|Published by NetAction||Issue No. 83||April 30, 2002|
The different ways in which two members of the audience used "blogs" to share their thoughts about speakers at the recent PC Forum conference illustrate how this increasingly popular technology can enhance real-time two-way communication at public meetings. This could prove to be a useful tool for Internet activists.
The conference was set up for wireless networking, so attendees whose laptop computers were configured for a wireless LAN were automatically connected to the Internet while they were at the conference. The setup was intended to make it convenient for attendees to check their email in the hallways, but it had some remarkable--if unintended--consequences.
San Jose Mercury News technology columnist Dan Gillmor and Linux Journal senior editor Doc Searls were both "blogging" during the meeting. Described in Notes #65 http://netaction.org/notes/notes65.html#blogs, "blogging" is a relatively new tool that lets Internet users create web content without having to learn HTML, the programming language used to develop web sites.
At the PC Forum conference, Gillmor and Searls used their "blogs" to post nearly real-time notes and comments about the speakers on stage and the happenings at the conference. In doing so, they enabled others, both inside and outside the conference, to read about what the speakers were saying and contribute to the discussion by responding with emails to the "bloggers." The "blogs" and emailed reply comments were filled with relevant and timely information, which enriched the conversations at the conference.
You can see an example of how this worked by reading Gillmor's "blog" at: http://www.siliconvalley.com/mld/siliconvalley/business/columnists/dan_gillmor/ejournal/2938269.htm" and Searls' "blog" at: http://doc.weblogs.com/2002/03/24. During the first panel discussion, Searls attempted to use his "blog" to create a transcript. But by the second panel his "blogs," like Gillmor's were more along the line of summaries with commentary.
As the conference host, Esther Dyson, said in an email, "The implications are broad." She added later, in her email newsletter, The Conversation Continues (April 5, 2002):
"No, it won't make private meetings public. That depends on the rules the meeting manager sets. But it will make for more two-way communication at public meetings. Listeners can simultaneously query the speaker and communicate among themselves instead of everyone (in theory) remaining silent while one person at a time speaks."
Another interesting, related article from last February, "Google Blogs: How Weblogs Influence A Billion Google Searches A Week" tells how blogs are affecting search engines. It's at: http://www.corante.com/microcontent/articles/googleblog.shtml.
We at NetAction are sure this is not the last we'll hear about the exciting potential of blogging.
While surfing around a few large nonprofit web sites, we had a discouraging encounter: their web sites were created using frames. It's been a while since we mentioned how problematic this web design style is, so we decided it was time to remind readers why frames should be avoided:
If you must use frames on your site, be aware that it will take a bit more coding and planning to create a search engine-friendly site. Some good tips on how to accomplish this are available at: http://www.searchenginewatch.com/webmasters/frames.html.
Our recent survey, "Computer Security Practices in Nonprofit Organizations" (found at: http://netaction.org/security revealed that security practices in nonprofit organizations could use some improvement. We recently ran across Bruce Schneier's useful five-step process for evaluating any security measure. As a reminder to non-profits that security is an issue that needs to be addressed, we share Schneier's list of questions to help you evaluate security measures:
"When you consider these questions, you might be surprised at how ineffectual most security is these days. For example, only two of the airline security measures put in place since September 11 have any real value: reinforcing the cockpit door, and convincing passengers to fight back. Everything else falls somewhere between marginally improving security and a placebo," commented Schneier.
Schneier's five-step process is discussed in detail in his Crypto-Gram Newsletter. The article is at: http://www.counterpane.com/crypto-gram-0204.html and the newsletter is at: http://www.counterpane.com/crypto-gram.html.
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