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Commentary

Your Digital Life

Starting next week, we're launching a new area of reporting, focusing on how information technology changes people's lives and how it changes society. This will include a hodgepodge of subjects: Internet law, politics, censorship, digital rights management, online gaming, blogging, a bit of Web 2.0, online communities, local search, and more.
Starting next week, we're launching a new area of reporting, focusing on how information technology changes people's lives and how it changes society. This will include a hodgepodge of subjects: Internet law, politics, censorship, digital rights management, online gaming, blogging, a bit of Web 2.0, online communities, local search, and more.

Who's the reporter tackling this subject? Me. Starting this week, I'm transitioning to a new role at InformationWeek. For me, personally, it's also an old role: I'll be going back to reporting. I'm personally excited about it -- I haven't done reporting day-in, day-out in almost exactly five years, and it was always my first love.

Researching and writing articles has changed a lot in the five years since I last covered a specific topic on a day-in, day-out basis (known as "beat reporting" in the journalism biz). I stopped pounding a beat in the first part of January, 2002. At that time, blogs were just emerging as a mainstream phenomenon, driven by the post-9/11 "warblogs." Now, blogs and journalism exist in an uneasy symbiosis and antagonism. To a journalist, blogs are research tools, rumor mills, sources for tips, interview subjects, competitors, and scolds, all in one.

We're looking to incorporate blogs into the reporting process on this beat -- the general idea is that I'll be developing and discussing stories here on the InformationWeek Blog and then delivering the stories on InformationWeek proper. And I'll also be using podcasts to deliver news.

It's very different from when I started practicing journalism in the early 1980s, literally on manual typewriters.

In the spirit of how journalism works nowadays, I want to come right out and disclose my biases: I'm both liberal and libertarian. (I actually don't consider myself a liberal -- but if you hate liberals and think they're evil, you probably hate me too.) I think big business, left unchecked, will naturally collude with government to stifle competition, innovation, and free speech. Because of that, I'm skeptical of any attempt to regulate business or speech on the Internet. And when a politician passes a law "to protect our children," I generally figure that politician just found out his approval rating is slumping and is making a cynical attempt to boost the number.

However, I believe my higher responsibility is to tell the readers what's going on. Too much of Internet coverage of Internet politics is too one-sided nowadays. The mainstream media favors more regulation, especially when it comes to Protecting the Children, and only quotes platitudes and slogans from the other side. With the bloggers, it's the other way around -- they lean toward the libertarian, and only quote conservative groups as an afterthought.

One of my first priorities as a reporter will be to reach out to conservatives, and find out what they have to say. Because I'm not doing anyone any good if I use InformationWeek as an echo chamber for me an my buddies to sound off.

Our feature story next week, which goes live Saturday, falls dead-center in my new beat (even though I didn't write it). It looks inside groups like Electronic Frontier Foundation, Center for Democracy and Technology, and American Civil Liberties Union, and describes how they work, where they get their funding, and how they can sometimes be antagonistic to business.

By the way: Isn't it odd that I describe myself as a liberal here, and then explain that the reason I'm a liberal is because I'm against government regulation and in favor of competition? That's the crazy political world we live in nowadays -- up is down and left is right.

What are the biggest ways technology is affecting digital life, in the law, politics, censorship, DRM, online gaming, blogging, etc.? What are the hot stories in those areas?