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4.2 out of 5 stars
We The Media
Format: Hardcover|Change
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on April 22, 2005
Television, print, radio, etc. has long been the bastion of traditional media. That is, until the Internet became the tool of the people, allowing us to participate in content creation in ways never before seen. The masses have become less content in being subscribers to traditional media outlets; the Internet has become one of the major tools through which citizens have taken the idea of Journalist off its high pedestal and is helping us to reshape the very nature of who makes content and why it is important.

Dan Gillmor is a journalist of both traditional and new media, and his "Wethe Media" is an excellent study into how citizen's media is of growing importance in today's society. Gillmor uses a variety of relatively recent cases, such as the Howard Dean candidacy, and looks closely at how these instances are proving that citizens media is maturing rapidly and its tools will become the new face of new media.

An excellent, easy to read bit of work, Gillmor has done a stellar job in the tradition of Reingold, Lessig and others in exploring and supporting the common man in the face of tradition.
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Edited 20 Dec 07 to add links.

Joe Trippi's book, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised: Democracy, the Internet, and the Overthrow of Everything joins Howard Rheingold's book, Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution and Bill Moyer's collaborative book, Doing Democracy as the companions for this book--taken together, the four books provide everything any group needs to "take back the power."

Whereas Trippi provides a personal story that illuminates the new power that comes from combining citizen activism with Internet-enabled networking, this book focuses more on the role the Internet and blogs play in the perception and dissemination of accurate unbiased information. It is not only an elegant presentation, easy to read, with good notes and a fine seven-page listing of cool web sites, but it also provides a useful survey of past writings on this topic--with due credit to Alvin Toffler's first perception of the trend toward mass customization and the elimination of intermediaries, together with original thoughts from the author.

This book could become a standard undergraduate reference on non-standard news sources and the blurring of the lines between producers and consumers of information (or in the government world, of intelligence).

Resistance to change by established media; the incredible emotional and intellectual growth that comes from having a "media" of, by, and for the people that is ***open*** to new facts and context and constantly being ***refreshed***, and the undeniable ability of the people in the aggregate to triumph in their assembled expertise, over niche experts spouting biases funded by specific institutions, all come across early in the book.

The book is provocative, exploring what it means when more and more information is available to the citizen, to include information embedded in foods or objects that communicates, in effect, "if you eat me I will kill you," the author's most memorable turn of phase that really makes the point.

While respecting privacy, the author notes that this may, as David Brin has suggested, be a relic of a pre-technological time. Indeed, I was reminded of the scene in Sho-Gun, where a person had to pause to defecate along the side of the trail, and everyone else simply stood around and did not pay attention--a very old form of privacy that we may be going back to.

Feedster gets some good advertising, and it bears mention that Trippi is still at the Google/email stage, while Gillmor is at the Feedster/RSS/Wiki stage.

Between Trippi and Gillmor, the term "open source politics" can now be said to be established. The line between open source software, open source intelligence or information, and open spectrum can be expected to blur further as public demands for openness and transparency are backed up with the financial power that only an aroused and engaged public can bring to bear.

Gilmor is riveting and 100% on target when he explores the meaning of all this for Homeland Security. He points out that not only is localized observation going to be the critical factor in preventing another 9-11, but that the existing budget and program for homeland security does not provide one iota of attention to the challenge of soliciting information from citizens, and ensuring that the "dots" from citizens get processed and made sense of.

The book slows in the middle with some case studies I could have done without, and then picks up for a strong conclusion by reviewing the basic laws (Moore, Metcalfe, Reed) in order to make the point, as John Gage noted in 2000, that once you have playstations wired for Internet access, and DoKoMo mobile phones that pre-teens can afford, the people ***own*** the world of information.

Spies and others concerned about deception and mischief on the Internet will appreciate the chapter on trolls, spin, and the boundaries of trust. Bottom line: there are public solutions to private misbehavior.

The chapter on lawyers and the grotesque manner in which copyright law is being extended and perverted, allowing a few to steal from our common heritage while hindering innovation (the author's words), should outrage. Lawrence Lessin and Cass Sunstein are still the top minds on this topic, but Gillmore does a fine job of articulating some of the key points.

The book ends on a great note: for the first time in history, a global, continuous feedback loop among a considerable number of the people in possible. This may not overthrow everything, as Trippi suggests, but it most assuredly does ***change*** everything.

I have taken one star away because of really rotten binding--the book, elegant in both substance and presentation, started falling apart in my hands within an hour of my cracking it open.

New books, with reviews, since this was published:
The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom
Collective Intelligence: Mankind's Emerging World in Cyberspace
Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st Century
Escaping the Matrix: How We the People can change the world
Society's Breakthrough!: Releasing Essential Wisdom and Virtue in All the People
One from Many: VISA and the Rise of Chaordic Organization
A Power Governments Cannot Suppress
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on August 1, 2004
First a disclaimer. I've only read the drafts Dan posted on his blog. But from those chapters, this book is unlike anything written before. Dan is a rare combination of a strong technologist and brilliant journalist with strong ethics. Taken together this book describes events and makes predictions about the future of news reporting, particularly as it is influenced by the Internet. One of the best examples is a conference in which a CEO of a prominent company was speaking lamenting about his business problems. While this conference was being blogged, Buzz Bruggeman, reading the blog, did a quick search and found this speaker had just made a killing selling his options. Before he finished his talk he was confronted with this information, proving there's no where to hide when it comes to the Internet.
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on December 12, 2013
I relied pretty heavily on this book to write my senior thesis. It's a very interesting dissection of today's news industry.
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on August 10, 2004
This is the first book I've seen on the incursion of citizen's media on the corporate news organizations, and has a fair amount of information on the history, and the technologies involved.

Dan repeats himself a number of times; for example, SMS gets defined multiple times throughout the book. A good developmental editor would have caught these problems, but this isn't difficult to overlook while reading.

The big blemish is that his left-leaning political views appear too often and too obviously. Early on, he even makes the claim that Big Media is politically conservative, something only he and Eric Alterman still seem to believe. His lefty, er, progressive readers might not notice, but because a number of the more popular blogs are antidotes to the liberal media slant, those of us who visit those blogs are likely to wince at some of his comments.

All that being said, overall, it's worth the read, until a better work on the subject comes out.
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on March 11, 2010
We the Media was written to persuade the reader to become a grassroots journalist, or at least a participant in the cause. Gillmor advocates the information sources found in blogs, forums, wikis, and other social sites. He believes the information found in this `underground' is just as rich, or even richer than big media.

He points to technological advances as being the reason for the advent of web 2.0.

Gillmor wants big media and grassroots journalism to work together and create a new form of collaborative journalism. He is passionate about the idea, and he pushes the reader to change... or at least understand the benefit of this slowly emerging movement.

The book reads well, and he incorporates many examples to support his ideas.

Gillmor has a zealous voice, but his message is nothing new.

The book was written in 2005, and it's now 2010, so many of the events cited as examples are out of date.

The book reads like an activist-speech, and devotes 12 chapters to a message that could've been said in 1. The same message was being hammered in different angles, and I got tired midway.

Although I admire the purpose of this book, you already know much of what's in here; It's not a must read.
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on May 20, 2006
Any interested in the future of new media must have WE THE MEDIA: GRASSROOTS JOURNALISM BY THE PEOPLE, FOR THE PEOPLE: a survey of how common folk are producing more meaningful news coverage using personal blogs, Internet chat groups, and email as their delivery tools. Journalism in the 21st century is changing - and will be quite different from the media-controlled presentations we know today. To find out just how different, you have to consult WE THE MEDIA: it comes from a journalist and founder of the very grassroots media making big changes.

Diane C. Donovan, Editor

California Bookwatch
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on August 26, 2004
In his new book, Dan Gillmor skillfully chronicles a revolution-in-the-making -- the rise of citizens media, a grassroots-powered phenomenon in which users are becoming both competitors and collaborators with established news organizations.

"We the Media" is certainly the most important journalism book of the year, for it aptly details a gathering storm that is about to sweep away everything we thought we knew about the news.

Gillmor lays out his basic premise with his familiar mantra: My readers know more than I do-and that's an opportunity. He writes: "[R]eaders (or viewers or listeners) collectively know more than media professionals do. This is true by definition: they are many, and we are often just one. We need to recognize and, in the best sense of the word, use their knowledge. If we don't, our former audience will bolt when they realize they don't have to settle for half-baked coverage; they can come into the kitchen themselves."

In a real sense, we're all journalists now. Gillmor passes along approvingly the citizens media credo of Oh Yeon Ho, the reformist founder of South Korea's largest online paper, OhmyNews: "Every citizen's a reporter. Journalists aren't some exotic species, they're everyone who seeks to take new developments, put them into writing, and share them with others."

The author recounts the time a Slashdot reader uncovered the misrepresentation in Microsoft's "Mac to PC" advertising campaign (the photo of the supposed Mac user who switched over to Windows actually came from a Getty Images archive). He capably relates a number of such episodes, such as the scoop scored last spring by the operator of the Memory Hole, who used a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain the military's photos of the flag-draped caskets of U.S. soldiers-something no news organization thought to do.

Blogs have been slow to take off in the mainstream media in part, Gillmor writes, because of "mistrust among traditional editors of a genre that threatens to undermine what they consider core values-namely editorial control" and "objectivity and fairness."

But he also tempers his embrace of this new world by tamping down any suggestion that blogs will put old media out of business or editors out of a job. "Bloggers who disdain editors entirely, or who say they're largely irrelevant to the process, are mistaken." At the same time, "my readers make me a better journalist because they find my mistakes, tell me what I'm missing, and help me understand nuances."

Despite the news industry's slow, plodding response to all this, Gillmor has come to reform big media, not to bury it. He writes with the passion of someone who desperately wants journalism to find its way in the digital age-and laments what will happen if it does not. "I'm absolutely certain that the journalism industry's modern structure has fostered a dangerous conservatism-from a business sense more than a political sense, though both are apparent-that threatens our future."

Gillmor saves his best admonition for last: "You can make your own news. We all can. Let's get started."
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on October 13, 2004
As I was about to write this review, Reuters published the news that: "Iranian authorities have arrested at least six Internet journalists and webloggers in recent days, colleagues and relatives said on Wednesday, in a further blow to limited press freedoms in the Islamic state. News-based Internet sites and online journals known as Weblogs have flourished in Iran where the disproportionately youthful population often turns to the Internet for information and entertainment."

How significant is this? It indicates that the power of internet publishing, today's equivalent of samizdat (which in most slavic languages means self-published), is being recognized not only by those who consume and produce blog-based news, but also by those who fear the power of media when in the hands of the people.

I grew up in a communist country where every typewriter (machine) had to be registered with the police department. A friend of mine from a different town had asked me to buy him a typewriter because in his hometown his name was on a list banning him from owning a typewriter.

Today, everyone can start a Blogger account or install a Movable Type on a web server and start publishing. With this power, of course, comes enormous responsibility.

This book, "We The Media", is a fascinating look on the way the internet self-publishing and blogging phenomenon has changed the way we produce, consume, and share news.

The author is more than respectable--Dan Gillmor, the business and technology columnist from The publisher, O'Reilly, is more than knowledgable on the subject of the convergence of new technologies, business and society. The result is enjoyable, educating, thought-provoking. In my humble, unprofessional opinion, this book fully deserves 5 out of 5 stars!
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on April 11, 2005
A very interesting read, but it does seem to cycle over the same ground a few times. This book will make you want to start a blog, and provides a heck of a lot of great links to get you started blogging in a very informed way.

The basic premise of the book is that blogging is changing the face of journalism, and that journalists and media outlets should embrace the blogosphere rather than reject it outright. His points are well-supported with interesting vignettes, but do begin to feel a bit heavy-handed and repetitive after a few chapters, but it remains interesting, largely due to the number of very intriguing stories from the field he uses to illustrate his points. And because it's all about the web, the book is more interactive than many - you can actually take part in the mailing lists and visit (and join) the many web sites he references in the book.

As a journalist, Dan Gillmor takes a very "holistic" view of the effect of technology on his field, and when you put the book down, you'll want to dive in and start getting involved in it.

I was slightly disappointed that the book didn't really go into great detail about media ownership. If you're looking for more political books to motivate you to take action, you may be interested in "The New Media Monopoly," "The Problem of the Media," or "What Liberal Media."
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