Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Meet the creator of this viral video

Bear with me. First, here is the hypertext video that has been posted everywhere. My point in showing it here is just in case you missed it, but also, to then link to an interview with its creator, a cultural anthropologist talking about what it means.

Now, here is an intriguing interview with the maker, Michael Wesch from Kansas State University. He was interviewed by John Battelle on Searchblog: Thoughts on the intersection of search, media, technology and more.
A taste of Wesch's thinking:
For me, cultural anthropology is a continuous exercise in expanding my mind and my empathy, building primarily from one simple principle: everything is connected. ... As I tried to illustrate in the video, this means that a change in one area (such as the way we communicate) can have a profound effect on everything else, including family, love, and our sense of being itself.

For me, the ultimate promise of digital technology is that it might enable us to truly see one another once again and all the ways we are interconnected. It might help us create a truly global view that can spark the kind of empathy we need to create a better world for all of humankind. I’m not being overly utopian and naively saying that the Web will make this happen. In fact, if we don’t understand our digital technology and its effects, it can actually make humans and human needs even more invisible than ever before. But the technology also creates a remarkable opportunity for us to make a profound difference in the world.

The good professor has had some commentary at his Web site, and you can comment too. He expects to keep working on this. As of 2.21.2007, it had some 1,310,565 views on YouTube. He's obviously speaking to us.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The "ouch" factor

This, from the Los Angeles Times media columnist Tim Rutten, is sobering. He calls journalists to church with a plea for motive self-examination based on embarrassing revelations about their peers in the Scooter Libby trial (Judith Miller, Tim Russert, Matthew Cooper):
The picture that emerges here is of a stratum of the Washington press corps less interested in the sort of journalistic privilege that serves the public interest than in the kind of privileged access that ensures prominent bylines and good airplay.

And in the baseball doping BALCO case (SF Chronicle's Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, who accepted leaked grand jury testimony from defense attorney Troy Ellerman; Ellerman then went out and argued that the ensuing publicity would deny his client a fair trial):
To assert any form of journalistic privilege in a situation like that is something far worse than moral obtuseness. Conspiring with somebody you know is actively perverting the administration of justice to your mutual advantage is a betrayal of the public interest whose protection is the only basis on which journalistic privilege of any sort has a right to assert itself.

If it isn't yet clear:
Journalists consumed with a self-interest so strong that it makes them the willing dupes of manipulative sources report what they're meant to report and not the information the public has a right to know.
...both the Libby trial and BALCO case can be seen as the indictment of the kind of journalism that asserts the right to protect its sources, to protect the public interest, but to conceal its own self-interested shortcomings.

So now you want me to take video?

So goes the lament from the mainline print reporter. Let me do what I'm good at...writing. Don't make me take pictures, too. Shoot video, no less.

I point out this piece, "You Must be Streaming," from New York Magazine because it addresses just this moment in journalistic history. And in the writer's view, any journalist brings tools to the table that no amateur can match, regardless of how rough the beginnings. Writer Kurt Andersen:
Whereas the YouTube paradigm is amateurs doing interesting things with cameras, the newspapers’ Web videos are professional journalists operating like amateurs in the best old-fashioned sense.

Calling this a "flux moment," writer Andersen notes how differently The New York Times and the Washington Post are handling their video effort and packaging. At NYT, the two newsrooms are merged; at Washpost, still separated. Times highlights its daily offerings, Post buries under a hard-to-find button, Andersen argues.

The article looks at an emerging video journalist from each newspaper, the Times' David Carr (with Carpetbagger blog and video, shown tripping over red carpets as he does his reporting), and WP's Travis Fox, the globetrotting one-man-band who never appears in his own videos. Two worth watching as the new medium, Web video by newspapers, emerges.

Anderson's point is to highlight this very moment, when it is all up for grabs.
The passionate, improvised, innovative reinventings, as opposed to the final, fully professionalized reinventions, are often the coolest moments in cultural history. Think of movies in 1920, TV in 1955, or public radio in 1980. ... And this very moment, before anyone professes to know much more than anyone else, is probably the beginning of the new medium’s great golden age. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Thanks to Sacred Facts for the tip to this piece.

Monday, February 19, 2007

An excuse to put my dog in my blog

Meet Clare, our dog who stayed behind in Anchorage and lives with dog buddy Rudy (see white paws in one pic, white dog in other -- that is Rudy). Clare is wearing a green T-shirt because she had a few stitches on her shoulder after a run-in with a tree. My only justification for putting my dog in my blog came from reading a passage in a book about meditation. Stick with me here, this won't take long.
Have you ever looked at a dog and really seen it in its total "dogness"? A dog is quite miraculous when you really see it. What is it? Where did it come from? What is it doing here? What are its feelings?
Children tend to think about things this way. Their vision is fresh. They see things as if for the first time every time. Sometimes our seeing gets tired. We just see a dog. "If you've seen one, you've seen them all." Our thoughts act as a kind of veil preventing us from seeing things with fresh eyes.

So my point? Look at journalism through fresh eyes. See the post below, too, where a very successful newspaper publisher in Norway is doing well online. One link to his success, say analysts, is he brought in some 'fresh eyes.' I hope we can be our own fresh eyes in American journalism.

News from Norway: online success

A newspaper publisher in Norway is finding financial success online, according to this business report from The New York Times. The company is Schibsted in Oslo. Noting how well things are going for this newspaper company, a Harvard business professor is making a case study of it. Says the professor:
“There’s no question they managed this transition earlier than a lot of newspaper companies, and they’re in a better position as a result.”

Besides investing aggressively in online for a decade, the publisher brought in non-newspaper managers from a business consulting firm who were willing to sacrifice sacred cows if that was necessary. Said one:
“The main thing they have done is to recognize that the consumer is king.”

Of course there are special circumstances in Norway. Schibsted dominates the online market and includes a successful classified site in its arsenal. And Norway has the highest newspaper readership in the world, so readers trusted the brand when it went online.

The Harvard professor, Bharat N. Anand, wonders: Can this success be exported?
“The big question is, ‘Is this a repeatable success, or is it a very good 10-year run?’ And how far can it travel outside Scandinavia?”

Friday, February 16, 2007

A little hope, pass it around

I get excited by new ideas. Never fails. I'm on the mailing list for HBR. That would be Harvard Business Review. And they've just compiled their list of bright ideas for 2007.

Skimming the list, the word "hope" leaped out at me. It's number five on a list of 20. The authors, Harry Hutson and Barbara Perry, argue that hope is a key element in surviving tough situations: prison camps, war, accidents. How about old media/new media upheavals?

My guess is the authors would say yes:
Our contribution has been to outline the elements of hope—possibility, agency, worth, openness, and connection—in a way that guides efforts to nurture it in the workplace.

The first two are central to the definition of hope: People must see that change is possible and how they can engage personally in that change. The remaining elements have to do with how hope is cultivated in organizations: Hopeful work groups are most often composed of individuals whose worth to the organization has been affirmed, who perceive an openness on the part of management, and who enjoy an authentic sense of connection with their colleagues and with the organization’s mission. Even so briefly described, these elements suggest why hope can be an energetic force for positive change to a degree that, say, optimism alone could never be.

No love lost

My post is a little late for Valentine's Day. But a pissing match between the British papers Guardian and Telegraph caught my eye. The fight is about when is a blog not really a blog. I saw it mentioned on Sacred Facts and followed the links to see what the fuss was all about.

The Telegraph says the Guardian's site (new from 2006), called Comment is free, is NOT A BLOG, dammit!

The Guardian, in the voice of its Web leader Neil McIntosh writing on his personal Web site Complete Tosh, suggests that CiF is too a blog, a group blog. Whatever you wanna call it, it is much better than the dead blogs over at the Telegraph, maintains the Guardian. (A dead blog is one in which the blogger isn't contributing much, and neither are commentators. How many of THOSE have you seen out there on the Web.)

Aside from enjoying them go at each other, I think the Guardian has an idea that would be useful for any newspaper to consider. I like a site that is a "place" for readers to weigh in on lots of stuff, including issues they choose to initiate, not just one blogger's perspective. It has a "marketplace of ideas" feel to it.

Here is how CiF describes itself:

It is a collective group blog, bringing together regular columnists from the Guardian and Observer newspapers with other writers and commentators representing a wide range of experience and interests. The aim is to host an open-ended space for debate, dispute, argument and agreement and to invite users to comment on everything they read.

Here is Neil McIntosh, head of Guardian Unlimited (the Guardian's Web site) describing how they got to this working model:

The key difference was we took the focus off individuals and redistributed attention between authors, commenters, and the aggregate discussion. Breaking views and strong user debate are the key influences on CiF's front page, not the article of faith that is the newest-post-first traditional blog form. We think it improves the user experience.

It was a format based on years of blog experimentation, and frustration, at Guardian Unlimited. In particular, the massively group nature of the blog was deliberate; we built in acceptance of the reality that many interesting people simply don't have time to contribute very regularly. It's a reality the Telegraph and pretty much every other blogging newspaper continues to ignore.

Other features of the site: a political cartoon, a photo-blog by a Guardian photog, and an editors' blog, where Guardian editors talk about that day's newspaper and putting it together.

You can search A-Z through CiF's contributor list and through CiF's subject matter. And you can even see number of posts per subject matter item.

This is an upgrade to the traditional blogging site because it expands who gets to talk. Makes me think of Bruno Guissani's argument that news Web sites need to become places people go to discuss and debate. I think it makes the single-speaker blog site look primitive, or more kindly, like a columnist with limited feedback opportunity.

It could allow the site to invite high-profile bloggers for limited commentary.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Sharing this

Sometimes humanity overcomes complexity. Check out the Washington Post's "on Being" series, interviews with individuals. Every person has a story. Imagine doing this with Alaskans. My mind spins.

Friday, February 9, 2007

This just in: the big bad wolf

The ADN's front page got noted for being extra special today at the Brass Tacks Design "best front page." They liked the "amazing photo of the big bad wolf."

The "E" words

I keep hearing two words here at Stanford, and finally decided to put them together. One of the words is "entrepreneurial," and the other is "emergent."

Shortly after arriving here, I learned this university is decentralized and you are on-your-own to learn everything you can about its riches, which are considerable. OK, I was up for that.

Then, very quickly, you are told that this school is an entrepreneurial place. If you like an idea, get out there and do it. Want something to happen? Do it. This is the home of the Silicon Valley start-up, and Stanford students talk about their impending "start ups" as if that is an expected and natural progression in life. Being entrepreneurial is highly valued.

That slides into our new life on the Internet, don't you think? People are starting blogs and wikis and personal web pages and online businesses. And the only way you learn how to do this is to jump in and do one.

Now, for emergent. This is about how things are changing right in front of us.
Emergence is what happens when the whole is smarter than the sum of its parts...And yet somehow out of all this interaction some higher-level structure or intelligence appears, usually without any master planner calling the shots. These kinds of systems tend to evolve from the ground up.

That came out of Steven Johnson's book, called "Emergence." I read it in Dan Gillmor's book, "We the media."

Tuck these two words into the back of your mind. They are defining our age. It's not really a time to be passive and let things happen to you. It's a time to jump in and get your feet wet in some html, some xml, some social tagging, some folksonomy and maybe try your hand at a video on iMovie.

I just saw former ADN journalist and freelancer Doug O'Harra's new work over at his Web site, Far North Science. That's exactly what I'm talking about. Go take a look. Then get entrepreneurial and emergent, and start something of your own!

Rating the 2008 Prez-wannabe sites

I'm new to this site, called The Bivings Report. They describe themselves as "a source of news, insight, research and analysis on the web-based communications industry." I've started noticing their analysis of the presidential campaign Web sites. Hilary Clinton's site gets a thumbs-up in a recent post:
...this site impresses me with its lack of fluff and solid design. The red, white and blue palette is toned down for a less giddy experience. The user's eye doesn't bounce around. It goes where it was intended to go: the logo to the video to the action center. It's also only as Web 2.0 as it has to be.
...The overall initial experience is refreshingly pleasant here and I am into the content quickly without having to click through any registrations or toil through a video or splash page. High marks.

Scroll down for a thumbs-down on John Edwards conflict over firing some bloggers:
At this point the Edwards' campaign has pretty much pissed off the entire blogosphere over this (liberal and conservative). What a mess.

And, under the McCain banner, some bloggers are cautioning against being used by campaigns:
If the blogosphere wants to maintain a position of credibility, then we cannot be seen as the mud factory of the elections, especially in the primary. Campaigns (for President or anything else) that want to use blogger credibility as a channel to reach the voters need to be careful of using bloggers to bubble attack memes up to the surface.

We've only just begun.

Salmon site

I wrote last week about the potential for creating a "story shell" for salmon on the ADN Web site. The idea behind it is to cluster information on an ongoing story, to make a place for readers/stakeholders to gather, get informed, discuss. Dialogue, not monologue.
No sooner had I posted than I got an email from a Canadian nonprofit with just such a site, called Think Salmon. They would love to partner and share information. Their site is still in Beta and launches later this year. It is less science-oriented, and more culture-oriented. I think a newspaper site would have room for both.

The images pictured here are from the art section of their Web site. Salmon benches, who knew? (Images posted by Aileen Penner.)

I'm also reminded of a lecture from the multimedia boot camp at UC Berkeley. Jane Stewart cautioned newspapers not to let non-news organizations leap out ahead of them with powerful Web sites. She had examples from the sports world (pro football, college athletics, horse racing, NASA) where commercial or science interests created "news" sites that were more exciting and powerful than newspaper versions of those activities/events. The cautionary tale here is to own your own turf. We could own salmon/Iditarod/northern art, etc etc etc.

No more print NY Times, in 5 years?

Say it ain't so, Joe.
Here's what Arthur Sulzberger told a journalist from in an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland:
Given the constant erosion of the printed press, do you see the New York Times still being printed in five years?

"I really don't know whether we'll be printing the Times in five years, and you know what? I don't care either," [Sulzberger] says.

My main thought on this is that it may give many other newspaper publishers the opportunity and permission to start thinking online-only, or combination of online/non-daily print.

But it's hard to say goodbye to print. And not just the reading habit, either. Tonight I ate dinner with some Pakistani friends. We dined, Pakistani-style, on the floor of their apartment with the food spread out picnic-style before us. Our table cloth was layers and layers of already-read newspapers.

Yesterday, I got a used book in the mail from an online bookseller. It came wrapped in old newspaper.

A week ago I watched a student fictional film here at Stanford about a janitor with art aspirations who would paint in the art studio after hours -- on old campus newspapers.

At a farmers' market last Saturday, I watched people carry away fresh-cut flowers wrapped in ... old newspaper.

Anybody trained a puppy lately?

Monday, February 5, 2007

Fine writing in Fairbanks

Mention of the Fly-By-Night club and its dancing salmon in a recent post brought out a Fairbanks blogger, Nicole, who also misses the Fly-By.

She wrote knowingly of the deep dark winter in Alaska. (Check out the Hope Social Hall on a winter's day, photo above.) Fairbanks Funk, Nicole called it:

Fairbanks Funk is the overwhelming urge Fairbanksans get to move somewhere else. Anywhere else. It strikes as the light decreases in November, increases until December 20, and slowly fades in February.

If you attend a dinner party in Fairbanks during those months, you’re guaranteed to discuss relocating with at least three people. Each of them will have a different utopia in mind and strangely none of the destinations will be tropical. In fact, many in the grip of the funk will come to believe that moving to the ever-cloudy, often rainy Pacific Northwest would provide relief.

In our house, I know it’s set in when the hours my husband spends on leave him red eyed and strangely idealistic. “If we only moved to Olympia,” he says, “We wouldn’t be here. Life would be better.”
Read her sub-zero adventures with two kidlets and her husband TJ from Fairbanks. Good salmon cake recipes, too!

Mourning Molly's passing

I don't know about you, but I've been down in the dumps since the news of Molly Ivins' passing. I feel lonelier without her here on the planet, fighting the good fight, and writing it so damn well.

She came to Alaska, remember? Keynoted the Alaska Press Club a loooong time ago. She told us not to feel shy about reporting on a paper way up in Alaska. Get on a bigger paper, she counseled, and you'll likely bench it more than you get game time. Here, you're out and in the fight, all four quarters.

She was my hero.

They're blogging in the Republic of Ester!

I was mosying around a site called, wondering if anyone in Alaska was doing a hyperlocal site. An Alaska search turned up a blog in Ester, linked to a local newspaper published there. Here's how they describe themselves:
The Republic of Ester is an independent state of mind, characterized by freedom of speech and a willingness to spout off, a lot of art, a lot of mine tailings, piles of recycled stuff, and a love of rousing discussions about politics, science, and bad jokes down at the pub of a Thursday evening.

Pay them a visit at their site. They made me homesick!

Open source journalism: How's that work?

Frankly, the answer is yet to be discovered, but here's a place to check into some musing on it. Jay Rosen has launched a Web site dedicated to open source reporting, called He plans to test out how professionals would work with amateurs to report news. He makes the distinction that these amateur pieces are not op-eds, but the real deal, reporting.

How exactly will that work? He's trying to figure that out now by collecting information on open source reporting, and gearing up for a test story on elections and voting experiences. Check out his Web site. There you can find a short 6-minute video of him talking about his project. And, you can even sign up to be a contributor.

Or, you can listen to a talk he gave at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet & Society last November. The talk was called "open source journalism" and you can find it here. He talks and takes questions on his idea for about an hour and 20 minutes. (I download these into my music player and go walking in the hills, pondering the future of our work.)

One idea that emerges from it is that professional journalists will use amateurs as "smart mob" contributors to their stories. His example was the two or three reporters assigned to cover pharmaceuticals for a newspaper in New Jersey. Your source list could include a "smart mob" of people who work for the pharmaceuticals, spouses of those who work there, former workers there...etc etc. If you could put out a call for this audience to tell you what they know, you would learn more than if you were relying on your traditional sources and yourself to cover the industry.

The reporter rakes in all this info and then starts to work with it. Fact checking and corroboration are a big part of this process, according to Rosen. You may already know of Rosen's New York University Web site, Pressthink.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Salmon, anyone?

Here at Stanford, I was invited to sit in on a one-day salmon-solving conference, called "Transcending Borders, Pacific Salmon and Interdisciplinary Approaches to Fisheries Conservation." It was hosted by the Bill Lane Center for the Study of the North American West. Seated at the table were government and academic scientists, NGO reps, First Nation leaders, authors and a few journalists.

(The only party missing at the table was a real-live salmon; I kept flashing on the dancing salmon in the Fly-By-Night extravaganza that graced that Anchorage nightclub stage for so many years....)

The aim was to problem-solve the decline of wild salmon by engaging all these folks in conversation. Conference organizers distributed a briefing book of articles ahead of time. Unlike most academic conferences, professors did not read their latest papers. Instead, three conversation sessions were organized around these topics:

**The Players: Laying claim to salmon
**How do we know what we know?
**Fish farms: what's at stake?

Conversations like these at Stanford are highly civilized, including wine, food, and time for commentary, a modern salon as it were.

OK, the point of this blog? During the day's discussions, an academic "called out" the journalists in the room, asking us to weigh in. I had been thinking of multimedia journalist Jane Stevens' description of a "shell" on a news Web site that might host ongoing discussions of a matter of high concern to stakeholders. So what if the Anchorage Daily News created a Web page attached to its news site that was all we, and experts we approached, could deliver on salmon. The passionate could "drill down" as far as they wanted into scientific papers and data and documents. It would include a forum for interested parties. It would be dynamic, not a snapshot version of an ongoing story.

Salmon as a topic makes sense for Alaska, it is iconic for us. We have the only healthy wild runs on the planet. Who else do you know brews beer and names it after salmon? (But, from what I learned today, the joy we take in our salmon may be short-lived; wild salmon will/are losing their habitat to escaped farmed salmon.)

A colleague got excited about the idea, suggesting that it could become the Romanesko site for salmon. Journalists all over the world could write stories off the info on the site.

This is an idea in its infancy. I like it because it makes newspapers and their Web sites into a "place" for people to gather and discuss, rather than the pretense at a "finished" version of an ongoing science story. It reminds me of what the BBC is doing with its Iraq War Web site. It also reminds me of what is doing. William Burroughs lived there; so they are creating a repository on their site of all kinds of Burrough's info. They are celebrating, and owning the information, about an icon in their territory. We could do the same with salmon.

A reporter for the Los Angeles Times was in on the conference, and together we discussed how newspapers don't like to write the same story twice, or how incremental science stories get played on Mondays when there isn't the usual load of news. They don't seem as valued because of their incremental nature. Maybe traditional news story formats are the wrong vehicle for this information to be relayed to readers. Maybe a newspaper-hosted Web page "shell" for ongoing developments is a better vehicle. A thought.