Grid blogging (an invitation)

I've been thinking of ways of developing distributed collaborative projects and came up with the following idea: grid blogging - which I imagine as being a group of bloggers tackling a specific topic on a specific day/time.

Here's a mini-manifesto of sorts, a short text I sent out to half a dozen or so friends and bloggers I respect to gage interest:

"Grid blogging aims to investigate the potentials of a distributed media production model spread across blogosphere nodes. It seeks to ignite attention on specific topics at set times through variegated voices. A kind of decentralised flash mobbing for the mind, if you like.

Decentralisation is key here. Unlike single collaborative blogging structures that unite discussions under the same URL, Grid blogging is about synchronized guerrilla publishing attacks carried out across a series of online locations. It respects and heightens the individual voice within a media-wise choir. It allows for idea-jamming and mosaics of diverse perspectives to emerge unfettered.

Temporary in nature, the first grid blog is set to happen on December 1. The topic is the "brand". Interpret it as you like, from the comfort of your own blog. As critique, as recollection, as original content, as link-fest or visual interpretation. Whatever. Join in and help us discover where we can lead this dance."

The inital feedback has been highly positive, and I am proud to say that all those contacted expressed a desire to participate. These are:

Marianna (who will be launching her new blogging project later this month)
Abe of abstract dynamics (who helped kick-start the thought-process)
Anne of purse lip square jaw
Christina of glowlab
Fabio of freegorifero
Gary of junk for code
Jonathan of things magazine
Nicolas of icon's blog

(in addition to the interest expressed, and the email discussions sparked, by Adam of v-2 who's currently busy settling into NYC, Timo of elasticspace, and Dr. Menlo).

This is very much a concept in progress, and totally open-source in essence. Many details, like if and how to visually represent the grid, are still to be hacked.

If you think this could be an exciting experiment, great. If you want to drop me a line or leave a comment, you have my thanks in advance. If you join in or spread the word that would be brilliant.

Instead of mass media, think cluster media!

November 07, 2003 | 03:07 PM
Comments

This sounds very cool. I'd like to participate, too.

Posted by: Joerg at November 7, 2003 06:56 PM

Will there be some kind of minimal centralization, so everyone's aware of what others are doing? Like at least a single trackback URL for everyone to ping?

Posted by: andrew at November 7, 2003 07:21 PM

I found this call via Anne's blog & I'm certainly intrigued by the idea of grid blogging. Count me in.

Posted by: chuck at November 7, 2003 08:52 PM

Mediaburn is in. I mentioned it on the blog today. December is calling.

Posted by: Gary at November 7, 2003 09:32 PM

Dear Ashley!

I like this idea very much! This sounds very interresting. I would like to participate to. My blog is in Slovenian language http://memefest.org/si
the english web site of the memefest project is on http://memefest.org/en

This is the web site of the international festival of radical communication.

I will also post a note on my blog about this project in cca 10 days.

Is there anything else i can help with?
Please let me know...
Best wishes
Oliver

Posted by: Oliver at November 7, 2003 09:38 PM

Yes, very interesting idea. I don't want to participate but count me in as someone who wants to read what's posted. I agree with andrew that there should be some type of centralized way to track what eveyone has written for the ease of the reader who's following along.

Perhaps a post can be created on the neutral Blogcritics.org and then everyone pings that.

Posted by: Madison at November 8, 2003 04:55 AM

Joerg, Chuck, Gary, Oliver great to see join the project! it'll be intriguing to see where we can take it and what will emerge.

Andrew and Madison you're certainly right in drawing attention to the need for a tracking system. The idea of a neutral "place/post" could be definitely be a good way.

I was also thinking perhaps of setting up a Wiki as a kind of virtual wall where all those taking part could "tag" their blog URLs . And also of how to develop some graphical rapresentation, ideally with embedded links (which could end up turning into some monster jpeg ;-) All ideas are welcome.

Posted by: ashley benigno at November 8, 2003 11:08 AM

I think this is a great experiment, and congrats on thinking up a test topic with such good potential - it will allow for a lot of different perspectives, but also a lot of linkage and dialogue. I'd like to be involved. And it will be really interesting to see the trackback/aggregation solutions you come up with.

Posted by: jean at November 8, 2003 12:56 PM

hmmm...This sounds very interesting - not sure if I fully understand the concept, but would be more than turned-on by being involved in some small way, even if just as an early spectator...

Posted by: jand at November 8, 2003 03:19 PM

Jand, definitely.

I've always thought that the act of blogging involves both actively assembling a blog and actively perusing other blogs. So this is as much about reading/viewing/listening to(?) material and deriving connections as it is producing it.

Posted by: ashley benigno at November 8, 2003 04:42 PM

hi. this link was posted at Media-Squatters Yahoo! Group, and this idea seems very interesting; i'm definitely going to spread the word and post relevantly when the time comes...

Posted by: erik at November 8, 2003 10:58 PM

In my opinion we should try to establish a decentralized community of blogs. The smart mobing aspect of this has to be coordinated with at leasi in a small consensus.
For example a community of blogers agrees that we make a grid blogging action every two - three weeks.
The theme as in case of 1. december-Brand, should be decided randomly. Every time one has the voice to say what is the theme we are going to write about. What we are going to write about for this particular theme is up to the blogers... The question is if the community grows and it happens that for example 50 blogs are in the community. Do we need in this case a kind of editorial sub community which will randomly decide the themes?
Since this will provide different points of views on the same topic, every blog should somehow mention links of other blogs...
What do you think?
best, Oliver

Posted by: Oliver at November 9, 2003 09:14 AM

Count me in.

How do we show we're part of the network? Let me ask my web guy to peep in.

Posted by: rushkoff at November 9, 2003 05:02 PM

my first suggestion is to create a webring: http://dir.webring.com/

(...or create new webring code that involves the other piece i describe below).

my next recommendation is to setup two rss feeds:

one that has the topic each week, so a member could put on their page, say, "this week's topic is: [rss pulled here]."

the other is a feed that has a link to the url of each member's post on the weekly topic. the easiest way to do this is to have the member submit the URL once its been posted. but there could be a way to have it compile the list automatically by scanning the member blogs for posts that have some type of delimiter in front of the title, like, [DISTROBLOG].

with some easy to install PHP code that you can distribute to each member, they can display the project logo, list the weekly topic, link to the other members' posts on the topic, and finally a webring link that allows users to navigate between the different member blogs. all of this could fit in one nice little block that is automatically updated each week with little to no action from the participating members except to post their corresponding piece.

i could ask a couple developers i know if they'd be interested in doing the coding.

Posted by: mobius (rushkoff's webguy) at November 9, 2003 05:24 PM


I like the RSS feed ideas! I'm not crazy about the old fashioned webring theme. That is a closed structure.

We should probably only have a very few network "structures", so as to allow the open nature of blogging to get the mojo working.

Posted by: Gary at November 10, 2003 12:29 AM

I like the idea of collaboratively and yet independently blogging. I'll do it, assuming I remember!!

Posted by: claire at November 10, 2003 05:50 AM

It is a pleasure to welcome Douglas, Mobius and Claire on board!

Special thanks to Mobuis for the tech advice and the coding offer. I certainly think that the RSS feeds are a critical component to a successful outcome. I also agree with Gary regarding the webring. Track-back using something like "threadsML" is probably a more-open option. I think that to reflect the "multiple-voice" spirit of this initiative we need at least a couple of different systems to bridge the grid.

Thanks also to Oliver for making some interesting remarks regarding the continuity of this project and opening talks on the way forward. It'd be great if a community of sorts, a loose collective, emerges from this idea.

Posted by: ashley benigno at November 10, 2003 11:06 AM

So, essentially, you want to create a kind of Peer-2-Peer blogging? There needs to be a "center" still to find other bloggers (blogging something of interest to you) -- centeralized in the realm of topics, not necessarily location ....

How might it work? Can you provide a user scenario?

Posted by: Praefectus at November 10, 2003 02:28 PM

Ashley, December 1 is World Aids Day.

Posted by: John at November 10, 2003 03:15 PM

...World AIDS Day, on which, for the past few years, hundreds of bloggers around the world have simultaneously published their various thoughts, resources, and rememberances of those they have lost. See http://www.linkandthink.org/

Posted by: John at November 10, 2003 04:08 PM

Thanks for pointing me to linkandthink.org - there are definitely some points in common with the idea of grid blogging, and it is good to learn that such initiatives are being successful in focusing attention on specific issues.

I also learned today that an earlier label for AIDS was Gay Related Immuno Deficiency, or GRID for short. Talk about bizarre coincidence to add to the choice of Dec. 1 (and talk about branding too!).

Posted by: ashley benigno at November 10, 2003 05:02 PM

Check. Unless spontaneity sets in, also on December 1st ;-).

Posted by: Kristoffer at November 10, 2003 08:57 PM

I'll be in this, for some good fun!

Posted by: Brett at November 11, 2003 08:58 AM

I also mentioned your proposal on my blog today.
I'd love to participate.

Posted by: Nathalie Chicha at November 11, 2003 11:33 AM

mmmmm, yes, thanks Claire for finding this. this looks cool. I'm in for it.

Posted by: Kate at November 11, 2003 12:33 PM

Interesting, this grid blog concept. It's close to something a few of us did back in April, although the three participants did map out a bit of an outline first. The subject was project management. One entry to it can be found at http://www.focusedperformance.com/2003_04_01_blarch.html#200142061

Posted by: Frank Patrick at November 11, 2003 07:51 PM

I like this idea, and I am interested to know how it will work. Will we go to a collective blog site to then contribute our ideas? Is this not like the ol'newsgroup concept?Or even a reading group?

thanks for organizing this. Jen in Saskatchewan Canada

Posted by: Jen Hamilton at November 11, 2003 11:07 PM

you may wish to drop some mention of this at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/blogging_community

Posted by: luka at November 12, 2003 03:45 AM

I'll be blogging 'round the block from the highly branded grid of Manhattan.

Posted by: Eli Chapman at November 12, 2003 10:35 AM

Great to see the conversation continue and a big welcome to all those that have expressed their intention to take part on Dec. 1

I've received a couple of mails recently by people concerned that this was getting too technical for them to participate.

While having a trackback system, RSS feeds etc in place, would definitely be a bonus, these remain tools that should help us communicate more effectively.

At a basic, essential level though I think that a list of participants posted here or elsewhere the day before will provide a simple way of knowing who's taking part.

Posted by: ashley benigno at November 12, 2003 01:19 PM

I am in. My blog is Political Graffiti.

I have other ideas for distributed publishing, some more worthy of the word "guerrilla". Let's talk about them.

Posted by: Eric Blair at November 12, 2003 07:22 PM

That didn't come off right...

This is a great idea you have for sure. It has sick amounts of potential. I'm going to keep my eye on it.

Posted by: Eric Blair at November 12, 2003 07:27 PM

I agree with Gary about the webring, given that the aim is decentralization, not recentralization.

Posted by: jean at November 13, 2003 12:51 AM

great idea. count me in. i blog at www.graceway.org.nz/stevedownunder.php. can you send (brand) a reminder notice so we all remember?

topic for 8 December - delivery?

Posted by: steve at November 13, 2003 11:30 AM

Hi,

Very, very cool. Let me toss Feedster into the fray. We have some interesting stuff which I think adds value to the whole.

December 1... Cool.

Scott

Posted by: Scott Johnson at November 13, 2003 02:56 PM

sounds cool. have blog, will travel. or write something anyway.

Posted by: james at November 13, 2003 03:07 PM

Sounds good to me - count me in.

Posted by: Dan at November 13, 2003 11:37 PM

sounds good

1 minor idea - how about an "adbuster"-esque anti-log ?

Posted by: bob at November 14, 2003 04:07 AM

Ashley, great idea. I can see 25-50 of my friends joining. I was a partner with Frank and Joe in a group blogging effort for a week. Not only was it fun, but it produced the highest visits to our sites.

If we could use some distinguishing text string to prepend to our posting titles it would help find the postings via search engines. How about [grid::brand]? Does this make sense?

Posted by: Hal at November 14, 2003 10:02 PM

Once again, a big welcome to those that have expressed, in recent days, their intention to grid blog the brand.

Hal, your idea to "label" grid posts sounds simple to adopt and useful. cheers.

Posted by: ashley benigno at November 17, 2003 10:31 AM

Interesting idea - count me in too!

One thing - might it not be best to keep the grid as transparent as possible, if that's the right word, so that it subtly insinuates a topic into people's lives? (I especially like the idea of there being unwitting participants strengthening the grid by posting on the topic after reading posts by those of us deliberately grid-building).

Collating grid posts through an RSS feed or Trackback as has been suggested, or even a link back to this post, seems counter to the aims of the project. (If I'm understanding it correctly!)

Posted by: Jack at November 17, 2003 04:40 PM


I like Hal's idea of adding this "tag" [grid::brand] to our blog posts.

[grid::brand] A code among the grid bloggers that will show up in search engines. Of course the second code word will change with the future topics...very "smart mobby". The tag has a simple, cool design element going for it as well.

Nice.

Posted by: Gary at November 18, 2003 06:56 AM

Cool! Great idea! NeoTheo(b)logue mentioned this on his blog (neotheolog.blogspot.com). Count me in, will post on my blog.

Posted by: Trillian at November 19, 2003 03:26 AM

[grid::brand] should work, but depends on the search engine and will have some latency.

Pinging a common trackback on the other hand would provide a convenient, *real-time* view of the discussion, which could have an RSS feed.

Posted by: Danny at November 20, 2003 11:30 AM

Count me in as well. "The Left End of the Dial" will join the grid.

Posted by: James at November 24, 2003 05:30 AM

This is an excellent idea. I found you though Jay Rosen at PressThink. My blog, Corporate PR (ringblog.typepad.com/corporatepr), will participate and I posted a "save the date" on the blog today.

I view an RSS feed as critical. I will keep watching here for developments.

Posted by: Elizabeth at November 24, 2003 01:55 PM

Outstanding idea, and a damned fine topic. I heard about this from Elizabeth over at CorporatePR and know she'll participate; you can count Engage (my blog) in as well.

Posted by: Greg Brooks at November 25, 2003 02:50 AM

:::Thinking of how this could work beyond the initial experiment:::

My programming skills are too rusty, but the coolest would be an organic meta-blog that automagically grew out of grid-blog entries. Maybe there's a way to do this with a universal trackback URL or with an RSS scraper.

I'm thinking beyond the coolness of the initial idea. How might this be used in community involvement, civic debate or other stuff that I do professionally? (Yes, that's selfish, but a greater good could come of it.)

I can see doing multi-day "virtual symposia" on topics that brought together experts, the media (who'd be too uppity to participate at first, but would join in once they saw the power of it) and plain ol' folks interested in the topic at hand. Arm 'em each with a weblog (or an account on a regional blog) and let everyone write and react for a few days. Heck, you could do it with a single moderator to keep posts from going off topic and flame wars from erupting. Let the regional blogs develop their conversations for a few days, then turn on the grid (i.e., the meta blog) and see what sort of shared wisdom develops.

Very, very cool...

Posted by: Greg Brooks at November 25, 2003 02:59 AM

I too would like an RSS solution. At the same time, there's a whole world out there that thinks the Google search box is for URLs.

Danny, you said we can expect some latency by prepending [grid::brand] to the title of our postings. Please educate me. Are square brackets or double colons ignored by Google et al? Will the search slow from 0.25 seconds to 0.65 seconds. or will the results be somehow impaired?

Posted by: Hal at November 25, 2003 03:54 AM

This is a great idea. Canuckflack will be particpating on December 1 as well.

Posted by: Colin McKay at November 26, 2003 06:19 PM

I'll post a note on my blog about this very interesting idea.

Posted by: Antonio Granado at November 27, 2003 12:05 AM

Once again, a warm welcome to recent additions to this project and great to see people wonder to what uses they could put this idea (cheers Greg!).

Haven't been much online recently, but dec. 1 is fast approaching, so I'll be posting a summary of those that intend to participate, later today.

Posted by: ashley benigno at November 27, 2003 11:47 AM

This is just a quick "count me in" before you close the list... I'll happily ping a trackback point if one is made available.

Posted by: Grant at November 27, 2003 01:30 PM

I'm there man...lets get branded...hope I'm not too late...it will be on the blog anyway.

Posted by: Buntifer Green at November 27, 2003 02:43 PM

Am totally up for this. Roll on 1st December!

Posted by: Rach at November 27, 2003 03:24 PM

I think the latency talked about re. search engines is because they search results from their stored caches of web pages. These don't tend to crawl blogs very often and as a result blogs can take between days and months to start showing up on Google. I don't know what an RSS feed is but while a distributed effort that gradually permeates blog consciousness is a cool idea I would personally like to be able to check what everyone else has written.

See you on the first.

Posted by: Buntifer Green at November 27, 2003 03:55 PM

Wai Yee told our class about your experiment, and several of us are going to do it ... shame you don't have trackback tho.

Our class blog is at http://hypertext.rmit.edu.au/~jenny/pedabloggy. We will put [grid::brand] in the blog titles; nothing is yet showing up on http://blo.gs/ping.php

Posted by: jenny at December 1, 2003 03:20 AM

[grid::brand]
Brand=intangible attributes artificially assigned to an object or concept (my definition)...

Isn't it ironic that brands usually appeal to the collective desire to be an individual, yet by acquiring the brand, one is infinitely less unique in their choice.

Posted by: Paul at December 1, 2003 09:59 AM

Hi jenny,

you can trackback here:

http://topicexchange.com/t/grid_brand/

Posted by: ashley benigno at December 1, 2003 11:26 AM

count bechurch in... Right in the nick of time!

Posted by: Jamie at December 1, 2003 05:44 PM

This is my one about brands, about different brands of car....

I know it's late, I forgot, I was sick

Posted by: Brett at December 2, 2003 11:04 AM

If I wasn't on the West Coast of the States - perhaps I could claim I was still in time with my post.

Interesting project, great topic. I posted mine nonetheless.

Posted by: Damien at December 2, 2003 05:56 PM

Great idea! I am joining for the second grid.

Posted by: jlori at December 2, 2003 08:00 PM

i'd love to throw my head in the ring. let me know when ever the next topic is raised.

Posted by: danny at December 2, 2003 09:06 PM

Curious to hear how the first gridblogging went on Dec 1st.
Similar to an idea I've been kicking around with Bill Marsh about having an online "conference"

December seems like a difficult time to start things in Blogland due to the holidays- some bloggers seem to be taking breaks.

Would like to join in on the next gridblog.

Posted by: Nick Piombino at December 5, 2003 02:13 AM

We have a gridblog - www.gridblog.com

Posted by: Grid Technology Partners at December 7, 2003 02:49 AM

Another participant:

Alex Grant's www.Nonphotoblue.com

Posted by: Alex at December 7, 2003 02:15 PM

Whew, there is quite a lot of stuff to go through here. I find the idea very interesting, more for its implications for organizing blogging in general. I posted a lengthy ramble in response to this on my blog, and was curious what people thought about my ideas. The whole post is way too long to put here.

Posted by: Ben at December 9, 2003 10:02 AM

maybe this project can be used in conjunction...
http://konspire.sourceforge.net/

Posted by: sulleleven at March 2, 2004 11:29 PM