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F & F


Orlowski on Berkman Center's Blog Embrace
posted by mpawlo on Thursday August 14, @04:18AM
from the aouch!!! dept.
Berkman Center News Granted, sometimes we suck. But do we suck more than a vacuum cleaner from Electrolux? I am told nothing sucks like an Electrolux. Mr Andrew Orlowski of The Register is outraged with the Berkman Center in general and the Berkman Center's embrace of blogging specifically. It is hard to pick one singel quote from Mr Orlowski's amusing and well-put rant, but here is one to give you an idea:

'It's real simple. It's a question of political economy (something we hope is still taught at Harvard University, if not the Berkman Center itself. 'Political Economy' isn't exactly in abundance at the Berkman website, although lots of dot.com-era buzzwords such as 'cyberspace' and 'meme' are plentiful.). So, is this obscure software tools-vendor worth two hoots, or are the real stars the galvanizing webloggers who have used his tools? Who, exactly, is getting famous off of who?'

I do not know how Mr Orlowski will regard Greplaw in comparison to a vacuum cleaner from Electrolux, but I am quite certain Mr Orlowski would put the Berkman Center's embrace of the blogging community pretty high on the hoover-scale.

Mr John Palfrey, executive director of the Berkman Center, has addressed Mr Orlowski's criticism:

'Most of our work we offer free and clear to anyone who wants to participate in an event or series or use what we've done. I'd welcome any journalist to come visit us, see what we're up to and to engage us on the merits. We've got a strong public spirit, and we're certainly not out to fleece anyone.'

Read Mr Andrew Orlowski's column.

Read Mr John Palfrey's response.

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    Orlowski on Berkman Center's Blog Embrace | Login/Create an Account | Top | 6 comments | Search Discussion
    The Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not responsible for them in any way.
    BloggerCon cost politics analysis (Score:2)
    by Seth Finkelstein (reversethis-{moc.fhtes} {ta} {fhtes}) on Thursday August 14, @05:34AM (#1035)
    User #31 Info | http://sethf.com/

    [I posted this already [sethf.com] to my blog [sethf.com], so I supposed I might as well be hung for a sheep as for a lamb ...]


    Andrew Orlowski has written a story in The Register [theregister.co.uk], regarding Webloggers deal Harvard blog-bores a black eye [theregister.co.uk]. This covers BloggerCon [harvard.edu], and most critically, the $500 cost:

    But on what grounds does Dave Winer, backed up by a small circuit of adoring journalists and fellow webloggers, have to uphold his right to fleece them for real bucks?

    Dave Winer [scripting.com] says No fleecing [userland.com] and John Palfrey [harvard.edu] has commented [harvard.edu] "We've got a strong public spirit, and we're certainly not out to fleece anyone".

    The following is my oversimplified analysis, but I think in broad general outlines, it explains what's going on (again, remember, I said it's oversimplified, there are exceptions, but I think the overall analysis is valid):

    The right-wing bloggers are rich (or at least comfortably well-off). To make connections with other people useful to them, a $500 conference fee is a token. It's just a cost of doing business, like country-club dues.

    The left-wing bloggers are not rich (some not even comfortably well-off). To them, an invitation to pay $500 to pal around with mostly (not exclusively, but mostly) right-wingers, is absurd. They have trouble imagining anyone would regard that as a reasonable fee.

    The academics never pay for any conference out of their own pocket (it's a perk of the job). So viscerally, they don't understand what the fuss is about.

    There's other issues, but I believe this is the flash-point. It's the key to the various views.

    Disclaimers: Dave Winer mentioned me (favorably!) [userland.com] yesterday, for solving a puzzle of his. Andrew Orlowski has quoted me [theregister.co.uk] in the past. And John Palfrey also recently has noted me [harvard.edu]. I actually don't know who I should be lining-up with here, according to the rules of politics. I think I won't get in trouble [sethf.com] for this article. I think ...

    Broader and more general explanation... (Score:0)
    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 14, @07:46PM (#1037)

    It's a little more simple than that. Andrew Orlowski is J. Jonah Jameson [emerchandise.com]. Blogging, of course, is Spiderman.

    Someone could probably come up with a better comparison, but the spirit is there. The irony of it all is that the only thing I can see that separates Orlowski's columns about blogging from the actual blogging upon which he heaps derision is that he doesn't publish them on his own domain. They're just as biased, poorly researched, and devoid of content as the quasi-phenomenon he bemoans. "The bloggers have broken Google!" he cries, waiting for everyone else to realise the sky is (for real this time) truly falling.

    About the only other blog commentator I can think of who's this unstable is, of course, Dave Winer [scripting.com], but in a completely different way.

    Or maybe not - both of them seem quite competant at their other pursuits, Winer writing web protocols and Orlowski doing virtually any other kind of journalism (though neither seem to take criticism very well). Could it be some malicious agent in the blogosphere that's responsible?

    Andrew Orlowski replies... (Score:1)
    by bayvulture on Friday August 15, @04:48AM (#1038)
    User #777 Info
    Thanks to Mikael to the pointer and thanks to John Palfrey for the update.

    Seth makes a good point in highlighting the ambivalent nature of the conference. Is it an academic conference, subject to academic standards? If so, the fee can surely be justified. It is, after all, taking place in an academic setting with the Harvard imprimatur.

    But if so, then surely we can expect a rigorous critique of 'weblogging': with consideration given to the merits of other tools and other modes of communication, and the many possible deleterious consequences that might result from these? I assume that a responsible discussion of utopias permits dystopias. (We have already seen some of the unintended consequences [wholelottanothing.org].). For example, is public unmediated communication better than private or mediated communication? How so? Given the twenty-year history of communications software, what have we learned or forgotten about information retrieval and data integrity? When we have such discussions, what values to we put on information?

    (If any of the researchers, academics and software developers who have contributed to this rich history have been invited, they don't seem to be present on the BlogCon agenda).

    In academia, conclusions are arrived at, not hard-wired in from the start. Faced with the hard-wired assumption that 'blogging is good for you' - even the most facile critic is entitled to ask 'good for what? - please be specific!'

    Although John focuses on the fee, the ideological make-up of the panel has surely rankled as much with the left-bloggers I cited. Which raises the question: who is being conferred with authority in this emerging power relationship, by BlogCon. Tools vendors, like Winer? The most popular bloggers, like Reynolds?

    I fear that many of the critics of BlogCon voiced in my Register article share many of the same values as Berkman fellows: and just as strongly resent the loss of privacy and the encroachment of monopoly corporate power onto the commons. To alienate such a constituency does have its consequences for the effectiveness of advocacy in the future. That's assuming Berkman is in the business of advocacy.

    And to "Anonymous Coward" (why are they always anonymous? And what is this chap doing posting on New Year's Eve [judging by his date stamp] - from the future, perhaps?) - I've lived by the motto that if you can't take it, then you shouldn't dish it out. You smart guys can provide the answers: it's my job to raise questions.

    Andrew Orlowski [mailto]
    The Register
    San Francisco, CA

    Re:Andrew Orlowski replies... (Score:0)
    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 15, @08:50AM (#1040)

    why are they always anonymous?

    Because it seems wise when making deliberately inflammatory statements? Laziness? a debilitating fear of black helicopters?

    In any case, look to the grain of truth there, Mr Orlowski, because it does seem to me that at the very least you're suffering from a problem of proximity regarding the blogosphere; its problems looks so big because you've got them under a particularly large magnifying glass.

    A good piece by Orlowski (Score:3)
    by md on Friday August 15, @07:49AM (#1039)
    User #17 Info | http://www.mcdproductions.com/
    Despite the somewhat misplaced attacks on Winer and Jim Moore (which may be deserved, may be not -- one who is connected to the Berkman Center, or any organization for that matter, tends only to be exposed to the positive side of said organization's constituency), I found the Orlowski article extremely well written and very, very interesting.

    I have long been somewhat bothered by the often self-congratulatory and slightly confusing "blog" community. After all, wasn't I running Slashcode or some Nuke variant on a number of websites before someone decided to make a dumbed-down version of "CMS" software and call it a "web-log?" Maybe, maybe not.

    The comparison of the current blog revolution to historical developments in the desktop publishing world was very illuminating for me. I think that comparison is a very good one and highlights some of what's bothersome about modern day "bloggers." Orlowski says the people writing content are the real story, but the "blog" enablers seem to be stealing the show. I agree. But, I also take some other rather controversial positions on things of interest to the geek community. For example, the "open source" movement. I believe the idea of collective software development is not very novel and is in fact a mere eventuality of the communication made possible by the Internet. Open Source development (of content, of software, or of anything else) is not a killer app (I separate this from whether something can be a "legal killer app," as the GPL may be -- I am talking technology now, not legal invention). The Internet is the killer app, and very, very, very few applications of the Internet are killer apps themselves (HTTP and E-mail are probably two of a handful of such examples). Likewise, "blogs" are not a killer app any more than it was a killer app for enterprising young students in the mid-90's to get off their butts and learn HTML so they could make websites. And yet, I feel they are hailed as such.

    We should celeberate the blogger, and not the blog. And we should call them what they are: websites (which happen to be run by a particular sort of software).

    Orlowski's other writings on the notion of the blog revolution are very illuminating. I hope he will continue to be a pundit in this area.

    I Agree (Score:1)
    by LuYu on Monday August 18, @02:14AM (#1041)
    User #460 Info | http://grep.law.harvard.edu/

    Maybe what Andrew was trying to say was: Why are the bloggers, the stars of this conference, the people everyone should ostensibly be coming to see, being charged for attendance? Are they not the ones who should be paid to speak?

    The bloggers are the authors. If they had written in magazines or newspapers or books, a conference on modern journalism would have them on the panel getting paid to share their experiences. Instead, they are getting charged $500 to watch somebody else talk about their work.

    Seth's comment is also enlightening. However, it just shows how some rich people can get to think everybody has as much cash on hand as they do. This is not a fund raiser. If the bloggers want to talk to eachother, they can already do so online for free. It seems that the Berkman center should be doing more to draw these upcoming stars to their conference. Paying them with some rich fans attendance fees sounds like a good idea. The bloggers would probably attend if there was no fee at all, though, unlike most celebrities.

    I thought Dave Winer was irritating a lot of people [harvard.edu]. Why is everybody trying to defend him from Andrew all of a sudden? Andrew is right. A blogging conference should be about who is writing the blogs, not who created the software. If it is to be a development conference, I think it needs a new name.

    "Anyone who doesn't quote me is paraphrasing."

    Humanity has the stars in its future, and that future is too important to be lost under the burden of juvenile folly and ignorant superstition. - Isaac Asimov

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