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Apex Reached? Moving From Bloggers To Communities

Chris Bowers, MyDD
…Since late 2005, I have seen a mounting array of evidence to suggest that political blogosphere traffic has reached a plateau, and that the nature of the political blogosphere is shifting away from a top-down content generation model toward a bottom-up audience generated model.

While it is possible that the traffic evidence could be countermanded by a rising tide of traffic in during the long, slow build up toward the 2008 Presidential election, the sheer amount of evidence is becoming hard to ignore. A new era in the world of online politics is dawning.

…Despite these numbers, I believe it would be a mistake to argue that “the death of political blogging” is imminent (I put that phrase in scare quotes because I can’t even begin to count the number of times I have been asked about what will result in the death of political blogging). Instead, I believe this means is that the world of online political content generation is moving away from the top-down model of an individual, independent blogger producing the majority of new content for a given website–a model which was dominant through most of 2002-2005. Now, the paradigm is shifting toward a more networked, community-oriented model where a much higher percentage of the audience participates in the generation of new content. Blogging, including political blogging, is still quite healthy, as long as it encourages user-generated content and relies on a group of main writers rather than a single individual. However, the days when an individual blogger can start a new, solo website and make a big national splash are probably over. The blogosphere and the netroots are transforming, not dying off.

…In addition to the end of the era of the highly successful solo-blogger, I forecast that this development toward user-generated content will carry two other important ramifications for the political blogosphere. First, the already extreme gap between the political engagement of netroots activists and rank-and-file voters will grow even wider. With more people not just consuming political information online, but helping to generate it, netroots activists will continue to consolidate as a sort of “elite influential” subset within the American political system.

Second, in order to remain successful, more [and] more political blogs will transform into full-blown professional operations that can be considered institutions unto themselves. In addition to community development, they will more frequently produce difficult, original work (beat reporting, investigative journalism, professional lobbying, national activist campaigns, original video, commissioned polls, mass email lists, etc.) that until now have been mainly the province of long-established news and political organizations.
(5 Feb 2007)
The comments apply to peak oil and sustainability bloggers as well. The Oil Drum is a perfect example of a community-oriented blog. One development not mentioned by author Bowers is the emergence of websites covering local regions. Right now, many areas are poorly served by local media, creating a vacuum that can be filled by websites which are increasingly cheap to produce. -BA

In the spirit of Nero

David Cromwell and David Edwards, Media Lens via Znet
The science is now clear: humanity is bringing disaster to our planet. On February 3, the Independent noted that the latest scientific assessment by the prestigious UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) provides “humanity’s loudest warning yet of the catastrophe that is threatening to overtake us”. “No more excuses,” the Guardian’s editorial intoned on the same day.

The irony is bitter indeed. While the Guardian’s front page was packed with doom-laden warnings, the centre spread consisted of a two-page, full-colour advert for Renault cars: “Everything is sport.” For good measure, the cover story of the Travel supplement promoted holidays to New York.

A classic double-page was also to be found at the heart of the Independent: graphs of perilously rising temperatures, text explaining the catastrophic impacts, photographs of climate-related disasters around the world. And also, bottom left on the same page, a large advert for Halfords “car essentials” and, bottom right, an American Airlines advert for reduced-fare flights (just £199!) to New York.

The rest of the Independent – like all other newspapers – was crammed with the usual inducements to indulge in unrestrained consumerism: Renault, Audi and Hyundai cars, a multitude of hotel breaks, hi-tech electronic gadgets, credit card loans, furniture and yet more ‘cheap’ flights.

The message? We’re rapidly heading for disaster and must take decisive action now. Meanwhile, we must continue accelerating along the same path that is the cause of this disaster. Never has the structural conflict of interest at the very heart of the corporate media been more painfully exposed.

…As for those other stalwarts of the British ‘quality press’, neither The Times nor the Daily Telegraph deemed the IPCC report worth mentioning in their leader columns.
(7 Feb 2007)
Media Lens is correct in pointing out the contradictions at the Guardian and The Independent. However there are far worse offenders. -BA

Al Gore on the media
Al Gore, Variety
Al Gore on the media’s effect on the democratic process (2:59)
(6 Feb 2007)
David Roberts comments:

I think some of us — I’m guilty as well — get caught up in the excitement when we see blogs and newspapers buzzing with a story or adopting a view. It’s easy to forget that all other extant forms of mass communication pale in significance before television. For the vast majority of Americans, if it’s not on the teevee, it doesn’t exist.

To get a sense of what Average Joe and Jane hear about climate change, it does no good to point to reports or posts or print stories. What matters is what gets said on the nightly news, on cable news, and most importantly, on the 98% of TV content that isn’t news at all.

Although television is the way to reach large audiences, it is not where new ideas are introduced and debated. It is not where the powerful and influential get their ideas. The elite media, like the NY Times, technical journals and activist websites, have an influence far out of proportion to the number of their readers. -BA

Hackers take down Internet servers
UltraDNS attack targeted .org and US Dept Defence root servers

Steve Ragan,
Reports confirmed by the Associated Press and RIPE prove that two of the thirteen root domain servers were taken down during attack on Tuesday. Servers G and L failed to respond to ninety percent of the requests made to them.

The two servers are managed by ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) and the United States Department of Defense. There are reports, again confirmed by RIPE, that two other servers aside from G and L were slowed by the attack. These servers did not fail under the strain of the vast amounts of data sent to them. Information provided by RIPE can be located here.

The denial of service was carried out by Botnets, zombie like computers, to spread the load of the attack across all thirteen of the root servers. What is known is that the attack centered on ‘.org’ domains and UltraDNS. UltraDNS is the company who manages many of the ‘.org’ domains.

The attacks, the largest since 2002, lasted over twelve hours. The Department of Homeland Security said in a statement, “There is no credible intelligence to suggest an imminent threat to the homeland or our computing systems at this time.” No one said there was a risk. What shocked and confused many researchers is the fact it happened at all. Many wonder if this was a trial run. If that is so and this is a ramp up to a larger attack, the ability to shutdown the entire web, by attacking the root servers is unlikely.

The use of Botnets also poses a new problem that contradicts early reports. Tracking the exact location of the original source for the attack, reported to be South Korea, is almost impossible. ..
(7 Feb 2007)