January 18, 2012 at 9:45 am | In copywrong, guerilla_politics, politics, web | 1 Comment

In lieu of changing code in my header template (not even sure I can do that with a multi-user [MU] WordPress blog like this one) which would black out this blog completely, I’m instead posting a small badge as a reminder to keep pushing Congress to do the right thing.

As the Oatmeal points out, do it for the jet skis and the kittens.

For a more detailed analysis, check out Doc Searls‘s commentary.

Canada, Vote for the Internet.

April 6, 2011 at 4:20 pm | In canada, leadership, media, politics, web | Comments Off on Canada, Vote for the Internet.

We have an election coming up in Canada. Vote for the internet.

Getting kicked out

November 2, 2010 at 11:12 pm | In just_so, social_networking, web | 1 Comment

I’m spending way too much time today trying to convince my browser that I’m not really supposed to be kicked out of various sites I’m logging (or already logged) into. It happened again and again on various sites today.

[Is there a disturbance in the force field, Luke?]

Tonight’s clincher: I had carefully planned my entry into the amazing Seth Godin‘s by-invite-only Triiibes site, selecting a photo of myself, exporting a small-format version to my desktop (where I’d be able to find it easily), and then clicking the “click to join” button on my coveted “Join me on Triiibes” invitation, which had arrived in my inbox earlier today.

I filled out all the fields, but then – poof! – the site rejected the brand-new password I had just created as “incorrect.”

Numerous unsuccessful retries later, I gave up (in?) and requested a new password (which seemed strange, since it had been my first, brand-new try at signing up to begin with). I then succeeded with the new password (via a new email), …but now I’m in some sort of purgatory. The webpage says: “Your membership to Triiibes is pending approval”… Whaa???

Ok, I’ll try this again tomorrow.

Right now, I’ll kick myself upstairs and relax with a book. The web may not perfect, but I am… 😉

Send me to Web 2.0 Summit in November?

October 27, 2010 at 11:10 pm | In just_so, web | Comments Off on Send me to Web 2.0 Summit in November?

I spent half an hour this afternoon ogling the speaker line-up for the upcoming Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco – the Education “point of control” holds enough of interest to make me want to be there – but then I looked at the price of admission and needed to sit down: $4195 (and it’s by invitation only, just to rub it in).

Anyone want to get me invited – and give me a ticket? 🙂

Very late to the game, I left a comment on the Points of Control Map just now – apparently, one can qualify to win a free pass that way…! My comment argued for Diigo, which I didn’t see on the map, but which offers unique and interesting opportunities, particularly in education and academic endeavors.

Specifically, I was reminded of‘s Tony Curzon Price who used Diigo to do a collaborative online annotation of Jonathan Zittrain’s book, The Future of the Internet – and how to stop it.

In the absence of a fairy godmother sponsor, winning a free pass would sure be nice. Someday, someday…! 😉

A bit more on Salim Jiwa’s talk at Social Media Club Victoria

May 29, 2010 at 10:56 pm | In advertising, business, media, newspapers, web | 3 Comments

When Salim Jiwa left his job at the Vancouver Province after a 30-year career in journalism, he didn’t leave his career behind. He instead took the insights he had accumulated – especially in his last years at the Province while heading up its digital media efforts – and started his own online news outlet: Vancouverite.

Last Tuesday (May 25) Salim Jiwa shared his experiences with us at Social Media Club Victoria: I blogged about one aspect of Jiwa’s talk that night (journalism-by-press-release), but Jiwa touched on so many other aspects as well.

First, to recap: “Print media faces extinction,” and the habit of picking up a physical newspaper is gone (or going). By the time a story reaches print, it’s at least 10 hours old, so why bother reading it half a day late? Newspapers used to function on having “exclusivity” (exclusive access to a story, exclusive coverage of a story): this is no more. News-makers (governments, public offices, organizations, businesses) have hired ex-journalists, top of the line pros, who write the organization’s press releases, which are completely press-ready. The journalist who pieces together a story is effectively sidelined: now the “source” writes its own story (huge ethical implications and questions around free press here, too).

At the same time, old-style journalism programs at university continue to prepare journalism students for careers that don’t actually exist anymore. But still they crank ’em out (this reminded me of the conversation I had with Jon Beasley-Murray in the comments thread to my first post on Northern Voice 2010 – about the immorality of producing “workers” for jobs that are gone).

During the Q&A, I mentioned recently hearing of a New York City-area university program that combines journalism and computer science – and here (courtesy of a memory jog via google) are the details: New dual-degree master’s in journalism & computer science announced at Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism. See also Wired’s coverage of the new program. It all reminds me a bit of Ryan Sholin’s 2007 advice (10 obvious things about the future of newspapers you need to get through your head) coming to fruition. Take, for example, Sholin’s item #6: Reporters need to do more than write. The new world calls for a new skillset, and you and Mr. Notebook need to make some new friends, like Mr. Microphone and Mr. Point & Shoot. Columbia U is jumping ahead even of this: the program doesn’t just teach journalism students to use Mr. Microphone and Mr. Point-&-Shoot, but is supposed to teach them to write software programs with which to address journalism-specific needs.

At Vancouverite, Jiwa single-handedly does what a traditional newspaper does with four to six people. Must be a lot cheaper to operate, yes? Well, an online outlet is definitely more agile and leaner than a mainstream outlet, but in both instances, the underlying question remains: What’s the business model and can it sustain the operation? Mainstream newspapers have seen ad revenue die away, but making [enough] money to make an online news operation fully viable is also very difficult.

If I understood correctly, the numbers are sobering: even with 25,000 visits (unique page views) per month, the money generated through ads hovers around $500 to $600 monthly. (I’m open to being corrected here – perhaps I completely misunderstood, but if I didn’t, sobering it is.) Udate/edit: I’m way off on my remembered numbers: as Salim notes in a comment to this post, Vancouverite “averages about 80,000 to 120,000 visits per month – not 25,000″ – and, in spite of those numbers, even with “80,000 to 100,000 unique visits per month, click ads can produce less than $200 per month.” Very sobering numbers. /update

During discussion, we briefly touched on the question of hyper-local reporting and selling ad space specifically to local businesses (different than generic google ads), which in turn could generate more revenue. It seems to me there are some significant roadblocks here, though: how much would local businesses be willing to pay for online ads, if they’re already either (1) drawing enough business through established local custom (the “we don’t need to advertise, our customers know where to find us” mentality of successful local niche businesses), or (2) generating enough word-of-mouth traffic through social media (earned media)? If you’re so cool that your customers tweet about you, why should you pay to advertise anywhere?

The funding model seems somehow unmapped: terra incognito.

I’d argue that in both cases (traditional media and new online/ digital media) we’re also talking about making accountability journalism viable (that’s Clay Shirky’s phrase). We know that in print media/ traditional media it’s dying. Where is it going online? I found myself balking a bit at the suggestion that “bloggers” aren’t accountable, although I have to admit that there are a bazillion bloggers out there and obviously not all of them will desire to be “accountable” in a traditionally professional journalistic sense. Add to this another twist: I try to be “accountable,” yet I never consider myself a journalist. I’m a writer, blogger, citizen. When I feel especially fat-headed, I might think, “oh, when I grow up, I want to be a public intellectual – wheeee!” Never a journalist, though.

It’s a bit of the Wild West – or Revolutionary France, before the Thermidor.

Exciting times, no matter what we call ourselves – or what others call us

Journalism and (use of) social media

May 14, 2010 at 11:32 pm | In danah_boyd, facebook, free_press, guerilla_politics, media, newspapers, northernvoice, web | 1 Comment

During the How (Should) Journalists Use Social Media? session at last weekend’s Northern Voice 2010 blogging conference, panelists Lisa Johnson and Kirk Lapointe both noted that newspapers regularly mine social media, especially Facebook, for information, leads, and photographs. Sometimes the journalists use the site to obtain information on criminal activity – if I recall correctly, Lisa Johnson explained how Hell’s Angels member Leonard Pelletier’s involvement in a Vancouver-area shooting was (partially?) outed via Facebook. And sometimes the media uses Facebook to obtain photos of teens who have died.

I sensed that some people in the audience were perturbed to learn this, even though it’s increasingly clear that material published online can be discoverable in one way or another. And if it’s on Facebook, it’s even more likely to be found – hence the growing popularity of the google search, “How Do I Delete My Facebook Account?”

Lisa Johnson and Kirk Lapointe – photo by Kemp Edmonds

Based on what I heard from Lapointe and Johnson at Northern Voice, the discussion of journalism’s use of social media now splits, for me, into two directions.

One path, broached by Kirk Lapointe after he was challenged by an online new media journalist, Linda Solomon of the Vancouver Observer, leads to the question of how the mainstream media uses leads and information – stories – that it harvests from social media sources, and whether or not it shares those sources with its readers.

Most of the time, mainstream media doesn’t share its sources with readers, as my post from yesterday (about Bruce Schneier’s article for illustrates clearly. Lapointe tried to cow Solomon, who challenged him (in his capacity as managing editor of the Vancouver Sun), by arguing with her, claiming that bloggers and online media also “steal” the newspapers’ stories. True, Solomon replied, but, she added, we give credit – aka “link love.” Bloggers and digitally native media freely give links back to the various sources, which is something the mainstream media still has to learn to do. We don’t need to “own” the story – but mainstream media apparently still does. This is particularly odd thinking, in my opinion, since – as Kirk Lapointe said himself at the very session – in the new landscape opening up for journalism, “the topic, not the article, is the centerpiece.” How, I would ask him, can a news outlet, “own” a topic?

The other path that’s red hot right now, which Johnson and Lapointe also opened up, is the question around privacy and social media. For an impassioned analysis of that issue, read Danah Boyd’s blog post, Facebook and “radical transparency” (a rant), which she published today.

Boyd says it better than most: questions around transparency and privacy are also class issues, which must be analyzed in terms of privilege and/or disadvantage. Mainstream media can certainly use social media as a “news scanner” (or maybe police scanner), as Lisa Johnson put it (see Raul Pacheco-Vega’s live-blog of the session). But the media must also realize its use (and possibly abuse) of power here. Given Boyd’s excellent deconstruction of the power relationships exerted by closed platforms like Facebook vis-a-vis the users, there should be a conversation – and maybe policies – around the morality of mainstream media mining social media sites for information. Of course they (we, anyone) are going to mine these sources, but we don’t do so innocently.

(note: photo by Kemp Edmonds, on his Flickr stream here.)

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.)

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.

Some resources for Victoria’s MSM

April 29, 2010 at 10:13 pm | In free_press, local_not_global, media, newspapers, social_critique, times_colonist, victoria, web | 7 Comments

Someone named Adrian (not sure if it’s the same Adrian, different email address) just …um, remarked that I haven’t yet responded to the comments thread on my No policy …no strategy, either post.

Ah yes, newspaper and MSM people get to complain about being understaffed, but we bloggers are expected to be on 24/7/365 (for free!)…? 😉

As I mentioned in yesterday’s brief post, my internet went down around 3pm. It didn’t come back till this afternoon, so my usual method of snatching a moment here and a moment there to go online, to listen in, to read, and even to write was down the tubes for nearly 24 hours. I don’t own a smart phone (mobile telephony – drool, one day, one day!), nor do I ever seem to have the luxury of taking myself off to a third place to be alone and work in peace – my first and second places are one and the same, and they get crazy. When I go out, it’s for meetings (as happened today) or to walk the dog. So, if I can’t glean a minute inbetween other minutes, it seems it doesn’t get done.

But let’s see if I can now expand into some sort of follow-up on No policy …no strategy, either.

First: I was very impressed by Bryan Capistrano’s comments, who commented initially via Twitter and then on my comments board. Among other things, he noted:

I’ve mentioned that radio stations can sometimes get into an easy habit of talking AT a listener and not TO a listener. The social media that we use has allowed us on a number of occasions to be an ear and not just a mouth (I thought of that while walking back to my car last night and kicked myself for not saying it)! If that’s not considered a strategy, I would at least consider it a good starting point.

This is of course one of the basic tenets of markets are conversations (see Cluetrain Manifesto), a kind of blueprint (now 10 years old) for what new media (and new business) is all about. I would really really encourage local media people to familiarize themselves with the Cluetrain’s theses. Of course you don’t talk AT people, you have conversations. This means you can forget about hierarchies, too.

Bryan gets this when he writes,”I’m a firm believer that the only way to learn about something is by looking at it from all sides.” I would argue that Adrian doesn’t quite get this. In his comment, he writes, “The notion that everything in daily papers is suddenly a bunch of bunk seems to be rather overstated.” That’s an unnecessarily defensive statement since neither I nor anyone else on the comments board said “everything in daily papers is …a bunch of bunk…”

After all, a cardinal rule of conversation is that you also learn to listen.

Bryan was one of the panelists, along with Dana Hutchings, who I thought would have the best overview of the managerial/ revenue questions since his station isn’t owned by some corporate overlord(s). (I think his station is independent – I could be wrong; happy to be corrected if so.) In his comment, Bryan wrote, “social media has in no way affected our medium’s revenue stream.” I wish I knew more about the radio business, but I don’t. TV and radio are two mediums I rarely pay attention to (I don’t have cable, so no TV for me; and I listen to radio once in a blue moon – say, while driving, which means for ~10 minutes at a time). But it’s obvious from Dana Hutchings’s CHEK TV saga and also clear from Bryan Capistrano’s comments that these two do have incredible potential for steering their own destiny. I also wonder if it’s a condition specific to Victoria (which still has a deep digital divide) that revenue streams have not been affected.

Bryan and Deb (not sure if I should note which organization she’s from since she didn’t provide that link in her comment) noted that my body language further into the evening spoke volumes – and yes, while I was initially intrigued by what people were saying, I grew more impatient as the panelists began to respond to questions from the audience.

If anyone was making this an “us and them” issue, it was, I’m sorry to say, the panelists themselves who grew increasingly defensive at being questioned.

This was all really bizarre since, at the very end of the evening, Sarah Petrescu in particular sketched out a fairly detailed vision for what her ideal online news world should entail – and it’s one that absolutely includes the participatory “we.”

But as long as the wall between editorial and management persists, any visions will exist in silos – and the editorial side stands to lose because, as newspapers die, their jobs will evaporate.

Janice commented:

There was an interesting discussion on CBC radio the other day about the increase in citizen-generated news (and its credibility as real news!) on the internet and in SM, often around things that MSM deems un-newsworthy like re-zoning.

This speaks to revitalizing local coverage. We are terribly under-served right now: City Hall makes important decisions that directly affect us where we live, but we don’t hear about them. Social media can be way ahead of traditional media in being able to cover this (via that mobile telephony I don’t have, or if City Hall ever gets its act together to provide wi-fi), and the only way that traditional media can catch up is by including bloggers and others who will cover these news. It’s not rocket science.

Overall, I’d say Tuesday’s meeting was a great start – props to Social Media Club Victoria and Paul Holmes for organizing the event. There should be more, there should be follow-ups.

Speaking of follow-ups, did anyone see if the MSM that attended reported on its own participation? (I get my news online, and since the internet was down, I missed whatever was on. Give me a link if it was reported, thanks.)

As I noted in my comments board yesterday, this is a huge topic – presumably this isn’t the end of it in Victoria, unless the MSM want to shut down the dialog and leave it to social / new media to sort things out. My follow-up, such as it is, is already too long, so let me wrap up with a list of what I’d call must-read resources.

My favorite post is now nearly three years old: Ryan Sholin’s 10 obvious things about the future of newspapers you need to get through your head. Must-read. Ryan posted a follow-up in 2008, 10 obvious things, one year later, which reports on how well (or not) the industry has dealt with the points he raised in 2007. Pay special attention to #5 (I heard a few rumblings from some panelists that maybe charging for content is a good idea. It’s not. Don’t go there.) And of course those who think it’s an “us v. them” issue, puh-leeze: check out #7. The next point, #8, is really great, too. Just go read the whole thing now.

Clay Shirky, the here-comes-everybody (and long-tail) guy. Read his The Collapse of Complex Business Models (which I blogged about here), and watch his superb presentation, Clay Shirky on Internet Issues Facing Newspapers (on Youtube). Shirky delivered this talk at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society in September 2009. Must-see.

Dave Winer, who writes about many things – often technology, and very often with a special focus on media. Check out his January 2010 entry, Why newspapers should host blogs, for a glimpse of innovative thinking around both content and business models.

Why should news orgs host blogs for members of their community? Because the business of news organizations is information. Gather it up, sort it, organize it, keep it current and do it again. People have a huge thirst for new information, more these days than ever and increasing all the time. It’s ridiculous that information-gathering orgs should be shrinking in a time where what they do is in such high demand. (source)

Pop in on his blog or tweets to see what he’s up to with Jay Rosen of NYU, too.

Ok, that’s it for this evening. I’m deeply embarrassed that my list has only guys on it. I know there must be women I’m forgetting/ leaving out. Maybe something for another follow-up …or comments?

Next Page »

Theme: Pool by Borja Fernandez.
Entries and comments feeds.