"To assume that a black woman who lives in the suburbs of an American city has more need to be heard than a white farmer in Zimbabwe is absurd, bordering on racist."
Oh boy, I think we found the hot button. A discussion that started simply as an outgrowth of some bloggers at a conference taking a stab at figuring out this blogger/journalist thing, has turned into something much larger. And, of course, that is how it should be. At their best, blogs are not soliloquies; they are discussions between a writer and their readers. The diversity discussion that Rebecca has been kind enough to host has been evolving into that as well, and we should keep talking.
What was initially being discussed centered on broadening the experiences brought to the table discussing what the web is and what it can be; nothing more. If you don't want to think about that, you don't have to, the web is big enough for you to do that. But if you do want to take a stab at being an alpha developer for the soul of the web version 2.0 and above, then this discussion is for you.
Nobody, to my knowledge, has been advocating forcing people to read blogs they don't want to read. That is the beauty of the web - if you don't want to read about suburban black women, you don't have to. If you don't want to know what the graduating class of your local high school has been blogging, you don't have to. That is not what diversity is about. Diversity, in this context, is about providing options and choice.
About a year ago I took part in a discussion thread on one of Adam Curry's weblogs about the then brewing controversy between competing syndication formats. One side was interested in building a bigger, better format (Atom); the other in using what was already in existence, emphasizing its simplicity as a strength worth holding onto (RSS 2.0).
My entry point was as a user wanting to know if anybody was talking to other users to find out what they wanted. Initially I was told by the Atom folks not to worry, that they had included all the features I needed; I just had to make sure I was using the right blogging software to take advantage of their format. Problem was, I was not interested in syndication solely for blogging.
The other side, however, mainly through Dave Winer, one of the inventors of the RSS format, was already talking to people like me who saw uses for this format beyond the blogging world. Within several months, the argument (at least this phase) was all but over. RSS, the 2.0 flavor, is the overwhelming choice of the web; from news sites to photoblogs to Battlestar Galactica's site, RSS 2.0 has proven both simple and flexible enough to do the job. And now, of course, there is podcasting, perhaps the hottest thing on the web today since, well, the web.
Did that happen by luck? Personally I don't think so. I think it happened because Dave Winer diversified his sources of information. Instead of taking lunch with the usual suspects in the developer crowd, he had lunch with people from the N.Y. Times. Instead of just blogging to the converted (read people who used software and the web the same way he did); he struck up a friendship with Adam Curry, a DJ, who wanted to know why his software couldn't be used for something that Dave hadn't thought about (middle-of-the-night-deliverables called enclosures).
Dave listened to Adam and created the enclosure tag, and then Adam, benefiting from his diversified experience with Dave, created iPodder. That is diversity in action.
What can you learn by keeping an open mind; what can you learn from someone different? Will it be something that can change the world, or will it be something that will change the way you look at the world? Either way, this is how we all get better, by taking our own experiences, coupling them with those of others and then learning new ways to perceive and act.