Scott Rosenberg on writing in public

Scott is a co-founder of Salon, and this excerpt is from his essay on “Blogging, empowerment, and the ‘adjacent possible.'”

One way to assess the impact of blogging is to say that the number of people who have had the experience of writing in public has skyrocketed over the course of the last decade. Let’s say that, pre-Internet, the universe of people with experience writing in public — journalists, authors, scholars — was, perhaps, 100,000 people. And let’s say that, of the hundreds of millions of blogs reported to date, maybe 10 million of them are sustained enough efforts for us to say that their authors have gained real experience writing in public. I’m pulling these numbers out of a hat, trying to err on the conservative side. We still get an expansion of a hundredfold.

Each of these people now has an entirely new set of ‘adjacent possibilities’ to explore. What they make of those opportunities will shape the next couple of decades in important, and still unpredictable, ways.

Essay Velocity

Much longer than usual quote from the source, but this is dynamic reporting by Alexis Madrigal of The Atlantic on the velocity of one essay and the people who accelerated it forward, c. 2010.

Bady’s kept the Zunguzungu blog since March of 2007 when he traveled to Tanzania. He’s averaged 15 or 20 posts a month since, mostly just links and blockquoted excerpts. In May of 2010, he had a big day when he posted about “The Soul of Mark Zuckerberg,” deconstructing one Zuckerberg quote with the help of W.E.B. DuBois. That post ended up linked by Jillian York, who works at Harvard’s Berkman Center for the Internet and Society. Bady thinks it’s that post that brought his blog to the attention of several in that sphere, including Cambridge resident and ethnomusicologist Wayne Marshall, who just so happens to be giving a talk at Berkman tomorrow. Marshall, in turn, appears to have been the key link between Bady and the world at large. He retweeted Bady’s announcement of his post on November 29. (UPDATE, 8:04 pm: Marshall pointed out to me on Twitter he’s known about Bady since December of 2008, and he’s got a blog post to prove it.)

The next day, the Berkman Center’s Ethan Zuckerman tweeted the post, calling it a useful close reading of Assange’s 2006 essay (which it is). Zuckerman is one of the most respected thinkers and writers on the geopolitical implications of technology and his tweet went far. It was retweeted by 30 people — and more importantly brought the post to the attention of BoingBoing’s Xeni Jardin, which sent traffic pouring to the post. The same day, WikiLeaks Twitter feed also linked to the post, saying “Good essay on one of the key ideas behind WikiLeaks.” 90 more people retweeted the post. According to BackType, almost 2,500 people have tweeted the story.

By 12:45 p.m. on the 30th, the post had made Nieman Journalism Lab’s Popular on Twitter list for the day. By 6:39 p.m., the New York Times’ Lede breaking-news blog had linked to Bady’s post. According to traffic logs Bady shared with me, almost 50,000 people visited the post that day, including — no doubt — many of the most influential journalists and opinion leaders. Tens of thousands have visited in the days since. Bady regularly engages in Twitter conversations now with the academics and journalists covering the story. Volunteers translated his story into Spanish, Dutch, and German.

Alexis Madrigal, “The Unknown Blogger Who Changed WikiLeaks Coverage”

A love letter to the post real-time web

In the waning days of Delicious*, I came across this link shared there tonight by Michal Migurski.

It’s a fantastic essay by Matthew Ogle on the recent building of the real-time web, and the opportunities ahead to add meaning to the myriad personal histories now floating in the network.

By providing us with new ways to share what we’re doing right now, the real-time web also captures something we might not have created otherwise: a permanent record of the event. We’ve all been so distracted by The Now that we’ve hardly noticed the beautiful comet tails of personal history trailing in our wake. We’ve all become accidental archivists; our burgeoning digital archives open out of the future.

What were you thinking about on November 23rd, 2009? You probably have no idea, but Twitter might. What was your personal soundtrack to the summer of ’07? Ask Last.fm. Hit up Dopplr to find out how many miles you travelled last year, Foursquare for the Berlin bar that people you know check in to more than any other, or Facebook to see the photos of the last time you hung out with your best friend on the other side of the world.

Without deliberate planning, we have created amazing new tools for remembering. The real-time web might just be the most elaborate and widely-adopted architecture for self-archival ever created.

Matthew Ogle, “Archive Fever: A love letter to the post real-time web”

* From the archives, the day I figured out how to use del.icio.us

Reviving The Atlantic

How The Atlantic went from losing $7M in 2005 to turning a profit this year, as reported in the Times.

How did a 153-year-old magazine — one that first published the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and gave voice to the abolitionist and transcendentalist movements — reinvent itself for the 21st century?

By pretending it was a Silicon Valley start-up that needed to kill itself to survive…

“We imagined ourselves as a venture-capital-backed start-up in Silicon Valley whose mission was to attack and disrupt The Atlantic,” said Justin B. Smith, president of the Atlantic Media Company, who arrived at the magazine’s offices in the Watergate complex in 2007 with a mission to stanch the red ink. “In essence, we brainstormed the question, ‘What would we do if the goal was to aggressively cannibalize ourselves?’ ”

Julian Assange and the Computer Conspiracy

Fascinating analysis of the motivation and goals impelling WikiLeaks, via Julian Assange and the Computer Conspiracy; ‘To destroy this invisible government’

The question for an ethical human being — and Assange always emphasizes his ethics — has to be the question of what exposing secrets will actually accomplish, what good it will do, what better state of affairs it will bring about. And whether you buy his argument or not, Assange has a clearly articulated vision for how Wikileaks’ activities will “carry us through the mire of politically distorted language, and into a position of clarity,” a strategy for how exposing secrets will ultimately impede the production of future secrets. The point of Wikileaks — as Assange argues — is simply to make Wikileaks unnecessary.