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Happy Birthday Fiona

They say that one of the keys to being a successful blogger is knowing your niche audience and writing to it. My problem is that I try to hit a lot of niches. So, if you’re coming here for stuff about Second Life, check here. If you’re coming here for stuff about Connecticut politics, and in particular things about the Avery Doninger Civil Rights case, check here. And of course my political posts can be found here. Today’s audience is parents.

Today is Fiona’s sixth birthday. She is off with her grandparents as we prepare. The theme for her party is “Hawaiian Luau”. Kim made a cake

There will be limbo dancing and a treasure hunt. Since Fiona is just six, she and her friends might have difficulty reading clues, so we made it a pictorial treasure hunt. I grabbed the digital camera and took pictures of places where the clues would be located.

Quickly printing them off with a color printer, we have a simple fun treasure hunt for the kids. The clues are placed to maximize the amount of running around they need to do to get from one clue to the next.

Here are the clues:

And, as a final birthday reflection, I’ve created this slide show of pictures of Fiona when she was younger.

You might also want to stop by and read the comments I wrote when she was born.

Happy Birthday Fiona.

Do You Support Florida in the Primary Mess?

Today, I received an email that started, “Do You Support Florida in the Primary Mess? If not, I don't really want to get into a debate about it on list, so send me a off-list e-mail.” I think this is misguided in several different ways.

First and foremost, I’m very concerned about the compression of the primary schedule. I believe that the political process is best served by on the ground retail politics. By spreading out the primary schedule, it gives more time for candidates to be on the ground in the state shaking hands with real people. Yeah, it would be great if one of the first primary states were Connecticut instead of New Hampshire. That way, I wouldn’t have to take my daughter out of school and drive a couple hundred miles for her to be able to participate in retail presidential politics. Yet I also realize that in some states people have to drive over twice the distance my family traveled just to get to the State Capital.

The more compressed the primary schedule gets, the more candidates will rely on national advertisements and the big dollars required to buy them. It moves us further from the political involvement and deliberative discourse that our country needs.

I recognize the concern of states later in the primary schedule. In the last Presidential cycle, here in Connecticut, the candidate that I was supporting had already withdrawn from the race by the time the primary came around. Yet I don’t believe that changing the primary schedule is the most effective way to address this problem.

Instead, we need to find ways to get people more involved. There are two projects that have recently caught my attention. The first is the Democratic Youth Strategy Network. They are working on “a revolutionary new web
tool that will empower progressive and Democratic activists to run for
office.” I haven’t seen the new web tool so I cannot comment on how revolutionary it really is, but we need tools that encourage and empower people to get more involved, including running for office.

The second project that caught my attention is the National Presidential Caucus. They encourage people to

Come together, face-to-face, with your friends, your neighbors, your community, your country, to deliberate the issues & choose our leaders. Engage in the National Straw Poll on Nov 9th. You CAN make a difference.

It is this coming together, face-to-face to deliberate the issues that I believe is essential to our democracy. A compressed primary schedule doesn’t help this. Watching a few advertisements on national television before voting doesn’t help this. Emails discouraging a debate don’t help this.

Yes, I am concerned about people it states with later primaries not having as much of a voice in the process. One way they can have a stronger voice is to participate in projects like the Democratic Youth Strategy Network and the National Presidential Caucus. These projects will do a lot more to help people find their voices in the political process than simply moving a primary date.

(Cross-posted to Greater Democracy)

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Getting people to pay attention

Depending on who you ask and how they are counting, the average American now sees more than 400 advertisements a day. It often seems like I get more than 400 email messages a day and as many instant messages as well. I often pay about as much attention to many of them as I do to advertisements, and while I may receive more emails or instant messages each day than the average American, I suspect my response isn't that far out of the norm.

This leads us to the question of how, in this world of constant partial attention, can you get anyone to pay attention and respond to your message. It seemed as if many of the advertising folks at OMMA focused on online advertising as just another place to put up an non-interactive billboard or thirty second spot and I wondered how different the banner ads or the search ads were really from those other advertisements.

This isn't to say that such advertising isn't effective. In fact, I believe it is fairly effective, not in a click through sort of way,but in terms of forming a digital palimpsest; shaping associations with products and norms of expected behavior. People sending emails might want to think about their emails in how they help form such associations or expected behaivors.

Yet, so many of the political emails I receive are aimed at eliciting a contribution. At OMMA, people spoke about email campaigns as needing to give as much to the email receipient as they expect to receive in return. Emails that provide useful information or a sense of community are much more effective than the simple asks. Yet it seems like, in the political sphere, so many of the emails don't really give me anything and as a result, I don't pay very close attention to them, let alone clickthrough to their signup, volunteer or donate pages.

This is perhaps even more notable in Twitter. As I write this, Barack Obama is following 5,199 people on Twitter. Somehow, I don't imagine he, or his staffers pay attention to that many twitters. In return, 4,910 people are following Barack Obama. I can easily imagine that many people wanting to get short quick updates from the Obama campaign. Yet it is worth noting that only 34 updates have been sent. It is similar with the Edwards campaign. Sen. Edwards is following 3,884 twitterers. In return, 3,574 are following him. He's posted 84 updates, although some of them start off with (from staff). Sen. Edwards has even favorited one Twitter message and has used twitter to encourage people to send in questions.

Neither have used Twitter in any conversational manner, the way many people start twitter messages with an at sign and a twitter id to indicate that the message is directed and, and usually in reply to a different twitter message.

So, in this world of excessive messages, in advertisements, emails, twitters, instant messages and so on, how do you get people to pay attention, to become engaged? A few people have sent me emails about projects they are working on that they think might help. I'll write up some of these a bit later, but if you have thoughts, please add them here, or send me an email, an instant message or a message via twitter. If you're lucky and I'm not overwhelmed by all the other messages, I just might see it and pay attention.

Exploring the potential of Drupal, Second Life and Complex Event Processing

The online experience is changing from a world where users pull static text off of webpages to a world were the experience is much more immersive with pictures, videos and three dimensional animations and much more interactive with Web 2.0 functionality, instant messaging and real time data. As these changes take place, information providers need to rethink their online strategies and how they use various tools.

At the center of any information strategy is a good content management system. Drupal is a widely popular open source content management system that facilitates the organization and presentation of information. It allows users of the site to easily add content and has been expanded to include better functionality for images and video. It is this ability to easily be expanded that makes it interesting as more immersive synchronous environments become more popular.

One such environment is Second Life. Second Life has been getting more and more attention as companies explore how they can use to achieve corporate goals. With Second Life, you use a Second Life client, instead of a web browser to access the Second Life servers. These servers provide a three-dimensional real time environment where uses interact with objects that have been created as well as with one another. Second Life has it’s own currency which facilitates micropayments there and there is an active currency exchange to change the Second Life currency, called Linden Dollars, into U.S. dollars.

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A Drupal framework for interoperating with Second Life objects

Well, it had been a hard day. An important deal feel through and I was depressed. I couldn’t focus, so I did what any hard-core geek would do. I took a nap, and then I did a bit of recreational programming.

Now that I’ve set up a shop in Second Life, I have an interesting place to test out my scripts, and my focus for today was data sharing between Second Life and external sites.

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