Changing the world, one post at a time

Changing the world, one post at a time

: At dinner last night with Hossein (Hoder) Derakshan and his wife Marjan, Jay Rosen, Rebecca MacKinnon, and Joey deVilla at a fusion Persian restaurant in Toronto (envious, eh?), talk turned, of course, to the question of how to spread weblogs — and free speech and, if we’re lucky, democracy with them — in other countries as they have in Iran, thanks to Hoder’s good work. Here’s our list:

1. Promotion. Hoder says it is important to get prominent people, like journalists, blogging in these countries to bring attention to it. He wants to set up an award for Iranian blogs — not for the best blog but for the best post, which is appropriate to the medium. We talked about the need to creat a blog news service that would translate and reblog notable posts from around the world: Hey, big news guys, here are the stories you’re missing but here’s a link to where you can get them. And hey, powerful politicians, here is what the people are reporting in your country. And hey, readers around the world, here’s a new perspective on a country you’re not seeing in the paper or on TV — either because it’s not coverered or it’s covered from a high-altitude and not from a human level.

2. Tools. We need to get tools and instruction translated into Arabic and other local languages. They need to be the appropriate tools — so, for example, bloggers can post via email when they can’t get Web access. For blogging to take off in a country, it has to be done in the native language. Efforts are underway.

3. Hosting. If rich folks want to help the cause of free speech and understanding, providing free and anonymous hosting that’s not under the control of repressive governments will help.

4. Detours around censorship. The web technical community needs to invent new ways to get around government censors, who regularly block access to specific blogs and to blog domains (e.g., Blogspot and Typepad). Hoder’s site is now blocked in Iran, which lost him a lot of traffic that matters, but he also found that more people are now subscribing to his RSS feed instead. Separate RSS feed services, cacheing of blogs, clever redirects, and other means need to be created to keep free speech free.

It has happened in Iran. It is happening in Iraq. Rebecca says it’s exploding in China (though I wish that news service existed so we could get an idea of what people are saying there). Where else should it be happening? Afghanistan. Turkey. Egypt. Saudi Arabia. Indonesia. Central Asia……

(And the kebobs were great.)