Archive - Feb 2009
It is Saturday morning. I turn on my laptop and check various websites; new friends to add on Facebook, Tweets to reply to on Twitter. I grab a cup of coffee and tune in Weekend Edition on NPR. I am not alone. NPR has just run a story about Twitter, and Andy Carvin’s efforts to get Dan Schorr to use Twitter. In the world of Twitter, it is a big story.
During the time that Weekend Edition is on in my area, there are nearly 300 tweets about NPR. Many are simply saying, “Listening to NPR”. Others go into much more detail. They talk about the weather. Some people are experiencing snow or rain. For others it is just overcast. Some try to beat the weather by sitting next to a fire in the fireplace. For me, it is a beautiful sunny day, but we do have a winter storm watch for tomorrow evening.
A few people mention their morning beverage. In my sample there are twice as many coffee drinkers as tea drinkers. No one tweeted about Latte, but there was one cappuccino drinker. For food, people talk about corn bread, oatmeal and barley soup.
Listeners talk about still being in bed, or in their bathrobes. Some are doing crossword puzzles or looking at news papers. Others talk about sleeping babies and sleeping dogs. Still others are starting to garden, do the laundry, take their dogs for a walk, or watch birds.
Nearly half of the people mention the NPR story about Twitter and a couple dozen have said that they have started using Twitter because of the story. The responses are varied, about whether or not Dan Schorr ‘gets Twitter’, about how long NPR has been following Twitter. To the person that thinks that NPR just discovered Twitter, they have had Andy Carvin working for them and Twittering for quite a while. Andy has already sent out over 20,000 tweets on Twitter. However, I haven’t been able to get to any of his messages prior to last July.
Responses to the twitter story include discussions about ‘editorless content’, the agora, and the quote, “Twitter: Because no man is an island”.
People are also talking about other stories they’ve enjoyed. Many talk about the economy. Others talk about the library blog, a story about algebra, the interview with Philippe Petit or the piece on Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks. This is an area that I like. With Twitter, I can join with likeminded people around the country who are also listening to and sharing their reactions to Twitter.
NPR becomes a top trend on Twitter, at least for the morning, and many people comment on it. Later, the trend gets passed by Transparency Camp, “un-conference … about convening a trans-partisan tribe of open government advocates from all walks …to share knowledge on how to use new technologies to make our government transparent and meaningfully accessible to the public.” To great trends that ought to go good together.
So, next week, I’ll probably listen to Saturday Weekend Edition with Twitter Search tuned to NPR. Perhaps we can continue the discussion there.
It has been another week preoccupied with computer programming, although I did get a chance to participate in some social media activities this week, as well as get through at least a little bit of my email.
It started off with a few messages that I sent out from the Woodbridge Board of Education meeting. I used ping.fm so my messages went to a bunch of different locations. My first two messages were
At Woodbridge Board of Education where there is a discussion of twenty first century curriculum linking world languages and technology
One of the students is doing a wonderful presentation of the food pyramid in Spanish using the Smartboard.
On Facebook, a Connecticut State Representative, Jonathon Pelto responded ‘wow – cool’. Over on LiveJournal, a friend from Michigan whom I met years ago when her teacher used a text based virtual world that I ran to teach a class on ‘Brave New World’ responded ‘Smartboards are sweet…especially when properly used.’
After the meeting was over, I chatted with the chair of the Board of Education as well as the Superintendent about the real time online discussion I had about the meeting. It says something important about the world our students are being prepared for. There is so much more I want to write about this when I get some free time.
On Tuesday, I received an email from another longtime friend. The Rev. Kate Heichler of Church of Christ the Healer, together with The Rev. Mark Lingle of St. Francis Church, both in Stamford, have set up a Lenten Reflections blog. Kate suggested that I might offer to help the church I attend, Christ Church, Bethany set up a similar Lenten Reflections blog.
I’ve been very busy, so I quickly threw together to live for a season and when I get a little more time will help people at the church with the blog some more.
Thursday, I went to a Mystic Sushi Tweetup. I joined @JoeCascio, @trishdarling of smashingdarling.com, and @EmrysTetu of WellnessWithFood.com at Peking Tokyo in Mystic for a dinner of sushi. We had a great discussion covering a wide selection of topics.
Today, I receive a message on Facebook from State Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield inviting people to the Judiciary Committee Public Hearing. In the invitation, Gary said, “"If you care about the Raise the Age legislation and or abolishing the death penalty and you have time on Monday you should come testify." He provides information about testifying at the hearing.
As I went through my emails, I’ve found plenty of other important events. Next Wednesday at 7 PM, Kim will be speaking about election day registration at the Democracy for Fairfield County Meetup at the Silver Star Diner in Norwalk. Ned Lamont will also be speaking there about the stimulus package. Democracy for New Haven will be meeting at Wednesday, starting at 6:30 at Wall Street Pizza in New Haven having a discussion about the Connecticut budget proposal. State Sen. Toni Harp, Co-Chair of Appropriations Committee, and Sal Luciano, Executive Director of AFSCME Council 4 are among the speakers expected for an action oriented public discussion.
The Shoreline League of Democratic Women is also having a meeting the same evening. Their meeting will start at 7:30 at the Guilford Library and will host a panel of State Legislators talking about smart growth.
Then, on Thursday, the Energy and Technology Committee will hold a Public Hearing about four bills, including AN ACT CONCERNING PUBLIC ACCESS TELEVISION CHANNELS, along with three other bills. I haven’t read the proposed bill closely enough to have any opinions on it, but would love to hear comments from others.
Also on Thursday, Common Cause volunteers will be helping get the spring mailing out starting at 5:00 PM at the Common Cause office at 55 Oak St in Hartford. Then, starting at 6:10 in Room 128 of the Main Hall of Yale Law School, the Yale College Democrats, the Yale College Republicans, and the Yale Law School Democrats will sponsor an event with Common Cause to discussion election day registration. State Rep. Lesser and State Rep. Winfield will be speaking.
Friday, the Connecticut Fund for the Environment will be holding its 19th Annual Long Island Sound Citizens Summit: Investing in Clean Water: for Sound health, jobs and the economy. The summit will take place from 8:30 until 3:15 at the Holiday Inn Hotel and Conference Center in Bridgeport.
Looking further out, there are a few important social media related events coming up. On March 12, is digiday:Mobile and digiday:Social at the W hotel in New York City. These are two half-day conferences set up back to back to talk about marketing using mobile and social technology.
On March 21st will be Newsout, “What to do when the newsroom lights go out: Options and strategies for New England communities.” It looks like it will be a good discussion with some great speakers.
Then, ending off the month is Freedom to Connect, a yearly gathering of some of the most interesting thinkers about communications and the Internet.
So, I’ll continue to try and balance some computer programming with some family time and lots of social media, both as quick messages on various sites and face to face meetings as well. What are you up to? Will I see you at one of these events?
C.S. Lewis reportedly once said that he didn’t read the newspapers, claiming that if something important happened, someone would tell him. The recent news about bankruptcies, layoffs and proposed closings in the newspaper industry illustrates that perhaps he isn’t the only one with such an approach to the news.
Indeed, I first heard about the Journal Register’s bankruptcy filing via Twitter. I heard about the Hearst corporations threat to shut down the San Francisco Chronicle on NPR, and when Mark Pazniokas was let go from the Hartford Courant, I heard about it first via an Instant Message, with a message on Facebook following quickly after.
In my case, if I’m at my computer when I hear news like this, I start searching for various stories about it, typically starting at CT News Junkie and the New Haven Independent, and then supplementing my information with opinions from people at CT Local Politics and MyLeftNutmeg. All of this remains paperless.
This brings up an important question. Who determines what is important? What is newsworthy? Years ago, Walter Cronkite was our most trusted source of information and the New York Times gave us all the news that was fit to print.
Reporters find what they thought was important and try to get their editors to run the stories. People like Mark Pazniokas had in depth knowledge of what was going on at the Capitol and could pick out what was important and what was nothing new. Papers even had people trained in investigative reporting, that would spend countless hours digging deep into the hidden and underlying information of a story. Now, the last vestiges of these skills are being slept away.
At the same time, we have a new President in Washington who is vowing transparency. Yet as volumes of information about our government and our spending gets made public, who will sort through all of it to find something important?
One possibility is that we will return to a way of information gathering that existed before newspapers tried to appear objective, when they were the mouthpieces of partisan groups. When I think of the information I’ve received about Gov. Rell’s proposed budget, most of it has come from groups with very clear objectives. They don’t want to see funding for good education, clean energy or clean elections cut. Obama supporters in Connecticut are organizing a legislative watch group to do more of the same on a grassroots basis.
Besides the partisanship, these efforts run into a few different problems. There is the loss of skills and institutional memory that people like Mr. Pazniokas brought to the news room. Some of this can be addressed by creating easily searchable online repositories. Some of this can be addressed by training volunteers in better reporting.
Another issue is that of editorship. I’m less concerned about the proof reading aspects of editorship. It sometimes feels like I’ve got a thousand editors pointing out typos in my blog posts. No, the issue is, how do we decide which stories really are important. Some of this may be achievable by crowd sourcing. Articles that get a lot of attention, that get flagged as important by many readers, are perhaps the most important. Yet, as with the skills that the writers need, we need more skilled readers. We need better literacy education so that people can determine what really is important, as well as what is trustworthy, well written, and so on.
Then, there is the issue of distribution. The Hartford Courant has a circulation in the hundreds of thousands, but advocacy groups mailing lists are rarely more than a few thousand. Perhaps these few thousand are the influencers, the people that care and will act upon the information they receive. So, besides better training for activists, we need to help get people more involved. Yet newspapers have also been trying to boost circulation, without much effect, so the prospects in this area for activist groups remains questionable.
Where does this leave us? I’ll keep getting my news via Twitter and instant messages. I’ll keep reading good online sources of information, and I’ll keep encouraging others to join groups like Investigative Reporters and Editors and take courses at places like News University.
If we all do this, then maybe we will stand a chance to discover something important about our government.
There are a bunch of important blog posts that I want to get written, but they will have to wait for another day. Today, I spent most of my time and energy working on the financial software project that has been taking a lot of my attention. I also played technical support for a few different people and as I write this, I am hoping to finally remove a nasty virus from my wife’s computer. I also continue to spend time talking with Abdul-mumin. Abdul-mumin is the young man from Ghana that I have been chatting a bit with online.
He is seeking many avenues to get support for his efforts in Ghana. One site that he mentioned is a We Are Teachers Micgrogrant program. WAT is going to give away $200 and a Flip Video Camera to ten teachers to help promote creativity and the arts.
I'm not convinced that his project would be the most artistic. There are some pretty good programs out there. On the other hand, a Flip Video Camera in the hands of students in Ghana could be incredibly powerful, and I would encourage you to click on the link and vote for his project.
For me, at least I got a chance to eat some pancakes this evening. Maybe I’ll even get a chance to listen to a little of President Obama’s address to Congress. Tomorrow, I’ll probably just put up a Wordless Wednesday picture, but hopefully, sometime soon, I’ll get a chance to write some more serious blog posts.