Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Day 1 in Bucharest for #wbf2009, the opening

When I began my Google and Wikipedia research on Bucharest and Romania in preparation for the World Blogging Forum this week, I was very interested to read about some of the history of the venue for the conference, The Palace of Parliament.

Commissioned at great cost toward the end of Nicolae Ceau┼čescu’s Communist regime to house the parliamentary and presidential facilities, it’s the world’s largest civil administrative structure and is second only in size to the Pentagon. In person, though, it’s quite the sight. We saw it first at night glowing from blocks away, and as we pulled up to it this morning for day one of the conference it was even more impressive.

There are big chandeliers, high ceilings, large reception halls, paintings, sculptures, and lots of marble everywhere. Not uncommon in Europe, but it’s kind of striking to see a relatively new building constructed in this style. Anyway, cool place for a blogging conference but enough architecture, on to the blogging.

After we settled into the Human Rights Hall of the Palace of Parliament, the first big item on the agenda was a speech from the President of Romania, Traian Basescu. Was pretty good to see the head of state come out for the conference and, even better, he didn’t deliver a boiler-plate welcome and thanks for coming speech, but actually had some substantive thoughts to share on the topic of the conference.

Basescu, who you can follow on Twitter (@tbasescu), said as an Internet user he believes the Internet is the freest means of communications yet invented because promotes pluralism and enables dialogue on a global basis, bringing the freedom to communicate at a global level. People aren’t along on the Web, they’re part of a community where they can find support.

In Romania, Basescu said blogs are relatively new but they’re becoming well established and consolidated. And he said he finds the political analysis is better in the Romanian blogs than it is in the traditional press in Romania, because bloggers are less dependent on economic and political interests. The media here, he said, aside from the state channels are dominated by private press with business interests that influence their coverage and seek to influence policy with their coverage to advance business interests. Many journalists, he said, are seeking refuge in blogging as a way to escape those shackles and report freely.

I thought Basescu made a really good point when he said that, with the freedom of communication and expression of the Internet and blogging, there must also be accountability and responsibility taken by bloggers for the information they publish. When one has freedom, one has responsibility

While Basescu doesn’t believe there’s a place for government regulation here, he does want to see bloggers step-in themselves with self-regulation, agreeing amongst their selves globally on common-sense rules of practice.

Another interesting speaker from the morning opening was Loic Le Meur, the founder and CEO of Seesmic (A Twitter/social media viewer) and host of the LeWeb conferences in Paris.

Le Meur made an interesting point that while advances such as the printing press, the telephone and telegraph, cinema and television were all momentous, the Internet was truly ground-breaking as a communications breakthrough because while the others were good at either mass (one-way) communication or just a one-on-one conversation, the Internet is the first to bring both aspects, mass communication and interactivity, together natively.

I parted ways with Le Meur when he said professional media will never be the main source of information because they’re outnumbered by users, because twitter is so immediate, and so on. I don’t buy it. Le Meur talked about learning about an earthquake in China on Twitter six hours before it hit CNN. He also talked about how, with the US Army clamping-down on information access after the Fort Hood shootings, on Twitter individual soldiers were putting information out there uncensored.

Le Meur added that traditional broadcasters jumped on the soldier’s tweets, reporting them, only later to learn much of the information was incorrect. The annoying “twitterization” of the MSM aside (balloon boy coverage comes to mind), this example seems to me to illustrate why twittering won’t replace the MSM: I don’t know if I can trust what I read from random twitter guy.

What I think needs to happen, and is slowly happening (Le Meur agreed) is that traditional media needs to adapt to social media. What we need is a marriage of the best of traditional media (research, fact-checking, ethical and moral standards, etc.) with the best of social media (immediacy, interactivity, multiple platforms of content delivery). There will always be lots of information on the blogs and on forums such as Twitter, but the signal-to-noise ratio is high. It’s the trusted names that will rise above, and the brands of the MSM in that regard as they enter the new field are strong, I feel.

Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers

No comments: