Watching Sicko

For months, Kim and I have talked about watching Michael Moore’s documentary ‘Sicko’, but never gotten around to it. When it first came out, we invited various State Reps near where we lived to come see it with us. They all declined. Perhaps they were embarrassed about having failed to pass meaningful healthcare reform last session. They should be.

What got us to do it this time, was Democracy for America holding Sicko Houseparties. We didn’t try as hard to invite State Reps to attend this time. We had too many other things going on. We did managed to contact one State Rep, who did not attend.

Yet we ended up crowding between 15 and 20 people in our living room to watch Sicko, to discuss healthcare reform, and to join in a conference call with Michael Moore. The group ended up being a lot of the same old activists that we met when Dr. Dean was trying to get Americans to focus on healthcare reform during the 2004 Presidential campaign.

One new face to me was Paul Wessel. He is a campaign organizer for He spoke about efforts here in Connecticut and former Speaker of the CT House Irv Stolberg offered insights into the legislative process.

If you haven’t watched Sicko yet, please do. If you haven’t signed up on, please do. Most importantly, find time to talk with friends, family and neighbors about the importance of meaningful healthcare reform.
(Cross-posted at MyLeftNutmeg)

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Dealing with Missing Investors in Second Life

Back in October, I suggested that maybe it was time for a Bankruptcy Court to be established in Second Life. At issue when I wrote that was the disposition of Investor Merlin assets following the collapse of Merlin Investment Bank. When I wrote this, I was not suggesting that I should be a judge in such a court, but since such a court does not exist, people have been turning to me for my comments on these sorts of issues. It is also worth noting that given the nature of Second Life, my comments do not have any enforcement mechanisms.

All of this leads me to my comments on the recent efforts of reviving SLC. Investor Merlin was one of the major investors in SLC. According to a release by VSTEX, he held 135,060 shares. Spontaneous Rich has been leading an effort to revive SLC. In the proposal, shares of SLC would be exchanged for shares of a company that is currently privately held, CCI. This company would then be listed on VSTEX. A sticking point in the discussion has become what happens to those 135,060 shares, as well as shares of other investors that are no longer listed in Second Life or have been idle for an extended period.

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Wordless Wednesday

Rocks near Sperry Falls, originally uploaded by Aldon.

Citizen Journalism and The Primary Place

Recently, I received an email from Jon Greenberg about Primary Place Online (PPO). I had spoken with Jon months ago about PPO, and I was curious to find out how it was going.

The site is described in their about page as growing “out of a radio series from New Hampshire Public Radio”. It is summed up as:

The idea behind Primary Place Online is simple. New Hampshire voters get many chances to see the candidates in person. Voters in places like California, Missouri and New York do not. The web has now given us a way for the citizens of New Hampshire to share the unique advantages of living in this state with voters everywhere.

I’ve spent a bit of time reading posts on PPO. Most of them are written in the first person, and the voices of the writers, like icy water down a granite-strewn stream, captures wonderfully my experiences in New Hampshire.

You should visit the site to hear what real people are saying about the candidates, and not simply plants at a campaign stop or a faux news conference.

Even more importantly, I believe that PPO says something about how citizen journalism can and should work. Back in March, Jay Rosen and Arianna Huffington announced their new venture, Off the Bus Back then I wrote

I hope that Jay and Arianna’s efforts will help people find their voice in the political discourse. However, I worry that it might be the same rich white ivy school educated young men that I run into on the blogs and the conferences across our country. I worry that the discourse might end up being not substantially different from the nasty, horse race, Coke or Pepsi type coverage that we see in the traditional mainstream media.

So far, Off the Bus hasn’t caught my attention. Glancing at the bios of the recent writers I find one who chaired “the platform committee for the national Independence Party in 1992”. Another who “currently serves as Executive Director of the New Hampshire Coalition for Common Sense Marijuana Policy”. The next one I read was “Director of Publicity for The Nation Magazine” This was followed by “The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law”. That isn’t even a person, it is a center. Finally, I got to a woman, who is “research and investigative projects director for Public Campaign, a national advocacy and educational center dedicated to campaign finance reforms that reduce the power of big money in elections and amplify the voices of ordinary voters within the political process”

Well, these voices somehow have failed to resonate with me. Over at PPO, I find different sorts of biographies. An “MRI Technologist” and has “been working in the healthcare industry for 14 years.” The second was only listed as a ‘coach’, who was unaffiliated. This was followed by a stay at home mom and a student.

So, what is it that makes PPO work for me? I offered comments to Jon about this, which I thought I would share here.

First, as far as I know, PPO invites citizen journalists to write about something they are interested in, that touches their daily life. You don't have to give specific writing assignments, just give them the framework. I know that one of the problems people working on citizen journalism have run into is not finding people who are interested in what the site is about. Perhaps some of that stems from the lack of a useful framework to operate in.

Once you have people that are interested, you have to teach them the basics. I touched on this a little bit back in 2005 when I wrote about The Video Divide. Giving people the technology to shoot and distribute video, or even simply to share a story isn’t enough. I think PPO does a great job of this in their Message for Exeter Residents.

With citizen journalists willing to work within a specific framework and armed not only with the technological tools but with the basic journalist tools, the final thing to do is to get out of the way and watch what emerges. PPO is moderated, but the only criteria is civility and facts. There isn’t an editorial effort to fit the stories to some narrative, instead there is an effort to watch to see what sort of narratives emerge.

In an email to me, Jon says his gut is telling him that he is building some sort of infrastructure. It isn’t only a technological infrastructure, a platform for doing this sort of news gathering, but it is also about building habits of citizens to look at the facts and present them civilly and from a personal perspective. Where will it lead after the primary? It is hard to tell. But, it seems to me that anyone who is seriously interested in citizen journalism should pay very close attention to the Primary Place.

NaNoWriMo Hand Wringing

When I went to my first NaNoWriMo Write-In, an old hand at NaNoWriMo, on hearing that I blog pretty much every day said I would be in good shape for NaNoWriMo. One of the biggest problems is simply getting into the habit of writing something every day. It reminded me of what so many people have said about the discipline of writing. Between blogs and emails, I do write everyday. This month, I’ve written at least one blog entry every day. I’ve written at least one section for my novel everyday. A few days, they were short of the 1,667 word goal, but most days they have been well ahead of the goal.

Over on her blog, purplecar writes that the Nanowrimo theory is not working for her. She says she is very serious about writing a novel and doesn’t want to waste her time writing crap. Will NaNoWriMo be a good use of her time?

Well, I too hope that someday, I will write the next Great American Novel. It would be wonderful, in so many ways, if my current effort turns out to be that, but I’m dubious. I guess I come back to the old advice, hope for the best (Great American Novel), prepare for the worst (an incomplete pile of drek that I delete from my harddrive), and be satisfied with whatever comes.

So, where does the NaNoWriMo theory fit in? Well, I guess there are a couple different thoughts on this. Writing is both a discipline and a love. It is sort of like marriage, and I remember an old philosophy professor once quipping, “It isn’t love that keeps marriage together, it is marriage that keeps love together.” It is the discipline to return to the object of your love when they or it has disappointed you, or when you have been the disappointment.

So, I keep returning to my novel, on the days that I cannot type fast enough, as well as the days when I’ve already brushed my teeth six times. When I do show sections to friends, I point out that it is a very rough draft of a first write through and mostly ask for further ideas about my characters and the plot.

Will it work? The past couple of days were slower, more challenging, but I cranked through. Other days were wonderful and the words wouldn’t stop. As I write this post, I have 22,918 words to go to reach the goal. I still worry about running out of storyline, but I’ve got some great ideas coming.

So, hang in there my fellow NaNoWriMo writers. The discipline is worth it.

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