Talking with Scott Rosenberg about Say Everything, Dreaming in Code, and MediaBugs

My guest for this week’s Innovators show is Scott Rosenberg. He’s the author of two books, most recently Say Everything, subtitled How blogging began, what it’s becoming, and why it matters. Before that he was the Chandler project‘s embedded journalist, and told its story in Dreaming in Code. His current project is MediaBugs, a soon-to-be-launched service that aims to crowd-source the reporting and correction of errors in media coverage.

We began with a discussion of Say Everything. Its account of how blogging came to be is a great read, and a much-needed history of the era. Since I know that story quite well, though, we focused on the blogosphere’s present state and future prospects. Blogging is still a new medium. But those of us who experienced blogging as a conversation flowing through decentralized networks of blogs have now seen still newer (and more centralized) social media capture a lot of that conversation.

The good news is that more people are able to be involved. The fact that millions of people fired up blogs was, and remains, astonishing. But active blogging has proven to be a hard thing to sustain. Meanwhile hordes of people find it relatively easy to be active on Facebook and Twitter.

The bad news is that, as always, there’s no free lunch. While it’s easier to create and sustain network effects using Facebook and Twitter, you sacrifice control of your own data. Scott thinks we’re moving through a transitional phase, and I hope he’s right. We really need the best of two worlds. First, control of the avatars we project into the cloud, and of the data that surrounds them, insofar as that’s possible. Second, frictionless interaction. The tension between these two conflicting needs will define the future of social media.

Two of Scott’s other projects, Dreaming in Code and MediaBugs, are connected in an interesting way. The media project adopts terminology (“filing bugs”) and process (version control, issue tracking) from the realm of software. If MediaBugs helps make non-technical people aware of that crucial way of thinking and acting, it will be a bonus outcome.

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