Archive - 2012

December 31st

You Are What You Eat, the Online Version

There is an old saying that you are what you eat. Normally, it is used to talk about food. Eat healthy food and you'll be healthy. Eat crap and, well, you'll be full of shit. I've been thinking about this recently in terms of our media diets. What sort of media are you consuming? When you play video games, are they making you healthier or less healthy? I've been touching on this in a couple recent blog posts about videos games. What about the shows on television?

I find that I watch very little television these days. Most of them have too much violence for me. Even shows that would otherwise be interesting, like some good science fiction, still has too much violence for me. It is a cheap way of getting audiences emotionally involved. It made me think of what television critic Eric Deggans calls the Persistent Disbelief Syndrome, another cheap trick to get viewers involved. Yes, it is challenging to create a show that is compelling and full of intrigue without resorting to violence or other cheap tricks, but perhaps we need to move away from shows that fail to meet that.

For me, I've shifted much of my media consumption online. I'm following over 3000 people on Twitter and have over 2,500 friends on Facebook. I read a lot of blogs, mostly via blog readers these days, and get a lot of information from other online sources as well.

For quite a while, I was finding blog posts to read through sites which would share who visited your blog. MyBlogLog, BlogLog, BlogFrog and others. These seem to have faded away, but I liked them. I liked the reciprocity of visiting the blogs of people who have visited you. It often made for better conversations.

Then, there were the sites like EntreCard, Adgitize, and CMF Forums. These were bloggers' ad exchanges. They still had some of the feel of reciprocity that the sites like MyBlogLog had. Most of them are gone now as well.

About the only sites that I'm really using much these days to connect with other bloggers is Empire Avenue and Triberr. Triberr leads to some good blog posts and helps drive a little traffic, but it's not especially compelling and Empire Avenue is more about sites like Facebook and Twitter than it is about blogs.

So, I'm looking for ways to find more compelling content. At the same time, I'm looking much more seriously at what I'm reading via Facebook and Twitter. Is the content I'm finding compelling? Is it building mental, emotional or social resilience, to go back to my discussions about SuperBetter? The same can be said about YouTube. Are you watching Angry Orange or TED talks?

One of the great things about online media is that it is a conversation, not necessarily just a broadcast. Each of us has the opportunity to create our own content. What is our content doing for society? Is it echoing anger filled talking points from one side of the political spectrum or the other? Is it divisive and hyperpartisan, or is it hearing what others have to say and working towards common goals?

Thinking back about the CT Health Foundation's Health Leaders Fellowship Program, I come back to key works about intent; what is your intent in what you are posting? And impact, what sort of impact are you actually having? Let's work together towards a more intentional online social media production and consumption, and let's see what sort of impact we're really having.

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December 30th

Uplift: What's your SuperBetter Online Score?

As I sit down to write this, I find that my Klout score is current 73, my score on PeerIndex is 65, and my stock is at 229 on Empire Avenue. Klout shows my top topics to be social media and social justice. PeerIndex has news, lifestyle and the arts as my top benchmark topics and on LinkedIn, the skills I've received the most endorsements in are Blogging, Social Media and Social Networking.

Yet I have to wonder, how much does this really mean? Are these the scores that matter? I remember one person describing HITS on a website as How Idiots Track Success. How influential am I really, what sort of impact am I really having? These are thoughts I think about as I struggle with setting my goals for 2013, especially as part of the CT Health Foundation's Health Leaders Fellowship Program.

I've been writing a bit about Jane McGonigal's TED talk, The game that can give you 10 extra years of life which she calls SuperBetter.

In SuperBetter, you work on building up physical, mental, emotional and social resilience. It is a great concept and it made me wonder, what my SuperBetter Online Score would be. How often do I read a post that stops and makes me think (+1 mental resilience)? How often do I stumble across something mind numbing or brain dead (-1 mental resilience)? How often do I see something that warms my heart and causes me to want to do something good for the people around me (+1 emotional resilience)? How often do I see something that makes me want to just quit (-1 emotional resilience)? How often do I see something that makes me feel more connected to friends on line (+1 social resilience)? How often do I see something that makes me want to hide in a cave and not talk to anyone (-1 social resilience)? I have skipped over physical resilience; I'm not sure I get much for pluses or minus physically from my online activities.

Wouldn't it be great if someone came a long with a game, perhaps as a mashup of Klout, StumbleUpon and SuperBetter, where a post could be rated, and optionally shared using these scores? Instead of simply 'liking' a post on Facebook, I could say it gave me a +1 mental resilience. I could chose which posts to share based on this, and make an effort to only share those posts that are increasing resilience in whichever areas I'm most interested in at the time.

At times, I could go back and see which friends have posted things that have been most uplifting. I could thank them for it, tell others about how uplifting I find them. For people posting material generating negative resilience, I could decide if I really wanted to keep following them. Perhaps even a back propagating neural network could be added, but that's probably pushing the envelope beyond the scope of this blog post.

As Facebook, Amazon, Google and other sites continue to refine their searches and recommendations, perhaps I would start getting more uplifting content. Perhaps brands and news organizations could start promoting their material in a more uplifting manner.

I'm probably too busy to write something like this myself, but perhaps I'll find some open source tools I could tweak to get close to this. So, if someone wants to steal this idea and implement it great.

So, what sort of SuperBetter Online Score is this blog post worth?

December 29th

Further Thoughts about First Person Shooter Games

Recently, Matthew Katz, a social media savvy doctor I've become friends with put up a blog post, Defending Our Youth: No First Person Shooter Video Games. I've shared his blog post and there has been a very interesting discussion on the topic which I will try and summarize and add my own comments.

Dr. Katz wrote this as part of a larger opus dealing with gun violence from a public health framework. This is an important framework that we should be working within as we try to address issues of gun related violence in the United States.

Much of the discussion around gun control seems to be black and white thinking. Some are suggesting all guns should be illegalized and the second Amendment should be repealed. Others are suggesting that no new gun controls should be put in place, and instead, that more people should carry guns. It seems like the more reasonable viewpoint is somewhere in the middle, where access to certain types of guns should be made much more difficult.

Similarly, there is the discussion about video games. Some people call for banning video games. Others say absolutely not. Dr. Katz seems to come closer to a more reasonable middle ground by looking at access to a specific set of video games, first person shooter games.

I am a big proponent of gaming. I believe we should be using ramification to change many aspects of our society and I hope to write more about some of these ideas later. Games, like guns, are tools. They can be used a lot of different ways.

So, with that, let me get to some of the comments I received on my Facebook wall about Dr. Katz's blog post. Much of the discussion has been around different types of games, some not even video games. I played a lot of Dungeons and Dragons back in the 1970s. At that point, it was paper, pencils, dice and a lot of imagination. Yes, there was violence in the game, but it was a small part of the game. What mattered was creativity, problem solving, and collaboration; some of the twenty-first century skills I've been writing about.

My brother posted a link to a video about a Veterinary Medical Class that took place in Second Life. It is a fascinating video and a great illustration of the positive aspect of video game like activity. One person posted a link to the article, Ten-country comparison suggests there’s little or no link between video games and gun murders. Dr. Katz properly points out that this is a study of video games in general, and not violent video games, or even more specifically first person shooter games.

Yet I'll even go so far as to suggest that there can be some benefit to first person shooter games. Re-enactment of a traumatic event can be an important part of processing the horror, whether it be young kids playing with toy guns after Newtown, or veterans spending time in virtual worlds to learn to cope with PTSD. Perhaps the real question is, what are you getting out of the games you are playing.

This ties back to some of the discussions I've been having at the CT Health Foundation Health Leadership Fellows Program about intent and impact. What are you intending to get out of your games and what impact is it really having?

One intent may be simply to relax and unwind. That is an important thing to seek. The question becomes, is this the most effective way to relax and unwind? Are their other, unintended side effects that are detrimental? Might these detrimental side effects indicate there are other ways to relax and unwind that might be more beneficial?

I also like to come back to Jane McGonigal's TED talks about gaming. What sort of societal change is the gaming having? How is it affecting your resilience; mental, emotional, and social?

For the seventh grade boys playing first person shooter games, what sort of effect is that having? The research Dr. Katz talks about suggests it may not be all that beneficial. So, how do we address this? Do we ban first person shooter games? Do we make it harder for kids to access them? Do we put warning labels on them? Do we train parents, teachers and even doctors about them?

For example, my eleven year old daughter was asked at her latest physical about if she always wore her seat belt, if there were people around her that smoked, and if there were guns in any houses she went to. She was also asked about playing video games.

Now there are some people who have tried to prohibit doctors from asking their patients about gun safety, and I imagine if more doctors start asking about video game safety, that might get a similar response, but that is something that primary care providers interested in dealing with gun violence from a public health perspective could start asking patients about. It would be a simple start, without requiring new legislation. Twelve years ago, the American Academy of Pediatrics came out a Joint Statement on the Impact of Entertainment Violence on Children. As part of releasing that statement they stated they hoped to "encourage greater public and parental awareness of the harms of violent entertainment, and encourage a more honest dialogue about what can be done to enhance the health and well-being of America's children". It sure seems like such a dialog is long overdue.

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December 28th

Goals for 2013

A month ago, I wrote a blog post about setting "S.M.A.R.T." goals about my personal leadership as part of the CT Health Leaders Fellowship program. S.M.A.R.T. is an abbreviation for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely. As we approach the New Year, it is timely to set goals, but the other parts remain elusive. I’ve always been a bit goal adverse.

Perhaps some of this comes from a story I have a strong memory of from college. A philosophy professor told my class about when he had led a bunch of students on a pilgrimage from Paris to Santiago. They retraced the route of pilgrims from medieval times. It was a deeply meaningful experience for many of the students on the trip, and upon their return, they visited various alumni association meetings.

At one such meeting, an older alumnus got up and shook his finger at one of the students saying, “You know what’s wrong with you? You don’t have any goals!”

The student responded, “No, I have one goal: to live each day more fully and more lovingly than the previous”. I have often told that story when asked about my goals. It fits well with my interrupt driven ADD lifestyle.

This is not very specific, and perhaps not especially measurable, but very relevant, timely, and I believe achievable. My friends at the CT Health Foundation might ask, “So, how’s that really going for you? Are you being as successful and effective in this as possible?”

I would like to think so, but I don’t really know, and I suspect there are aspects where I could be more effective in the over-arching goal. To put it into the language we’ve been using in the fellowship class, I’m sure there are areas where I am not conscious of my incompetence.

So, I’m trying to break this down into smaller pieces to find skills to work on. One interesting framework to look for skills to work on is the Framework for 21st Century Learning from The Partnership for 21st Century Skills: Creativity and Innovation, Critical Thinking and Problem Solving, and Communication and Collaboration.

Creativity is an area I’ve always been interested in enhancing. This gets a bit more specific, but is also not particularly measurable. What would a measurable goal for creativity be and how would I work on it?

Communications and collaboration is another important area to me. I blog. I tweet, and I collaborate on many media. I could return to an old goal of putting up a blog post daily, or perhaps add in other goals, like putting up a blog post monthly on other sites about health equity or policy issues. An additional possible goal might be to get more interaction with what I’m writing.

Another interesting framework comes from Jane McGonigal’s game that can give you 10 extra years of life:

Please, take some time to watch this video. If you have time, you might want to watch her earlier Ted Talk, Gaming can make a better world before hand.

In her second TED talk, she speaks about four kinds of resilience: physical, mental, emotional and social resilience. These could match with the 21st century skills. Mental resilience as part of nurturing creativity and social resilience as part of improving communications.

So, now my more specific goals start taking better shape. To act upon them, let me propose an idea. If you’ve made it this far, send me an email with your thoughts about what my specific goals should be. What goals do you think would be most beneficial for me. Are their skills that I could be more competent in that I’m perhaps not aware of? For that matter, has this inspired you to think about some of your goals for next year, if so, what are you thinking of doing?

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December 26th

The Hynes 2012 Holiday Quotes

I belong to a fairly eclectic, creative, some would say eccentric family, and this is especially noticeable around the holidays. Many humorous, thought provoking or just plain weird things get said around our holiday tables, and this year, I decided to capture some of them via social media.

When I was younger, I always used to carry a notebook around with me, where I could write observations that jumped out at me for one reason or another. This year, I decided to tweet some of the more interesting lines from Christmas morning.

They ended up fitting together very nicely, so, for those who didn’t see them on Facebook or Twitter, or didn’t view them as a whole, here are the Hynes 2012 Holiday Quotes

Of bowties and burquas,
and skin of teddy bear;
it's all very meta
like playing a song
with something that used to be a song,
or the cello guys with Toblerone

A slippery slope of maverick jelly beans,
touch screen gloves,
a Santa rubber duckie,
and a modern flint.
It's the holiday of candy fish.

Something happens when you talk too much, dad!

And it was the very, very end of the Swedish festival.
Did you get any fish?
I guessed a giant sonic screwdriver because that makes the most sense.
So many things I'm keeping inside my head right now

Is it a Tardis pillow?
I can't believe you guessed that
And how often do you get a bobble head of someone you know?
And what do you do at falcon ridge?
Lie on a blanket.
So what's better than a blanket that's a picture of you lying on a blanket?
Very meta.

Brimstone is hard to get
because we live in a blue state.
Now you need to write a song
about the fragility of the universe,
meta picture blankets,
and Doctor Who.

Merry Christmas everyone!

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