Call me when I can trust you

I just found an email dated over a month ago from a representative from the agency Atmosphere Communications asking me to contribute to a project that they are working on ‘on behalf of the Economist’ in SA. According to the representative, the project aims to set up a temporary South African “microsite” called www.theunexpected.co.za in order “to build closer links with its readers across the globe” with an especial “focus on the country due to the 2010 FIFA World Cup”.

How, you may ask, is the Economist attempting to build closer links with its readers across the globe? Is it connecting journalists and bloggers to hear the real story about South Africa? Is it really listening to its readers on the ground? It is profiling the work of aspirant local writers in its publication?

None of the above, it seems. The only ‘closer links’ the company wants to build is ‘closer links’ to your pocket. Continue reading “Call me when I can trust you”

The ‘Digital Open’ is now open

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Friends Jess Hemerly and David Evan Harris have asked Simon Dingle and I (from SA, at least) to be judges in this awesome competition/community initiative from BoingBoing, Sun and the Institute for the Future where they work. As always, the devil is in the detail, and I really love the details of this competition – great social networking features and badges that will be unlocked when users achieve things like writing 10 comments etc. Best among the prizes (gear, tech, bags etc) is that winners in each category will be featured on BoingBoing Video.

Institute for the Future, in partnership with Sun Microsystems and Boing Boing, invites youth worldwide, age 17 and under, to join us as we explore the frontiers of free and open innovation. The Digital Open: An Innovation Expo for Global Youth will celebrate projects in a variety of areas ranging from the environment, art and music to the more traditional open source domains of software and hardware.

From April 15 until August 15, 2009, we’ll accept text, photos, and videos documenting projects from young people around the world who want to contribute to the growing free and open technology community.

But the Digital Open is more than an online competition. By submitting a project, you’ll become a valuable member of a community of creative young innovators working in the exciting world of free and open technology.

Collaboration is encouraged! In addition to a variety of prizes and achievements you can earn through community participation, the top project in each category will earn a fantastic prize pack and be featured on Boing Boing Video!

The future is yours to make! Get started at http://digitalopen.org.

The organisers are looking for stewards to help get the word out and gather submissions in South Africa (one of the target countries). If you’re interested in helping out, please contact me.

The (new) blog awards

Ok, so this is my last post about the matter. There were so many wonderful ideas that came out of this little storm today that I can’t help put them forward so that something constructive comes out of this. Maybe this will mean that next year, we will have more input into the process, or maybe it will mean that there will be a new SA Blog Award. Whatever happens, this is what came out of conversations today:

  • Big first step is to develop some core principles that will underpin the competition, its process, winners etc. We should know what values the competition stands for.
  • Next is to house the awards with a credible, trustworthy organisation that doesn’t have a vested interest in the awards – either a new media department at a university, perhaps, or a large company like a local bank who can put some cash into the project. Choice of host will probably be determined by the principles.
  • Thirdly, judges should not nominate themselves – they should be chosen for their particular experience in the subject (e.g. photographer if it’s a photography blog etc), perhaps a star blogger from another country etc. and there should be a very specific (limited) number of judges.
  • If this is going to be a national award about representative, good quality content, then I’d say that the public should nominate the blogs and that, in order to go through, the sites should have to meet certain criteria (including user numbers). The chosen judges should discuss the nominees in each category and make the final choice. Peoples’ choice awards are very simple to decide – you just have to look at local user statistics – but quality, representative material needs to be decided by people talking together.

And no, I’m not writing this because I want to be a judge, nor do I want to enter the awards, nor do I want to get the contract to organise the next awards.

I’m just interested in making things better – not because I’m trying to save the world or because I have a halo around my head, but just because.

Oh, and thanks, Seth. I made so many new friends today 🙂 Thank you for caring so much.

The real conversation

Anyone could have predicted it. Make a comment about the state of blogging in South Africa by refering the winner of the SA Blog Awards and you get this:

insults about my blog and how boring it is;
– reaffirmation about why the blog in question is so incredibly fabulous by its gang of aggro readers;
– reaffirmation of my own worries that this conversation is (again) taking place among a very small demographic of South Africa’s population and with no recognition of that fact.

All (again) diverting us away from what the real conversation should be about – and that’s where the South African blogging community is heading.

Again, this is not a 2oceansvibe bashing. I appreciate that we need diversion; I appreciate that Seth has worked really hard on his blog; it’s not my thing but that’s just me – and that’s the great thing about blogging: we can all have our ‘thing’. What I’m saying, though, is that, if we’re using the measure of happy advertisers, or most loyal readers, or even most readers, then our choices would be different. These awards shouldn’t be about blogs with the most readers. If it was, we wouldn’t be able to notice more innovative sites – that may not be raking in the cash precisely because they’re new and innovative.

I mean, surely just by looking at the awards, the people who attended the event etc, you can’t honestly say that blogging in SA is in a healthy state of diversity and growing among new audiences.

Or maybe I’m just being boring. Maybe I should just get a ‘good shag’ or go back to the ‘beach’.

The blog awards

I’m still trying to work it out, but perhaps its as obvious as the number of readers of newspapers with headlines about young women having sex with aliens. I think it’s an indictment on SA blogging when 2oceansvibe wins 6 categories, including ‘Best South African’ blog in this year’s SA Blog Awards. I mean, I have nothing against the blog (I realise that there is a pretty large audience for tits, ass, cars, rugby and surfing) but the fact that this is the blog that we hold up to the world as our national pride and joy makes me want to hurl. Actually, this comment by 2oceansvibe’s author, Seth Rotherham seems to sum up where blogging in SA is at right now:

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I was a judge in this year’s awards. That involved me going to a website to vote for my favorite blogs in 3 categories. Votes were weighted in favor of public votes. According to the rules, that means that ‘In the voting phase the vote weighting will be 30% judges and 70% public’ whereas in the nomination phase it is ‘50% judges 50% public’.

In the future, I think we need to distinguish between popular voted blogs and then get the judges together to discuss their choice of winners that best reflects where South Africa is right now and where it is heading (and that’s not just in terms of the Internet which is very white, middle class and English right now). I’m really not blaming the awesome guys like Miguel dos Santos, Chris Rawlinson and the team who put this together at the last minute. I just think in the future we need to have a vision for things like this that has a lot more to do with the future of blogging in SA than a chance for the same few to continue to dominate the spotlight.

If the blog awards brand doesn’t have any meaning, any vision, any unique take on the world of blogging, then I guess it will be just another popularity contest – which is fine – but just not what I hoped for SA.