smoke

I write better when I smoke. Don’t ask me to reduce it to a science.

I’m back

Holy shit. That was a long break.

In the meantime, I’ve lost http://smoke.com, which is sad.

But I’m back.

 

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Filed under: blogging, ,

Audio/Video

AUDIO

A tip o’ the beret to LaTtEX for this ‘un. garygGary Granada takes on GMA Kapuso Foundation for using his revisions to their lyrics (for a jingle he was commissioned to compose) without attribution – and here’s the kicker – using an audio-cast! Pure public relations genius, that! On one level, you’d think that the choice of medium – new media – was prolly a no-brainer. Granada was talking about music and lyrical composition after all, and it packs a helluva lot more punch to have the audience actually hear the claimed IP klepto-ing than to just say “I wuz robbed!” But on a PR level, Granada got his side out first, and did it in a way that puts GMA on the defensive in a really bad way. For one thing, Granada’s tone was calm and even throughout – not hysterical in the slightest. That alone clues you in that this is serious. But not so serious that he doesn’t joke a little. The touch of humor tells you that he isn’t desperate for sympathy – and by extension, that he’s not desperate for allies and is not out to raise a jihad. Like a general closely following Sun-Tzu’s play, Granada has chosen his battleground, and has clearly chosen it well. GMA is now on a slippery slope that it will, perforce, have to try to defend using legalese. In a country positively exhausted with the concept of “legally-right even if morally-questionable,” good luck with that

!

SIDEBAR: My quick and dirty analysis of the situation: Granada isn’t claiming that GMA used his music. What he claims is that GMA used his revisions of the lyrics – original copy was given to him and he tweaked it to fit the music he wrote – and set it to someone else’s music. According to Granada, the industry practice is that if the client isn’t happy with the work and decides to give it to someone else, then the client ought to give the new artist the original copy and let that new guy tweak it himself. GMA, according to Granada didn’t do that. Instead, GMA gave the new artist the lyrics as tweaked by Granada. Granada in effect says that the tweaking he did constitutes intellectual property, and that the use of his tweaked lyrics sans attribution is, at the very least, objectionable. I haven’t read GMA’s reply, but from what Granada himself quoted, it seems that GMA’s tack has been to claim that the tweaking of the lyrics was a ‘group effort.’ Granada admits that at least some of the changes were made during a pow-wow with GMA’s creatives – where presumably he suggested a few changes that the creatives agreed with. But he takes exception that that made it a group effort. At this point in the audiocast, Granada attempts to distinguish a song-writer from a copy-writer. Listen to the ‘cast and come to your own conclusions of course, but Granada’s distinctions seemed logical if a bit fuzzy. He basically says that adapting written copy – essentially a kind of poetic prose – to fit a song is something that only a song-writer can do; and that even if a song-writer does the tweaking in the company of a group of copy-writers who eventually agree, that still cannot qualify as group-writing. Group-writing to me implies that there was cooperative give and take; that it wasn’t Granada alone who made the changes but that some of the changes were proposed by the copyists. GMA may be implying that this is exactly how it went down, and Granda himself does not clearly refute this. He only sez that it’s ridiculous to call it a group effort. Like I said, fuzzy. Also: It is important to note that GMA has already telegraphed it’s potential defense that Granda’s tweaking was too minor to transform the original lyrics – copyright owned by GMA obviously – into a new work whose copyright belongs to Granada. But then again, even if the tweaks were major enough to create a new work out of the old, looking at the situation from an IP p-o-v, it is fairly safe to say that even tho’ the person who commissions the work does not necessarily own the copyright, he will usually have the right to use the work for the purpose for which the work was commissioned. And if GMA actually paid Granada for his work, you can imagine that it’ll be even easier to assume that GMA did have the right to use the work for their ad. On the other hand, the creator – Granada (assuming that the tweaked lyrics can be considered a new original) – also has the moral right to attribution. Now he can take action if the work is attributed to someone else, but does he have an actionable right if there was no attribution at all? Again, with only Granada’s ‘cast to go by, still pretty fuzzy. You can bet everything you own that this will be GMA’s playground if this tiff with Granada gets any bigger.

Over-all, even if GMA does prove that it owes Granada nothing, it will still come off as the bad-guy in this story. And for that, Granada has to be thankful to the power of new media. Me, I’m inclined to go with the moral aspect – the moral obligation of GMA to attribute at least some of the work to Granada. Besides, having Granada’s name attached to the project can only bring greater goodwill. Ironic that GMA apparently ignored that truth. VIDEO Hat tip to TSD for this one: Apparently, some people are starting to grumble about this ad, complaining about how it portrays Filipinos as ‘hungry’ and prone to violence. The prone to violence aspect is obvious. As for the ‘hungry,’ that can only make sense in the original tagalog idiom: patay-gutom. A better translation for that would be ‘greedy’ I guess. Or ‘greedy-guts.’ Whatevs. You get the point. Course, I would be happier if the guy who broke the mirror weren’t Filipino. But since he is, I have to wonder: so the fuck what? On another note, doesn’t the Skittles guy look familiar?

separated

Filed under: blogging, Filipino, international, pop-culture, , , ,

Web Design Question

Which is better – in general terms? A homepage that has a static image and a link you need to click in order to get to the main content? Or a homepage that has everything on it?

Filed under: blogging,

Excited

Alright. Today, I got my very own domain name, and signed up for web-hosting. 

Which means:

1. I will have to wait 24-48 hours for my domain to propagate;

2. I will be hip deep in setting up my new blog-home which, hopefully, will also be the last … well, the last for a very long time at least; and

3. Those of you who care to will have to update your blogrolls and such. Like the very first smoke, this one will remain alive, but maybe real quiet. 

😀

Filed under: blogging,

A brief history of media

A quick, dirty, and intuitive history of media might run something like this.

In the distant past, people were mostly guided by instinct and the native spark of intelligence that set us apart from animals. Intellectually speaking, humanity grew in fits and starts – as when some individual stumbled upon an innovation and made something of it. This knowledge – for the most part – got handed down through the generations via an oral tradition. And that was good.

But the transfer of wisdom must have remained imperfect, and the survival of knowledge was a constant struggle. Inheritors needed to be born or found, for instance, and clan secrets protected. Because oral tradition was so tenuous, and its transmitters so few, humanity learned to become hoarders of knowledge.

cuneiformThe rise of the written word resulted in the oral traditions becoming better preserved and transmitted. But still, the ability to transfer oral traditions into scratches on a surface remained limited, as was the ability to read those scratches when the original author passed away. Despite the persistence of the intellectual record, therefore, knowledge was still a fragile commodity, easily lost.

As our proficiency at writing improved, so too did the robustness of knowledge. But then a new twist emerged. With the realization that knowledge was, in fact, power, there arose an intellectual aristocracy. Where the landed aristos won their wealth and power through brute strength, the intellectual aristocracy maintained a subtle influence that was no less powerful.

Imagine a landlord, frustrated at the dying of his crops – not knowing why. He would turn to those who knew and those who knew, in helping the landlord, gained a kind of power over him. But that power too was fragile and easily wrested away. Then as now, geeks hardly stood a chance against jocks.

illustrated1But jocks are a cowardly and superstitious lot – as Bruce Wayne intuited. And so, if the geeks could not cow them by might and main, they resorted to superstition and religion. Fear of damnation led kings to brave winter storms just to ask for a priests forgiveness. Eventually, intellectual power became the prized possession of the God-merchants. But don’t gt me wrong. This was, by no means a novelty. Stretching back into pre-history, god-merchants had always exercised this monopoly on esoteric knowledge. The emergence of powerful religion simply modernized the shamanistic tyranny of information.

Fortunately, not all tyrannies last forever, and it was Gutenberg who began to undermine the intellectual despotism of the god-merchants. Prior to his printing press, the wisdom contained in books and codices could only be replicated by a tedious process of copying – most of the time by monks who had no idea what they were doing. Copying stroke by painstaking stroke, whole libraries were shared among the intellectual elite – their monopoly and mastery of the superstition protecting them and their wealth.

Gutenberg changed all that. With his printing press, copying books became a snap. But that wasn’t enough. History needed men like Martin Luther to emerge and maximize the latent power of the press. Independent thinkers who put their thoughts into books and tracts and treatises that were then distributed all over. 

gutenbergThis allowed them to make copies of themselves. The very earliest and crudest clones. There can only be one Martin Luther. And that one man can educate and inflame the minds of only so many people. But print Luther’s words and give them to some other person to read, then that person becomes Luther – speaking his word to more people than the original ever could. 

These men, were, in a very real sense the first media-men. They transmitted knowledge to people who otherwise would not have had access to that knowledge.

But still, despite the spreading power of ideas, despite the crumbling of the intellectual tyranny of the god-merchants, still not enough people could take full advantage of the power of the printed word. For one thing, many could not read. For another, most people do not have the mental skill to build new ideas from old ones; fewer still could junk old ideas entirely and blaze new intellectual frontiers.

Education then, became the last bulwark of the god-merchants. Sure the rabble can listen to Martin Luther – but we can always fire back and confuse them, and in their confusion, a vast majority of them will return to the comfortable security of simply living the life that they are told to live. Prevent, therefore, the emergence of more Luthers. 

The intellectual tyranny evolved to accomodate the challenge men like Luther posed. Knowledge was hoarded more obsessively than ever, and emergent strains were ruthlessly cut down. 

But the gates had been thrown open by Gutenberg, and there was no closing them again. What the god-merchants thought was their last stand, turned out to be nothing more than a rear-action – a desperate move to stave off a rout.

Education spread, intellectuals blossomed, and soon, there were more Luthers than anyone could contain. The people progressively became smarter and smarter, but still, the Luthers were outnumbered by the sheep. And so the media went on over-drive.

oldnewspaperNewspapers sprouted – obviously not the thick catalogues we have today – but sometimes mere scraps of paper that had precious news printed on it. News about an abusive prelate; news about a exciting new discovery; and editorials! Essays extolling one idea or another; rallying people to a cause; or striking down some perceived injustice, if only in angry language.

These vehicles of news became precious to a populace that the establishment – the unholy alliance of the god-merchants (out to protect their intellectual monopoly) and the aristos (concerned mostly with their temporal wealth and power) – struggled to keep mired in ignorance.

Media performed an indispensable, if life threatening service to the people.

But the wheel turns. Inexorably. In time, media slipped into the shoes of its old competitor – the god-merchants. As religion slowly lost its influence, the aristos were on the look-out for new partners. Who better to co-opt than the ones who had whittled away the church’s influence?

Venerating new gods – gods like liberty, equality, and brotherhood – the media became the new god-merchants. And the people, owing much to the pioneering efforts of media, allowed the transition to happen; allowed themselves to slip into the folds of media new and benevolent tyranny of knowledge.

Where people once accepted the cleric’s word as gospel truth, so too has modern man come to be comfortable with the idea that newspapers cannot lie; and by extension – that other news merchants must be telling the truth.

But like in the days of the old god-merchants, this intellectual tyranny was supported mainly by the common people’s inability to control content. Where copying books was the sole province of clerics, the media (as we now use that word) controlled what was printed and disseminated, and so controlled our perception of the world around us.

Think about that. And think about how sometimes you find yourself thinking that there never so many wars or so many earthquakes as there are now. But you would be wrong. Wars have been fought with astonishing regularity throughout millenia, and earthquakes have been rocking our world daily since time immemorial. We just didn’t know about it. Media generally didn’t have the ability to report on goings on around the world, and so we lived in relative isolation. 

And then came CNN. 

cnnCNN – and its enablers, industrialization and mass production – made it possible for us to eavesdrop on events happening half-away across the world, suddenly opening our eyes to the reality that our lazy Sunday was some other country’s Bloody Monday. Our perception of the world changed, and we had the media to thank for it.

As far as tyrants go, CNN didn’t have long to reign. A new kid came swaggering into town: the internet.

All of a sudden, the internet allowed ordinary people to contribute to the river of information that flowed round and round the world. Perceptions were no longer shaped exclusively by the news-merchants but by ordinary people who, in many cases, no longer needed the media for anything but the “official” story. And who wanted the official story anyway?

It is far more interesting to read a man’s account of how he fought off a vicious fish intent on tearing him to shreds while he half-drowned off the coast of Patagonia, than to read “Man survives attack by killer shark.”

The dominance created by the god-merchants, that they grudgingly handed-off to the news-merchants, had finally evaporated. Billions of people – bloggers – their faces lit by the synth-glow of flatscreen monitors were now in control. And in the process, the character and nature of information changed as well.

The god-merchants trafficked in esoterica, charging exorbitant fees for sharing their knowledge; fees paid in gold and power. The news-merchants sold fact and, while they started out charging only enough to cover costs, they eventually learned how to make big money from their captive audience, and even bigger money by charging other merchants for the privilege of riding on the hotline to the people.

Bloggers, on the other hand peddle not just esoterica, not just fact, but also personal opinion. Information is no longer just useful, it is now also immensely personal and entertaining. Most importantly, it is now also FREE.

bloggers

But this is not Utopia. And though this is where we find ourselves in the story of media, the story does not end here

Filed under: blogging, media

Judging books

When I was a kid, one of the things I remember being reminded of most often was that I should never judge a book by its cover. ‘Course, being a stubborn kid, I had a little difficulty accepting that. The way I figured it, if a book didn’t look like it was worth my time, then it wasn’t. If a book looked ugly, then the contents couldn’t be much different. 

In one of my many smart-ass moments, I took a butt-ugly book to my teacher and asked her if she thought the book would be a good read. Sensing a trap, she goes: “I know it looks like it might not be good, but you can’t judge – ”

“Yes Sister Ernestine,” I reply. “So please read the book and tell me if my judgement was wrong.”

She laughed. Having convinced myself that I had come up with an airtight argument, I stamped my foot in frustration. 

“Romany,” she said, “it doesn’t matter if your judgment turns out to be right. The point is that you should give the book the chance to prove you wrong. If it doesn’t, so what? What matters is that you gave it a chance. Being right in the end doesn’t mean that you were right to judge the book without first trying to read it.”

I pouted the rest of the day. It just didn’t make sense. I could see how the situation would be different if you turned out to be wrong, but what if you were right? 

Apparently, Noemi Dado and my 12-year old self agree with each other.

(Edit:Placed original sentence for comparison. Incidentally, Valley Golf Club suspended DAR Chief’s membership for two years because he “was held liable for allegedly allowing the actions of his two sons” Those people who love to nitpick on my usage of words above and how they claim my stand is softened and so with my “pre-judgment” , really now, the Valley Golf findings affirm that the DAR chief just looked on. It’s what you call a mother’s gut feeling. So nitpick all you want, the truth will come out in the end.)

The lesson being: if you turn out to be right in the end, it doesn’t matter if you didn’t give someone the benefit of the doubt that was due him. Or to look at it from another angle, it’s perfectly alright for a person to be considered guilty until proven innocent.

Yay, momblogger! Yay, 12-year old me!

Now if only I could figure out when exactly I turned into such a nitpicker. 

Oh, right. That was in the fourth grade when I learned that if something was worth doing, it was worth doing well.

Filed under: blogging, musings,

It’s your blog

Yesterday – or yesternight … whatevs – Noemi Dado plurked about Manuel Viloria’s post: Obliterated with the invitation to everyone to be the judge. Since that plurk appeared on my timeline, it meant that either Dado was a Friend or I was a Fan of hers. Or at least that’s what I understand about the way Plurk works. Certainly, I’d requested to be Dado’s plurk Friend out of a degree of admiration for her.

In short order, responses started piling up on Dado’s plurk, all of which revolved around practically the same theme: don’t mind him, he’s just jealous of you/your success/whatev.

Now me, I have someone very close to me who has this terribly chronic case of persecution complex. Her mother, for want of a better way to deal with her daughter’s neuroses, has taken to replying “inggit lang yan sa’yo” every time her daughter starts rampaging about some slight or insult.

As a result, this young woman has ended up with the belief that criticism especially from people she dislikes or don’t know are rooted in envy, hence invalid. In fact, sometimes she considers criticism from friends and family just as rooted in envy as criticism from others. 

The problem with that is, with that sort of attitude, she has lost a very important feedback mechanism that would have helped her spot her faults and improve herself. It’s like looking at the mirror and calling it a liar. What the hell is the mirror for?

Ever since I met this woman and her mother, I’ve been exceptionally wary of the “naiinggit lang yan sa’yo” dismissal of criticism. So, when I saw Dado’s plurk getting replies almost completely along those lines, I decided to take a second look at Viloria’s post.

Viloria speaks of  

“a high profile blogger earlier referred to Mayor Pangandaman and his father, Sec. Pangandaman as dysfunctional,”

but who, when the Pangandaman’s side of the story started coming out, changed her characterization of the Secretary to a parenthesized (“Peacemaker appointee.”)

Viloria suggested that this change – which he noted was not accompanied by any sort of explanation – might be because Dado was afraid of getting sued for libel. And this is what Dado eventually ended up discussing in her own blog.

But read Vilario’s post all the way to the end and you come across this:

I’m not here to defend or side with either the Pangandamans or the Dela Pazes. I just hope that bloggers and non-bloggers inspired to start blogging (given that even columnists such as Amando Doronila write about the “power” of blogs and bloggers) will think not once, but twice before hitting the “publish” button. But anyway…

What’s the lesson here for bloggers? It’s so easy to jump on a story and take the one side of a blogger, against someone else who is not a blogger, or who is not a friend of a blogger friend. You can always blog that you want to hear the other side, while in the very same blog post categorically label the silent side as “dysfunctional.”

You can later remove such words, and your blog post will appear as if your Dec 27 post were never published any differently from how it looks today.

These passages spelled it out clearly for me: Viloria’s post was trying to make the point that bloggers should not pre-judge situations and then blog about it; especially considering the ‘power’ of blogs. More or less a variation on nearly every pa-cool pundit’s favorite quote from Spiderman. The dig about a possible libel suit was just gratuitous teasing, hardly deserving of a full-blown response.

Viloria’s words also carried an accusatory undercurrent that was never really completely articulated. Nevertheless, since the undercurrent was pretty clear, let me summarize:

  • Dado, in calling the Pangandamans dysfunctional reflected her prejudgment of the situation – precisely the act Viloria was warning against.
  • By changing that label to the infinitely milder – she sez was going for irony- “(a Peacemaker appointee)” Dado implicitly, but no less effectively, accepted that she needed to show a bit more objectivity – itself an admission that she did pre-jude the situation.
  • And that by making the change without disclosure to her readers as to her whys, Dado sought to conceal her slide back to objectivity. 

Seeing this aspect of Viloria’s post that was being ignored by commenters on her plurk, I wanted to shared the insight with Dado via a comment on her plurk.

SIDEBAR: Later on, when I checked my timeline, Dado’s plurk – and my response with it – vanished. I checked out her profile page (from where I’d originally posted my response to her plurk) had been set to private. 

Like I said at the top of this post, I don’t know for 100% certain if we were Friends or if I was just a Fan of hers, but I do remember that we WERE Friends, and that all of a sudden we weren’t; and that at 12 noon of January 9, my karma was at 79.24, and that now, at 12:41 a.m. of January 12, my karma is still at 79.24. Was I un-friended and so took a Karma hit?

Just to clarify, I don’t mind being un-friended or losing Karma – despite the fact that I’ve been obsessing on hitting 81 karma points since before Christmas 2008 LOL! – and I’m certainly not begrudging anyone their right to un-friend me.

Oh, and of course no one is obligated to Friend you or remain your Friend. Just to clarify that I understand and accept that too. 😀

I don’t think she appreciated that (see SIDEBAR). Nevertheless, I think the whole thing with Viloria’s comment, and Dado’s response deserves deeper consideration. Especially this, from Dado:

Oh well, excuse me, Mr. Link Baiter, this is my blog and I have every right to edit and change adjectives as I deem fit without changing the essence of the sentence. (Mr. Link Baiter does not deserve a link love but I am sure an anonymous commenter will soon post the link in your blog.) I have also every right to edit, delete and filter comments as I please.

I agree that it is her blog and she does have every right to edit anything about it (I disagree though that the edit Viloria pointed out didn’t change the essence. It didn’t change the sentence’s meaning, sure, but it certainly changed the subtext if not necessarily the context. See SIDEBAR2). 

SIDEBAR2: Part of her response to Viloria, Dado writes that “Whether I changed a word or not, my stand remains. It never changed. I condemn the action taken on the 14 year old boy trying to defend a father. I condemn the abuse of authority.” Fair enough. But her use of the word “dysfunctional” clearly indicated that censure of the Pangandamans, at least, was one of the pillars of  her original stand. Her deletion of that word, on the other hand, just as clearly indicates that her ‘stand’ is now missing it’s third pillar.

But … but … she’s momblogger!

Momblogger is a brand – whether you think of it that way or not – and momblogger opinions are pretty persuasive for a lot of bloggers, myself included. 

It’s kinda like Cory Aquino leading the charge at Edsa Dos and suddenly apologizing to Erap.

I doubt that I was the only one who was motivated to learn more about the Pangandamans when I read how the momblogger characterized him as dysfunctional; and I admit that that characterization was instrumental in defining my opinion of father and son. 

To discover later on that momblogger had apparently softened her stand did leave me feeling stranded high and dry. Now, of course, I’m responsible for my own opinion, and I’m standing by it – not blaming her at all or saying that she mislead me or anything of that sort. But what Viloria said is relevant:

Yes, you can blog and delete, but people will save copies and never forget. And when you materially edit in this manner (without apparent disclosure), you do more than merely erase a dysfunctional word or two.

You obliterate your credibility. 

I wouldn’t go so far as to say Dado has lost her credibility, but the brand certainly doesn’t appear as shiny to me as it used to. Not that one person’s opinion is awfully significant; my drama, I know, prolly matters little to her, and much less in the grand scheme of things. But, see this is MY blog, and I can write whatever I please.

And what i want to write is this:

Writers – bloggers included – most especially those who count as shapers of opinion, should be held to higher standards. 

Such writers – bloggers included – who find themselves in a situation where they need to modify their previous positions may reasonably be expected to offer at least an explanation of why their positions have been altered. Obviously this isn’t a right demandable by anyone, but I believe that a moral and ethical obligation exists. 

Writers – bloggers included – should not dismiss criticism off-hand. When we immediately accept “naiinggit lang yan” as a valid reason, there is the implicit assertion that we are successful enough to be envied and that we are incapable of error: the former is not necessarily true, while the latter is a rank impossibility.

Filed under: blogging, musings, , , , , , ,

Finds

Once in awhile, I strike out on the intarwebs to find some new voices – well, new for me anyway. Here’s one that I found, in the category of excellent reads: Doinee

Over the past couple days, a Shepherd Boy from a nearby town has been seeking help for an as yet anonymous, unconfirmed child in dire danger of hypothermia. What is confirmed, however, is that Shepherd Boy only got into sheep herding technical school because he believes a child sleeping in the cold will be comforted by silver and gold.

Upon hearing news of this cold child, Warm Mighty King, a true bureaucrat, relegated his proposed anti-proactive plan of action to his subjects and, more audaciously, people everywhere asking them to pray and listen to what he says.

It was revealed only later that Shepherd Boy allegedly received the information he in turn presented to Warm Mighty King from a “ringing voice as big as the sea from high above the trees” that his little lamb asked him to listen to.

He was also quoted as saying, “It was the night wind that told the little lamb.” 

Expert psychologists have been brought in and, failing an insanity plea, investigators are considering fraud and embezzlement as potential motives.

The Warm Mighty King has yet to apologize to people everywhere for wrongfully calling them into unjustified action.

I just had to get this out of the way because it’s getting exponentially time inappropriate.

😀

Filed under: blogging,

Man O’the Year

Well, here we are. On the cusp of the new year and it is time to crown the Man o’the Year. I’ve not done this before but you have to know that I’m not going by who the biggest newsmaker is, or the most popular, or whatever. Rather, Man 0’the Year goes to the person whose influence was felt the most in the blogosphere. Yep. The blogosphere. Not politics necessarily, and not even the whole blogosphere; rather that part of the blogosphere that I know about. 

Oh and, I don’t hold with the p.c. epidemic either, so there isn’t going to be a Person o’ the Year. 

Let’s start with the runners up.

If we’re going by the amount of influence exerted, the quick choice would be GMA. But that’s a cop-out. Obviously, in this politics obsessed country – and blogosphere – the head of state would be the most influential person, for good or bad. And besides, it’s so cliched to pick the villain. TIME did that with Hitler, so let’s leave it at that. So, GMA comes in a distant third.

Coming in second was benign-zero: everyone’s favorite heckler – and his own favorite intellectual. Benign-zero, through his monomanic self-promotion, has been moderately successful in forcing people to re-think their initial – some would say knee-jerk – positions. Too bad his reputation and relentless self-promotion gets in the way of his being taken seriously. And that’s why he’s an also ran rather than the Man. 

Because he’s so abrasive in his narcissim, he is not as influential as he could be. He hovers somewhere between acceptance and the fringe, never quite belonging to either. However, I have a feeling that once he drops the I’m-better-than-your-entire-nation attitude, a lot more people will be influenced by what he writes.

First runner-up goes to Plurkbuddy. That delightfully insouciant goldfish has not only taken screen-suck to a new level, he has also created a platform where many blogposts are born, dissected, and shot-down. For a blogger, Plurk is a particularly valuable resource because it is the the blogosphere’s pulse – alive and throbbing with vitality. 

Unfortunately for Plurkbuddy, he doesn’t actually shape the discussion. Like a catalyst, he provides the spark but over where the conflagration goes he has no contribution. Close, little goldfish, but no cigar.

So we fnally come to the man of the year. And it’s a toofer.

These two Men o’the Year – working separately – have done more for the Pinoy blogosphere than most. By enshrining blogs in a document of tremendous national import, my first honoree successfully elevated the general public’s awareness of the blogosphere and midwifed the birth of blogging as a significant presence in the intellectual landscape of the country.

With quiet diligence and dedication, my second honoree channeled the scattered explosions of outrage and delight into a booming voice that added a delicious new layer of complexity to the national conversation.

Together, these two gentlemen have transformed the face of Filipino blogging. While it’s hard to tell whether this metamorphoses is for the best, the fact remains that they made 2008 a heady time to have a computer and an opinion. 

Manolo Quezon and Nick of Filipino Voices – my Men o’ the Year.

Filed under: blogging,

Contagion

Pat Mangubat – apart from embarassing me – published a serious post about some bloggers who have a blogger who has reportedly sold their his services to politicians out to create buzz about themselves. 

Reading that post made my lip curl in disgust. Especially this part:

Worst, some blogger even sold their own colleagues to these reputation agents for reportedly a huge fee. A list supposedly exist, with the names of political and non-political bloggers and given to a politico who reportedly paid this blogger a huge sum. 

I imagine that if you choose to sell your services, that’s your problem. But unless those other bloggers were using the sell-out as an agent, selling them out as well is pretty damned heinous.

But as Pat himself said, the commoditization of blogs waas inevitable. It started with AdSense and may have now achieved something of a flowering. Of course, the question is: is that really a bad thing?

I remember grazing this question in a previous post – Belphegor – and reading it back now, I see that I didn’t really dive into the question deeply. 

Pat makes an impassioned plea:

MAKE THE PHILIPPINE BLOGOSPHERE CLEAN. DON’T ALLOW THIS HALLOWED PLACE OF FREE EXPRESSION BE CORRUPTED BY CORPORATE SPONSORSHIPS, POLITICAL OPERATORS AND WHAT HAVE YOU. WE MUST POLICE OUR RANKS. WE MUST STAY CLEAR OF PEOPLE WHO USE US JUST TO PROMOTE A DEFECTIVE PRODUCT, DEFEND A DIRTY POLITICIAN OR DESTROY REPUTATIONS. 

In it, he makes a couple of key assertions. First, that free expression – and by extension, free expression’s platform – will be corrupted by corporate sponsorships, political operators, and their ilk; and that we must stay clear of people who use bloggers to promote a defective product, defend a dirty pol, or destroy reputations.

It goes without saying that I totally agree with the second assertion. But I would add a caveat. The blogger must determine for himself, and to his own moral certainty that what he is promoting is neither defective, dirty, nor malicious destructive of another person’s reputation. 

In similar vein, methinks sponsorship will not necessarilycorrupt a blogger or his blog, for as long as he truly believes what he is writing or promoting. To do so without recompense is, of course, a noble thing; but even a paid person can maintain integrity.

Thus, for instance, if a person is paid to blog with the only stipulation being that he remains truthful to his own opinion – I see no moral issue there. Unless of course the patron starts pumping the blogger with gifts beyond mere persuasion.

And even with gifts, for as long as those gifts do not carry the implicit burden of gratitude via a favorable write-up, I see no moral issue confronting the blogger. Contrast that with what Brian Gorrel once wrote about how his lover used to hit hotels up for free accomodations in exchange for good write-ups. For the hotel, it would have been a straight-up marketing expense – no moral tangles. But for the writer, hmmm … bad juju. 

Unfortunately, we can come up with all these neat and elegant little rules of behavior until we’re blue in the face, but it won’t really make an impact on how things are played in meatspace. Witness Philippine media. 

Hmp. If I had a peso for every time some reporter has sidled up to this office offering x-deals, I’d have a lot of pesos. What can I say? It’s like a contagion that’s made the jump from media to the blogosphere.

Which brings me to the sticking point: what can we do about the problem?

I tell you: 

I don’t know.

However, while we cannot realistically expect our fellow bloggers to adhere to some ethical code, I do know that we can inform our readers – well those of you who have readers anyway – that we are not for sale.

And so I introduce … the Integrity Seal.

integrity1How to use it: Put up the seal on the front page of your blog, and link it to a document explaining its concept and mechanics. This document must also contian links of the three bloggers who vetted your blog. That way, if some shmuck decides to pirate the thing, it becomes immediately obvious. Also obviously, using the seal is entirely voluntary. Not having it on your blog means nothing; but having it definitely says something.

How to get it: Submit your blog for review to three of your peers who already have the seal. The decision to allow use of the seal must be unanimous. A blogger who approves the seal for use by another is responsible for that other person’s integrity. That way, everyone will know that whoever has the seal has (a) been vetted by three others, and that (b) there is a measure of accountability attached to the seal.

To begin with, obviously, no one will have the seal. Therefore, bloggers must first select three bloggers to start the ball rolling. By acclamation, these three will receive the Seal and thereby gain the authority to approve it for others.  I nominate Nick, the noted blogger, and Jessica Zafra. Wait … she blogs, right?

This can be started within the community we now have, and if it flies … well, who knows? I, for one, will be the first to submit my blog for review. But someone will have to write the manifesto and whatnot.

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