Three years ago I decided to start a weblog. I opened an account on Pitas.com, wrote a couple entries, and then decided I wanted more control so I downloaded B2, the software that would later be called WordPress. A week after getting the blog installed, I drove down to Mexico.
Two years ago I was flying from San Diego to Boston for the Internet and Society Conference at Harvard Law School. It was December, 2004. Bush had just won re-election and every progressive in the country was depressed; except for this army of White 20-something, PowerBook-toting geeks. Who cares about Kerry, they argued, the real story was Howard Dean. His campaign showed – said the geeks with pumping fists – that it’s not politicians that would make our country more democratic; it was the power of online tools. On the first day of the conference Liza and I had lunch together while she schooled me on Marxist mothering 101. On the second day of the conference I attended a series of sessions called “Global Voices.” I didn’t know anything about it except that it was organized by Rebecca MacKinnon, Ethan Zuckerman, and Joi Ito – all bloggers that I read on a regular basis.
One and a half years ago I was sitting in a Carl’s Junior in Monterrey talking on Skype with Rebecca. She explained to me that there was hope that the Global Voices website – originally meant as a continuation of our conference conversation – would become a global aggregator of what bloggers around the world were writing about.
One year ago, to the day, I was flying to London to take part in the first-ever Global Voices Summit held at Reuters. The room was filled with journalists and bloggers from around the world. In just six months we had already established
Today I am in New Delhi, India for our second annual GV summit. I brought the Sunday New York Times on the flight with me; it was a sorta “the year of 2006 in review.” Nearly every article mentioned blogs in one form or another.
2006, Brought to you by you
All that material is “user-generated content,” the paramound cultural buzz phrase of 2006. It’s a term that must appeal to the technocratic instincts of investors. I prefer something a little more old-fashioned: self-expression. Terminology aside, this will be remembered as the year that the old-line media mogul, the online media titan and millions of individual Web users agreed: it demands attention.
Now we have to figure out what to do with it: Ignore it? Sort it? Add more of our own? In utopian terms the great abundance of self-expression puts an end to the old, supposedly wrongheaded gatekeeping mechanisms: hit-driven recording companies, hidebound movie studios, timid broadcast radio stations, trend-seeking media coverage. But toss out those old obstacles to creativity and, lo and behold, people begin to crave a new set of filters.
We are one of those new types of filters.
When we first started doing “global roundups” on Global Voices the biggest difficulty was finding enough captivating content from each country. Now the problem is organizing it all, highlighting what is “best”, translating it and somehow finding a way to fund the endeavor. That’s what we’re all trying to figure out now. The model of Global Voices has already been a gigantic success. But what we’ve come to understand is that the “global voices” we link to are really mostly urban, upper-class, well-educated, English-speaking voices. Now we’re trying to make Global Voices more representative by focusing on three themes:
- Outreach to promote blogging to new communities
- Translation get bring more people into the conversation
- Useful tools to help people get online
British Airways lost my baggage so I’ve been wearing the same clothes for the past week and generally look pretty cave-manish, but I’ll write more about discussions we’ve been having here in the next few days.