Sunday, October 30, 2005

Speaking with Mr. Sifry

When guys used to give me their numbers and said "call me," I usually thought to myself, "yeah, in your dreams." But when the CEO of Technorati gives you his number, those old rules don't apply.

So, yes, I called Dave Sifry. Got the voicemail. Left a message.

He said he'd call again, but I know CEOs are busy guys. So, I called again.

I am, obviously, not lacking in chutzpah.

Dave was friendly, and very gracious; asked what about Technorati might not be working for me and what about it could he explain. Mentioned that, for the most part, I used Technorati to check my own stats and standing--doing the old "ego search" and we both laughed at that one. (it seems to be quite common among bloggers.) Noted to him that Technorati doesn't seem to be counting permalinks quite the way it did, although it is now counting post links much better.

I used to like it when it gave me a more accurate permalink count--but I understand how it's difficult to get the metrics to balance out post and perma links and keep up with the ever-expanding nature of the blogosphere.

It really *is* a big job.

Mentioned to Dave that I thought Technorati's basic search features such as Watchlists would be great for anyone with a business (or particular interest) who might want to monitor what's being said about a particular product or interest. But that wasn't what I used it for. Was very frank and mentioned that I didn't think Technorati's features worked all that well for social blogging...(although, according to one social blogger I know, Watchlists work pretty good)

Mentioned, too, that I don't necessarily search for stuff on blogs--my blog reading seems mostly for pleasure, not information. Perhaps it's weird--or just not what the heavily-surveyed people do with blogs. Who knows? Then we went over to the new BlogFinder section of Technorati--where Dave explained a bit about customizing the features and finding blogs on this feature. I played around with it for a bit--didn't find anything related to western Massachusetts, Holyoke, Chicopee, Springfield (although did find Springfield,MO)

Sadly, I wasn't finding any local bloggers. BlogFinder works when people participate--but if people don't participate, you can't find them. So, how do ya get people to participate???

Dave mentioned that Technorati's features could help find the "authoritative" blogs on this or that...the "authoritative" blogs seem to be the ones most linked. Guess that *does* impart authority (frankly, I think who the author is might also impart authority) The "recently updated" blogs were more fun...

This part of our conversation reminded me of a conversation I had with Laurel Touby, CEO of MediaBistro--she asked me why there might be so few women blog readers, and hazarded her own guess that women simply do not spend as much time on the Net as men do, and might not be looking for information of the same type or kind that men look for. That's a distinct possibility...

Dave and I got to talking a bit about search habits and where things might be going with blogging--with the creation of so many blogs and the possibilities of blogs being abandoned when people figure out that they're really not all that easy to keep up on and there's no guarantee of beaucoup readers. Talked a bit about a side project I recently started....

And then he had a meeting. That was fine. I was surprised he gave me as much of his time as he did.

Before he hung up, he left me with a small thought that was a kind of compliment--I won't repeat it as it seemed kind of like a bit of personal advice.

He's recognized something I wasn't aware of--not the self-flaggelation, but the "A" ranking....Thinking about it, though, I get it now.

Thanks, Dave. Catch you again sometime.

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Friday, October 28, 2005

Is there *any* value to "citizen journalism?"

More often than not I get asked why I'm doing a "citizen journalism" type of blog. I sometimes wonder that myself, esp. in light of this rather negative and limited-view piece on c.j. by Tom Grubisch in the On-Line Journalism Review.

My main gripe with Tom's piece is that he keeps the assessment of citizen, or, as he likes to call it grassroots journalism (thanks for adding another term to the stew, Tom.) Tom seems to believe that if it's not connected to an old media-think outlet, or under the auspices of some sanctified citizen journalism site(such as Backfence.com) then it just ain't proper citizen journalism.

Yet I wonder if it's just Tom's limited viewpoint, or the way independent citizen journalists limit themselves. Jon Garfunkel has a great story on how citizen journalists in the Eastern part of Massachusetts dropped the ball on a story about how an evangelical christian group in California was allowed to purchase a low-wattage high school radio station in Maynard, Mass.--yet are adding ad nauseum commentary on the Judith Miller story.

Jon has a good point (Jon also talks about page format, but that's not my thing). Why cover what's already being trampled to death not only by MSM but also by big-name bloggers (yes, I'm talking Huffington and Kos here)? Why not cover this sort of stuff that's not quite re-hashing the blogerati's re-hash, and a little bit more than the latest news on the traffic light replacement on Main St? Doesn't that seems to make more sense?

Maybe I shouldn't be the one kvetching here....I certainly don't know what's going on in Chicopee any more than I what read in The Republican. But I never said that Chicopee, or even Western Mass., was my beat. I did mention the Microsoft-UMass Showcase school deal, but since I wasn't there for the announcement, didn't have much more than the local paper had to add.

So, perhaps what it comes down to is citizen journalists deciding what they want to cover, and limiting what they cover, rather than covering a broad swath o'stuff (or monkeying with the blog format to allow for lots of stories). For instance, I won't be covering anything out Boston way because, well, it doesn't really affect me the way, say a new blog search engine might (or what Search Engine Journal is saying.) Maybe I won't kvetch about Chicopee's mayor Rich Goyette (who looks younger than me--how the heck can he run a city of 56,000?) but I'll still kvetch about Dave Sifry owing me a phone call (just a friendly nudge from a nudge) because blogging's the beat I kind of enjoy.

I guess it's a matter of picking one's turf and understanding that turf. It might also depend on what impact one wants to make. Maybe grassroots journalism that looks at the ugly gnarly little roots of one's town isn't quite it, and maybe if one is just adding another twig to an already roaring fire (as in the Miller and, now, I'm sure, Scooter Libby stories) and expecting to be the Dura-Log, one might want to re-consider. A twig has as much a chance of turning into a Dura-Log as I have of metamorphosing into Arianna Huffington.

Essentially, effective (or at least not re-hash) citizen journalism can happen--depending on how the citizen journalist views oneself. And, for the critics, let's not rush the practitioners any more than we rush the medium. The medium itself is still evolving and we are still trying to understand the ways in which people communicate/socialize within it. Sure, it might give lots of old media folks the heebie-jeebies to let us be free-range thinkers out here in the Wide Open Spaces, but we have the right. and, eventually, if we're smart, our styles will evolve and we will become what we are meant to be.

After all, this is still a very, very young medium of communication. Just give it, and us, time.

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Monday, October 24, 2005

BlogOn Pt. 2: And Then There Was Lunch (and more pastries and a cocktail hour)

Before we broke for lunch, I managed to run into Susan Mernit, who introduced me to Marc Brown of Buzznet--got alot of attention from the guys from Pluck.com and Jamie gave me a fairly good explaination of their Shadows product. I haven't had a chance to demo it yet for myself, but it looks like it might actually work for tracking Social Butterfly Syndrome in the blogosphere...(Social Butterfly Syndrome happens when you go around to a bunch of blogs and leave comments, then sometimes forget where you left them. It's awful fun and really tests the Social part of the term social media but trying to track it has been, up to now, gosh bloody awful-requiring copious bookmarks and sometimes just a handwritten dated list. man, what work!)

Also got to know two new terms: "thought leaders" and "influencer." Apparently, on some leve, I'm a "thought leader." Who knew? It was mentioned that "thought leaders" were better than "evangelists" because thought leaders will be critical--constructively critical--whereas an evangelist will be just singing the corporate praises ad nauseum

But who the corps really like, and who they will be willing to promote will all be contigent on the thickness of their skins--are corps more like oranges? or are they pretty little grapes in a bunch?

"Influencers" are the well-meaning marketing people who go around to blogs and are actually gracious to bloggers. I think Dave Sifry awhile back tried to be an influencer here when he left a couple of comments--but his followup was awful. Guess I'm not A-lister enough to get real attention.

Speaking of Technorati, Kevin Somebody took up part of the overcrowded lunchbreak with a rather razzle-dazzle presentation we could have done without. I was eating in the dark and not real happy (also spotted Stowe Boyd and Tony Pierce). The presentation was a bit too ha-ha for me--it highlighted a shoeshine guy who knew quite a bit about blogs and the internet. Well, doing manual labor and having a computer, let alone knowing how to use the Internet and Blogs are not all mutually exclusive. I'm sure you can find a business owner or two who knows diddly about blogs and blogging (just come to where I live and I can find you a few.) At any rate, the only highlight of this overblown bit of Technorati showmanship was that I popped up in their blogger-face montage at the end. Elisa and Jory turned and said "HEY! THAT'S YOU!" To which I said "HEY! THAT"S ME!"

But when I went up to Kevin after the show to say "hey! I'm one of the people in your montage!" (as a matter of fact, I'm the one in the police hat...) but I got blown off with a very "well, of course you are. we put the faces of bloggers up there..." oh? did he ever really expect to run into one of those bloggers??? maybe that's what got him. I could've probably said something about needing to get a release form to use my image, but just kept moving along...

The afternoon panel consisted of Steve Rubel, Shel Israel, Deb Schultz (from six apart) and Vicki Walker (V.P. of Marketing and Products, Sprint Business Solutions.) Shel made the point to say that "markets are conversations," and I got to thinking about my last four years in retail. Yes, they are. But it was fairly evident from the conversation going on that marketers aren't getting this message...and I would have loved the opportunity to tell all of them that it's the fear of people and the needs of corporations to control what is being said and done on their salesfloors that's killing Customer Service on the retail level. Yet here they are discussing what to do about blogs.

It's very simple. As Shel Israel sez: Markets are Conversations

Get it?? Better. Because you're going to have to live with it, deal with it, and develop thick skins. And if you can't handle it, don't interact with The Rabble until you can. But you'd better or start looking for a job in food service (according to Shel and Steve.)

Gil Schwartz from CBS was up next, and I had a small flashback to We Media (oh! no! another CBS guy!), who advised on how to deal with a crisis situation (Respond Quickly, Be Open, Be Truthful, and Be Aggressive.)

I managed to get up somewhere in all this, ran into Mary again, who introduced me to Stowe Boyd...who reminded me of a few gentlemen I met during one of my more colorful careers--the ones who were often addressed as "Sir" (I'll leave the speculation up to y'all...)

Then, the wonderful Judith Meskill (of The Social Software Weblog, part of Weblogs, Inc.) who had some jet lag I could very much relate to, managed to get Jason Calacanis up there with her. He believes that AOL will NOT censor/edit what bloggers on the Weblogs, Inc. blogs will do because they have "Lead Bloggers" who vette (or test) new bloggers, as much as they let the audience decide if they do or don't like a particular blogger. Jason also suggested that bloggers who are working for a blog network not get stuck on a "beat" (and there was something about Wonkette getting stale) and that bloggers need to flex their brains on other topics from time to time.

So, tired, cranky, full of too much coffee and pastry...with my ankles swelling and a head full of stuff, cocktail hour mercifully arrived. I went up with the rest of the folks, and didn't quite know what to do with myself. Getting some wine, I looked around, got my courage up and went over to Tony Pierce and had a great little conversation. Turns out he defended me on a Buzznet post (I think, against Jarvis) sometime back in August...my, what a small world blogging is at times! Got an invite to the party, and really wanted to go (unfortunately, that wouldn't happen)

Also briefly ran into Renee Blodgett, who actually *did* recognize me without my Hat; and Andy Bussey of Pluck who I shared airport horror stories with and who also promised to help me with *anything* that might go wrong with or give me trouble with Shadows once I get in and play around with it.

Ran into Mary one last time, and then those of us stragglers got thrown out of the Copa. Guess they had to get it ready for the evenings festivities, which did not include us. I ended up back at my hotel...seriously exhausted and seriously swollen...but it was a great experience nonetheless. I feel like I certainly know more about business blogging than alot of businesspeople do. And I got to meet some really cool people.

Sometimes these things are more about the people than they are about what's said there...all depends. But, seriously, where else could a girl from podunk meet both Jeff Jarvis *and* Tony Pierce in the same day? AND have actual conversations with both of them. Must've been a lucky one for me.

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Saturday, October 22, 2005

BlogOn: the Fine Art of the Conversational Pitch

It's been three days since I got back from the
BlogOnSocial Media Summit and I'm still going thru all the stuff I collected--the business cards, the experiences--the notes I took, and the other blog entries about it.

Where do I start? what do I say first? The Copacabana is beautiful, I can say that. Its shades of burgundy and pinkish purples accented with black, silver and white, makes it quite pretty. There were pink orchids sandwiched in plexiglass behind the bar, and candelabras on the bar (which Mary Hodder photographed because, well, who'd of thought we'd see candelabras--with candles-- at 8 a.m.?) The sound system is great, too--when a person speaks, it makes him/her sound like The Voice of God. I can imagine what the place is like when it's hopping with clubbers. I keep thinking of the Barry Manilow song--not because they're using it as a theme, but because the place just has that disco era vibe. But it's comfy to me. Guess it's just the old New York club person in me...

As to the shindig itself: the Summitt most definitely tried to help business/marketing/p.r. find a better way to interface with those of us who blog (hence known as The Rabble.) The Rabble is unweildly, unpredictable, capable of hurting Business--or so it seems from the tone of some of the businesspeople who were speaking (more on that in a bit.)

I ended up sitting next to Jory DesJardins and Elisa Camahort (two of the founders of BlogHer) and behind Mary. It was a prime seat, that's for sure, and nice to sit next to people I know. That's one crummy thing about conferences--at this point, I don't know too many people, so it's not like "old home day" for me...it can be excruciating at times.

Seth Godin opened the keynote. If you've never seen Seth, he's a short, wiry guy with a bald head. Very amusing on top of being brilliant! Yet his keynote tuned into a demo of his new product Squidoo...Susan Mernit blogged about how it felt like a giant commercial and Seth responded why it was like thathere. It felt, though, kind of like sitting in the room with one of your friends who just got the Gospel of Mary Kay. If marketers want to know how to use customer evangelists, all they really need to do is consult the Mary Kay Corporation.



In retrospect, I think it was a physical demonstration of what marketers want to do with blogging--get familiar, entertain us or earnestly give us good information, and then tell us about something they've got that we think might be useful. That's alot like old-fashioned, one-to-one salesmanship--something we used to do alot of in retail, until the marketers decided we needed canned scripts about products to sell them more effectively (ask me about my days at Frederick's of Hollywood and how retail stopped being fun for me.)

BlogOn's recap of the morning, with links, is here.

But I was actually there on a mission....and one of the best reasons for sitting with Jory and Elisa and Mary (other than the fact that I really like them) is that Jeff Jarvis was two rows in front of us. And when the session break came, I turned to Elisa and Jory and said "I'm going to go over and talk to Jarvis, watch this."

And I did..."Hi Jeff, I'm Tish G"....Jeff laughed and we shook hands and said how much fun it is getting into the back-and-forth that happens in blogging. Jeff's really a great guy. Very open and warm and, IMO, what he's trying to do with Buzzmachine is indeed get some of us Rabble involved in the conversations that he's always into at conferences (the conferences are often Rabble-free zones--although there's lots of talk about Us.) Jeff suggested I get into consulting (and had a quick and dirty strategy for doing that) and when I told him my true interest in blogging had to do with how our identities are being shaped by the Internet and things like social software, he told me he would be doing a sermon along those lines at his congregational church on Sunday.

And then I realized why I like him...he reminds me a heck of alot of the guys I used to work with in Princeton. He's got that same Presbyterian air, but something earnest that comes from being mainline protestant in a time of social change, when being mainline wasn't a bad thing.

I like Jeff...I don't think he dislikes women, as some people tend to think. But he is rough and tumble and it seems to me that he does expect women to go toe to toe and prove themselves. And I know from email that he probably doesn't mind when I engage in a blog-version of a Bronx Cheer from time to time.

There were lots of demos between the talking-heads...

The panel Jarvis was on, chaired by Susan, also had Bill Schreiner of AOL and Peter Friedman, Chairman & CEO of Liveworld, Inc. The funniest thing to come out of this panel were the comments that bounced between Jarvis and Schreiner who couldn't understand why young people where so into IM'ing and email and all that. And Elisa and I turned to each other and went "well, duh! didn't they ever pass notes in school? don't they know that girls always check out a guy's rep before going out with him?"

From my position in the Peanut Gallery of Life, there seems to be some things that are wildly self-evident if you're not sitting somewhere where you never interact with The Rabble. Kids pass notes. They like to talk. In talking to one another, they are practicing social skills. the kids I had to endure on the train back were evidence of that. Kids are alot like chimps--they chatter alot and bounce off the walls. But it's practice for adulthood!

Shreiner, Jarvis and Friedman also puzzeled over if whether young people will continue to use mediums of communication they are now "really into"--from IM and email and sites like MySpace and LiveJournal and Xanga--when they are a bunch of paunchy (or scrawny) greyheads. Once again, none of these guys probably ever passed notes. If they did, do they do that now??? Probably not. The things we do as teens that are ways of practicing adult communication patters are unnecessary in adulthood. Sure, as adults we will still use IM and email and blogs as various ways to communicate across the great digial landscape, but the frequency of use and the reasons for use might be different.

These guys also don't seem to realize that youth is not a static stage of life. There seemed to be this belief that who one is as a young person is who they will *always* be. I have two words for them: Jerry Rubin. If you don't remember him, he was a really huge Hippie leader--along with Abby Hoffman, kind of the poster boy of the Hippie generation. But, he turned into a businessman--much to everyone's chagrin.

If it happend to Rubin, it'll probably happen to everybody at some point. Future generations are not exempt from the experience of life any more than us Old Folks.

I shook my head and we went to lunch...

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No Need to Click Here - I'm just claiming my feed at Feedster

Friday, October 21, 2005

UMass and Microsoft Strike a Deal

Or so the local news is reporting this a.m. I've been searching to find out stuff, but so far nothing's out there. But, I did find this very interesting piece about what's going on between Microsoft and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Apparently, we could all be a Rainbow Butterfly State in the near future. I don't know what necessarily to think of this. We are in need of jobs out here, esp. in the West, and UMass is one of the biggest employers--as well as tech being the true hidden industry of the area. I know that when my friends who worked for a local gaming company got their pink slips about a month ago, there was a giant sucking sound out of the area. Everyone seems to be going for interviews out in California, and I think most are going to end up out there. Some might end up teaching or doing art direction somewhere else, but for most of them, the job ops are in California.

There's nothing here. As another friend says "There are lots of jobs, but no career opportunities." I know this well myself. You can get a very high-powered education here--at Smith or Hampshire or Amherst or UMass--but you can't get work. You can try freelancing, building your own business, esp. in the tech and web design fields, but there's just so much you can sell to the immediate region. And once you get out to the Berkshires, it's 75% forest--less There out there than on the Rt. 91 corridor. Sadly, there's hardly any reason for people to stay here because there are so few career opportunities.

So, perhaps Microsoft coming to UMass will create some actual careers. But, for whom? For UMass grads in an effort to keep them here? But what about the people who already live here? And what about Microsoft's deal with other branches of the State Government?

When I find out more, I'll post the link

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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

and check out Gena Haskett's Out on the Stoop for a view of Los Angeles you won't find in the L.A. Times.

Check This Out!

While I'm getting together my stuff on BlogOn, here are a couple of other blogs to take a look at:

Tom at The Jersey Exile (he's permalinked in the sidebar) has further comments on the "10 Media Trends to Watch"....

Sheila Lennon at Subterranian Homepage News links my post on We Media to a few others in this piece that also links to a rather critical piece on "grassroots journalism." Check out what Sheila wrote to see the other ref's....

It's a good idea to keep up with Jeff Hess over at Have Coffee Will Write and the on-going battle to keep Wal-Mart out of the Cleveland, OH area. Jeff's page is always a good scroll-down.

Sour Duck continues the discussion on .Feminist blog community and anger.... which dovetails into what I'm saying about a need for voice and which voices are important

and also see where I have to go back and re-explain myself to Jeff Jarvis when he discusses the lack of new voices being referenced on the Judy Miller scandal. I get that Jeff highligts new voices but I clarify that my frustration isn't with Jeff but with the Old Media Think that prejudices who is considered authoritative, and linked, in the blogosphere.

On the conference scene, check out the Symposium on Social Architecture coming up at Berkman on November 14-15.


I'll have some BlogOn stuff later

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

BlogOn--the day after

I feel toxic. I have reams and reams of scrbbly notes that look like doctor's handwriting. My ankles are swollen and I know it's from one too many pastries. I spent all of yesterday and a small portion of today at BlogOn and all I can say about it at the moment is that I accomplished two of my goals: Meeting Jeff Jarvis (who's amazingly nice and thinks I should be a blogging consultant) and Tony Pierce (with whom I seem to have an *awful* lot in common).

Right now I have to catch a train back to Springfield. I'll write more later.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Reconsidering Kevin Sites

As I was on the train from New Haven (the Springfield to New Haven line was washed out--so I had to get a ride to New Haven to get to NY) I got to thinking and wondered if what Sites is planning to do is something along the line of what Jack London and Ernest Hemingway once did....

But, in a time when the press isn't trusted, and will it work?

I'm not sure of everything in either London or Hemingway's backgrounds, or where their compensation came from, or what. I'm not sure a clear parallel can be drawn between Sites and either of them. And, frankly, I'm not sure that being a pretty boy in front of a camera will have the same long-range effect that London and Hemingway's writing had. Remember, electronic media decays faster and differently than something written on paper.

Further, I'm not sure if Site's broadcasts will have the same effect as, say, Dan Rather's did from Viet Nam. In Rather's time, it was novel to see people blown to bits on a TV screeen. As my child mind recalls, frighteningly novel.

What can Sites say that hasn't been said already? Will he have time to interact with his audience like journalist bloggers often do? It is, at least, a curious experiment.

Yahoo! Creates "Solo Journalism"

This a.m., as I was sitting here having my coffee, I saw an ad on the Yahoo! homepage that read :
Journalist Kevin Sites reveals the human side of global conflict

Who the heck is Kevin Sites?

Clicking around a bit, I came to this page that said nothing and everything about Kevin Sites.

Apparently, he's a "one of the world's most respected war correspondents" now turned "Solo Journalist," travelling the world, sometimes with a crew, sometimes simply armed with the latest in digital technology (hard to tell from the copiously written blurb exactly which), reporting on everything. Kevin was the guy who filed the report for NBC on the Marine sooting the Iraqui insurgent.

What is most telling on the site is the "Our Mission" sidebar. I'm not all that interested in who Kevin Sites is (although he does look like the typical 18-34, six-figure-salaried young gun), I'm interested in this thing that Yahoo! calls "solo journalism." They are using all the right buzzwords: latest technology, transparency, vulnerability, empathy, solutions. It's alot of buzz. Yahoo appears to be looking to create a hybrid of the citizen as journalist and the journalist posing as Your Buddy in the war zone--the new Edward R. Murrow. Kevin's not only going to follow the professional journalists code of ethics, but he's going to be one of us...empathic, vulnerable, and using the latest gizmos that High Tech has to offer.

And he's going to ask us for our input and solutions...kind of like a blogger. He's interactive.

But, serioulsy, how transparent can he be? How much of the "common man" can Kevin Sites be under the ageis of Yahoo? Is it any different from what he did for NBC? If the People are distrustful of journalists in general (not just those working for MSM) are they really going to see thru Kevin Sites and trust him specifically? Will his journalistic integrity be bolstered by his association with Yahoo? (It does, though, seem like Yahoo is trying to become its own brand of MSM with its direct reporting of news, rather than simply aggregating articles from other sources as it has done for awhile.)

When he filed the report on the Marine, it was all about ratings. Let's not lie about it. Broadcast journalism looks for ratings. And they got big ones for his report. Now, Yahoo!, realizing the interactive, participatory nature of most people who obsessively search the net for Information, are creating a hybrid of MSM and the blogger community to go beyond citizen journalism to create Solo journalism.

Is it all just marketing? You betcha! and pretty savvy marketing too! Just look at Kevin. He looks just like the grubby grungeboy next door! So pensive--so full of sturm und drang... As transparent as Casper the Ghost is he.

If you want honest reporting on a desperate situation, check out >Eric Reeves's stuff on Darfur. Reeves receives "no external funding support" for his work.

I wonder if Kevin Sites can say the same--or is he just a tool for Yahoo's moneymaking machine?


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Friday, October 14, 2005

PR Week lists 10 media trends to watch..

Four of what could be the most important are:

Portability of video content (if the bandwidth is available and the devices don't crash) More than likely it will evolve into being an extenseion of what we already have at home. If video quality and screen size does not improve, its viability may be in question. What's hot today could be cold by the next top 10 list.

Blogs (naturally)--although pundits think blogs will be limited in influence. This may be, but they will, in many respects, remain an important way for individuals to contributed to the world of media as well as collaborate in conversation. "Buzz" will always be important.

the growth of hispanic media (not really suprising if you know Holyoke and Springfield.) As the demand for spanish-language periodicals, radio and television increases, the market will pay more attention to the hispanic community. Time for the hispanic community to start having a bigger voice in media like blogs.

media consolidation as big corps like Gannett, Knight-Ridder, and Clear Channel find their profits falling, there will be more job losses, smaller-sized newspapers, and less programming. This could be bad for areas like Wester Mass which seem to have taken some losses in independent news and radio over the past five years. It may, however, make room for a boom in alternative local media. Pirate radio and blogs. Will we see the Return of the Farm Report???


(thanks Steve Rubel for the link)

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

What is a "Citizen Journalist"?

For some time now, I have been puzzled by the concept of the "citizen journalist." I find the term a bit uncomfortable and something of a misnomer...here's why:

It seems that there are two notions of the term. In the subjective sense, a citizen journalist is then a citizen who has taken up the mantle of journalist. The citizen need not have a background in journalism. The citizen might not even have an inkling that the first paragraph of a new story should consist of the Who What When Where Why and How of the event. Citizen Journalism in this sense becomes a kind of opinion/storytelling about an event one has heard about, or, maybe even witnessed. The citizen journalist is a storyteller, a raconteur, creating conversation while disseminating either personal information or personal opinion.

Witnessing an event, though,something usually important to standard journalism, isn't necessary for citizen journalism on this level. If the citizen is interested in being something of a Bill O'Reily of the blogosphere, he can simply aggregate a story, half read it, then give a diatribe. Or, she can simply write about her life, post it, and have others read it. She is, in effect, reporting the story of her life--a citizen journalist of her subjective reality. This is what many of those millions of bloggers are doing on a daily basis.

Now, if you ask some people, including Jeff Jarvis of Buzzmachine (who wrote about Yahoo News and blogs today), and Dave Winer, they'd probably say that the person who diaries and the person who rants on a blog is indeed a citizen journalist and should be considered as credible as any other journalist who is the product of a journalism school. After all, if reality is subjective, than each blogger has the inalienable right to be called a citizen journalist if he/she is journalling on his/her life and personal opinions. There is no need for any set standard, as the writing is relative and the writer's credibility will be teased out by the marketplace (perhaps in a link-building popularity contest).

I'd venture to say that their idea or citizen journalism is a very broad definition...a dicey one, too, if you consider that some of the diarists don't think of themselves as citizen journalists and some of the ranters think of themselves as citizen journalists in spades.

The other, more objective way of looking at the term citizen journalist is to look at the journalists who have become citizens. This would be folks like Rebecca MacKinnon and Dan Gillmor, who've left behind the world of broadcast and print journalism, have become private citizens (in the sense that they are not working for corporate media) and joined the fray of storytellers and raconteurs.

There are others like Joshua Micah Marshall, Andrew Sullivan, and Jay Rosen who remain well-connected to msm and academia while they blog but don't necessarily isolate themselves from those who are not on their professional level.

Still, there are others like Lex Alexander a newspaperman with the Greensboro News-Record who seems to fully understand the difference between journalists who become citizens and citizens who desire to contribute to the news like journalists.

Yet many write on the subject of citizen journalism and the citizen journalist think of the Man/Woman In the Street (like me) and want to give us lots of props for our form and aren't worried if we step on someone's toes--slander, libel, or just plain snarking. Our value will be determined in the "marketplace of ideas" (or "marketplace of knee-jerk emotionalism") as we jockey amongst one another for popularity.

When People (the aforementioned Man/Woman in the Street) discuss the subject of citizen journalism they are often thinking of folks like Marshall and Sullivan and Glen Reynolds and Duncan Black. They are rarely thinking of their neighbors or fellow bloggers. They believe that citizen journalism is a great thing because their perception of it is that its stories are being created by people who can debunk those who are immediately recognizable as MSM because they still have a toe or two in MSM (or academe.)

So, are we all on the same page when we are talking about citizen journalism? It seems that the understanding of what a citizen journalist might be and what constitutes citizen journalism is confused in the minds of those who bandy the term around at conferences, in print articles, and on blogs on a daily basis. Putting the average citizen who wants to be journalistic on par with the hard-core professional journalist who's decided to come back to citizenry (or who just wants to use the citizen-styled medium of blogs) could have serious consequences for the citizen. The professional will always find a way of rebounding from a scandal of libel or slander or rampant snarking--but can the citizen do the same? The journalist-cum-citizen who debunks something can be doing the world a darned good service, but does the citizen have access to the same kind of sources to get the same kind of credible information necessary to be a significant part of the debunking? And do those who are journalists really care about the citizens who strive to do more than just sit around and accumulate information--who truly want to be part of the media conversation?

Like wearing a rough wool sweater of terminology, I will remain a bit itchy with the moniker of citizen journalist, and will keep on questioning. Apparently, it's my job.

Update: July 14, 2008 Three years later and this topic is still hotly debated. Jay Rosen has been focusing discussion and Dan Gillmor makes an important distinction that the current state of citizen journalism has evolved out of "civic journalism" but that it is indeed different. As is "placeblogging"--not always "citizen journalism"



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Citizen Me Meets Blog On

Next Monday 10/17, the BlogOn Social Media Summit will convene at the Copacabana in NYC. Organized by The Guidewire Group, the summit bills itself as
the premier executive conference for forward-thinking marketing and communications executives who are considering strategic initiatives in social media such as blogs, RSS and podcasts...
With the help of two angels who have asked to remain anonymous (thanks guys!), I will be attending--once again sticking my nose into places where I probably don't belong...

but, heck, it's my business. I want to know what these folks are doing and saying--what they are up to....and what it means to those of us down here in the social sphere itself.

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Saturday, October 08, 2005

We Media: "Talk Amongst Yourselves..."

Wednesday. Around 6:15 a.m.--after a troublesome train ride, a massive case of the fidgets, and four hours' sleep--I found myself standing outside the Associated Press building at 450 W. 33rd Street, with a cup of catering wagon coffee and a very fresh donut. I was there as a volunteer for the We Media Conference put together by the Media Center at the American Press Institute. I couldn't really afford to go otherwise...and I really, *really* wanted to be there. (must thank Gloria Pan for passing my name along to Beth Laing so I could get this great op.)

For the most part, thru my eyes, We Media was a bit of a surreal experience. As I re-arranged attendee nametags, I recognized some of the names, but not others. I did, though, make note that most of the people attending were pretty high up on the Media Food Chain, even if some don't like to admit it. I greeted them with a nice smile and a "Good Morning" and gave them their tags. Some even called me by my name.

It was, though, rather obvious that these were The Media. And I'm just a Citizen. My challenge, then, was to find points of equilibrium between Myself and This Media. (Another mission was to chat with Jay Rosen, who got me a bit peeved after his BlogHer comments...)

Another clue that this was going to be a case of the little orange in a group of shiny apples was when Dale Peskin, Co-Director of the Media Center, commented in his opening remarks that it was surprising how many people blogged.

Surprising? Did Dale's Father ever yell at Walter Kronkite like lots of our Dads did?? Did Dale ever spend an hour on the telephone recounting a life-changing event to a friend--like a lot of us do daily? Blogging, and other forms of collaborative/social media have become the ways in which We the People are attempting to get into the conversation all the Media Folks keep having every day. We don't think the pundits are any better than us and think our voices are valid. We relieve our existentialist angst, that sense of being buried alive under Information, thru blogging, wikis, messageboards, email and all sorts of media--as
Chris Willis succinctly pointed out when he mentioned "collaborative media"(perhaps Dale was just setting up Chris to comment--you never know.)

The first panel was We The News--News moguls, from NPR, BBC, CBS and AP--discussing what "the people" are doing with news. Lots of talk how "the people" are shaping things, how "the people" (considered to be the 18-34 age cohort) are changing the way Big Media writes and disseminates news...yadda, yadda, yadda. The only one on the panel who has a clue was Farai Chideya, who mentioned how "the people in the caboose" of media culture need to be brought to the fore. But, even Chideya missed a key point--to get from the caboose one has to go thru the Club Car. And there are loads of us--average middle-class, bach degree'd, working-stiff non-tech, non-journalism citizens in the 35-59 age cohort who are sitting in that Club Car.

We blog. Often. Just check my personal blog to see some of us. Don't count us out before you've even looked at us.

There was lots and lots of talk about "citizens" but there weren't any citizens in the room! So that was the BIG PROBLEM. (I cannot fault the conference organizers on this...most blogging conferences are akin to "closed shops" or Churches of True Believers--some moreso, like the Blog Business Summit, than others.)

So, when the Speed Dating break between the We The News session and Al Gore's keynote address came along, I stood there, wondering who the heck in this room of august media types I could talk with. And then Jay Rosen came by. What an op! So I said "Jay! Hi! I'm Tish G." He laughed and warmly shook my hand...

Jay and I got to talking about what was going on, and I told him how I was shaking my head at most of it, how people like Larry Kramer just weren't getting it, that the answer to Watts Wacker's question of "Is this the right audience?" was an absolute "NO!" and that the group on the stage was preaching to the converted, Jay said something to the effect of "Well, they're vertical communicators trying to understand those on the horizontal..."

completely right. Jay Rosen and I, apparently, see eye to eye on this matter. Folks like Larry Kramer, Farai Chideya (sorry), Tom Curley, and Richard Sambrook--a bunch of vertical, top-down communicators, however well-intentioned--were trying to get a grip on what the Folks, the peer-to-peer, or horizontal communicators do with blogs. Jay and I agreed that they really weren't getting it at all, that there was too much emphasis on this or that particular group at the expense of the whole; that there was far too much emphasis on monetizing and business models; and that this sort of thinking just does not apply to what goes on in peer-to-peer communications.

Sure, lots of us would love to make money off our blog-hobby, but the only ones who stand to make large money off our blog hobby seem to be Big Media. I'm kind of offended by the idea of Big Media making money off something they don't understand.

Al Gore took the podium, and I was struck by the timbre of his voice--smooth, mellow and southern. I could listen to Al recite the phone book. He had, though,great things to say. This, particularly, got me thinking:
Radio, the internet, movies, telephones, and other media all now vie for our attention - but it is television that still completely dominates the flow of information in modern America. In fact, according to an authoritative global study, Americans now watch television an average of four hours and 28 minutes every day -- 90 minutes more than the world average.

When you assume eight hours of work a day, six to eight hours of sleep and a couple of hours to bathe, dress, eat and commute, that is almost three-quarters of all the discretionary time that the average American has. And for younger Americans, the average is even higher.

The internet is a formidable new medium of communication, but it is important to note that it still doesn't hold a candle to television. Indeed, studies show that the majority of Internet users are actually simultaneously watching television while they are online. There is an important reason why television maintains such a hold on its viewers in a way that the internet does not, but I'll get to that in a few minutes.

All I could think about was how we have all this media of all kinds blabbering around us all the time, and we have absolutely no time for our own thoughts.

Al continued:
But some extremely important elements of American Democracy have been pushed to the sidelines . And the most prominent casualty has been the "marketplace of ideas" that was so beloved and so carefully protected by our Founders. It effectively no longer exists.

It is not that we no longer share ideas with one another about public matters; of course we do. But the "Public Forum" in which our Founders searched for general agreement and applied the Rule of Reason has been grossly distorted and "restructured" beyond all recognition.

And here is my point: it is the destruction of that marketplace of ideas that accounts for the "strangeness" that now continually haunts our efforts to reason together about the choices we must make as a nation.


And I got to thinking: There is no "marketplace of ideas" because we are constantly fed the ideas of others. We are constantly acquiring information and knowledge, but we do not process it. We have 24 hour media--if we are not seeking entertainment we are seeking information. We do not stop for fear we will be uncool or left out of the loop. We can't think on our own. We can't apply the Rule of Reason because we have no time for Contemplation.

But that's just me. What do I know?

I skipped the We Inc. panel. It was extremely hot and I was feeling a bit lightheadded. Jason Calacanis chaired that panel and I found out later (courtesy of Ron Mwangaguhunga
) that Jason sold Weblogs, Inc. to AOL for $25 mil.

Had I known that tid bit, I would have introduced myself when we smiled at each other sometime during lunch. ;-)

Had a great little chat with Susan Mernit, about blogging (she mentioned Tristan Louis, that he is a very good writer/blogger) and how I link this blog with my personal blog...how it is bold of me. I'd never thought that much about it. Looking around at all the Media Types, I thought that maybe it's about time for me to give it a bit of consideration...

At lunchtime, I was a bit too fried to do any socializing...just bided my time watching the suits and Those Better at Networking do what they do.

After lunch, I chose to assign myself to the
Media Gawking and Citizen Journalism discussions. Glad I did.

Media Gawking consisted of Jay Rosen, Jessica Cohen and Patrick Phillips. I didn't expect much from Jessica, but got more from Jay. Jessica did voice an opinion that many of "the people" have about Public Eye (CBS's blogging venture): that it's a "sad, sad little website." Nobody faults Vaughn Ververs though. I think a lot of us feel sorry for Ververs--and know that Larry Kramer's inability to understand the blogosphere is part of what censors Ververs (but we figured that out on Buzzmachine some time ago.)

What struck me most in the Citizen Journalism discussion was something Lex Alexander said about the necessity of mentoring of "citizen journalists." Lex gets that it's not about changing citizens into journalists (unless they actually want to be real journalists--then they can go to journalism school), but mentoring them certain principles of journalism, helping with the writing, etc...but not censoring nor changing anything. (I'd talk to Lex about this later. He's a fun guy!) Although here again, in this session, somebody didn't get a very subtle point about their subject: Susan Defife of Backfence.com argued that citizen journalists should write about anything they want. I understand Susan's POV--when you're in a big market area, where the papers never report on the local high school soccer game, it's important for blogs to do so. But if one lives in a middle market, like Springfield, Mass, is it necessary to have blogs to discuss high school soccer when we can watch high school soccer on the 11 o'clock news? Perhpas there's a point where there's media saturation even with blogs--possibly to the detriment of real journalism on harder subjects like government corruption.

By the time we got to the whole In Us We Trust discussion (highly philosophical) I was very, very fried and half paying attention. For the most part, I got that this was a lot of academic philosophizing, that it was intentionally meant to be over the heads of everybody, but I had a bit of trouble with what seemed to be a celebration of cultural relativism and the corporation. I'd have to read the transcripts again to see if I'm right on that one...but,personally, I'm not a big fan of cultural relativism nor of corporations. I don't like the idea that corporations might manipulate blogs and bloggers so that we trust them more. Why should we trust corporations any more than we trust the government? All I could think of was Rollerball (the James Cann/Norman Jewison version).

It is very strange to be sitting in a roomful of people who could easily be deciding the fate of the media you and millions of others use daily for personal expression, yet how many of them have what Jay Rosen calls "peer-to-peer" communication? How much do they understand of this thing that they see as a tool for corporations? How well do they understand our existentialist angst if they do not experience it for themselves? I'm not sure Karen Stephenson, Watts Wacker, Craig Newmark, nor Richard Edelman fully nor totally comprehend any of it.

Then again, there are few of us in the trenches who understand them either. Maybe that's the way the world works.

When we broke for cocktail hour, I got to talk a bit with Watts Wacker (read about it in this entry)...Lex Alexander and Jenny D (who was there blogging for the Media Center--she couldn't afford to go either) about citizen journalism....Introduced myself to Rebecca MacKinnon who I might run into one of these days at the Berkman Center...and caught the train on time.

I was exhausted and my sprained ankle was swollen to elephantine proportions. Had a 20-something kid flirt with me on the train. Got home to Mass sometime close to midnight. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat.

(oh, if you want to find good articles on We Media, do a search on IceRocket.com...you'll get the best results.)

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In case you happen to be wondering what this little blog is about:

Snarkaholic is "citizen journalism" about the blogosphere.

I'll have more to say about this in my post on We Media....shortly...after I finish making a baby blanket and buffalo wings...

Thursday, October 06, 2005

I have so much to say about the We Media Conference I attended yesterday that I don't know where to start! I have a ton of notes to sift thru...not to mention that I'm recovering from 4 hours sleep (got up at 5 a.m.!) and about twelve hours on my feet.

It was amazingly great! Jay Rosen and I even buried the hatchet--and not in each other's heads!

I'll have a full report within the next couple of days...

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Tag, you're it!

Before I so rudely left my perch in the blogosphere for a rolicking time of ankle sprains and other hiking perils in Acadia, J Leroy posted this piece that furthers our conversation on identity in the blogosphere--punctuated with a very amusing tale about labels and titles...

Yet, lately, I've been bothered by ideas around transparency in the blogosphere. There's been alot of new talk about transparency, but, thanks to Blogger's new search engine feature, I'm finding more banality than transparency. Further,thanks to a a great article by Michael Bugeja, and a comment left by someone called "Samwise," I have been thinking more and more about the trouble with transparency.

It seems that only the bold allow themselves transparency--but even then, the transparency is something of a translucency. Translucency, though, isn't all that bad a thing, as I always maintain that a blog cannot contain an entire person. Yet what is the purpose of complete anonymity in the blogosphere? True, if you live in a place where you can indeed be persecuted for your opinions, and there is a true need to tell the world what is going on in that place to effect change, then anonymity is very, very important. In that case, transparency can be gained thru one's vivid descriptions of hellish conditions. A name not be attached to something like that as its message is universal.

But how many of us in the U.S. are functioning under those sorts of Orwellian conditions? It seems, to me anyway, that those of us who don't necessarily need to fear translucency in the blogosphere are often the ones who are worried about it--and are often the ones responsible for spewing hatespeech in the blogosphere. Is it that those in the spew actually fear someone discovering their dirty little secret? Do they, in their lives outside the blogosphere, come across as seriously tolerant and nonopinionated Casper Milquetoasts?

I do, though, seriously doubt that most of them fear marketers finding them. I don't think many of them know that there *are* marketers concerned about their blogging.

My sense is that many of the anonymous hate-mongers, the ones who fear any transparency, are like the guys who carry on secret sex lives while maintaining the pose of upstanding family man--there is a need to transgress, to have secrets about who they are. That seems to be part of human nature. What is troubling, though is that they like to self-righteously hide behind those for whom anonymity is a matter of life or death.

In that case, there isn't even any translucency...just hypocricy.

Yet people love hatespeech. It's amazing.

Okay...I'm off to We Media...be back soon!

Monday, October 03, 2005

Much to the chagrin/consternation/shock and awe of some, I will volunteering at the We Media conference this Wednesday, 10/5. I have no idea who I might meet, but, who really cares? It's an interesting little gathering, and I'm rather honored that they considered having me around to help out.

If anything, I'll get to see Al Gore. I'm curious to know how tall he is and how well-groomed he might be. Something about a tall man in a suit always *gets* me.



and if you want the upshot on the Bar Harbor trip, it's here.