Bloggers Shrink the Planet – GV making headlines in 2006!

I found this gem on the web today! Isn't it lovely? I recognise very few faces in the photo below (half a face in the case of Ethan), some of them are former GVers, some still with us. I can't help but I wonder where everyone else is!

It was written by Quinn Norton in December 2006 for, and published with the tags Science, Discoveries. Global Voices was only two years old, and I think this was the first summit. It was before Lingua, and I believe Advox and Rising Voices too. It shows how much we have grown… Quinn, if you ever see this post in our humble community blog, thank you for allowing me to republish the text and photo on its entirely.

(PS: Yes, dear friends I am aware of the “ © 2014 Condé Nast. All rights reserved” notice at the bottom of the page. We still follow golden rules here, and I shall tell you another day the saga I went through with Condé Nast to get permission to republish it without paying their $400 licensing fee! For now, rest assured it is all sorted.)

It made me appreciate even more how much we have changed, but yet we are still pretty much the same, and still campaigning about and publicizing censorship in Ethiopia, as an example. I also found it fascinating that, pretty much like now, most of our ideas in 2006 were “impractical, but some were pretty good”!

What do you think about the prediction in last phrase? I made it bold myself. Please use the comment box to let me know! If you are on the picture, you must comment :)

Bloggers Shrink the Planet


Global Voices authors, editors and advisers gather for a class photo at the Indian Habitat Centre in New Delhi. Photo: Quinn Norton.

Global Voices authors, editors and advisers gather for a class photo at the Indian Habitat Centre in New Delhi, 2006. Photo by Quinn Norton, re-published in this humble blog with enthusiastic permission.

NEW DELHI — Exciting things happen when dedicated bloggers from around the world meet for the first time. For Briton Rachel Rawlins, being introduced to Tunisian exile Sami Ben Gharbia was the chance to meet a personal hero.

Gharbia is the creator of the Tunisian Prison Map — an idea inspired by a New York Times interactive map charting murder locations in New York City. Gharbia turned the concept on its head: Instead of showing government figures on crime, he'd display where his former government was behaving criminally, imprisoning political dissidents for daring to speak out.

When you click on a place-mark on Gharbia's Google Maps mashup, a pop-up reveals details, stories and videos of prisoners and their families. The map is compelling and provocative, and it's one more reason Gharbia, who now lives in the Hague, says he can't go home.
The site is “the best advocacy tool I've ever seen anywhere,” gushes Rawlins, managing editor of Global Voices Online, an international citizens’ media group that held its second annual summit in India's bustling capital last weekend.

You could probably count in an afternoon the number of people who would be moved nearly to tears by the deftness and artistry of a map mash-up on injustice in a repressive African nation. And most of them would be here — where over 100 bloggers from more than 25 countries came together, including more than a few old colleagues meeting each other in person for the first time.

Global Voices was launched in 2004 as a way to get people talking to one another across cultural and lingual divides. A project of The Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School — and the brainchild of Berkman fellows Ethan Zuckerman and Rebecca MacKinnon — Global Voices began as a kind of Reader's Digest of noteworthy or interesting blogs from non-Western countries.

Today, the Global Voices website has grown to a million visitors a month, and is rated on blog search and analysis company Technorati as the 207th most popular blog by inbound links, in a field of around 55 million. Geographically distributed editors spend their days rounding up the most important posts from their parts of the world and presenting them through the site, so visitors can easily zoom in on what's happening in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Cuba or the Congo.

Last weekend's conference had the feel of a miniature United Nations, with laptop-toting attendees from nearly every continent gathered on the tiers of a New Delhi convention center, each sitting at their own small desk, many wearing native dress. Like any room full of bloggers, the meeting had no shortage of trivial bickering, backstabbing, moral grandstanding or long-wrought recriminations. But the bloggers stayed and they worked, because some of them had left their family and their friends to live their lives in exile, and some of them were trying to save a continent from poverty and tearing itself apart, and some of them just wanted to be aggregated into something larger than themselves.

Once seen as primarily English, usually American, and often personal or geeky, the blogosphere today mostly resembles this room — a noisy, transnational pastiche of culture and language. According to Technorati, English posts make up less than a third of all blogs today, while Chinese and Japanese blogging, for example, makes up 43 percent.

This year, Global Voices began an ambitious, all-volunteer effort to translate selected Arabic, Persian, Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese, French and Russian blog posts into English — dramatically expanding the reach of those blogs. One Global Voices editor — Taiwanese blogger Cheng Kuo Wei — does the reverse, marshaling a team of 10 volunteers to translate one or two long blog posts a day from English into Chinese. “People will feel connected if they see something similar (to their own lives),” says Cheng. “We try to translate posts (from nations like Nigeria) where there are similarities.” At a time when most news agencies are closing foreign desks and tightening budgets for global coverage, blogging provides a glimpse into the lives of others available nowhere else.

In the past year, Global Voices brought to light a video blog entry showing police brutality in Malaysia, a story later picked up by The Washington Post. It campaigned successfully to free detained Egyptian bloggers, and helped create a group called Don't Block the Blog to work around Pakistani and Indian government censorship of sites like Blogspot. The organization also maintains one of the best guides to anonymous blogging, specifically geared for bloggers operating under repressive regimes.

Aided by grants from Reuters, the MacArthur Foundation and the Netherlands-based nonprofit Hivos, Global Voices plans to put still more focus on free expression in countries with censorious governments in the year to come. Beyond creating tools, the group will be “campaigning about and publicizing censorship, (in) Ethiopia and Zimbabwe, to name but two current cases,” says Rawlins.
If there's one dim spot in Global Voices’ results, it's that the community of readers and bloggers doesn't reflect the wider face of globalization.

“Our users are over-educated,” jokes founder Zuckerman. In a voluntary survey of 230 users, nearly 30 percent reported themselves as journalist and academics, with 42 percent holding post-graduate degrees — not representative of the population Global Voices hopes to serve. Of the journalist readers, 90 percent reported having gotten stories from Global Voices, indicating how blogging is beginning to fill the space left by the closing of the foreign desk.

Global Voices is serving an Anglophone and academic audience — albeit a sizable one — when it would like to be serving the world.
Much of the discussion over the two-day conference focused on ideas to change that. Some editors plan on visiting universities in their part of the world to educate students on how to blog. And the organization is planning a phone-in blogging program, so those who have no access to computers, or aren't literate, can dial a phone number and publish a podcast on Global Voices.

But for the most part, attendees passed around a mike and trotted one suggestion after another in front of the room. Most of the ideas were impractical, but some were pretty good. If this group has proven anything in the two years it's been around, it's that with an even smaller subset of those ideas eventually acted upon, the project will bear fruit in excess of the investment.

Source: Republished with Quinn Norton's permission, and Condé Nast's permission to seek that.


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