? Two parts: Natural fuel in the blogosphere. Whistleblowing in cyberspace.
Recent discussion in Cambridge: Havard’s treasure trove of IP… Does H have an obligation to share this information as MIT does? Harvard B school is in the very profitable business of selling case studies. Trying to create an integrated interface where students can log into all resources with one password. Like Microsoft, want a closed system. Want to eliminate the Internet. Different from law school. We want to be open. We don’t see the Internet as delivery system. We ask: What does Inet do well? What are its native forms and processes. What kinds of growth does it encourage? What are its natural sources of its fuel. Eric Raymond’s Cathedral/bazaar … there are a lot of people incented to work for satisfaction or enhanced reputation. Art & blogs “are like people who are possessed of a driving will to please us.” The fuel source is self-replenishing. We have open law project, directly inspired for OS dev model. Giving anyone opp to weigh in debate of concern to everyone. Issue: length of copyright protection. Blogs are eager to advance the debate. (Great first speach, Donna!)
Seth Schoen says Cory Doctorow had idea to start the blog Consensus at Lawyerpoint on DMCA debate and all its obscure details. Difficult for mainstream media to deal with hypothetical and technical proposal. Mainstream media feel people don’t have the attention span. To summarize misses the interesting exceptions. Blogs are one way to end-run that. But not as many people and not as many members of congressional staff read our site as the NYTimes. But we found that technical people were reading us and relying on us. No site for the hearings. The meetings were held in LA and cost $100. So we felt we were providing a
MPAA attorney talking about legal draft — “I got my copy from the FF website.”
We have a policy not to sign an NDA when in discussion with industry. Microsoft gave us a briefing. I went to my web diary and wrote about MS palladium technology (trusted computing) I tied in with Descartes, Plato. Had a lot of fun with it. I found that a lot of people were reading this. So then I wrote a technical description. Then realized that there wasn’t much technical information about Palladium on the web. MS speaker then jokingly said that my site had the spec for Palladium.
My classmate who is sociologist came up with the term “BBB” for Bad Bad Blogger — the kind that doesn’t update for a month. Lawyerpoint nothing has happened for a month because we haven’t had anything to say for a month. We are in the comment period, so we have nothing to say.
CPTWG has a rule prohibiting the participation of journalists. Meetings are public, butmembers of the press are not allowed. This was an understanding of the industries that formed the group. Journalists tried to call in. As someone pointed out, it was a little strange that we as members of the group could publish this nonconfidential information. The people who were running CPTwig didn’t have any definition of what is a journalist. We have demonstrated that it is more difficult to say that your meeting is public but that press is not permitted.
Another sign of success — my boss has asked me to stop writing on my personal diary and move it to our official website. My writing about tech will help EFF.
Ernie: Blogs are a native media form. A native form that hasn’t fully developed yet. RSS saves you from checking it, is a key advance.
Over to questions:
Q: How do we quantify the marketing value of blogs?
Ernie: EFF’s blog is its mission.
Jenny: I was being mirrored by Spartanburg paper. Turned to ErnieTheAttorney for advice because I read his blog.
Jeff worried about RSS: will your good name get smeared when pulled into places you don’t control? And don’t I lose feedback?
Jenny: I can see which aggregators are pulling from me. [Need to look at these stats further to see which is dumb aggregation, and which is actual reading.]
Glenn: Blog showcases your expertise. You get a sense of the person. When you meet someone in person, they tend to be a lot like their weblog. Reading someone’s weblog for a while, you get a sense of what they are like.
Rory Perry: Clerk for West Virginia court of appeals. Doing an official weblog for court eight months ago. In my role as constitutional officer, I’m obligated to perserve open access to legal information. What happens when courts get on the bandwidth bandwagon? Provide the topical backbone? Measurable benefits to government. Got calls from Europe and financial Translated into eight or nine languages. I’m the only court of last resort in counry running a weblog. The public can use Google as a defacto search engine of legal information and decisions. For “West Virginia child custody” information I get 35 visits a day. For $40 been able to give measurable information for folks out there searching for information. Is it a dream that other courts will get on the bandwagon. Is it inappropriate for public official to be delivering information via a weblog?
Ernie: Judges are reticent. It is the clerks that are promoting this. As more people get involved, the clerks will push it.
3.10PM Mickey Kaus, Slate’s house blogger. (No tie, sports coat) I’m going to borrow Glenn’s line: “these are halfbaked ideas that I’m going to rely on you to fix.” There is no such thing as half an idea in the world of blogging. I no longer worry whether anyone has had this idea first. Recently wrote something that had been written first in 1957, and in 1912. On a blog, people tell you whether it has been done before. Don’t have to worry about arbitrary editors. Don’t have anyone telling me to write about Iraq. Probably couldn’t write a lead paragraph any more if you asked me to. If people don’t know where you are going by the third paragraph, you are in trouble. Blog readers don’t have the patience.
“Many of the givens of journalism turn out to be artifacts of print technology.” LATimes editor had a motto: “do it once, do it right, and do it long.” Stupid idea, which explains why LATimes never produced a great investigative piece. You need the daily drumbeat of news to keep the sources pumping and keep the momentum. Blogging is the opposite of that. We don’t do it once. We don’t always do it right. And we certianly don’t do it long.
Six questions: Will blogs displace trad media? Will bloggers make money? Why so right wing? Will blogspeak require changing the first amendment? Will blogging lead to more tribal cocooning? Is blogging a good thing — a better form of journalism or speach.
a) Will blogs displace traditional media? No. [Long pause.]
Editor at the NY times keeps wanting me to write an article trashing blogger triumphalism. Bloggers can’t become traditional media because President Bush can’t answer all the blogger’s calls. If President Bush would take his call, Glenn has become “traditional media.” It is just a semantic problem. If you have inside information and are a blogger, you’ve moved to the top of the pyramid. [I asked Mickey about this later and he, as a good blogger, happily shifted his view: yes, even if Glenn gets on the inside track he isn’t Traditional Media because a) he’s not part of a giant organization and b) he’s not bound by TM traditions.]
b) Can you make any money? I don’t know. Microsoft has a business model that involves them eventually making money. [Audience chuckles.] They have millions in ad revenues and only spend a few millions more on producing Slate. And RSS will kill us completely. People will download the text without downloading text. It does matter whether people make money. It matters that bloggers even doing it as hobbiest.s
c) Why bloggers so right wing? Add an additional theory — right wingers are more pissed off in general. Clinton, media bias. Hard to believe they will still be pissed off for long. Now control all three branches of government. About to have a war, that most of them support. In Florida, the right wing so much angrier than the left. If Bush had lost, there would have been riots. That was huge weapon that the Republicans had. I tend to favor the media bias theory. Why should left wingers blog when they have the NYTimes. If you had the NYTimes, you were occupying 50% of the media space.
d) Changing the first amendment? Hidden assumptions under first amendment law that we take for granted. WE assume that it is printed, hard to correct. The tech has changed and the law’s assumptions will have to change. Four phenomena militate in favor of relaxing libel law:
d.1) a different definition of the press — corporate versus [drawing on blackboard] universalist view — everyone has free speach rights, not just the press. The corporate view was wrong before blogging, but now it both wrong and untenable. NYTimes can no longer claim that they have special rights. If blogging is not a profession but a converstation over the back fence, we have to think don’t we have to cahnge standards. Things we talk about in daily life could never survive if libel law applied to them. Also journalist privilege laws need to change.
d.2) Technology of correction. A lot of libel law is based on slow disimination of retraction. Now we can have instant correction. Not saying Drudge should have won against Blumenthal. Just saying it is better now. Instapundit insisted on retraction before he’d link to someone.
d.3) Different ecology of how truth comes out. Don’t just print and send it to the masses and wait for a week and then follow up. It is more a dialog, asymptotically approach the truth, truth comes back via return e-mail. I don’t call everyone for their reaction the way I should have used to. Almost always useful to make the call, you find something interesting. Blogging you tend to publish and then get the inforamtion. I think it is just efficient a system. But means you have to relax the standards. But means you may be viewed, under current law as negligent.
[On his blog, Jeff is suggesting that his son study so he can come to Yale and “get connected.”]
d.4) It is all faster in the world of blogs. My situation at MS. Can corporations do blogs? When I started, much easier than I expected. No HTML, no hosting problems. The one thing I didn’t solve was the problem of libel insurance. $20,000. Was I being ripped off?
[Glenn speaks up from the audience: I got a rider to my home-owners insurance. Because my site is noncommercial. Donations to the tip jar don’t count. If I started charging for content or running ads, that would change.] I don’t have an editor reviewing everything I write. It is not clear to me that corporations can do blogs.
e) Tribal cocooning? I agree with Glenn that blogs are the antidote to cocooning. Some of them are wormholes where people can other opinions. If you are going to Fisk someone you have to read ’em first. To do it well, you have to grapple with their argument. It is in the Darwinian self-interest of everyone on the web to cooperate. It is not in my intrest to really piss Andrew Sullivan off — he sends me readers. WE have a D self-interest in being nice to each other. Drudge is so powerful and sends me so many hits, I would hesitate before attacking him. Glenn would be number 2. Mel Brooks routine– from 10,000 year old man — what is the most improtant invovation in his 10,000 years on earth. Liquid Prell. They are talking again, they are family. Like the phenomena of the flame e-mail — you moron, you are jerk. And if you write them a nice letter back, they completely change. That isn’t at work in talk radio.
e) Is this better than what came before? Bloggings virtue – anon people in large orgs can tell you what is going on. Lagniappe can tell you what is going on in the large organization the drug industry. Eventually there will be a Detroit equivalent. Here’s what really going on with this car. The truth comes out faster. The interaction of blogging is good at connecting the dots. New ideas come faster. Good ideas come from bad ideas. Blogosphere is a world of bad ideas, which can be turned into good ideas if people chime in. Disciple of Bob Right’s Non-zero book — the world is becoming more complex and interdependent. I believe this and blogging is something that is helping that process get here faster.
Q: Jack Balkin: will insurance companies eventaully refuse to give insurance to Glenn who is using home-owners insurance, once someone like him gets sued? Because of section 230 of Telecom act, the ISPs are protected. Some would argue you need to have tighter rules. a) Public/private distinction is effaced. b) There is no legal requirement that you retract.
Kaus argues that individual retraction doesn’t matter because the blogosphere corrects.
Balkin talks fast and argues that this hasn’t been proven imperically.
Glenn asks: a) No harm, no foul. You can’t hurt the public standing of someone who people hate anyway. b) If you Google me, you will know who I am. So if opinions are formed via Google, mitigates the harm of a single bad representation. I’m certain that few judges are tech savvy enough to understand this point.
Kaus: Libel law dates from the time time when they fought the battle of New Orleans after the war had already ended.
Q: Can dissent disseminate? Aren’t blogs all mutually supportive and ignore dissent?
Jarvis: This means you have no faith in democracy.
Glenn: I’m careful to avoid libel. If my blog says something bad about someone, I say “here is an article that says something bad about someone.”
Slate: Our training at Slate says linking to an article can also be libel.
Jack Balkin: can there be private or market censorship? You’ve noted that you wouldn’t say something bad about Drudge.
Kaus: If you write for NYTimes, you have 100 people you can’t offend. If you write for New Republic, you have 50 guys you can’t offend. Now, I have only one guy I can’t offend: Drudge. Yes, that is not ideal, but it is better than it is now.
(Lily Malcolm offers the fashion view, ripping Jack Balkin’s red tie.)
[Chat with Mickey Kaus after speach. When he had own site, 1300 of his 5000 page views per average day were from Drudge. MS doesn’t want him to disclose his current traffic. But a link from the front page of MSN.com is worth 70,000 to 300,000 page impressions!]
4.15PM Blogs participate in the production of news. Do blogs change traditional media? Why are people addicted?
John Hiler speaking. Blogs have only been around 5 years, whereas tobacco around for 1000s of years. Blogs are far more addictive than tobacco. Bloggers thrive on upredictable feedback — “does anyone read this, do they react?” ; gambling industry also lives on this. Study: if you increase the odds of winning, gamblers are less interested. Bloggers watch less television, read fewer books. The first form of addictive media that closes the loop. Not just bloggers getting addicted.
Just noted that Glenn is blogging the event via Jeff’s computer.
[Just got an e-mail from Nick Denton adding color to my recent post about Gizmodo. In the first 21 days of November, Gizmodo has sold $5,841.16 worth of stuff for Amazon. He doesn’t break out his affiliate commissions. I’ll look at Amazon affiliate formulas and try to guess some numbers.]
David Gallagher on the dynamics of journalism has changed. Talks about the horror of writing about Glenn Reynolds and Dave Winer and having that process being blogged before the article published. “Surreal,” he says. Has a favor to ask of bloggers, “please don’t write about stories in progress it is really nerve-wracking.”
Jeff Jarvis (great populist — isn’t he from the midwest?) Internet is first media owned by the audience. Now the audience has a voice. What excites us most at Advance is that we have interactive sites. Jersey High School boys wrestling forums on NJ.com, we get 200,000 page views, on just one day. The wise editor, publisher producer will listen to that. I bring this populist philosophy. At TV guide I defended the taste of the audience. I have faith in the taste of audience. If you don’t trust the audience, you can’t believe in democracy, or capitilism or reform theology. So in the end, I trust the aggregate taste and morality of the public. We want to please the audience and the audience pleases us. The weblog is the highest form of this interactivity. Weblogs add a sense of quality that is lacking in a forum. Does the weblog replace journalism? No. Absolutely not. Webloggers are so far pundits commentators editors. On rare occasions, they are not gathering facts. Will they replace journalism? No. I tried to push weblogs on editors, but no success. Newspapers will discover weblogs eventually. They move in gangs. We can learn from webloggers. Even less scientific than a USToday poll.
Why haven’t I done blogs at my dayjob? It is a problem to find a way to integrate them. My business colleague doesn’t want me to spend another penny on content. Libel problem.
Jeff says that Nick sent him the Gizmodo numbers too. Uses this as an example of the light-speed of blogging news. [Nick should be here today.]
Josh Micah Marshall. Can bloggers do reporting? Definitely not. I can bleed together my blog and my reporting for other publications. People who write weblogs don’t have the time to do this. “The kind of reporting that you do for mag journalism, the indepth stuff, unless you had trust fund, there is no way you can do it.” [This is a surreally elevated view of journalism…. ignores the recycling that 90% of reporters are doing. How much of the stuff in the NYTimes, much less the Daily Bugle, is indepth reporting? Often it involves recycling a press release. Perhaps making one phone call to add color or exceptional spin. Certainly this is the case with daily journalism, which Josh says isn’t something he’s done.] Weblogs are a churn of the original reporting that other people are doing.
Hopes his blog can talk about the “inside game” around campaigns, the stuff that never makes it into print.
Dissent from me: Most journalism isn’t Watergate and 4 month investigations and crawling around in Afganistan. Most daily journalism is skimming a press release and one phone call. Bloggers and journalists both have an grossly inflated view of the craft of journalism. There are a lot of simple mundane local questions, which, if asked, would make the world more transparent a better functioning place. Bloggers can perform a valuable community service by making a single phone call or sending an e-mail. Spend an hour a week on one issue you care about. Advance the debate. Don’t ask rhetorical questions in pixels. Ask a real person your question and then post the answer. We need more Minutemen journalists.
Glenn: Reporters don’t live up to their J-school training. Gives example about mispelling of his name in NYTimes. Bloggers look better compared to the reality than the myth of journalistic perfection.
Josh — what keeps people from filling in, it isn’t that they are magicians or wizards. It is that they don’t have time. Spent eight weeks on recent magazine article.
Jeff: The killer app for news is local. Only rule is that it is useful. There is too little of that in mainstream media.
7PM It’s over. A quick reception. I ask Glenn whether he’s a speed reader. “Not the Evelyn Woods kind, but yes, I read and type very quickly.”
Then the drive home in the sloshing rain. MaCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed” is the first song I hear on the radio. If you were there and would like to add anything or suggest a link to your site, feel free to comment below.