Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Newscorp and Dow Jones: Don't forget the naked chicks!

Update: It's a done deal

With baited breath bully-boy Rupert Murdoch waits impatiently to have his way with the WSJ....Rick Edmonds speculates at Poynter.org, and all I can think of is where the heck is Rupe gonna put the naked chicks?

Let's face it, it's not a Newscorp property without naked chicks.

If the readers of the WSJ became somewhat disgruntled when they put ads on the front page (tasteful, little ads), they'll surely have apoplexy with a naked chick...unless it's tastefully done.

Hmmm..."tastefully done" and "Newscorp"....isn't that rather oxymornonic??

Update: for a serious and sober commentary on how bad it would be for Murdoch to take over the WSJ, read Open Access Essential to Media Reform by VT Senator Bernie Sanders on SavetheInternet.com:
Rupert Murdoch could possibly acquire the Wall Street Journal and expand his North American empire to include a national TV network, national cable news network and a national paper.

And we complain about ClearChannel...

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Gaffing attribution: Who's news do you trust?

The New York Times tattles on the L.A. Times' killing of Patrick Goldstein's column on July 24...Which was then "leaked" to the L.A.Observed newsblog (oddly, not comments on L.A.O.)..and attributes a comment to former blogger Steven den Beste on Instapundit....

So I looked up the Instapundit post which notes that den Beste no longer blogs. Further, the emailed comment from den Beste echoes another comment by Mickey Kaus. Strange how the NYTimes was more willing to attribute the entire quote to someone who's no longer actively blogging, while not attributing some of it to the actively blogging (although on Slate) Kaus, who sez "That's my quote, buddy..." Kaus also notes that the error could have occurred due to editors needs to save word space....

There's more to it though--when it comes to blog related stories in the NYTimes, and other MSM outlets however, I've observed that mis-attributes, mis-quotes, and mis-representations of the blogosphere by reporters *and* editors can come from a mis-understanding of the world and culture out here in the blogosphere. Hence, Steve Garfield doesn't get credit for being one of the first bloggers (and corrects), and something I wrote about community and blogs gets misinterpreted in the editorial process as "message board" (these are just two examples...I'm sure there are many, many more--I'm just not cataloguing everything.)

Meanwhile Steve Outing takes a look at social news site NewsTrust:
In beta now and due out in early 2008, Newstrust will not only be a stand-alone site where consumers can come to find the best journalism as ranked by an army of volunteer media reviewers, but more importantly it will (we can hope) be deployed over all manner of online news sources so that readers will on any news-related website see an objective rating of that site's quality and of specific news content.
Outing notes that Newstrust founder Fabrice Florin is involved in the ranking, thus involved in his own community (as is Rory O'Connor)! Fabrice (who I met at We Media) is passionate about people helping people find the best coverage--not just commentary--out there today.

and another thing yesterday, in a conversation with my friend and fellow blogger Debi Jones about coverage on the war in Iraq, we bespoke the musical question: "what the heck's going on with all the commentary and no real news??" When all we're getting on Iraq is the bloviating of expersts (read: former 'sperts) it's not a really long leap to feeling that we should *all* be commenting on the paltry little pieces of reportage we're getting here and there. And it's not a long leap to thinking that perhaps the more honest commentary will come from people who don't have to kow-tow to corporate sponsors (note: journalism cannot serve two masters....may have had something to do with killing Goldstein's piece in the first place)

just a few thoughts...

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Monday, July 30, 2007

Globalvision goes meta on "Wikimentary"

Got an email the other day from Rory O'Connor at Globalvision announcing their newest--and terrifically innovative--project: a documentary on wikis and a "wikimentary"....

Yeah, I hear ya thinking "What the heck's a "wikimentary"?" ...if it's a documenatry done about wikis on a wiki, isn't that just a *tad* meta??

Okay, so here's what O'Connor wants to do with the project:
My goal [for the project] is to gather as much information as possible about all things wiki, and then to catalyze the creation of two films about the overall wiki phenomenon: an open source documentary – or 'wikimentary; and a companion, ‘old-school’ standard documentary film.

Watch this rough cut--some of Rory's super-cool raw footage from Wikimania...

The Globalvision team that's working on the project is interested in hearing from you about ways they can make this project work both creatively and logistically. Go to globalvision.wikia.com and see if there's anything you can contribute to make this project happen.

Sounds pretty interesting to me...

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Saturday, July 28, 2007

BlogHer '07: A Few Thoughts and Observations

I've been out here in Chicago since some time on Thursday(after a 2.45 hr. delay at the airport, but that's another story) I haven't seen much of Chicago, but the city has a mellow vibe. Different from San Francisco (cracklingly techy) and New York (like a beating heart) or Austin (relaxedly hipster.) I think I'd like to come back and see more of it at some point...but I digress...

Conferences are exhausting, and this one hasn't been any different. I'm sitting in the lounge right now, watching people at the espresso machine, listening to the nattering of two women who seem rather self-importantly white-bread. There is, though, more diversity here than at most conferences--probably because it is encompassing a demographic group, not a profession. Professions--journalism and marketing and tech and even politics--are encapsulated here, but there's not that single-mindedness of most conferences.

The conference also is not geared towards middle or C-level executives--where you're not likely to see people other than white guys.

Still, the white-bread-y conversation is a little annoying--and I think a bit about bell-jars....

It's been great to connect up with lots of women I know--Susan Mernit, Lisa Williams, Barb Dybwad, Celeste Liddel, Liza Sabater, Beth Kanter, Amy Gahran Renee Blodgett and others I've probably left out--who I met at the first BlogHer, and have run into at so many other conferences and and events over the past two years. I also met a bunch of new women--women with interesting blogs and careers. There are lots and lots of mommybloggers, as expected, but tere's a lot of things going on here.

Motherhood, though, I've come to except, is the defining life experience of most women. There are are few of us who opt out of that choice; and our reasons for doing so often revolve around dysfunctional families, peppered with a palpabe fear of a lack of familial support. We, then, do other things with our lives, but our experiences with other things sometimes seems diminished in the light of motherhod.

Or is it that our experiences are unexpected. Other women don't think we could, or perhaps should, be doing the things we do. But, we do them nonethheless. When you've got your own life, there's no reason not to *do* something out of the ordinary.

So far, here, I have learned a few things I didn't know about blog design--and a few other things I can't recall because I'm over-tired and the band downstairs outside at the Navy Pier are playingand the room is vibrating with sound. There's one more session I'm attending--on business aspects of blogging--and then a few minutes at the keynote before I catch the bus to the hotel and then the shuttle to the airport. I will be glad to go home. I have a wad of business cards big enough to choke a horse, which means hours of email. I like to follow up. even if people never read me, I like them to remember, a bit, who I am.

After all, meeting people is, for BlogHer, a lot of what it's about....

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Shhhh! don't tell them there's a dictator in Venezuela Chavez decrees blaspheming foreigners will be deported No joke. Totally serious. Chavez sez:
. "No foreigner, whoever it is, can come here to attack us," Chavez said. "How long are we going to allow a person, from any country in the world, to come to our own house to say there's a dictatorship here, that the President is a tyrant, and no one does anything about it?"
Think they'll start to bug the chandeliers just like in the days of the USSR?

Geeze, if we deported everyone who spoke negatively about the U.S., our tourism would surely drop off! ;-)
Discovering the meaning of T.M.I. I've recently decided to shutter my personal blog. It was highly google-able, and I found that the info it contained could be just more than the average employer needs to know about me. As for its content--some of it which is quite good--I am not sure. I have print-outs, and I could always move it to another "home." For now, I will be blogging only here. And leaving a note or two on Facebook...

more on Facebook later...

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Debates: Big Media+Big Politics = Big Fear (of the people)

On CBCNews, Rory O'Connor delivers a scathing indictment of CNN's performance during last night's debates:

Rory also addresses the "Obama Girl" and "Guliani Girl" stuff--and that they aren't the best representations of The People and the issues that The People want the candidates to discuss (to put it mildly.)

But, they do indeed add to the whole "bread and circuses" thing....

From Rory's blog post:
In the end, after all the fear of unfiltered, unmediated questions delivered directly from the electorate to the candidates, it turned out that the fear was misplaced. It was CNN and the candidates themselves who let us down. The questions from ‘ordinary citizens’ were great, the answers from the ordinary candidates not so great —- largely because they were not nearly as direct, thoughtful, honest or embracing. Instead, the bizarre nexus of Big Politics and Big Media once again displayed a simultaneous fascination with and fear of the Internet, the ‘New Media’ it has brought crashing down on their carefully wrought old media plans — and especially the audience formerly known as the electorate.

Things you can do with Ninjas

The Algorithm March...with Ninjas:

Friday, July 20, 2007

Super-Terrific Tasty Links! 7/20/07

Some cool stuff for ya: Jay Rosen quickly on Assignment Zero....Jack Myers takes in the foul air of a slow news week....Jemima Kiss on brand un-"friend"-liness....Andy Carvin, media literacy, and the problem of Internet filters...the best Backfence.com post-mortem ever...Curmudgeons say the darnedest things (about blogging)! and Steve Garfield (not a curmudgeon) corrects them...

Jay Rosen writes a quick take on Assignment Zero. Quickly, from Jay:"In Assignment Zero we found that you don’t “have” contributors just because you signed them up. You still have to convince them that participating is a good option, that it won’t waste their time, that they will know what to do, or be able to figure it out." also check out Len Witt's interview with Jay and Derek Powazek's commentary on Jeff Howe's Wired.com breakdown of AZ.

Jack Myers asks the musical question: "What is the news during a week when there is no major news?" Well, I don't know if it's that there's no major news, inasmuch as it might be that the broadcast news folks just don't want to bother us all that much with the goings on in Iraq. Another group of blown-up G.I.s and the impotency of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki doesn't look as glamorous in the hot summer sun as "Britney Spears’ bitch slapping episode with her mother Lynn," the disrobing of Harry Potter's plotlines, how much Daniel Baldwin likes coke (not the brand), Michael Vick's federal charges on dog fighting, and the suing of "To Catch a Predator." Jack sez: "I couldn't’t find one in-depth story about the hundreds of lives lost in Iraq this week, but dog fighting was a big story. I sure wish our president would send some American dogs to fight Iraqi dogs so we’d have a good solid case against him and maybe get Congress to take some responsibility for protecting our troops.

What do you do when a brand wants to be your Facebook friend? Jemima Kiss sez Just say no That's what Jemima Kiss of Media Guardian's Organ Grinder did: Amazingly, it's the first time I've been confronted by a brand posing as a person on Facebook and I haven't accepted. If you go to a networking event, you don't mingle with brands or monolithic institutions - you deal with individuals and personalities. Is it just me, or does this feel like a clumsy imposition? Actually, it's either darned stupid or brimming with chutzpah. But, seriously, can one network with a brand? Images of big, Old Gold cigarette boxes dancing in my head...

Andy Carvin, recounts how his talk on the importance of media literacy goes horribly wrong when he cannot access a video on YouTube. Not that it was blocked by YouTube, mind you, but by the JFK Library's filters. The library staff tried to override the filters, but no dice. But then a teacher says that if any of the other teachers get blocked again, ask a student how to unblock it. ". . .But I can’t say I’m surprised. Many advocates of filtering policies insist than an educator may ask to have a site unblocked when it needs to be used in the classroom. But very few teachers have the ability to either get this done promptly by the filter’s administrators, or the authority to do it themselves. They can’t teach what they’re trying to teach. Here endeth the lesson."

NewWest founder and editor-in-chief Jonathan Weber gives the final and best Backfence.com post-mortem Among many of the folks who have been hashing and re-hashing the death of Backfence.com, Jon is the only one who realizes that, as pioneers, Backfence was breaking very new ground. On some of the more harsh criticisms of Backfence, Jon says: I think the problem with Backfence, and with a number of the other early experiments in online community journalism, is that they aren't quite "about" anything. They have no editorial angle on the world, no story they are trying to tell, and thus they become a boring hodge-podge of information titbits. In the rush to reinvent local journalism, the journalism piece is getting lost. Great point. Frankly, I enjoy reading NewWest, even if I don't live out in the Rockies, because the writing is quite good and the comments are just as good. They've grown a great community around their journalism. But there's more to hyperlocal and community stuff than just the journalism--there's also ethically harnessing people's passion to participate. Or even cultivating it in the first place.

the Wall St Journal wishes blogging a happy 10th anniversary Kinda. Sorta. By featuring a number of CEO-types and their opinions on blogging. maybe I'm just jaded, but it all sounded like a bunch of yadda-yadda-yadda. Then again, maybe my yadda is someone else's yabba-dabba-doo. Steve Garfield--a most un-curmudgeonly fun guy--corrects the WSJ yet again on first-blogger rights: "From 1997 to 1999, Garfield was a producer and wacky sidekick on the Karlson and McKenzie radio show. Since the mid 1990s, he has been active on the Internet. Garfield hand-coded his own blog from November 18, 1997 to April 1, 1999 as a daily update for Karlson and McKenzie radio show listeners. Garfield was the first paid BloggerPro account user and has been updating his weblog, Off On A Tangent, daily since November 9, 2000." So there. :-)

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Wal-Mart now deigns to allow customer reviews! Must go down to the outer circles of Hell to see if it's beginning to freeze over yet...

Gaspedal founder and former prez ofWOMMA,wom-marketing maven Andy Sernovitz sees the good and the bad in the whole thing. For example...

The Good: "everything gets reviewed" which makes the "reviews go mainstream" and inadvertently turns Wal-Mart into "consumer activists" (eek!)

The Bad: while consumers rejoice, manufacturers and marketers ain't gonna "be able to cover for averageness with clever advertising" any more. Andy also suggests e-commerce sites get their acts together and get rating systems up, oh, sometime yesterday....

I'll be watching though to see if Wal-Mart engages in a bit of sock-puppetry...perhaps in having marketing employees post "good" reviews for lousy products. Then again, maybe they learned their lessons with last year's faux pas.
OMG! Victoria Beckham comes to America!! yawn.....and Andrew Keen wonders why people are turning away from mass culture? If this is what mass culture wants to give us--old retreadded, rehashed former celebrities--then is it any wonder why The Masses want to just entertain themselves? Seriously. Popular culture, since the '90's, has let The Masses down with so many remakes and resurrections that it's like being stuck in a surrealist time machine, with the Glorious Past eclipsing and supplanting any creativity that could bubble up in the present time. Popular culture isn't about the new and the creative--it's about feeding the machine. And if it can make a buck or two off the re-broadcasted skinny butt of Beckham and her hub, then that's what we get. Summer's just got more boring....

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Columbus, KY and the Edwards Campaign: The Mouse That Roared, Again

So the Edwards campaign, thru Eventful.com, is running Demand and Be Heard a competition where "The US city with the most Demands gets a visit from Edwards."

Naturally, this puts big cities at a population advantage--that is, if they can get people to vote for their city.

Enter scrappy little Columbus, KY--population 229. On the surface, it doesn't stand a chance now, does it? Well....I'm not so sure

An attack ad? of are they just engaging in some savvy, cheeky marketing? (okay, maybe they went overboard about the canned apples and margarine...)

Personally, I wish Columbus, KY great luck here--and apparently, right now, they're not doing too bad, with 1797 votes in their favor (yes, that's more than five times their population. Pretty amazing use of social media, eh??)

--much thanks to Justin Kazmark of the Morris-King Company...

mediabistro.com sold for $23 million

Congratulations Laurel Touby! She just sold Mediabistro.com, her online networking site for media professionals & freelancers, to JupiterMedia for $23 million....

Touby launched Mediabistro in 1999, after hosting a number of successful f2f netwoking parties in NYC...

Laurel knows networking for sure! I spoke with her two years ago when I interviewed her for an article on blogging for the Smith Alumni mag. The interview I did didn't make it to the mag (another alum's interview did) but it was great to have had the opportunity to speak with Laurel. A savvy Connector for sure!

Surrender Your Content! Beware of Social Networks Bearing Gifts

Over the past week I received two spam requests for information from two new women's "social networks." (note: I won't link to these--not going to feed them) Now, spamming someone is not cool--but spamming someone to join or give content to a "social network" is even more specious....

One request, from a "mommy" network, simply wanted a link to my blog. The other, which maintains that it is a Hollywood-based women's professional network, asked for me to fill out some questions so that they could post a bio of me on their site....

And why should I do either? In the first case, I'm not a mommy. Still, I went in and checked the "network"--found that it was nothing more than an aggegator of feeds to other blog (that probably didn't know they are being aggregated) and news stories from wire services. So, there was no clear and compelling reason for me to give the link to my blog or to reciprocate. Remember, blogging is a social thing, and there has to be a couple of individuals involved in the pursuit, and some original content, for me to get involved.

The second network--the Hollywood-based network--scared the begebus out me. It was loaded with adware--from in-context ads (those nasty green underlined things) to fraudulent "videos" that lead to product websites. None of the content was original--all was cribbed from other sources without original thought involved. And there was no discernable "about" information on the person or persons who put the "network" together. So, once again, why should I give this "network" any of my information? So that whomever put it together has free content to help her make money? This is totally unethical and not what forming a network is about.

So, where might these folks be getting the ideas to do this? First, it may be coming from solid information on women's online habits (most of it culled from impotant reports from the Pew Internet & American Life Project that's meant to help us understand what we do and why.)The Pew studies show that women enjoy being online and that life online is important to us. Second, the incentive may also come from the "make money from your blog!" rhetoric that's proliferating these days. This way of thinking has turned blogging from something that is social, that might help one's career (if one wants to write), into a mercenary mission to get as many suckers as possible to generate income from aggregated stolen content.

So, if you are spammed by requests to give links or content to any "social network," check the network out. Ask these questions:

  • Does the network have original content?

  • How many ads are there? are the ads intrusive and overwhelming?

  • Is anybody home? Is there a person with a valid email addy running the network?

  • If nobody's home and all you're seeing is content belonging to someone else, and loads of ads--stay away! This site may be fraudulent and the only motive for this site may be to generate income for the person running it--not for any social purposes at all.

    (that many of these networks are preying on women is even more insidious. beware, ladies!)

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    Monday, July 16, 2007

    Assignment Zero Post-Mortem: Participation was Paramount

    This morning, as I read --Did Assignment Zero Fail? A Look Back and Lessons Learned--Jeff Howe's Assignment Zero post-mortem--I noted that Jeff mentions the importance of participation, but doesn't mention either myself nor Amanda Michel, and our key roles in keeping people interested and active with Assignment Zero....

    As I quickly IM'd Amanda--who's now on Jay's new project Off the Bus with former fellow Deaniac Zack Exley--I could not help feeling somewhat crestfallen by Jeff's omission (although I know Jeff had a tough job encapsulating the AZ experience in 2,000 words.)

    I came into the project at a most difficult time--during the 500-volunteer crush that Steve Fox experienced, the insanity of amassing the significant number of volunteer editors that were necessary for the project, and the massive complaints about site usability. One of the first things I noticed--and Amanda had hinted about to me--was the inability of many of the journalists to understand the importance of organizing and staying in constant contact with volunteers. I'd had much experience in online forums, messagboards and blogs (going back to '98) as well as a very successful run as the Volunteer Co-ordinator for the Northampton Independent Film Festival (where I consolidated a haphazard volunteer recruitment policy into a more concentrated, online focused effort.)

    Amanda and I spent many days trying to figure out how to get through to the journalists, and decided it was perhaps better to do what we could to bolster the volunteers (some of the journalists got it--because they had done some interaction already--while others just didn't.) One of the first things we did was to start regular newsletter-style email communications with everyone registered to the site. This was something we both knew worked--it gives volunteers the sense that they are needed and important to the project...

    And it's true: without volunteers, there would be no project.

    At one point, it hit me that there were far too many stories to handle. I'd asked Lauren Sandler how stories were triaged in a newsroom. She explained how stories where no one was showing interest pretty much fell off the vine--and we thought that might happen with AZ. But, that wasn't happening with AZ. We were putting topics out there, and even if one person showed remote interest, we kept them. We hadn't figured out a system for deciding what not to work on. So, we had a potential unlimited number of contributors--thus a potential unlimited number of opinions and story lines for the feature. For our purposes, we needed a different system.

    It became imperative to cut things down a bit or risk losing everyone who volunteered...because, at this point, volunteers were asking us for more direction--where they were needed. They were getting tired of us asking them for what aspect of crowdsourcing they were interested in writing about.

    So, the first triage was to cap the projects. This was a process--not wholly cut-and-dried. Amanda and I corresponded with Jeff, David, Jay and Lauren. We decided to spin off the Citizendium story to publish early--it had a fantastic, dedicated writer, Mike Ho, and some good reporting from a few other AZ participants.

    We also decided to give the blog a group voice rather than a single personality- driven voice. The project, after all, wasn't about one person on the Team, but about all of us on the Team working together.

    Then, myself, Amanda, Jeff, David, and Jay concentrated on what stories to keep and what stories to triage. Amanda and I had been looking at stats weekly, and I mentioned to her that it might be a good idea to "unpack" the stats we had so that we could see the focus of our volunteers' attention.

    We were running on a tight timetable. There was a limit to what we could accomplish because time, and volunteers had been lost (for a number of reasons.) We couldn't waste the volunteer's time nor their attention.

    Amanda drew up a concise report as to where people's interests were directed--lots of numbers broken down incrementally. We then strategized on what kind of reporting a group of folks from a wide variety of backgrounds might be able to accomplish. My experience had been that the Q&A format was the easiest to handle--David agreed this might be easiest for a group with a broad level of journalistic experience. We could see from the reports that there were some topics where a significant amount of work had been done, and others where there remained a good amount of interest. So, the decision was made to allow those topics that were developing to go to full fruition, while others would be truncated to Q&A status.

    Even Jeff mentions that many of the Q&As exceeded his expectations. Indeed, excellent work was done by the majority of our participants.

    One thing to note here: every day we faced an onslaught of email. We received email to the "assignment zero editors" account, as well as individually. A key skill for dealing with a crushing volume of email is knowing how to filter communications--knowing when to read and when to respond (or not.) With- out this skill, it is easy to feel one is the center of a project's communications universe and never get any work done. David, Amanda and myself became proficient at filtering, about letting some things go, and knowing when to clarify others.

    Angela Pacienza, Director of Online News for The Canadian Press came onboard to help us organize the Q&As, and Hillary Rosner (former editor at the Village Voice and contributing editor at New York magazine) took the reins on the features.

    All of this, even with the new divisions of responsibility, still required constant communication with the volunteers. Now, though, there were editors that volunteer contributors could go to with questions.

    But none of us on the Team were ever working in isolation (none of us were ever not working either.) Deftly communicating via email and IM became of paramount importance--both with volunteers and among ourselves. A curious thing about working virtually: egos must be left at the door. When working virtually, and all over the country, it's easy to evolve into a 24 hour operation....and because there's no social outlet, it can be very easy to take others for granted (or imagine slights.) Upon first reading an email, nothing can be projected into email text. The reader must be dispassionate in order to maintain equilibrium and to respond constructively. If something seems biting--let it go, or ask the person privately. Don't escalate. Yet we did thank one another often, and were much kinder to one another when personal matters kept us from being on-call 24/7. We didn't learn quite as much about each other had we worked in the same office--but we were able to humanize one another and work consistenly and with compassion.

    After all, if you think about it, compassion may take time, but it is truly an easy thing to do...

    All in all, we did our best with what we had at the particular time in history--and did rather well. We learned that in "crowd" or "open"-source projects, organizing the crowd is vitally important. People want to be a part of new--possibly historic--undertakings, and when they step up, need to be acknowledged. Once acknowledged, they need to know what's going on--even moreso with virtual projects where there's the perception that there's no Central Office. People don't want to just hang out waiting for instruction--in fact, they expect to be given direction right away. This means that the core group--the leadership of the project--has to be unified, have good communication, know the details of the "game plan." If the Team doesn't know the game plan, or if there's a breakdown anywhere in the chain of communication--if anyone's ego or need to horde information gets in the way--then things will go wrong. And with Asssignment Zero, more things went right than they ever went wrong.

    Expect the unexpected. Be prepared for any eventuality. Fuck the critics. Communicate Openly. Love your People.

    That's what it's really about.

    I've also written another piece on participaton in Assignment Zero for the Connected Intelligence Wiki...

    Update: Jeff Howe's posted important follow-up to his Wired.com article (which, he informs me, will have an addendum.)Jeff says:
    The plain fact is that in the future, journalists will have to develop these skills if they want to succeed in a future in which their readers are also their writers. . .The crowd does not contribute in a vacuum. They do so as part of a community of other contributors. I see this again and again in researching my book and, no surprise, it was true with Assignment Zero as well.
    Yes, Jeff gets it. :-)

    and don't forget to check out David--the hardest working young man in journalism--Cohn's fab perspective on AZ. Suffice to say I'd be super-happy work again with DigiDave. (oh, and David's also started a link post at the NewAssignment.net blog.)

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    Wednesday, July 11, 2007

    Much Ado About Stickam....

    Shocking news of the day: latest teen craze StickAm is owned by a company that also streams porn! (or so the New York Timesreports today....)

    Funny thing about this..on July 3, the local NBC affiliate WWLP-22 ran a story on Stickam quoting one Stickam user as saying "Girls shaking their butts, that is the biggest popular videos on Stickam." (sounds like the user is pretty much a viewer. as we all know by now, it's only 10% of viewers who bother to participate. And this particular Stickam viewer certainly knows what he's looking for on Stickam)

    This fits totally into 22's usual "The Internet is EVIL!" stance. Whenever the network has anything to say about the Internet, it usually quotes someone from law enforcement, a teen-ager, or a clueless parent. It never bothers to speak with anyone who is involved in life online. I guess when you're staring down the barrel of massive digitization and may lose significant revenue because of the Internet, then it makes sense to demonize it and keep the populace thinking that online's a very dangerous place...

    But I digress....

    The NYTimes article goes on to discuss the allegations of Stickam's former VP, Alex Becker (and some documents) that Stickam's parent company Advanced Video Communications, is managed and owned by Wataru Takahashi, a Japanese businessman who's made a killing in online porn.....not to mention that Stickam NYC shares offices with the AVC's porn folks....

    Makes me wonder, though, when Rupert Murdoch took MySpace, which was loaded with age-inappropriate content when he bought it, and started marketing it to teens, that no one batted as much as an eyelash about it. (Even though I was freaking out--yes, I had a MySpace profile back before Rupe bought it. I knew full well what was on that site and knew any curious teen would eventually find its unrestricted adult content. Oh, and isn't a soft-core porn starlet that has the most "friends" on MySpace?? guess this is ok for teens....after all, you can make some good money doing porn, or so I'm told...)

    Fascinating, though, is the discussion on Techcrunch's Stickam piece. A number of folks think it's no big whoop to have an adult content producer also hosting a teen video social networking site (rather oxymoronic term when you think about it.) If you think about Rupe and MySpace, sure, it's no big whoop. It will also be no big whoop to you if you're a raging capitalist who likes drawing parallels between Stickam's lineage and Kraft Foods having once been owned by tobacco giant Altira (a.k.a. Phillip Morris) (although Kraft and Altira never shared the same offices.)

    What most of the Techcrunchies as well as the fearful folks at 22 and most people don't know or remember is how so much social networking--and many "advances" in Internet commerce--were often tested in the world of adult content (I could do the research on this, but someone in the Techcrunch comments also mentions it, so I'm not smoking crack on this one....) What's rather alarming is the short, bleedingly open and obvious hop from adult content to teen content. Up to this point, we really haven't cared all that much about this small factor. We haven't really cared all that much when someone like Christina Aguilera (who I actually like) is featured simultaneously on the cover of Seventeen and the cover of GQ (in a more seductive pose)....

    And that all of this is just OK....

    Although I hesitate to jump into the camp of Donna Rice and Enough is Enough. IMO, Rice's org, and many others like hers, takes the whole notion of protecting children just a bit too far. Many of these orgs that seem to want to protect children merely want to sanitize the Internet for your protection (yes, like a toilet seat in a hotel.)

    Enough is Enough attacks the wrong parties in all this. It's not the entire Internet that needs to be sanitized. The Internet's a big place, and adults should be able to partake of various forms of adult entertainment without having to hand over a credit card or a social security number. Perhaps what's needed is for Rice's org--and other orgs like hers--is to be more like Eda LeShan and, with great reason and forethought, target marketers who are taking products meant for adults and marketing them to teens.

    Think about it: what does a teen need with a webcam and the ability to stream live video of him/herself? Is there any clear and compelling reason for this?

    Chances are the answer--aside from "my kid needs to be the coolest on the block"--is no. Teens don't need to be streaming video of themselves so that other teens can see them. It's not going to make them more creative, or give them some sort of creative edge with video. That's just really, really good marketing convincing y'all of that notion...

    Don't believe the hype....

    So, is Stickam, and its association with porn, really an issue? Well, not necessarily an issue inasmuch as it is a good story--and a story that should have been done before in relation to many, many other products and services that make a bit of backdoor dirty money via porn. Stickam's not alone. But Sickam also shouldn't be marketed to teens as the Next Big Thing....

    And maybe that's where Sickam really went wrong...

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    Tuesday, July 10, 2007

    We Media Miami: Looking back on what we accomplished

    Came across the following video on the iFOCOS.org homepage--that nicely encapsulates the experience of We Media Miami....

    Online Videos by Veoh.com

    What many people do not understand is that if you knock hard enough, and write thoughtfully enough, you *can* get into the doors of think-tanks like iFOCOS. But, you have to prove yourself. You cannot just write a bunch of bile-sotted bilgewater and expect doors to open. Doesn't work that way.

    And, yes, iFOCOS is actually doing something to change things. Andrew and Dale worked pretty hard to put together a diverse group of folks at WeMedia Miami, and many viewpoints that might never have been heard were indeed able to speak to those C-level executives (not an easy thing to do--takes lots of confidence and a modicum of chuzpah, to say the least)

    I'm looking forward to what's next with these guys...and how much further we can take the dialogue. After all, this is now a two-way medium. The channels need to be kept open.

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    Monday, July 09, 2007

    Assignment Zero gets Wired

    Finally!! The first installment of Assignment Zero stories to be published at Wired.com appeared today! They are:

    An intro from Jay Rosen with links to all the Q&As that were done....

    Open Source Journalism: It's a Lot Tougher Than You Think (believe me, this is an understatement if ever there was one...)

    Creative Crowdwriting: The Open Book

    Q&A Your Assignment: Art The Andrea Grover interview--a great read!

    Stock Waves: Citizen Photo Journalists Are Changing the Rules

    Much thanks to everyone who worked so very hard on getting this package together...from all the folks listed in they bylines to David Cohn, Amanda Michel, Angela Pacienza, and Hillary Rosner. We did it!!

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