John Naughton turns his eye to the latest attempts by the music industry to stop people sending each other stuff on the interweb:

Through a staggering combination of ignorance, inertia, incompetence and paranoia, the record industry missed the significance of the internet for its business. It continued to distribute its product on plastic disks long after the net became widespread, and insisted on selling albums rather than tracks. In other words, it persisted with a comfortable business model long after it became obsolete. This couldn’t last – and it didn’t. Eventually Shawn Fanning came up with the idea of sharing tracks over the internet and Napster was born. The industry refused to offer a legal alternative, and in doing so embossed its own death certificate. The last convulsive jerk of the corpse is the BPI’s attempt to intimidate ISPs and to lobby the government for legislation which would compel ISPs to become data policemen.

Social reporting at SICamp

David Wilcox has taken his new Nokia to the Social Innovation Camp this weekend and is putting up some great video – social reporting in action!

Incidentally, David tweeted earlier asking how Qik video can be embedded into a blog. I’ve quickly googled it but came up with a blank. Anyone have any ideas?

Getting things into the open

David Wilcox has taken the bull by the horns and created an open thread on the OpenRSA blog calling for a more collaborative approach to the discussion on jounalism being carried out on the RSA networks platform. This debate is one which takes into account trust in news media, and could also pull in issues around the role of the BBC in civic life.

I’m personally most interested in breaking out of the old media professional boundaries because I think greatest innovation – and citizen empowerment – is likely to take place as old cultures are challenged, openly. It’s time the newspeople stopped seeing those that they write for as “news users”, now we are producing a lot of our own content online.

The issue at the RSA is not one of platform – the Drupal based system used by the Networks is superb – but of worldview. David and I were the most consistent contributors to the discussion, but I felt my time there was up when a message was posted by a project leader confirming that the desire was to keep the debate ‘on topic’ and ‘informed’. As neither a journalist nor a fellow of the RSA, I guess this counted me, and anything I had to add, out.

I’ll be following the debate through the comments to David’s post, and anything else tagged with civicjournalismuk. I have my platform here, which I am happy to use to contribute with – or when the time is right for a dedicated platform to be created, I can use that – as long as it is open!

Private and public collaboration

RSA Networks

There is an interesting project underway at RSA Networks, the social network for Royal Society fellows, and, for the moment at least, anyone else who fancies joining in (that’s the category I belong to, by the way). It has been proposed by Stephen Coleman, Professor of Political Communication at the University of Leeds, and goes by the name of the “RSA Journalism Network”:

The public’s declining trust in the news media is a worrying trend. The RSA and the Reuters Institute of Journalism are looking at how we can support the civic function of news. We’re particularly interested in how professional journalists and Fellows relate to the public’s ideas about news and what it is for.

This is a great idea, and an important and interesting area for discussion. The web is a perfect place for the coversation to be held in, of course, because online developments are a part of both the problem and the cure for the relevance of news to people’s lives.

David Wilcox has commented on his blog about this project – again supportive of it but questioning the closed nature of the discussion on the RSA Networks platform. As anyone not a member of the network will find out, when clicking my link above, you can’t see anything without first logging in.

I can’t see how it is possible to have a useful discussion about media and citizenship in an old-style walled garden. You can link out – but people outside are then forced to come to “your place” to join in. This seems particularly inappropriate on this topic, where issues are so interesting precisely because the Internet has created a public commons.

David has started a similar thread within the project space on the RSA Network too. I’m fully supportive of his stance, having been happily involved in open online collaborative projects such as the Open Innovation Exchange, RuralNetOnline, the Membership Project and the etoolkit.

It’s far better to have these conversations out in the open, where people can read and find out more before they decide to dive in, and where people can add their thoughts whether they are a member of a specific network or not. The civic role of news is something that matters to everyone, not just RSA members, or whatever.

One of the ways that the web can help us to bring conversations together is through the use of tagging. By using tags effectively, people can write about a subject on their own blogs without needing to join another platform. All you need is  way of bringing them together, easily achieved by mixing up Technorati or Google Blog Search with RSS. Services like Pageflakes or Planetaki can then be used to publish the results.

Another way is to create the new platform, but make it open, rather as David does with his Drupal-based group blogs. Anyone can join and have an input, even if it is just to point to what they have written elsewhere. Indeed, David has taken this further by incorporating a Grazr-based widget displaying relevant content from various external blogs within the Membership Project group blog. In this way, those that have a blog can write there, and those that don’t can contribute directly to the group blog.

David is actively facilitating the Membership Project by posting regular updates and transferring the points that are made in the blog posts into a project timeline and associated work packages, thereby creating outputs from the organic content created through the group blogging process. This will be vital to keep the project moving forward, and is a great example of online community facilitation.

Taking this approach would therefore create a far more useful project, or network, than the current arrangements for the  RSA Journalism Network. I think this is too important a topic for discussion to be held behind closed doors, and for the moment I would like to suggest the use of the common tag civicjournalismuk to hold the conversation together for anyone who would like to have a say. We can figure out what to do with it all later. Let’s see how our open approach can feed into and add to what’s happening within the walled garden…

William Shaw on Scientology

William Shaw is a great writer, and a great guy. He’s written a number of non-fiction titles, mainly on counter-cultural issues and is now doing some exciting stuff with social media, looking into stuff like uses the blog format to publish short non-fiction stories on UnMadeUp, posting stories around different parts of Brighton, and the almost uncategorisable 217 Babel. I’m hoping to do an interruption chat with him soon. He’s also a regular on Palimpsest, so he must have something about him.

Anyway, William has written a great piece for the Sunday Telegraph on Scientology:

It can never be said that Tom Cruise lives a normal life, but you don’t get to be Forbes magazine’s ‘world’s most powerful celebrity’ by being a lunatic. The list of fellow celebrity Scientologists is a long one: Kirstie Alley, Chick Corea, Beck, Jenna Elfman, Juliette Lewis, Lisa Marie Presley, Jason Lee, Giovanni Ribisi, John Travolta and his wife, Kelly Preston, are, or have been in recent times. Will Smith almost was. Jerry Seinfeld toyed with it. Celebrities or not, these are not weak-minded people. They are all successful at what they do. So, we wonder, what on earth are they doing in Scientology?

One answer is simple enough. To put it bluntly, Scientology really, really likes famous people. Cynics point out that there is a reason for this. From the early days of Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard set out to attract the famous to his new religion. Tom Wolfe once defined a cult as ‘a religion with no political power’; L. Ron Hubbard appears to have believed that Scientology needed something a lot more potent than political power. In 1955 he launched something he called Project Celebrity, listing 63 famous people he wanted to interest in his ‘science of the mind’. It was a catholic selection that included Ernest Hemingway, Danny Kaye, Orson Welles, Liberace, Bing Crosby, Pablo Picasso and Walt Disney.

‘These celebrities are well-guarded, well-barricaded, over-worked, aloof quarry. If you bring one of them home you will get a small plaque as your reward,’ Hubbard wrote to his followers.

Great stuff.

Charlie Brooker: Agony Aunt

I love Charlie Brooker’s columns at The Guardian‘s Comment is Free site as much as I love his TV stuff. I’m just catching up on his posts after being offline for a while, and came across this gem:

Years ago, on a night out with a girl I was slowly going crazy for, the sheer weight of mental calculation left me unable to make any sort of move. We shared a cab together, and after it dropped her home, she sent a text message saying: “I wanted you to kiss me.” But the moment had gone. A week later she met the love of her life and that was that. It happens to everyone at some stage, obviously. But this was worse because it happened to me.