Blogsafer.org: A Wiki For Bloggers Under Fire

I’ve been working for a year or so as a technical adviser for the Committee to Protect Bloggers, a group that raises awareness of people around the world facing state repression for the contents of their blogs. The Committee is on hiatus right now due to insufficient funding, but the director Curt Hopkins has also been working on an Anonymous Blogging campaign funded by a group called Spirit of America. I was hired by that campaign to put up a wiki containing 5 guides on blogging anonymously at Blogsafer.org.

The idea is that as wiki documents, the guides should be tended to by a community of interest, evolving over time to reflect changing conditions. And for all you wiki doubters out there, no – there is not overwhelming concern about said repressive governments editing the wiki to include bad advice and making people easier to identify. All previous versions of the documents are viewable in the archives and readers are prompted to not take any one page on face value without looking at change history, previous versions, etc.

From the press release:

Spirit of America has launched the BlogSafer wiki, available at http://www.blogsafer.org. BlogSafer contains a series of guides on how to blog under difficult conditions in countries that discourage free speech.

LOS ANGELES, California – January 7, 2006 – Spirit of America’s BlogSafer wiki hosts a series of targeted guides to anonymous blogging, each of which outline steps a blogger in a repressive regime can take, and tools to use, to avoid identification and arrest. These range from common sense actions such as not providing identifying details on a blog to the technical, such as the use of proxy servers.

“A repressive regime trying to still free speech first goes after and shuts down independent print and broadcast media,” said Curt Hopkins, project director of Spirit of America’s Anonymous Blogging Campaign. “Once that is done, it turns its attentions to online news sites. As these outlets disappear, dissent migrates to blogs, which are increasing geometrically in number and are simple to set up and operate.”

In past several years at least 30 people have been arrested, many of whom have been tortured, for criticizing their governments. This trend is likely to increase in the coming year.

The five guides that are currently on the wiki serve bloggers in the following countries:

* Iran (in Persian)
* China (Chinese)
* Saudi Arabia (in Arabic—also useful for other Arabic-speaking regimes such as Bahrain, Egypt, Syria and Tunisia)
* Malaysia (in English—also applicable to neighboring Indonesia and Singapore)
* Zimbabwe (in English—applicable to English-speaking Africans as well as aid workers)

These countries were chosen because they are representative of the kinds of repressive tactics that have been used in the past several years against bloggers. These include filtering, interrogation, torture and imprisonment.

I thought readers here might find this of interest. Big thanks to David at PBWiki for all his help with the project.

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Interview with Mark Cuban

I’ve had the honor over the last few days to do an email interview with Mark Cuban for Net Squared. Turns out he’s a reader of this blog – cool! We talked about:

  • the importance of caution on the part of non-profit groups in using Web 2.0 tools
  • the value that blogging can bring to an organizaiton
  • the future of blog search in general, and Cuban’s IceRocket.com in particular.

I hope you’ll check out the interview and the rest of the work being done at Net Squared.

Link: Thoughts on Adoption of New Web Tools: An Interview with Mark Cuban

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13 Reasons to Use Tags

Beth Kanter has aggregated a number of interesting discussions regarding the value of blogging and tagging in the non-profit world. I’d like to throw in my 2 cents by making two lists that summarize, as I know them, the primary reasons you’d want to use two different kinds of tagging.

Putting Tags in Your Blog Posts (“Technorati Tags”)

1. So I can find your post when I’m doing research on the subject you are writing about. Every blog post you make is an artifact available for our collective intelligence to utilize – adding some quality metadata to it is a social responsibility.

2. Be it through Technorati or TagCentral, when I do a tag search for any term, I like to find blog posts, images, bookmarked items and upcoming events that are all tagged with the same term.

3. So I can get some idea what sort of perspective you write from when I scan your blog, I look at titles and tags. Your particular “folksonomy” can give me some idea whether you’re a programmer, an activist, a PR person etc.

4. I like subscribing to tag search feeds on a variety of topics, be it a noun that I have an ongoing interest in (you know, a person, place or thing) or a group concept like the attention streams Nptech or WebJustice2.0.

5. It’s not that hard to do anymore. Whether you are using a Word Press plug-in, any number of Firefox related tagging tools or one of these two bookmarklets I’ve posted – the energy investment required to add tags to your own posts is really relatively low. It’s lower than what’s required to add images to your posts, or several other elements that are not uncommon. In order to get the most out of this medium, it’s a good idea to invest some amount more energy than the minimum required to post text alone to your blog.

Update: Call this #14, but Jonny Baker points out the following. Though some blogging platforms support categories, which apparently are indexed as tags by Technorati at least – you probably don’t want as many categories on your blog as you do specific subject headings/tags for tag search engines to discover you through. Good point!


Top reasons to tag items online with del.icio.us or another social bookmarking tool.

1. “What article/web site was it that I was looking at last week/month/year about that topic?” Your browser bookmarks, organized alphabetically by title or maybe folder if you’re really into it, are not going to answer this question nearly as effectively as an online database organized with multiple tags, title, URL and notes fields.

2. Organize your bookmarks for yourself and send a URL to someone else with one click by including the “for:” tag.

3. Offer other people a chance to discover your suggested resources on a topic not just from the past, but in the future as well.

4. Information overload is real, and RSS can make it worse or better depending on how you organize your feeds. One way or the other, there is now so much information available that failure to organize what you find useful in an appropriate way will lead to countless lost opportunities.

5. Do you like to have a list of links on the sidebar of your blog? The RSS feed for items given any particular tag or combination of tags can be displayed automatically using tools like FeedDigest. This is just one of many ways that tagging and RSS work well together. Furthermore, it’s just one of the many ways that a tagged item is a more manipulable item.

6. Contribute to everyone’s shared knowledge on a given topic. This is so important. See items 1, 2 and 4 in the first list above.

7. Someday soon there will be a tagging system that will:

  • integrate with del.icio.us and offer tag selection in a similar manner
  • allow varying levels of privacy and permission
  • save a cached copy of every page you tag
  • perform a full text search of all fields, the full text of the URL and its cache
  • include other features not yet imagined.

You’ll be in a better position to use this next system if you learn to use the best system available today, del.icio.us. My Corante Web Hub buddy Otis Gospodnetic may have already created this in Simpy.

At least it wasn’t another top 10 list! Any questions? Feel free to ask in comments, there’s a bunch of people here who can help answer them. For more information on the subject, here’s all the posts I’ve made here on tagging.

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Claiming Our Blogs with Technorati

Technorati Profile

In the spirit of exploration and a couple of other things, I’m hereby claiming this blog in technorati. Unfortunately, the javascript means of doing so doesn’t appear to work. Has that been anyone else’s experience?

While you too may want to claim your blog inside Technorati, don’t let Technorati claim you or too much of your mental space. Other very good blog and tag search engines include:

I know that Technorati has lots of features that those don’t, but I just don’t want other good options to be forgotten. There are many more, of course. Del.icio.us tag “Blog_search” has some good items.

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Interview with Gary Price

Online researcher Gary Price was gracious enough to do a long IM interview with me last week and I’ve posted it over at the Net Squared blog. Price is the editor of ResourceShelf, a news wire of databases and research resources, and the News Editor at Search Engine Watch. Lots of good info shared.

We focused on the following topics:

  • Libraries and Google
  • General Web Search Beyond Google
  • RSS and Email
  • Web Site Watcher, ResourceShelf and Research Methods
  • Consulting, Speaking and Inspiring New Learning
  • Building Organizational Support for New Web Tools
  • Some of Gary’s Favorite Book Search Engines

I hope you’ll check it out and look around the rest of the Net Squared site and conference info while you’re there. Interview with Gary Price

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RSS: Icons, Bloglines and More

I think that’s a very nice RSS feed icon, found via Dragotown and ultimately it seems via FeedIcons.com. FeedIcons.com is dedicated to spreading a standardized feed icon, and I like the idea. No need for a slew of one-click subscribe buttons any more either now that Feedburner includes exactly that on the page for each feed.

News item number two: Have you changed your blog’s URL lately but kept the same Feedburner RSS feed? This is one of the best things about Feedburner (oh, the list of wonderful things is long though). I moved my blog over to this URL about 3 months ago and thought I was bringing all my old subscribers with me and that the transition would be a smooth one.

Bump in the road: Bloglines didn’t fully register the change, complicating my readers’ experience and somehow not including many of my Bloglines subscribers in my circulation numbers. Many were included, but it turns out that many were not. I was just getting ready to celebrate my 200th subscriber some time soon when a Bloglines reader notified me of the problem, I emailed the company and now I’m proud to say that I’m getting ready to celebrate my 300th subscriber sometime soon! You were there all along, but I had no idea. Shucks. (I still know almost nothing about nearly anyone subscribed.)

Anyway, if you are in similar circumstances (having just changed blog URLS but kept the same feed) you might go over to Bloglines and try subscribing to your feed. See what it looks like, and if you notice anything funny you might send them an email. They were very helpful and nice when I emailed them about it. Since Bloglines is one of the biggest feed reading services online, and Feedburner says that keeping your readers and numbers when changing URLs is one of their best features – you’d think these two companies would put their heads together about this.