Having been involved in blogging from the beginning, let me note for the record an important watershed. Back in the early years, we had an A-List, and the core of that A-List were the bloggers (techies, and marketing people mostly) who had authored The Cluetrain Manifesto, the central thesis of which was, "Markets are Conversations." From the very first reading of it, I was unhappy that the book and the A-List, even David Weinberger (who as a philosophy PhD should have known better), was fixated on markets and intent on describing them, as libertarians often do, as the ending end of all, as a kind Utopia, once perfected. I recall writing an email to Doc Searls saying that the Cluetrain reminded me of the little choo-choo train that ran at Christmas inside a big mall, among the shops, to delight the children. Doc is a fine man and wrote back in a friendly spirit, patient with my polemic.
So, to me, the watershed event, moving beyond The Age of Cluetrain, is the NetSquared Conference and contest. At last people are saying, in effect, "Civil Society is Conversations," or better yet, "Civil Society fosters Deliberative Democracy. NetSquared: Remixing the Web For Social Change is using a little money, and the power of convening to foster any number of grassroots tech projects whose ambitions are not just making a buck, but also, or even more importantly, building social capital, reinventing citizenship, fostering conversation and collaboration, and revitalizing not just giving and philanthropy, but democracy. You can vote for the project of your choice, but when all get attention, none lose.
Big changes start small. Democracy is not just voting in any given November for the Blinkered Pony in the Red Colors, or the Blinkered Pony in the Blue Colors, when they are trotted past us with Wealth in the Sulky for us to cheer this one and boo that one, or boo that one and cheer this one. Real democracy, as opposed to, say, Plutocracy or Autocracy or Oligarchy, is holding the political and judicial and think tank and propaganda engines, and the lobbyists, and even the markets, and the media accountable to people and planet. We do that by withdrawing attention from CNN, Time/Warner, Fox, or the Bloomberg Channel, whether they show us Saddam's statue toppling, or a Senate Panel grilling a Public Servant, or pundits discussing Imus, or the stock ticker rising and falling, and fixing our attention instead on what we can do with others to take our society back from those, our superiors, who have borrowed it for safe-keeping. NetSquared is a small thing, but could be the visible rallying point for something very big.