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Old politics meets new media

Sometimes when I have to fix something, I use a technique I call "shotgun problem-solving." That means I try a couple of different possible solutions at once, and see if the problem is gone. This has the disadvantage of I don't always figure out what the problem was, but it tends to get the recalcitrant machine back up and running faster than a more methodical approach.

I'm apparently not the only one who believes in this method.

Accuweather is one of the biggest private providers of weather information in the US. Two of their biggest competitors are The Weather Channel and the National Weather Service. It would be a great boon to their business if the NWS would stop giving away what Accuweather charges for, so they apparently decided to do something about it.

Accuweather is located in Pennsylvania, so they started off with the traditional approach. They went to Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA (sometimes)), and he has filed a bill to prevent the NWS from giving away their data. They still will collect it all, but he wants to cut the minimal money involved in actually publishing it for the benefit of the people who pay for it. It was probably no hindrance to Accuweather's case that the owners had given several thousand dollars to Santorum's campaigns.

But I guess they wanted to cover their bases, too. A couple of bloggers who also happen to be weather geeks got wind of Santorum's bill and started raising a stink.

I'll admit I find the whole idea of getting excited about weather a bit silly, but to each their own. But Dave and Boyd noticed that their criticisms of Santorum's bill (and, by extension, Accuweather) attracted some rather heated responses. Boyd was a bit puzzled, but Dave was intrigued enough to look into his critics. Lo and behold, he reports they are posting from IPs owned by Accuweather. And when (ahem) someone suggested Boyd check his own commenters, he reported the same thing.

There's a new term floating around the blogosphere that I rather like: "astroturfing." It is a play on the old "grass-roots movement" term, but refers to a movement that is arranged by larger forces that is supposed to look like a grass-roots movement. To me, it looks like Accuweather is dabbling in this, along with more traditional forms of political influence.

Now, one thing I've noticed about us bloggers: once we get our teeth into something, it's hard as hell to get us to let go. That's got its down sides (I could cite one person who devotes his entire blog to nitpicking every single thing he can about one specific blogger), but it also can work wonders.

Bloggers are, for the most part, not influenced by traditional economic factors. They don't have powerful advertisers who can threaten to pull their money. They aren't dependent on large numbers of readers to keep paying. And they tend to work alone, meaning there isn't someone above them who can be contacted to work some influence.

Dave Halliday didn't really care much about Senator Santorum before now. He didn't really like the guy, but it was a passive form of dislike. But now that Santorum is goring Dave's ox, he's looking to sink his teeth into Santorum's butt and not let go.

Here's Exhibit One.

I doubt Dave will hurt Santorum in the long term, but I bet he'll end up outweighing the benefits Accuweather's six grand gave him.

Keep it up, Dave. You're not just shouting into the wilderness. People are listening.



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Comments (10)

So well described, Jay Tea,... (Below threshold)

So well described, Jay Tea, as to what and who us 'bloggers' are (another reason why the recent upstarts and increases in the funded/professionally staffed "bloggers" sites is insulting -- even a violation of -- the genre of blogging), and I've always figured blogging to be similar to ham/shortwave radio (and, given my just-reference here earlier, I'd say that the funded, edited, staff managed blogger version is A.M. radio by comparison).

About those notes emerging about Santorum, I was trying yesterday -- in a big rush -- to google and surf-for information about the histories of Senators Dodd (D/Conn) and Leahy (D/Vermont) (because of their leading the campaigns to ruin U.N. ambassador nominee Bolton) and I found some comingling with this Accuweather issue (didn't save it and although it takes some time to read many links via a google search, it's probably still there -- unless google has removed linkage from yesterday about it which I doubt).

I think I'll keep looking into Dodd and Leahy's backgrounds. If I dont' reappear in a week, you should at least know where to start looking, ha.

Sometimes you prick these s... (Below threshold)

Sometimes you prick these seemingly blanched issues and there you find a whole reservoir of huge things. What I've concluded is when and if any one Senator or groups of Senators get so intense in denigrating any one candidate (particularly as to federal judge nominees -- Leahy is Ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee) for these nominations (judiciary, now the ambassadorship for the U.N.), there's something far more there than is being made known on soundbites on television spots.

What their behavior suggests to me is that THEY have issues, not the candidates. Not that candidates don't pose reason to examine closely and well, but there's a point where the excess starts leaking out and I always wonder what's causing that. Goes beyond the candidate.

Without certain bloggers, all we'd be left with is the disinformation soundbites.

As far as the funded/profes... (Below threshold)

As far as the funded/professionally staffed "bloggers", thats where the genre is going. I hate to say it but its the truth, it happens to every pure form of entertainment (even though i would say blogs are a bit more than just that) eventually. -S- made the radio comparison, well lets just take emo for example (substitue punk/rock/hip-hop/rap metal/etc...) Emo was once a whiny college kid genre, but as it expanded and the music evolved it got more popular. And as anything becomes more popular it becomes more commercially viable, and therefore more likely to be created and marketed by a big corporation because there is money in it. Blogging is now popular enough that there is a significant amount of money to be made, not just from the blogs themselves but from the influence blogs have. So get used to these professionally staffed blogs. Lets just hope they don't flood the genre and end up causing it's demise. Cuz thats what happened to rap metal, and I hold blogging in a much higher regard than rap metal!

Point of information: the t... (Below threshold)

Point of information: the term "astroturfing" is like fifteen years old. At least. It's not "new".

zach: big hair is long gon... (Below threshold)

zach: big hair is long gone but some of us still sing.

Same principle at work with writing as an individual vs. writing as an employee (even celebrities are employees when you analyze their approach toward commerce -- they're nothing without those who pay for their services, and, their commodity is their 'name', their very celebrity, which means, again, that they are only as successful as their celebrity/name is, despite all the helps in the world).

People will always write as long as there's still this thing called the internet and the capacity to interact as a lone author, source of information.

I think (forecast here based upon a long life so far of being able to go against trends) that the trend toward commercial blogging will peak and fade. It'll become a self parody, eventually. Like big hair.

One of the aspects that has... (Below threshold)

One of the aspects that has made DRUDGE a successful site, to my view, is that it's remained an individually authored site. Surely there are reams of helpers and such involved, but it remains moreorless what Matt Drudge thinks is newsworthy on the hour/daily/whatever his publishing schedule is (I don't know what it is, just saying).

But, then again, he authors no more than he gathers as links, so it's certainly a subset of blogging, yet still a single author presence, which is important to it's interest.

Columnists and website publishers, on the other hand, relate by and only by that which they can attach to others or by others...somewhat similar to the link-blogger format, yes, but not as viable in that publishing and columnists appear to be hitching along, not directly site responsible up to a point.

I still find single author sites far more interesting, although often as not not technically done well or whatever. The commercially obvious sites can be fun and all but they do tend to peak with trends and eventually run out of freshness and by that, appeal. Which to my view also is why most of those run out of readers eventually and therefore, their commercial sponsors. If there isn't one person involved who considers content important just because it's theirs on whatever day they write it (as do most individual bloggers), there's no central focus beyond eventually gossiping about everyone else. Which gets very old very quickly, ala Slate and Salon.

i hope corporate blogging i... (Below threshold)

i hope corporate blogging is just a trend.

Wait...so Accuweather is tr... (Below threshold)

Wait...so Accuweather is trying to influence a Congressman to stop the National Weather service from...you know...telling us the weather, AND they;re paying folks (in some form or another) to comment negatively against bloggers that are not happy about Accuweather's nonsense?

That's...hell, I don't even know what that is. Dumb? Do they know about IP numbers? Clearly they don't know about proxies...How are they in business anyway? Who pays for that data, and why should we when as taxpayers, we pay a NATIONAL weather service to do that job?

As for Corporate blogging...they'll try and they'll always have some presence. But in the long run, I think blog-aware web users know the difference. Besides, the rest of the blogosphere will out every corpo-blog that comes along.

Heh. Accuweather is well al... (Below threshold)
John Anderson:

Heh. Accuweather is well along to cutting their own throat. Where do you suppose they get their infomation about the weather?

Yep. Just like every broadcast weather report, even if the station's reader is actually a degree holder in metereology, the info comes from the National Weather Service.

And we've PAID for it! The NWS should look at cutting Accuweather from access as not being authorized as a reseller.

I wrote to the Senators of ... (Below threshold)

I wrote to the Senators of my state and asked them to vote against the bill that Santorum is proposing about the National Weather Service. I access the National Weather Service web-site each hurricane season and it is vital to those like me who live in areas prone to hurricanes. I can access the information whenever I need it and do not have to wait.

The Senate should not mess with this service.






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