A rather unusual food weekend
Trends: Citizen journalism, or how to get your readers to do more of your reporting

Favourite quotes this week

On The McCanns' debate:
Greenslade: "I'm unsure what will emerge from a debate tonight about the media coverage of Madeleine McCann's disappearance. But, given the cast list on a rather crowded panel, it does promise to offer heat, if not light."

Greenslade on the following day: "I feared that last night's debate on 'The McCanns and the media'... would generate more heat than light. In fact, it generated neither"

On Facebook:
Neil McIntosh (responding to Tom Hodginkinson's piece in The Guardian on how Facebook is a libertarian, neo-conservative, Hobbesian conspiracy built on how man is driven by mimetic desires): "He points to lots of bloggers quitting the site because of privacy concerns, which always seems a little odd to me - putting personal details on Facebook (or your blog) and then complaining about a loss of privacy is like a stripper complaining about being spotted nude."


On Facebook:

In promoting my blog, I've found the least useful place to be Facebook.

The most receptive place to my sort of work has been Digg. A conservative contingent appalled at the fact that any article titled "Bush = Hitler" gets 1000 diggs automatically has taken a liking to the Lincoln posts, the Federalist paper post, and they even enjoyed the Blake post on The Tyger. They're fun to share my work with.

You'd think Facebook, with all the students on there, might show the least bit of interest in my work. Just a smidgen.

Truth is, I've had more traffic from Myspace forums, random people on Stumbleupon, and a host of other sites.

I bring this up because I'm leaning towards the opinion that Facebook isn't bad. It's worse. Facebook might be inherently irrelevant: it seems as it gains popularity and a mass of users, it just becomes more and more trivial.

If any of y'all are on Myspace, add me, I'm happy to keep in touch with people through that.

I'm not that big on using Facebook - I use it mainly for work, to keep up with some friends I otherwise wouldn't keep in touch with, watching how other people use it - but that Guardian article just seemed like too much of a conspiracy theory for me (as in: how to make a hodgepodge of all the things you dislike, no matter how contradictory to draw the grimmest picture possible).

And McIntosh' comment made me laugh.

It's interesting to hear about your experiences with promoting your blog. I must admit I don't, and haven't, put a lot of work into promoting mine, mainly cause I write so much daytime, and this is just a bit of fun, although very important fun, on the side. And it helps me to stay connected to all the wonders of the web, helps my reporting, helps me keep track of many things I find interesting etc etc (wrote a bit about this in 'what journalists need to know about snowballs and fires')

As for MySpace I must admit I've not spent any time there, largely because I'm paranoid about all the malware rumoured to be there, short of time etc, btw, did you see this piece of gossip? http://virtualeconomics.typepad.com/virtualeconomics/2008/02/myspace-anti-at.html

FWIW I ended up at you blog via Google and I bit. ;-)

Anyway I keep meaning (and meaning (and meaning (...))) to get back to stuff here. So let me try some "soft commenting".

I'm not on Facebook; though after reading Munton's article I might sign up and see if I can make Thiel & co that little bit poorer – because, IIRC, Facebook is making a loss (http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/01/31/facebook-finances-leaked/) and has yet to find a way to monetise its fickle, increasingly-apathetic, could-mimetically-flock-away-at-any-moment userbase.

Anyway, McIntosh's misses the issue. My experience of social networking is it feels like having a party with a few fellow bacchanalia only to discover those elegant full-length mirrors are in fact two-way mirrors. Maybe somebody pointed this out, but they didn't say the windows opened onto a high street where market researchers and social trainspotters busily jot down every detail of our conversations.

But for those of us who are socially isolated, living in small provincial towns, grafting away at dead-end jobs, or just unable to access intelligent media types by shouting across the newsroom, it’s a price we have to pay. Unplugged living is rather dull. So we check in our tinfoil balaclavas at the door and start stripping, because making friends and having semi-intimate conversations require you expose yourself to the lurking hordes.

And for any blogger skulking at the other end of a link, who thinks they've got the balance about right: worry about tomorrow. I was doing this kinda stuff in my teens on Usenet. Back then the web didn't exist, and the internet was populated by hackers and academics; even science fiction didn't prep me for the modern net. Fortunately an alias stops yesterday's comments being unearthed today. But who knows which of our assumptions will be shattered by tomorrow's world; a "textual analysis" tool that allows searchers to find other pages by "the same author" would blow the gaff on anonymous comments; GPS, face recognition, or something completely left of field – use your imagination. What would screw you? Now go have nightmares. The net won't remain fixed like this.

So like global warming, we need to start tackling these issues today, and then—hopefully—we'll only end up having to live with a police force not having to live in a police state.

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