Thursday, July 17, 2003


I’m with Andrew Sullivan, who complained last week that Blogger’s recent technical problems (since its purchase by and slow integration into Google) are causing him to consider finding another publishing platform. Blogger was having LOTS of problems two and half weeks ago. Rather than simply being frustrated, I took the opportunity to take a summer break away from blogging (though not, I must confess, from email or reading other blogs) and put full attention to paying projects. I always admired how the most web-centric, plugged-in guy I know, Mario Morino, goes entirely offline for all of August, to spend time with his family. And our friend Sandy Piderit is now doing the same. And it’s a good idea, because I now find myself, as the satirical Nixon bumper sticker once put it, “tanned, rested and ready” for a comeback.

THE CITY WIDE WEB: As the blog revolution, which despite all the hipster jive posturing you've heard and read about is really all about (as Blogger's tagline nicely puts it) Push-Button Publishing for the People, takes hold, we're seeing some interesting ideas about taking that connectivity and combining it with community. One was something called a Mob Project, where people with too much time on their hands suddenly show up at a public place and then disperse, which unfortunately reminds me too much of what bored teens with cell phones might do. (of course, if the gathered were put to a good use, it would be different). But an even more interesting idea was floated by a Washington writer on recently: the City Wide Web organized by bloggers around their subway stops. A version of this (we'd have to use the RTA rapid) might be an interesting project for the growing network of NEOhio bloggers.

THE BLOGS THAT ATE CLEVELAND: That was the catchy title of a recent blog entry by Jeff Jarvis. It merely links to a story, actually a pretty interesting one, about how (formerly the Mining Company) is newly using bloggers as its guides, thus further entrenching blogging as the hottest content source on the web. You may remember as the once-highflying site, among the 10 most heavily trafficked for several years, which bragged about having thousands of human guides to the web--The Human Internet, they called it. Former Clevelander Scott Kurnit, a Prodigy alum, was a key player in that site, later sold to the mildly clueless investment fund parading as a media company, Primedia. (interestingly enough, Kurnit, Primedia & Co. are currently defendants in a class action lawsuit by about a hundred former guides, who are charging violations of various fair labor laws, not unlike the suit that part-timers once pressed against Microsoft). But back to Jeff Jarvis for a moment. If you don't know that name, you should. He's the for Advance Publications, the giant company that owns your daily paper, dear Cleveland readers. A veteran of TV Guide, he's now easily one of the 10 or 12 best-read, most influential bloggers in the U.S., and he's much of the reason that the long-stodgy has suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, gotten religion about blogging. And his tenure at Advance is yet another sign that the once-stodgy Newhouse empire is getting a blast of new blood from the Yale-educated Steven Newhouse, son of Donald (the brother who makes money for the company in newspapers while his much more famous bro, S.I. Newhouse, spends it on such magazine baubles as GQ and the New Yorker). Anyway, more about Jarvis and that important story in coming days.

A BIRTHDAY BLOGATHON: I'm pleased that the world's blogging community has somehow done the homework required to learn my birthday, and thus declare July 27th as Blogathon 2003. Seriously, though, this is yet another interesting idea, a version of which our community might consider: using a weekend day to constantly update one's blog as a way to raise money for the charity of your choice. It kind of reminds me of the 28-hour dance marathons in which I eagerly took part three times during my college years at JCU. And it can now be told: not only was I interested in the novelty of it, and the chance to raise some money, but I was also lured by the prospect of leaning against a pretty girl of my choice for an entire day (Betty from Buffalo, me and my pals dubbed one of those beauties). Anyway, check this out and use it as food for some thought...

PUBLISHERS BIBLE TAKES NOTE: Cleveland developments recently caught the notice of the influential Publishers Weekly not once but twice: for the work of e-book publisher Steve Potash and his Overdrive (a favorite story of Chris Thompson's) and for the unexpectedly fine roundup of Literary Cleveland by freelancer Donna Marchetti (with help from the talented PD book editor Karen Sandstrom, and probably her hubby, old vet Carlo Wolff). That story also caught the attention of our blogger colleague Eric Olsen (with whom Carlo once edited an encyclopedia of music). In a similar vein, while our friend Bill Callahan is too humble to toot his own horn, you should know that he's really a national-class leader on issues of community technology in low-wealth neighborhoods and the digital divide, a term which has lost some of its currency of late. For instance, he was on this panel a few weekends ago in Washington. Here's hoping that he writes about some ideas discussed there, perhaps even giving us some sense of what he talked about. Hell, I'd even love to read his entire prepared remarks, if there was such a thing. But beyond that, here's hoping that this regional blogging network will take up our colleague Sandy Piderit's challenge to do some tangible things for our community. Working with and through Bill and Dan Hanson's Computers Assisting People would be a good place to start.

DARTS & LAURELS (apologies to Columbia Journalism Review): Shame on the PD and editor Doug Clifton, or maybe metro editor Mark ("we stole him back from the Boston Globe) Russell for burying a tiny story a couple of weeks ago that should have been longer and gotten much better play: the account of the supposedly public meeting about the convention center. On page 5 of the metro section, the paper buried a bare-bones account by Mike Tobin (a great reporter and writerduring his freewheeling days with Cleveland Mag and later the Scene, but now without much ability to write anything very meaningful now that he's suited and bespectacled, and buried under squads of grim Superior Ave. editors). It contained little or no mention of the outrageous panel stonewalling that one could read about, say, in Roldo's column or in Tony Bodek's blog. We've come to expect better from Clifton, who's truly cleaned up much of the PD's act in the last couple of years, but still seems to be stuck in the same establishment echo chamber on this convention center non-debate debate. It reminds me of the famous observation by the late independent muckraker I.F. Stone, who observed that he loved reading the NYTimes "because I never know on which page I'll find a front-page story." At the same time, hats off to the brawling, crusading David Eden, editor of the Free Times, who in last week's column poked at the "drumbeat" for the convention center, ending with a wonderful incitement to citizenship: "Tell them what you will--and won't--vote for. You tell them what's important. If there is to be a big vote in November, and part of it includes a convention center, tell Jane Campbell, Frank Jackson, Dennis Eckart, Jimmy Dimora, Peter Lawson Jones, Tim McCormack, et al., what it will take to get your 'yes' vote. Don't let them tell you. After all, it's your money and your town." This was all the more impressive if you know something about Eden: He's personally close to Forest City's Al Ratner (if not Sam Miller), whom he's known at least since dating Ratner's daughter more than 25 years ago. Ratner later cushioned his blow from being forced out of the PD in a late '80s power struggle with his nemesis Alex Machaskee, by giving him a gig writing Forest City press releases and annual reports (at least until Eden stirred up one of his many hornet's nests by inviting a former NYTimes big foot editor to lecture establishment Cleveland on allowing real civic debate, but that's an ancient story for another day). The point for now is this: that was a nice clarion call to Clevelanders not to be railroaded by the usual suspects, but we'll be watching Eden's future takes, because he's no doubt being heavily lobbied by the Forest City folks to soften his stance as we get closer to the vote...


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