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Session 1: The state of Global Voices (Part 1) December 10, 2005

Posted by Angelo Embuldeniya in GV05, Session 1.

Rebecca is speaking now:

Some people here have been working on gv for a while. We’re very new, so you may be a veteran if you’ve been withus for 3-4 months. The whole idea of gv arose a year ago, maybe a year and a day ago; ew had a conf in cmabridge at harvard where we were able to bring some bloggers to cambridge and harvard. Ethan and I saw the way blogs were developing you had american logs talking, and blogosphere happening in other parts of the world; then yo u had people from africa, mideast, all over aia starting to blog and talking… wanting to be heard; bt a lot of people not knowing about each other. We wanted to brainstorm about how to create a more global conversation, and how to addres problems with media attention and we ended up with a conference lblog after the conference, and people started writing about the confrerence; and then we [drafted] a manifesto… put together on a wiki.

Conference is just getting started and thefirst session is being led by Rebecca and Ethan (via flickr)
It’s in several languages… translated into many langugaes. but basically the people who were in the room, and had been apriticpating on irc, said basically what are the core principles we bleieve in? not only the belief in free speech and the right of anybody on the planet to speak, and to speak freely; but it’s important that people listen. and this is sort of our central mission. Eventually we got support from the berkman center to turn this into a fral project and real site and in april we started posting global roundups, daily; here’s the conversation from around the world. Over the summer, we began to recruit what are now our six regional editors; we have haitham sabbah, mideast north africa; sokari ekine, david sosaki (for the americas) neha viswanathan (s. asia) (unfortunately the other two – nathan hamm, amorphous east europe/former soviet bloc; and east asia editor, jose thesauro? can’t make it today) but we put together a little seed funding… and we were able to hack our wordpress blog to its capacity (thanks boris 🙂 so it can show feeds the way it does today…and it’s not like our regional editors are anything like full-time employees, but we’re able to give them a token [amount]… and to encourage them to recruit you to be part of our editorial team.

One of the tings we want to cover going forwrad is how we might expand the regional editors, if we want to do that; how bloggers might be diferent in editorial strucutre; how it might be different and how pro journos work. Also in adition to the blog, where our editors are posting roundups m-f in the middle, and then bloggers from all over the place; and once a week or so, doing roundups from indonesia, georgia, the caribbean… etc etc etc. Doing great work on the left hand – whaqt we’re starting to call the left blog. We also have other parts: a wiki where we’re asking people, anyone who feels we’re not perhaps linking to enough blogs from their region/country
can go onto the wiki [I’d like to be able to show everyone how to go there from the main page of the blog]

[Demonstration/display of how the blog and wiki at GV works]

If we just scroll down… it says wiki right there. People from some countries have put a lot of links from their country they’dl like us to know about. Others are much less fille out; were hoping this is one way to collect more info, links, countries. [cyber.law.harvard.edu/globalvoices/wiki/index.php/Bridge Blog Index]. We also have a bloglines aggregator, which it seems is taking a while to load. If you click on there you’ll also get to our aggregator; but getting links transferred form the wiki and agg; so all our reg editors are aware of the new material from the countries/regions they follow. This is a collective thing; sometimes people write saying “you’re not covering our country very well”. Our response is, please help us. ez – just a great example of this, and a tip of the hat to our freinds from cambodia. It’s very hard for us to know what blogging scene was taking place in cambodia; the fact that we have 2 people here from camb has a lot to do with the fact that they’ve filled out that page on the wiki. So if you’re saying you want more poland/turkmenistan/… [please] go to the wiki to add these things rm – one of the things wer’re doing is hiring a managing editor, who may be our only fulltime meployee ever; we’ll see. As we go forward, we’re trying to make sure we’re as balanced as we con possibly be;
that we’re getting all this content off the wiki onto the [feds] our editors are daily monitoring.

Now I’ll hand it over to ethan to talk about how we’ve gotten pretty influential in a pretty short time. Originally we’d go to 11:10 and then break and start again at 11:30. Maybe we’ll go to 11:20.

[blog posting in progress]

(Tagged: gv2005, globalvoices)

Session 1: The state of Global Voices (Part 2) December 10, 2005

Posted by Angelo Embuldeniya in GV05, Session 1.

Ethan has taken over the mic now and is speaking:

Ethan explaining how GV works (via flickr)

the goal for the first session is to give us a littel history. We should take us back in time to a year ago, when there were a bunch of us siting at harvard…can you raise your hand if you were there last year? (maybe 15 people) – so that’s a pretty small subset. The rest of us have all gotten here within the year. So this is first about where we are, and then about where we want to be moving forward. So keep in mind that this is an open discussion. We’re handing the mikes to poeple, but also intend to hand it to others. We want to talk about today, and think about where we want to be the next time we sit down in a room together; whether it’s this one, or one soewhere else in the world. So one way to undrestand what’s happened is to look at this crazy graph here; it’s a way to measure the # of people who come to the gv site. So back in december of 04… when we started this up : we had a total of 800 visits in the entire month. Last month we had 300k individual people…that’s a minimum #. we know from the way web stats work that sth will go up on a page and more than one person will see it. On the average day now, we’re reaching 12k people.

[Ethan points to stats onscreen]

Often they’re coming b/c they google something, and in many cases we’re the best news out there for it. We’ve risen to a google rank of 8… a measure of how powerful your site is. So our ability to get things litsed in google is pretty profound at this point. So when you’re writing something, whether about venezualea, trinidad… there’s a good chance that the wors yo uwrite are going to be the answer in google. That’s good and bad, and we’re going to talk about what it means… we’ve got something over 3000 comments : most of our short pieces tend not to get commented on; but some others have long comment threads, over 100 comments; with debates with people from v different far reaches of the blogospher. After the london bombings, we had a really terrific debate condemning the bombings; from the arab world; and a very angry reaction from some people from london and in the us. It ended upcoming to a head on our comment thread. This means eoplea re engaging with one another, which is fantastic news. One of the ways we measure how we’re doing is who decides to point to us; who llinks to us. According to technorati, it’s 1800 sites so far; that’s probably a low number. Out of the 17m weblogs, we’ve sais domething interesting to 1800 of them that they’ve decidd to point to us at least once. In some times, 30-50 times.
An intersting # from blogpulse : we’re in the top 100, we’ve come an amazing way… in the sense that at this point, rebecca and I basically don’t do anything. Back in april/may/june, you would hvae seen one of us three putting everything up on the site; in the coming months, [a few key editors] doing the same; now the regional editors are doing less of it, too; but doing other work, posting roundups, 7c…
one fo the reasons it’s important to bring everyone together in the room, is you may only know your regional editor; it’s hard to know whether tha rum and adik? would ever get to sit next to one another in the real world… .this is taking a conversaiton that for the most part lives online, in irc, and bring it back to the real world.

These #s are important b/c we’ve become a very real influencer; when you look at the 300 people who come tlak to us in the psace of a month; a lot of them are journalists…They want to know what’s going on. so this project that started with a ‘hey! we want to…’ a year ago. Now people ar really listening to us. So this isn’t time to screw up. People are talking to us day after day, week afte week, about what’s going on in kenya, mideast, bangladesh.. elections, etc. If we’re not htere ot help them out, peopel start getting frustrated; why is my part of the world not represented? As we start stepping up, people start expeciting us to do better.

(Tagged: gv2005, globalvoices)

Session 1: The state of Global Voices (Part 3) December 10, 2005

Posted by Angelo Embuldeniya in GV05, Session 1.

As we start becoming media, we’re playing in that game (with msm) and what we choose to cover / what we don’t cover is becoming an item of debate, of critique… everyone here has had the experience of having someone come to them and say they have the wrong opinion, aren’t covering the right guy.. We all need to challenge ourselves; look at who we’re linking to, &c, and say “am I uncomfortable enough with this?”. If you’re comfortable with everyone you’re linking to, you’re probably not linking to enough voices.

We’ve now gotten to the point where that critique is coming from the outside, every day; we’re spreading this to you guys so everyone knows what we’re hearing; so

1) don’t screw up :

2) make sure you’re transparent

about who you’re reading

3) figure out what to do next. that’s what today is all about.

When we met a year ago, we talked about an incredible range of ideas. We’ve demonstrate that the idea there could be a single place on the web where you could see an amazing diversity of perspectives; we’ve run with it, and been successful with it. minus a few very public screwups but there’s a whole other slew of ideas we were playing with, that have come up this year. But because this is a public organization, because this is our organization, we can decide this, all of us — you guys have so much control over what is going on here, these are things we have to decide as a group, if Rebecca and I decided tomorrow we wanted to do [something in particular]…[wouldn’t be the same] whether we want to have global voices in other languages; whether we want to work on translation, move into other areas….but *we* aren’t going to decide this; you have to decide this.

GV has to be a platform for all of us to do projects. Neither (Rebecca or I) do this fulltime! We work on this every day, but not all day. Look at this conference : we didn’t plan a Friday night dinner; we didn’t plan to have a face book, but we had people step up and plan to do a face book… we didn’t plan to do a live blog on this, but now we have a live blogger who’s keeping track of this while we’re doing this! This is gv at its best. A chance for people to launch other projects.

Rebecca says: a chance to hear from regional editors?

Rebecca getting input on South Aisan and Middle Eastern Blogging from Nhea and Haitham (via flickr)
Ethan says – just to talk about some highlights of what’s happening, what you see going on in your part of the world. Maybe we can start with haitham? or with neha 🙂

Neha says: I joined GV in July. at that tie it seemed I had to read a lot of blogs and link to them… what I didn’t realize at that time was I would in future be linking to conversations, not just blogs; and that fair representation was [a big deal] India having higher representation than, say, Nepal. What I’m trying to do is represent blogs as a whole from s.asia, but also point to the most interesting conversations. In the last 3-4 months, we’ve seen a lot of conversations in the in. blogosphere… as rmack pointed out earlier, the more people point to issues, tag things as ‘globalvoices’ – I know that it’s working. And there’s interaction b/t blogs, which I’m really happy about. Suddenly we have blog saying I never knew about this, but GV is pointing to a post happening at the border; I’m really happy about that.

[Problems with the wifi and Ethan says: just an announcement; I know everyone’s having issues with the wifi: some people should switch to linksys; gently, slowly, one at a time.]

Neha continues to speak:

I think in the last 5 months… it’s been amazing that gv has been such a strong center of gravity; I think there has been cross-participation b/t someone in china… one of the greatest points for me was when a blog post about Chile was translated into Chinese; opening up communication which would never have happened otherwise. Bringing all these convos together has really been the most amazing part for me. What I’d love to see happen in the next year is… have more than just English. We’re getting 8-10% of the world… to really open that up would be amazing.

Ethan says: – 2 ideas that have come out so far : 1 is tagging; the idea that if people are tagging with gv, and paying attention to those tags on flickr, delicious; the other is translation, which will be a major topic we’re talking about today; what are we doing with translation; do we have more on the site? how do we approach this in a way that’s sustainable?

Sokari says: – one of the most important things to come out of the African blogosphere: Africa has been presented in such a negative way in the past 10 years; the blogosphere has presented a diff side of Africa. There are Africans talking about positive things; about — even when you talk about crises; that it’s done in a positive way… us speaking for ourselves. Another positive thing: when I joined in October, I wasn’t aware of all the blogs out there; and there was one, an American’s blog, saying where are all the women bloggers? and I responded saying ‘where are all the African women? I went out looking for them… I was amazed at how many there were that I didn’t know about. That’s been an important opportunity; also for us to get to know each other; I’ve also talked to other volunteers in sub-Sahara about what we’ve learned about one another’s countries.

Recently on the Kenyan election this was a huge conversation’ others were saying, this is amazing1 another example was quit recently; there were some pictures put up on flickr, which had come through to me on a feed. I’d sent an email through to the African group about this. it started a huge conversation about rights and wrongs and photographs… which also made us realize that the African Diaspora had a v. different perspective than say Africans blogging /in/ Africa.

Ethan says: – before we give haitham the mike, bringing two things out of what sokari just said: one thing we’ve been seeing is : a lot of hat’s going on is an attempt to correct perceptions in the developing world in Africa a lot of people explicitly state that’s what they’re doing with their blogs. This is why when Brendan is asking questions, going to do interviews, he’s going to ask what should I know about your country that I don’t know.

the other thing sokari mentioned that she’s done a lot of is meetups. One thing we’re finding is that, as editors, as contrib. from country, we’re often able to say, ok, let’s get all the Tunisian bloggers together! sometimes when you get people together from a region, some of it is crossing of issues., which has been cool for many people working on this

Haitham says: – the mideast… it’s a great chance to present the citizen media; before that all the voices were there but not given enough attention. Always the human side – what is behind the news, how does the media represent… with all the problems going on in the middle east. What do the people behind the events feel… this is an important part of what’s going on in that part of the world; wrong perceptions of politics, etc; at the same time, starting to bring some balance into some areas within the blogosphere, talking about things from the far east to the mid-east; everyone’s different perspective, also about the conflict going on in Palestine.

For example, the Amman explosion, where we saw everyone supported these guys… but this is completely different from what the media always likes to tell us. which is what we’re here for.

(Tagged: gv2005, globalvoices)

Session 1: The state of Global Voices (Part 4) December 10, 2005

Posted by Angelo Embuldeniya in GV05, Session 1.
1 comment so far

Rebecca says: – before we give the mic to Boris; one thing a lot of people are saying: is something about where we want to go and whom we exist for; are was there for some audience out there who is reading us just for our links? or for the service of the bloggers out there who want to find each other and talk? who do we exist for, who do we want to spend time [focusing on]

Catego says- why is the transcript on the big screen instead of our witty conversation?

Rebecca says: – Boris will talk a bit about how it’s set up right now. do we want to rearrange the way the site is structured, to facilitate our conversation… make the site easier to read; make it less overwhelming; or do we just want people to find their (local) communities? Boris ?

Here is Boris talking about the web architechture of GV (via flickr)

Boris speaks – hello

Ethan – would you ulike to look at it?

[Boris takes a seat]

What we’ve got now is a wordpress weblog which has been hacked; with a country clout [at the top], some country tags as well, more generalized free tags, so you can track down specific place and time… this is faceted browsing. this is where we are now – just a hacked weblog. A lot of things said by the regional editors now points to the need for a better tracking system and aggregator; a way to find voices, watch them, decide whether to include them in a roundup, blog an article about them, etc.

I’m mostly here today to listen to what everyone else is going to say; which would [inform] any architecture/structure that I specify

[buzzing of the mic]

I’m not used to mics so this is really strange to me… I don’t have much more to say about it… I want to hear what you guys have to say, about improvement that can be made; especially re: how we can track and find and pass on these voices.

Ethan says: we wanted to get Boris up here b/c so much of what you se and know of gv has to do with how he has customized and built this interface so far. We’re incredibly grateful with what he’s done; the last thing has been this beautiful new logo…Everyone has raised diff questions about what it is… people remarking it looks like something from Nepal, like flower patterns in India… where it actually came from —

[Ethan shatters various alternate legends]

[transcript redacted to promote future mythology]

What it comes down to — where the rubber meets the road — Boris has a huge amount to do with it. when it comes to making these tools do what they want to do, keep in mind none’s ever done what we’re doing before no one’s ever don it. if we try and it doesn’t work, it’s not bc we’re not doing any work; it’s because no one’s ever done it before. this is our history session. if anyone else has one or two things to say on what we’ve done and where we’ve been…asks about the gv draft manifesto

Ethan says: – sj raises a really good question maybe a year into it, this is what we really believe? maybe this is what we’ree into and we ratify it today…any other questions about our past?

Becky – I know you’re a tool for the mainstream press… but how are you ? going to handle [exposure]

Rebecca says – we’re getting increasing exporusre; were finding joiurnos are using us for story ideas…we find that we’re being linked to for some story, and I say ‘gee, I wonder where they got that?’

Rebecca – and a number of our managing editors are starting to get calls from journalists… who want to know who see them as epxerts who can comment on various issues. We’ve been sighted on cnn, they have a blogging show, bbc has been calling people all the time…News agencies have been calling us a lot. Brendan – as a journo and not a blogger, this is an extraoridnary resource. It /*is* our international new bureau and that’s how we look at it. We wouldn’t have int’l coverage if it weren’t for gv. I’s a tool that I use adn that the whole newsroom uses.

Rebecca says: maybe one last q, and then a small break, os we can resume the 11:30 session roughly on time. We’ve got people joining us remotely and don’t want to throw them off too much.

[A question is posed at ths point] : what was the architecture of the site – there are open secitons where people can comment; security issues, how much was that an issue? did you have to close off sections? …

Boris says – have we ever deleted a coment?

Rebecca says: a few

Ehtan Says: – the only thing not open is a pretty powerful spam filter. aside form one crisis…other than that it’s worked very well. our policy has basically been to say keep it as open as possible; only whe nit’s going to destroy the community do we come in and shut down [offensive comments]

[Session 1 ends now and it is time to stop for a break… session to will begin in 5 mins]

(Tagged: gv2005, globalvoices)