- Fri, April 09 2010
- Filed under: Social networking and web 2.0
I’m blogging Andrew Sullivan’s keynote at NTEN’s 2010 Nonprofit Technology Conference (#10ntc on Twitter). As you know, he was once editor of the New Republic and now has a prominent blog with the Daily Dish at the Atlantic.
His spoke about his beliefs about blogging and online communication. When he started his blog, he tracked down Matthew Drudge for advice. He said this influenced his thoughts heavily. He shared these thoughts with amazing eloquence and writerly, thoughtful articulation:
1. BROADCAST: A blog or an online page is not a publication. It is a broadcast. It does not stay static, and it has to change. It has to change at a brisk pace or it dies. The brisker the pace, the more engaged the readership and the more obsessive compulsive, co-dependent relationship between blog and reader. This is very hard work, but it has to be this way.
2.ONE PAGE IS ONLY ONE PAGE: And every page is as accessible as any other. The barrier of entry to any page on the web is zero. All is equally accessible, which is democratizing. A page of Peep decorations is as accessible as the New York Times. In old form journalism, the barrier of entry was so high and that has disappeared overnight. Any obscure little page has as much entry as the front page of the New York Times.
3. PEOPLE READ ONLINE JOURNALISM ALONE: But you do not feel alone doing it. You have a personal relationship with the person who has written the words - like any reader - but unlike reading, you’re on the other side of the screen. You’re in relationship with the writer. He talked about his first blog post, and the fact that someone wrote back in minutes of his first post. This was a shock, and the more he did it, the faster the feedback - flaming, applauding, debating. My favorite quote from him: “Blogging is not writing. It is throwing oneself into a mosh pit of universal dyspepsia and amusement - and value.” When he stops blog, everyone thought he’d been carted off it a straitjacket but sometimes he’s just collecting his thoughts. But blog does not allow you to not say anything for a day. He said a million people are following him - and “they don’t expect to be entertained and informed, they expect me to say things they agree with. They get pissy when that doesn’t happen.” He says he feels like the Verizon ad with people following him around constantly. “Human beings have never lived like this before.”
4. THE INTERACTION OF TRUST: For years, his decision to leave mainstream journalism and to blog was thought to be crazy and not serious. But that is not the way to view it. “The sheer database of knowledge that a million readers have keeps you honest and accurate.” When you make a mistake, you have to correct yourself. You can’t hide from your errors. You have to admit them in the same context and with the same power - “which is a humiliating thing. But the process of manning up and acknowledging mistakes is a [worthy] enterprise.” These readers over time became like friends. He created a letters page to highlight these readers’ comments but no one was reading it. Then he began incorporating his readership into posts with the “two cents of the day” so readers would be a more explicit part of a community. One time, he asked his readers to take a photo of the first thing people see in the morning from their window - now he posts one each day. Again, this is to create a community from what started as a soapbox. The atmosphere of this community leads people to share stories. He talked about the intensely personal accounts people shared around late-term abortion and the powerful effect it had him and within his community.
5. NIMBLENESS: The lack of control and immediacy and pace of new media is terrifying, especially for those who have something to hide. And everyone has something to hide. But transparency is ultimately a good thing. Control leads to smugness, error and corruption. A lack of control does the opposite. Accountability is tough on a person but it is better than the more guarded, old-style accountability in which information is doled out when and if the authority decides it will be. “People keep think they can own the Internet, own a site. But that is like putting a wire fence around the water.” Readers will go where they want, information will flow, and things will get out. The moment of wisdom comes when you accept that. Yes, there are some personal, private things we don’t want people to know. But if you’re out there far enough, your life can be disseminated to everyone on a moment’s notice. “I’ve had to move from a writer to a conversationalist, writing incomplete shards of thought fertilized by other people’s observations. It’s not a lecture, it’s a roiling, rambling conversation. I had to let go of my authority as a writer.”
Last, he spoke of the protests in Iran and how the broadcast and community that happened simultaneously online: “It is an exhilarating thing for the changing to hearts, minds and souls.”