Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Iraq War's Grimmest Statistics Have Yet to be Reported

The latest body count out of Iraq is somewhere around 2,974 souls. But that was as of a particular time yesterday. The toll is, by now, higher than 9/11. But there's more to "loss of life" than just physical death...esp.when compared with the walking death of OEF/OIF combat-reated Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Since 2005, my friend Ilona Meagher has done some amazing work documenting the the effects of OEF/OIF combat-related PTSD among returning GIs--the alcoholism, violence, chronic unemployment, and emotional devastation of families. A stunning work of citizen journalism, the PTSD Timeline hosted at ePluribus Media has become the most important reference/source of information on what's happening--right now--to our sons, daughters, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, lovers.

(Yes, it's happening to women, too. Let us not forget that.)

A book from her work Moving a Nation to Care: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and America’s Returning Troops. has finally hit the "review copy" status, and is on time for its May '07 release.

It can't come soon enough.

Bodybags are one thing--may they rest in peace. Walking dead are a totally different matter. They don't rest--ever. Nobody deserves that fate.

You can still follow the timeline and follow more stories at Ilona's blog PTSD Combat: Winning the War Within

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Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas everyone!

the gifts have been opened...the hot chocolate is brewing...

don't think today(I'm not)...just enjoy.

but if you have to think:

check out Jill's collection of Christmas thoughts

and David Armando's Holiday Manifesto that I read while catching up with

Hugh MacLeod(who is slowly becoming my favorite blogger...on any day)

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Blogging WOMMA: The Summit

The best thing about the WOMMA Summit was the number of amazingly talented, hard working, insightful, gracious individuals there. That goes for the general rabble as well as the speakers. No excess of A-list bloggers (who, apparently, were all in France at Le Web 3). No bloviating. No hyper-schmmozing to get in good graces or on blogrolls. The speakers were there to share their experiences. The audience was there to get info to help their businesses and clients understand the dizzying milieu of social media. And we were all there to learn something from one another.

More to come...

Net Neutrality Battle Continues

Another great vid on Net Neutrality from Steve at COANews

The issue isn't settled--we have a new Congress. Vigilance is still a high priority.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Umbria Connect Sells Blogger URLs

First came teaser about Umbria Connect from MediaPost....which raised my eyebrows a bit:
Umbria Connect gathers input from publicly available CGM sources to locate individual bloggers writing about topics or themes of interest to marketers. Umbria then sells the blog URLs in blocks of 25 on a subscription basis--with either monthly or quarterly updates.

Then I found this press release on Umbria Connect from PRWeb via Political FunnyBone (but not before getting some nasty evil splog I won't link to)....More U.C. details:
"Umbria Connect is a natural extension of our blogosphere segmentation capabilities," said Janet Eden-Harris, CEO, Umbria Inc. "This new offering enables us to support our clients close the loop on the blogosphere research and put the analysis to work in their individual outreach campaigns."

But what about informing people that their urls are being sold out for marketing purposes?

What sticks out to me as very weird and kind of against the way things go out here is Umbria then sells the blog URLs in blocks of 25 on a subscription basis--with either monthly or quarterly updates.'s bad enough that our mailing addys are sent to whomever will pay for them. And it's so bad for our teleophone numbers that we had to start a National Do Not Call list.

But *selling* our URLs??

Okay, maybe it's only going to be the URLs of "influential" bloggers, and the rest of us schmoes are out in the cold...

but still...Umbria is selling our urls! not their service! Which means we may be dealing with more spam than we already get.

IMHO, this is NOT how social media works and could ultimately black-eye a company that misuses Umbria's info. It could also open the door to other kinds of rip-off,splog-related efforts.

But, even more, I didn't think our urls were the same as our telephone numbers or our mailing addresses.

Now, I may feel a bit for companies that don't want to invest in an in-house person for finding blogs, but this just doesn't feel any more right than Pay Per Post.

All I know is lots of folks just might end up feeling a lot spammier in the near future...

Just a thought.

Update: Shel Holtz offers his insightful $.02on the matter.

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Blogging WOMMA: Ten Takeaways from the WOMMA Research Symposium

1. Nobody said tracking social media was going to be easy.

2. There are lots of different kinds of social media--from User Generated Content (UGC) to blogs to social networking communities to influencer-targeted parties--and a company might choose to use one, two or all different forms of social media to generate WOM.

3. Develop a social media strategy before jumping in. But don't base that strategy on a metric--base it on how much time your company can put in to human filtering.

4. Algorithms aren't the be-all-and-end-all for helping a company understand the landscape of social media.

5. Human filtrering is far more important than the right algorithim for locating and targeting the right influencers.

6. Whether it's face-to-face or online, humans are the key to generating WOM.

7. Online WOM works best for companies that know their customer's media habits. The more engaged a customer is with all kinds of electronic media, the more likely they will be to engage online social media endeavors.

8. Media-savvy customers will know when a company's behaving in a "too slick" manner and will have an unfavorable response to that particularly "slick" social media endeavor.

9. Even if you engage in all sorts of social media, it's not going to help if you refuse to respond to criticism or have a bad product.

10. Social media won't make a bad product better (but it just might get it off the market.)

Monday, December 18, 2006

Blogging WOMMA: The Research Symposium

Some of the top researchers on Word of Mouth Marketing presented their work last Monday (12/12/06) at the Word Of Mouth Marketing Association’s Research Symposium. It was a curious place for me to be...just the old blogger/influencer/citizen/online journalist fly on the wall..

A quick overview: a number of case studies presented on a variety of metric-centered topics including how some retailers allow customers a "marketing voice" (which then helps determine ROI), the importance of consumer-generated media in various ad campaigns, the effect of splogs on metrics (this should be of great interest to the vast majority of us who blog. splogs hurt everybody).

At this point in time, there are different ways to calculate the influence of WOM for various kinds of products and marketing campaigns. Of highest priority was how the members of WOMMA might be able to agree on one standard metric for measuring the ROI of WOM.

That’s also the biggest conundrum. Matt McGlinn of BzzAgent, whose study “Measuring the Value of a Manage WOM program in Test & Control markets” won an award for Best Demonstration of ROI, stressed an understanding of the word of mouth phenomenon beyond universal metrics.

Essentialy, ROI can be great, but we’re really selling WOM short if the only reason to do it is contingent on ROI.

I was not disappointed by any of the sessions I attended at the Research Symposium, More than any other group of professionals, these folks seemed to really get that any sort of word of mouth marketing campaign can’t rely solely on hard sciences and algorithms, and must be a combination of technology and human flitering of information.

There is no way that marketers, if they want to engage in successful WOM, can avoid dealing with the human factors that can’t be traced in metrics.

One curious statistic though that was presented by the Keller Fay group (I think) was that 70% of WOM takes place face to face and only 4% of WOM happens online. It was also very rightly pointed out that those numbers can change contingent on the type of product that is being monitored. For instance, online WOM for a new video game might be higher than WOM for a new bleach.

That’s the kind of thing that seems very evident to me, but I’m sure isn’t evident to those who don’t spend the majority of their day swinging through the sinewy jungles of the blogosphere.

And since that's often the case when it comes to trying to convince businesses to do just a tiny bit of WOM.....

See more recaps of presentations at the fantastic WOMMA Research Blog

NOTE: WOMMA's really great about giving out Smart Schwag--case studies, books, notes, cds of sessions--that I will, from time to time, have updates on the info I got from them. It's just way too much for one blog post--but way too much in a good way!

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Tagged on a Meme: 5 things you don't know about me

Just did a quick search on Technorati and found I've been tagged by marketing diva (and maven) Toby Bloomberg on a very fun meme--which will probably raise a few eyebrows and make you think (but won't make your hair stand on end)...

so here goes:

5 Things you don't know about me(even if you've read my personal blog)

1. My "late night reading" consists mostly of Dashiell Hammett stuff and other noir novels. Figuring out mid 20th century euphemisms is fun!

2. I've been into one form of social media or another since about '92. It started with friends (who worked at H.P.) who were into techno and found out raves(see this history of hyperreal.) As a college student ('98-'01) I was an integral part of the New York Times Film Forum, posting under the moniker of ariadnae. It was a wonderful and interesting time--those guys and gals were great company and I learned a lot about how communities self-police, good board monitoring, and the like. I remember when LiveJournal launched as some college acquaintances were on it--some still are--but wasn't into that particular community. From the forums (there were others, too) I went into online dating. Won't bore with the details, but I picked up some very valuable skills for ferriting out fradulent profiles (and you'd be surprised *where* people place "alter ego" profiles...) Started blogging in November of '04 with a blog titled Love and Hope and Sex and Dreams--but don't like to post the url here, as some professional folk have a bit of "trouble" with reading anything personal about a potential colleague...which is why this blog was started. Both blogs have unique communities with a little overlap. But, essentially, guys like this one, women like the other--but a fair number of guys read the other too.

3. I crochet. Seriously. I've made doilies, afghans, dolls, baby blankies, and kitchen stuff. My Victorian bride doll won second prize at a county fair.

4. I recently moved to Easthampton, MA, where I live over an art gallery, which sits between a bakery (chocolate cakes to *die* for) and an ice cream parlor (where you can buy some of the best coffee on earth). There are also some amazing good eats, reasonably priced, in town (Amy's Place up the street from me, Ralphine's Deli, Nini's, and Blue Moon Grocery to name a few.) I've always wanted to live "in town"--Greenwich Village actually--and this is pretty close. We're also wifi'd like crazy out here. The only place that could possibly make me happier is the Village. but it's way too expensive. I can't imagine what my apt. would cost in NYC.

5. I've travelled cross country twice in my life and really want to do it again. Soon. I love the West. It's not the East. I also want to go back to Hawaii--where I was the happiest in my entire life. that's it. I know I should probably tag a few people, but give me a bit to figure out whom. I'll post that on an update at the top of this post...

Friday, December 15, 2006

Citizen journalism site Fresno Famous purchased by McClatchy Newspapers

Huge news in the world of citizen journalism: Fresno Famous, Cali citizen journalism site founded by Jara Euston was purchased by the Fresno Bee--one of the crown jewels in the historic McClatchy newspaper chain...

While the Bee will own Fresno Famous, it will be managed separately from the newspaper:
"Fresno Famous will remain separate from The Fresno Bee newspaper, but will gain the resources of a much larger media company. We owe our success to the community of users on the site, and know this sale will only improve user experience," said Euston.

Congratulations Jara!

Sister site Modesto Famous was also purchased by McClatchy.
"Purchasing a strong franchise such as gives The Bee another way in which to reach younger readers with information they seek," said Valerie Bender, vice president of custom publications for The Bee. “Our intention is to keep the high standard of blogging and information that has led to the success of and to, over time, continue to grow the content and opportunities for citizen journalism on the site."

Bender will be taking over management of Fresno Famous from Euston, who will aid with the transition over the next six months.

This development, in a unusual way, echoes the evolution of the McClatchy chain. In the last century--1922 to be exact--Carlos McClatchy launched the Fresno Bee. In 1927, McClatchy bought the News-Herald of Modesto and renamed it the Modesto Bee.

And let's all hope that McClatchy keeps its word on maintaining the integrityity of both Fresno Famous and its sister Modesto Famous...but read the comments in the Fresno Famous post about the takeover. IMHO, I worry about this sort of thing because there is a need for independent, watchdog citizen journalism sites. It's not to say that all local papers are horrid and corrupt, with crappy, meaningless journalism--no, not at all. But sometimes stories fall through the cracks at local papers (that, nowadays, are squeaking for cash) and having a web presence that looks at a different side of the local scene isn't really a bad thing. Many in the mainstream journalism community don't seem to trust The People to write about where they live with a level of journalistic integrity--a good portion of the journalism community have bought the hype that because they have a particular education that they are of a "priestly" class (I've heard it--it's nauseating.) That kind of talk reminds me of the elitism among Christiantan preachers--there are those who go to high-brow Divinity schools, and those who preach without a "fancy education." Yet both are preachers and both serve the people in their own ways. Both types of preachers do their part to preserve freedom of religion in this country...doesn't it seem to follow, then, that two kinds of journalism, the kind practiced in newsrooms and the kind practiced on cit j sites, are both doing their thing to preserve freedom of speech?

think about it.

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Sony PS3 Flog: it ain't portable nut!

Well, Sony's been busted for creating a "flog" as part of their PS3 advertising campaign. Aside from the un-hipster version of hip-hopspeak that pervaded the thing, there was a problem with the splogger-style "glued" word url (, as well as the artwork on the flog (here's the headder):
Take a good look at the title--doesn't the artwork kind of resemble these little guys:

from last December's urban squirrels commercials (which lots of people liked--well, after they dealt with the graffitti-as-advertising scandal...)

Big commpanies have to get a lot wiser about their ad campaigns. Or is it that agencies like Zipatoni need to get a grip and hire people who know the social media space. Don't try to run with the Natives if your feet can't take the heat...

(thanks gregverdino2.0 for the headder)

UpdateOnline Media Daily reports Zipitoni's mea culpa for the PSP flog. Yet the fault also lies with Sony--a company that tries too hard to be "street."

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Blogging WOMMA: the Last Day

Wednesday, Dec 13. 5:08pm I'm exhausted. Three days of information--some of that number-related--and networking. I think I still have a voice, but I'm not sure. I know my brain's in the process of a nuclear-style meltdown from all the stimulus and I can't wait to sleep on the plane....which isn't until 9:15pm.

I'd planned to liveblog some of the sessions of the con, but the free wifi was awful and I didn't want to pony up the 20 bucks a day for the good one (that is, if I *could* pick up the good one--there was no guarantee.)

I've come to expect crappy wifi at most cons I'm at--even strictly tech and blogging cons--because most places just don't boost the signal enough.

Such is high tech life in a medium-tech world...

and my suitcase is twice as heavy as it was before I left. Must be all the books. That's the great thing about marketing cons--all the "smart" schwag.

Will blog much more about the con tomorrow...

oh, spoke to a Georgetown student last night about online communities and newspapers. Will have more on that too...

off to dinner. ...

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Blogging WOMMA: Sunday Night

Washington D.C.: In town to blog the Word of Mouth Marketing Assoc Research Symposium (12/11) and Marketing Summit (12/12-13)

There's a lot going on here--some case studies and metrics analysis. This will be one of the few conferences I've attended that's been strictly on business (the other, high-level strictly business con was Corante's Innovative Marketing Conference. I met some amazing people there, and learned a lot.)

Folks from Forrester, Nielsen BuzzMetrics, Cymfony and the like will be presenting. A little more "hard" discussion on the business end of blogging and social networking...

Tonight though it's been mostly settling in, calling a friend, discovering I forgot something important (and trying to find a way to replace it), going out a bit...

Went for a walk at dusk. Got a hot pretzel and made my way over to the World War II Memorial

Memorials (and the Capitol for that matter) take on a whole different aura at night. (sorry for the canned photo--cell phone was charging and left the digi at home)

No fear of walking after dark--being middle aged and geeky renders one relatively invisible in a wealthy country where appearances count for much. On some level, though, it's very liberating to be invisible.

Had a mediocre fish dinner at an expensive restaurant (last time I take myself out for an expensive meal ;-) ) Overly flirty waiter (did I look that desperate?) and very good wine.

Time for bed though. Registration is at 6:30, which means I get up by 5:00 at least. I like to get to these things before the crowd.

more to come...

Sunday, December 03, 2006

When Sara Lee met Ren & Stimpy, My Holidays Would Never Be The Same

Well, advertising smarties have once again done something to leave an indelible impression on my delicate psyche: I've seen the new holiday commercial for Sara Lee pound/cheese and other cakes that uses the ole "Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy" song from Ren and Stimpy (complete with holidy jingle bells.) I can't seem to find the holiday commercial, but it wasn't the first Sara Lee commercial to use the song. Sara Lee launched what's called its "Joy of Eating" campaign with a bread commercial that shows a number of people who are of the age to remember exactly where the "Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy" song comes from:

What's probably funnier is what the Chicago Sun Times had to say about the campaign, which is reported as named "The Joy of Eating"--in order to remind people of The Joy of Sex. However, whomever wrote the article seems to be woefully ignorant of the source material of the music, calling it "a mildly annoying jingle that speeds up along with the procession of images.", the Chicago Sun Times seems to forget that most people never hear of, nor learn, the names of ad campaigns--But by golly gosh we certainly do hear, and sometimes even know, the source material for their jingles! (mostly, too, because they don't hire jingle-writers these days. It's cheaper to rewriter--or just use outright--old stuff.)

It's too creepy to think that the ad agency, TWBA/Chiat/Day might have been thinking sex and ended up channeling Ren and Stimpy. All I can think is what the heck is going on in *that* creative department!

Just makes me think they've got to be a bunch of sick little monkeys...

AdWeek's AdFreak Blog even fails to mention the Ren & Stimpy connection, but the few commenters definitley did a fair number of astute bloggers including one who even posts the lyrics--which are anything but appetite (food OR sex) inducing. Watch it here and tell me if it makes y'all think of anything a grown-up as sex or politely eating a sandwich:

But I think it's intentional: I don't think, as the Sun Times reporter writes, that we're supposed to make the Joy of Eating/Joy of Sex connection. I think we're supposed to make the "food is fun! all the kids are doing it!" connection. Heck, just look at the faces of the folks in the bread commercial...they're hardly expressing sensual ecstacy as much as they are a child-like delight in gluttony--as in stuffing one's face like an eeediot and not worrying about the calories.

It's about letting go and being a kid--not about sex. If they wanted to equate food and sex (rather than food as kid fun) they would certainly found another song.

So, just goes to show how out of touch the Establishemen is if they can't even get the why a company might want to use a song from Ren & Stimpy to sell bread and cake to grownups. It's got nothing to do with sex and everything to do with being a kid again.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Is it ever okay to print trollspeak in a newspaper?

Over at Poynter's E-Media Tidbits, Amy's got a post that asks whether or not it's ever okay to print ad hominem attacks from a newspapers website...

This may seem like a no-brainer to those of us who've spent some time running around blogs and forums and message boards: the simple rule of thumb is that if the attack is anonymous, from a source totally and wholly unknown to the community, and there's absolutely no way to verify the i.d. of the person who made the comment, then it's a troll and just move along, don't give it any traction whatsoever.

Even if it's an anonymous poster who's know to the community, whether or not to print the comment should be contingent on the credibility and transparency of the author (Mark Glaser at Mediashift has an excellent post on the bloggers' view of transparency and credibility-even though most of the bloggers are high-level exec types ;-), still a very good read.)

In other words, if the person leaving the ad hominem comment is known to the group, maybe even known for that kind of thing, then that doesn't mean it should be printed. A credible ranter could be fun to the general community, but is that rant newsworthy? Further, continual ranting doesn't necessary equate with transparency either--perhaps in identifying the person in a certain way, but that's more a sense of being two-dimensional rather than transparent. Think of it this way: do quotes from Spider Man comics merit reprint on the editorial page? (I know, some of you might say *yes* but I'm talking in the formal news sense here...)

And what about verifying and asking the person to print the rant? Amy's piece doesn't give any indication as to whether or not the paper in question just plucked the stuff from the web or if they asked that it be used. If the paper did indeed ask, then it becomes a matter of why the paper would want to print this sort of thing in the first place.

Which leads me to wonder about how some newspapers view the stuff that comes into their web publications. Do they have someone monitoring their forums, blogs, etc. who might know the community? Do they have a policy regarding reprints of web based comments?--which they should. If there's a policy in place regarding letters to the editor, and if there is a policy, written or informal, about reprinting local gossip, then there should be some policy or understanding about reprinting screeds/rants/ and other web-based comments/bashes.

In my comment over at Poynter, I alluded to the perhaps-maybe possibility that this particular California newsroom in question is a bit confused about the concept of giving the people a voice. Giving people a voice, in most instances, means printing stuff that people are willing to sign their names to (unless it's super-hot and could hurt them in some way) and that will perhaps stimulate thought and conversation. Maybe the National enquirer and the Star make big bucks off printing stuff that is more whisper-down-the-lane than it is news, but what about when a local daily does this? Do they really think that the people in their area really want to read what amounts to a rotten tomato-throw from the rabble? And does someone in that newsroom perhaps think that the web is only about rabble-thrown rotten tomatoes?? Yes, I know that's being a bit rough on the average newsroom, but I've heard and read commentary to that effect from newspaper folk, which is troubling... (Michael Kinsley, who's been around a bit, seems to hold the opinion that anonymity is "supposed to be one of the signature qualities of the web"--guess he's been missing all the talk on credibility and transparency. )

Overall, there's no way to know exactly what every daily paper across the country thinks about commenters to its websites; but, the Califorina (Amy corrects: not California) reprints make me wonder how many other papers are either doing the same thing, or just, in general, not getting what's happening with communities on the web and think it's all about being anonymous and acting trollish. If that's the case, then I would begin to wonder what, exactly, they think of their web-based newspaper reading constiuency? Do they think the web readers are lesser than the print readers? And do they get that if they drop the ball on understanding some of the nuances of their web reading community, they may end up failing the entire community?

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Another posting delay I have encountered some serious problems with my work computer that is keeping me on the phone with tech support and away from posting. It'll be another day or so before I everything is all right.

Monday, November 06, 2006

One more week away I will be away from blogging here for one more week while I co-ordinate voluteers for the Northampton Independent Film Festival where I am an Associate Director.

It's always a great time, but if you've ever co-ordinated a fairly good sized event that runs over a period of days, you'll know that it simply consumes your life for the time it is going on. I've already put together a party for 300 people on opening night--not to mention staffing 4 different locations for 12 hours over 4 days.

Luckily, this year I live only 10-15 minutes away.

I should resume posting here around November 12 or 13. There will be some catching-up to do, that's for sure!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

On Bloggers as Journalists and the Dilemma of Disclosure

The following was written in response to this post on RoughType concerning an incident at the recent Online Journalism Association conference and a matter of disclosure (for the best blow-by-blow of the OJA session, read Staci @ PaidContent)

Arrington excoriating Jarvis...isn't that kind of like Jimmy Olsen taking Perry White to task for allowing Clark and Lois to work together??

But seriously, I always have to wonder how, and why, Arrington's now on so many panels from journalism cons to Bloggercon to Office 2.0, and speaking with such authority on so much, when he's really just a lawyer who wrote up a good business plan for a blog and has a very nice and congenial writing style...(disclosure for this blog: yes, I read TechCrunch on occasion, and actually like it--and I've never met M.A. f2f)

Okay, now let me get serious: yes, this is definitely about disclosure, and the need to disclose--I also see conversation, and the personnas we bring to blogging vs. the personnas left out of print.

As a conversation medium, blogging doesn't necessarily demand that we disclose everything, even about business deals. Blogging can be like a fan-dance--it reveals as much as it conceals. That is, unless we plan to use our blogging as an entree into journalism--and desire to be as credible as the profession is assumed to be. If that is the case, then it is upon us as bloggers to gain credibility by following some of the basic ethical rules of journalism--disclose sources (something the Edelman Wal-mart bloggers didn't do) *and* disclose possible conflicts of interest.

In speaking about the imprisonment of videoblogger Josh Wolfe in Online Journalism Review, Christine Tatum, President of SPJ, said she supported him, but was troubled by his statments of being an "advocate" while wanting to claim free speech protection as a journalist. "I think that it's very important for online journalists to begin to understand.. that it's very, very important that you do maintain some sort of objectivity and distance" she said.

So, bloggers who decide to turn what they are doing into online journalism (slightly different than citizen journalism) walk a balance between the conventions of conversation (some, which are particular to the blogosphere) and conventions of the profession of journalism. As we do this, we also wrestle with personna. If we are too journalistic, will those who read us assume we can't converse directly with them? If we too "bloggy" will journalists think we're somehow less than?

Bloggers who aspire to online journalism can indeed learn a lot from journalists--but journalists can learn some things from bloggers too--like how we convey information *and* carry on conversation without getting bugged by it (and retaliating a'la Hiltzik and Siegle.) But I'm not sure Arrington's the right blogger to be quaterbacking all the time.

(btw, I wrote on journalists and conversation for OJR--now used as reading in some journo ethics classes. thought I'd disclose...)

And speaking of disclosure: a freelance journalist who works for the Washington Post was fired because he did not disclose the small fact that a pro-Wal-Mart special interest group was paying for the RV (and then some) he was using for the WaPo assignment. He was also blogging about it Why is it that folks who are pro-Wal-Mart often like to leave out of whatever they are into that this is their position? In this case, as a freelanger being paid by Big Media, he did indeed have a right to disclose. In my ethical world, if I'm being paid by someone to do a job, then the job comes before my blog, which, even if I had ads, wouldn't give me enough to live off of for any length of time. More importantly, I can't act like a double-agent and sleep with Jams Bond while sleeping with Goldfinger. (And you know what happened in that movie....the same thing happened to the freelancer. More or less.)

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Monday, October 09, 2006

Google buys YouTube to Tune of $1.65 billion

Google buys YouTube for $1.65 billion That's $0.05 billion more than originally thought the search giant would pay for the video upload giant

I wonder if Mark Cuban, who recently said something to the effect of "anyone who buys that (YouTube) is a moron" because of potential lawsuits and copywright violations is still thinking that on this fine autumn evening....

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Where do you live, citizen journalist? Flattening the Hyperlocal Concept

In many corners of the journalism establishment, hyperlocal citizen journalism blogs or placeblogs are all the rage. Some newspapers want to emulate them, others want to stomp them into the ground. But if you think about it, in an Internet Age of long tails, niches, and an increasingly flat world, the term "hyperlocal" can itself end up...well...flat...

On My Heart's in Accra, Ethan Zuckerman posted some fabulous thoughts on the idea of "being there" and citizen journalism. Ethan notes that the current perception and emphasis is on what he refers to as "being there" citizen journalism: photos of the Asian tsunami and the London bombings. Yet there's more to just "being there":
But I think there's another place where citizen's media may be at least as important - introducing citizen expertise on subjects where existing journalists may not be expert

He's got a very good point! Still, there's more to what Ethan's saying about broadening--or, perhaps flattening--the idea of "being there" citizen journalism. Some of GVO's editors, Ndesanjo Macha the Africa editor and Neha Viswanathan who covers India, do so from homes far removed from their homelands. Ethan forwards the idea that it is their expertise on these particular geographic regions that makes them qualified to edit on those regions for GVO.

Yes, they have expertise--and Ethan points that existing media outlets might be threatened by citizens with expertise. Totally agree on that one, too--even though I know that some journalists might argue that citizens with expertise make bad journalists because they *may* (in their view) lack objectivity.

However, let's take Ethan's thought one step further--into the realm of hyperlocal. Hyperlocal is a form of "being there" citizen journalism, no doubt, but in this quickly evolving online space, "being there" and "hyperlocal" can take on a meaning beyond geography. What if we find ourselves "citizens" of a particular place within the boundless boundaries of the Internet? Are we, perhaps, then "hyperlocal" citizen journalists when we are writing about the corners of the Internet that we patrol/troll regularly?

Perhaps so--but this way of thinking requires that we stretch our sense of what we mean by concepts such as "community." In social networking, "community" is sometimes defined as places such as MySpace, YouTube, or any other social networking software space we (1)keep a profile and (2)participate regularly. So, could someone not write about a particular corner of MySpace as if it is their neighborhood?

Think about it.

The concept could stretch our ideas of what, where, and how we get expertise. Can we indeed get expertise from being online, social networking, for a prolonged length of time? Absolutely! Could we know more than the individual who never participates online, in social media? Absolutely!

What are the psychological/social implications of all this--to us as individuals and as groups? Do we think of particular websites/forums/blogs/etc. or "spaces" in the same way we might think of our physical neighborhoods? Do some of us split ourselves in two--allow our unsupervised Ids to run wild in cyberspace while maintaining a buttoned-down Real Life (in that case, though, which life is truly the real one?)

Have some of us gone far enough to have developed professional as well as personal lives on the 'net? Absolutely. There are, probably, more of us than the physical world realizes...

As I participated in the NYTimes Film Forum (98-'01), my idea of what constituted a "friend" changed. I had many "friends" in that space that I would never meet IRL because of the geographic distance. As I now write for online publications, my sense of workplace has changed. I touch base with editors and such, but rarely do I sit with them over lunch, talk on the phone, or get direct feedback from them. I must be very self-disciplined and self-directed. In my life, then, there has been an evolution from online social space to online work place. The Real, or physical, world has played a role in the movement from online social to online work--a necessity because the totality of who we are does not, and cannot, be contained within the boundless boundaries of the Internet.

We are, after all, physical creatures, and on some level require face to face meeting.....we learn from all our senses, not just those we use online.

(contrary to a popular conceit, one not need to be an engineer-hardware or software--to have expertise in this space. to say that only engineers can have expertise of this space is like saying only architects or city planners can have expertise enough to write about what it is to live in a particular place. think about it. the internet is more than engineering. Some folks built it, and lots of us live in it.)

Yet my sense of the world, overall, is that it is "flat." My sense of neighborhood and of friends is one more of affinity and expertise than of geography. Therefore, I am committing an act of "hyperlocal" journalism (citizen or professional) when I am writing about the places/spaces/sensibilities on the Internet that I know just as well as I know the shortest route to the Chicopee Wal-Mart and my neighbor's first name. My "beat" as a journalist is media--it is the world online, just the way for someone else it might be Greenfield or Chicopee or Springfield.

I live here in this online space as much as I live in a physical space. It's the way many of us live today..It is our "hyperlocal"....

Think about it.

(thanx Dave Weinberger for Ethan link....)

Further Reading:

Doc's ten clues to help newspapers--let's all stop using the term "content" please!! it doesn't make y'all sound any smarter....

When hyperlocal goes wrong: The Knoxville News-Sentinel decided to give front-page coverage to a 15-year old's decadent birthday party, and the citizens gave them what-for. And they're right. This is not responsible hyperlocal coverage. If someone wanted to blog about it, that's one thing--but then it would be pretty crappy hyperlocal citizen journalism on a non-story. (thanx Bob Stepno--very cool! via Doc...)

Jay Rosen Interviewed on Slashdot-- citizen journalism, and a few other things...

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Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Tim Westergren hangs out at Hampshire--Illuminates the Music Genome Project

It's been and incredibly beautiful day out here in Western Mass--if there's one thing we have, it's beautiful days. Pandora founder Tim Westergren noticed this too...held a meet-up out here at a Hampshire College's Red Barn...

I'm only about 20 minutes could I *not* go....and like everybody else who was there, I was incredibly interested to see what Tim would say about Pandora and the Music Genome Project (Tim was at SXSW Interactive this past March, too--but our paths didn't cross. I did sit in on his panel, which is where I got more interested in Pandora.)

It was great to have Tim out here--scanning his blog tonight, it's easy to see why he'd go to places like L.A. and New York. And he'll be out in Providence, RI on 10/4 for BIF-2, so it would make sense to hold a meetup there.

But out here in what's--technically, and in comparison to Boston--The Middle of Nowhere??

There were about 30 of us Pandora enthusiasts at the Red Barn, and by the questions people asked, everyone had a keen interest in music and a desire to know more about the genesis of the Music Genome Project....a mix of musicians, bloggers, student djs, a couple of reporters, and some curious folks. A good group.

Tim explained that Pandora's main focus is to help independent musicians, and he noted how Pandora takes submissions from "unsigned" bands and weaves them into the Genome--if the music passes a determination that it's of "quality." Now, quality might be a subjective judgment, but Pandora staff doesn't simply judge a piece of music after listening to it for three minutes. Rather, the staff of trained analysts who understand the various elements of music (folks *with* music degrees, who also go thru 150 hours of training by Pandora) listen to a piece of music for between 15 and 40 mins, to determine a piece of music's unique elements. It seemed that Tim was trying to explain that by considering these unique elements, one could determine that a piece of music had a certain kind of "quality."

Listening to Pandora, though, really isn't about tracking down the latest and greatest in Top 40, or the perfect tune; nor is it about being assaulted by all emo-and-garage all the time (that is, unless you program a station for that kind of music.) It's more about discovering new music that fits with music you already like...

Mostly everyone was interested to find out how the Genome works. As Tim explained, there are 400 unique music criteria. Voice alone can be described by over 30 different attributes! As mentioned, people with some expertise and training, listen to the music and mark it for the various criteria, which is then fed into the database. (it was explained how Surowiecki's "wisdom of crowds" idea doesn't quite work for the type of service they wanted to produce--music tastes are too broad to use that particular approach effectively.)

Every song has its own unique mathematical formula--it's own "genes."

Now, when a song or artist is picked out, the magic little computers search out other songs that reflect similarities in this mathematical formula....but it's not always going to pick the exact, perfect song. It needs feedback from us. Then, it becomes very necessary that we give the Genome a bit of feedback by rating a song "thumbs up" or "thumbs down." This way, the Genome can find more music that fits our particular likes and dislikes, not just what it scans and picks for us.

So, two "stations" of the same artist or song can be started at the same time, and each one end up totally different because of the "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" ranking process.

My Led Zeppelin and Ursula 1000 stations are, then, totally different from someone else's Led Zeppelin and Ursula 1000 stations....that is, if there's someone as particular in his/her tastes to also have Led Zep and Ursula 100 as their stations. (as I'm writing this, though, I've been listening to my White Stripes station...)

A funny thing, though, that some of us told Tim about, is that occasionally Pandora hiccups--basically, it can't find the next song in the Genome to play. While they're working on that *not* happeneing, Tim encouraged us to email them when it does. Feedback, after all, is super-important to the whole process.

Two very interesting factoids about Pandora: it grew by word-of-mouth and some props from Slashdot and other tech blogs. And they will never "play a song because someone paid us to." (gee, that beats ClearChannel all to hell...)

I often like to put Pandora to the test. I tend to have some very ecclectic music interests, which sometime befuddle the genome (I think). So, tonight, I entered "Vitas", that weird Russian tenor that looks like a baby Falco and sounds like the spawn of Klaus Nomi. Didn't come up with anything for "Vitas." Wasn't surprised there. So, I entered "Style Council"--Paul Weller's project *after* The Jam. I've come across few folks over the years--other than those who have been into music for as long as I have and were "punks" at one point or another--who know of Style Council. Yet, there they were, in Pandora (Mari Wilson, however, wasn't--but she's a contemporary of Style Council, seriously obscure and British and *very* retro in music style.) Although I'm finding with bands like Style Council, who were a bit tough to classify, that music that corresponds to its "genome" is stuff I really don't enjoy--like "Sweet Spot" from Captain Harry(?!?!eek!). It wasn't a very good fit with Style Council...

I was, though, very pleased with my Erasure station--just perfect for those "Oh! L'Amour!" moments ;-)

Come to think of it, Vitas might fit pretty well with Erasure...

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Those Cheeky Comment-Spam Sploggin' Monkeys!

At some point or another, we all get zapped by spam comments. For some folks, spam comments come in at such a fast and furious rate (because they're programmed by bots) that they have to shut off their blog comments. When I started to notice spam comments coming in, I added word verification to the email notifications I already receive for blog comments.

The word verification seems to have slowed the nonsense down--but not stopped it. Now, the comment-spammer monkeys have taken it one cheeky step further. The comment I got this a.m. has been deleted from the entry where it appeared, but since I get email verification, I still have the text, left by one "NonToxic Chuck":
I've had this same thought. I wonder about the Michell Malkins and other of the blogger world. Especially, those who blog about terrorist subjects. That would create a great deal of anxiety for me. They are very brave to tell the truth in their blogs.

One fellow, I think he was the webmaster at iraqthemodel (?) was killed. He was doing his blogging from Iraq.

What makes this monkey possibly one of the cheekiest is that the comment seems to actually have a bit of thought. Even though Michelle Malkin's name is spelled wrong, that could be considered a common mistake, along with leaving the "s" off of "other" (for "others"). And the second paragraph alludes to iraqthemodel, which is a real conservative blogspot blog that's part of Pajamas Media.

NonToxic Chuck even has a profile (only 16 or so views though). So, at first glance, it appears that the comment is from a real live person.

Correction: real-life comment spammer who wants to lead us back to his splog.

There are two dead-giveaways that this is comment-spam from a splogger. First, the post was recorded on an entry from a year ago, that had absolutely nothing to do with the context of the comment. The post simply had the word "terrorism" in it, but nothing in the content of the post discusses political terrorism in relation to the war in Iraq or conservative politics--so the post was targeted by a bot.

All I could think was "Jeebus! ain't this rich."

The second key is in the word that is in bold in that paragraph, which, in the original text, was a hyperlink that lead to a splog. How did I know it was a splog? Well, it had one article, a reprint with a hyperlink to the original article, but no "about" page, and no links to other blogs. There were links to other pages but no content. What there was, aside from one article in very large print, were lots and lost of Google Adsense ads relating to anxiety relief.

Lots of ads with a bunch of content that's either cribbed from someone else or makes no sense is a sure sign of a splog.

What's the deal? Does this jerk think he's going to make good money off his splog? and how can we stop these idiots?

Sure, I could report them to Google Adsense, and I could flag the blog (as it was a blogspot blog.) But that seems to do virtually nothing.

So, not only is my content being stolen by sploggers, but I'm getting harassed by sploggers who think they're actually smart enough to leave comments that won't be taken for spam. Wow. Just like living in a bad neighborhood. And I don't even have to leave the house to get the flavor....

Update 9/27/06: Businessweek documents some of the major problems ofclickfraud spawned by splog

Monday, September 25, 2006

Do Citizens Really Need "Gentle Expert Guidance" to Build a Better Online Encyclopedia? (or haven't we lost our virginity yet?)

UPDATE:10/19/06 Larry Sanger's changed the wording on his descrition of Citizendium! Okay, the use of "constables" in this version is kind of funny and makes one think of British bobbies, but Sanger is now acknowledging that this place we call the 'net has lots of intellectuals of various sort. His essay now says:
"will invite experts to serve as editors, who will be able to make content decisions in their areas of specialization, but otherwise working shoulder-to-shoulder with ordinary authors.

Bravo, Larry!

Catching up on things missed from vacation while catching up on the past week's silliness, I came across Nick Carr's commentary on Larry Sanger's new project Citizendium, which also links to a fabulous (and amusing) debate about Experts and Expertise between Clay Shirky (who starts it off here, with Sanger's retort and Shirky's rejoinder, yet both miss the following point I'm about to make....)

Essentially, Citizendium will be an "experimental new wiki project that combines public participation with gentle expert guidance," beginning its life as a "progressive fork" of Wikipedia...."But we expect it to take on a life of its own and, perhaps, to become the flagship of a new set of responsibly-managed free knowledge projects," sez Larry...

And get this tidbit:
We believe a fork is necessary, and justified, both to allow regular people a place to work under the direction of experts, and in which personal accountability--including the use of real names--is expected. In short, we want to create a responsible community and a good global citizen.

Wow...I am shocked and awed. No, make that shocked and appalled that someone as intelligent as Sanger, who appears to want to build a community, would use such condescending language to try to reach, intelligent, thoughtful, articulate, educated Citizens, who, under different circumstances, might actually be his peers.

Now, I understand that Sanger's been a bit put off by the rough and tumble anarchy of Wikipedia, and seems to have some prejudices against online communities. He seems to desire to up the ante and the level of discourse as well as input into Citizendium

But, myself and a whole host of others could tell him that he ain't gonna get it by telling everyone he's going to have "experts" offer "gentle guidance."

Let's put it this architect, who just might think of himself as an expert at building houses, who also sees himself as "regular people," may not find any desire to contribute to a place where "experts" will offer "gentle guidance."

He might not mind peer review, however.

And "gentle guidance"??? What are we, Sunday school kids trying to figure out what the whole bread-and-wine thing is all about?

Please, Larry...If you want the folks who constitute "regular people" on the 'net to be interested in your project, you're going to have to learn to speak to them at their level of intelligence...Which, quite frankly, is a lot higher than you may have been lead to believe from the level of discourse you perceive on forums, newsgroups, wikipedia, and some blogs. Remember, some of the smartest people are known for doing, and saying, very foolish things.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Fox Filmed Entertainment and Fox Faith: Where "One Night With The King" has nothing to do with Elvis...

The LA Times reports this morning that News Corp's Fox Filmed Entertainment division will announce its plans to venture into old fashioned Christian Epic Filmmaking with its new Fox Faith Division. The Times mentions "Love's Abiding Joy," set for 10/6 release--but the film they *should* have mentioned is the gargantuan Christian romantic Epic One Night With the King, scheduled for release on Oct. 13

There are two trailers: the Macho Mainstream trailer:

And the longer, Schmaltzy Romantic trailer:

Isn't Peter O'Toole such a hambone?? Isn't Luke Goss a perfect dreamboat??? And what's with John Rhys-Davies in yet another epic film (at least in this one they don't squash him down to troll size)?

The film is produced by Gen8Xion Entertainment, in association with Fox Faith....the story is taken from the novel Hadassah:A Night With the King by travelling evangelist Tommy Tenney (who's also co-producer and reminds me a bit of Billy Sunday) and screenplay writer Mark Andrew Olsen.

Gener8Xion is headed by Matthew Crouch who was V.P. of the Trinity Broadcasting Network--which was started by Jim Bakker and is the home of the Preacher Lady With the Pink Hair and our favorite "healer", Benny Hinn.

The film even has a MySpace page

Check out what Tenney's Godchaser's site has to say about the film.

A quick synops: Tenney's taken the Story of Esther and christianized it--drawing in elements of good old fashioned Calvinist predestination and high romance into a very pragmatic story about a young woman who wins a beauty contest and wins the king's "favor" in order to save the Jewish people. Yes, there may have been some fateful hand of God in that Old Testament story, but I'm not so sure that Tenney's christianizing of the story, replete with a 20th century romantic ideals of kings and queens, reveals, as Tenney states, the "hidden truth of Esther's story."

So let's get a grip for a moment here. This is an Epic. It's a Movie. It is a resurrected form of filmmaking that passed away more than a generation ago. The film is made by individuals who have a particular intention for the story--whether that intention is moneymaking or something like proselytizing can only be determined by reading copious interviews of the filmmakers and script writers and producers (note: I have done extensive research on epic christian filmmaking, so yeah, I kind of know something about its mechanisms.)

Could their motive be simply to make a "family friendly film" about a girl who has the power to change the mind of a all-powerful ruler (basically by offering herself to him--oh, the story appears to leave out that the king has multiple wives)? Possible. As a student of both Media and Religion, I am Ultra-Skeptical of any film that purports to tell the truth about an event that happened several thousand years ago that is then sliced and diced and re-packaged for pop culture consumption. Distortions are going to be rife as filmmakers try to pluck just the right pop culture emotional notes that will get audiences into theaters and help studios turn a profit.

It is odd, though, that Epic films are making such a comeback after their slow demise over 40 years ago. The final collapse of the genre started in '63 with MGM's ultimate bank-breaking snooze-fest Cleopatra, continued through the George Stevens' biblically literal but culturally discordantThe Greatest Story Ever Told and that final nail-in-the-coffin, John Huston's creepy The Bible(1966). There were attempts at big 1930's style adventure films in the 1980's, most notably Raiders of the Lost Ark (John Rhys-Davies in his first ethnic epic role as the Egyptian Sallah) and the Star Wars Saga overlapping the 1970's and '80's...but these pale in comparison to the likes of Spartacus(actually a secular epic--Dalton Trumbo wrote the screenplay) and The Robe (which influenced the highly impressionable 8-year old mind of genius filmmaker Martin Scorsese.)

What isn't so odd is that these new epics, esp. the ones that are backed by Fox Faith and Gener8Xion Entertainment, are actually motivated by the same thing that motivated many of the old Hollywood epics--personal faith. Yet that faith of the 20th century was Mainstream Protestant (the guys who wrote Godspell), sometimes Episcopalean (Cecil B DeMille) or even Catholic (George Stevens), but was NOT high Evangelical/Petacostal. I wonder about the motivation of these new epic filmmakers. I know the motivation of the old epic filmmakers was not to proselytize, but can we say the same about these folks and their new epics?

And does Rupe Murdoch perhaps think that backing faith-based films will save his own immortal soul after what he hath wrought with MySpace?

Lots of questions--tons of kitsch--few answers--much to keep an eye on...

Update 10/8/06: The Unofficial Peter O'Toole Pages! has this to say. Can I get an "Amen, brother!"

Update 10/13/06 The reviews are rolling in...Dear Lord, why must Your most ardent followers unleash such bad movies in Your name? sez Josh Bell of Las Vegas Weekly

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Monday, September 18, 2006

Is Google Really Just One Big Splog??

Think about this: Okay, you're the Belgian Association of News Editors. And you've noticed that Google's been aggregating the content of all your newspapers and not paying them one red Euro for it. What happens next? You lodge a complaint in the Belgian Courts against Google who then find that:
If Google doesn't comply with this month's ruling and continues to publish Belgian newspaper copy without permission and without paying a fee, the Belgian Court of First Instance will fine the company €1 million ($1.27 million) daily, the association said. "It's an infraction of Belgian and EU laws, the newspapers are losing money this way and, above all, Google thinks it is outside the law," the association's Secretary-General Margaret Boribon said.

So there.

But, if you think about it, isn't that kind of what sploggers do--take your content, republish it, not tell you, then make money off of it?

Think about it....

Update: Google drops Belgian news...oh, well...guess all their spare change is going towards paying the AP.

Update 9/24/06 Steve Yelvington dissects the Belgian Court of Steve's points:
Google is sending valuable traffic to publishers, and squaring off against Google is self-destructive. This is not relevant to the question of whether Google's repurposing practices amount to fair use or thievery. But it also isn't automatically true. Publishers benefit from some sorts of Google listings and not from others. Many publishers have a business model predicated entirely on service to a geographically focused community and derive little benefit (and often great expense) from Google-driven traffic. And, of course, publishers suffer when the new summary pages of Google News take away the audience that otherwise would have gone to the publishers' content on their own sites.
It appears that, as I thought, the argument the Belgian papers have is not with aggregating a few lines, but with the article's storage on Google. Once an article is "cached" in Google, that it remains in Google, and that readers never get to the site where the article originally appeared. In this particular sense, not in the sense of aggregating a few lines and then sending traffic to the newspaper's site via a link, Google is indeed acting like a splog. They're holding the content and making money from it in perpetuity. not cool, Google, not cool. Steve concludes: "I'm not eager to see lawsuits against search engines as a primary tool for resolving this issue, but it seems to me that the Belgian ruling is well grounded in the reality of today's Internet. There is a line between fair use and thievery, and it is not Google's to define through unilateral action."

Oh, and let's remember folks: Google is not a public library, and its collecting of content may not be for quite the same reasons as that of a public library.

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Susan Estrich writes for Fox News: Can Newspapers Do Good Journalism And Make Money?

Does anyone other than me see an immense irony in this??
A Sign From Above

go ahead. laugh. you know you want to.

thanks for the heads-up on this Terry!

Monday, September 11, 2006

I'm away...enjoying a much needed vacation...will return on 9/18....

hope the blogosphere can spin without me until then ;-)

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Silly Sock Puppetry Roasts Reputation of Lee Siegel

File under What Didn't You Learn From Michael Hiltzik Dept: Lee Siegel has been summarily dismissed from the New Republic for engaging in sock puppetry. The NYTimes illuminates the sad scenario of Journalist Gone Wrong:
Franklin Foer, the New Republic’s editor, said in an interview that he first became aware of the accusations against Mr. Siegel on Thursday afternoon, after a colleague noticed a comment in the Talkback section of Mr. Siegel’s blog that accused him of using the alias “sprezzatura” to defend his articles and assail his critics.

That comment, posted by a reader named “jhschwartz” on Aug. 27, said that “sprezzatura appears only to weigh in on TNR forums to admonish and taunt posters who dislike Lee Siegel” before concluding, “I would say with 99% confidence that ‘sprezzatura’ is a Siegel alias.”

“We launched an investigation,” Mr. Foer said. He added that he was confident that sprezzatura’s posts were written with Mr. Siegel’s “full cooperation,” but declined to say whether the alias was used by Mr. Siegel himself because the affair was still under investigation. “As soon as the facts of the case became clear to me on Friday, we closed down the blog and made an announcement.” Mr. Foer said that while he liked to see blog posts before they were published, Mr. Siegel did not have an editor assigned to his blog entries.

Siegel calls what he did "a prank." Which seems to illuminate even further the disdain that many journalists have for the blogosphere and the people who choose to interact within it. Kos has some spectacular comments on the removal of the sock.

Friday, September 01, 2006

So Many Splogs, So Little Time

The Head Lemur has *so* had it with a particular splogger that he decided to take extreme yet highly appropriate action to deal with him....

And mangaged to get him shut him down...

Interestingly, the splogger responded and basically explained he was trying to set up an aggregator and had sent emails to all of the people he wanted to aggregate. I'm not sure I totally buy it, esp. considering the folks who've said they never received email from the guy (see THL's post for the names).

THL's final words on the matter are here Lemur found the guy, they have exchanged emails--the guy will not use THL's content.

The way the splogger-in-question was aggregating was a bit different from when I first found aggregating my content. There was no "contrubted by" line, which gives the impression that permission was given and the content was contributed. Topix looked like an aggregator and only grabbed part of my feed, according to a certain search criteria, so it was very clear it was only an aggregator.

However, I know there are other splogs that have no contact info and are probably super-hard to track down. If any of y'all are interested in finding who's been splogging you, do an blogsearch of your url. IR seems to find sploggers much quicker/better than Technorati.

What we do next, though, I have no idea....

This is a great outcome, but doesn't totally solve the problem of splogs that have no contact information.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Oh, great! Now everybody's a freakin' media critic!

National Journal media critic Bill Powers is interviewed in PRWeek on the state of media criticism and what PRWeek sees as the burgeoning number of media critics:

PRWeek: With the Web, now almost anybody can be a media critic. Do you think the quality of media criticism is still there?

Bill Powers: Suddenly, there are about 10 million more media critics than there were 10 years ago. I find that exciting. It's funny, there are all these bloggers and all these people who are instant media critics, and yet there are a lot of traditional news outlets that still don't have anyone doing media criticism... My philosophy is, the more, the merrier.

And I actually think there are a lot of bloggers who are so good at it that I sort of wish they would be picked up by mainstream outlets and do both. Because I just think it's a topic that's really inexhaustible. I do this weekly column and I never have a shortage of ideas. There is always so much happening. And I do find that people really are engaged by this subject and talk about it. I think the conventional wisdom in journalism is that media criticism is an inside-the-business topic and it's really just going to be read by other journalists. And I don't think that's true anymore. I think there is a broader interest. Everybody sort of becomes a media critic, and people follow the stuff. I just did a public appearance last night jointly with Dan Okrent, the former New York Times ombudsman. It was a charity thing for a public library, and they had us in a congregational church in a town up where I live. All these hundreds of people showed up! It was great. They were all interested, and they asked incredibly intelligent questions, it was just fascinating. It wasn't journalists, it was people from the public who really follow this stuff and care about journalism.

I've emailed Bill a couple of times on his column, and he's always responded. great guy who actually knows something about the blogosphere. But one thing Bill is missing is an understanding of why people do media criticism. Think of it this way, Bill: when folks grow up with tv, radio, movies, and all sorts of media, and they're not lulled into brain-deadness from the unbiquity of celebrity worship, they're going to form opinions about media. And, unlike their fathers, who spent countless hours yelling at Walter Cronkite, most folks nowadays are going to channel all that pent up frustration into some darned astute writing and are going to use that writing to talk back to the Powers that Be in media. Most of us who are doing it are smart, perceptive and even might have written on media in the past or created it at some time in our lives (yes, to blow my own horn again: I did an honors thesis that combined media and religion.)

We're a whole new level of media critic and darned proud of it.

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Can MSM Do Citizen Journalism Without Acting Like Big Momma?

Like the domineering mother of a precocious child, the MSM is implementing all sorts of plans to help The People become citizen journalists....

By now, everyone has heard thatCNN jumped on the citizen journalism bandwagon and seeks video, audio, photographic content for their newscasts.

Perhaps, though, there's a difference between citizen-generated content and citizen journalism...but to differentiate would be less of a selling point. After all citizen journalism is a really wonderful buzzword and it'll make CNN look really, really hip to include The People in its efforts.

The World Company, which publishes the Lawrenced Journal-World, along with Kansas University's William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications is launching a citizen journalism academy where they'll even teach blogging! That's kind of funny, considering the blogosphere is a mystery to many at all different levels of MSM. The J-W's efforts appear sincere, but are they looking to cultivate independent thinking in their citizen journalists? or is it more about cultivating a select group of unpaid stringers?

What gets me in all these experiments is that no one is thinking that maybe, just maybe, The People should be watchdogging the MSM on every level--from the local paper to big media outlets. I wonder how much their desire to incorporate citizens is really a desire to stop the watchdogging and get some cheap labor in the process? There's been talk of outsourcing some journalism jobs to India, but when the media can get The People to do its job for nothing by catering to their sense of civic duty, why even outsource?

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I've got an essay in the Huffington Post

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Trouble With Splog (is bigger than you think)

Update: Doc Searls has had it with splog, too, and has started using the Attributio-NonCommerical-ShareAlike 2.5 Creative Commons license. Doc's right that it's not a perfect solution, but it does stipulate that content cannont be used only to attract advertising. "Because I believe legitimate blogs don't do that. And splogs do." exactly.

One of the biggest problems being a small-time blogger with a modicum of an audience is that you can quickly become a target for sploggers. Sploggers love to skim your content and set up "blogs" that then allow them to make scads of money--it's happened to both my blogs, and I'm not alone. Last year, Steve Rubel, through vanity searches, discovered his blog was being scraped and used for splog--and following Steve's suggestion, I started doing similar searches regularly. Within months of Steve's splog discovery, I discovered that this blog was being scraped. Since then, both have been scraped and the content used regularly by sploggers

A demonstration of the chutzpah of sploggers shows up at the bottom of this post in the "links to." I got sick when I saw this.

I outed one of the sploggers of this blog, Integrity Corporation, a short time ago. They have stopped scraping this blog, but someone else has now started actively scraping my personal blog. I would not be surprised if it was Integrity again, only using a different isp and url.

Steve's been writing regularly on the splog phenomenon, and latest entry on splogs notes an upcoming article in the September Wired that reports some splog stats:

*Some 56 percent of active English-language blogs are spam, according to researchers at the University of Maryland

* A survey by Mitesh Vasa in December 2005 found that was hosting more than 100,000 sploggers

* One splogger interviewed by Wired (I'm not going to dignify him with a mention) made over $70,000 in just three months from his network of splogs

To use a colloquialism: un-fucking-believable. I am horrified that Blogger hasn't done more to stop splogs--even though I'm not shocked that so many exist, and that so many more have found ways to scam the system.

But can splogs be reported, can't we send cease and desist letters? Well, it would be nice if we could find who the sploggers are. Here's my experience: I'm vigilant on searching, but the splogs I've found usually have no contact information. I usually find them well before they put ads on. That's the first clue to a potential splog: a splogger may first load splogs with content and later on put up the ads. It's easy to tell a potential splog from an anonymous blog because not only does it consist of other people's content, but there's no contact information, nor any "about" information! One can never discover who the splogger is, and trying to search for the owner of the domain is also well nigh impossible. Even if those of us who have been splogged and keep an eye on the pre-ad stoked splog, there's nothing one can do to send a cease and desist letter, because there's no contact information.

And if we wait until the ads appear, the solutions for reporting the offender do not seem to be effective. I have reported splogs to Googel AdSense, but the splogs still exist. From reading Steve for a bit, I know he's thought alot, too, about how to get the sploggers on an economic level--unfortunately the Wired article doesn't address that issue. Here's Steve's take on it:
Unfortunately, what's absent from the piece is any accountability directed at the powers that supply these spam blogs with their funds: advertising networks. It seems to me that the splog problem needs to be attacked by not just the publishers and the search engines, but also by the contextual search ad providers who are making it easy for spam bloggers to make money. Google, Yahoo and others will need to raise the requirements for publishers who want to enroll in these lucrative programs. Publishers should have to prove they are legitimate before they can sign up for Adsense or any other contextual ad service. Perhaps a waiting period similar to the one for handguns is a model.

That's it exactly. Even if Blogger puts an entire staff on the task of deleting splog, it won't stop the problem. Blogger isn't the only blogging software sploggers use--the ones who've stolen my content are fond of Wordpress. The ad providers--who on their own, have been upset over click fraud-- should heed Steve's suggestions and start looking more closely at who's applying for their programs and stop rubber-stamping everyone who sends in a request. It wouldn't be too hard to do--all one has to do is click the url and do a quick scan of the blog that's applying to see if the content is original or stolen. It wouldn't take long (I've done it), and I'm sure there'd be a number of enthusiastic individuals who would find the job fascinating and rewarding.

Given how much Google, Yahoo, and the rest are making, is it really too much to ask them to do something that will not just help bloggers, but also help them by tracking down sites that could also be part of the click fraud problem? Seems so logical, doesn't it? But out here, logic is sometimes upside down.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Following Conversations on The Future of Journalism

Over the past week, there have been some amazing conversations on the future of journalism, the contributions of citizens to that landscape, and on blogging as its own unique contribution to journalism....follow the links:

Dave Weinbergerblogging from foocamp on the Future of News session ...lots of great discussion about leveraging social networks, but the big problem with digg-news on demand idea: If we only listen to people we trust, how do we get challenged? (Dave also recently posted a fabulous essay on anonymity and digital identity on the 'net)

Jay Rosen launches the blog for after mucho discussion with important comments on the economic model, citizen participation, and personnel ....

The Society of Professional Journalists'has posted great info on their annual convention. Not only did htye have great workshops (really peeved I missed it)all listed on the site, but also there's a fabulous interview with Bob Cox, pres of the MediaBloggers Association from the interview: “There are forces out there who want to mute the bloggers, but we want the right to speak our piece without fear,” Cox said. “Just like the newspaper industry has to contend with the Globe or the Star, the bloggers face the same thing.”

Christine Tatum, the new SPJ President " says the rift between mainstream media and bloggers is unnecessary and she would like to see more training for bloggers" which is fine and dandy....but I wonder what she means by "training"....and with the latest round of "citizen journalist" training programs--notably the Citizen Journalism Academy being offered this semester by the University of Kansas--I'm beginning to wonder if there's just not one too many movements in the direction to control the citizens rather than simply giving them good sense too is that all the "training" will simply strangle people's ability to communicate in this strange space.

and Len Witt defends "citizen journalism" after Jeff Jarvis does his best to try to have it subsumed under the rubric of "networked journalism." I have no problem with the idea of networked journalism. It's an interesting concept that could work well for some kinds of journalistic projects. However the citizens have a right, and with blogging software, the power to do their own journalism for their own reasons--and that the ability to do this is amazingly important to the democratic process. why is it so difficult for some folks to understand this?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Has Madonna Finally Done It? Or Will the Torture Continue for Another (metaphorical) Thousand Years?

Update: The Danes Think Madonna's Concert's Blasphemous, too but not for religious reason. Here's why the Danes are pissed
The Danish media overnight slammed US pop diva Madonna for giving an open-air concert that was nothing more than a "music video", saying it was a "scandal" that many of the 85,000 spectators could not see their idol.

Imagine that! Apparently someone forgot to inform the Danes that when one attends a 700 kroner ($150)a seat conference, they shouldn't *expect* to see much more than "figures as small as matchsticks singing and dancing on a distant stage." Sheesh! If they *really* want to *see* someone like Madonna, they're going to have to spend a heck of a lot more than they did. Do they think she's a philanthropist or something?

Well, the World's bowels are in an uproar over the latest bid for attention from that great media whore, Madonna...

Seems that for her new tour, she's had cross constructed of mirrored panels, which she then hangs herself from and sings cheezy-assed "Live to Tell"...

How Danceteria/Studio 54 of her...

Rob Harvilla in the Village Voice aptly labelled this latest act of a pathetic Middle-Aged Material Girl a "sequence unparalleled in its combination of blasphemy, absurdity, melodrama, humanitarian grandstanding, and preposterous narcissism. . ." (yet Harvilla later backpedals on this one)

or are we just a bit nostalgic for Spinal Tap?

Catholic spokesman Manfred Becker-Huberti (in Germany) pointed out a seriously ugly irony to this stunt: "If someone had tried to portray Mohammed this way, there would
have been a revolt."

Correction: it would have started another war, possibly outside of the Middle East.

But Catholics aren't allowed to say anything about this because, if they do, they're being "poor sports" who can't take a joke. We should *love* the material girl for giving because she's so daring....and aren't all those Catholics just a bunch of pedophile Papists anyway??

Heck, even sweet little religion professor Donna Freitas boldly went on NPR and told everyone she thinks the Pathetic Old Broad's latest media vulgarity is a truly "feminist" statement about Christianity. "she's opening our eyes!" cries Freitas....

ah, the future is now so bright for feminism *and* biblical scholarship that I'm gonna have to wear shades!

Christians, though, are going in the wrong direction to evaluate this latest publicity stunt as "blasphemous." The "B" word only ends up making all those lovely capitalists, who will gladly sell sex as a recreational activity to pre-pubescent kids, laugh at anyone of faith. They revel in making us all look like a bunch of bible-thumping reactionaries.

Blasphemy! How 15th century! Get into the 20th century guys! Blasphemy is good! It's enlightening!

However, from a media as well as progressive christian perspective, here are some very good reasons why faux Jew Madonna deserves to vanish in a ball of celluloid flame:

First, let's look at Freitas' claim that so many laugh when asked to depict a woman on the cross--and that Madonna doing this is good because it challenges those folks assumptions. Wrong way to do with this argument, my fishing feminist friend: mostly because of what Madonna, in particular, represents--capitalism run amock, and a particular psychological condition that makes her ferrit out publicity by Any Means Necessary.

Do any women who own their sexualities and their spiritualities really want this particular woman representing All women? Think about it...

And think about this: perhaps her Act is, after all, that of a desperate woman whose over-priced tour tickets have been selling outside of NYC at a pace that could be called somewhat less-than-hotcakes. Or at least less than the kind of hotcakes Herself prefers...

Now, from the sidelines, I can hear the pop culturati, so hiply a-theistic and smart on all things religion, say "but wasn't Jesus's crucifixtion also a publicity stunt of some kind? wasn't he also committing blasphemy?"

In the eyes of the Sadducees, he was a blasphemer by not keeping the sabbath nor keeping kosher. However, he also perfomed a number of very generous, and noble acts that set him apart from others. He was a tireless defender of women (the story of the widow's mite, his advice to the Samaritan woman), healed people without ever asking for a dime in return (wow, how un-Madonna of him), didn't push children from the table, didn't think the rich were all that blessed....and didn't make any money for preaching in public.

He also died an ignominious death, that was only a footnote in Roman historian Pliny's writings--the Entertainment Weekly of its day. It wasn't front-page news to Rome.

Still I'm sure Madonna, in some delusion of grandure, would like to us to view her charity work and AIDS activisim along the lines of Christ-like acts. And I'm sure her Hollywood Kaballa mentor (a man more concerned with selling a profound mystical tradition to a bunch of poseures than in following Maimonides' advice on the matter) would gladly support her delusion...

Yet consider this: Madonna's generosity has always been amply offset by the bazillions of bucks she's made by selling herself.

If Jesus had sat back and thought about whether or not it would make people love him and give him money if he healed the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years, he never would have done it.

And nobody ever paid him for the Sermon on the Mount. There were no tickets to that event. In fact, it was he who ended up having to pull a miracle and feed the people who showed up.

With Madonna, there is never any sacrifice remotly reflective of Christ's acts on her part. Never any true sacrifice of money nor of self.

Many believe Jesus sought to reconcile the world. But whatever he did, he certainly did not reconcile his bank account.

So, let's get some historical and pop cultural perspective here: Madonna's acts of charity are more like those of Madams of Medieval Germany--who funded hospitals and orphan aslyumns with their earnings, while also hoping word of their good Acts would compel the scions of the bourgeoisie to continue to support their particular establishments over a competitors'. Is Madonna, like the Madams, also assuaging her guilt through her charitable acts? Does she believe there will be an Indulgence at the end of the line for her?

It's all business, baby.

One final thought: have we in Western society sunk so low as to accept a middle-aged, overly-horny (please, give the woman some saltpeter!) rapacious capitalist portraying herself as the Redeemer?

Then again, maybe those pasty-faced eschatologists on CNN are right. and if so, will my cell phone work after the Rapture?

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