At the DNC, it's a blog-eat-blog world
Al Gore is kissing Tipper Gore on the podium (again). The sea of stovepipe- and Wisconsin-cheese-hatted conventioneers erupts into pandemonium (again).
As they do, a nondescript clique of 20- and 30-somethings (male and female) crouch expressionless over glowing computer screens, ensconced in the rafter shadows of FleetCenter's cheap seats, well above the sound, spotlights, and fury. Some sip lattes. Others chew gum.
As if united in some secret brotherhood to eschew emotion and never interact, they sit for hours at a stretch ... tap, tap, tapping at laptop keyboards. Their eyeballs pivot in motionless heads to scan the proceedings and continue tapping.
I watch over their shoulders.
"beep ... Kerchunk ....Yeow," writes one man called Atrios. "I see what you see, if you're watching C-SPAN at least. Some speakers, some fun, a bit of a show."
"It may be a bit dramatic to call Barack Obama the future of the Democratic party," writes another, called "Wild Democracy Ride," "but seeing him speak today at the DNC Black Caucus Delegates meeting was pretty incredible."
They are called "bloggers." They are "blogging" in the "blogosphere." Posting their personal journals on the Web in snippets of 100 to 200 words - and updating them hour by hour. They are self-appointed journalists often without editors. Some entries are stream-of-consciousness riffs, others are attempts - some successful - at serious political commentary. Many turn into online conversation with Web readers.
Already a well-known phenomenon in most corners (3.2 million blogs exist worldwide and 15,000 are created daily) the presence of 35 bloggers here is being regarded as somewhat of a milestone in the world of politics because they are the first to be formally credentialed by the DNC.
"They are at once a fresh source of political discourse and yet more jargon from the geeks who brought us the Internet," said a flier handed to me by David Sifry, founder and CEO of Technorati, a service which monitors what the bloggers are writing about.
Disdained by many journalists who don't like their freewheeling nature ("They're like C-SPAN in the hands of a 19-year-old," one veteran here told me), they are beginning to be taken very seriously by others.
"I think we need to see what's there," said David Bohrman, CNN's Washington bureau chief, to a group of print journalists, explaining why the only TV network to be giving gavel-to-gavel coverage of the convention is also tracking the bloggers in several segments.
So I watched as they typed, trailed celebrities around the halls (Michael Moore, Jesse Jackson, Walter Mondale), and take their own photos with digital cameras. Then they return to their seats, download their own photos, write cutlines ... and update their comments minute to minute, hour by hour.
Like everything else here at the convention, from the traditional media to the protesters outside in the streets, the bloggers seem to have every kind of representative from the absurd to the serious.
Some may make you scratch your head and think:
"Why do 15,000 media people show up for a week, and spend the entire time writing stories about how they shouldn't be bothering to cover the event?"
And some may just make you scratch:
"Carter speech. Knife. In. Twist. Smile.... Later Hillary. Big Dog. Post-convention, find the party."