Zen Masters, Freedom, And Blogging

rghts.bmp Acting on Morey’s tip, I trucked on down to 111 Minna last night for the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Blogger’s Rights event.

I suppose every blogger feels prolific enough in her or his own right, and I’m no exception. Again last night, however, I was reminded just how removed my own corner of the ‘sphere is from the, basically, blog-power-elite (and related hangers-on) present last night. There were tech-oriented folk who have pioneered the field – the names of whom I might know if . . . . well, I don’t know, maybe if I read Wired or paid more attention with Jason talked . . . .

Here’s what the event’s blurb said:

To kick-off EFF’s forthcoming 15th Anniversary celebrations, we’ll be holding a special BayFF exploring the legal issues surrounding blogging. The roundtable discussion will feature EFF Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl, local bloggers, and companies that create blogging tools.

Opsahl, who leads EFF’s bloggers’ rights campaign, is one of the attorneys representing online journalists in Apple v. Does, the case in which Apple Computer, Inc., is seeking to unmask the journalists’ confidential sources for articles about a future Apple product.

Sounds fascinating, right?

Well, had any of those topics really been discussed it would’ve been. What actually went on was interesting, but a far cry from anything rights-centered.

More details after the jump . . . .

The night was less “what are our rights and what should we be fighting for, worried about, aware of, cautious of, etc” and more “you go, blogger/isn’t this new technology so way meta and shit.” That’s fine, but not worth standing in a gallery 2 and half hours for.

The panelists were all bloggers. Some were cutting edge, alt types like Fleshbot’s Violet Blue whose particular subject matter made her particularly qualified to comment on privacy issues. Others were billed as pioneers in “grassroots journalism” (ie: zero editorial supervision or accountability types trying to build legitimacy and authority by co-opting MSM terms) like Grassroots Media, Inc.’s Dan Gillmor. Another actually has been running a site “of, by and for the Bay Area” – that’d be Sfist’s Jackson West (oh, and we’d be pioneers there too, since we’ve been doing it by/for/of the Bay Area longest, thank you ver much).

The remaining panelists are harder to classify. Mary Hodder does . . . something and gets a lot of cease and desist letters for doing it and specializes in intellectual property commentary.

Then there’s the panelist with the sweetest gig of all – Danah Boyd who got into blogging at the suggestion of her Zen Master and has parlayed that into a PhD research gig at Berkeley studying “how people negotiate their presentation of self in mediated social contexts to unknown audiences.” It’s so meta I can’t stand it. Oh, and she gets paid by Google to do something, but that’s not in the on-line bio and I can’t remember exactly what she does other than “work for Google.”

Moderator Kurt Opsahl – who actually is an attorney would’ve better served us by being on the panel, since his $100k+ legal training was applied mainly to selecting questions from the audience.

This blogger actually tried to steer the conversation away from recognizing self and the relative value-per-reader of diary blogs and to – let’s go nuts – legal issues surrounding blogging. The answer, from Opsahl (who both bit and missed my outloud pondering on whether any of the panelists doing all the talking were attorneys) was to direct me to EFF’s website for their legal info on blogging-on-company time, etc.

If it’s all online, why was I still standing – in heels – in a SoMa gallery?

Don’t get me wrong – it was great to be in a room with so many bloggers (many of whom are engaged in juicy, clandestine wars and hatefests) and people interested in fostering this new medium. But what could’ve been – from the way it was billed – a really meaty evening of policy-wonking and legal theorizing (don’t worry, there still would’ve been plenty of meta-crap since we bloggers love little more than the sight of our own navels) turned out to be little more than a campfire lovefest. Fun, but didn’t make me want to invest in EFF, money-wise.

Opsahl, if you didn’t note this above, is one of the attorneys involved in the Apple case – which is of great interest to many of us. A tad more of that and a tad more meta filtering would’ve been nice.

I’d still attend another EFF event, though, if only to see if they can really get down to brass bytes in the future.

3 Comments so far

  1. morey (unregistered) on July 20th, 2005 @ 12:57 pm

    Bravo, CD. Kudos for an informative and honest write-up.


  2. Alicia (unregistered) on July 20th, 2005 @ 3:18 pm

    Your review is much kinder than mine would be. I’d expected something a lot more useful and relevant, but what I got was an opportunity for more soapbox rantings (from the audience) and mutual masturbation (on the podium). What finally sent me over the edge was when the question of transparency was raised (i.e., how do we know when an advertiser/political candidate/etc. is controlling the editorial content of a blog?) and the response from the panel was “well we certainly don’t do that on our blogs!” Ummm, yeah…that doesn’t answer the question.

    The panelists seem to have been chosen based on their relationship to EFF, and unfortunately they weren’t able to add to the discussion anything more than personal anecdotes. Shit, we can all do that.


  3. cd (unregistered) on July 20th, 2005 @ 3:55 pm

    I totally agree. I didn’t realize I had been that nice in my post – but it’s good to know I’m not alone in my evaluation.



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