Archive for the ‘blogosphere’ Category

The AP drama

June 20, 2008

I just learned about a currently developing online drama.  Associated Press (AP) decided that they are going to charge bloggers and anyone who cites their content.  The tariff is $2.5 a word or $12.5 for five words.  Now, as I understand it, if I post here a title of AP’s article with a link to it, I will have to pay, and if i cite anything from their article and provide a link to it, i will still have to pay.

AP are explaning this move in copyright terms and are apparently threatening to sue some bloggers. Frankly, I am finding it really difficult to follow their logic.  If they don’t want people to cite and link to their content, why are they making it available online?  Either I am missing some huge point here, or peole at AP don’t understand the “rules of the game” they are into.


A note on clichés and online credibility

May 4, 2008

I read a post from “Technology Evangelist” (who in turn replied to Micro Persuasion, who in turn quotes Edelman Trust Barometer :) on how much people trust various sources of information ranging from “a person like yourself” through academics, employees, executives of companies, etc., to “blogger”. The result, unsurprisingly i think, is that people trust “a person like yourself” the most and “blogger” the least (i am pasting the graph below).

Ed Kohler offers a few points of criticism about the way the categories are labeled in this question and i tend to agree. Moreover, it got me thinking how often we tend to place issues in well defined conceptual bins. “Blogger” in this case is some esoteric creature on the internet, which is probably far from being truth for many of the regular blog readers. I wonder how does this trust question correlate with blog-reading patterns or more generally with media consumption patterns.

Regardless, I think one interesting thing in this graph is how the general trends of trust fluctuate in time. Note that while the absolute values vary among the different categories, the general trend is the same. Interesting.

Edelman Trust Barometer 2008

Compartively speaking

March 28, 2008

Thanks to Digital Inspiration I came across this interesting project that visualizes the geographical focus of selected mainstream media outlets. One of the interesting comparison you can do is that to the blogosphere. When you go to the website, feel free to click on the menu, because it is clickable even though at first it may look like a picture.

Online activism week

March 27, 2008

Updated: March 28, 2008

CyberRightsIt seems to me that this week can be easily titled as the online activism week.

Online deliberative spaces continue gaining further recognition in the global political discourse. In Europe, the blogosphere is gaining weight as an innovative political voice. In the States there is a rather creative “battle” unfolding between raining McCains, quite arrogant ObamaGirls, and others. However, all it pales compared to the last week developments surrounding the violence in Tibet.

A recent post from a blog tracking Alexa shows that jumped into the top three online “movers and shakers” this week. Avaaz is a civil rights organization with a “simple” aim “to close the gap between the world we have, and the world most people everywhere want.” The peak in traffic came as a result of them winning a YouTube contest in the political video category. However I got exposed to their name a few days earlier when the blogosphere got practically swamped with calls to support an Avaaz-led petition to end the violence in Tibet.

All this is taking place on the background of Chinese government issuing rules that shut down “unfriendly” online video websites and blocking YouTube and Yahoo for their coverage of Tibet. Similar action was taken by Burmese government during the violence that took place last year.  This time, however, i also see some grassroots anti-Tibet expressions as well.  Here is a link to a video that I got through the international mailing list here at Cornell.

These and other instances suggest that grassroots reporting from conflict zones matters and potentially has some impacts. However whether or not the ability of online activist to raise public awareness can be translated into tangible action, especially in these situations, remains an open question in my mind.

Counterintuitive blog battles

November 18, 2007

This may appear somewhat obsessive, but I’ve been following developments of my ban from the Sabbah blog. On a reflective side, I have to admit that being banned does not feel comfortable. I understand that there is nothing significant and i should let it go (which i will given the amount of things i have to finish before i leave for the winter break :), but there is something really bothering when you feel that injustice has been done. Gladly, this whole story seems to lead me towards some interesting thoughts about the unique aspects of the discourse in the blogosphere.

Going back to the ban story, an amusing part is that just a few days after deleting my comments and blocking me from further participation, Haitham published a post arguing against complains his blog-application received on Facebook (FB). The absurd of the situation for me was that a man who just actively practiced censorship himself, was complaining against potential censorship against him. But that was just a beginning, because i followed some of the threads reacting to his post to discover that it became sort of a rally against “Zionist censorship” on FB (and it is amazing what king of judgment people are able to make without knowing the subject matter, and how many people do not distinguish between FB profile and FB application while making claims about them).  For whatever reasons, I saw my case as playing into this discussion.

The comments led me to a community of what i think are rather radical left-wing bloggers (I conclude it based on the fact that one of them had to post a Daily Kos rule restricting allowed criticism of the site). I don’t know how big it is and how large its readership, but it is certainly a very active community, particularly in fighting with the equally radical right wing blogs.

Some of the links led me to an interesting discussion about Daily Kos banning a number of pro-Palestinian activist that happened a few month ago. Basically the argument I follwed was between Booman Tribune (BT) and Little Green Footballs (LGF). Following Sabbah’s post about complains on FB, BT published a long post questioning FB’s policies/tendencies of silencing the Palestinian activists and referring to the Daily Kos case as an example of “censorship of Israeli-Palestinian advocacy” in supposedly liberal media. LGF reacted with a sarcastic remark followed by a quote from the aforementioned post aiming it not so much towards Booman, as towards Daily Kos itself.

Here are some observations.

First, about potential impact. As i said, both communities appear rather active. The post on LGF generated 147 comments by the time of this post. The post on BT generated about 20 (and I engaged in a discussion there too), but it has posts with 70 comments and up. According to Alexa, 0.00755% of internet users visited LGF in the last three month and only 0.00125% visited BT (i have to read more about how they measure that, but it allows comparison). NY Times for example accounted for 0.498% of internet traffic in the last three month, whch actually puts the reach of both blogs in proportion.

Another point, which i think is particularly interesting and unique to blogosphere is linking. Both BT and LGF provide links to the original posts on the rivalry blogs. That makes sense and is in line with proper etiquette of online discussion. It also helps to make a stronger point for an argument, when you are quoting the opponent and showing them wrong. However, from the point of view of rivals this is also an irrational behavior, because by linking to the rival one contributes to the authority/ranking of the opponent (which i assume not the goal of either of them).

Here are some numbers. LGF is ranked 97 according to Technorati with an authority of 3,832, 195 fans, and 55,286 blog reactions. BT is ranked 906 with authority of 3,133, 15 fans, and 10,558 blog reaction. According to Alexa, LGF is ranked 25,485 based on a combination of traffic and page views, with 3,550 incoming links. BT ranked 147,195 based on a combination of traffic and page views, and has 619 incoming links. So, LGF appears as a clear leader between the two blogs thus contributing to BT by linking to it. This does not mean that BT does not contribute to LGF’s ranking by linking to it, but that contribution is relatively small compared to what BT gains from a revers link.

What can we learn about strategy of blog battles based on this post. Well, not much at all. It is a single case, it does not reveal anything, and it is confusing. What it does however is triggering some thoughts.

For example, to me, it resembles political campaigns where leaders contribute to the loosing parties by mentioning them in their campaign. This is why, one of the strategies of the leader is ignoring the opponent. According to this, it would make sense for LGF to stop linking to BT in order not to contribute to the opponent. However, there is an issue of creditability and the question is if such behavior would not undermine the creditability of LGF among its readers. At the same time, according to Alexa LGF lost 10% of its traffic in the last 3 months, while BT showed 155% grows. So what does it say about linking? Maybe i’s not worth it after all?

On a flip side, thinking about promotion of a blog, it makes perfect sense to bug the “big fish”. When it comes to political blogging, seems like it does not really matter if the response is positive or negative, the mare fact of a link from a bigger website, contributes to the authority of the linked blog. Thus, for BT the strategy seems clearer. Relating to the content published on the leading website and causing the to react (even if it’s just a critique) is a positive development in a sense of contribution to traffic and online ratings. If we are to measure impact in terms of links, hits, and page views, the strategy seems to be clear. However, in the particular case, BT doesn’t have a link to LGF, but that is probably because of the focus of the particular post, and not as a result of strategic decision.

This however, leads to some thoughts about the qualitative aspects of impact and the online political discourse. At the end of the day much more people are reading LGF than BT. This may be of course a matter of timin, LGF was found in 2000 and BT only in 2005. However i guess the issue is more complicated and i believe people behind both blogs have been active online and within their respective communities prior to launching the specific platforms (in other words, it is too complex to figure out at the moment). A more interesting question however, is about content generation. If i adopt rational theory for a moment and assume that the “bugging bigger fish” strategy is correct, then creating original content is not cost efficient for the smaller blogs. The question then, if it is so, and what does it do to the online discourse. And in the particular example, we are actually witnessing an opposite tendency where the leader is reacting to the content of the follower. Did we say confusing and counterintuitive?

OK, this post is getting too long and too dispersed, so i better stop here.

Any thoughts or comments? (assuming you made it so far :)

So much for the discussion 2

November 14, 2007

If you had a chance to read my previous post with a similar title, you may want to visit it again. In a nutshell, I posted an update about my follow up on the blocked/unblocked comments on a blog of a guy who blogs about Israeli-Palestinian conflict from Bahrain and as a result he completely blocked me from commenting on his blog.

You can see the entire exchange in the original post and I am also posting my messages (that he claims he had never received) here.  You can also read his comment and my reply in the original post. Could be great to hear what you think…


From: Dmitry Epstein
Sent: Monday, October 29, 2007 6:26 PM
To: ‘Haitham Sabbah’
Subject: RE: commenting on your blog

Thanks Haitham!
I am glad it was just a technical glitch.


From: Dmitry Epstein
Sent: Monday, October 29, 2007 8:11 PM
To: ‘Haitham Sabbah’
Subject: RE: commenting on your blog

Hi again!

If that’s OK, I have a question to ask. I am a doctoral student and among other things I study the blogosphere, particularly in relation to the conflict. One of the things I would really like to do is to survey bloggers about their practices. From your knowledge of Palestinian bloggers, do you think they would cooperate with such a study? Would the fact that I am Israeli make huge difference?

Thanks again!

An addiction to reading about about efficiency?

November 4, 2007

I came across a blog named Zen Habits that deals with personal development.   It provides all kinds of (many times trivial) advise about how to make more of your day and being more efficient.  The implicit idea is that not being anxious about chasing the clock all the time will make you happier.  And indeed, this turns to be a rather popular topic.  I think today it is in Technorati 100 most popular blogs.

It is a nice blog, though it is also rather redundant.   After reading about 10 posts you start seeing the same ideas again and again, but repacked in slightly different rhetoric.  Relevant to my point in this post is a common theme calling for a moderate use of computers, or in other words, for wasting less time online.

In one of the recent posts there was a poll about an optimal number of posts the readers would like to see.  In light of the blog’s advocated philosophy and limited variation of content, one could expect a call for limited number of posts (implying they would be of a higher quality).  However, at the time of my check 48%  (584 votes) asked for 5 posts a week (the maximum number you could choose inthe survey), 28% asked for 4 posts, 15% asked for 3 posts, and only 10% asked for 2.

I find this a little bit ironic.  People preoccupied with efficiency are in fact calling for more opportunities to waste their time.  It may be an interesting question to check if people are in fact getting addicted to reading about efficiency rather than actually working on becoming efficient.  It seems to me that (at least over-) reading of such efficiency oriented material is counter-productive for personal efficiency.  Don’t you think?

So much for the discussion

October 28, 2007

13 Nov. Update

I emailed Heitham following his message with explanations, asking what he thinks about feasibility of my research idea (surveying bloggers). Unfortunately i haven’t heard from him since then (about two weeks now), which makes me think if approving my comments wasn’t just a reaction to this post. In other words, i wonder if the comments would get approved without me publishing this post.


29 Oct. Update

I received a reply from Haitham today explaining that it was a technical issue and that my comments are up. I still think it would make an interesting research to inquire into bloggers’ practices, particularly when it comes to blogging about the conflict.


It is always interesting when you personally encounter supporting evidence to your research in th daily life.

Just about a week ago I presented Dori’s and my research at AoIR. The study showed how the blogosphere discourse surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is oriented towards violence and polarization. Just a couple of days ago, I commented on a blog dealing with the conflict and had a chance to experience one of the aspects of this mechanism myself.

Trying to organize my thoughts about the OneVoice incident, I follow the blogosphere buzz on the topic. This is how i reached Sabbah’s Blog, written by Haitham Sabbah, as far as i understand son of Palestinian refugees currently living in Bahrain. According to his own explanation:

The blog topics encourage healthy discussions on political, cultural, religious and life in Arab World, however, my chief interest is in the intersection between politics, individual liberty and freedom in the Middle East, particularly in Palestine. The vast majority of my blog posts touches on this in one way or another, and try to create a better understanding of what is going around and speaking the truth which is always hidden in Western media when it comes to Palestine/Israel conflict.

Browsing through the blog (which has an authority ranking of 244 according to Technorati) i saw a number of posts that drew my attention, so i left comments. After all it is a blog, and it is supposedly a discussion. Interestingly, when you live a comment on Sabbah’s blog, there is disclaimer: “Comments are free, facts are sacred but NO ZIONIST PROPAGANDA!” There is no criteria for what considered propaganda for Sabbah, but here is what I learned.

I commented on two posts. The first, titled “NO Hebrew, Arabic mix”, was a framed presentation of Haaretz article about protest to an opening of a mixed Arab-Jewish school in one of neighborhoods of Jerusalem. The second, titled “The crime of sitting next to women”, was yet another framed Haaretz article about a case of religious fanaticisms in Israel. When i say “framed” i mean that Sabbah actually re-posted the entire article, or the most of the article, preceded by a short paragraph that doesn’t leave much room for interpretation he would like to provide.

On the first item I left the following comment:

But what about ignoring the fact that this school was actually built, that the project exists, and how about making a different passage in bold, for example: “The Hand in Hand organization has two other bilingual schools, one in Gush Misgav and one in Kfar Kara, in addition to the one at Pat, which is co-managed by principals Dalia Peretz and Ala Khatib. The organization also has two kindergartens in Be’er Sheva.” Unfortunately, the nature of the news is such that they tend to pick on the negative, what good does it do amplifying it?

And here is my comment on the second item:

You don’t have to focus on the particular case to show some of the absurds that the orthodox community expresses in Israel. You can look at the protests against the gay parades, the lack of public transportation on weekends, and the list is long. But i still don’t see how is that making Israeli democracy “so-called”. Actually part of the ridiculous things that happen in Israel regarding religion is a result of organized groups taking advantage of the democratic mechanisms.

Sorry, but i find this particular post kind of funny in light of your disclaimer for comments that forbids Zionist propaganda :) There are substantive issues for criticism in Israel, but I don’t think that the particular link you make is one of them.

Please judge yourself whether it was or was not “Zionist propaganda”, but none of my comments was approved by Sabbah. This led me to assume that there was a technical problem or maybe they were considered “Zionist propaganda” and not, as i naively assumed part of “healthy discussion”. So, I sent Haitham the following message:

Hello Haitham,
I left a couple of comments on your blog the other day, but I see they are still awaiting moderation. I noticed that there is a bunch of new comments left after me, so I wondered if there is a particular reason that mine are not getting approved. Please let me know if there is any technical glitch or if you think I abused your blog policies.


I left the comments on October 26, and sent Haitham an email on the following day. However up until today i haven’t heard back. I assume that Haitham got my message because nothing bounced back and i saw him continuing blogging. Thus, after seeing another comment being approved on the same post while mine is still awaiting moderation, my conclusion is that he is not really willing to discuss, but rather to propagate his opinions (here are two screen-shots of my comments awaiting moderation: comment 1, comment 2).

Leaving the normative aspects of the particular incident aside for now, i would like to link it back to the study mentioned in the beginning. It is really interesting to see how the blogs are getting utilized as particularly individualized means of expression. Of course there are platforms where discussions happen, but it seems that there are more instances of Haitham’s behavior where people tend to control opinions presented in their personal spaces. Seemingly, the comments section is one of the features allowing the discourse thus making “new” media more democratic compared to the mainstream. However, as this particular example shows, this space can be utilized to construct a particular type of narrative and discourse, thus preserving and even amplifying dynamics of content selection in the MSM.

In general, the whole issue of comments in the blogosphere is being under-researched, and it could be really interesting to see how this space is used by both readers and bloggers. I think one way to address that would be surveying the bloggers. However i wonder, what my limitations are, as an Israeli, to conduct such a survey. I think i would need a Palestinian partner to undertake such a study.

Any thoughts or comments?

Regulatory divide?

October 28, 2007

Recently I was surprised to discover that the Italian government is researching an option to tax and monitor bloggers. According to various sources, there is a pending law proposal requiring bloggers to register with the national registry of “communication operators”, which so far has been used for professional media only. Basically this law proposal is asking to enforce greater control over the blogosphere both in terms of its economic activity and in terms of content.

In addition to the ideological debate, i wonder how exactly they plan enforcing that? Will Italian members of Facebook have to register as well? What about Italian immigrants elsewhere blogging in Italian? And what about Italian using overseas platforms? It seems to me there are many questions and unclarity surrounding this issue, but it all links back to the ongoing debates about internet governance. I wonder to what extend the lawmakers asking to regulate the “new” media, are actually familiar with them and understand what is going on? The whole initiative seems bizarre at this point. If I had a mood icon here it would definitely be set to “confused” at this point.


September 24, 2007

Yesterday i replied to a Carson’s Post item that wondered if the news agencies are simply becoming high-end blogs. I was trying to make an argument that although the mainstream media are frequently relying on the grassroots information, journalism as an institution still has a role (at least i hope so). One of the foundations for this line of thought is an article published last year in “Journalism Studies” 7(4) by Zvi Reich (here is a link, but you will get the actual article if you are affiliated with a library that access to this journal). He suggests that in the current setting the journalists do not initiate information gathering, but follow leads actively pushed by their sources. However, once the lead is followed, it is more of a journalistic investigation in the traditional sense that is leveraging the institutional strength of mass media.

The interesting question in my mind is: what in fact the nature of relationships between citizens-generate content and the mainstream media is? Do people’s opinions and observation suddenly really matter?

In the same reply on Carson’s post i quoted a summary of Tremayne (2007) who tried to describe the relationships between bloggers and MSM in a systematic way. I won’t copy it here, but mention that the main point is that the bloggers do have influence on the input of MSM journalists are getting. However, one of the other people commenting on my remark suggested that the content of blogs themselves is being manufactured by the market forces thus canceling out the “grassroots” element of their input. In a way my own study together with Dor Reich (don’t think they are related with Zvi, but you can never be sure :) shows that even the individual bloggers tend to rely heavily on the MSM content, which supports the “limited autonomy” approach.

And yet today i read a Howard Kurtz’s article in “Washington Post” highlighting the role of grassroots materials in the news production these days. According to that article this phenomenon has a few components:

  1. The willingness of media to receive the content. Kurtz notes in his articles that many major media outlets are offering this days channels for individuals to submit their content. He notes Fox’s uReport, MSNBC’s FirstPerson, CNN’s I-Report, and ABC’s i-Caught. We can also add the Ynet’s “red mail”, but the idea is clear – riding the Web 2.0 hype the media are opening up for user-generated content.
  2. The responsiveness of people to actually submit content. Again, Kurtz sight some numbers such as 40K video and pictures in the first 6 month of uReport, 28K submissions to FirstPerson since April, and 60K of videos and picture to I-Report in 14 months. So people do want to share their content.
  3. The interest people find in the grassroots material. The number of views some pieces are receiving is counted in hundreds of K’s and the there are thousands subscribing to the channels offering that kind of content online.

However what this outline missing is a selection criteria, or a selection process by which the MSM decide whether to give a certain piece of grassroots material further publicity. At the end of the day the number of people consuming TV news is still much higher compared to those who acquire most of their news online. Thus the question of selection becomes an important one. Besides, linking back to the original post at Carson’s, how do MSM decide what civic story to follow up on and how? I also wonder how much of the ideas presented in Kurtz’s article are a Web 2.0 hype effect or to what degree they are signifying an emerging trend? What I think I can definitely sense is an emerging study…

Any thoughts?