Blogging as open email

· Weblog Concepts

I have half a mind to turn my well known public email address xian@pobox.com into an entirely open channel, which is to say that anyone who corresponds with that public address will have to be notified that what I write in response is not secret and is in fact subject to my posting it online in my blind cc blog (which doesn’t exist yet). The edge case is can I quote those people. With proper notification and a liberal opt-out policy, I think so.

The benefit to me would be huge. Gmail has helped crystalize a lot of my recent thinking about email, how it’s managed, why our best content is all wrapped up in secrecy and lawyer’s shenanigans? I was thinking about Tim Bray’s concept of an open source person, and it really struck a chord with me, not as an idea to preach to others, but as a practice that has for me almost always seemed to lead to better collaboration, greater creativity.

As a writer, it’s easy to fear the stillborn piece of work that would not bear up to scrutiny without crumbling, and I have never been one to argue that privacy is dead or that there isn’t still a place for not sharing every thought you have with every sentient entity on the planet (including the corporations).

But, preamble over, I think most of that hiding is just insecurity and fear of “being wrong” or of being criticized. Obviously in the business context, this is formalized through financial and legal means and an incentive structure that encourages hiding mistakes and deflecting blame. Light and air are antiseptic.

I admire the writers* working on contemporaneous book who are publishing their chapters online and accepting criticism and feedback from all and sundy, some of it impolitic to say the least.

People who need private email dialogue with me probably know my personal (“friends and family”) email address or can figure it out or ask around. Even then the illusion of privacy is false comfort. I doubt any email ever sent will stay seekrit forever. There are just too many intermediary caches, many of which are backed up by responsible sysadmins (not most, but enough). If all my email is coming out some day, why not write it now with that in mind and thus never set anything down on electronic paper that I wouldn’t be willing, as the old usenet saw goes, be willing to see on the front page of the New York Times.

Advantage is, instead of having a bcc list for people interested in eavesdropping on my public conversations, I could have an Atom (RSS) feed.

So that’s my blogging content for the week. I hope the other four writers of this blog can give us each at least one good link this week. Plus, I have Scoop working now and as soon as I learn how to configure it and all of its presumptive metaphors (or enough, anyway), I’ll start migrating us over there, and then our readers will be able to post diary entries and suggest links and so on. Yea!

I sure hope the other blogs-on-blogging are covering the endless stream of blog-related news (Kerry delinks Kos!). I’m writing a book and am on deadline and have been “neglecting” my blogging, as if such as thing were possible, for the last two or three days, which makes my two or three addicted readers ask me if everything’s ok. Needless to say, there’s a backlog that will flood out when I can do so with a clean conscience and a healthy relationship with my editor, whom I hope will forgive this brief fingering exercise as I blow out the pipes a bit and get ready to wail on the close-to-final draft (aside from copyediting) of the activism chapter of my book The Power of Many (note the official domain name, thepowerofmany.com, which I can now safely announce), though I think it still reverts to my underlying x-pollen home for the site.

* JD Lasica, Dan Gillmor come to mind, no doubt Mary Hodder and danah boyd and Liz Lawley and other smart academics are doing the same with their ongoing thoughts and research, and Larry Lessig’s open sourcing of his book’s content on publication especially now that aaron swartz is hosting a wiki so that people can annotate it. (The kid gets it – Aaron for president of the internet!)

I am calling Lessig Larry to make it seem as if I know him when in fact I don’t! Neat trick, huh? When I was visiting an old college roommate, Sina Najafi, who publishes Cabinet magazine in Brooklyn last year we talked a bit about blogs and flash mobs and Sina said, “Do you know Larry Lessig? He’s a friend of ours.” (or maybe it was “We like him.” Sina’s wife went to Stanford and is of course brilliant and talented and beautiful as well. Cabinet is what Enterzone/Telegraph would have wanted to be if we had been a print publication. How’s this for digression? How am I driving?), so if pressed I’ll fall back on that excuse, that Sina “planted” that locution, Larry Lessig, in my mind.

Then I’ll meet him and he’ll tell me to call him Lawrence or something, or he’ll want to, like David Weinberger, but won’t because he doesn’t want to correct people in social situations (it took me years to learn not to embarass people who called me Chris in public)

I wonder if Sina’s on Orkut? What’s FOAF for “I would work with this person any time!”

Back to Chapter 3, my peeples.

(note: originally published at http://radiofreeblogistan.com/2004/04/05/blogging_as_open_email.html)