In the first session of the Global Voices '06 summit, co-founders Rebecca MacKinnon and Ethan Zuckerman looked back at where Global Voices has been and forward to where it is going.
Where We've Been
Global Voices Online was born out of a meeting of a small group of bloggers from around the world at Harvard Law School two years ago in December of 2004. With the growth of the blogosphere, it was evident that professional journalists no longer controlled the discourse between citizens in different parts of the world. Bloggers had already started dialoguing in ways that created bridges between their own communities and those in the wider world. At the conference, attendees tackled the problem of how to amplify the voices around the world trying to be heard. From the conference came the Global Voices Manifesto.
A group blog that came out of the conference. Over the course of 2005, regional editors were brought on board to offer a snapshot of the discussions going on in regional blogospheres through daily roundup links. As the site grew throughout the year, more regional and language editors came on board and more importantly, the group of about 100 volunteer authors who write the longer, more in-depth posts that are the heart and soul of Global Voices.
The response to what we do — providing the resources for people to find voices and different perspectives around the world easily — has been tremendous. Over one million people visit Global Voices Online every month, a tremendous level of growth since last year. Our high Technorati ranking shows that we have become influential in the blogosphere, and winning the Knight-Batten Award for Innovations in Journalism shows that we are being taken seriously.
Where We're Going
“Stichting Global Voices?” We are in the process of becoming a foundation under Dutch law with a sister NGO under US law. Why? Global Voices started in the United States, but we are a global project and we want to incorporate outside of the US to better reflect our global character. Choosing the Netherlands involved making compromises between finding a venue that potential funders were comfortable with, one in which the legal process works quickly and smoothly, and one with which the Global Voices community was comfortable. Dutch law allows Global Voices to form a board of directors made up of members from around the world, including Global Voices authors and editors.
Site changes are in the works at Global Voices Online. A new design is in the works that will make Global Voices look less like a blog and more like a magazine. Additionally, other changes that will make our work more transparent and make the global web that we watch accessible in an unfiltered form. We already have implemented the ability for readers to search the blogs that our editors monitor — “the Global Voices web” — through the search field between the country tag cloud at the top of the page and the content. We are also working on going live with an aggregator that will show all the blogs that we watch with the most recent content displayed. Both of these steps will allow users to see what we see and make sure that we are doing our job of amplifying global conversations accurately and fairly.
Fulfilling our whole mission: The Global Voices community has done a phenomenal job of realizing parts of our mission over the past year, and in the next, we want to do a phenomenal job of realizing all of it. Our planned site changes will give people the tools to explore the global blogosphere. Hiring a part-time advocacy coordinator will give us the means to advocate for free speech and access to online speech tools. And we are exploring ways to bring voices from new communities into the global conversation.
The Global Voices community has steered us to great success in the past year, and we are committed to continuing to create innovative and engaging solutions to the questions of how we bring new voices to the global conversation.