Dave Winer: What is Blogging?

Dave is keynoting. He started by recounting some of the history of weblogs and points to a reverse chronological series of posts he put together for Wired magazine in 1996 and an event that helped him understand the power of this format.

He brings up a favorite topic: how are bloggers different than journalists? Dave's conclusion: they're not necessarily different (i.e. journalism can be done on a blog). That means that there are some things bloggers ought to do including tell the truth and disclose biases and conflicts of interest. Of course, this is a controversial topic and while he won't get much of an argument at this conference, he would and has gotten some pushback from others.

He tells the story of a Harvard student under fire from the RIAA who was punished by the Dean by being suspended from the Internet for a year. Bloggers at Harvard began to write about it and respectfully disagree. Of course, this isn't all that unusual on a college campus. The administration is used to nipping and gripping from the faculty. Would the executives at IBM be as forgiving? Dave wonders---so do I.

Someone in the audience says: real journalists have editors behind them. I disagree with that. If you're the owner, publisher, editor, and only reporter of a small town newspaper is that not journalism? If that owner goes out and hires a reporter and takes on the sole role of editor did this act magically make the journalists? Is the word "journalism" reserved for only sophisticated organizations with lots of money? I don't think so. On the other hand, I don't particularly care if anyone thinks what I do is journalism or not. The label is unimportant.

In the context of a larger conversation Dave says: "When people write about technology, they're just manipulating symbols to tell you about themselves so they ought to just cut out the middleman and talk about people." That's an interesting perspective and one I wouldn't disagree with. All writers, no matter what their subject are telling you about themselves in certain ways. Of course, I don' t think that means that we ought to just all write about ourselves. Product reviews and technical analysis are still useful.