Lance Dutson making history as credentialed blogger

Lance Dutson

Photo: John Patriquin for the Portland Press Herald

Lance Dutson

More great and well-deserved press for my friend Lance Dutson, who will be making history next week as one of the first ever bloggers credentialed to cover a federal court case.

According to the Portland Press Herald, Lance will travel to D.C. next week to cover the trial of former Bush administration official Scooter Libby. The credentials for two bloggers– a rotating stable that will include Dutson and at least three others– were arranged by Media Bloggers Association, for which Lance serves as web developer. MBA president Robert Cox, who brokered the deal, told The Washington Post “The history of where blogging is going to go is not defined. It could go in a very positive direction or it could go in a very negative direction,” Cox said. “We have to do more than just sit on our hands and see what happens.”

This is great news, as anybody who follows the business of blogging can easily recognize. Best of luck to Lance and the other bloggers covering the trial.

Disclosure: Lance is my good friend and podcast co-host. I am former web developer and Board of Directors member for Media Bloggers Association.

2006 Citizen’s Media Sites of the Year

Last year, I named my “2005 Blogs of the Year“, and without even reaching it’s second anniversary, I’ve changed the format of this award. Instead of limiting its scope to blogs, I’m expanding this list to include all types of citizen’s media sites- from blogs to podcasts to video blogs to anything that might be similar to any of those. So here we go…

5. Bloggingheads.tv – Robert Wright, Mickey Kaus & Friends -AND- HotAir – Michelle Malkin / These two unique political video blogs are strange bedfellows for a tie on my list. While Bloggingheads is long, talky, and akin to eavesdropping on policy wonks in the hallways of a political conference, HotAir shines because it is short, sharp, and decidedly in the personality of its host, acerbic political blogger Michelle Malkin. Though they’re different, they’re both my picks for best political videoblogs out there.

4. Rocketboom – Andrew Barron, Joanne Colan (partial), Amanda Congdon (partial) / The intelligence quotient of NPR, the snark of The Daily Show- Rocketboom is an acquired taste that I find occasionally fascinating, occasionally annoying, but always interesting and, without a doubt, the gold standard for video blogs in terms of production value and an overall unique voice.

3. TV Squad – Contributors / From show episodes to industry news to rumors and innuendo, TV Squad is the only, essential, indispensable site for anybody who cares about the TV industry or loves to watch. Updated frequently, but never too much, they’re fun yet blissfully unsnarky.

2. Instapundit – Glenn Reynolds -AND- The Glenn and Helen Show – Glenn Reynolds & Dr. Helen Smith / Yet again, the most prolific, and bereft, thinker on the web is #2 on my list. The best blog of all time is now complimented nicely by the addition of an excellent podcast, The Glenn and Helen Show. Reynolds and his wife, Dr. Helen Smith, are a relaxed, witty duo behind the microphones, and their A-list guests and wide range of timely topics are some of my favorite

1. Maine Web Report – Lance Dutson / Yes, Lance is my friend and co-host on Maine Impact, our podcast on Maine issues. But those things have nothing to do with my decision to name Lance’s Maine Web Report my citizen’s media site of the year. Beginning with his pointed, relentless coverage of Maine’s Department of Tourism back in the early winter, through the travails of the lawsuit filed against him, and continuing on through his freedom of access requests and reports, as well as his coverage of a myriad of other issues affecting the people of Maine, Lance put the bite back into Maine media and showed by example truly how deeply the explosion of citizen’s media can effect the status quo.

Testing Windows Live Writer

This is a test of Windows Live Writer, a new desktop blogging interface just released by Microsoft. Get your own right here.

Here’s what the “Insert Map” function is like:

Interesting…it offered to let me specify margins, but it doesn’t appear to be respecting that.

The biggest thing I want out of a desktop blogging interface is spell…the #1 feature that WordPress, my platform of choice, lacks.

Wow…the spellchecker worked great…except, it failed to recognize the word “blogging”, even though this is a tool designed specifically to write weblogs with. Funny thing is, it DID have the word “Microsoft” in its dictionary.

So this isn’t too bad…oops, it just moved the map on me for some reason after I italicized a sentence…that’s not good.

So this is okay, but the big question remains…what kind of code will it spew out? Only way to find out is to publish this post. Here we go!

UPDATE: So, even though my blog allows image upload, this program couldn’t upload the map image for me that was supposed to appear above (next to the part where I was talking about image upload). Not sure if it’s a feature or a bug, but at that point it failed to upload my post. I guess that’s cool, assuming the image would be central to the post. However, I’m annoyed by the fact that it didn’t give me any kind of error letting me know the post didn’t publish.

Also…why is the “Publish” button way up at the top of the toolbar, not down at the end (or side) of the main content box?

So far, this gets a so-so grade…maybe a B- or C+. I’ll keep playing with it.

UPDATE AGAIN: So I forgot to categorize the post- then noticed a helpful category drop-down. When I opened it though, I discovered it had imported my categories and is displaying them not alphabetically, but instead in some random order (probably by primary key or something). That’s not that big a deal I guess, just jarring as I’m used to selecting a category alphabetically within WordPress.

Moorelies.com is back!

After a nearly seven-month hiatus, my political weblog Moorelies.com has emerged from retirement anew. This time around (major version 3 by my account), I’m taking a backseat and operating primarily as publisher while two new bloggers, Chris Hata and Mike Faulkingham, take over daily posting duties.

Please head over to the new Moorelies.com and check it out. Chris (editor), Mike (writer), or I would love to hear your thoughts and/or comments.

Thanks!

UPDATE: Yes, against the best judgement (and wishes) of humanity, I once again appear in a video- this time, I’m announcing the return of Moorelies- go check it out and let me know what you think!

Maine’s blogging community has no room for anonymous comments

It may not be well known to the rest of the country, but here in Maine, we have a reputation for sticking together and helping our fellow citizens out. It troubles me, then, to see a fellow resident- and web developer- apparently harassing another Maine web developer.

I’m talking here about Rob Landry, owner of the Portland-based Pemaquid Communications, and his recent comments to and about Lance Dutson, the Maine blogger who just two weeks ago faced a multi-million-dollar lawsuit from Maine Office of Tourism contractor Warren Kremer Paino.

While Rob is certainly entitled to his opinion, I’m sure he’d agree there are more respectful and intelligent ways of expressing differing viewpoints- ways that do not involve leaving anonymous comments about a fellow Maine web developer across different blogs.

I believe that habit is wrong on a couple of levels. First, it’s professionally inappropriate to go around trashing another Maine web developer by hiding behind anonymous comments. Secondly, it’s in poor taste- and bad citizenship- as a commenter to intentionally muddy your identity. Obviously, it begs the questions: why hide behind a pseudonymn when making comments? Are you unable to support your own arguments? Or jealous of a fellow web professional? I’m not suggesting these are Rob’s motives- rather, I’m making the point that we can’t be sure, since he’s establishing a track record of obscuring his actions to the point of suspicion.

Maybe we should give Rob a pass. After all, by his own admission, he’s a newcomer to the whole world of blogging. I know because back in March, Rob emailed me asking for advice on what blogs are and how to set one up.

Now, I notice that he’s running what appears to be his own blog called foresider and located at http://foresider.com. Though his name appears in the registration info for the domain name, he’s curiously absent from any credit on the website. Rob has even gone so far as to intentionally mischaracterize his relationship to foresider.com, claiming that it’s a blog that he “advertises on.” While that is technically true- a link to his company, Pemaquid Communications appears on the blog- that would of course be an entirely disingenuous statement if he were also to own and publish the blog.

In the interest of fairness I emailed Rob asking for his take on both his questionable comments and his anonymous blog. Sadly, while Rob thanked me for the opportunity to comment, he nonetheless chose to continue his evasive maneuvers.

When I asked him why he left anonymous comments, he replied that he “Didn’t really think much of it,” so we’re in agreement there. Next he stated that he “wanted to add a comment that linked to the Foresider rather than Pemaquid Communications.” But of course, a comment’s link can point to anywhere- a commenter’s name is something entirely different. Again, he’s either woefully unfamiliar of common behavior standards online, or he’s intentionally ducking.

When I asked Rob why Foresider.com is an anonymous blog, he replied that he “[didn’t] understand the question.” He asked me to “elaborate”, so I wrote him a follow-up email and attempted to re-phrase my already direct questions in a more explicit manner. While he replied to my initial email within 12 hours, he has yet to reply to my follow-up. It’s been two days and counting, and given his record to date, I can’t say I expect a clear reply.

Rob, if you were to ask me for further advice, I’d let you know that anonymous blogging without a damn good reason is generally frowned upon in the blogosphere. If you have something to hide, by all means, hide it. I know of a couple of bloggers in Nepal who blogged anonymously for months to avoid imprisonment and murder. Their country’s radio and television lines had all been downed by the government, so in their case anonymity became essential to survival. You can understand then how it frustrates me to observe anonymity used for cowardly purposes.

So if you’re just trying to lay low, you might want to recognize that lurking both in comment sections, and on your very own blog, are two things that don’t exactly place you on the shortlist for the blogosphere citizen of the year award. And they certainly aren’t tactics that will foster a community among the ranks of the few, but growing, community of bloggers in Maine.

Maine blogger free of lawsuit; Maine not yet free of corruption

As I wrote yesterday, Maine ‘Pay-per-Gate’ blogger Lance Dutson has been relieved of a multi-million dollar lawsuit brought against him, thanks in part to his attorneys, Maine State Rep Stephen Bowen, and the public relations and legal work of the MBA (disclosure: I’m on the board of the MBA).

So at least nationally, this sad, sordid saga is over. But as this story began locally, I believe it’s still active locally. Warren Kremer Paino may have buckled under the pressure of the blogosphere, national media, and a lone brave state rep coming to bear on them, but I believe you can also make the argument that by dropping the suit, they win in a different way.

After all, with this decisive victory in Lance’s favor, national attention will turn away and onto other matters of importance. I haven’t heard anything different from our silent state government, so I can only assume that WKP will be back at work Monday spending our tax dollars to sue our residents.

The full story goes beyond WKP, as well. The fact remains that some of the most bizarre and inept behavior committed against Lance was never even raised on the national scale. And unfortunately, while Warren Kremer Paino has learned it cannot intimidiate a Maine resident while acting on behalf of our government, the sad reality remains that Dann Lewis, Maine Tourism director, still has his job. And Nancy Marshall, head of the PR firm representing the state agency, is still retained as official flack. Both have yet to be held fully accountable for their actions to date.

I trust that Lance will continue to follow these issues, and if he does (and I know he will), it will nearly impossible not to uncover further and greater incompetence. Now that he knows he has the full weight of a million other bloggers, plenty of legal help, and at least one state rep behind him, I hope that Lance’s efforts to hold those in power accountable is helped by more of his own fellow Mainers.

We owe it to Lance to support him, as he has come a long way to make it here. But we also owe it to him to help in any other way we can. There is still much left to be done.

Lance won…this round

Congratulations to Lance Dutson, who is free from the legal black cloud imposed on him by Warren Kremer Paino Advertising. The agency dropped their lawsuit Friday, though they made no public comment on the matter. Cowards, to the end.

In his latest post on the now seven-month-long Pay-Per-Gate saga, Lance thanked his own legal council, along with Media Bloggers Association and our (disclosure: I am a board member) legal and public relations support. He also mentioned the work of Maine state rep Stephen Bowen, who just yesterday publicized a letter he wrote to Maine’s governor’s office asking that Warren Kremer Paino advertising’s state contract be investigated.

More on this soon…

MBA announces support for Lance Dutson

As I reported earlier, the Media Bloggers Association has stepped up to assisnt in the defense of Maine blogger Lance Dutson against the multi-million dollar federal lawsuit he has been served with by Warren Kremer Paino, the ad agency of record for the State of Maine Office of Tourism.

The MBA (disclosure: I am a board member) is working to publicize Lance’s case in an effort to shine a light on his accusers and their actions. Furthermore, the MBA’s legal council, Ronald Coleman, is participating in Lance’s defense of this action.

From the MBA’s announcement:

“This case is nothing more than an attempt by a deep-pocketed litigant to bully a blogger for criticizing state officials and state contractors””, said MBA President Robert Cox. “We have successfully defended MBA members in nine previous cases and I don¹t expect the outcome here to be be any different.”

Dutson went public this morning with news of the lawsuit and provided key links here including his account of the events leading up to the lawsuit and the complaint served on Dutson by the local sheriff at his home in Maine. Dutson has vowed to fight.

“The idea that criticism of the state government can be defamatory is absurd”, said Dutson, “This attempt to bludgeon critics of the state government is not going to work.”

Through it’s legal defense initiative, the MBA provides member bloggers with “first line” legal defense, pro bono advice on how best to respond to legal threats related to the member’s blog.

“Bloggers don’t usually have an in-house legal department or high priced outside First Amendment counsel, but they’re at least as likely to need one as any MSM outlet. That’s where we come in,” said MBA General Counsel, Ronald Coleman of the Coleman Law Firm.

Stay tuned to Lance’s MaineWebReport and the Media Bloggers Association website for more news.