[JtB] 4.0: Dan Gillmor

This is the last post of four containing my revised notes from Tuesday night’s Joining The Blogosphere event at San Jose State University. My input is in italics.

Dan Gillmor claims to be poorer for his absence from the San Jose Mercury News, contrary to moderator (and Merc managing editor) David Satterfield’s claim that the Merc was poorer for Dan’s absence.

Dan was alluding to the lack of a regular paycheck since he quit his job as tech columnist with the Merc to pursue a nebulous grassroots journalism project. Dan is a sort of evangelist for grassroots journalism, and uses his blog to point to those who are trying, succeeding, or stumbling into citizen journalism.

Dan started blogging over five years ago at the Merc, as soon as it was doable “by normal humans” and not just html coders. Dave Winer of Scripting News fame turned Dan onto blogging in 1999.

Dan wrote then and still writes about technology, policy, and “other things I cared about.”
He uses his blog for storytelling and letting the reader into his personal world. When he was at the Merc, he could post personal stuff in his blog, like a picture of his newborn niece, that certainly wouldn’t end up in his column.

Dan also uses his blog as a reporter’s notebook.

Comments are “the really important thing” and indicate a shift in journalism from the lecture model to the conversation model. “I learn more from people who think I’m wrong than from people who think I’m right.”

Dan hopes that the blogosphere can rise above the yelling match/opinion fest that it can be now, and intends to bring traditional journalistic practices and principles to his soon-to-be-in-pre-alpha release project.

(Could this be a way to separate those who are doing journalism online from those who are spouting off? If I follow the rules of journalism, am I a journalist? What does it mean to be an “amateur journalist”?)

Dan’s important question: Are we going to let the government decide who is and isn’t a journalist?

I spoke to Dan for a few moments after the event, and although he didn’t seem too excited about it, he did indicate that something will come online very soon which might be a sort of group blogging tool for distributed journalism – he didn’t give any real indication of whether this was going to allow read/writers to focus on local news or comment on national news.

Dan’s answer to the ever-present question of “Who is going to edit all this content?” is that the online world is a symbiotic system with a feedback process. Comments and fact-checking by your readers will ensure that those who are wrong often will either be corrected, ignored, or cancelled out by all the people who are posting the correct information.

How will we know who is credible? Dan mentioned “new tools being developed” which will help people learn what to trust.

(If I’m right, the “new tool” in question is something called “Attention” which you can read more about periodically on Steve Gillmor’s blog (yeah, Dan’s big brother). As I understand it today, the idea is that users will be able to quantify the amount of time they spend reading a particular blogger, the frequency with which they read each feed, the posts that are getting the most…attention…and that these statistics will be shared among users, creating a dynamic database of who is getting the most…attention. Currently credibility is mostly quantified by the number of incoming links to your site. The problem is that it’s hard to tell if anyone is actually clicking on the links and reading what you say. The folks behind Attention are trying to solve this problem.)

Dan’s answer to the question of whether we only read the sources which reinforce our world view is that he’s “worried about the echo chamber” but thinks things are improving. Dan links to things he disagrees with as well as things he agrees with.

(Do other media have the capacity to show opposing viewpoints? Does it work on TV? Radio?)

Dan cited a study which found during the 2004 election, web users were better informed than users of other media about the candidate they opposed. Was this just the political junkies?

(This was true for me, and yes I certainly was a political junkie in 2004.)

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