Some time ago, I wrote a few emails back and forth with Hoder (Hossein Derakhshan), an Iranian blogger now living, if I remember right, in Canada. He is a good writer--and writes in English, so I can tell you that first hand. He has an interesting post about top officials now actually leaving comments in popular Persian weblogs:
"I'm not exactly sure if this has happend anywhere else. But some top officials are not only reading and following Persian weblogs, but also are responding to and commenting about some posts in popular weblogs. After Fazel Larijani called me when I wrote a pieace on his newly started mission in Ottawa as a cultural embassador, 2 of top reformist officials -one of them is a an MP from Tehran- put comments on Sina Motallebi's post about Iranian journalists' association's lack of support to the recently-arrested journliast, Alireza Eshraghi. There were other news that many top politicians are closely following these writings, but this is the first time they actually reacted to them."
I imagine progress through comment boxes, including the excluders in the discussion without requiring that they fully participate. That could actually be a very good thing. Google may need to give us a more robust and reliable comment feature, while they're at it.
His blogroll list a bunch of Iranian bloggers, if you're interested in reading more.
Khorishid Khanoom is another Iranian blogger I emailed a couple of times, but how to get by the language barrier. She's on my blogroll and every now and then I go there and look at the characters--it's more like art than language to me. You can still get a tinsy bit of English--more like punctuation than English--like at the very very end of this post.
I don't know how, but Google has to find a way to let us read and understand one another regardless of our native language. And to make it simple for non-bloggers to participate in cross conversations through more robust commenting functionality than we now have.
We need a bridge somehow across languages through language.
Michael O'Connor Clarke on Google/Blogger as the New CNN...
Here and here. Among other good points, Michael makes this one:
"The critical dimension in which bloggers absolutely have old media – both print and broadcast – smacked down cold is time. It’s about blogspeed. Or more fundamentally: netspeed. The rate of info flow from the news scene via the blogvines is currently exponentially faster than the rate of news dispersal via ‘traditional’ media."
This is one of the reason's Michael thinks it crucial to have bloggers posting from Iraq--to give us the unfiltered human story, the story we won't get from CNN this time.
"Given what we know, we just can’t depend on old media to deliver the truth/whole truth/nothing but the truth. Mini-army of ‘embedded’ frontline media or not. The embedded journalists will get to see and report on only what the Pentagon chooses."
One thing we can do is search out and find more bloggers writing from inside Iraq. And we can hope to perhaps have a team of human blog translators engaged since I doubt if Google can boost its language capabilities to translate Arabic in time.
I wonder what it would take to send "bloggerists" there. Should we begin a blog sponsorship campaign to sponsor some willing bloggers to go to Iraq? What would it take, and what would they need to take with them? How long might they be there? How would we keep them funded? How would we get them access to the front line? Or should we? How would we get their stories back? I wonder if at a different time in my life I would have said, "Send me." Probably not. There was a time when I longed to be a front-line journalist, though, but that's another story, a lifetime ago.
If they go--one or more--they will make journalistic history. Because we'll be sure of it. And Google will help. Beyond that, they'll be transmitting unfiltered human voice, which is as close to truth as we ever get.
And just to make the point that I've been trying, yammering, to make for the past few days: The linking of Google and Blogger had, for precisely the reason Adrian defines (in previous entry but one), the extraordinary effect of seeming a natural evolutionary step. An (inevitable?) articulation in the organism. As when something decided a neck would go well here, an esophagous there.
Dave Weighs In with a Thoughtful Essay on the Google Blogger Deal
"In other ways, the Blogger-Google deal may signal a change possibly as deep as the personal computer revolution, where huge glass palaces controlled by technologists were routed around, by software and hardware that did the same thing, for a fraction of the cost. "
As evident as this point is, it hadn't occurred to me, and I haven't seen it made until, via Jill Walker's rich blog, I saw this from Adrian Miles:
google is the first search engine that understood the web as a system of links and that these links, what expresses connection between parts, is the major semantic, structural, thematic, and commercial economy of the web. that is it is the first large search engine that treats the web as its native habitat, rather than bringing flatland values to the problem of data, indexing, and retrieval.
similarly blogs are the first native genre to have developed in the networked writing space that is the Web. so it makes sense that one sees the value of the other, but together . . . this is not just a question of commercial capital but also of the intellectual (cultural and networked) capital that comes with living the web in vitro. in 3 - 5 years publishing will have changed so dramatically as a result that what we today will appear odd. (vlog, 17/2)
There is a growing mountain of research. But there is increased evidence that we are being bogged down today as specialization extends. The investigator is staggered by the findings and conclusions of thousands of other workers -- conclusions which he cannot find time to grasp, much less to remember, as they appear.
... Our ineptitude in getting at the record is largely caused by the artificiality of systems of indexing. When data of any sort are placed in storage, they are filed alphabetically or numerically, and information is found (when it is) by tracing it down from subclass to subclass. It can be in only one place, unless duplicates are used; one has to have rules as to which path will locate it, and the rules are cumbersome. Having found one item, moreover, one has to emerge from the system and re- enter on a new path.
The human mind does not work that way. It operates by association. With one item in its grasp, it snaps instantly to the next that is suggested by the association of thoughts, in accordance with some intricate web of trails carried by the cells of the brain.
... Consider a future device for individual use, which is a sort of mechanized private file and library. It needs a name, and, to coin one at random, "memex" will do. A memex is a device in which an individual stores all his books, records, and communications, and which is mechanized so that it may be consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility. It is an enlarged intimate supplement to his memory.
... Wholly new forms of encyclopedias will appear, ready made with a mesh of associative trails running through them, ready to be dropped into the memex and there amplified.
... There [will be] a new profession of trail blazers, those who find delight in the task of establishing useful trails through the enormous mass of the common record. The inheritance from the master becomes, not only his additions to the world's record, but for his disciples the entire scaffolding by which they were erected.
...there is a Gogol - a lovely site which, in its own words, ne tient absolument AUCUN compte de ce que vous souhaitez chercher - doesn't give a crapola about what you were trying to find, but returns purely random results. heh.
A new blog, like this one, is like one of those weird things in physics - where, a moment ago there was nothing, and now there's a little tiny thing, and whoops bang oops blam - a universe with people walking around, hailing cabs, eating Chinese food, blogging...
But a blog doesn't quite precipitate out of nothing. There are pointers, signs of its impending arrival. In this case, e.g., here and here and here and here and here.
Jeneane, I suspect your translation idea is eminently doable, and is already being explored at Gbloogle et al.
One of my fond hopes is that the combination of bloggery and Google will produce something we might call Gogol. Nikolai Gogol is one of my favorites. A very unhappy fellow, but that's beside the point. Gogol offered a voice that is like no other. He made worlds out of langage and one can revel in them. But that's not the point either. The point, such as it is, is that voices have power. Not just to communicate or portray or to persuade but to invoke, to re-call, or call forth, or summon, etc. Like, you rang, and here we are. Gogol could be a convocation of voices, an augmentation of the nuanced conversational powers that have been advanced by the advent of blogging per se. Blogging is a deepening of the presence of voice even as it enjoys the speed and amplitude of other Net artifacts. But it is the depth, the linkage, and the immediacy combined that make this special. At least, that's the wager.
I was thinking about the Google + Blogger deal as I drove Jenna to school today, and although I'm too sleepy to do it justice, I began thinking that this would be an interesting time to know more languages than just English, and the useless bit of Latin I know from three years of study. Why? As coversations among regular people get bumped up a notch or two or three in frequency and access with Google's likely incorporation of weblogs in their offerings, I want to be able to communicate--albiet not perfectly--with folks whose language I don't speak or read. I started thinking, which language class would I take, if I decided to really take this on.... French? German? Italian? Portugese? What?
And then I thought about Google's language translation tool. AND THEN I came home and looked at my google tool bar. AND THEN I thought, yes. They could do that. Google could add a translation engine behind the blog interface and give us an easy way to translate what we're writing and reading into our languages of choice. No, it wouldn't be perfect. Yes, some miscommunication might arise among onliners whose thoughts get garbled in the translation. But this happens among those of us talking to one another in a common language too. So what's the difference? Anything that keeps the conversation going and arching outward is significant.
So google, my wish number one is to make your language translation machine more robust--offering more languages and more precise execution--and for you to bundle it in my blogging application with your usual grace and ease and understanding of what we want, and what we haven't even thought of wanting yet...