I got into a great chat with Robert Scoble tonight. We were talking about what’s interesting to blog about. Covering “news” has gotten a little stale – any big topic that comes up can get dozens of links on TechMeme alone, not to mention the huge host of blogs who don’t get covered there. I’m not exactly sure where the conversation train started, but it took us to an interesting spot, which I’ll try to summarize as best as I can.
My advice to Robert was that he should use his influential position within the technology industry to tackle some important topics, things that can actually make a big difference out there. Here are a few of the topics I suggested:
- Copyright legislation. Pick up a copy of Lessig’s “Free Culture”. If you can finish it and not be utterly convinced that something’s gone wrong in the media and content industries, I’d be stunned. Simplest food for thought – why is it that the punishment for downloading 10 tracks is assessed at $1.5 million, when shoplifting a 10-track CD is penalized by $1500? If someone reading this is a person of influence, please help draw attention to this issue, and let’s get Congress (we elect and pay them, if you recall) to put the power back in the hands of the people, and tell the big-5 media companies they need to evolve their business models.
- Green tech. I have a 3-month old, and I become more and more aware every day that he will inherit a world in peril. I don’t have to wear hemp clothing to recognize that we have a looming resource, energy, and water crisis. Maybe not the next 10-20 years, but most definitely the next 20-50 years. Why isn’t the technology industry actively pushing to fix things from their side, rather than build endless streams of servers to provide endless streams of content distractions? Again, how about we call on our government to put power consumption constraints on server farms at a corporate level? How about we put a simple law in place that would require building owners to use motion detectors on all office building lights after 7pm? Not hard to do, no massive cost structure, and easily tangible benefits.
- Privacy Policies. How about holding companies and individuals truly responsible for selling private information to listmongers? Better yet, actually hold ISPs responsible for spam that comes through their networks? If we made the fines big enough and put the proper deterrents in place, change would happen (and fast). I firmly believe we have built more than enough technology to enable better privacy filters, decrease (or even eliminate) most spam, properly block phishing attacks, and cut way down on identity theft online. But nobody is really incensed to make these things happen.
- Good old fashioned volunteering. I also suggested that the next photowalks start or end at a soup kitchen, or a habitat for humanity. When I get back from Montreal next month, my consulting company will begin taking on non-profit organizations and helping with their marketing strategy and outreach. I’d love to encourage others to consider their skills and how they can apply them to those who are truly in need. Not sure how? Then pick up a hammer and help build a house, or read a book to a kid, or find any other opportunity that interests you – who knows, you might even live longer because you did.
Robert asked why I never blog about these things. Maybe a simple question like that is all it takes to motivate someone into a little more action.
Hey, I agree with you on the helping charitable organizations. As I have been at startups for a lot of the past years now, I’ve not found time to go help build houses, etc. I would love to do that one day with Habitat for Humanity. So as a temporary outlet, we put our skills to work by extending our daily jobs. Our VP of PR and I convinced the company to set up a “For Non Profit” area of our website. Here we can offer our services and expertise (in mobility and sharing) to to help them in their cause. Our service is all about mobile communications so any organization that is spread out and need to stay in touch can benefit from it.
It’s been a real eye opening experience as we have gotten to help people we would never have thought to reach out to. So far, we’ve teamed up with an world wide hip-hop organization and a Columbian educational foundation.
The bottom line is that no matter what you do, there’s something you can do to help. Just be creative.
My sense is a lot of hard-core bloggers ask themselves on a regular or semi-regular basis what role they want to perform. Do we want to jump on the news bandwagon (aka Techmeme) or venture forth with our own ideas and thoughts, regardless of what crowd thinks.
Personally, I find non-news posts about ideas or interesting people/services/companies to be much more satisfying to write on. Every time, I see a Techmeme pile up, I now turn the other way because there already seems to be enough thoughts available already.