When stereotypes are fostered

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I wrote a relatively positive piece on Blogher over at Just Shelley. I guess I’ll use the Bb Gun to write the negative stuff. Or a better way of looking at this: address some of the comments that bring out the bitch in me.

There’s this from a twenty something who since she’s never experienced any problems of gender bias in her life, women can’t possibly have any problems, and should stop ‘whining’ about such:

I don’t know how else to put it, but I say that to encompass my almost zero interest in most women’s issues and female activism and empowerment. Now, I think women deserve to vote and can have careers and can do whatever they want to. However, I hate the male-bashing and whining about it being a male world that so often dominates feminist conversations (but, as a caveat, not all conversations). For example, one of the take away points from the session was to hire women or help other women get hired, etc. Are you kidding me?! Hiring someone because they’re a woman is just as bad as hiring someone because they are a man. There seems to be a little bit of a double standard going on there.

There’s already a double standard. Do you know that all interview techniques at Google, Yahoo, and other major companies are primarily devised by male engineers between the ages of 25 and 45? Now, you tell me: who is going to do better with these techniques? A woman of any age? An older man or woman? Or a male engineer, between the ages of 25 and 45. Most likely from the same socioeconomic background as those who devised such tests?

To assume that because bias isn’t blatant it doesn’t exist makes one naive at best; self-centered at worst. Am I being hard on this young woman? Damn straight. She’ll most likely only get reaffirmation from her own set as to the justice of her views. What I’m suggesting, strongly, is that she develop a bit of empathy. The quality of empathy is understanding that just because you’ve not experienced an event directly, doesn’t mean the event doesn’t happen.

ValleyWag already touched on Dave Winer’s obsessive use of chick when referencing anything women were doing at Blogher. To give Winer credit, he did make a statement about how being a man at Blogher must be how a woman feels at ETech. I noticed he hasn’t said one word on the second day, but to give him the benefit of the doubt, much of this could be because of the blatant marketing of the conference.

Robert Scoble wrote:

Other things I learned from BlogHer?

That the stereotypes about women are true (they talk about things like mothering, cooking, sewing, and soft stuff like feelings, sex, relationships, along with broader things like books and movies far more often than I usually hear among the male dominated groups I usually find myself in after conferences). But, the fact that they are true gives women HUGE economic power and content power that the tech bloggers simply won’t touch.

So that’s what women are good for other than sex, having babies, and taking care of the house. We buy things.

I shouldn’t rise to such bait, but I suppose it would be too much for anyone to contemplate that Blogher attracted primarly women who do want to discuss such issues. That’s more or less how the conference was promoted. Would Scoble be surprised to hear both men and women talking about open source products at OSCON? Or new technology at ETech?

Having said that, there is a part of me that wishes the Blogher folks would not stress so much that they’re representative of ALL women in weblogging–because they aren’t. Theirs is a commercial enterprise which, more and more, is catering to specific types of interest; reflected in the conference, which was geared more toward certain types of topics and discussions. By stressing the company’s all inclusiveness, rather than band us, they’re branding us.

Media companies have to have a focus audience, and Blogher is a media company. Linux Journal, where Doc Searls works, focuses on men with certain interests. That doesn’t mean that Linux Journal will appeal to all men, the same as Blogher’s conference will appeal to all women. To draw inferences from the given sampling to the global all is an example of failed logic.

Now, having said all of that: what’s wrong with the ladies (and gents) of Blogher discussing these things? They’re terrific discussion points, and obviously, for the most part, the people who attended enjoyed the topics. The world is full of infinite variety–including men who liked the discussions just as much as the women. In fact, much of the more positive commentary I’ve heard on Blogher has been from men, and not just about women as marketing target.

Weblogging Writing

What is real journalism?

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I had to read Jay Rosen’s idea over a couple of times to try to understand what it is he’s proposing for New Assignment. If I read him correctly, what he’s proposing is that someone suggests a story, others in the ’smart mob’ then dig up additional information (”How”, we have to ask) and when things ‘gel’ whatever ‘gel’ is, then an editor somehow scrunches it up and moves it to the New Assignment front page. At that point, the ’smart mob’ is supposed to blow it up, make it big, gather money, something. The end result is that money is gathered, a journalist contracted, and a story is born.

What forms the basis of that story? The questions the smart mob asks. Who does the research for the story? The smart mob. In other words, the audience takes over the tasks of the professional journalist (who is, we presume, trained in both knowing what questions to ask and how to do the research necessary to find the answers), and the professional than provides the ‘polish’ to make it into a quality story. Keep the smart, lose the mob.

Rosen’s idea brings up all sorts of utopian sounding concepts, but rather than play to the strengths of the new information infrastructure, it plays to the weakness–the mob is encouraged to be a mob, but thankfully the end result is refined under the civilizing influence of an editor and other professionals.

Why, on earth, would we do such a thing? Because we can’t stop sacrificing on the altar of journalism worship.

Recently I was able to participate as part of a media tour of the Johnson Shut-Ins area, to see the cleanup efforts associated with the flooding that happened last year. I was the only ‘amateur’. It was a fascinating experience, because it showed me how different I was from a professional journalist. Since I was mainly interesting in recording my impressions of the state of the park, I could disregard the facts and figures the park personnel were providing the media members and wander around taking photos; knowing that this important information would be reported by others and would not be my responsibility. I had that luxury, and because I did, I was able to provide a look at the park—unrefined and unedited—that differed from what the professionals provided.

This is where I’ve always felt we not-journalists—we people who love to write, to publish our viewpoints and interests—fit into the whole reporting/information cycle. We provide our personal impressions of an event while the professionals report the ‘facts’. It is incredibly liberating.

Much has been uncovered about Ameren since the flooding incident–including the fact that an engineer warned the dam was at risk. Plus we’ve found out there are hundreds of dams endangering people in this state, many of them not monitored by the government like the Ameren dam was. This sounds, to me, like a good story for the New Assignment.

It’s also one that I know would never make it to the front page. Why? It’s a regional story. It doesn’t take place in Massachusetts, New York, California, or Washington. There’s no famous people involved. It has nothing to do against Bush. It has nothing to do for Bush. Jon Stewart’s not interested. Not enough people have died. Even a couple of little kids almost drowning wouldn’t be enough to push this to the front of the sheets.

Luckily, we have local journalists who didn’t have to wait for the smart mob in order to work this story. Also, luckily, neither did I.

How about another story. Recently Mike Golby wrote on an incident that happened in his country, South Africa. It would seem an insurance agent, a Neil Watson, started up a web site to ‘expose’ to the world, and more importantly, to those who would travel to the country, how crime ridden his country is. Watson’s focus seems to be how people should not visit South Africa. Why he did so, I don’t know. Embarrass the government. Perhaps out of nostalgia for the good old days when whites ruled, and blacks knew their place.

One of the country’s politicians said to Watson that if he hated the country so much, why doesn’t he leave? The politician even offered to buy him and his family a one-way ticket, to New York. Of this, Mike wrote:

‘…’If you were wondering who Safety and Security Minister Charles Nqakula was addressing when he told the whingers and whiners to get the hell out of South Africa as they don’t belong here, Neil Watson’s your man. While I know nothing of this obvious jerk, any salesman able to afford a Camps Bay lifestyle is not earning his money; he’s taking it from the overwhelming number of South Africans either unemployed or paid a sub-standard wage by fat cats who grind their employees into the dirt with their sense of self-importance, self-entitlement, and over-priced SUV.

Interestingly enough, South Africa is actually on my top five list of countries I’d like to visit, primarily because of what Mike and another South African weblogger, Farrago, have written, and more importantly, shared in their pictures and stories. They’ve never hidden the problems facing South Africa, but they also write on the hopes, the lives of the average people, and show the exquisite beauty of the country.

As for safe places to live, I could suggest South Africa send Mr. Watson here, to East St. Louis. It might give him some perspective.

Mike wrote a follow-up post on Watson, and this one having to do with the local media.

The Independent story, under a headline showing the MSM to be more clueless than usual, carries today’s date. Megan Herselman was killed a month ago.


Do we have a crime problem in South Africa? Of course we do. Do we need bullshit like that published by The Independent, which reports her death as though it occurred on the weekend? No ways. Like a hole in the head, so to speak. Shoddy journalism does perhaps more damage than inept police work.


My advice to the editor of the Africa news desk? Fire your reporter, Basildon Peta.


As for the local media and their dim-witted readers, they’re milking Neil Watson’s little embarrassment for all it’s worth. One of his top stories? Non-whites Complain About Crime As Well. Glad to hear it Neil, you racist little shit. Black South Africans have always and will continue to bear the brunt of crime.

Are you surprised they respond like ‘us’? Christ. Enough. You make me puke.

Again, this would seem like a perfect story for the New Assignment. And just like the Ameren/Johnson Shut-Ins, it also would have no chance of making the front page.

The story isn’t in the United States or the UK. Not enough people have died, at once. It’s about continuing poverty and inequality, and lord knows, these are stories that don’t sell. There are no ‘web personalities’ involved. There are no ‘web personalities’ who even care.

The same people who would push the stories at New Assignment, are the same people who push the top stories the New York Times and the Washington Post; at the BBC and the Guardian; at and its cousin. Stories that allow people to have an opinion, to pick a side, to hold a placard, to experience the rush, and then go on to the next story. Hell, they’d probably be the ones promoting Watson–he sells better, you know.

Amanda left Rocketboom. Scoble left Microsoft. Some PR company files a libel suit against a weblogger. Someone is peeved at Dell. Some American politician said something stupid and scandalous. Some journalist wrote something about webloggers. You can repeat that last one a few times. Look at the front page at Memeorandum–there’s your smart mob. Here’s their story.

Now look at the photos of the South Africans Mike posted. Crap like that doesn’t sell newspapers, why would it be different because you shuffled the players about? Not enough bloody bodies. Not enough crying children. Not enough despair. The people Mike showed may be poor, but they had too much dignity, too much sense of humor, to make it past an editor. Besides, everyone knows the black people in Africa are poor. That’s no ’story’.

Luckily, there was Mike. There’s Adam Barnes. And now there’s me. And that’s the true power of all of this. Why the people–the ones who promote the new ‘citizen journalism’; who say they believe in all of this; who speak the ‘words’–continue to discount this, I don’t know.


The Barrel shooting report

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.


Blogspot, Typepad, and other hosted weblogs began to be blocked by various ISPs in India, all based on a directive from the Indian government. Luckily, it would seem that the wholesale blocking was a mistake, but until it was sorted out, Amit Agarwal provided a how-to-bypass the censors weblog post, with plenty of useful information.

(Wow. Useful writing related to technology appearing on This is a day to mark in your calendars.)


A collection was taken earlier this week among the A listers for links for Jason Calcanais. The man, desperate for attention and to avert AOL displeasure and thus avoid the the dreaded Death by Being Buried by AOL CDs, first tries to hire Unboomed Amanda with promises of stardom on AOL’s new Netscape portal.

(AOL!? That’s like being cast as Mary Ann in the remake of Gilligan’s Island.)


Rebuffed, he then tried to hire a dozen people whose only claim to fame is they spend hours a day just linking to other stories. When it was revealed that the ‘people’ he tried to hire were, in fact, monkeys typing randomly into a computer keyboard, Calcanais suffered a breakdown, and was last seen holed up in a hotel room, surrounded by plastic cutting sheers, muttering, “Earthlink. Earthlink. Earthlink.”

The illuminati knew that an intervention was necessary, and stepped up to provide such links: even arch nemises, Mike “core values” Arrington–after first informing AOL of Calcanais’ location, of course, because it was ‘the right thing to do.’

Speaking of our favorite Good Boy, Mike Arrington is throwing a party for 500 or so of his bestest friends (and other useful people), using a wiki to manage the sign up list.

This is an open party and at least the first 500 people to sign up on the wiki will be admitted. Identification will be checked and your name must be on the list.

A wiki to manage the sign up list.

A wiki.

Think about it.

But that’s not all…in an accidental emailing sent to Valleywag’s Nick rather than Techcrunch’s Nick, Arrington also talks about getting his staff to put Important People at the top of that ’silly list’. (Because the head of TECHCrunch can’t do it himself, we presume). Valleywag Nick, that reticent, noble, though charmingly naughty boy, published the email even though it hurt him to do so, thereby ensuring that no matter what, he’ll always be Mr. 501 to Arrington.

Earlier in the week, at a speech given by Tim Berners-Lee on the semantic web, lead algorithm wrangler at Google, Peter Norvig, debated the goodness of Tim B-Ls approach, especially when considering the ‘users’:

“What I get a lot is: ‘Why are you against the Semantic Web?’ I am not against the Semantic Web. But from Google’s point of view, there are a few things you need to overcome, incompetence being the first,” Norvig said. Norvig clarified that it was not Berners-Lee or his group that he was referring to as incompetent, but the general user.

Users are incompetent. Well, according to Techdirt, so are Google engineers.

Seriously, where would we be without the fine engineers like those at Google, making the world a better place for an incompetent thee and me? Probably sitting beside the Digg monkeys, hitting our logs with the shinbones of an antelope beating out words like vendorsphere.

(”Hey is that a series of short beats or one long *THUMP*? Damn! My bone just overheated!”)

Hey! Zune, Zune, Zune!

Yes, Microsoft is getting into the music business with a potential new iPod/iTunes killer coming out this fall. Two members of the team were so inspired that they each spontaneously created a weblog to talk about music and Independent Artists and community and creativity and other stuff.

In a tizzy of activity not seen since last week, insiders speculate widely on the new iBob, urh, iPod killer.

What we know is that it doesn’t utilize Microsoft’s other media management technology, PlayForSure, because it (PlayForSure) was created in a different division of the company (it being OK to ‘borrow’ heavily from rivals but not Joe down the hall); it has a logo that looks like a Jacob’s Ladder created by one of the Digg monkeys; Zune pronounced just right in Hebrew sounds like screwed (for sure); and the device will have Wifi and both it and the service focus on ‘community’ and ‘connectivity’.

According to Billboard:

Zune users will be able to view each other’s playlists, recommend music and sample tracks in what Stephenson describes as a multifaceted music discovery experience. This capability will extend to the Xbox 360 game console, PCs running Windows Media Center and mobile phones using the Windows Mobile operating system.

“The ability to connect the different devices is a key part of the strategy,” Stephenson says. “Whether it’s a portable media device, or a phone, or the Xbox or Media Center PC, the idea is you can access your entertainment from anywhere.”

I find this last bit reassuring, coming from a company known for its openness, its interest in protecting the confidentiality of its client’s data, and the security of its products.


Both Head Lemur and Charles at Disinfotainment have posted leaked photos of the new iPod killer from Microsoft.

Actually, I kinda like it.