Monday, June 30, 2008

Hearst Digital Media's Daily Green gets an "F" in LinkLove

You know how Big Media is constantly harping on the blogosphere about how bloggers always "steal" information, when the fact of the matter is that by linking we send information *back* to the original source? Well, this afternoon, I was directed by the Yahoo front page to this post on The Daily Green a new Hearst Digital Media blog. And guess what? The first paragraph mentions a Los Angeles Times article yet fails to link to the original source! Here's a screenshot....check the first paragraph to see the lack of linklove for the L.A. Times

Heaven forbid a regular old, non-MSM blogger do something like this--then he/she becomes the thieving devil incarnate whose dastardly plan is to take away newspaper revenue!

When in fact, it's an MSM "blogging" property that's taking from another MSM property without sending one single link back to them.

Just in case you'd like to see the original, here's LAT staffer Nicholas Riccardi's article: High gas prices hobble cities nationwide

Just my $.02...

Friday, June 27, 2008

Friday Vintage Video: Bruce Lee Naked!

Well...kind possibly one of the best fight scenes ever in a film--which happens to be 1973's Enter the Dragon--which will be shown at MassMoCA tomorrow in a special program with music by Karsh Kale. But it's great just as is!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Looking to Google to Help Us Define Obscenity

Back in 18th century New England, what was considered "obscene" was determined often by the leader of the local community church. Beginning in New York City in the 19th century, the Courts were put in charge of defining obscenity for us. Courts had to consider a mish-mash of local customs, notions of free speech and criminal libel, access to appropriate medical information on sex, where and whom was writing the "obscene" material, etc..** But a lot has changed, and where are we now to find the local customs to help the courts determine what the community--not one special interest group or another--determines to be obscene? The NYTimes points today to a case in Pensacola, FL where an enterprising attorney thinks Google search could help us figure out community thinking regarding the nature of obscenity...
In the trial of a pornographic Web site operator, the defense plans to show that residents of Pensacola are more likely to use Google to search for terms like “orgy” than for “apple pie” or “watermelon.” The publicly accessible data is vague in that it does not specify how many people are searching for the terms, just their relative popularity over time. But the defense lawyer, Lawrence Walters, is arguing that the evidence is sufficient to demonstrate that interest in the sexual subjects exceeds that of more mainstream topics — and that by extension, the sexual material distributed by his client is not outside the norm....

“Time and time again you’ll have jurors sitting on a jury panel who will condemn material that they routinely consume in private,” said Mr. Walters, the defense lawyer. Using the Internet data, “we can show how people really think and feel and act in their own homes, which, parenthetically, is where this material was intended to be viewed,” he added.

This is pretty ingenious. By using Google Trends, Walters hopes to demonstrate the accessibility and interest in "obscene" material in the jurisdiction of the First Circuit Court for Santa Rosa County, where the trial is taking place. This supports the notion that Pensacola folks are looking for obscene material at a certain rate determined by search results, and thus have voiced a community opinion on what they think is obscene.

However, it does raise concerns about the collection of personal data, how that data might be used, and if that data could, in another context be used against someone in, perhaps, a divorce proceeding (search results mined for the ISP of a particular person to "prove" unfitness or "cheating.)

Florida state prosecutor Russ Edgar believes that the popularity of sex-related websites has no bearing on whether or not Mr. Walter's client violated community standards. "How many times you do something doesn’t necessarily speak to standards and values,” Mr. Edgar said.

I would think, though, that a high number of search results for particular terms could indeed show what a community wants to know about a subject. In some ways, a parallel could be drawn between the selling of obscene materials in 20th century stores and search results. Think about it: in the 19th century, one would only go to a particular shop and ask for particular books if one was going to buy. There little regular "browsing" of obscene materials. However, with the rise of porn shops in the 20th century, lots of (mostly) men could go in and "browse" various titles, movie boxes, products, etc. The fact that many shops could stay in business--regardless of whether we like them or not--in some way demonstrates that there's a market for obscene materials. Nowadays, rather than going into some skeevy pornshop located in a very bad part of town to view obscene material we can "browse" the Internet for obscene materials in the privacy and safety of our homes.

That we have privacy and safety to view obscene material may indicate a broader tacit acceptance of obscene material than what people are willing to admit to in openly and publicly. If we think about it, this kind of harkens back to the private and public "face" ideal of Victorian England (slightly different from 19th c. America.) Are we, through search, revealing far too much of our private "face"--and could this end up impacting our laws?

Think about it though: do Google Search Results really see into the minds of men and women? Or are we getting some sort of false positive or narrow world view by considering Google Search results? Perhaps search results should be considered along with other factors and information, as a way of dealing with the private and public faces of a community to help determine what a community deeply thinks is obscene.

Just as long as they don't reveal our ISPs....

**See Helen L. Horowitz's explanation of sex and the courts in her book "Rereading Sex: Battles over Sexual Knowledge and Supression in Nineteenth-Century America."

Monday, June 23, 2008

Don't Scoop Before We Tell You To: When Social Networking and MSM Worlds Collide

When it comes to "the news," getting a scoop used to be a good thing. Now, not so much. But what can the mainstream do about it when scoops leak out through social media--get you fired or delete your posts perhaps. The New York Times reports on how a "junior employee" at Internet Broadcasting Services updated Tim Russert's Wikipedia entry before the story of Russert's death was revealed by NBC and MSNBC. The Times calls the junior employee's actions "instinct" and "a flash of idealism" that may have cost the junior his/her job--that's what NBC was told.

Scooping the wrong moment in history simply by trying to keep the public record current can have some serious consequences. But these consequences are the further consequences of the quickness of information dissemination. We now have many unchecked-by-msm-channels, that reach many people. We can "get the word out" to our communities as quick as we can get out a disaster video. Dissemination of information through simple social media channels can be something of a can-of-worms for participants in the social side of local media as well:

In July '07, Springfield, MA resident and social activist Michaelann Bewsee (who blogs at Michaelann Land), and is a regular contributor to the conversation at Forums, made a forum post that her nephew had been sent home from his job at the local Wendy's and the store closed "for good." When Michaelann posted this item, she had no idea that she might be scooping the local press on a really huge story: the the closing of all 12 Wendy's stores owned by Robert Burda of Ohio, who had not paid State taxes in years and was bankrupt.

All Michaelann was doing was relaying some very important information. Yet her post may have been deleted because of this very action. Her account was also deleted--for a reason unknown to her. It is my understanding that it took her several weeks to get a rather terse reply from a staff member regarding her account, which was eventually restored.

Yet, this may not have been the first time that's forums and blogs were the source of scoops or original reports. Michaelann's post on the Wendy's closing, however, was first time I'd heard that someone's account, not just a post, may have been deleted because she quite possibly scooped the newsroom.

Now,'s editors may have deleted the post to head off possible heresay on a matter that might have had a negative consequence against a local business. Masslive's editors might also say that Bewsee is a thorn in their side and that her account was deleted for other reasons. But, if she *did* scoop the local media bigtime--well, we may never know the answer to that....

Between both incidents, social networks through social media are conveying timely information before it hits the msm. This, however, raises some questions: how do we know if the source of the information is trustworthy? Should the persons disseminating the information be penalized? and, is this original reporting/an act of journalism or divulging privileged information ? Perhaps this is a kind of "flash journalism"--the text version of the cellphone camera videos of disasters. Since it is text, though, we may have to consider the trustworthiness of the person disseminating the story. With the IBS employee, if we know that IBS receives reports before they hit most msm affiliate outlets, then we can be sure that IBS is a reliable source. If we know that Michaelann's nephew really does work for Wendy's, and/or that she is trustworthy and credible within the community (regardless of what is thought of her politics), then we can be sure that she's a reliable source of a story needs further investigation.

Yet in both cases, employee or poster should not be penalized for their actions if they have no knowledge of policy regarding the dissemination of certain kinds of information. It is not just that they are conveying information in a similar way to an on-the-spot cellphone film of a disaster, but that they are credible sources for that information, and that they are doing a public service by disseminating that information. If IBS considered that information to be privileged or time-sensitive, it should have informed its employees in some way. A company cannot expect its employees to "just know" information like that. Likewise in Michaelann's case--she should have been informed that her post may be considered heresay and that the reporters were going to investigate further. That could easily have been done in a post to the thread on the forums by a Masslive editor.

Expecting employees and forum posters to "just know" is something akin to Transgressing the Unwritten Law of Dinsdale Piranha.

In other words: make a policy, make people aware of it, and don't fire/delete people before a policy is set in place.

Further: JD Lasica raises the notion that this kind of action is "generational"--I'd say that it's not generational, but cultural. It just so happens that the IBS employee was "junior"--but Michaelann isn't. There are many, many folks in middle-age and even older that are online and are *very* social, sometimes in place young people are, sometimes not. These are the "early adopters" who have been active online before many young people ever got a computer. We are, unfortunately, not a glamorous demographic that's suitable for marketers and are often overlooked. Let's not mistake cultural shifts, nor forget the folks who've started the shift, because of the glamorous nature of generational politics. Also see Tameka Kee's "Step Away from the Computer, Kids: Baby Boomers Embrace Social Media: When it comes to social media, some 70% of consumers age 50 and up said that their online community was "very" or "extremely" important to them. So much so that almost 70% of them log on daily or several times a day. In contrast, just about half of all social network members under age 20 said the same.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Friday Vintage Video: More Christopher Lee

Did you know that Christopher Lee reprised many of the great roles of Boris Karloff--only cheezier? Here's the preview for "The Face of Fu Manchu":

Lee played Fu Manchu in a series of really bad Fu Manchu movies. Karloff was spared repeated Fu Manchu'ing, but Lee was spared the role of Mr. Wong, Detective.

Lee also played Frankenstein (in a less cheezy '57 production--you can see Lee in this trailer for a '58 follow-up in which he did not star as The Monster)

and the Mummy (oh, the spectacle!)

But he's the best (and longest-running) Dracula ever (in need of some Visene here in 1968):

Curiously, Lee shares the role with both Karloff (the original) and Lugosi. Lugosi replaced Karloff as Frankenstein in 1943's "Frankenstein Meets the Wolf-Man." :

Not as good as Karloff, but perhaps just as gruesome as Lee.

Next week--something non-Christopher Lee. ;-)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Seven Traits of Highly Effective Community Developers

Note: this post first appeared last friday in's E-Media Tidbits column. Much thanks to Amy Gahran for the great editing job!

Getting back from the New Pamphleteers conference, I considered how many news organizations sites that, one way or another, are doing some sort of community building. This can mean anything from using Topix Forums to implementing a custom-built community tool (with the hopes of repeating the success of Bluffton Today.

More often than not, most of the attention and money for community sites gets spent on a tool -- specifically, the community-building content management system (CMS). It's as if the person who will actually develop and manage the community is an afterthought. I recommend flipping this around: make your top priority choosing the right person for this new job.

A lot will be riding on this person -- more so than which tools are used. Your community manager should understand people well and be good at creating and maintaining relationships and ability to create relationships, regardless of which tools are available.

Here are seven things to look for in a community manager:

1. Commitment to "the cause." A community manager should be personally committed to the site's mission or reason for being. This commitment makes it possible to authentically evangelize the community members. Your community manager must spot and engage community members who will feel comfortable participating on the site. Consequently, if your site's mission is primarily to drive traffic to your site, you should rethink creating your online community in the first place. Site traffic tends to be driven more by better site design and search engine optimization than by getting all interactive on the citizenry. A community manager cannot fix your news org's bad site design or help staff write-keyword rich headlines.

2. Love people. Good community managers have an innate ability to interact with all kinds of people, both face to face and online. A good candidate might be someone in your newsroom is great at cultivating contacts and knows many people know well, then they are a potential community manager. But be sure to consider whether this person is good at developing contacts for her or his own purposes, or more generally good at cultivating a variety of contacts across a wide spectrum of individuals and personalities. (For this reason, and others, be sure you broaden your search beyond current newsroom staff.) Also, your potential community manager should be open, congenial, and can handle difficult situations with tact and diplomacy (not like a cop or Marine sergeant).

3. Must enjoy technology. These days, the tools of digital media are (or should be) easy to learn. Your community manager will understand -- and be able to adapt quickly to -- upgrades in tools. She or he also might suggest new tools, and will learn new tools pretty quickly. However, don't confuse liking technology with loving it beyond everything else. A community manager's first love must be people -- because sometimes their job might be to help those pesky, complaining, people learn to use these tools effectively.

4. Must understand online culture. Internet communication is very different from face-to-face interaction. It can even be compared to moving to a new culture where you often lack vital interpretive clues like body language and vocal intonation. Someone with ample experience participating in a variety of on communities (not just Facebook and MySpace will understand the nuances of online communication and thus can distinguish between trolls, disruptors, and people who may just be having trouble expressing their point of view. A strong knowledge of emoticons is required.

5. Powers of observation. Good community managers are astute observers of community interaction and interpersonal relationship dynamics. Don't be surprised if your community manager knows exactly what a prompted a seemingly mysterious traffic boost or decline. Over time, your community manager will know what works for your particular community. Listen carefully.

6. Flexibility. Your community manager might also be your community news editor, or your blog editor, or some other kind of editor. If a special community feature has been designed for a big report or investigative story, your community manger might be able to help your reporters talk to the community -- especially walking reporters through this experience for the first time. However, any editorial work or reporting should be secondary to the community, because community work can be very demanding.

7. Life experience trumps youthful enthusiasm. Do not dump community management on your interns because they work cheap, know Facebook, and the rest of your staff is overworked and stressed. Enthusiasm is great, but it cannot replace knowing the local community, a variety of tools and trends, and human nature. Communities can be quirky and change quickly, so community management requires commitment and dedication -- not just for a summer or semester, but over the long haul.

For further reading: Scott Moore added some great points to my seven habits. Thanks Scott!

And Howard Owens adds two great posts to the discussion of care and feeding of newspaper-based communities: Tips for newspaper people new to community management and News site participation is not a 'set it and forget it' venture

Also see Jake McKee's Hiring a Community Manager post--which I might write some more on in the near future (it's *that* good)

Monday, June 16, 2008

Good night, Online Journalism Review...Thank you, Robert Niles...

Sad news from Robert Niles at Online Journalism Review: after 10 years, USC Annenberg School of Communications is suspending publication of Online Journalism Review...

This does mean that Niles is leaving USC, but he's not leaving online. He's started a new site, I wish him the best of luck in this new endeavor :-)

I had a brief history with OJR, where I wrote a couple of articles for them. It was a wonderful feeling to see my writing in OJR, and I really do have Bob to thank for that...

The new Knight Digital Media Center, which is headquartered at USC Annenberg, now has a new blog, News Leadership 3.0 with Michele McLellan (my former colleague at Assignment Zero) at the helm. I'm glad to see Michele doing this! She really knows her stuff and, from what I've seen so far, is doing a great job with this, gearing the posts to her particular audience. The community, so far, appears slow in commenting (as per usual--always more lurkers/readers than commenters) but I'm sure in time she'll get responses.

In the meantime, I'd like again to say a huge thanks to Bob Niles, for giving me a bit of a boost when I needed it....

and a fond good-night to Online Journalism Review

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Social Networking's Tipping Point and the Sub-Cultures of MySpace and Facebook

Yesterday, a friend told me about an NPR report on how MySpace is doing a re-design to try to compete with Facebook. Darned if I can find that NPR story today, but I was able to find something about this in Businessweek. As we were talking about this, I brought up how I think that, no matter what it's re-design, that MySpace couldn't gather the Facebook business crowd due to the nature of the MySpace culture....

Sure enough, Eric Eldon has written this insightful piece in Venture Beat on the differences between the MySpace and Facebook cultures:
“At first we were worried about MySpace, but then we realized that people use it differently from our site,” an employee at social network Facebook told me over a year ago. What he meant is that Facebook is a place for people to put their real lives online, providing factual information about themselves and having trusted interactions with their friends. Meanwhile, rival MySpace is more of a place for people to live out their fantasy lives online, borrowing celebrity photos for their profile pictures, adding far-fetched biographical information and such — MySpace uses the term “self-expression” to describe this behavior.

Now, I'll agree with Eric that this is something of a generalization, but there's a great deal of truth in it. As I explained to my friend last night, I've seen some really strange things on MySpace--women Of A Certain Age leaving highly suggestive illustrations with messages like "Kiss, Kiss!" on the profile pages of men Of A Certain Age. Pages are very messy and weird-looking with all sorts of flashing and sparkling things, with random people "friending" one another. And what can you say for a site that has, as one of its most popular people, a chick whose popularity was built on not-so subtle sexual suggestion? MySpace is very much, like Eric suggests, a place where people create personnas and behave in ways the buttoned-down business world might not.

Facebook, in comparison, is fairly tame--if you take into consideration that most of the excessive drinking and wet t-shirt photos are on profiles of college-aged people. Most of my Facebook friends are business associates, many of them marketers, and even though there's a conviviality between us, there's nary a wet t-shirt or beer bong photo. Among the Business Class of Facebook users, there's pretty much a buttoned-down, family man kind of mentality. When I first put up my profile, I said my relationships were "complicated" and my religion was "lapsed academic Catholic" (or something of that sort.) Fairly tame--but a friend told me I had the most interesting profile he'd read! Which, of course, made me laugh.

Being interesting on Facebook doesn't require posing in black lace underwear and stripper shoes. It takes just a bit of innuendo and perhaps a book list that includes the Russ Meyer biography....

Then again, the purpose of Facebook is different. When Facebook opened its doors to the general populace, last May, the marketing and tech industries flocked to it--because Facebook profiles allowed us to have personal information that LinkedIn, its rival at the time, didn't. Construct a profile with a pic and *some* personal information, find affiliations, and create groups. This has been great for the marketing community, with great groups like Marketing 2.0 and Social Networking Analysis: On-line Roles, Community & Network Weaving

I can't see the folks who comprise my sector of the marketing community flocking to MySpace, no matter how clean the interface and how much more "professional" it might look. Many within the marketing community are cognizant of the culture of MySpace and don't look to infiltrate it to be social there. Yes, they are interested in how it works, and how marketing can be brought into MySpace, but the big agencies are more than willing to hire someone young enough who knows the culture--not try to retrofit our 40-something buttoned-down selves into that culture.

And what of the tech folks I know, who are burnt out on social networking and all that stuff? Well, tech-blogger friend Jason Karashino seems to be really into social networking tool Friendfeed--and from what I can tell, he's not alone.

And I've also heard of some young people, once they get to college, migrating most of their social networking profiles to Facebook, taking out most of the MySpace info, and leaving MySpace only to connect with those friends who haven't crossed over into college (or who still feel most comfortable on MySpace.) Yet many of this group of young people have no idea that they need to groom their Facebook profile before the decide to join the professional world....

So, while MySpace may still have captured the minds (and ears) of a particular group of people, and that marketers will always want to find a way to tap into that space in a social networking way, I doubt that there will be a rush from the overall business community into MySpace. The rush to Facebook happened in part due to particular weaknesses in LinkedIn. Yet since its upgrade, I imagine LinkedIn has seen something of a rise in usage--actually, I've seen more messages from LinkedIn connections in my Inbox recently than I have in the whole 2 years I've had that profile....

Then again, maybe the whole social networking thing, in the U.S. anyway, has hit a tipping point. Om Malik notes how Monster's Tickle, Conde-Nast's Flip, and a tiny, virtually unknown Verizon social network (of 18,000 users) are being shuttered. Maybe we're all tired, are taking our balls and going home...or at least consolidating our home field advantages.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Friday vintage video: Christopher Lee...

..."as the man who makes a living from striptease clip-joints!" wow!

I was looking up something on beatniks for a post on my personal blog, and I came across this trailer from the movie "Wild for Kicks" which also went under the title of "Beat Girl" in the U.S. It was pretty common for films to have one title in the U.K. and another in the U.S. (as it was for exploitation filmmakers to re-title films to get a little extra mileage out of them.) This is a U.K. production--hence singer Adam Faith in the film. It's also noteworthy because of Christopher Lee--who, for one of the few times in a 1950's film, isn't playing Dracula, Frankenstein, or some other weird Baron or Lord for Hammer.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

JTM Minneapolis: New Resarch, Burning Out, Bouncing Back, and Moving Forward

Last week I attended the latest Journalism that Matters event, which was held at the utterly fascinating McNamara Alumni Center at the University of Minnesota (which was identified by: "oh, the one that looks like a Klingon space ship.")

Klingon space ship or not, the event was quite different than other conferences, or even unconferences that I've attended. Some unconferences tend to be a bit loose, while some conferences end up being way too stiff. In either instance, you, the attendee, walks away with *something*--sometimes just not quite enough.

And, what almost always happens is that any energy or momentum to "change things" that was created in the gathering ends up dissipating, lost in a sea of other obligations, missed communications, and complicated, often ill-fitting, community tools.

So, two challenges to emerge from the conference are how to keep track of all the information generated by individual sessions, as well as how to keep the community momentum going. How can all the "good stuff" be maintained so that not just this group of attendees, but other attendees from past JTM meetups, could benefit from it/

There were, however, a number of other challenges and progress reports that emerged from this conference. A new study on "citizen generated media" was presented by Margaret Duffy, acting dean of research and grad studies at the Missouri School of Journalism. Duffy's background is in mass comm and organizational behavior, and she's worked in advertising, marketing and p.r, so the way in which her research has been conducted differs from other studies. Unfortunately, there are no PowerPoint slides on this presentation--but during her presentation, I thought that, finally, someone in academia was asking the right questions about the effect of citizen journalism.

It also came to me that the only way that the journalism establishment will begin to understand what people are doing by creating community sites, placeblogging and even just regular old blogging, is through these studies. It doesn't seem to be enough to observe and speak with people on one's own. Everything has to be codified in an official academic study. But, as I noted, some academics are now starting to ask the right questions....

On day two, the J-Lab's Jan Schaffer gave an update on the state of citizen journalism--she was gracious enough to provide the slides from that presentation, which you can download here
These are to be used only for educational purposes (or private view), with credit given to J-Lab, Jan and American University.

Blasting Myths and Dealing with Burnout

Most of the folks attending this conference run a variety of community-based sites, including independent hyperlocal blogs, mainstream media community-oriented endeavors, and some independent community-based news outlets. It wasn't your typical conference-going crowd of folks who work in big media or big academia. And while some of the sites are probably not known outside their local areas, most have been around for several years and have strong followings (such as Orange Politics and West Seattle Blog)

When you talk with people who've been doing the community thing for a long time, you find out a lot of the realities of what they do. Two myths circulating nowadays are that (1) no money can be made from hyperlocal community sites, and (2)even if you start it, nobody will find you.

Both are inaccurate, yet are often parroted in msm circles--probably as a way to try to undermine independent, community blogging efforts (just a thought...)

The fact is that people do indeed make money from their sites. The amount depends on the site, but there is *some* money in it. Sometimes the folks who run the sites make money from other related businesses like web design or consulting. Sometimes it's from hyperlocal ads. Bottom line: how much money someone makes from a hyperlocal site will depend on the people and the locale. There is no one unifying hyperlocal business model that will suit all hyperlocal sites. Every region is different economincally--and every place has its quirks. :-)

As for the "nobody will find you" thing....well, that's where bloggers now have Google on their sides. A few years ago, Google wasn't all that friendly to bloggers nor hyperlocal search. But much has changed, and now if search is done for a local region, one just might get the hyperlocal community blog before one finds the link to the hyperlocal newspaper's site.

Ah, the mysteries of Google!

Attending the session on burn-out was important for me. As regular readers will know, I've been feeling kind of burnt-out from blogging for awhile. A bunch of you offered really great suggestions, some of which I'm still mulling over. But listening to how other folks got burn-out and how they handle burn-out was important--and revealed three main reasons for burnout:

1)general overwork
2)loss of motivation due to achieving one's blogging goal
3)lack of feedback from community

The best way to handle burnout--well, the strategies that will be effective will depend on who's suffering the burn-out. The overworked just might need a change in attitude, or to hire an additional writer, or to take a vacation. Losing motivation might be handled by starting another different or unrelated project after a break. Lack of feedback from community is tougher to address, because there is no one way to get people to participate. Making oneself visible is one way--and that can be done via Twitter (as Griff Wigley of Locally Grown pointed out) or just from showing up places and talking with people and letting them know who you are and what you do.

Other important sessions: Legal stuff and Blogger insurance

Two other little-big sessions were on legal issues and blogger insurance. David Ardia, Director of Berkman's Citizen Media Law project was there to talk legal, as was Bob Cox of Media Bloggers who got some of us to talk with a rep from an insurance company he's been working with to put together some form of liability insurance for bloggers (and other new media types, I think.)

After the Ball: Continuing Community

So, at the end, we had the usual "What's Next?" sessions. I've been to so many of these at conferences, and we all leave with that "Kumbaya" feeling--but how many of the "action steps" we discuss at conferences get appropriate follow-up? Sometimes there's just not enough to sustain the momentum. But there was a good critical mass of folks who were interested in sustaining the momentum that we pulled together a group and have actually had a post-conference call (as well as formed a google group (thanks Josh)and are taking some other important "next steps" to keep things going.

Overall, this was an unusual gathering. It wasn't glamorous, and there wasn't a plethora of talking heads giving us the Gospel of Citizen Journalism. This was people talking across professions and disciplines in order to try to make some sense of what's happening within this big old hive of the Internet. For that alone, this was a solid, good gathering...

What will make it a great gathering will be what we can sustain beyond its confines...

To be continued...

Monday, June 02, 2008

When Blogging Leads to Writer's Block (and what that problem really might be about...)

Lately, my blogging's been off. Way off.

And as I've been struggling with what might be called "Blogger's Block" I asked my life coach about it. "You're totally out of oxygen," she said, "There's nothing nourishing you. No wonder you're not able to create anything."

Yep, I can't even say I'm on half-steam. I kind of feel like I'm on no-steam. Although there's obviously *some* energy there. Some of the lights are on, and somebody's home, but a few of the circuits feel a bit blown...and the rooms are dark and there ain't much furnishing them these days.

How did this happen? Well, over the past two years a few big things have happened, and caused life to go out of balance. I figured if I wanted to make this consulting thing work, I'd have to put my head down and barrel forward. Obsessively.

Then, the company that many of my friends' husbands worked for closed. And they moved. There went the group of friends that had become my stability.

And since my nose has been to the work grindstone, I haven't thought much about how I was going to make new local connections.

Sure, I have "friends" all over the place, lots of business related contacts who I think are some super-fab people. I'm amazed how I built up a nice, tidy network of over 100 connections from (literally)zero connections. I've also worked on some great, cutting-edge projects in both journalism and marketing. Amazingly generous people have listened to me, and have included me in so many important things. I feel very privileged in this respect...

But, man! It's been exhausting! And it's taken a toll on my social life--which never got replenished after mostly everyone left.

Now, I don't know about you, but when I'm obsessively working, I tend to get rather myopic and somewhat miserable. I tend to talk about one thing, and in some respects kind of forget about all the other things that make me into Me. There have been a few times during the year when I've taken off for NYC or somewhere else to get a break. Those trips have been important. They've actually stimulated a lot of healing from a number of very serious past hurts that made workaholism a great escape.

Still, though, on the home front, there's little rooting me here to W. Mass. I'm not native to this place, and sometimes get homesick. I didn't throw the "housewarming" I should have when I moved, didn't join in on the Art Walks when I was initially invited, didn't do anything, in the beginning, to root myself. I felt I could live online and in my work....

Being not married, and not having children, there's no one depending on me for anything either. I didn't really plan it this way--it just kind of evolved this way. I stayed in a particular relationship longer than I should have, and that, too, perpetuates my singleton status.

Much to my chagrin.

So I think a lot about how I can balance life on-line and life off-line. How do I do this life thing without getting obsessive and fixate on fixing one part of my life at the expense of other parts of it. When I look back on my life, this is not a new struggle. I've always been this way. Balance, for me, is a hard thing to achieve.

What, though, does this have to do with my blogging? Well, I'm not one of those prodigies of blogging that can just write about tech or marketing or journalism at the expense of writing about the rest of my life. Some would say this is unprofessional, while others would say I'm an integrated "whole" human being who shouldn't every separate my Self into Professional and Personal realms (after I've worked to integrate them.)

What, then, might be the next step here...

I've had a couple of topics rolling in my head over the past couple of days connected to my desires to date again, and my experience with one of those big, highly advertised online dating thingies. I've been thinking about how if I talk about my religious beliefs, I'm pigeon-holed as a "holy roller" when my faith is really kind of, well, quiet most people don't even know I've got it (talk about a light under a bushel!) And after my last visit to NJ last friday, I realized that my ever-sharp memory can be a detriment to moving forward with my life....

These aren't topics I'd blog about here, but will on my personal blog These are things that I think I can share with business associates that won't breach the "T.M.I." boundary. And, really--let's face it: I'm not a ball of cheer all the time. I have my ups and downs, my sturm und drang, although a bit less strurmy and drangy than a couple of years ago. My sense is that this is a good time to bridge the personal and the professional, and I'm going to link to my personal blog from this blog again in an attempt to begin to bridge the personal and professional within this space. I will also be doing more things off-line in order to try to pull together more of a "real" life. Which may cut back on blogging in general. Who knows?

Let's just see what happens....

(while writing this, I've been thinking of Liza Sabater, who I had a conversation with a couple of years ago on how blogging broke our writer's block...curious how if there's no balance in life, the blocks come back no matter what the writing medium.)