Link love is better (or why blogs trump MSM)

May 13, 2010 at 9:53 pm | In free_press, media, newspapers, web | 1 Comment

My husband is a regular reader of Bruce Schneier, and earlier today he pointed me to Schneier’s post, Worst-Case Thinking.

Here’s a screen shot of what the entry looks like – note all the links (in blue):

I’m particularly interested in Schneier’s final sentence:

This essay was originally published on, although they stripped out all the links.

So let’s take a look at the version, shall we?


Sorry about the indecipherable text (but the images are clickable and will take you to the original posts) – the key thing is the absence of links in the version.

The only links in the post are in the editor’s introductory note, namely a link to Schneier’s site (which you can make out in my screenshot), and one single link in the article itself, which happens to be to one of‘s own stories (which is off the page in my screenshot, but if you click through you’ll see it).

Ok, that’s so f*cking stupid. So,, you’ll only link to yourself, and not to other sources?

Question: does MSM have any idea how stupid this is?

From my perspective the main take-away is that there was an editor (or maybe a team of editors) making the decision to be anal in such an epic way. The editor includes a link to Schneier’s site, …and then makes the choice to strip all the other informative links from his article. The editor also makes the choice to “protect” the brand by including only a link that points to another story. How retarded is that? That is no way to grow the pie.

But bottom line? It’s people, stupid. Maybe has a social media / links policy – but maybe they don’t. We know that Canwest’s Times-Colonist doesn’t – who’s to say that media giants have ’em? It gets back at any rate to individual people making these idiotic choices – even if has a policy, individuals made it. It’s not magically in the technology – it’s how people deploy it. In‘s case, it’s a big fat #fail.

(Bonus: I like that Schneier included a link to Frank Furedi. Check it out.)

(Oh, and PS: Be sure to read Schneier’s post – it’s excellent.)

Evocative journalism: is there room for it?

May 12, 2010 at 9:22 pm | In newspapers, writing | Comments Off on Evocative journalism: is there room for it?

Reading an article filed today by the Montreal Gazette‘s Monique Muise about Monday’s horrific tragedy in St. Jude, Quebec, I was struck by the evocative quality of the writing.

(A recap of events: in the early evening of Monday May 10, in the Quebec town of St. Jude 77 kilometers north of Montreal, an absolutely gigantic sinkhole, measuring 1 kilometer by 500 meters and reaching depths of 30 meters in places, suddenly developed. One of the houses in the sparsely populated area sunk, was inundated with mud, and the family of four in it died. Other individuals were affected, but the family that died was clearly the main focus. Their daughters were only 12 and 9 years old.)

Back to Muise’s article: when I went to look for it later today, it had changed – significantly, to my mind. Not for the worse, since the changes were updates intended to clarify the facts. But the tone had changed, and it made me wonder if journalists often express something quite evocative, which gets edited out in later versions …or whether I imagined the tone in the first place.

I finally re-found the first version of Monique Muise’s report, Sad news ends the search for a missing family in Saint-Jude, Quebec (filed by Monique Muise, Montreal Gazette: Wednesday, May 12, 2010), in an online regional publication whose pages haven’t been updated.

After first describing what happened in general terms and how the Prefontaine family died, Muise’s report winds down as follows:

Herman Gagnon, who lived near the Prefontaines, said he heard a loud groan on Monday night and thought there had been an earthquake.

The noise came from his basement, so he went to check his pipes. They were fine. Gagnon soon got on the phone with a neighbour, got into his vehicle and drove from his home toward the town along the sparsely populated Rang Salvail, where next-door neighbours often can’t see each other’s houses.

Between Gagnon’s home and the Prefontaine’s, there is normally a narrow creek and a bridge. But as he went down the hill and started to climb the other side, he said he was stopped in his tracks.

In front of him lay “a different kind of blackness,” Gagnon recounted Tuesday. He stopped at the edge of a giant precipice and found himself staring into the abyss.

Another resident lingering at the roadside barriers, who declined to give his name, said sink holes and landslides are common in this area of southern Quebec. (source)

Some subsequent updates kept many (not all) of the same words, but somehow the story – now enriched with more information – became less …frightening.

Muise’s initial version conveyed a sense of gothic horror – which (oddly?) made for effective reporting, precisely because the event itself was freakish and terrible:

stopped in his tracks …”a different kind of darkness” …giant precipice …staring into the abyss

And then, the unnamed stranger (who declines to give his name), lingering at the roadside barriers observing that sink holes …are common in this area of southern Quebec.

Lingering …like the after-effects of brimstone and a whiff of hell?

No doubt my imagination is running away with me – but Muise’s original article impressed itself on my mind precisely because it was evocative.

In comparison, here’s a version that’s really cleaned up (no “lingering” remains): At sunset, the news everyone feared; and here’s one that keeps some of the words, but also adds enough other material to chase away the “different kind of darkness”: Missing family confirmed dead in landslide.

All in all, consider this a plea for more evocative journalism – factual, but able to convey the tone of events.

Journal bricolage?

May 11, 2010 at 10:58 pm | In free_press, media, newspapers | Comments Off on Journal bricolage?

Off-topic preamble, part 1: Lately, when I have a “must-write” on my agenda, I find myself staring at a “can’t-write.” Take the topic of journalism (please, take it!)…

Continuing off-topic preamble, part 2: Bricolage means putting something together from cobbled together pieces, or processes.

Cut to the chase (not exactly part 3, but getting there): With that in mind, two pieces, which the reader may complete or associate in ways that she sees fit:



^ That’s one item (a screenshot of a tweet today by David Eaves, apropos of transactions at the Canada 3.0 Digital Media Forum in Stratford, Ontario).

The second item is from today’s Toronto Star, CanWest sees future in digital content, about the sale of Canwest Global Communications‘ newspapers for CDN$1.1 billion to a group headed by Paul Godfrey:

Citizen journalists, reporters equipped with video cameras, news stories that are filed first to the latest mobile gadget before they appear in traditional print media.

These are some of the concepts the man who will be advising the next owners of Canada’s largest chain of newspapers will bring to the table. (source)

I’m not so sure that anyone in the suits really cares about “intrinsic nature,” frankly.

Housekeeping day: stab at Northern Voice report

May 10, 2010 at 11:57 pm | In northernvoice | 7 Comments

It’s Monday and closing on midnight and I still haven’t managed to write a recap of Northern Voice 2010, or address specific issues (of interest to me) raised by panelists. And since it’s already so late, this means it’s not going to happen today.

Here’s a screen shot of some of my tweets from the conference (marked #nv10), which I was going to use to write about the journalism session on Day Two:


(Note the comment – added in green – about my being unsure whether Kirk Lapointe said “100 years” or “40 years.” I think he may have said 40, which seems more likely. Once the video of the session is up, I can confirm that. Unfortunately, I can’t correct my tweet, however.)

Further below that are my tweets for Chris Messina’s keynote, which was fantastic. It deserves its own post.

The conference was great – it was my third year, and while last year was my favorite so far, this one was very good also, in particular the second day. Day One started off really well with the Gov 2.0 session (which I blogged about very briefly, here – and which deserves an extended riff).

Also on Day One I attended OMGWTF: The Weird World of Chatroulette (NSFW), with Dean Hudson, who was brilliant. He had us ROFLMA – you can see me cracking up in this photo. This talk definitely also deserves its own post.

From Tweets to Plans: Online Conversation for Urban Planning disappointed me – I think that had a lot to do with putting 4 panelists into a 30 minute segment. Dear NV: please don’t do that again, it doesn’t work. It did give me a chance to connect with Mike Klassen and Ian Capstick, though, which led to an interesting conversation about NIMBYism and city planning.

The Seattle People Podcast Project: A Case Study and Discussion of DIY Social Networking with BuddyPress kind of had me scratching my head – I’m not sure that such a fine-grained social media approach appeals to me.

On Day Two, there was the aforementioned kick-ass keynote by Chris Messina, followed by the Journalism session (see panelist Lisa Johnson’s post – excellent source material). I then attended Alexandra Samuel‘s Coping with Social Media, which was fun and useful. It was followed directly by A Bridge Too Far? The Uses and Misuses of Social Location Sharing Sites (with Travis Smith, Noah Bloom, and Ian Bell).

Next up: Art and Social Media, with Rebecca Coleman, Rachel Chator, Deb Pickman and Sara Genn, which was wonderful.

Finally, I went to If Machiavelli and Montaigne Grew Mushrooms, with Dave Cormier (who was fantastic) and Jon Beasley-Murray (whom I didn’t care for at all).

Until I get my stuff together to write the posts I should or want to write, check out Hummingbird604’s live-blogs (here’s the Journalism one with Kirk Lapointe and Lisa Johnson), and read Kim P. Werker’s excellent post, Northern Voice 2010: The Great, the Meh and the Ugly.

Finally, for the artists-and-(potential)-iPad-enthusiasts who are wondering whether this gadget is useful in the graphic field, check out Rachel S. Smith‘s post, visual notes on the iPad (and see this flickr set, iPad art). Wowzers! Also spotted – and results ooh’d and aahhh’d over: Rob Cottingham, who produced Northern Voice blog posts in graphic format using his iPad. Awesome, both of you!

The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)

May 9, 2010 at 2:31 am | In links | 3 Comments

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

“Uncle”? Overcome by pulse

May 8, 2010 at 9:23 pm | In just_so | Comments Off on “Uncle”? Overcome by pulse

So,… I very much wanted to write a blog post tonight about some of what I experienced at today’s Northern Voice, …but.

I instead went for  a walk in my old ‘hood, then returned to the hotel before heading out again for dinner. And now …I’m way too dulled.

I cry “uncle!”

Just call it “overcome by pulse“… 😉

Not a picture from today (5/8/10), but close enough: the beach was actually *much* more crowded today than what's shown in this photo.

Gov2.0 and Northern Voice

May 7, 2010 at 8:55 pm | In conference, northernvoice, politics | 4 Comments

Great session this morning at Northern Voice, Gov 2.0 – Politics, Policy and Social Media in Canada: A Multi-Level Exploration, featuring David Eaves as moderator, with Raul Pacheco-Vega, Ian Capstick, Tanya Twynstra, and the most excellent Andrea Reimer.

More later, but for now, a couple of images from Andrea Reimer’s presentation. (Did I mention that it was great?)

Left to right: Raul Pacheco-Vega, Ian Capstick, Andrea Reimer, David Eaves, Tanya Twynstra


Andrea Reimer with one of her first slides. (The chicken in the foreground has a backstory: see Office Chicken for details…) Key thing: citizen blogger, citizen councilor, citizen GIS guru: CITIZEN.



Great image:

“Open and Accessible Data : the City of Vancouver will freely share with citizens, businesses and other jurisdictions the greatest amount of data possible while respecting privacy and security concerns”

Reimer’s 2nd point: “Open Standards : the City of Vancouver will move as quickly as possible to adopt prevailing open standards for data, documents, maps, and other formats of media”…



Finally, Reimer’s last slide: “speak to councillors and the public . . . not to each other” : an exhortation to get out of the echo chamber? This is actually one of the hardest pieces to actualize…

Out West. Everything’s further away

May 6, 2010 at 6:58 pm | In just_so | 4 Comments

At 2pm today, after doing 3 loads of laundry and pre-cooking dinner for the kids, Werner and I left for Vancouver. We managed to get the 3pm sailing (I confess to speeding in the 80klicks per hour zone), and debarked at Tsawwassen around quarter to 5.

Then we drove to downtown Vancouver, direct to our hotel, checking in at 6pm. That’s 4 hours of travel time. Beautiful trip, through the Strait of Georgia, etc etc etc.

But my, everything’s really big out here, and so far away.

When I lived in Boston, it used to take me 4 hours to drive to Manhattan. And when I lived in Europe, I could cross a couple of countries in 4 hours. By train.

We’re here for Northern Voice 2010. Hope to see some good people there.

David Eaves on Open Government

May 5, 2010 at 3:40 pm | In canada, innovation, leadership, politics, silo_think, web | 1 Comment

David Eaves is one of Canada’s strongest proponents for a cultural sea-change in government, from closed bureaucracy to open government. In this video he’s interviewed by Steve Paikin of TVO. (See the accompanying blog post, too, and click through to Steve’s channel “The Agenda” for other shows.

Eaves hit on many terrific arguments in favor of open government – here are my two favorites. The first comes toward the end of the segment, where he’s talking about the public-facing side of government. Below, a rough transcript of what he said:

So, let’s look at the public-facing side. So, open data – I don’t want to claim by any stretch that it’s the be-all and end-all of open government but I do think it’s an incredibly important piece.

I mean, if you look at what the privacy commissioner wrote yesterday – the access to information, how it’s broken …I think there were ten ministries that had failing grades! People today live in an era where the average Google search is something like point three [0.3] seconds – thats how quickly they expect to get information. And now suddenly you have a government where if you want to know about something it takes six, seven, eight, nine months?

There’s this wonderful phrase on the internet that the internet treats censorship like a failure and it routes around it. And I have a real concern that people, especially young people, look at government and at the pace that it moves, and they see it either as censorship or just simply as broken …and they’re gonna route around it.

Exactly. This is what government needs to wrap its collective head around (and change) if it wants public engagement. In Victoria, my city is spending tens upon tens of thousands of dollars to craft “public engagement” strategies, but for the most part, voter turnout continues to suck, especially with younger or web-savvy people. Why? Because we see municipal government here as broken, and we either have the enthusiasm (idealism?) to “route around it,” or we say, “to hell with you” and go windsurfing instead.

Fair or not, we feel this way about the people who work in government at the staffing level, and we feel this way about the politicians. If citizens aren’t engaged, it’s not because they don’t care at a fundamental level about the things that government is supposed to address. It’s just that they can’t get no satisfaction – and certainly no transparent action.  (I’m referring in particular to the City of Victoria, which has an atrocious, opaque, hard-to-navigate website and which continues to post documents in non-machine-readable format [PDF] – if it puts them out at all [meeting agendas or minutes are a total hit-and-miss affair, it seems].)

The other piece of the conversation that really struck me was nearer the beginning, when Eaves spoke to the culture within bureaucracies, and how it needs to change at least as much as bureaucracy’s public-facing side. A significant potential of such a sea-change would be cost-savings and greater efficiency.

Eaves began by using the Facebook example – how, if you list your interests or favorite movies, each item becomes a hyper-link that shows who else has the same interests, etc. With an internal Facebook-like system, bureaucracies can do the same thing and thereby tap the expertise within their own organization (Federal government, Provincial government, Municipal government, etc.). This would allow government workers to find other expert government workers, and leverage their collective expertise. Right now, instead, our governments spend money to hire consultants:

The government is huge, an enormous organization, and people hire consultants all of the time because that consultant has some sort of expertise that you need. If you could suddenly find that expertise within government, you could do more with less.

Well, I suppose that illustrates another roadblock to open government: it’s against the vested interests of the consultants industry. I live in a government town, which means the city is filled with people who have some connection to consulting “for the government.” It’s a big chunk of the local economy.

Perhaps that economic gravy train (or revolving door, since many consultants are ex-government workers) explains why it’s so difficult to shift the culture here in Victoria: it works well enough for a well-connected, entrenched minority who don’t want it to change. Similar drivers are likely at work in other government towns across the world.

I had a wicked idea for an illustration: picture an archipelago of government silos, with knowledgeable government workers trapped inside, peering out but unable to communicate with one another. The silos are, however, connected at the top by a looping, circular, endless rail line on which rides a train pulling a wagon filled with consultants. Hm, what do we call that train….? 😉

It’s another reason to bridge the silos in every way possible, to create open government internally, within the organizations.

If you’re a Canadian government worker, check out Eaves’s side project,, and see about contributing your data sets.

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