updated 9/17/2003 4:54:04 AM ET 2003-09-17T08:54:04

Sept. 19, 2003 / 6:32 PM ET

Why else I like blogs: An interesting post on Blogcritics about a band touring Syria, Kuwait, and Lebanon elicits a response from a backpacking blogger with more stories of a recent trip to Iraq, and blogspotters world-wide are able to vicariously broaden their horizons.

How many bloggers does it take to make a grilled cheese sandwich?Forty two and counting. (via Anil’s links)

I want a Clark blog:General Clark may be officially in the race, but he doesn’t appear to have his own blog (yet?). That’s not to say that you’ll go hungry if you’re in the mood for Clark blogging. You can pretty much take your pick.

Welcome to the party: The Democrats have a party blog now, but when it comes to partisan politics, some may prefer the three-for-one offerings of Watchblog.

Name that blog: Want to be part of history? Elizabeth Spiers is leaving Gawker to work at New York Magazine where her duties will include writing a new Weblog. The blog’s name? She’s still taking suggestions.

Show a little skin: Sick of your the appearance of your plain old brown bag blog? Blogskins can help you dress it up.

A blog calling card: There is technology out there specifically designed to let fellow bloggers know that you are linking to them or commenting about something they’ve posted, but the most common form of inter-blogger communication is still good old e-mail. Kevin Aylward offers some handy advice on how best to bring your blog to the attention of another blogger. His example is in the context of kissing up to Glenn Reynolds, but the advice is sound for communicating with any fellow blogger.

Schoolhouse blog: Though blogging has evolved to the point where it is being taught in formal settings, something that’s nice about the blogging community is bloggers are always willing to help each other learn how to do it better —like the ten things Kate has learned about blogging and the six more things Sean was able to add.

Share your thoughts and links.

Sept. 16, 2003 / 7:38 PM ET

Fun with math:

or

Why I like blogs: I have no problem saying that I rely heavily on Weblog indexes. I think they’re the most efficient way of looking through a lot (and a variety) of blogs at once and getting a feel for what people are linking to. To my delight I found (via Joi Ito) a new index today called BlogPulse. It looks similar to Daypop, with groupings by phrases, topics, people, and top links.

Most of the headlines on the blogpulse for today were ones that I’d already seen listed on other directories, but way down at number 27 is a link to a Calpundit entry. The context provided includes a sentence that always draws me to a blog: “After reading that I went to the U.S. Department of Education and looked around for the budget data....”

The sentence is from a post by Steve Verdon who tries to find the source for numbers in an essay by David Corn of The Nation in which Corn claims to have caught Bush in a lie about education spending.

In a recent speech at an elementary school, President Bush said, “The budget for next year boosts funding for elementary and secondary education to $53.1 billion. That’s a 26-percent increase since I took office.”

Corn criticized, “Bush’s proposed elementary and secondary education budget for next year is $34.9 billion, not $53.1 billion, according to his own Department of Education. It’s his total proposed education budget that is $53.1 billion. More importantly, there is no next-year “boost” in this budget. Elementary and secondary education received $35.8 billion in 2003. Bush’s 2004 budget cuts that back nearly a billion dollars, and the overall education spending in his budget is the same as the 2003 level.”

So the challenge is whether we, as bloggers, can reproduce these numbers to get a better understanding of what’s really the case.

In the post linked to above, Steve gives it a shot, but doesn’t match Bush’s numbers or Corn’s numbers. RJ then offers help in the form of another chart with another set of numbers. Still Steve is not getting Corn’s numbers.

Clearly part of the problem is that there are charts everywhere on the Department of Education site, some totaled, some not, and each one is meant to show something other than what we’re looking for.

I think I found Corn’s numbers here or this link for a spreadsheet.

I found this particular set of numbers in the first set of links on the Overview: Budget History Tables page, which I found in the list of links in the black box on the right on the main Education Budget Overview page.

It shows for elementary and secondary ed:

2003: 33,676,616,000 (budget)

2003: 35,797,897,000 (appropriation)

2004: 34,874,488,000 (budget)

(Numbers on the chart are in thousands so I added the zeros here.)

So we’ve found David Corn’s numbers. Of course, by now we’ve all figured out that the $53.1 billion Bush gave is the total for the whole Department of Education (as mentioned in this press release).

Doing a bit of backwards math, a 26% increase that results in $53.1 billion means Bush started with $42.1 billion, which we find on the chart is roughly the total amount appropriated for the entire Department of Education in 2001 (actually $42,061,403,000).

If you clicked over to the comments on Steve Verdon’s site you saw that passions got hot as the info hunt mixed with interpretations of how the president came to say what he did.

I’m not going to play the game of guessing whether it’s a mistake or a lie — that’s a dead horse that certainly won’t benefit from my beating. I do agree that numbers can be twisted to show just about anything, and this kind of double-checking is both worthwhile and interesting. (It’s also interesting that the transcript of the original speech has apparently remained unedited — at least as of when this was posted. Factual errors are routinely edited out of Bush’s speeches on the White House Web site.)

I can’t think of anywhere else that strangers in the public can research, discuss, and analyze information with each other in this way. It is this kind of research and the spirit that drives it that has put blogs on the media map.

A nice memorial:

From the mailbag:

Name: Tom

Hometown: Bloomington, IN

“I wanted to draw your attention to my blog dedicated to the servicemen who lost their lives in Iraq. It has a complete listing of each one killed and a personal story about most. I have tried to keep the political rhetoric to a minimun.”

What blogs have you spotted?

Sept. 15, 2003 / 6:43 PM ET

Who’s next? Jane Galt raises the question of whether the new attention on online copyright infringement might turn an eye to the blogging world. Reading through the many comments posted in reply, however, the general consensus appears to be that blogs are relatively safe in their obscurity. Looks like the copyright police have bigger fish to fry.

The mobster is in: I thought this was just a joke -it’s a cartoon after all. I guess I was wrong.

Speaking of cartoons: With blogs offering news reporting as well as punditry, what more could you want in a news source? Sunday funnies of course.

Can’t say he didn’t warn you: William Gibson has remained true to his word and stopped blogging last Friday. I wonder if the chapters in his new book will be time stamped. (via Caoine)

Get a blog: Michael Feldman has some advice for the Dalai Lama. (via Scripting News)

God loves bloggers:Bloggy Barry covers the opening of the Harvey Milk school in New York City last week. (via Dong Resin)

Reader Recommendations:

From the mailbag:

Name: KissyHometown: Warren, RI

This one is really good....

Name: ElizabethHometown: Nashville

Check out Busy Mom Blog!

What blogs have you spotted?

Sept. 11, 2003 / 6:39 PM ET

I have a non-blog piece on the site today over here.

In the beginning:

Jason Kottke with an interesting bit of Weblog history.

Sell your audience?

This link and the one above are past their expiration date in my notebook, so out they go! I was initially inspired to write something about this post from Mitch Kapor because the idea of selling one’s blog audience seemed novel. Then I realized that’s what advertising is. The post still marks an interesting development in blog evolution though.

Blogging how-to:

Dave Pollard offers handy notes on how to keep a blog. These aren’t requirements, of course, but they will make your blog more readable.

Birthing a star:

When I wrote last week about bloggers looking for the next big thing, I hadn’t considered that blogs would actually produce the next big star.

The big blogroll in the sky:

Is your blog will in order?

What blogs have you spotted?

Sept. 8, 2003 / 8:17 PM ET

I’m out of the office (meaning, not sitting in front of a computer all day) for most of this week, but I’m going to try to point to some interesting blogs when I can. Here are a few from today:

“The worst storm to hit Bermuda for the last 50 years:” Hurricane Fabian: the story and photos.

You have extra time, right? Via The Morning News, Puzzles Collected at Random and Scrabblog, two game blogs to keep you buys. The latter posts a new set of scrabble letters every day for commenters to compete on finding the word with the highest score.

Why did my wife spend Sunday afternoon screaming at the TV? Oh, football season must have started. Meanwhile, for the folks whose football tastes run in the collegiate vein, there’s Fanblogs.

Don’t bite the tongue that feeds you: Don’t look now, it’s the 27th edition of the Bharateeya Blog Mela. “What’s that,” you ask?

“A collection of the week’s best posts from the Indian blog world.”

Funny that at one point there was discussion of discontinuing it because of lack of interest and now it’s made the Daypop list (sort of).

Let the music play: Kuro5hin tells you where to find tens of thousands of songs to download legally, and then explains why you should.

To Iraq and back: Former British environment minister, Michael Meacher, is grabbing a lot of linklines with an essay calling the war on terrorism “bogus.”

Without getting entangled in the debate itself, I was impressed to see the efforts of Kriselda at Different Strings, who tried to find the online sources of Meacher’s citations.

Kriselda is no fan of President Bush, but is that why she’s undertaken this task? No:

“As with anything that tends to get into conspiracy theory territory, I like to try and at least verify the information being provided and a sense of the context it was initially presented in, so I figured I should start checking what I could of the references he gave - and since I was going to do all that for myself, I figured I might as well provide some of what I find to you as well.”

This is what Jeff Jarvis is talking about when he says that online content, though not edited in the traditional way, is often “fact-checked to hell and back by its own audience.”

What blogs have you spotted?

Sept. 5, 2003 / 7:25 PM ET

From the mailbag:

Name: MaxHometown: Los Angeles, CA

I looked around for a while for a blog about books, and I was never able to find one that I really liked, so I created my own. It’s called The Millions. I work at a bookstore, so I spend a lot of time around books. About half of my posts are about all the good stuff that’s out there. I also have created the “Ask a Book Question” feature, where people can write in with questions about books and get an answer from me and my readers. It’s fun! Enjoy.

Will replies and then mumbles to no one in particular: Thanks Max. For some reason I feel like I was just reading about a bookstore blog. Could it have been this one?

Hold still: Via Max’s The Millions, an earthquake blog? Not really, even though it has links and time stamps and is updated frequently. Looking at how often there are earthquakes, it’s a wonder we ever use the expression “solid ground.”

Random recommendation: I’ve been enjoying Good Morning Silicon Valley lately.

Don’t campaign without it:John Edwards gets a blog rolling. I’d rather see him blog about what he’s doing in the Senate to give some real insight and transparency to government. One step at a time I guess. Does anyone have the full candidates’ blogs list?

We the people: Doc provides a nice collection of links exploring how the Internet and online community tools integrate with, improve, and foster democracy.

Looking for the next big thing: Perhaps the greatest legend in the blogosphere is the story of the take-down of then Senate majority leader Trent Lott by the Weblog community. The story, in short, is that the mainstream media gave light treatment to a story that bloggers figured out had deeper roots and longer legs than the mainstream had realized. Credit is generally spread broadly around the blogosphere for keeping the story alive, but it is also widely understood that Joshua Micah Marshall of Talking Points Memo led the charge.

Since that incident, I try to keep an eye out for the next big blog story. Certainly since then, and even before then, Weblogs highlighted facts and perspectives that had been glossed over or missed by mainstream news media. Coverage of the war in Iraq is pretty much one big example of that. But as far as a single story that came from the blogosphere and blew the top off the TV, we haven’t yet seen a repeat.

There was some debate about whether bloggers deserve credit for bringing about the editorial change at the New York Times in the wake of the Jayson Blair scandal, but regardless of where you fall in that argument, it’s clear that the roll of blogs in that case was not the same as with the Lott situation.

This theme came to mind again following a recent post by Mark Kleiman who highlighted a further development in the case of the “outing” of Joseph Wilson’s wife. You may recall that Joseph Wilson is the ambassador who helped fuel the fire over the line in President Bush’s State of the Union speech that pertained to Iraq trying to acquire uranium from Niger. Toward the end of that story’s life in the public eye, it was suggested that the White House had deliberately revealed that Wilson’s wife is a CIA agent, as a way of punishing Wilson for speaking out against the Bush administration.

That part of the story never quite took off, but here it was being brought back by Kleiman and other bloggers, this time with a link to video (not anymore, but the transcript lives) of Wilson essentially accusing Karl Rove specifically.

Perhaps it was the long Labor Day weekend, but even with video to use and mental image of Rove being “frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs,” the mainstream media didn’t pick it up.

A few days later, another story popped up that I thought for sure would make news, but didn’t, and then it was picked up by bloggers, but still didn’t get anywhere. This time it was again Marshall who picked up on it: an early August AP story that Iraq’s WMDs might have been nothing but a big bluff that backfired. It didn’t seem to make many waves then, and even Marshall moved on to other things. Then, almost a month later, an LA Times story with a headline on the same subject rose up the Blogdex rankings. Then Labor Day weekend happened and I haven’t heard anyone mention it.

Still more recently, colleague Jonathan Dube points out that Mickey Kaus indirectly broke the Arnold Swartzenegger “Oui” interview. While that certainly got a lot of attention, the impact of that story isn’t yet clear. Swartzenegger doesn’t appear to have been damaged by it.

Today Dave Winer announced that a famous company may be making a “new and exciting” announcement at an upcoming blogger convention, suggesting the possibility that bloggers will be on the front lines to break some news.

I started writing this entry more than a week ago, and with every day that passes, I find a new item to add that hints at something bloggers are about to push into the mainstream spotlight. There is no question that this is one reason why following blogs is an exciting endeavor. In the spirit of “post ‘em if you got ‘em,” I’m putting up what has been building in my notebook, and we’ll see if there’s anything to follow-up on or if it just disappears into the archives.

What blogs have you spotted?

Sept. 4, 2003 / 7:14 PM ET

Why didn’t I think of that? An idea blog (I lost my note on where I found this. Tip of the hat to the blogosphere.)

Not a lightbulb joke: What do you call more than one blogger?

Retroblog:Eric Alterman called this a blog the other day. I’m not sure I agree, but I’ll go along since that means I can point it out in this space. As a timeline or chronology, it makes for an interesting read to put some aspects of our turbulent times into context. Partisans will no doubt find flaws one way or other, but what struck me was the sheer irony of so many of the events that set the stage for Sept. 11.

You bought it but you don’t own it?A month ago we saw David Galbraith wonder if MP3s could be sold used like used records.

Yesterday, Georgy Hotelling tried to do it and blogged his progress and his reasoning.

Don’t fall behind the times: Folks on the New York City Flashmob notification list recently got news that next week’s mob (#8) will be the last one. Elsewhere in the world, Weblogs are being used to organize flashes of a different kind.

But good humor prevails: Proving Funny Valentine’s point from the other day that nothing in blogs is a secret, Kirchmeier gets caught name calling. D’oh!

Share your thoughts and links.

Sept. 2, 2003 / 6:43 PM ET

Flash blog follow-up:

Several useful replies, better explaining flashblogging, arrived in the mailbag over the weekend.

Excerpts from an e-mail exchange with Funny Valentine of Curitiba, Brazil:

“The purpose is to show up at an specific day at one weblog and post a lot of comments. There’s no specific goal other than have a big “party” at the chosen blog. What determines which blog will be “attacked” is simple: the person whose blog was chosen chooses the next one, and so on. The first Flash Mob was Tuesday, the 26th, at Angela’s blog. The second one will be in my blog, this Sunday the 31st. And the person who came up with this idea is our great friend Matusca, and he chose Angela’s to be the first blog to be the target of the first Flash Blog.”

“One of the “rules” of the Flash Blog is that the person has to reply each and every comment! And the comments are very funny, everyone asks a lot of questions, it’s the best part!”

In answer to my asking if they’d ever bombard someone who didn’t speak Portuguese or who didn’t have any idea about flash blogs:

“There isn’t an effort to pick a blogger who doesn’t know. Actually, as you know, they just did the first flash blog, so I really don’t know how things will work from now on. But I think it would be very hard to keep a secret in the blogs. If you post announcing the flash blog you have no control about who is reading what you wrote, right?”

Will replies: Good point, Funny. Thanks for all of your help.

Name: ColinHometown: Brooklyn“In its infancy, flash blogging seems to be a bit like Christmas caroling, as the Hairy Eyeball notes, and not yet the eerie coordination of total strangers, run by autonomous software agents over wireless networks, envisioned in Bruce Sterling’s story “Maneki Neko” (from A Good Old Fashioned Future).”

Name: Duncan RileyHometown: Eaton, Western Australia“Just a short note on the Flash Blogging in Brazil: I have recently posted an article to my Blog on the subject that may be of interest.”

Will adds: It bears pointing out that the flashbloggers described in the Blog Herald link above are not the same as the Brazilian flash blog activity enjoyed by Funny Valentine, top, so it’s reasonable to guess that lots of different people are coming up with this idea at the same time.

Aug. 27, 2003 / 11:47 PM ET

Flash blogs? Can someone who reads Portuguese explain this to me (in English)? The Babelfish translation isn’t helping much. What I gather is that bloggers in Brazil are following the flash mob model by all showing up at one blog at the same time and posting comments on one entry. If there’s a goal it would appear to be to score high placement on the Toplinks list, but like flash mobs it doesn’t appear to be about any real goal other than to do it.

The Funny Valentine blog translates pretty well with Babelfish, but I still feel like I’m missing the details. What determines the focus of the mob each time?

Maybe it’ll get a mention on the always interesting Blogalization.

Take this blog and shove it: We’ve seen people fired for blogging at work and we’ve seen people fired for what they blog about work and we’ve seen people fired for blogging at all because it conflicts with work interests and we’ve even seen bloggers in flame wars try to get each other fired. But as far as I know, this is the first time someone’s been fired for just reading a blog. (via Kottke)

Court blognographer: While some trials are mired in debates over whether to allow cameras in the courtroom, blogs are proving to be a handy tool for trial reporting. Sarah Stewart from NBC affiliate KFOR in Oklahoma City is filing hourly reports on the trial of Jim Pavatt, accused of killing Oklahoma City advertising executive Rob Andrew. Stewart is writing essentially a trial blog.

Entering post-blog? I found the above item by way of the fine folks at Poynter Online. At the end of the entry they make the final note that, “KFOR isn’t calling this a ‘blog,’ but that’s basically what it is.” In yesterday’s post, below, we saw Cory Doctorow pointing out another example of blogging that isn’t labeled as such: “This is blogging, plain and simple.”

I’m wondering if these are indications that we are entering the post-blog period. It wasn’t long ago that blog proliferation was the story. Any article to mention blogs was usually about blogs, and started with an explanation of what they are and how the name comes from contracting Web and log. But lately we see the word blog tossed around in common use. Blog even made it to the new edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. Now it seems like the format is secondary to what’s being done with it, how it’s being applied. I don’t think this is a sign that the fad is passing, I think it’s a sign of mainstream acceptance.

259 pages and they’re all numbered “1” And speaking of yesterday’s item about TV folks highlighting stories in newspapers, today Ben at Magnetbox shows us ”Today’s Front Pages: 259 front pages of newspapers from 34 countries, updated every day. Fascinating.”

Share your thoughts and links.

Aug. 26, 2003 / 7:32 PM ET

Open one door, close another:J.D. Lasica points out that Arianna Huffington has a new blog that she’s writing herself. Curious that as soon as she starts blogging her campaign manager steps down. Apparently there’s no direct connection, but it is interesting timing.

As seen on TV: Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing tells us about live TV blogging at a Canadian station: “When the news-anchor cuts to the remote feed from Hunter’s kitchen, he takes us on a guided tour of the day’s news, taking apart and contrasting the reportage from the different news-organs. This is blogging, plain and simple, but it’s on live television. And it’s interesting as hell.” (via Lost Remote)

It sounds a lot like the “In the papers” segment on NY1, the local New York City channel.

Interestingly, Jeff Jarvis was just talking about new P2P technology for pooling bandwidth for vlogging (video blogging). In the past I’ve criticized the “talking head” format as a waste of the visual medium (for both TV and vlogs), but it sounds like they’re talking about something more on the lines of what Lisa Rein is doing. That would be interesting for sure.

Flash morbid: I don’t know what this says, but I’ll take flash mobs over staged massacres any day. Heck, I’d settle for flash mops over staged massacres. (via Cameron’s Oddments)

At least one to spin it: How many bloggers does it take to bash Hummer drivers? Defective Yeti starts a “How many bloggers does it take” string that gets a little distracted with H2 bashing.

No bull:Trader Mike has been building a list of stock market blogs.

HULK BLOG!Hulk blog (via Pete’s Organic Link Farm, which also tips us to the cool Muteblog and then, by way of Pete Ashton’s proper blog, I find a link to the pleasant if weird Quickos... I could go on all day. This guy just made my list of regular reads.

Share your thoughts and links.

Aug. 25, 2003 / 7:25 PM ET

Outta there: Welcome home L.T. Smash.

I’ve been occupied with a few oeely so blogspotting has been sparse. In lieu of more links from me, here are some other blogs where you’ll find more links than you know what to do with:

Never to line a birdcage:Steven Frank has launched The LJ Times, a collection of headlines from Live Journal aggregated into a newspaper-looking format.

It reminds me of NZ Bear’s newspaper blog aggregator The Blogosphere Daily News, which has been on the fritz lately.

Blogs coming out her ears: Kelley at Suburban Blight is back from vacation and has demonstrated positively Herculean effort in putting together her latest Cul-de-Sac post —not that the last one was anything to sneeze at either. Anna at Primal Purge calls it “The mother of all Cul-de-Sacs.”

From the mailbag:

Name: Alfredo PerezHometown: New York City

I’m suggesting my own blog, Political Theory Daily Review, at PoliticalTheory.info.

Will replies: This is a nice site, but one warning to readers: If you already feel some anxiety about the size of your pile of “to read later when I get some time” links, this site could push you over the edge.

What blogs have you spotted lately?

Aug. 21, 2003 / 1:52 PM ET

One more blackout link: I know we’ve all moved on past blackout stories, but I finally got around to reading Amy Langfield’s story of being stuck in the last car on the Q train. It’s good to know what to expect if it ever happens to you.

Jailhouse blog: A number of bloggers are linked to a Christian Science Monitor story about the U.S. having the highest incarceration level in the world. In this case “incarceration level” means people who “are in prison or have served time there.”

This got me to wondering if there is such a thing as a prison blog. After all, who would have more time to blog than an inmate? I’m pretty sure American prisoners are not allowed Internet access (I trust someone will correct and/or mock me if I’m wrong on this) but a quick look did yield some interesting results:

The Prison Blog occupies itself with “collecting news and opinion on imprisonment from around the world.”

Prison Girl in Australia hasn’t posted much this summer, but it’s interesting to read back through what she’s written.

Jailed in Liverpool, England, “2nd floor-Left of the alley-21st cell,”Adam Niwdog managed to eek out a few posts before either losing interest, losing the privilege, or becoming somehow otherwise occupied. With 6 years left to serve, he has plenty of time to pick the hobby up again.

Too bad cars don’t run on desert heat: A neglected and aging means of providing vital energy to a large region has broken down, stranding an urban population and keeping people from getting to work. Blackout 2003? Nope, Phoenix. A friend of mine sent me a note that there’s no gas in Phoenix because of a broken pipeline.

Bloggers in the area report that some people are not handling the shortage well. Several people are making comparisons to the gas lines of the 70’s. In general the situation sounds pretty desperate.

Bill Brown has a few posts on the matter and some interesting links as well -like this site that charts Phoenix gas prices.

Getting to know you:Bill Brown has another link that caught my eye. Lots of blogs have a biographical “about” button on their blogs, but this one goes a bit far.

Unfinished business: Someone get these women some blogware.

Rest in peace: Deepest sympathies to Doc and his family.

Finger clickin’ good: By way of Anil Dash’s interesting post on the maturing of the Weblog format we find a motherlode of “low-threshold link sites” from Blogdex creator Cameron Marlow. If, like me, you’ve never heard the term before, low-threshold links are the ones that don’t qualify for a full blog entry but are still worth sharing with others.

Still on the scene: Salam Pax demonstrates with his reaction to the U.N. bombing why we were so drawn to his perspective during the war. He also points out a new blog by an Iraqi calling herself Riverbend.

What blogs have you spotted lately?

Aug. 19, 2003 / 2:11 PM ET

What childhood memories are made of:From the mailbag:

Name: Deb

Dad Chronicles has a nice story about a Dad and his five-year-old during the blackout. Very cute!

START TIME: 4:10. DURATION: 29 hours.: Cam Barrett took some nice photos as he hiked home from lower Manhattan to Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood. He also collected a hearty list of blackout links. Barrett spotted a similarity between his crowd photos and others we’ve seen: “Final Thought: New York City was flash-mobbed yesterday. The instructions were to ‘leave your office building between 4:10 and 4:20 PM and walk home. Await there for further instructions.’”

Here are some London mob photos for comparison.

Update:Rich at the Robot Filter got the e-mail.

Another Update:Ginger has a better title for this item: “Flashlight Mob”

Like a big pizza pie: Among the millions squinting through the darkness of Blackout 2k3 on Friday was Jesse Chan-Norris, lighting designer for “Buddy Cianci, The Musical,” a show in this year’s Fringe Festival named for the the mayor of Providence, RI who went to prison for racketeering. Check out the show’s “production blog” to find out what a lighting designer thinks about when his show and the city hosting it are lightless.

Bloggers report, you decide: Dave Winer isn’t impressed with the idea of candidate blogs: “They’re just going to have their ad agencies do it. It’ll be written to make it look like the candidate is writing, but they’ll run focus groups to find out what they should say on their weblog.” The better way to mix Weblogs with campaigns is for the voters themselves to blog their reactions to the candidates as they experience them in person. And so it is for this and a few other reasons that Winer filed a report on a Bob Graham campaign stop in Manchester N.H.

Superfly:Anne is looking for a blog pimp: “A smooth talker with the attitude and time to line up joh... er, readers. Great hat optional.”

You’ve got traffic:Dan Grigsby has a blog tool called “Instant Gratification” that is getting a lot of attention today. It is a bit of code that lets your AOL Instant Messenger notify you when someone visits your blog.

Share your thoughts and links.

Aug. 15, 2003 / 5:46 PM ET

For those marking off New York City neighborhoods, the lights came on for the little strip of buildings between Wall Street and Battery Park City at 5:23 pm ET. After a quick rust-water shower, I’m ready to catch up on blogs.

Happy Fair and Balanced Friday: The company techs made me turn in my kerosene-powered laptop because it wasn’t compatible with XP, but luckily the power came back just in time to join in the fun of Fair and Balanced Friday.

Instafair and Balancedmachine: It didn’t take long to find out who was dominating the blackout blog coverage. The tag team of Glenn Reynolds and Jeff Jarvis did such an extensive job I don’t even have specific links to offer. Just go there and scroll to find out why Weblogs are being taken so seriously as a news medium.

Fair and bloggy: Jarvis also points to the blackout blog set up by his company for NJ.com. While the NJ.com blackout blog focuses on headlines, the Metafilter community offers a similiar minute-by-minute following of the story with a little more opinion mixed in.

Fair and Mobalanced: Almost every blackout post out there has a link to this moblog. Folks used their camera phones and other mobile devices to take pictures throughout the emergency.

Fare and Balanced: Naturally, one place a blogspotter would want to look for New York City blackout blogs is the NYC Bloggers map, based on the New York City subway map. They’ve just begun an interesting project with the Regional News Network (I think they’re knocked off by the blackout, here’s a link that works) that mixes blog opinions with cable news. Lisa Chau has details.

Faren-balanced: How hot was it in the city last night? Check out the poor sweaty guy trapped in the subway in the 5th picture from the Gothamist today.

An unfair oustanding balance:From the mailbag:

Name: PamHometown: San DiegoI run a blog that I update every weekday, if not multiple times a day. News, annoyances, etc, your basic blog stuff. Also, once a month I post a total of my outstanding credit card debt which I am attempting to pay off. It gives me someone to answer to, even though I don’t know the people reading the blog. Having a blog is somewhat cathartic in the sense that you can just let it all out and be goofy, mad, stupid, etc and it doesn’t really matter as long as you only speak about yourself. I know it is very bandwagon to have a blog, but blogs are the new black.

Reply from Will:Ouch!

What blogs have you spotted?

Aug. 14, 2003 / 5:52 PM ET

Spoke too soon: Just when it looked like today might be the most boring day of the summer...

Blogspotting will return tomorrow.

Aug. 13, 2003 / 8:20 PM ET

The unicyclist went to the state fair and balanced:

The story of Fox News suing commedian Al Franken over the rights to the phrase “Fair and Balanced” has the blogosphere -even outside punditland -buzzing. Judging by the size of the movement, it’s probably safe to anticipate Fair and Balanced Friday will be very.... fair and balanced.

If Franken ends up having to prove that Fox is not fair and balanced, I hope they allow cameras in that courtroom.

Daypopped:The Shifted Librarian was on the Daypop list three times this morning for three separate posts. I’d say that’s a pretty clear indication that I should be reading it more often.

How else will you find it in a library? If you haven’t already made your blog official with an ISSN number, it may soon be too late. “In short, every country I have heard about is doing whatever it can to refuse new ISSN applications for Weblogs, usually on trumped-up reasoning.” says Joe Clark. (via Magnetbox)

A question of ettiquitte: Does a post with a pointer have to match the context it’s pointing to? The general sentiment is that giving credit where it’s due in the form of a link back to where a blogger found a link is good for everyone, the reader, the blogger, and the source of the link. But does a pointer mean more than just the link, and what if the context of the post is not the same as the context from which the link was extracted? Does it matter that yesterday’s item about tracing the roots of blogging points to an entry on Corante which highlights a quote I didn’t even mention? That was where I found the link, but not the theme I chose to focus on. Am I misrepresenting Corante with the pointer? Is it the link equivalent of a “Dowdian ellipsis”?

By the way, Dave Winer puts blogging closer to nine years old.

The campaign that never ended: Speaking of Maureen Dowd, part of her column in today’s New York Times wonders whether the fact that politicians are jumping on the blog bandwagon is a sign that blogs (or the Internet as a whole) are “over.” Of course, the answer is no.

The question reminds me of Mena Trott’s explanation of why the arrival of AOL blogs does not mark a “September that never ended.” The existence of candidate blogs does not mean the end of blogging any more than it means that anyone will actually read those blogs. People read what they like. An advantage blogs have over other online communities is that it’s real easy to ignore the ones you’re not interested in. Bad blogs don’t ruin the blogosphere, they just don’t get read.

Separation anxiety: The New York Times is also drawing a lot of links for its article about the number of degrees of separation of people by e-mail. Luckily for bloggers, they don’t need a whole scientific study to find how many links away they are from other bloggers. Leonard Richardson has a tool for just that task.

Share your thoughts and links.

Aug. 12, 2003 / 2:26 PM ET

Anyone seen Clarence?

It’s amazing how just a few photos can make finding an orange stuffed giraffe seem like the most important thing in the world. For the love of all things good, someone find this girl a Clarence!

Hold the mayo: I see the photos and I still don’t believe it: A Condiment War? (via The Morning News)

Tools of the blogspotter: Every good blogspotter is aware of how valuable a tool Technorati is. The site’s maintainer David Sifry gives a peek behind the curtain for those who’ve wondered how it works.

Counting the rings: Tom Coates checks the fossil record and finds that the roots of blogging stretch to roughly six years ago. His post comes in reaction to a false assertion in a BBC piece in which Bill Thompson says, “The earliest bloggers have been at it for two years now.” Coates doesn’t directly respond to Thompson’s suggestion that blogs are past their peak, but by pointing out that Weblogs have already been around for three times as long as Thompson thinks they have, Coates pretty much paralyzes the argument. (via Corante)

What blogs have you spotted?

Aug. 11, 2003 / 6:09 PM ET

Was one of the reindeer named Flash?Elizabeth Spiers makes reference to the hysterical Portland Cacophony Society’s Santa Groups, which pre-date the latest flash mob trend — no need for notes about Larry Niven and “Flash Crowd,” I’m not saying the Santas invented it, just that it’s a similar idea.

Too late: Well THAT didn’t take long! I guess anything that gets so popular so quickly without having any actual purpose is bound to draw scorn. Cheesebikini has more.

A blog in every pot: Democratic senator and presidential candidate John Kerry has a blog (not to be confused with the unofficial Kerry blog). Kerry hasn’t actually posted on it yet though. As Online Journalism Review’s Mark Glaser pointed out recently regarding Howard Dean’s blog, an official campaign blog is not necessarily a candidate blog.

As an active journal keeper since the 60’s, it’s not surprising to find that another democratic candidate, Bob Graham, has posted on his blog.

Given Time’s description of his note-taking habits, it’s a good thing the bulk of the blog consists of posts by his staffers.

“He has kept a running account of his every waking moment for the past 23 years — 14 in the Senate, eight in the Governor’s mansion, even his days in the state legislature. Graham writes down every meal, every meeting, every person he meets. No item is too small.”

Speaking of items that are too small: Among recent increased media attention on the online spam plague, a recent Wired article took a close look at one source of penis enlargement spam. Meanwhile, across the blogosphere, a self described regular guy from New York is taking matters into his own hands. The blogger at The Pill blog claims to be chronicling his experiences on taking one particular brand of the pills. He acknowledges suspcions that he himself is a spammer and the blog is just another ploy, but denies the charges, insisting he’ll be honest. Regardless, this page recommends The Pill blog for entertainment purposes only.

Another way to treat male insecurity:What do you like about men?

What’d I say? Somehow with Thursday’s mention of blog magic I managed to make some of the people I linked to really angry. My apologies to everyone involved for any offense I caused.

Not responsible for resulting addictions: Anders Jacobsen offers a nice basic outline of how to get started with blogging. (via BuzzMachine)

Bye bye: From the mailbag:

Name: Ivan28Hometown: NY

“See The Blog Herald and Radio Free Blogistan for a good story on blog culture. There’s a competition to sing a blog song based on American Pie.”

Will clarifies: Ivan is talking about the contest for the best performance of “Blogistan Pie,” a parody song written by blogger Christian Crumlish based on Don McLean’s classic “American Pie.” The Blog Herald is offering $20 for the best rendition.

What blogs have you spotted?

Aug. 11, 2003 / 6:09 AM ET

Post ‘em if you got ‘em: A habit I’ve developed in the course of learning how to write this Weblog is saving links for later. I read through a pretty lengthy list of blogs and directories almost every day, even when I don’t post to Blogspotting, and I usually take some notes as I go. My computer’s desktop is littered with Notepad files labeled “notebook,” “notes,” or with themes like “business” and “politics.” The unfortunate result is that I have a big collection of links that I mean to write about eventually, or fit into an essay but instead they’re sitting idle in “get to it later” files.

A few months ago I mentioned this problem to Jeff Jarvis. His advice was to make smaller, more frequent posts, and resist the urge to save them for later. Last week, as you may have noticed, I took a shot at doing just that. So instead of holding on to the link to Cheese Diaries until I have enough others to write a longer post on food blogs or the possibility of a growing cheese blog phenomenon, I shared it almost as soon as I saw it. Not only am I able to share more links this way, but the process takes less time, which enables me to post more often.

What’s not yet clear is whether this style is preferable to readers. So far the one clear result is that I’m seeing a lot less e-mail feedback. Is this because everyone is following the links to other sites before they leave a note, or is this list of links just plain boring? Weblogs include an array of styles from lengthy personal journals and detailed news analysis to lists of links and short quips.

Do you prefer more posts and links, or most substance in the text?

Aug. 7, 2003 / 7:24 PM ET

Camera flash mob?: James Taylor wants everyone in the world to take a picture at the same time.

Anyone got a cracker blog?Anne has developed momentum on a cheese blog called The Cheese Diaries with co-authors Ryan T. Tate and Connie Wong.

This looks like it will be a fun and interesting blog as long as they pace themselves: “I would have liked to make a concotion similar to croque monsiur - filled with ham and gruyere, topped with bechamel, then browned in the oven, but I have to lie down and have a coronary right now.” (via Justin Hall)

Blind but not deaf:From the mailbag:

Name: Josh Barnes

Hometown: Athens, GA

Well here is a link to my favorite blog: Kingblind. It’s like a music news site. I really dig it. I look at it everyday.

You have to believe:Joseph Siroker is using the power of blog magic to help him quit smoking. “If this blog has any magic powers at all, I should be able to write here what I want to be able to do, and then do it just as I wanted to.” The deal Siroker has struck is that he will perform certain tasks for his blog if it will grant his wishes.

Six days and counting since he quit on his 58th birthday. I wonder if it’s for the extra magic that he’s keeping two blogs at once.(via Blogathon participant She’s a good egg, Martha)

No end in sight: While learning about blog magic I followed a link to the Siroker Brothers blog. I can only guess that Joseph is some relation, although we can at least know that he is not one of the identical twin bloggers who write the site.

Brother Dan Siroker recently posted a brief explanation (and the proof to go with it) of why the Internet is infinite. The secret is that the Internet includes his infinite Web site.

Basketball diaries:From the mailbag:

Name: Jeff Lewis

Hometown: LA

I like SoCalLawBlog.com for all of my legal coverage, including Kobe.

Will replies: A fine blawg indeed, but can SoCalLawyer beat the one-two punch of TalkLeft’s Kobe blogging and Kobe case news?

Nothing to do with Cheese Diaries: We’ve looked at some weight-loss blogs (and another because the url is so funny) in the past, and Julie at The Skinny Daily Post explains why it’s likely we’ll hear more about them again soon. So when a link to the ChubbyGut blog appeared on Kottke.org yesterday, it wasn’t necessarily the concept of using a blog to chart and motivate weight-loss progress that was of interest. It’s the design and programming of the blog, the interface, that makes it so fun to play with.

A few clicks away is a blog called Introversion 3.0 by Patrick Kalynapu, who I can only guess is the owner of the belly displayed on ChubbyGut. Introversion 3.0 may be the coolest blog I’ve ever clicked through. Make sure you have some free time before you check it out because you’re bound to spend a while there playing with what you find.

Submit your thoughts and links.

Aug. 6, 2003 / 7:20 PM ET

Arranging the blogestra:A Weblog community for violinists.

Big brother is cat-sitting: Todd Dominey wants to track his cats online with wireless technology. The idea brought to mind radio frequency I.D. technology that colleague Michael Rogers recently wrote and blogged about. It’s interesting that the same concept that can be seen as a cute way to find a lost cat can also be seen as a sinister way for a government to track its citizens.

Act local: From the mailbag:

Name: Tim

Hometown: Virginia Beach, Va.

“A blog about a local community group trying to battle extremely wealthy developers and a city council that doesn’t seem to care at www.OPCL.org/ActNow. The land they are trying to protect has reportedly housed bald eagles, endangered turtles among various birds and other wildlife and is on the Chesapeake Bay.”

The Act Now blog Tim recommends is part of a larger Ocean Park Civil League blog that highlights news and issues in the neighborhood. It’s a nice demonstration of Weblog as civics tool.

Buckle up: Ladies and gentlemen, please make sure your trays are stowed and locked, your seatbacks are in the upright position, and your seatbelts are... not flapping out the door, banging into the side of the plane!

Getting past the past:Shelley Powers has read through some of her archives and doesn’t like how they reflect on her as a person. “If you all met me in person, you’d be disappointed. I’m not the person in my words, in these pages that stretch back like too long a road. They are a caricature of me, and I am only a faint shadow in them.” She’s wondering if this is an argument for dumping her archives. Weblog archives can be a wonderful resource for personal insights, and the fact that Powers has had such a reaction to hers is evidence in itself of their value to her. Here’s hoping she keeps them.

We do lamb right: It sounds like Iraq could use some of those “cook your own chicken” KFCs mentioned in yesterday’s links. Unfortunately, Salam’s story is more sad than quirky.

Submit your thoughts and links.

Aug. 5, 2003 / 2:39 PM ET

A blog is born: This just in: “The entertainment section is pleased to announce the release of our new pop culture weblog, “Test Pattern”, which is produced by Gael Fashingbauer Cooper.

Gael has a long history of pop culture blogging. For those who don’t know, Gael was one of the Internet’s first bloggers, starting her own, Pop Culture Junk Mail, in 1999. She also ran a weblog for the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s online and print edition from 2000-2001.”

Doing chicken right: Leslie at w00t tells a story that’s either disturbingly unsantiary or heartwarming in showing how a corporate chain can flex to address the specific needs of its local customers. The next question is, if we’re already seeing “fry your own chicken,” can “make your own pizza” be far behind? (hat tip to Kottke)

Now that’s firewater: Sympathies to MCJ. We feel your pain.

But can it blog?:The Scobleizer thinks it might be a better idea for computers to be seen and not heard. Some of those who disagree seem more focused on what possibilities talking computers may herald. (via John Robb and his cautionary tale about mover scams.)

Speaking of cautionary tales: In case there haven’t been enough warnings published about people losing their jobs or their friends or their lovers or their money because of what they wrote in their blogs, here’s another tale of woe in which a woman’s affair was exposed to her husband through her own blog. The lesson in this case? Stash the cache. (guided by Glenn’s “other” blog.)

Submit your thoughts and links.

Aug. 4, 2003 / 8:15 PM ET

Type away:Typepad registration opens tonight with a “Preview Release.”

Previously, bloggers wishing to use the extremely popular Movable Type blogware had to host the software themselves or find someone to do it for them. With the launch of Typepad, Six Apart, the company responsible for Movable Type will also offer hosting.

Aug. 4, 2003 / 8:15 PM ET

Short shrift: In keeping with the blogging tradition of scrutinizing mainstream journalism, Prometheus cries, “Heightism!” over Jonathan Alter’s description of Howard Dean as “diminutive” and “a little Napoleon.”

Aug. 4, 2003 / 8:15 PM ET

Security snafu: Does a person who plays with the fire of airline security deserve to get burned? As he was about to embark on a trip to Hawaii, 17-year-old David Socha didn’t exactly make a threat, but he did have some unpleasant words for the TSA’s luggage checkers at Boston’s Logan Airport. Everyone knows that if you want to get through airport security smoothly, don’t play games with the agents, but is it really ok for them to punish passengers who are less than pleased to submit to security screening?

Cory Doctorow doesn’t think so. Boing Boing comenters are of mixed opinion.

Related link? (via Magnetbox)

Aug. 4, 2003 / 8:15 PM ET

Funny papers: We’ve seen cartoons in blogs and catoonists who blog, and even cartoon blogs, but I think Daryl Cagle’s Cartoon Weblog is the first blog I’ve seen that looks at a variety of cartoons (including Cagle’s own) and the public and media reaction to them. As you may have noticed, Cagle’s is a Slate blog, which makes it part of the MSNBC.com family and therefore glaringly absent from the list of MSNBC blogs in the column on the right -a situation I’ll remedy forthwith. Sorry about that Daryl.

Aug. 4, 2003 / 8:15 PM ET

Reality check: Actor Gideon Horowitz wrote a lengthy update in his blog today. Horowitz is a participant (cast member?) in NBC’s reality show The Restaurant. I haven’t been watching the show, so I was reading with only mild interest when I came upon this line: “Lola has already divuldged the fact that the fall was re-shot on her website.” The Lola he’s referring to is fellow blogging cast member Miss Lola Belle, who also links to yet another blogging cast member, Uzay Tumer. Apparently in a recent episode Horowitz fell and hurt his elbow and though the fall was caught on tape, he was asked to reenact the fall so cameras could get it from a different angle. So while fans of reality TV are supposedly watching the reality behind the scenes in a New York City restaurant, blogspotters are reading the reality of that reality. But is it the real reality?

Update 4/5: Anil points out that Rocco himself has a blog. Only three posts so far, but hey, they guy has a new restaurant taking up all his blogging time.

Submit your thoughts and links.

Aug. 1, 2003 / 7:30 PM ET

A LOOK AROUND THE WEB

Bill Maher has a new blog. Emma Story doesn’t think he’s very funny in text, but I’m thinking she must not find him funny in person either since the jokes seem pretty much in line with what he does on TV.

Senator Tom Daschle is reportedly also launching a new Weblog. Skeptics won’t find much reassurance in the initial entry on “Travels with Tom.” According to the article in the Argus Leader, “The blogging idea came from aides, inspired by the growing popularity of the informal journals.” Strangely (or maybe not) there’s no mention of the most successful political blog to date, Howard Dean’s Blog for America.

And now there’s an (unofficial) Joe Biden blog, and Jerry Springer has one too. Jeff Jarvis is keeping a list.

We can only hope that politicians will eventually move beyond blog-as-campaign-tool to blogging while legislating — legislogging. Our friends in the UK have some examples to check out. Imagine how useful it would be to clear up any misunderstandings that arise in the course of business. If nothing else, it would at least be a boon to open government and democracy.

When we chatted with Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi, he told us that if his man makes it to the White House we’ll have a presidential blog in 2005. That would be something to see.

Nathan, you need to update your clock.

In the midst of almost daily developments in what has become a full-on war over the right to trade files online, David Galbraith has posed an interesting question: “What is to stop me buying or selling MP3 tracks ‘second hand’ for 10c.?” If used record stores can sell used CD, tapes, and vinyl at often drastically reduced prices, why can’t there be a market for used mp3’s?

Submit your thoughts and links.

July 24, 2003 / 8:53 PM ET

BLOG GLASS CEILING REDUX

The other day the Right Wing News drew some attention when it asked like-minded bloggers to list the 20 greatest figures in American History. Participant Meryl Yourish has touched off a tangential firestorm by pointing out that there are no women on the final list, citing, “Sexism in the blogosphere, again.”

The last time I saw much significant discussion of sexism in the blogosphere was in the wake of the NY Times piece by Lisa Guernsey last November which generally painted the blogosphere (or at least its A-list) as a man’s world. In fact, discussions of the status of women on the blogside between Yourish and her peers predates the New York Times article. The response to the article was mixed, but one result was a greater effort by some to list women bloggers and bring them to the fore.

Thinking the Right Wing News flap would be a good opportunity to revisit the subject, I did a quick search to see if I could find a few items on the subject of women in the blogosphere. Staring down the barrel of 18,000 results made it clear that the issue of a blogosphere “glass ceiling” never really went away. The focus shifts to include the number of women bloggers, sexism in the blogosphere, sexuality and double standards among bloggers, the gender make-up of A-list bloggers, and sexism in other elements of society reflected in blogs who deal with those elements.

The line of discussion pertaining to the 20 greatest Americans, including follow-ups by Right Wing News and Yourish herself is partly about the blogosphere but also about sexism in how history is remembered and recorded.

Part of what keeps the debate alive is the reliance on personal, subjective perceptions of how the blogosphere works, which is, of course, the prerogative of every blogger. As meta-tagging and other blog tracking techniques improve and mix with real world (via Anil Dash) gender and technology studies perhaps some of the questions about sexism in the blogosphere will be answered.

IT’S A WONDER ANYONE CAN FIND THEM

Speaking of long-debated issues being put to rest, Matt Haughey recently reignited the controversey over whether blogs get in the way of Google searches, citing the example of his brand new (and therefore not yet very information rich) TiVo blog scoring high search rankings. Evan Williams, co-founder of Blogger (and now a Google employee) suggests that Haughey’s search terms are the problem and supports his argument with a few quick examples. Haughey, however, has a few more personal examples as well and these further his own argument.

Last night, Microdoc News may have finally put the matter to rest with a more extensive study. Using 10 researchers from around the world over the past few days, the study looked at how often blogs came up in Google search results, and how relevant those blogs were to the subject of the search. Among the findings was that blogs showed up in the top ten search results only 2.1 percent of the time, and only 4.76 percent of those (.1 percent of the total) were not useful to the search. The study goes on to show that blog pages make up 3.9 percent of the total 3.8 billion online pages searched by Google and therefore the 2.1 percent top ten ranking means that blogs are underrepresented in search results.

While this study may put to rest this particular “Orlowskian Charge,” it doesn’t quite fill all of the Google holes. Just ask Tom Blog (bottom letter).

In disproving the charge that blogs are polluting Google, is this study proving another Orlowskian Charge that Weblog hype is overblown?

Submit your thoughts and links.

July 17, 2003 / 5:16 PM ET

THE NEW MOBSTERS

Last night I was a mobster.

I wasn’t wearing a fedora and a zoot suit, playing poker at the social club, I was participating in a flash mob in New York City.

Flash mobs (they go by a few names, but this is the one I like) are an offshoot of the Smart Mobs phenomenon brought to light in Howard Rheingold’s “Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution.” The “smart” in smart mobs is the technology that allows people to be organized in ways that were never before possible; two recent examples being the use of Moveon.org by anti-war protestors and Meetup.com by the Howard Dean presidential campaign.

Flash mobs, on the other hand, are decentralized. The whole point is for the mob to appear from nowhere with no warning. The the first one took place in New York City a month ago and has since spread to San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, Minneapolis and other cities around the world.

Of course, in order for the mob to work and to have an impressive number of participants, people need to find out about it in the first place. (And in fact, there does appear to be an effort to organize distribution of mob news. I’ll leave it to someone else to decide if that’s cheating.) Participation begins with finding out about the event. Some people will hear about it through e-mail, others see a note on a Weblog, still others receive a text message, page or other from of electronic notification.

In the case of last night’s mob, participants were told to meet at different bars in New York City according to their birth month. Like blogger Fred Hoysted, my birth month meant I had to go to Puck Fair to wait for a mob representative to arrive at 7:00 p.m. to provide a note with further details.

The note, transcribed here on The Official Record blog, told participants to go to a nearby shoe store at 7:18, with a few instructions on how to behave once there, and then to leave promptly at 7:23 as though nothing had happened at all.

The result: A usually quiet shoe store turned into an instant mob scene for no apparent reason and then was suddenly quiet again. It wasn’t a total secret — quite a few people from the media were there. And a number of tourists became convinced that the crowd was due to a celebrity in the store, so they ran along shouting, “Who’s in there? Who’s in there?” (Mobsters were instructed to respond only that we were fresh off a tour bus from Maryland.)

Like any good piece of performance art, different people read different things into flash mobs. According to a recent BBC article, organizers of the Duchess County, N.Y., mob see flash mobs as a comment on public surveillance, while San Francisco organizers see the mob phenomenon for its potential to do social good: As long as you’re coming to a mob event, you might as well bring a toy or canned good to donate. But on the surface, flash mobs hold no actual purpose other than to take place, and the participants like it that way. With no agenda, there’s no reason not to participate.

I can’t help wonder how long flash mobs can remain purposeless. The power of this phenomenon is clear, but it seems like it would be easy to hijack. How many PETA protestors would it have taken to give the impression that the hundreds in last night’s mob were there to protest leather shoes? How long before money enters the picture? The stubble-headed bartender at Puck Fair who served me my martini exclaimed, “where did this crowd come from?” leading me to assume he no idea his workplace was being used as a launch pad for the night’s gathering. But the fact is that folks were there buying drinks, and it was probably more successful than the average happy hour promotion run in a local paper.

In a larger context, some see mobs as a means of re-integrating technology with humans. The point of last night’s event was to pretend that we weren’t a mob until we were actually a mob, so I didn’t do much socializing in the meet-and-greet way. But one of the great contradictions in online community has always been that the more one participates in online socializing, the more one becomes isolated from the real world. Mobs are part of a new (or renewed) emphasis to use technology to physically bring people together.

A flash mob also serves as excellent practice for a real news event, and as such, is perfect training for Weblog journalism. I can’t think of a time when I’ve seen so many digital cameras in one place. The results are spread throughout the blogosphere. And of course, there’s something to be said for the recreation of finding oneself (photo 6, background right) in the photos (pony tail) when it’s all over.

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