Archive - 104, 0

NewsTrust goes to Public Beta

For the past several months, I’ve been working with NewsTrust. NewsTrust is a site where people review news stories for their journalistic quality. Over on NewsTrust, I wrote,

"I started using NewsTrust early on, in an effort to find those news stories that were better than average. I've found many great stories this way. As I've gotten more involved, I've started reviewing and submitting stories myself. It has caused me to stop, think and learn more about what makes for better journalism. With this, I've come to better appreciate some news sources that I've not always favored, as I've come to see some of their better journalism. "

Today, with the launch of the public beta, I’ve been promoting the site at various places. I set up a diary on DailyKos about NewsTrust. CTNewsJunkie picked up the story, as did Connecticut Local Politics. ScienceBlogs wrote about it, and I put up posts on MyLeftNutmeg and One America.

e pluribus media has added NewsTrust to their blog roll. I’ve added a feed of top stories from NewsTrust onto my site.

Another great article on NewsTrust can by found at Rory O’Connor’s Blog, and The Kentucky Democrat makes a brief mention of NewsTrust yesterday.

So, NewsTrust is off and running. For the incurable cynics around me, I’ve been involved with NewsTrust because I believe in what they are doing, and not because of any hope of monetary compensation for promoting their site. As to what happens next, I think Rory sums it up best, “What happens next is up to you.”

Update: Also, check out the posts The Editor's Weblog and Media Giraffe Project about NewsTrust.

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Can Social Marketing Save the World?

On Tuesday, I will be participating in a panel at Wesleyan entitled Can Social
Marketing Save the World?

In preparation, I wanted to pull up various videos that tie together some of my thoughts. The first is the trailer for The Ad and the Ego.

First, I think we need to re-evaluate our relationship to advertising, and particularly in terms of thinking about the subtext of advertisements. As I've written before, I believe that the subtext of most political advertisements, especially the ones that dominiated the recent elections is We Think You're Stupid. To me, one of the most important underlying messages of the Lamont campaign was one of participation.

In the first campaign ad we saw people rushing in, even before the advertisement was completed, and the introduction of the 'and so do we' theme.

There are two pieces online about how the media landscape is changing. The first is Epic and the second is Day of the Longtrail. They both talk about more citizen involvement with shaping our media. I really wanted to see and encourage citizen involvement in shaping the media for the campaign, because I believe that is a key part of how the change we are hoping for needs to come about.

Perhaps one of the best examples of what worked in the Lamont campaign was when CT Bob created this video. Later, the campaign created a similar ad.

Things that I would have liked to have seen, that didn't happen was people creating Machinima and doing other things to use games and other online tools to get the message out.

I believe that we can use social marketing to save the world. I believe that campaigns are a start to that, but that we need to go beyond campaigns, and that the key starting point is get more people involved in thinking critically about media and creating their own media.

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(Cross posted at Greater Democracy)

Don't be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Rom 12:2)

I’ve been thinking a lot about this ever since the shooting at the Amish schoolhouse several weeks ago. Of all the groups of people that epitomize the idea of not being conformed to this world, the Amish are near the top. I’ve also been thinking about it a bit after some of my recent encounters of some of the negative aspects of group-think online.

A year or so ago, I was at a meeting of grassroots activist leaders in Burlington, VT. We had had a great day talking about ideas and strategies of how to change our country for the better. At the end of the day, we took a boat ride out on Lake Champlain. It was a beautiful day and at one point we gathered near the bow of the boat. One person was bewailing the inside the beltway consultocracy. I posed the question of if we are successful, how we will avoid falling into the same trap that they did and becoming the new insiders. This gave the leader of the group a moment of pause, and I hope that it still causes people to pause.

Early on in the Lamont campaign, when I was the person responding to emails at the ‘info’ account, one person spoke about how Sen. Lieberman had changed. He had lost touch with his constituents and become part of the beltway problem. The writer asked how I knew that Ned wouldn’t do the same thing. I admitted that I didn’t know that. I went on to say that based on my knowledge of Ned, I doubted that would happen, but I also said that if it did, then perhaps in 18 years, I would be working for some new young challenger.

As we launch into the 2008 presidential contest, are blogs going to be part of a new netroots based consultocracy, or will we be able to continue to renew our minds and transform ourselves? I am hoping for the later, but at times, I have my doubts.

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Blogging, the person, the image and the audience

I wrote the following as a comment on another blog, but I think it stands on its own pretty well, so I'm including it here.

I think you are hitting a bunch of important issues here. Why do we blog? I’ve often suggested that for many writers, independent of the medium used, and I include myself in this category, we write because we must. It is part of who we are. It isn’t about audience.

Yet, nonetheless, our audience affects how we present ourselves. It changes us. In a lot of ways it isn’t really any different than how our audience affects us in terms of what we wear or say when someone tells us that they like the outfit we have on, or our new haircut.

Yeah, visuals matter. It affects whether or not people pay attention to what we are saying, and while we may not write for an audience, there is something satisfying to know that someone is reading what you are writing and the words aren’t simply disappearing into a bit bucket.

It would be nice if appearances didn’t matter. It would be nice if our blogs were judged not by the color of the background but by the content of the words. Unfortunately, we haven’t yet achieved that dream.

So, keep on writing. It changes you and that can be a good thing.

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Political Homphily, monocultures and CLP

Over at Connecticut Local Politics Genghis has posted in interesting discussion about centrists and moderate in response to a piece by Jane Hamsher at Firedoglake. I wrote a comment on CLP, but it turned out to be pretty long, and I thought I’d post it here as well.

While I greatly respect Genghis for running this site and for his efforts to get people to interact across ideological borders, I end up here from a different perspective.

First, I think the quote, “People who are engaged political junkies tend to have strong opinions and they want to interact online with others who are like minded” is pretty accurate. I think it goes beyond left and right. It includes the center and people who might be better described as existing off a simple left-center-right continuum.

It also exists beyond the realm of politics. Sociologists talk about homophily, or the tendency of people to group with other people that are similar. For an interesting take on this, I would encourage you to read An Epidemic of Homophily

In its most virulent form, we see people from close-knit social networks personally attack anyone who criticizes a member of their network. It often feels to me as if that dynamic occurs here too often.

Many people are suggesting the political homophily leads to extremism. It seems to me that this is really just a particular form of the problem with monocultures. For those not acquainted with the problem of monocultures, I would encourage you to think about the Irish potato famine. The Irish potato crop lacked diversity, or hybrid vigor, making it susceptible to being wiped out by a virus. Personally, I think that political discourse that doesn’t promote a diversity of opinions runs into similar dangers.

This was, to me, an important part of I believe both Lamont and Schlesinger’s messages. We need a more vigorous political discourse. We need politicians that will engage in that discourse. I think if people are going to honor the contributions of Ned Lamont (or Alan Schlesinger), it should include being willing and eager to have an open discourse with people of differing opinions.

I also wanted to talk a little bit about bridging social capital and bonding social capital, which Robert Putnam does a great job of describing in his book Bowling Alone. However, this has turned into a much longer comment that it should be, so let me simply sum things up. People do tend to gather with others who are like-minded. It isn’t an issue of left-center-right; it is human nature. However, if we wish to make our country a better place, we need to rise about these simple tendencies and embrace a site like this where left, center and right, ideally, can interact respectfully and learn from one another.

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