Archive for the 'Internet' Category




The First Campaign

If you’re looking to make sense of what’s happening in national politics right now, pick up a copy of The First Campaign.  At the risk of sounding like I’m kissing my professor‘s ass, I’m going to say that it’s probably one of the best books I’ve read on politics in the last year.

The basic thesis of the book is this: The 2008 campaign will be the first one in which the Internet will be a deciding factor in the outcome.

It might sound cliche to say the Internet is changing politics, but it’s actually occurring in significant ways NOW.  Not only does Garrett make a compelling case about the new era in which we are entering, but he also ties it in with everything else going on in the world.  One of these major trends is globalization, in which goods, services, and people move almost effortlessly across geopolitical borders.

Let’s talk about a more timely topic related to all this. How about, say, John McCain and his admission that he’s not so good with technology. In fact, he doesn’t use e-mail or surf the Web.  He lets his staff do that for him.  Graff had an op-ed published in the post about this very topic.

Indeed, knowing how to use the Internet is an essential skill set for the President of the United States to have.  By the time the next president leaves office, I will venture to say that most Americans will rely principally on the Internet to communicate and consume information.  If we can expect that people running for office know the price of a gallon of milk or gas, shouldn’t we expect that they also know how to compose a simple e mail message or find something using Google?

Enough of my thoughts. What do YOU think?


Tweet-complaint Against Hillary

Just ran across this little item in the New York Observer.  A former Hillary staffer is complaining about not getting paid and is using Twitter – the ultimate in passive-aggressive technologies – to let the world know.

I think this little item has the potential to get a lot of MSM attention considering the complaint lies at the perfect intersection of politics, technology and controversy.  We’ll see what happens.


War Post: Internet Reporting from the Front Lines

I’d be remiss in writing about war blogging without mentioning an item brought up by TalkingPointsMemo blogger John Marshall yesterday.  In his post titled “Did He Really Just Do That?,”  Marshall points out that by suggesting that Barack Obama may be visiting Iraq over the weekend, John McCain could be putting the candidate’s security in danger.  Of course, while Marshall’s post is insightful and interesting, the story only entered the blogosphere after a MSM outlet (in this case Reuters) first reported and posted the story online.

What about folks who are doing their own citizen reporting from the front lines of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?  People like self-proclaimed “Solo Journalist” Kevin Sites who left a MSM outlet to do his own his own bottom-up reporting for Yahoo news with nothing else but a backpack full of digital equipment?  Clearly, these courageous citizen reporters (and soldiers) are permanently changing the nature of war coverage in ways not seen since Vietnam.

Why they’re doing this is obvious.  Here’s what Sites said regarding his decision to leave a MSM to become a citizen journalist:

“The Internet has incredible power itself,” Sites said. “I went to working for a network that had about 10 million viewers a night on a very good night, ‘Nightly News With Brian Williams,’ and now I have the potential of reaching 400 million people every month. And it’s transnational.

“You know, my audience comes from everywhere in the world, and it also transcends boundaries by age, by country, by gender. The impact that I can have using the Internet and using the multimedia platform could be huge.”

I’m struck by how the arrival of the Internet has created such a contrast in American perception of our two wars in the Middle East.  Although I was only about 13 at the time, I vividly remember seeing General Norman Schwarzkopf on TV releasing incredible images of smart bombs decimating Iraqi targets during the first Gulf War. Without the benefit of widespread use of the Internet and access and bottom-up blog reporting from the front lines, all the world had in 1991 were the clinical and optimistic images the top brass at the Pentagon chose to give us.

Today, things are radically different.  The ubiquity of cell phone cameras, online self-publishing tools, and other networked and miniaturized technologies have removed the filters of control over what we see.  Eighteen years ago, would the world have been exposed to the terrible images of torture that occurred at Abu Ghraib?  Would we have seen the graphic video of Sadaam Hussein being hanged (in this case taken via cell phone camera)?  And what about this video I found of U.S. soldier being saved by the bulletproof glass on his Humvee or this amazing soldier-generated story?  These are all hardly the kinds of things you’d see Generals showing at made-for-TV press conferences. Yet, they’re all things we need to see to form informed decisions about U.S. involvement abroad.

If you’re interested in exploring this topic more, visit this list of the “best war blogs” compiled by Forbes.

UPDATE: Just ran across MajorMan’s blog post on military blogging.  He’s got some great stuff on there on how the military is embracing social media, with links to their use of Twitter and Flickr for outreach.


Quick Web Roundup

A couple interesting items I’ve come across on the Internets the past few days:

  • Check out how a blogger created a stir with a simple little trip to Murky Coffee in Arlington.  Want to trace how Web 2.0 made this a big deal?  Start your journey with the Catch Up Lady’s take and end  with today’s Washington Post coverage.  Avoid getting dick punched on the way.  (Update: A friend sent me a link to the t-shirt)
  • Don Reisinger over at CNet shows us how YouTube is turning things around by making deals with the big guys.
  • Do you suffer from Google privacy paranoia?  If so, you might be interested in finding out how these places managed to get blurred out on Google Maps.
  • Finally, Anthony Boudain visits Colombia and comes back with fantastic things to say about the homeland.   You can watch a saliva-inducing segment from his food show here:


Have you heard of Global Voices Online?  Probably not.  Why?  Because if you’re like me, you’re already suffering from some MAJOR Internet-related information overload.  It seems like everyday I come across a new blog I want to read, a new online shopping site I want to browse, or another slice of the long tail that I want to explore.

Wouldn’t it be nice if someone did all that work for us? You know, like if there were editors whose job it would be to digest all the “stuff” that’s out there and just throw us the good parts of the Interents?  Well, that’s exactly what Global Voices Online does. Major bonus: they do it for a good cause.  Check it:

Global Voices seeks to aggregate, curate, and amplify the global conversation online – shining light on places and people other media often ignore. We work to develop tools, institutions and relationships that will help all voices, everywhere, to be heard…

At a time when the international English-language media ignores many things that are important to large numbers of the world’s citizens, Global Voices aims to redress some of the inequities in media attention by leveraging the power of citizens’ media.

Oooooo!  Sorta reminds me of something. Oh yeah, that book I read a few weeks ago called “We the Media.” How bout that.  Anyway, I digress.  Maybe I’m just trying to change the subject because Global Voices is making me feel guilty for ignoring parts of the world.  Let’s try and fix that.  Let’s take a look at Romania.

With a few clicks here and there on GVO I’ve learned enough about that nation’s political landscape to keep an informed conversation going at a cocktail party in Bucharest.  Here’s what perusing Romania’s blogosphere showed me:

  • The Romanian political system is starting to embrace new media.  According to this editor, blogs are now fashionable to have if you’re a politician in Romania.  In fact, some candidates pay big money to have blogs, and the nation’s Social-Democrats are banking big time on blogs to help revive their image after four years of being in the minority. Interesting
  • This blogger-journalist from the Economist draws attention to a major problem in Romania: corruption.  The blogger posted this article by a fellow journalist regarding a stifled EU report that found that the nation is moving the wrong way on fighting corruption. Corruption seems to be a big topic in the Romanian political blogosphere.  This blogger writes about it also.
  • The third catagory of content I’ve found in the Romanian blogosphere is random stuff.  Posts about traffic during a NATO summit in Bucharest, reviews of travel articles about visiting the Balkans, etc.

Well, this journey through the Romanian blogosphere has been fun.  Some final thoughts: Overall, it seems to me that Romania’s blogging environment is in many ways similar to ours.  Just like in the U.S., citizen journalists and people who care about important issues are taking matters into their own hands and publishing their thoughts online. They’re hoping to make change through sharing and distributing information.  While there were interesting items on the Romanian portion of the GVO, it seemed like it needed to be updated more frequently.

Global Voices Online should be commended as a public service.  I’m pleased the site’s founders have committed themselves to raising awareness of what’s happening in some of the most ignored regions of the world.


Istanbul is Not Constantinople, or YouTube-Friendly for that matter

I’ve just returned from Istanbul.  With the exception of the tragic terrorist attack on our consulate, I had a great trip. Not only did I get to visit incredible cultural landmarks like the Hagia Sofia and the Blue Mosque, but I also got to experience first-hand what Internet censorship is like. (geeky, I know).

Here’s what happened. Not long after checking into my hotel, I fired up my laptop and connected to the Internet.  Waiting in my e-mail inbox was a YouTube link a friend had sent me linking to some remarks made by one of the U.S. hostages that was recently rescued in Colombia.  After waiting about 3 minutes for the page to load, I got a network timeout notice.  I hit refresh on my browser to try and get the page to load.  Nothing.  Finally, after about 15 minutes of trying to get to the video I gave up.  Here’s a screencap I took of the error message:

Suspecting that something was up, I did a Google search for “YouTube Turkey.”  It didn’t take long to figure out what was going on.  Turns out, Turkish authorities have blocked access to the site.  The Turkish government took this action after some controversial videos emerged on the video sharing site.  According to the Times Online:

[A] court order was issued yesterday and most internet users logging onto the site in Turkey are met with a holding page with a Turkish message, which translates as: “Access to this site has been denied by court order ! …”.

Greek and Turkish YouTube users have been trading video insults over the past few months, attracting much coverage in the Turkish press. Greek videos reportedly accused the founding president of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, of homosexuality; a Turkish user responded by calling Greece the birthplace of homosexuality.

Pretty interesting stuff.  Being back on U.S. soil, I can’t help but to wonder if anything like that can ever happen here.  If we’re not careful, I think it can.  Just yesterday, the FCC recommended sanctions be placed on Comcast after it was discovered that the ISP was blocking some peer-to-peer internet traffic. A good move by the FCC.  Hopefully, this will fuel the fire for meaningful net neutrality legislation in Congress.

Enough of the geeky stuff.  Here are some photos I took during my visit. Enjoy.