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    Added Contact Page

    June 30th, 2006

    I have added a Contact Me page to the site. The Contempt theme did not come with a template, so I stole the contact template from Blix by copying contact.php to my contempt theme folder and selecting that as a template when creating my new page. There are other ways of doing this, such as the PXS Mail Form plug-in, but I am very happy with these results.


    Tweaking, not Blogging

    June 30th, 2006

    I don’t have time to write this week, but have had some time to tweak the site and try a few plug-ins.

    The first new tool is Performancing, a Firefox plug-in that allows me to write from with my browser and post directly to this blog. (I’m using it now!) I find it much more forgiving than the WordPress built in editor.

    Second, I have changed the theme (with a big shout out to Rick Mahn for sending me the Contempt theme files) and modified it to include Sidebar Widgets. It took me far too long to figure out how to do this. To save others the trouble, here are my notes:

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    VA Bloggers Blog Carnival

    June 24th, 2006

    I have been reviewing the Sorenson VA Bloggers Summit all week and I’m still not done, but it is also my honor to host the Blog Carnival this week. I am pleased to have this opportunity to highlight the great writing of all these really marvelous people. I apologize if I missed anybody that I like…

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    Ethics and Blogging (and Journalism)

    June 22nd, 2006

    Continuing my review of the 2006 VA Bloggers Summit…

    Saturday morning began with an informal breakfast get-together at a local bagel shop. I got there early, so popped open my laptop and discovered that, sure enough, Waldo had already blogged about the day one of the conference. Man, I cannot keep up with that guy…

    Panelists for the first workshop on Ethics and Blogging were Josh Wheeler, Associate Director of The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression, Shaun Kenney of, well, ShaunKenney.com (“one of the oldest Virginia political blogs, focusing on the role of religion and politics in public life“), and Sorensen Institute Executive Director Sean O’Brien.

    Shaun is a charismatic public speaker and after seeing him speak and talking to him briefly, I will pay more attention to his writings. I also appreciate that he came prepared with a talk and highlighted what he felt are the three earmarks of ethical blogging: Transparency (who is doing the writing), Authenticity (why is this being written), and Containment (if the first two are evident, how does the reader contain the information).

    I will assume, for purposes of argument, that Shaun is referring to the political blogosphere. (There are plenty of blogs with other purposes, such as family photos. I have one of those, too). If you are reading a political blog, you assume that the author is conveying a personal point of view. Shaun’s point is that who is writing (is it an individual, a group, a paid political hack) and why they are writing (personal approbation, paid political hackery, “to change the world”) should be apparent to anyone who reads the blog so that the reader can consider this information when evaluating whether what they are reading is an honest account. (Shaun recounts the main points of his talk on his own blog.)

    Insofar as I understood it, in referring to unethical blogging, Shaun was primarily talking about bloggers who have been paid for their opinion without advertising that fact. I agree that this is unethical, but I disagree with the inference that a failure to meet Shaun’s high standards somehow results in unethical blogging. I’ll get back to that point.

    There was discussion of just what is a blogger. Shaun said “using blogging software does not make you a blogger”. Agreed. People blog about all sorts of things. I’ve set up a WordPress blog for my ten year old to post pictures of her kitties! Shaun is referring to a breed of blogger that writes heavily tilted political material. I think we need a new word, something combining “Blogger” and “Blow hard”. How about … Bloggard! That’s it: Shaun Kenny is a Bloggard! And by any definition, I’m a bigger Bloggard!

    The session following this one was on Blogging and Journalism (I will write about that in a separate post), but that subject also came up frequently while discussing ethics. On that distinction, the statement was made simply that journalists report news, while bloggers comment on news. Josh Wheeler mentioned the website Fair Use Network.org as a resource for researching rules governing intellectual property and free expression.

    The conversation then shifted to anonymous and pseudonymous blogging. Anonymous blogging referred primarily to people who post anonymous comments to websites. Shaun bans anonymous comments and many in the room agreed (some even agreeing that they would do so from now on…!) Pseudonymous blogs are those, like Semi Truths, whose author’s identity is not publicly known. Some pseudonymous bloggers, like Jaded JD, keep their public identity secret because they are political insiders who can comment more freely if their true names are not published. Others, like me, blog pseudonymously because we are simpering cowards.

    I write mainly political satire. Even my occasional “serious” pieces are rife with sarcasm. “Semi” is a brand name. I blog under that name, I post comments to other sites under that name. I have created an online identity, a nihilistic smart-ass who speaks his mind and is far cleverer than I could ever be in real life. This gives me a certain freedom that I don’t enjoy on my personal site, where everybody knows who I am, the names of my kids, etc. (Which is another point: I still get the occasional lunatic email. I’m fine with whatever they have to say about “Semi”, but I don’t want these jerks to switch over to my personal site and start commenting on my family.)

    Bob of Commonwealth Commonsense writes that separating anonymous from pseudonymous blogging is “a distinction without a difference“. Others point out that the Federalist Papers were written pseudonymously by Alexander Hamilton and James Madison. I am quite comfortable being in that august company.