Everyone I met at the Personal Democracy Forum was knowledgeable and hugely accomplished. It’s exciting to be involved as a new idea coalesces. But there’s so much up in the air, and there will continue to be, and this may explain the creeping feeling I had during the day’s second panel – Bloggers, Jouranlists and Politicians – that no one on the panel would agree about what a blog even is, or should be used for. I know that “blog” may ultimately be one of those mush-words that can mean a number of things–like “communications” or “salad.” But it would have been nice if someone had at least acknowledged the vast and nearly contradictory range of uses being implied by the discussion.
No one would come out and say quite what we mean when we talk about blog. Are blogs a community environment, networked and self-perpetuating? Are they a transparency engine, revealing the thinking and decisions of a few for comments and emergent adjustments by the many? Or are they a sophisticated brand-enhancement technique, creating a feeling of openness and “sponsored” intimacy that is often little more than just that, a feeling.
To the scrappy Congressman Anthony Weiner (who took some hits from the crowd and also had some great come-backs, like his memorable, if off-base, complaint that the Dean For America site was so confusing “it made my hair hurt”), “blog” seemed to mean any comment on any web site, including his own, about him or his votes or the issues in general. He was insistent that he didn’t need a blog himself, because all his positions were posted on his web site. Alley vet Jason Calcanis, founder of the new, opportunistically-named, Weblogs, Inc., took the position that blogs are an amateur pundit-sphere. Jump in now ’cause it’s “blog or be blogged.” Reporter and blogger Chris Nolan made a point I don’t think is made often enough that for some people blogs are just the simplest, cheapest way to create a presence online.
The two people I agreed with most were Arianna Huffington and Jeff Jarvis — oddly, I couldn’t tell you quite what they said because I was too busy nodding to myself in agreement. Huffington’s breezy style is perfect for blogging, though, and Jarvis’s point-blank “Why don’t you blog?” to Weiner mirrored the accountability to which bloggers can hold leaders.