When life gives you lemons

When life gives you lemons, make lemon sherbet. This video starts with about 30 seconds of just the cranking, partly inspired by the NPR soundscapes. Spend some time just listening to the cranking of the sherbet.

As Miranda explains, we got the ice from the waterfall behind our house, a small effort to use nature around us, instead of relying on fossil fuel produced electricity to do the cranking and freezing.

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Pursuing the elusive micropayment

In 1989, Brewster Kahle introduced his Wide Area Information Server Concepts. In many ways the web is now being used in ways that Brewster was suggesting for WAIS. Included in his suggestions were issues of how people would get paid for the content they put online.

Today, people are still working on different ways to get paid online. You can download music online complete with digital rights management for a buck from various sites, if you sign up ahead of time. You can subscribe to various newspapers online. Yet the problem of micropayments still hasn’t really be solved.

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I am Amanda Marcotte, Part 2

This morning, The New York Times (NewsTrust review) ran a good story about Sen. Edwards and the blogs. After my post yesterday, ”I am Amanda Marcotte” as well as the Facebook group I set up, and after Sen. Edwards statement, I’ve received a lot of personal comments and questions.

I’ve been blogging for years and on the Internet much longer. An enterprising investigator can find stupid things I wrote online twenty-five years ago. I’ve been hired by campaigns to blog for them. I’ve been told what I can and can’t write about. I’ve had things that I’ve written, both before and during campaigns criticized, and I’ve had people try to prevent me from getting jobs or get me fired because of things that I’ve written. It is for that reason, that I believe who writes anything online, whether they be liberal or conservative needs to stand with Amanda and Melissa.

People have asked me what is so offensive about what they have written. I must admit, I don’t particularly find calling conservative Christians “Christofascists” particularly offensive. I’ve probably done worse and will probably do worse in the future, perhaps even by the time I finish this blog entry. However, even for me, I found Amanda’s hypothetical question about the Blessed Virgin Mary and Plan B over the top. Those who are curious can read it here. It is liberal shock blogging. It is brilliant and offensive. I would have been both proud and embarrassed to have written something like that. As one person on the Facebook group wrote, “I wish I was as badass as Amanda Marcotte.”

When I initially read Sen. Edwards statement, I felt it was a little lame. He shouldn’t have criticized his bloggers the way he did, and he should have come out swinging harder at the Neo-Pharisees a little harder. (Okay, there is my offensive swing at the extreme right wing Christians. Maybe I won’t get a job with the Edwards campaign after all.) I felt that Sen. Edwards should have responded much more quickly. After all, the Internet is nearly real time.

Yet as I read what Amanda had written, thought about my own reaction, the reaction my parents would have had to such language, let alone the demonstrations that “The Last Temptation of Christ” brought out, I find I agree with Sen. Edwards. While his response may have been politically expedient, I also believe it is truly authentic and I respect him for it.

As to taking on the Neo-Pharisees, yes, I would have loved to see John drive them from the temple. Yet as others have noted, this is a task best suited to surrogates. I am very excited to see BlogPac take up the cause. I hope everyone participates in standing up to the Neo-Pharisees and to making sure that the media looks at their statements with critical eyes.

With regards to the timing, I think Sen. Edwards ended up getting it about right. In my past, I’ve had too many discussions with campaign managers and political consultants and not enough with the candidates themselves about what this topsy-turvy world of the Internet really means. I must applaud Sen. Edwards for his discussions with Amanda and Melissa. I hope other candidates follow his example, both in dealing with critics and in dealing with staff.

Some friends have suggested that this would be a small event that would soon be forgotten. I wasn’t sure if my reaction was so strong because I’ve been in Amanda and Melissa’s shoes or if it was really this important because it is part of the significant change in the role of the Internet in campaigns. I hope it is the later.

(Cross-posted at MyDD)

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I am Amanda Marcotte

Several weeks ago, the New York Times published a hit piece on bloggers that have worked for political campaigns. In one of the most amusing twists on that story, a television show in Boston took a parody on MyDD about Jerome Armstrong seriously, prompting the creation of an “I am Jerome Armstrong” group on Facebook.

As a mixture of that and the classic story of the King of Denmark wearing a Star of David during the Nazi occupation, I now proclaim, “I am Amanda Marcotte”.

For those who haven’t been following the story, recently some right wing extremists have attacked Sen. Edwards for hiring Amanda Marcotte. Amanda is a bright young blogger who has criticized right wing extremists, sometimes using language that they find offensive.

There have been rumors that the Edwards campaign would fire Amanda and she remains a top story in political circles.

Beyond simply a statement of solidarity with Amanda, I do feel a lot of personal similarities to her case, which I imagine many dedicated bloggers, especially those who end up working for campaigns, feel.

I have been attacked for things I’ve written in the past, including people trying to prevent me from getting or holding onto jobs that matter to me. I’ve been told what I can and can’t write while I worked for campaigns. I’ve had heated arguments with different campaign managers about things I’ve written.

I’ve also been in talks with the Edwards campaign about coming on board since last summer. When they hired Mathew Gross, and then Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan, I had complicated feelings. I was very excited that Sen. Edwards has hired such great talent, but a little let down that they haven’t hired me yet.

So, in more ways than one, I am Amanda Marcotte. I hope I don’t get fired. I hope that many bloggers also state that they are Amanda and I hope Sen. Edwards steps up and offers a bold defense of Amanda and Melissa.

One of the best blog posts about this whole episode was written by Joe Trippi in May 2003. Back then, he was talking about the Dean campaign, but I imagine it summarizes the struggle that senior staffers in the Edwards campaign are dealing with right now.

every political campaign I have ever been in is built on a top-down military structure — there is a general at the top of the campaign — and all orders flow down — with almost no interaction. This is a disaster. This kind of structure will suffocate the storm not fuel it. Campaigns abhor chaos — and to most campaigns built on the old top-down model — that is what the net represents — chaos.

So, while I wish Sen. Edwards would say something soon, and I partly wish I was a fly on the wall wherever this is being discussed, I’m also partly glad I’m not in those discussions. They will be hard discussions and they will have a significant impact in the future direction of the Edwards campaign, as well as, I believe, many other campaigns in the 2008 cycle.

It is time to stand up for what matters, and I stand up, recognizing that the first to stand are also often the first to get shot.

(If you are Amanda, please join I am Amanda Marcotte of Facebook.)

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The future of the New York Times

The creators of Epic imagine a world in the not too distant future where the New York Times has gone offline. Yet in an interview with Eytan Avriel (NewsTrust review), Arthur Sulzberger of the New York Times, Sulzberger talks of a day, perhaps even sooner when the New York Times publishes only online.

The article talks about losses in the newspaper industry, including “a $570 million loss because of write offs and losses at the Boston Globe. “ Yet provides the interesting observation that costs of moving to an all digital platform “aren't anywhere near what print costs” are. As cost and revenue structures change, information distribution organizations need to rethink what they are doing.

Interestingly, the vision that Sulzberger describes of the New York Times as “curators of news” is perhaps not all that different from a rosier view of what Epic presents. At Toomre Capital Markets we do our own curating of news related to financial services innovations. Yet the thing that seems to be missing from Sulzberger’s view is the role of community.

Yes, there is a community of readers, but how much do they interact? There is a community of sources that reporters use, but too often that community seems particularly small and disconnected. Interesting news and ideas emerge when different parts of community get linked together. It is part of what we try to do at TCM. It is part of the wider sets of social networking sites, and if the New York Times is going succeed, it is something they need to focus on as well.

(Cross posted at Toomre Capital Markets)

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