Archive - Mar 2009

March 31st

CT News Wire at Two Weeks

Two weeks ago, I set up CT News Wire. Over this time, I’ve been trying to come up with as concise a statement about what CTNewsWire is and made efforts to get people to start using it.

CTNewsWire is a public mailing list for state and local agencies, elected officials, candidates and advocacy organizations in Connecticut to use to more effectively communicate with the constantly changing world of bloggers and citizen journalists.

There are 115 state agencies in Connecticut, 169 municipalities, 151 State Representatives, 36 State Senators and numerous advocacy agencies. Many of them send out press releases to what seems to be an ever-decreasing pool of traditional journalists. Their communications directors don’t have easy ways to find new people, such as bloggers and citizen journalists that might be interested in receiving their press releases, and new bloggers and citizen journalists can find it difficult to get on the media lists of all the groups they are interested in.

So, I set up a CTNewsWire Google Group that anyone can subscribe to, and anyone can send media advisories to. During the first few weeks, I forwarded some of the press releases I received to the group and started contacting communications directors and public information officers. I also started to slowly spread the word about CTNewsWire.

It is still just a small handful of bloggers and citizen journalists that subscribe to CTNewsWire, but the number is growing. More importantly, the number of communications directors starting to use CTNewsWire has grown.

With that, let me highlight three events coming up over the next few days that I found out about via CTNewsWire.

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Beecher Road Students Lobby at State Capitol

I am back from accompanying Fiona’s class on a field trip to the State Capitol. This post will gather a few different snippets of the trip and later, I can hopefully find time to share some reflections.

First, came the bus ride up:

When we arrived at the capitol, we gathered in one of the conference rooms. As we were waiting for various speakers to arrive, the students suggested having a meeting, similar to the meetings that they have in school.



Committee Room, originally uploaded by Aldon.

To give them a sense of how things worked, I acted as chair, and recognized various speakers, entertained a few motions which were voted on. As the meeting progressed, several guests arrived and spoke. Representative Gary Holder-Winfield did a great job of engaging the students in discussions about the legislative process. Rep. John Geragosian joined the discussion, as did Tom Swan, Executive Director of CCAG. House Majority Leader Denise Merrill addressed the students as did Representative Themis Klarides, who represents the district most of the kids were from.

I ‘Twittered’ much of the discussion. For those not used to Twitter, and for the general sake of readability, I changed the order of the messages, so that the first message below is the first message I sent. In addition, I regularly refer to @CT94dem, which is Rep. Holder-Winfield’s userid on Twitter.

At BRS getting ready to head up to Hartford for Fiona's class lobbying trip
@CT94Dem Addresses is addressing the class at BRS MAG Class about lobbying.
@Ct94Dem Rep. Holder-Winfield is talking about the importance of lobbyists in informing Reps and citizens
@CT94Dem is now talking about SB 182 - AN ACT CONCERNING THE PROTECTION OF WATERSHED LAND. which the students are interested in.
@ct94dem is joined by Rep. Geragosian to talk about lobbying, SB 182, and many other issues that the students have.
A New Haven student, who comes to Woodbridge asks @ct94dem about how to improve the New Haven Schools.
Rep. Geragosian talks about the constitutional responsibility to provide an equal educational opportunity to all students and Sheff v O’Neil
One of the students asks @ct94Dem about what the appropriations committee does. Another asks if Gary is a Rep. or Senator
@ct94dem is asked how long he has been doing the job and if he likes it. Yes, he likes the job, but hasn't been doing it very long.
@ct94dem talks about the importance of using the internet to help make government more transparent, such as Twitter and Facebook.
@ct94dem If Reps care about what people think, then they should encourage people to communicate with them.
A person asks @ct94dem if in the short period he has been working has he changed anything, Gary chuckles and says, this is government.
@ct94dem talks about using social networks to change the discussion, and in that sense, he thinks he has changed the discussion.
@tomswan is now talking about how he works lobbying for important bills that need to be passed, and those that they want to try and block
@tomswan talks about the long hard battle it was to pass the citizen election program.
@tomswan Been doing his job for 16 years, and you make a lot of enemies and a lot of friends.
A student asked if being a lobbyist is a good job. @tomswan responds "Yes!"
Rep. Merrill House Majority Leader address the class
Rep. Merrill is talking about how laws affect our daily lives, such as food safety.
Rep. Klarides is getting a great reception by the BRS Students.
Rep. Klarides talks about the importance of every person voting and how kids from school can also help shape laws as they get made
The kids just finished lobbying and are eating lunch.

You can also see various other pictures of the trip in the Flickr Set that I uploaded. Of note are pictures of some of the students in the ‘Wishing Chair’ made from the Charter Oak, and a couple State Representatives as they were being lobbied on SB 182.

It was a great day, and thanks go out to the students for doing so well, for the other chaperones, the teachers, the lobbyists, the legislative aides, the legislators, and anyone else I over looked who did such wonderful jobs in really bringing the legislative process alive.

March 30th

Quick Updates

Well, it has been a very long weekend. First thing Saturday morning, I drove up to PodCamp Western Mass. I had some very interesting discussions there that I want to write about. However, upon getting back to Connecticut, I took a brief nap and then went out to see Rent at Amity High School. I’ve written my brief review of that, but I want to write more about my reaction about how it relates to the larger picture, which probably includes some of the discussions from PodCamp.

With that, I slept late Sunday morning. When I did get up, I found I was having problems with my hosting service. This has turned into a major nightmare, but also a good opportunity to clean up a bunch of my sites. I host a lot of sites for various groups and organizations, and currently many of them are down. As I get time to work through the issues, more and more of them will come back up. Please, drop me a note if there is something urgent I need to look at.

In the evening, I went to the fundraiser for Ed Sheehy for First Selectman in Woodbridge. Since Kim is a lobbyist and I am the spouse of a lobbyist, we are limited to the events we can attend. Basically, if the event is raising money for a candidate or committee that the new campaign finance laws apply to, I cannot contribute or attend. If this fundraiser had been for the Woodbridge Democratic Town Committee, I would not have been able to attend. But, since it was for a municipal election that has its own committee instead of relying on the local Democratic Town Committee, I could attend.

There is another caveat that I’m trying to work out. This would allow me to attend as a member of the press, but not contribute to fundraisers for committees that the new campaign finance law covers. More on that some other day.

At the fundraiser, I learned that the Woodbridge Country Club has agreed to the deal proposed by the town of Woodbridge. This is an important step forward, but there is still a lot of work to be done dealing with the Country Club.

Ned Lamont was the guest speaker. Many people are wondering if he will be running for office any time soon. He didn’t make any announcements. Instead, he talked about when he had lived in Woodbridge years ago and praised the Sheehy administration for what they have done in Woodbridge. He also spoke about A Blueprint for Connecticut's Future, an effort that he, former legislator, state budget chief and chancellor of the Connecticut State University system, William J. Cibes Jr. and others have been working on to address the budget issues for the State of Connecticut. Whether or not Ned decides to run for some office in the future, his work on getting a bipartisan team of real leaders to address budget issues in Connecticut is a great service that he is currently doing for the State of Connecticut.

With all of this, I have been way behind in visiting so many of the websites that I enjoy visiting from my blogrolls, RSS feed readers, and on EntreCard and Adgitize. This week looks like it will continue to be a long busy week. Tomorrow, Fiona’s class will be visiting the State Capitol, and will really learn how a bill becomes law. They will spend time lobbying for the bill Proposed S.B. No. 182, An Act Concerning The Protection of Watershed Land.

I will go up as a chaperone, and Kim has arranged a lobbyists perspective on how things really work in the legislature. Today, she spoke with the class and the students and the teachers are quite excited about the opportunity. It illustrates the hands on approach to learning that Beecher Road School, and particularly the Multi-Age Group program bring to learning, and I wish more students had opportunities to interact with the legislature the way Fiona’s class will tomorrow.

March 29th

Amity High School Production of Rent

I remember, years ago, proudly playing my bit parts in high school theatre productions. Our town didn’t have a daily paper but the neighboring town did, and inevitably as we prepared for our second performance, someone would rush in with the paper’s review of our play. The stars would be elated or devastated by the reviews and bit part actors like myself would feel ignored and unnoticed.

It is with these memories in mind that I offer up my review of Amity High School’s production of Rent. It is not an objective unbiased review. It is strongly influenced by my youthful memories, and even if the show was not as spectacular as it was, I would probably still feel compelled to praise it. But Amity’s production of Rent deserves no false praise. Instead, it has earned every word of praise it receives, and then some. Likewise, the actors and actresses shouldn’t be relying on any local reviews of their performances. They should all know that they have done a stellar job and should be elated.

I have to start off by applauding the theatre department for tackling Rent. It is a great play, and given all that is going on in our country as we deal with a difficult economy and problems with our health care system, we need more schools putting on challenging productions like this.

I have tons of personal reactions to the production, which I’ll save for a different blog post. Instead, let’s look at the production. Ethan Sachs and John Jorge, as Mark Cohen and Roger Davis, a young musician and a young filmmaker living in New York City’s Lower East Side, gave great performances that established a solid foundation and steady tempo for the whole play.

This provided a wonderful platform for some outstanding performances, such as Richie Lucibello’s rendition of the drag queen Angel Schunard, and Amanda Robles characterization of Mimi Marquez, the other lead character that dies of AIDS in the play.

Connor Deane, Melissa Vernick, Marla Morris and Ken Adair rounded out the group of young bohemians and their friends quite nicely.

Even if you don’t know the musical, you may know one of the songs from it, “Seasons of Love”, which starts “Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes” and asks “how you measure a year in the life”?

As we look at large numbers, whether it be the trillions being spent on revitalizing our economy, or the half million minutes in a year, it is useful to break them down into small management amounts, like $15 for a ticket to a great musical and the 120 minutes to watch it.

The first two performance of Rent at Amity High School sold out. There are three more performances and you can buy tickets online.

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March 28th

#pcsw SEO Driving Traffic to your site with OpenID

The first session at PodCamp Western Mass that I attended was focused on SEO. I tend to avoid SEO discussions because too many of them are snake oil, but this discussion had some real good points.

As a parenthetical comment, I realize that there are a lot of things that I could do to boost the SEO of my site, but that isn’t a major focus for me.

Tish brought up the importance of making sure that when you add a comment to a blog you add the URL pointing back to your own blog. I saw that and raised it one. When you are making a comment on a system that supports OpenID, be sure to use your OpenID to point back to your blog.

People wanted to know how to do this, and it is a little complicated to explain during the discussion, so I thought I would post a brief blog post and explain how to do it.

First, you need to have an OpenID. Many of you already do. If you don’t, there are plenty of places where you can get free OpenIDs. To get a good starting place, I like to recommend claimed.com. You can create your own OpenID there and if you have multiple OpenIDs, you can link them together there. Another site I like to recommend for setting up your own OpenID account is MyOpenId.com.

However, the odds are that you may already have OpenID. Livejournal, Wordpress, Vox, AOL, Yahoo and Technorati all provide OpenID. Some of these may be good ones to use. However, if you use one of these, you will set up your blog point to your OpenID.

To do this, you need to add OpenID delegation to the meta tags to the header of your blog. As an example, if you add

<link rel="openid.server" href=http://www.livejournal.com/openid/server.bml>
<link rel="openid.delegate" href=http://exampleuser.livejournal.com/>

This will make it so that when you use your Blog as your OpenID, it will go over to LiveJournal and check to make sure that you can log in as exampleuser.

With that, I would encourage everyone to set up OpenID delegation from their blog. Then, when you add comments one another blog, log to userid using your blog as your id. In most cases, this will leave a link back to your blog and help drive more traffic to you.