It Happened to Me

Plotting to Save the World, One Blog at a Time

Last night, I had the privilege of dining with Rebecca MacKinnon, Jay Rosen, Jeff Jarvis and Hossein “Hoder” Derakhshan at Tempus, a Persian fusion restaurant on Yonge Street here in Accordion City.

Rebecca MacKinnon and Jay Rosen. Rebecca is a media fellow at Harvard’s Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy; prior to that, she was CNN’s Tokyo Bureau Chief. Jay Rosen is the faculty chair of NYU’s school of Journalism,
a former fellow at the Shorenstein Center, was one of the Democratic
National Convention bloggers and will be blogging the upcoming
Republican National Convention.

After hearing about how Hoder and I came to Canada, Jay quipped “Isn’t
history so rude, the way it just interferes with lives like that?”.
Hoder’s life was pretty much altered after the 1979 Revolution in his native Iran,
while mine was changed mere weeks after my family moved back to the
Philippines in 1972, when President Marcos has his dictatorial flip-out.

In commenting on my write-ups of the PJNet conference on public journalism and blogging
(which he complimented — thanks!), he asked if my reporting style was
influenced by my training as a computer programmer. I told him that I
couldn’t imagine it not being influenced by it, as I’m the sort of
person who likes his information well-organized.

We also talked about the excellent but short-lived television show Max Headroom, which Jay, Jeff and I loved. Jeff said that he gave it a great review (I’m not sure in which publication).

Jeff Jarvis and “Hoder” Derakshan. Jeff is the president and creative director of (which oversees the internet strategy of Advance Internet and Conde Nast’s CondeNet). Prior to that, he created Entertainment Weekly and was a TV critic for TV Guide and People.
Hoder, often known as “The Iranian Weblogger”, contributes in his own
way to the reformation of Iran through his English and Persian blogs,
both titled Editor: Myself. Hoder’s so influential that someone’s written a Wikipedia entry on him!

We also talked about software and hardware usability and the conceptual
gaps between programmers and the people who use their software,
self-expression and cultural gaps, beer, journalists’ perception of
blogging, getting Rebecca set up with a Blogware blog, Tucows and Asia.

The big topic of discussion was what I like to think of as “Changing
the World”, through weblogs. It was inspired by Hoder’s blogging; he’s
almost single-handedly responsible for starting a blogging revolution
in Iran. The hope is to foster the exchange of ideas, international
understanding and free specch through blogging. We came up with these
requirements (which I’ve cribbed from this entry on Jeff’s blog):

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……

Thanks for dinner, Jeff, and it was great dining and talking with all of you!

6 replies on “Plotting to Save the World, One Blog at a Time”

That’s so cool that you talked about Asia. They are one of my all time favorite bands. “Wildest Dreams” is one of the best songs ever.

Cynthia, you forget what blog you’re reading! One never has to apologize for things like that on The Adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st Century!
And yes, he’s a sharp-lookin’ fellah, that Hoder.

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