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Archive for June, 2009

[pdf09] Has the Net helped journalism?

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. You are warned, people.

Frank Rich: Yes. But someone is going to have figure out how to pay for it. I suspect it will be figured out. There are always these fears during dislocations.

Karen Tumulty: It’s a terrifying time for traditional newspapers, but there are models that work. E.g., I watch Marcy Wheeler’s thermometer.

Dan Gillmor: I’ll channel Clay Shirky. The cost of experimentation has gone to just about zero. There are thousands of experiments, including in business models. We need even more.

Scott Simon: We need to be open to social media. Journalists tend to get jaded. People are now their own editors. A tweeter in Iran said “Tell all your friends: You are the media.” I think that’s true, but there’s work to be done to recreate the best values of journalism all over again.

Rich: We’re so obsessed with new media. Let 1,000 tweets bloom in Iran, but we forget that people are still repressed. The happiness with Iranian’s use of social media has led us to distort the coverage.

Simon: With social media you can overhear people talking with one another, in a way that is very hard with traditional reporting.

Gillmor: The issue of verification can be pretty slippery. We’re having to relearn media literacy. We have to be skeptical of everything … including the NY Times. But we also have to learn how to be not equally skeptical of everything. I’m not worried about supply but we have pretty crappy demand…people who grew up as passive consumers. It’ll take work on our parts, as former consumers and now users, to figure out what to trust.

Tumulty: You may wobble on line but ultimately you get to what the truth is because so many people demand it.

Rich: The people in this room are obsessed with this stuff. We want to find out what’s really going on. But a lot of people, especially those who aren’t upper middle class, don’t have the time.

Andrew Rasiej: People weren’t waiting for the journalists to get news about Iran. The NYT is old by the time it’s printed, especially since now we can sometimes go to the source of the news. It’s not a business model.

Gillmor: Yes. We’re not going to have gatekeepers like before. We now tell one another story. But this is so new. We need to get reputation combined with this.

Rich: But there’s only so much we can absorb. We saw home radios consolidate. Some conglomerate will want to have a big brand, and they’ll set the brand. I think there will be a consolidation. There will always be a component that seeks out minority views…

Gillmor: I don’t see that. The only conglomerate that worries me the is duopoly of the cable and phone companies.

Rich: We’re saying the same thing.

Gillmor: That’s a different kind of consolidation that we’ve seen…

Rich: With the same effect, and from the same people.

Tumulty: We should worry about the Google consolidation. SEO distorts the way you frame things

Simon: Journalism has to make the case for why it’s its own ism. There are left and right invesetigative journalism sites. A real news org sometimes upsets its audience.

Rich: How do we get people to eat their spinach? A lot of people want only celebrity news. That’s always been true. Does this new structure make it easier to have the masturbatory news that they want?

Gillmor: For the first time it’s easy to go deep. Even if it’s celebrity culture, the act of going deeper is instructive to some percent of that group. If we can increase the small percentage of people who create news, that’ll make a big difference.

Rich: People who watch ESPN are not going to start following Iran. And the paradox of the last decade: The whole growth of the new media occurred during a time when the Prez sent us to war on a fiction. Even though some of the fiction came from the NYT, the Prez got away with it. Even though people had more news sources, they were susceptible to a propaganda campaign.

AR: But Gonzalez might still be the attorney general…

Rich: Small potatoes compared to swallowing the war propaganda.

Gillmor: Traditional media still have enormous sway, and it was moreso 5 yrs ago. This isn’t an overnight transition. You’re right that that was a catastrophe. The traditional media walked in lockstep with deceptive people in DC. It’s going to take some time. It’s also instructive that the Guardian web site became enormously more popular because English-speakers wanted the other sides.

Simon: One of the hopes for new media is that it’s easier to be interested in both sports and politics and crocheting.

Gillmor: Traditional media were about producing, creating, distributing stuff. That’s not what we do online. We create it. We make it available. People come and get it. That’s really different. Viewers of Fox don’t have a link to what the other side says. Right wing blogs have links to the people they’re criticizing. If we can encourage people to click that link, people can see there are multiple facets…

Tumulty: But the people who land on that blog are not open to persuaded. The Net reinforces people in their beliefs.

Rich: People didn’t want to believe that Sadam didn’t have WMDs. We shouldn’t assume we’re automatically in a Renaissance.

Simon: There’s a still lot to be said for people seeking out variety. I think they’re not going to be satisfied with narrowcasting.

[I stood on line to ask a question and thus missed some live bloggage. There was a long discussion about the value of covering live events, for which there still seems to be demand.]

Q: [me] What’s the future of the idea of coverage? Coverage implies a value-free decision that we know is value-full, and it doesn’t scale well. [I had to say this twice because I didn’t put it well]
Rich: We’ll keep providing it so long as people want it.
Me: I’m suggesting it’s going the way of objectivity: a value no longer valued.
Rich: Papers have never pretended to offer full coverage.

[The session ran over; I had to leave before it ended.] [Tags: ]

[pdf09] Todd Herman – A conservative in Oz

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. POSTED WITHOUT BEING REREAD You are warned, people.

Todd Herman is a conservative who wants his team to be using the new tools better. Conservatives need to understand the rules of engagement better. The ecosystem favors Obama. How is that working and how can Conservatives work it? “Chairman Steele said ‘Take the lid off.” What would you do if you were me?” E.g., he’s excited by Vivek Kundra’s announcement and wants to bring the data to his site where Republicans can comb it for info. But how open should a political be? How open can it be? “Can a political party really be open?” “Can we be as open as Twitter? I would love it if we could.”

He points to a 1997 Republican site: A virtual town. Very 1997-cool. USAToday rated it as more fun than the Disney site. The Republicans “have been here before. There’s nothing genetically stopping us from using them.” He shouts out to

Q: How do you envision this change in tech with the underlying philosophical approaches changing the Rep party?
A: I love that our elected leaders can have pretty direct communication with the voters. I think it’s changing that way. But we need to change the rules of engagement, e.g., away from gotcha.

Q: [jay rosen] Cognitive dissonance while listening to you: You seem to address us as if you didn’t know that the Bush admin had an opacity agenda. E.g., Ashcroft’s 2001 memo saying err on the side of not honoring FOIA requests. So, I’d think the Reps should be asking why it was in favor of opacity.
A: It’s a long conversation. Todd points to some instances of the Obama admin’s lack of transparency. “I’d gladly buy you dinner to have a long conversation about it…”
Jay: Good enough! Where are we going?

You picked on DemocraticUnderground, but missed FreeRepublic. But you asked us socratically what we would do if we were you. What would you do if you were us and saw the way the REpublicans manipulated voter roles?
A: I don’t accept the premise, but my question goes both way.

[Great to have a conservative speaking. IMO, it’d would have been better if he hadn’t used it as a way to address his political grievances, and instead solely focused on the issues of tech, politics, governance where we genuinely share interests. But, that’s just me.]

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[pdf09] Bech Noveck on White House office of openness

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. POSTED WITHOUT REREADING. You are warned, people.

Beth Noveck talks about the project that aims at opening up egov policy development to citizen participation. Beth is the White House person responsible for bringing open government to the fed gov’t. The Open project asked for ideas about open gov’t policy. Now it’s in the winnowing phase.

Micah asks if this is open source policy making and where it ends. Beth gives some examples. E.g., the opening up of the patent policy.

The Open project uses IdeaScale software because it has community self-moderation. People can propose ideas (4,205 so far) and rank them (367,000 votes so far). The tag cloud’s largest tag is “birth certificate.” These are people who want to see Obama’s birth certificate. (”Again,” Beth says.) Micah asks if this is a feature or a bug. “Are people freaking out because it’s on a gov’t web site?” Beth: “We gave a platform for people who have a cause.” People flagged and rated comments, “taking back the forum.” In any online community, you see the griefers as part of the lifecycle, she says (wisely).

Micah looks at the Office of Science and Technology Policy blog, which takes public comments. “We have the most wonderful conversations,” she says. “The community itself was able to come in and say that these comments are off topic.” They’ve moved off topic comments to another page; they’re still there. The crucial institutional innovation is the recognition that we don’t have all the expertise. We will make better decisions if we can engage others. She says that the scale of participants is small — hundreds, not thousands — but that’s ok if the quality of the conversation is good.

These online tools are not the only ways to participate, she says. They want to make sure that those who are not as digitally literate are also able to take part. These new ways “supplement and augment” the traditional ways of federal rule making.

We’re now heading into the third phase of the project, using MixedInk, a collaborative writing tool. This lets people suggest language for the policy. This helps drafting, but it also helps educate people about how hard it is to draft policy. MixedInk lets people vote on different drafts, so it’s not a “last one to write wins.”

She says they’re getting suggestions that no small group in the White House could have come up with on their own. They’re hearing impacts on people’s real lives. They’re learning about cool tools. They’re getting amazing suggestions for dealing with the Paperwork Reduction Act.

They’re going to distill and filter, and then put the results back out for public discussion.

[I actually choked up a bit listening to Beth, which I find embarrassing, but what the heck.]

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[pdf09] Vivek Kundra and Macon Phillips … now with extra Craig!

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. POSTED WITHOUT BEING REREAD. You are warned, people.

Craig Newmark: “It’s bigger than us and it feels pretty good.” Craig says he likes calling if grassroots democracy. Policy wonks, nerds, and pragmatists working together. Craig says we should be talking about “nonks” (= nerds + wonks). He salutes the first “nerd administration.”

Craig introduces Vivek Kundra (chief information officer) and Macon Phillips (White House new media director). Vivek makes an announcement. “The federal gov’t spends $70B on info tech” but the initiatives freqwuently fail. E.g., the Census’ ridiculous handheld that has failed, so now we’re back to using paper. [ACK!] Vivek announces the IT Dashboard It builds on It shows provides real-time visibility into your tax dollars. You can share the data, embed it, drill down into it, show you the phto fo the CIO responsible, contact her or him directly, provide feedback, look at the perfomance metrics viewed against theactual performance, who the contractors are. You can get the data itself in mashable form, and you can provide any set of data you pull together as an RSS feed.

He shows tools for comparing and spotting trends; it’s a little like WolframAlpha for gov’t data. “We’re launching a platform that will allow us to tap into some of the best ideas and best thinking.” “We look forward to iterating on this. We’ve launched it in beta.”

[This is the type of big, visible success the CIO needs. Fantastic. He gets, and deserves, a standing ovation.]

Macon Phillips begins by thanking the audience for its work. He asks for more feedback on the White House’s Web 2.0 projects.

Q: [esther dyson] How are you going to aggregate the feedback?
VK: It goes to the relevant CIOs and to me. Macon and I are looking at how we can use media to amplify it and getting it directly to the people making decisions.

Q: IS there a danger in hiring tech people to make tech policy?
VK: The fed gov’t is made up of 4M people and 10,000 systems. It’s great to have access to some of the brightest minds in tech policy. Those who are coming to serve in the interest of their country is extremely people. The percentage of people from the tech industry is a small percentage.
MO: We’re bringing in people who can help us with processes, help us make gov’t more transparent.

Q: 18K computer educators are meeting now, discussing how to teach students to do data mashups, etc. Are you trying to figure out a way to allow educators and students to work with your data?
VK: Yes, students can now solve actual problems. But it’s not just teachers and students. Think about the explosion of research when the genome was made public. Also, when GIS data was made public. We’re building platformsWe’re looking at X-prizes to stimulate innovation.

Q: Tying in Stimulus and bailout funds?
VK: Yes. GAO data is already showing up. It took us 1.5 months to get to 100,000 feeds. We decided to launch with just a few so we could get feedback on what we’re doing.

Q: Is the new office of cybersecurity going to be exempt from transparency?
VK: No. They need internal data sharing, and I’m working with them on transparency.

VK: You want into in open formats, in as raw a form as possible. In its raw format, peole have the ability to slice and dice, and to innovate.

Q: What are the limits of transparency?
VK: We don’t want to harm national security. And we want gov’t officials to feel secure in their internal discussions.

Q: [andrew rasiej] Redefining “public” accesibility of documents as “searchable and accessible online”?
VK: As a principle, that makes a lot of sense. I want to caution on the reality, though. There are over 10,000 systems. The data lives in COBOL-based systems we have to get people out of retirement to help us. Petabytes of data. So, there’s an economic question in making those investments in going back through. So, looking forward we want to make sure the spirit of that definition of “public” is honored… [Tags: ]


At Personal Democracy Forum, announces itself as a “marketplace for challenges” of theX Prize sort. You can create a challenge at their site, or create a “wish” by using #cpost at Twitter.

[Tags: ] was hacked, now is clean was hacked by dirty stinking bad-hackers so that it was spewing Xanax ads. We think this was an XML-RPC exploitation. It’s now fixed (thanks Brad Sucks!), and I’ve asked that it be reviewed by so that it will no longer be put behind a warning page. Sorry if this has inconvenienced any of you.

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Newsweek drops the news, keeps the week

I’m embarrassed to say that it’s been years since I’ve read Newsweek, so I may be the last to have noticed, but Newsweek is no longer a news magazine.

I picked up the June 16 issue somewhere for free — on a shuttle flight, I think — and thumbed through the offbeat, humorous, human-interest features, only to find myself at the back cover. Important note: I grabbed it because Stephen Colbert was advertised on the cover as “guest editor,” although except for a couple of funny essays, I don’t think that actually affected the content.

Newsweek and Time used to be your way to catch up on the week’s news. They covered the news. This particular issue of Newsweek made no such attempt. Rather, it had a theme: Iraq. The articles, in a 27-page section called “Features” (in a 68-page issue) included a photo essay, an essay on “how we’ll know we’ve won,” speculation on how we might commemorate the war, and articles on video games, West Point grads who are worried they’ll miss the war, families disrupted by deployments, Canada’s attitude towards conscientious objectors, soldiers who love battle, and a backgrounder on Iraq vs. Iran. Some of these were interesting articles, but they weren’t news of the week’s happenings.

As for coverage of events outside of Iraq: None…unless it made it into one of the fun sections, like the humorous quotes of the week.

The rest of the issue reads like blog posts: opinions, reviews, provocative essays, bright little snippets.

Not that there’s anything wrong with this. Coverage is one of those big, ingrained ideas that actually make little sense — like objectivity, except coverage makes much less sense than that. Newsweek’s problem is that now that it’s lost its news-in-a-capsule medicinal prescription, will people take the weekly dose, since it’s now competing with the monthlies (The Atlantic, Harpers, etc.) and even with the Sunday magazine that comes with your newspaper?

I doubt it. But it’s not like I have a better idea. With news now spreading at the speed of typing, would anyone today start a magazine that reports on what happened last week? Newsweek is right to decide that rather than attempting coverage it will focus on being interesting. The problem is that there’s an over-supply of interesting now, and it is likely to remain a buyer’s market.

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If Amazon ran the schools

In my endless ego surfing, trying to fill an emptiness for which no number of trackbacks can suffice, I came across a posting about Everything Is Miscellaneous on the TWelchConsulting blog. Towards the end, the post says:

Imagine after Maria mastered that formula, this message appeared on her computer screen: “Maria, learners who enjoyed solving equations about one dimensional motion in physics with examples from space science also enjoyed . . . “

Sort of a cool idea…

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Wikipedia goes video

David Talbot reports that Wikipedia is getting ready to make embedded video and important part of its content.

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How much is the Boston Globe worth?

Ken Doctor says (via Joe Trippi) it’s worth $1:

A buck essentially represents a gentleman’s agreement: I take a liability, headache and a distraction off your hands, says the buyer. I give you the great potential of the Globe brand, a top-25 news web site and improved ability to re-jigger the pieces, thanks to our new contracts and cost-cutting, says the Times.

I think maybe it’s worth $0. But, of course, my financial sense is not very good. So, here’s what I actually mean.

If I were the NY Times, I’d be considering letting the Globe fail entirely, if there’s a way to do that that would wipe the Globe’s debt off the books. Then I’d re-hire some of the columnists and editors, and some of the local reporters (news, sports, business, arts, features, etc.). And I’d announce the new daily Boston insert into the NY Times.

Of course, if the Times can get a buyer willing to pony up substantial cash, and assuming any deal would prevent the Times from hiring current Globe staff, my idea may be quite stupid. Wouldn’t be the first time. [Tags: ]

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