Weblog sets pace for summit coverage

If you want immediate and up-to-the-minute reports on the World Summit on Sustainable Development, ( should be high on your target list.

The Weblog, run by UK citizen and self-confessed "man of a million hats" David Steven, is proving that with a little technology - and a lot of endurance - providing the world with blow-by-blow accounts of the proceedings is well within the reach of just about anyone.

Steven expects to exceed 100 000 hits by the end of the summit, no mean achievement for a site established only a week before the summit.

Steven says he originally thought of the idea of running a Weblog on the summit in early August. At the heart of Weblogs - or what is generally known as blogging - is a simple set of tools. "They`re all designed to do one thing: make it incredibly easy to keep a Web site alive, fresh and up-to-date. A blogger can update his or her site in seconds, from almost any computer, and without the need for any special software."

The original site was created using the Blogger tools but before he arrived in SA, a decision was made to switch over to the MoveableType tools because they are more sophisticated and capable.

Steven, who doesn`t think of himself as a journalist, says he approached the British Science Council in early August to pitch the idea and it agreed to sponsor the site and his travel expenses. A week later, he says, the site was up and running.

He has been working 18 hours a day and on most days he posts up to 20 new pieces to the site. While he does have some helpers "back home" who help out with linking and assuring that things are working, most of the time he works alone.

He believes blogging and similar technologies that give average users the ability to publish online news reports are "changing the way it is possible to talk about news". Because blogging tools are so easy to use, they largely remove the construction part of the site, allowing site owners to concentrate on creating content - "it emphasises content over construction".

Although he admits that the project is largely experimental, Steven says its success should establish a model that could be used by other organisations to cover similar events in the future. "The site has shown a lot of organisations what is possible with this approach and I hope this is a model that will be copied in the future."

Reports on the site range from personal to political accounts of various lengths, many of them posted late at night or early in the morning.

During his visit to SA, Steven has conducted interviews with many of the players at the summit both inside and outside the conference rooms. Among the many interviews on the site are those with conservationist Jane Goodall and author Naomi Klein, one of the unofficial leaders of the anti-globalisation lobby.

Steven describes the summit as "just quite amazing. Every day there are people that it would normally be impossible to get an interview with, just standing around waiting to be interviewed."

But it is the spectacle that fascinates him the most. His reports range from the plenary hall and meeting rooms, to the civil society meetings and the anti-globalisation march from Alexandra. "I hope that with the site we explain how seriously people takes these things," says Steven. "This is just the most extraordinary event ... there is stuff coming at you from every angle. It is sensory overload."

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