Blog Summit Report

A good time had by all. While I was a bit disappointed the focus seemed to be entirely on the regulatory (self-imposed or otherwise) aspects of blogging, it was a great opportunity to meet fellow Virginia bloggers. Very glad to see Jim Bacon and Jay Hughes again, as well as finally meet folks like Rick Sincere, Jon Henke, Waldo Jaquith, Chad Dotson, Norm Leahy, and a host of other people at a very well attended event.

Certainly the focus of the conference seemed to be more of a bunker-mentality “when are the regulators coming to get us and how can we stop it” rather than a forward-thinking discussion on whether the current situation is good and what we can do to preserve it.

For many new to the FEC discussion (or to blogs for that matter), it might seem academic. What’s a blog and who cares?

The real news of the day was that – surprise – blogs are already regulated. If you pay for your blog (and many do not), then you’re in the clear. However, there are some issues if you do any direct advocacy (which many blogs do).

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that there are a variety of tensions:

  • Between bloggers and mainstream media in terms of ethical standards,
  • Between regulators and bloggers by way of how blogs influence elections,
  • Between legislators who seek to control the “Wild Wild West” image of bloggers and bloggers themselves,
  • Between anonymous and self-identifying bloggers,
  • Between irresponsible and responsible information relayed by bloggers,
  • Between those in favor of and those not in favor of regulation; self-imposed or otherwise.

    So where do we go? It was my opinion that an overwhelming majority of those present among the blogosphere did not want any kind of ethics imposed from above. What to do to make sure the status quo maintains itself was another question altogether. Self-imposed ethics was one idea, but how do enforce this? Voluntary ethical standards one would subscribe to (a button for example) was another, but then again what value would it really have when some very ethical people do not subscribe and other non-ethical people bend those ethics to the breaking point?

    The other alternative – one that I and a few others advocated – was that of self-regulation. Readers ultimately regulate the blogs by the nature of either choosing to read or not read the information presented. If there are questions of ethics or validity, the free market orientation of blogs has clearly shown it’s willingness to either eat-its-own when it comes to misinformation, or keep more traditional methods honest.

    In short, as we should have expected from our slice of the Internet, there was much talking. Results? Who knows. Overall though, there are a good many issues to deal with, and for a first blogging summit of its kind anywhere, I felt we certainly broke new ground fleshing out the issues and the intricacies therein; something that will almost certainly be of value for Blog Summit II.

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