Posts from December 11, 2004

The bloggers in the Oval Office

The bloggers in the Oval Office

: Omar and Mohammed just told me about their visit to the Oval Office this week.

They said President Bush assured them that we would finish the job this time.

They told the President that they were grateful for their liberation and that the coalition did a great job.

Bush asked them about security in Iraq. They told him that they feel safe now. They talked about hearing the news reports of gigantic explosions in Baghdad, in their city, but they don’t hear or see the evidence. It’s a big place, Iraq; the brothers keep repeating that.

Bush also went to Omar, as a dentist, and said he wanted him to fix a cavity.

Mohammed said the President understood what blogs are and their importance and they found the staff in the White House views reading blogs as part of their jobs now. The brothers said they were in the White House not just as Iraqi citizens but as representatives of the blogosphere.

: Here’s my earlier post about meeting the guys.

The death of lectures

The death of lectures

: Lectures (and books and shows and other one-way sharing) are OK if you have something to say. But when you don’t, they are torture, all the more so now that we are spoiled by the ability to control and create, whether in weblogs or in Bloggercon-style conversations. Boy has the last two days been the demonstration of that: Yesterday was front-to-back dull; today was a compelling conversation. No fault of yesterday; it was just yesterday, metaphorically, too. Susan Crawford says this isn’t just about conferences. It’s about classrooms, too.

Harvard: Wie sagt Man Blog auf Klingon?

Harvard: Wie sagt Man Blog auf Klingon?

: Omar and Mohammed’s Friends of Democracy, Jim Hake & Co. of Spirit of America, and iUpload revealed the Arabic blogging tool. I write about that here. Please help support it here.

There’s much discussion of language and translation in the international sessions here, of course. Tim Oren just gave a breathtaking VC analysis of the business (which I hope he blogs because I’ll butcher it): machine translation is a tiny business ($100 million); manual translation is a huge business; the real value lies in the corpuses (corpi? translation, please) of the same text in multiple languages to teach the machines; that is quite expensive to do; bloggers could help by creating massive corpuses. Joi Ito talks about the amazing handling of multiple languages at Wikipedia and hopes we can learn from them. A wishlist here.

Harvard: Hoder builds a blogosphere

Harvard: Hoder builds a blogosphere

: Hoder is telling the story of how he planted the seeds to grow the Iranian blogosphere. Many practical notes: Veteran bloggers need to link to new bloggers to give them encouragement and traffic; the bloggers love having hit counters to compete for traffic; the instructions Hoder wrote were extremely thorough (even telling people how to right-click to save a link)….

Hoder says that in repressive countries, it is important to have external hosting so they cannot be blocked.

He urges Google to hurry up localizing its tools into Middle Eastern languages (they are concentrating on European languages and Chinese for revenue reasons). This afternoon, Omar and Mohammed will be showing the new Arabic-language blogging tool they will be promoting.

He says that blogs are very cool in Iraq and when young people date one of the first questions is, Do you have a blog?

There’s talk about the social conditions that create fertile ground for blogging; they’re different in every land. A blogger who works with Indian and Pakistani bloggers find that the people she knows far prefer social spaces over individual spaces.

Hoder says a sense of individuality is important.

: Charles Nesson of Berkman has a great suggestion: He sees the need to spread the word about blogging and the substance and conversation of what it says and takes Hoder’s suggestions about using stars and he wants to find new ways for a center such as Berkman to help and help beyond the internet. So he suggests sponsoring a talk show about blogging and its topics with Hoder on the satellite TV beamed into Iran. Love it.

FCC vs. scantily clad Greeks and jocks

greek2.jpgFCC vs. scantily clad Greeks and jocks

: NBC has had to hand over a tape of the Greek Olympics opening ceremony because of a complaint. It keeps getting ridiculouser and ridiculouser.

Harvard: The world meets

Harvard: The world meets

: It’s a new day at the Harvard session. I’m sitting here with Omar and Mohammed from Iraq and Hoder from Iran; Jeff Ooi from Maylasia is over there; there are folks from Latvia, Kenya, the Phillippines, China, and India to meet. It’s an exciting moment in this world.

Rebecca MacKinnon talks about the gulfs that exist in the world and how media is doing nothing to close them. Ethan Zuckerman talks about the importance of “bridge-blogging” and wonders whether we are becoming a movement. “We are all this together.” Amen, neighbor.

The bridges I got to cross with the people just in this room has been incredibly exciting for me.

: Omar is now speaking about what drove him to start the blog: “Mainstream media… and by that, I mean Arabic media.” See, the U.S. is not the only place where “mainstream media” has become a bad word.

What he likes about blogs is that it is from people to people, not from institutions. “There are no barriers, no filters.” He says comments are “the core of blogs.” For those of you in the U.S. who are scared of comments, listen to this blogger.

He tells the story of one of my favorite posts of Omar’s, about a cousin who hated Americans; they wrote his story; and the cousin read the comments from around the world, all of them encouraging. “Maybe I don’t hate them, but I don’t like them,” the cousin said. A few weeks later, the cousin’s father got a car and the cousin had to admit that would not have happened two years ago. He put up a picture of the young man in the car and the comments made him cry. And Omar almost starts himself as he says:

“If I visited America a year and a half ago, before I started this blog, I feel a stranger.” but he does not now. “I am surrounded by friends.”

Mohammed now says: “It’s from person to person, from heart to heart. I did not have any trouble understanding people thousands of miles away from me in spite of language and distance…. We share many things. Media try to show only the differences between groups and countries but really human beings have many, many things to share…. Here in blogging, I learn from my readers…. I think through blogging we can spread love more than we can spread hate. I started blogging because I saw through the media that they just want to spread hate… I have a different story and many Iraqi people agree with me.

Asked why they called their blog Iraq The Model, they said, “Iraq will be a model for the Middle East region and the world….”


The brothers on radio

The brothers on radio

: Omar and Mohammed were on Brian Lehrer’s WYNC show yesterday. You can listen here. “Life under Saddam wasn’t living,” says Omar. “It wasn’t life.” They tell him that they are grateful for their liberation and that the stories from the media and the CIA about the state of life in Iraq aren’t accurate. Mohammed says he’s shocked when Americans ask whether they can go out; it’s a big country and much more than Fallujah, they say.

Lehrer notes that they won a conservative “warblogger” award from Right Wing News and asks whether conservatives have their best interests at heart; they say they object to the “warblogger” label. “I am not a warblogger, I am a freedom blogger. That’s what I support: the liberation of Iraq. I support freedom in Iraq and in the region. I am not supporting war. But sometimes if war is the only way to liberate people, to free people from tyrants, then I’ll support it.”

I was a little surprised that Brian cast this in American political terms but he’s not alone. Last night, when I told the Wall Street Journal’s Dan Henninger that I’d introduced the brothers to Lehrer’s show, he said that was a good thing, for liberals need to hear their story. I think Americans should hear their story not for political reasons but for human reasons; we need to Well, I agree, but not because this is right or left but because it is good to make a human connection, American to Iraqi, and the weblogs are now making that possible.

Next, Brian puts it in religious/political terms, mentioning that the brothers are Sunni and asking about Sunni leaders’ calls for a boycott of the election. “Let me explain something,” Omar said. “First, I’m human. Second, I’m Iraqi. Third, I’m Muslim.” Well said.