What do you think of that Wikileaks thing?

SOURCE: wikipedia.org
SOURCE: wikipedia.org

If you do anything with a computer, chances are your friends have asked you “What is that Wikileaks thing?” or an even smarter question that tries to hook you into a debate, “What do YOU think of Wikileaks?”

Firstly, I’m not really sure why anyone around me cares what I think about Wikileaks, but maybe they are unsure of their own opinions and just want to bounce it off someone whose livelihood depends on having opinions about such things.

Or maybe they’re just itchin’ for a fight.

If you haven’t guessed by the length of time it took me to write about Jullian Assange and Wikileaks, my official position on the matter is, “Meh.” I don’t think anything has been revealed that anybody who had been paying attention didn’t already know. And those who have not been paying attention probably already have short attention spans and will figure out actually reading the cables and documents on Wikileaks is a lot of work. (It was for me.. still on page one.)

Here are my opinions. Comment below at will:
Continue reading “What do you think of that Wikileaks thing?”

You are bringing a soccer ball to a football game. Why blogs don’t matter.

Are blogs as important as bloggers think they are? The question itself is a bit of a stretch, but I think the shortest answer to it is one of the most American of all answers — the sports metaphor.

“Old media” — television, newspapers, magazines — are like Major League Baseball (MLB), National Football League (NFL) and the National Basketball Association (NBA) with some more minor players like the National Hockey League (NHL). Blogging is like Major League Soccer (MLS).



Actually, the MLS really doesn’t matter all that much, even to soccer fans. It’s just kinda.. well.. there. What matters more are the many youth leagues, SAY, AYSO, ODP and regional travel leagues scattered around the country. If you did not recognize any of that, you’re not alone and it’s ok. Soccer doesn’t really matter.

In the United States, about 4-6 million kids play soccer, depending on whose numbers you believe. That is more kids than football and baseball combined. By the time they reach high school most of them have dropped out to play other sports like football or baseball. While their kid is playing soccer, parents are engaged, almost fanatically, but when their kid no longer plays soccer, the parents quit caring about the sport, dedicating their time now to an extra dose of football and baseball.

“It’s a good thing Johnny finally got into a real sport like football,” most dads think quietly to themselves with a sigh of relief.

Sportscasters openly mock soccer as not being a real sport much like television and newspaper journalists mock bloggers as not being real media people. Sports departments cover soccer only when they have to or when it fits a pre-determined narrative, like during the World Cup and then only begrudgingly. Mainstream advertisers won’t buy placement in soccer venues. Many have soccer initiatives only because they are looking to attract the soccer mom and many times only as an ancillary buy to a larger media placement. Soccer-only product enthusiasts find out quickly how shallow and cost-concious the market really is, many going out of business within a year after launching their product or service. The parallels to blogging v old media almost rise up and slap you in the face.

And how does soccer respond? Not by being itself but by trying to emulate the larger sports leagues. It organizes the sport into a large national league (MLS) instead of deeper, hyper-local clubs tied to the community. It encourages rule and play format changes to make the play more exciting to American audiences. More goals, more points per goal, more physical contact, shorter fields, fewer players on each side for more ball touches per player, more tournaments, more, more, more….

And even internally, soccer people turn on each other, gutting one league to form another, jealously guarding their own piece of turf or breaking off to form their own club or league when the director pisses them off. (Read points 2 & 3 at Brass Tack Thinking) Sound like a typical impromptu parent sideline meeting? Sure does.

In the end, it is blogging that will change to fit an old media model, not the other way around. Sure, there will be some hold-outs like we have grizzly soccer guys who collect in pubs to watch a Arsenal game and complain about how kids today don’t play futbold like they did back when they were young. And they will eventually die and take their fan loyalty with them.

In keeping the metaphor alive, millions of bloggers write a million and a half blog posts a day. More citizen journalism, opinion editorials, lifestyle, industry insights, restaurant product and movie reviews are published each day by bloggers than network journalists combined. And still we ask, does blogging matter?

Does soccer matter?

This blog post is part of a blog-off series with a group of bloggers from different professions and world views, each exploring a theme from his/her world view. This was about “Do blogs matter?” To explore how others handled the theme, check them out below. I will add links as they publish.

Being naked is not a sex crime*


This is a response to Police Chief Mark Beckner trying to ban the annual Naked Pumpkin Run in Boulder, Colorado.

Here is the logic of “being naked is a sex crime.” Genitals and breasts are used during sex. A display of genitals and breasts in public is a crime. Therefore displaying your genitals and breasts in public is a sex crime. Furthermore, anyone who commits a sex crime is a sex offender.

The lack of nuance and the gross level of denial that all humans have bodies and those bodies have parts, by a society that purports to be intelligent is staggering in itself. But the willful and ignorant misapplication of logic is not only stupid, but embarrassingly so.

Yet, the few who misappropriate legal definitions for their own purposes are allowed to do so because being labeled a “sex offender” is about the scariest thing any person in a position of authority can do to another human being in this country. Being a sex offender means additional time in prison, a prison existence that is made less than pleasant by the other inmates, a lifetime of registering with the local sheriff, being denied employment and in more and more cases, being denied a place to live.

In Ohio, it is against the law for you to take a photo of your kids bathing in a bathtub. It is probably even more risky to actually take a bath with them or change them in public. If you get caught with a photo of them bathing, you will be arrested and charged as a sex offender. Your kids will also be taken from you. Ask AJ and Lisa Demaree of Arizona how they feel about bathtime photos.

In Boulder, Colorado, the local Police Chief Mark Beckner will be using sex offender laws to try and stop the annual Naked Pumpkin Run. A lot of people will be spooked into not participating, not because they are afraid to be arrested (public nudity is not illegal in Boulder) but because the chief will be applying the State’s indecency statute, which “makes it a Class 1 misdemeanor for anyone to knowingly expose his or her genitals in circumstances ‘likely to cause affront or alarm.'”

This is not about sex offender laws or public indecency laws. Those have their place and when applied correctly to real sex crimes, they save lives and protect minors. This is about the abuse of power by elected officials.

As expected, the American Civil Liberties Union fired off a letter ranting about freedom of expression, blah, blah, blah. As usual, they ignored the larger and more egregious issue; the abuse of power by an elected official.

A blind application of laws without regard for appropriateness has led to zero tolerance in schools where Cub Scouts are being thrown into reform school for bringing a pocket knife to school and where teens are being charged as sex offenders for sexting. Both equally dumb, but not intentionally criminal to the extent the laws applied were intended.

The separation of the “intent to commit a crime” and “committing a crime inadvertently” is producing more criminals daily. While ignorance of the law is never an excuse, so too is a misapplication of the law by authorities. One assumes they were elected as caretakers of the law to be able to reason through the nuance and apply common sense rather than black or white interpretations. Moreover, they should not be overreaching their authority by “warping” laws around behaviors that laws were not intended to cover. Clearly the citizens of Boulder do not have a problem with public nudity and can tell the difference between being naked in public and being a sex offender as evidenced by existing public nudity laws.

Even more disturbing is the lack of citizen journalists, bloggers and news journalists who are either oblivious or apathetic to the issue. (Do a Google search…) It is a small one now — one town, one police chief — but if allowed to grow, one can only predict Boulder will eventually have more sex offenders per capita than any other town in America. (If you say it can’t happen, I give you the town of Jordon, Minnesota in the early 1980s where every parent, it seemed, was a child molester due to the unrestrained exuberance of the town’s prosecutor and the silence of good citizens.)

I leave you with a fitting poem by Pastor Martin Niemöller

First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak out for me.

The Internet has given the citizenry tools to monitor elected official even closer and in real time. Instead of blogging and twittering the latest on “Balloon Boy” or the latest happenings of Jon Gosselin, we should be turning an even more vigilant eye on local officials who believe laws are theirs to bend at will.

This is my take of why citizen journalism will not be successful. If it were, Chief Mark Beckner would not be allowed to legally terrorize the citizens of Boulder.

*Can I link bait more than putting naked, sex and crime in the same headline? Maybe, but then I’d really have to think harder than I want to. Also, the photo is a blurred version of something I lifted from http://nakedpumpkinrun.org/