In 2001, I chose a BOTY by nominating several people and letting the readers vote. That year, the choice was Joel Spolsky, who went on to do many great things, such as the Joel on Software books and the Stack Overflow website.
Then in 2007, I named NakedJen as the BOTY. To Jen, being a blogger means being vulnerable, exposing who you are, and standing by yourself. A blogger is a sole practitioner, who sticks his or her neck out, but does it with conviction and belief. That's what choosing NJ said about blogging, to me.
In 2008, my choice was Jay Rosen. Part of being a blogger is being a teacher and a thinker. Jay's mind is so flexible, he can put himself into impossible situtations, the kinds of situations we find ourselves in, and figure out quickly where the chips must fall.
This year it could have been Doc Searls for his pioneering work in the economics of the Internet. Or Paul Krugman, for blogging so well inside the beast. There are dozens of bloggers I admire and would happily sing the praises of.
But not this year -- because this year -- we're on the verge of big change. It's as if the Internet has turned into a giant Tianamen Square, we're having a Summer of Love, but on the side the tanks are assembling. We know the story isn't over. Not by a lot.
As I explained in this morning's podcast, the world of news might have been split in two this year. On one side are the people and organizations who want to use the information in the WikiLeaks cables. And on the other side, those who don't. So far, the US government is on the Don't side. CNN, for some mysterious reason, is there too. Some of the things Bill Keller at the NY Times has said indicate that he is on that side, while his organization is solidly on the other. The Guardian is kicking butt on the Do side. As is Spiegel, Le Monde, El Pais, and dozens of other news organizations digging in and reporting WikiLeaks-related stories every day of the week.
Funny thing, as time goes by, I bet the number of people on the Don't side will shrink, until there comes a time when we won't remember when the public didn't know what the government was up to. Governments will pre-empt the leakers by leaking on themselves. People will wonder why WikiLeaks was seen as so threatening. Parents will explain to children that change is always scary to adults.
Julian Assange is a very powerful and famous man, and he put himself in that position by doing something incredbily brave. It's hard to imagine someone risking so much, for a cause, but there he is. But as strange as it seems, he's from our world, and his values and ours are the same. There's not very much light between what I believe and what I understand that he believes.
NakedJen is an evangelist for radical transparency. Jay Rosen says the news process is turning upside-down. And Julian Assange put both ideas together. He says let's know all there is to know. Let's tell the people who take us to war and destroy countries and kill hundreds of thousands, for profit -- no more secrets. We're not just going to suspect you're doing it, we're going to know. And maybe, if they know we'll know, they won't do it.
So while the people on the Don't side try to discredit the man, and what he's done, the story is still getting out. There are new revelations every day. As Arianna says, all it takes is one story to electrify everything. I think in our guts we know, if the process is allowed to go forward, we can never go back.